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Decode DC Podcast

Decode DC Podcast

Description

A reliable, honest and entertaining podcast about Washington D.C’s people, culture and politics.


People Who Liked Decode DC Podcast Also Liked These Podcasts:
  Washington Post Presidential Podcast
by Lillian Cunningham

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186: The skinny on Trump's skinny budget

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 23, 2017


The President came out with his version of the budget - which he called a "skinny budget". While lots of people freaking out, we ask: what is a skinny budget, and does it really matter?

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185: A warning against hyperpartisanship from 1796

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 16, 2017


The warnings George Washington made in his farewell address — about hyperpartisanship, excessive debt, and foreign wars — have incredible resonance today, says John Avlon, the author of “Washington’s Farewell.” He speaks with Jimmy about what we can learn from the address and how its message was once appropriated by Nazis, in 1939. Plus: John reveals that President Washington had bad credit.

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184: Obamacare Trumpcare Healthcare 101

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Mar 10, 2017


What’s the individual mandate? Who’s in a high-risk pool? How do tax credits work in health care? With the debate over the future of health care in America raging, we go back to basics and explain some important concepts with the help of Sarah Kliff from Vox. Also in this episode, Jimmy reveals his age — and Sarah reveals which health care option tripped her up last year.

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183: Trump is at odds with the courts. Has a president ever defied them?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 02, 2017


President Donald Trump recently gave the federal courts the proverbial middle finger, lashing out on Twitter at a “so-called judge” who had ruled against him and promising “see you in court” after losing an appeal. Has this happened before or is this the new normal? This week: Donald Trump’s apparent disdain for the federal judiciary and whether there’s a precedent in history.

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182: I'm a reformed lobbyist. Ask me anything

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Feb 23, 2017


You asked and we answered. This week: what’s the difference between lobbying and bribery, a real example of a lobbyist buying their agenda into law (or failing to), and the best reform for the lobbying industry. Plus, Jimmy’s former salary.

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181: How cops can legally take your car, home, or cash

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Feb 16, 2017


When Tien Nguyen stopped at a rest area in Kansas, he didn't expect to have his car searched by the highway patrol - and when they took $40,000 he had in cash and sent him on his way, he was furious. But he was astounded when he learned that it was all completely legal. It's a practice called civil asset forfeiture, and in this week's episode, we hear about how Tie has to go to court to get his money back. We also talk to his lawyer, who wants the system changed completely, and we hear from someone who uses the practice all the time in his job. CORRECTION: A previous version of this episode incorrectly stated that Tien Nguyen is an American citizen. He is a permanent resident.

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180: What the hell is a trade war?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Feb 09, 2017


Everything you’ve always wanted to know about trade, trade deficits, tariffs, trade wars, courtesy of Felix Salmon of Slate Money. Plus, Felix explains which is better — a strong dollar or a weak one.

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179: A user's guide to 'alternative facts,' aka lies

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Feb 01, 2017


Imagine being lied to, repeatedly, for days on end, and what that does to your brain. Well, you may not have to imagine it—it seems like more and more “alternative facts” are coming out of Washington every day. In this episode, author Maria Konnikova tells us how repeated lies affect our brain, and Paul Singer of USA Today tells us how to deal with it.

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178: Hey Tea Party, meet your lefty cousins

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jan 26, 2017


After this election, some on the left are feeling pretty powerless - but Angel Padilla isn't. He got together with 30 other former congressional staffers to put together a concrete guide on how to resist President Trump's policies, and they borrowed all their knowledge from an unlikely source--The Tea Party. It's called Indivisible, and in this episode, Jimmy gets to the bottom of how it might work.

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Bonus: When Trump said, 'America first,' what did you hear?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Jan 20, 2017


In his inaugural address, President Donald J. Trump said America will be first. But what did people actually hear when he said that? DecodeDC was at the National Mall to ask inaugural attendees.

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177: What really happens at the inaugural

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Jan 18, 2017


The Constitution requires only one thing for a person to become President of the United States--reciting an oath. But the inauguration has become a sort of spectacle that requires months and months of detailed planning. On the latest episode we go behind the scenes to understand what it takes to pull off the peaceful transition of power.

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176: What should Trump do to resolve his conflicts of interest?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Jan 11, 2017


Every day, there are more and more questions about conflicts of interest and president-elect Donald Trump--questions about how Trump will handle his businesses interests, the role of his family and the investments of his Cabinet nominees. To sort out the ethical issues facing the Trump White House, we sat down with Richard Painter, who teaches law at the University of Minnesota and worked in the White House as President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer from 2005-2007.

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175: It's almost moving day at the White House

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jan 05, 2017


January 20th is Inauguration Day. It’s also moving day at the White House. Jimmy talks with Anita McBride, who was part of three presidential transitions, and with presidential historian Jeffrey Engel about when transitions don't go so smoothly.

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174: That moment when Americans choose ignorance over money

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Dec 29, 2016


When it comes to American politics, many people will choose to give up money, rather than listen to the other side. That's the result of a new study by Canadian professor Jeremy Frimer, at the University of Winnipeg. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, Jimmy talks to Jeremy about a phenomenon he calls 'motivated ignorance,' and why Americans are choosing to remain, well, ignorant.

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173: You have no idea how much food you're wasting

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Dec 22, 2016


As you sit down for giant family meals this holiday season, here's something to keep in mind--every year about 40% of America's food goes uneaten. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, Jimmy chats with Dana Gunders, a leading expert on food waste, about who's to blame (hint: you) and the limits on what the government can and can't do about it.

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172: PolitiFact's Lie of the Year is a lie that keeps on giving

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Dec 14, 2016


When it came time for PolitiFact to chose the “Lie of the Year,” for this bonkers year, editors had plenty to work with. On the latest podcast, Jimmy chats with PolitiFact‘s Angie Drobnic Holan about 2016's biggest political whopper, and what it was like being a fact-checker during an election when facts didn't seem to matter.

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171: Trump's job promise — 24,999,900 to go

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Dec 08, 2016


President-elect Trump is trying to make good on a big campaign promise--bring back manufacturing jobs to the U.S. The Carrier deal announced last week seems like a good start. But a jobs program that boils down to a POTUS making deals with companies could have big economic ramifications. On the latest podcast, Jimmy talks with Adam Davidson, a writer for the New Yorker and former co-host of NPR's Planet Money podcast. Adam explains why President Trump won't be able to create 25 million jobs, any why the jobs crisis is much bigger than any one president.

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170: Can Trump live up to populist voters' expectations?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Dec 01, 2016


Donald Trump’s attacks on elites and us-versus-them rhetoric are classic populist themes. But what happens when populists actually take office, and suddenly joins the ruling class? John Judis, author of "The Populist Explosion,” helps us define populism and explains why Trump may not be able to live up to voters’ expectations.

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Revisiting Big Sugar's Secret Playbook

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Tue, Nov 22, 2016


Heading into Turkey Day, we at DecodeDC are thankful for you, our listeners, so we're going to spare your ears this week from another episode about electoral politics. Instead we're rebroadcasting one of our favorite shows about a different political topic--the politics of sugar. We hope you'll be able to use what you learn from this episode as fodder around the dinner table to change the topic of conversation when one of your family members starts talking about the election.

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169: What can President Trump do Day 1?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Nov 17, 2016


When Donald Trump is sworn in as President of the United States on January 20, 2017, the clock starts ticking on his political agenda. Trump's goals for his first 100 days in office include repealing and replacing Obamacare, deporting criminal undocumented immigrants and banning people from terror-prone countries from entering the U.S. Can he really do all these things? On the latest DecodeDC podcast we try to answer that question, and figure out what President Trump can do on his own and what he'll need help with.

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168: Trump is President-elect. Now what?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Nov 10, 2016


Donald J. Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. Let that sink in for a minute. On the latest episode of DecodeDC, we're checking back in with some of our favorite experts who've helped us 'decode' American politics to ask the question, now what?

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Bonus: Here's what it's like to lose your right to vote

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Mon, Nov 07, 2016


While millions of Americans cast their votes on Election Day, one segment of the population will be left out. More than 6 million people have lost their voting rights because they committed a felony, and millions more can’t vote from prison. In fact, 1 out of every 13 African Americans has lost their voting rights due to felony disenfranchisement. But some states, like Virginia and California, are trying to change that. On this bonus episode of DecodeDC, Jimmy speaks with Terry Garrett, a former inmate who finally got her right to vote back after a rollercoaster legal fight between the Virginia governor and state supreme court. Jimmy also speaks with our Scripps colleague Angela Hill about efforts in California to restore voting rights for some who are still incarcerated--and the pushback the state is facing.

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167: Meet the disgusted voter

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Nov 03, 2016


It's crunch time. Doomsday--er, Election Day--is almost here, so we're checking back in with our undecided voters. For the past few weeks DecodeDC reporter Miranda Green has been profiling four voters on the fence. She fills Jimmy in on their feelings of disgust toward the election, and the sense of unease after the news about the FBI's investigation into Clinton's emails.

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166: How the GOP lost the black vote

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Oct 27, 2016


Donald Trump is on pace to lose the African American vote, and lose it bigly. So it’s useful to remember a time when black Americans were reliable Republicans. We talk with Leah Wright Rigueur, author of “The Loneliness of the Black Republican,” about what changed.

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165: How to actually commit voter fraud

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Oct 20, 2016


If you’re worried about voter fraud, there’s a good chance you’re worried about the wrong thing. We speak with Victoria Bassetti of the Brennan Center about the myth of widespread voter fraud, and a vulnerability that election officials do acknowledge: Absentee balloting. This episode is produced in conjunction with the Brennan Center and its new election podcast. Search for it on iTunes under the Brennan Center.

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164: Trump Foundation 101 -- Funny Money

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Oct 13, 2016


Donald Trump hasn’t given any money to the foundation that bears his name since 2008, and that’s just the beginning of the oddities surrounding Trump’s charitable giving. Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold has been digging into it, and you might by shocked by what he’s found.

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163: OMG we found actual undecided voters

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Oct 06, 2016


How can a voter possibly be undecided? In an episode co-reported with Buzzfeed’s Meg Cramer of the No One Knows Anything podcast, we look at why so many voters are undecided this presidential election and what it’s like to be one of them. Jimmy also reveals that he likes 7-Eleven cheese dogs. Gross.

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162: Politicians really suck at immigration

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Sep 29, 2016


How do you run a business when Congress keeps getting in the way? That’s what farmers in Washington State are grappling with as Congress keeps punting on immigration reform. They are faced with a big labor shortage. That means crops—and profits—are left sitting in the fields. On the latest podcast, reporter Miranda Green explains to host Jimmy Williams how livelihoods are being affected on a daily basis by congressional inaction.

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161: Hillbilly Elegy explained — The forgotten Americans

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Sep 22, 2016


In his new book “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”, author J.D. Vance recounts his experience of growing up poor in the white working class communities of Appalachia. It’s not just a personal story but an examination of the culture from where he comes from, as Vance tries to understand why so today feel disillusioned and disconnected with American politics. This week on the podcast, Jimmy sits down with J.D. for a personal conversation about his family, community, and the state of American politics.

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160: Trump and Clinton charities and the NY AG

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Sep 15, 2016


A recent Scripps investigation found that the New York Attorney General has the power to force the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Health Access Initiative to publicly disclose the names of foreign governments and the millions they donate each year to the charities, but he’s not doing it. In this episode we speak with investigative reporter Mark Greenblatt, who pored through IRS tax returns and required NY charity filings and found that year after year the Clinton charities have ignored New York law.

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159: The buying and selling of America's experts

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Sep 08, 2016


Corporate America has found a new way to exert its influence: think tanks, the non-profits dedicated to independent, scholarly research. That’s according to a recent investigation by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and The New York Times. This week on the podcast, reporter Brooke Williams explains how this new type of backdoor deal-making is blurring the lines between scholars and lobbyists. Williams details how a $15 million donation by JPMorgan Chase to the Brookings Institution resulted in the think tank essentially doing marketing for the bank. (Brookings has issued a rebuttal, disputing the reporting done by Williams’ and her colleague Eric Lipton) Increasingly, the role of researcher and lobbyist are merging, with little to no transparency for the public.

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158: The biases that keep Native Americans from the polls

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Sep 01, 2016


When the two U.S. Senate candidates went to bed on election night 2002 in South Dakota, it looked like the Republican would be the winner. But then late results came in from two Native American reservations, and Democrat Tim Johnson won re-election. It’s this potential power of the Native American vote to swing local and state elections that voting rights activists in South Dakota are trying to unlock. And they argue the state has spent decades trying to block that power. In part two of our investigation into voting rights for Native Americans, we go to South Dakota, where access to the ballot box is crucial for solving issues of poverty and suicides on reservations. We take you to the second oldest powwow in the nation, where deep racial and cultural tensions between Native Americans and non-natives create a different type of barrier to voting. This report is part of a project on voting rights in America produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program. Make sure to check out News21’s full story here.

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157: A dash of salt with your politics

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 25, 2016


Salt is a magical substance. An essential nutrient, it was once even used as currency. So what’s behind the push to get food makers to reduce sodium — one of salt’s components — in Americans’ diets? In partnership with the Gastropod podcast, we look at the science and history of salt, and explain how and why the government is trying to lower sodium intake.

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156: The battle for Native American voting rights

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 18, 2016


When San Juan County, Utah made the move to all mail-in voting in 2014, it seemed like a great idea. The county is almost 8,000 square miles with about 15,000 residents and voting by mail meant you no longer had to travel to a polling place. But for residents of the Navajo reservation, about half the county’s population, that change actually made voting more difficult. Gone were the six in-person polling places on the reservation and gone were the translators to help the many Navajo-only speakers vote. The mail-in ballot was English only, and Navajo is a predominantly spoken language. “My first reaction was what about those people that don't speak English? What happens to those people?” said Terry Whitehat, who lives in a part of the reservation called Navajo Mountain.  The one place left to vote in person was located off the reservation, which for Whitehat meant up to a 10-hour return trip drive. How were these voters going to be able to vote wondered Whitehat. “Basically, it’s impossible,” he said. This week on the podcast, in collaboration with News21, we take you to the frontlines of the battle for voting rights where Native Americans, are still fighting for equal access to the ballot box. This report is part of a project on voting rights in America produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program. CORRECTION: An earlier version of this episode incorrectly stated that a federal court had granted a preliminary injunction sought by the Navajo in San Juan County in summer 2016. The podcast has been updated.

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155: Trump's money fantasy

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 11, 2016


How does Donald Trump figure his net worth? It depends on his mood. So says Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, David Cay Johnston. In his new book, "The Making of Donald Trump," Johnston combs through his findings after 28 years of reporting on Trump. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, Johnston tells Jimmy Williams about Trump’s business dealings with the mob and his ruthless mentality toward others.

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154: The scary link between slavery and the Second Amendment

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 04, 2016


You may think the founders gave us the right to bear arms as a way to defend against government tyranny. But in this episode, Carl Bogus, a professor at Roger Williams University School of Law, tells Jimmy that that's not entirely true.

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153: Why small-dollar donors won't save politics

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 28, 2016


Throughout his campaign for the Democratic nomination, the "small donor revolution" became a rallying cry for Bernie Sanders and his supporters. While counteracting big money with the little guy sounds like an appealing idea, it ain't that easy. And it doesn't always produce the best candidates. On the latest podcast, host Jimmy Williams chats with Victoria Bassetti of the Brennan Center for Justice about her study into why small donations aren't the solution to money in politics.

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152: Meet the magician behind the Democratic convention

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Jul 27, 2016


So what's it like to run an event with tens of thousands of people for four straight days? That's what host Jimmy Williams asks Matt Butler, the number two guy in charge of this year's Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. We take you behind the scenes (we literally did this interview behind the stage) of all the bells and whistles that go into running a convention.

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151: Convention Parties 101: An insider's perspective

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Jul 22, 2016


If you've been tuning into the political conventions, you've been watching a staged performance. But behind the scenes there's a different show going on, one that you can only access through money or power. On this episode, host Jimmy Williams explains how the money game being played in Cleveland is different than past years.

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150: Inside Trump's Brain Trust

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 21, 2016


Now that Donald Trump has the nomination, what's the game plan to win the general election? That's the question DecodeDC host Jimmy Williams poses to Kellyanne Conway, a top advisor to the GOP nominee. We bring you this podcast from Cleveland, Ohio at the Republican National Convention.

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149: Why Trump Won

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Tue, Jul 19, 2016


The day no one thought would actually happen has arrived. As the Republican National Convention kicks off this week, Donald J. Trump, real estate magnate-turned-reality TV-star-turned-birther-turned-presidential candidate will formally accept the Grand Old Party's 2016 presidential nomination. By all accounts, Trump is the most unlikely candidate to receive a major party nomination in recent memory, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have seen it coming. This week on the podcast, host Jimmy Williams sits down with DecodeDC's Dick Meyer to dissect his story, "The Road to Trumpdom" and try to pin down how one of the great oddball events in American politics came to be.

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148: Kids are terrified of Donald Trump

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 14, 2016


Kindergartners having nightmares of Donald Trump. Second graders wondering if their families will be deported. Muslim students being called terrorists. This is the trickle down effect of the 2016 presidential campaign in schools, and it’s happening across the country. That’s according to a survey of 2,000 teachers released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, titled “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on our Nation’s Schools.” On the latest DecodeDC podcast, host Jimmy Williams speaks with a researcher, and one of the teachers who took the survey, diving into the disturbing realities of how the rhetoric from this election season is having a major impact on kids.

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147: Learning To Love The F Word: Federalism

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 07, 2016


This ain't your daddy's federalism. Heather Gerkin of Yale Law School tries to convince Jimmy that even though federalism (or states' rights) was used in the past to keep segregation in place, today it can be used to knock down discriminatory laws.

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146: Closet Partisans and the Myth of the Independent Voter

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jun 30, 2016


People really don't like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But will that matter come election time? Probably not. Are voters ditching the parties in droves to declare themselves independents? Not really. Take everything you think you know about this election cycle and throw it out the window, says Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, Abramowitz strikes down some of the conventional wisdom surrounding the 2016 campaign, and instead offers up some conclusions from a model that he’s built to predict election outcomes.

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145: Political consultants win even when they lose

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jun 23, 2016


Every campaign season has its winners and its losers - but there are some people who win no matter what happens. Political consultants are considered a necessity in today's elections, and about half of all money spent in campaigns is going through consultants, whether their candidate wins or loses. Adam Sheingate, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, explores the world of political consultants in his new book "Building a Business of Politics: The Rise of Political Consulting and the Transformation of American Democracy." And in today's episode, he tells Jimmy that business is booming.

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144: #LoveWins

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Jun 15, 2016


Nearly a year after the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, the main plaintiff in the case, Jim Obergefell, has released a new book called ‘Love Wins.’ On the latest DecodeDC podcast, host Jimmy Williams talks with Obergefell about the book, his relationship and marriage, the legal road to the Supreme Court and other plaintiffs in the case. We should note that this interview took place before the Orlando massacre, where 49 people were killed for being gay or trans, gay allies or in a gay club. But if there’s anything to learn from Jim Obergefell, there’s always hope.

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143: Make conventions great again

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Tue, Jun 07, 2016


Bernie Sanders isn't giving up. The Vermont senator is vying for a contested convention in Philadelphia this July, even as Hillary Clinton has reportedly reached the golden number of delegates to win the Democratic nomination. As is par for the course this election cycle, the convention this summer could be full of surprise, drama and who knows what else. In fact, it could mark a return to the very theatrical conventions of decades past, like in 1952, where both the GOP and Democrats had contested conventions -- fights broke out on the floor, and party bosses eventually picked the nominees. We tried doing a podcast a few weeks back about a potential contested convention on the Republican side, but then The Donald creamed all 16 of his opponents. So now we bring you this show, slightly de-Trumpified, about picking presidential candidates, and why 2016 could be the year when the greatest political show on Earth returns.

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142: Pissed off millennials are taking on the Democrats

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jun 02, 2016


Can you feel the Bern yet? With the California primary less than a week away, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders continues to battle erstwhile frontrunner Hillary Clinton despite a clear deficit in delegates. The longtime independent has staked his campaign on grassroots support from middle and working class voters, but it's a different electorate that has kept him afloat: snake people--er, millennials. This week on the podcast, host Jimmy Williams and Scripps campaign reporter Miranda Green dig into the growing millennial support for Bernie Sanders on college campuses. Why are these millennials such fervent supporters and what does this mean for the Democratic Party moving forward?

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141: The alter egos of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, May 26, 2016


One grew up the daughter of a Navy petty officer in 1950s suburban Chicago, the other spent formative years in Indonesia before being raised by his grandparents in Hawaii. Their experiences couldn’t have been more different but over the last eight years, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have become the twin pillars of the Democratic Party. Once rivals, then colleagues, it would seem that there’s not much daylight between the President and his former Secretary of State on major foreign policy issues. But there are differences and, as New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler discovered in reporting his new book, "Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle over American Power," those differences are sometimes quite significant. This week on the podcast, we sit down with Landler to talk about the relationship between the president and his party’s presumptive nominee, how their backgrounds shaped their views on foreign policy, and the pair's evolving relationship.

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140: What's behind the split in the Democratic Party?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, May 19, 2016


Dick Durbin is a four-term senator and the Democratic whip, whose job is to keep the party together. So what does he make of the fact that the GOP has its presidential nominee while the Democrats are still fractured? ”It’s a split that can help us,” he says. This week on the podcast, we speak with the senator about the biggest lesson he’s learned from the 2016 campaign so far.

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139: Big Sugar's Secret Playbook

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, May 12, 2016


Quick, what do these things have in common: Cocoa Pebbles and Winston cigarettes? One answer might be that Fred Flintstone is their biggest fan. Another might be that they’re highly addictive. And that’s not the only thing they share. When former dentist Cristin Kearns was told at a conference that sugary sweet tea was a healthy choice, she went searching for evidence that the sugar industry was trying to spin the science. What she found was a strategy to push products and influence policymakers borrowed straight from the playbook of Big Tobacco. In this episode, we follow up on an investigation by Duke University’s Ways & Means podcast into the way the sugar industry has borrowed from Big Tobacco in responding to threats from regulators. Find their podcast here: http://www.waysandmeansshow.org/episode-blog/2016/3/15/sugar-fix

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138: The Trump Effect

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, May 05, 2016


And then there was one. Following the Indiana primary earlier this week, Ted Cruz made the inevitable but shocking decision to suspended his presidential campaign. Less than 24-hours later, John Kasich followed suit. That makes real estate developer and reality tv star Donald Trump the presumptive Republican nominee. But the one remaining candidate for the GOP has divided the Republican party in two. This week on the podcast, we ask supporters on both sides what’s next for the GOP? On one side is Matt Lewis, a conservative commentator and senior contributor for The Daily Caller. On the other is South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster, one of Trump’s earliest and most outspoken supporters.

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Bonus: Conversation with Norman Mineta

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Apr 29, 2016


In 1942, Norman Mineta and his family were forced from their home in San Jose, California and into an internment camp in Wyoming. The Minetas were among tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans subjected to internment in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor Mineta left the camp in 1945 and went on to become the first non-white mayor of San Jose. Then, as a congressman from California, he sponsored legislation that paved the way for reparations for thousands of Japanese-Americans. And as George W. Bush's Secretary of Transport, he oversaw the FAA's response to 9/11 from a bunker under the White House. DecodeDC host Jimmy Williams interviewed Norman Mineta for episode 137: The Supreme Court's Loaded Gun. Enjoy the great stories that didn't make it into that episode.

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137: The Supreme Court's Loaded Gun

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Apr 28, 2016


More than 70 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision often regarded as one of the worst in its long history. In Korematsu v. United States, the court validated putting American citizens in internment camps during wartime, based on their race or ethnicity. The decision came in the wake of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which came after the Pearl Harbor attack and granted the U.S. military the power to ban tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry from areas deemed critical to domestic security. The court has never overturned the Korematsu decision, and as the 2016 presidential election approaches, the debate over the case has new life. Some candidates have called for banning groups of people from the U.S. based on their religion, or for targeted surveillance. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, we ask if these suggestions for blanket policies based on religion or national origin—like the Japanese internment camps upheld in Korematsu—could legally happen again.

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136: Martina Navratilova stick to tennis? "No chance"

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Apr 21, 2016


She’s made millions of dollars, achieved world-wide fame and yet, former world number one tennis pro Martina Navratilova likes to spend her days tweeting about...politics. The tennis legend is a self-identified liberal, and two major events affected her politics and how she sees the world. At age 18, she defected from the then-Communist country of Czechoslovakia. She’s also an openly gay woman. “I was political when I came out of the womb, I just didn’t know it,” says Navratilova. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, host Jimmy Williams sits down with Navratilova to find out why someone who has enjoyed so much success chooses to enter the political fray. While she actively engages in politics on both Twitter and real life, don’t expect Navratilova to run for office anytime soon. “I know I would be okay as a politician, but maybe my skin is too thin. I would have a really hard time dealing with people that really don’t know what they’re doing, if they have the power,” she explains. And true to her competitive spirit, Navratilova says she can’t be president (because she wasn’t born in the U.S.), so what would be the point?

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135: No taxation without....special interests

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Apr 14, 2016


When Ronald Reagan signed the 1986 Tax Reform Act into law, the Republican president hoped that the law would simplify the tax code and close loopholes. Reforming the tax code had been Reagan’s number one domestic priority during his campaign and it took him more than two years of wrangling members of Congress, even pushing past a blockade by House Republicans. But according to Pam Olsen, whose r?sum? includes stints at the IRS and U.S. Treasury Department, says the Tax Reform Act did the exact opposite. “It made the tax code a lot bigger. It certainly made the tax code a lot longer and a lot more complicated,” said Olsen. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, host Jimmy Williams tells the story of the how the tax law came to be, and the consequences of its passage, including loopholes for billionaires and laymen alike, and how it created an avenue for members of Congress to push through social policy without actually legislating.

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134: Running as a Woman

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Apr 07, 2016


When Hillary Clinton first ran for president in 2008, forecasters and prognosticators quickly seized on what they perceived as a concerted effort to project an image of strength, in part by de-emphasizing her gender. But eight years later, her 2016 campaign seems to be embracing her potentially historic election as the country's first female president. This time, so goes the story, Clinton is "running as a woman." This week on the podcast, we sit down with Corrine McConnaughy, a political scientist professor and researcher at George Washington University, to talk about how this strategy plays among different generations and political persuasions.

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133: The FEC is a watchdog that doesn't bite

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 31, 2016


The 2016 presidential election is on track to becoming the most expensive campaign in U.S. history. But the the Federal Election Commission, charged with regulating how that campaign money is raised and spent, may be the least understood and most ineffective agency of them all. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, host Jimmy Williams sits down with three people who have all been part of the FEC. They explain that from the start, the agency had a built-in partisan divide that made decision making difficult.

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132: Who's caring for the vets?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 24, 2016


On the latest DecodeDC podcast, host Jimmy Williams sits down with Scripps Investigative Reporter Mark Greenblatt about his 6-month-long investigation into problems at the Cincinnati VA. Greenblatt teamed up with WCPO reporter Dan Monk, who together connected with more than 30 whistleblowers. They discovered that a new solution created to solve the VA wait-time scandal that left some veterans for dead back in 2014, may be causing new problems for veterans and hospital staff alike. From staffing cuts, to cost shifting, to the hospital’s acting chief of staff prescribing controlled substances to her boss’ wife, issues at the Cincinnati VA are leaving veterans who are trying to seek care in a bureaucratic abyss.

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131: Is the Supreme Court too supreme?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 17, 2016


The status of the Supreme Court in American government has ebbed and flowed since the Constitution was ratified. But starting in the 1950s, the Court has had a long and unchallenged reign of extraordinary power and authority as the final guardian of the Constitution. In the sweep of history, this is a great aberration, not the norm. This week on the podcast, Larry Kramer, former Dean of the Stanford Law School and now head of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation says we have largely and regrettably forgotten or disregarded that history. Kramer thinks the Supreme Court is too supreme, that it has too much power. Confirmation fights, such as Merrick Garland now faces, have become so vicious and partisan because the court has so much power and because it is no longer considered legitimate for the other branches to challenge the Supreme Court’s authority and rulings. That, says Kramer, is not what the framers intended and it undermines the system’s democracy – the voice of the people.

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130: The long view with Madeleine Albright

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 10, 2016


Madeleine Albright describes herself as a late bloomer but boy, has she made something of that late push. After starting her political career as a Senate staffer at the age of 39, Albright went on to the National Security Council, before serving as UN ambassador and the country’s first female secretary of state. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, host Jimmy Williams sits down with the storied stateswoman as she describes her journey and how the she came to find her voice. As someone who’s been through wars overseas and on Capitol Hill, Madeleine Albright offers up her long-view on politics and the world, and what to make of it all.

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129: Superdelegates, WTF

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 03, 2016


Superdelegates. Maybe you’ve heard something about them, but might not know how they came to be, how they work, who they are and why they matter. But if you want to make sense of the delegate math in this year’s Democratic contest, you need to understand what a superdelegate is. Bob Shrum was there when superdelegates were created. The long time Democratic operative says if you trace the origins of this uniquely Democratic Party invention, you’ll see a battle between the people and their party where the power to select the nominee for president has swung back and forth and sort of back again. The idea behind the superdelegates is that "they would provide a balancing force in case the voters went off the rails in Democratic primaries and chose somebody the party establishment didn’t like,” Shrum says. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, host Jimmy Williams talks to Shrum about the secret world of super delegates and their potential to cause a train wreck in the Democratic Party.

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128: South Carolina's unholy alliance

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Feb 25, 2016


Long ago in South Carolina, an unholy alliance was made to keep the races separate. In the second episode of our two-part series on the politics of race in the Palmetto State, we introduce you to two of the people who keep that pact going. And they hate it. So while all the talking heads and politicians turn their attention to this Saturday’s Democratic primary in South Carolina, listen to our latest episode on the real problem down in Dixie: Race.

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Revisiting: The Price of Privacy

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Tue, Feb 23, 2016


Right now, a battle is being waged between Apple and the government over encryption. A federal court has ordered the tech giant to unlock an iPhone used by one of the attackers in the San Bernardino shooting that left 14 people dead. Apple is fighting the order, and a huge public debate is going on about privacy and protection. A few months ago, right after the Paris terrorist attacks, we did a podcast about a Scripps News investigation into encryption. We've decided to repost that episode and take you inside the battle between law enforcement and encryption advocates.

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127: The black and white state of South Carolina

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Feb 18, 2016


From 2010-2014, more than 200,000 people moved to South Carolina. The South is the fastest growing region of the county but unlike its neighbors, the Palmetto state seems to be stuck in time. South Carolina’s schools rank 43rd in the nation. The median income in South Carolina is $44,000 dollars a year. That's nearly $10,000 dollars less than the national average. Democrats have been hoping that the influx of Latinos and African Americans, combined with the movement of retirees might turn the traditionally red state blue. But the old order has held firm – South Carolina is as Republican as ever. So, for the next two episodes, host Jimmy Williams is taking you to his birth state, where all the political attention is being focused right now because of the presidential primaries, to take a hard look at what’s happening and how race is still playing a predominant role in the politics of the state.

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126: How Anne Boleyn gave us our right to privacy

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Feb 11, 2016


Today Americans view privacy as a fundamental civil liberty, a right that puts a boundary on what the government can do. Our ‘right to privacy’ has become part of the essential contract Americans make with their government, a system that protects individuals from the government’s ability to intrude into the private sphere. But it wasn’t so long ago that the very idea of a right to privacy, even of a right to one’s own thoughts, wasn’t such a foregone conclusion. This week on the podcast, we take you through a history of the right to privacy, where we got our ideas about privacy - specifically personal privacy - and then how that right to privacy has been applied in famous Supreme Court Cases like Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade.

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125: Political Dynasties

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Feb 04, 2016


Adams, Bush, Clinton, Kennedy. Somehow the same family names keep popping up in American politics. And that raises the question: Why, in a proudly democratic country, do we wind up with something that doesn’t feel very democratic? This week on the podcast, guest host Michelle Cottle speaks with historian Stephen Hess about our obsession with political dynasties. Hess, whose best seller “America’s Political Dynasties” was recently updated, says we will always have dynasties—but they won’t always be the same. Dynasty might be a dirty word in America but it turns out our politics have been a family business from the start.

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124: Broad Politics

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jan 28, 2016


Beyonc? had it right. Who runs the world? Girls. Just ask Jay Newtown-Small, a Time magazine correspondent and author of the new book, “Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works.” This week on the podcast, Newton-Small speaks with host Jimmy Williams about her experience reporting her book and it’s key takeaway: once women make up between 20 and 30 percent of an institution, they begin to impact and change the way that institution works.

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123: The new kid on the block

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jan 21, 2016


From the outside looking in, Brian Sims seems to have it all. He’s young, energetic, well liked, and his political career’s on the rise. After becoming one of the first openly gay college football players in NCAA history, Sims went on to law school and embarked on a career as an LGBT activist before becoming the first openly gay candidate elected to Pennsylvania’s state legislature. Now he’s ready to take the next step: the US. House of Representatives. Is Sims crazy? No one seems to have a kind word or thought about Congress. It’s approval rating hovers around 13 percent and those running for president are actively running against Washington. This week on the podcast, why would someone like Brian Sims - who’s got a good job, good home, community, and reputation - run for Congress?

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Bonus: TrailMix 2016 Ep 1 - Feeling the Bern, Bill Clinton & women, endorsements and Nickelback

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Jan 15, 2016


We thought you might enjoy a look at Scripps News' newest podcast, TrailMix 2016 - a weekly conversation about the state of the campaign. This week’s topics include: Is it time to take Bernie Sanders seriously? What about Bill Clinton and women? Do endorsements make a difference? And, what does Nickelback have to do with the campaign? Join Scripps politics reporter Miranda Green, Daily Beast social media editor Asawin Suebsaeng and Independent Journal politics editor Justin Green for insight, curiosity, a healthy dose of skepticism and some profanity. Oh, and get prepared for a rant. If you enjoy, make sure you subscribe to TrailMix 2016 on iTunes! There are new episodes every Wednesday.

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122: When words speak louder than actions

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jan 14, 2016


Jeremy Frimer, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Winnipeg, teamed up with some other researchers in Canada and Germany and tried to answer this question: Why do the American people seem to hate Congress so much? And what they found was that it’s all about what Congress says, not what it does.

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121: The Sorry State of the State of the Union

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jan 07, 2016


From members of Congress jockeying for the best tv spot, to constant interruptions of applause, the State of the Union address has become a primetime spectacle. On our latest podcast, former Capitol Hill staffer and current lobbyist Steve Moffitt offers up some advice on how to fix the State of the Union.

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Meet Jimmy Williams: DecodeDC's New Host

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Tue, Jan 05, 2016


Jimmy Williams is a veteran of Washington, D.C.'s political scene, engaging in nearly every facet of American politics, as a congressional staffer then lobbyist and now, as DecodeDC's new host. Podcasting is new to Jimmy, so he sought ought the advice of some experienced pros, including Gimlet Media CEO and Start-Up host Alex Blumberg , the Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis, Adam Davidson, co-founder of Planet Money and co-host of Surprisingly Awesome, and Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers of Pantsuit Politics.

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120: Our 2015 favorite episodes and the tape you didn't get to hear

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Tue, Dec 29, 2015


It's been a big year in politics - and an even bigger one is on its way. Before we dive into the coming year of campaigns, candidates, and conventions, host Jimmy Williams sits down with DecodeDC's producers and editors to talk about some of our best moments from the last year. From our deep dive into America's prison problem, to our explorations of racist government policies, and even to a Donald Trump rally in Dallas, you'll get some insight into what goes into producing and reporting a DecodeDC story. You'll even hear some bonus material that didn't make the original episodes. So sit back and enjoy a look back at an eventful 2015 before we dive head first into what's sure to be an interesting new year.

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119: The Lie of the Year

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Dec 23, 2015


Tis the season of year-end lists – and so we offer our second annual Lie of the Year podcast thanks to our friends from PolitiFact, the fact-checking Website. PolitiFact Editor Angie Drobnic-Holan talks us through this year’s top 10.

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118: Does conservative media have too much power?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Dec 17, 2015


Conservative media has gone through surprising changes in recent years, not that many people outside that orbit have noticed. There is a world of talk radio, podcasts and websites far bigger, a new breed like the commentator Steve Deace, who are more conservative and, surprisingly, more hostile to the Republican party than Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. And they're having a serious influence on Republican lawmakers. On this week's podcast, we speak with Jackie Calmes, a national correspondent for The New York Times, who recently published a study for Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media and Politics and Public Policy called, “’They Don’t Give a Damn about Governing’: Conservative Media’s Influence on the Republican Party.” Calmes, who's covered Congress and the White House since the 1980s, says that the conservative media has influenced the Republicans’ internal battles, especially in the House, far more than generally acknowledged.

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117: #tbt to when Congress actually worked

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Dec 10, 2015


In today’s political atmosphere of partisan bickering and congressional dysfunction, there’s something reassuring about reflecting on a time when things actually worked on Capitol Hill. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, we’re traveling back to the 1940s to tell you a story about Congress at its very best. It’s a story about a little known senator named Harry Truman and the committee he led that investigated waste, fraud and abuse in the lead up to the United States entering World War II. “It really seemed to be, for this brief moment in history, the work of the Truman committee was about saving money, was about saving lives, and about winning the war, and they did it in a non partisan, or a bipartisan way,” said Steve Drummond, who wrote an essay on the committee and spent months researching its work. The Truman committee remains one example, perhaps a fleeting one, of when members of Congress really did work together across the aisle for a common cause.

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116: A Bad Case of Electoralitis

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Dec 03, 2015


This week on DecodeDC, Dick Meyer and Dr. Anthony King discuss American elections and how they're viewed abroad. King is a British professor of comparative government and the author of "Running Scared: Why America’s Politicians Campaign Too Much and Govern Too Little," He questions some of the fundamental assumptions Americans make about what an election is supposed to look like and how long it should last.

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Rerun: The military has its fingers in your food

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Tue, Nov 24, 2015


As you sit around the dining room table this week with family and friends, giving thanks and enjoying roasted turkey, creamy mashed potatoes and warm stuffing, here’s something to keep in mind: Some of that food you’re chowing down might have originated in a military lab. Every once in awhile we like to re-run one of our more popular episodes, and this is one of those occasions. Enjoy listening—or re-listening—to our conversation with Anastacia Marx de Salcedo about her book, “Combat Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat.”

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115: The Price of Privacy

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Nov 19, 2015


In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the battle between privacy versus public safety has become ever more relevant. Law enforcement agencies maintain that the same encryption you use on your cell phone to keep your private information safe has become a tool for criminals and terrorists. Scripps News and the Toronto Star teamed up over the past several months, investigating how law enforcement is losing the war over access to information they need to solve crimes. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, we go inside the battle between those who say law enforcement needs access to private information and those who argue encryption is essential for privacy.

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114: Budget Battle B.S.

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Nov 12, 2015


At this point, the Washington federal budget cycle is pretty well established. A stalemated federal government leads to the predictable standoff. Cue the shutdown clocks on cable news, ignore the threats lobbed between members of Congress and await the prospect of “closed’ signs at federal agencies and national parks. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, we take a look at the federal budget and try to answer the question: what’s broken about the federal budget – the process or the politicians?

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113: Is the Electoral College broken?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Nov 05, 2015


The Electoral College - it's something we have to deal with during every presidential election. But should we? This week on the podcast, we look at how and why the Electoral College system came to be. We also talk with Dr. John Koza, chairman of the National Popular Vote, a movement dedicated to changing the presidential election process entirely. If his group succeeds, our system of voting for president could be completely different by 2020. CORRECTION: In a previous version of this episode, we said a candidate must get a majority of a state's popular vote in order to win that state's electoral vote. The candidate need only win a plurality in the state's popular vote. Thanks to listener Liz Norell for pointing out our mistake.

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Bonus: DecodeDeceased on Capitol Hill

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Oct 30, 2015


Capitol Hill can be horrifying… On this bonus episode of DecodeDC, we focus on the spookier aspects of Capitol Hill during a ghost tour with ScaryDC. Long-dead Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase comes back to walk us through the stories of haunted architects, spectral spies, and General Logan’s stuffed horse.

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112: GOP Family Feud

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Oct 29, 2015


Things are pretty weird in the House of Representatives right now. Paul Ryan was just chosen to be the next speaker of the House, a position he never wanted, after a fractured Republican Party united behind him. Republicans have the largest majority of seats in the House since 1920, so it should be a golden time to move their agenda forward. Instead, it's been pretty miserable. Lots of fingers are pointing to the House Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 of the most conservative members of the House. This week on the podcast, we decode the Freedom Caucus—who they are, what they want and how the rest of the Republican conference, including newly elected Speaker Paul Ryan, plans to deal with them.

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111: Conversation in the digital age...nvm, tl;dr

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Oct 22, 2015


It’s a bizarre question at first: Is our capacity for meaningful, soul-nourishing conversation something that can go away? Sherry Turkle, professor of psychology at MIT, and author of “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age”, says yes, emphatically. On this episode of DecodeDC, Dick Meyer has a long conversation with Turkle about conversation - and then invited the newsroom to join. Spoiler alert: We’re all at risk of becoming device-addicted, never-present techno-dweebs if we don’t wise up fast.

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110: What we talk about when we talk about poverty

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Oct 15, 2015


If it seems impossible to talk about poverty in the U.S. without talking about race and culture, that's thanks in large part to one man: Daniel Patrick Moynihan. In 1965, Moynihan wrote a government memo that changed the way we think about poverty. In this episode, writers Peter-Christian Aigner and Stephanie Coontz weigh in on the report's legacy, and Moynihan's intentions.

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109: The military has its fingers in your food

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Oct 08, 2015


Nestled in the woods just outside of Boston sits the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center. The base does research on the necessities soldiers need on the frontline, such as clothing, shoes, body armor and food. Part of Natick’s mandate is to get the food science it uses in producing military combat rations onto grocery store shelves and into your kitchen. That’s what Anastascia Marx de Salcedo writes about in her new book, “Combat Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat.” On the latest podcast, we sit down with de Salcedo to discuss the military’s massive influence on the American diet and its ultimate goal of creating a nation that is in a constant state of preparedness for the next war.

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108: It's Citizens United, Stupid

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Oct 01, 2015


DecodeDC reporter Miranda Green and producer Eric Krupke recently took a trip to the frontlines of the 2016 battlefield -- a rally for Sanders in North Carolina and one for Trump in Texas. And what they learned was surprising. While visibly different on the surface, the events had one clear similarity: supporters, on both sides of the political spectrum, with a deep fear of big money in politics. On this week’s podcast, Green and Krupke take you to the rallies and let you hear from the supporters. You’ll also hear from Robert Litan, a former Brookings Institution Senior Fellow, about what’s behind these candidates’ popularity -- and how the unexpected similarities in their support boil down to one thing: Citizens United.

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107: The Pope's Political Reach

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Sep 23, 2015


Less than 24 hours after touching down on U.S. soil for the very first time, Pope Francis made quite clear his stance on issues such as immigration and climate change. Confronting major global disputes with forceful words is nothing new for Pope Francis. He has used the worldwide papacy platform to speak out on issues both inside and outside the church. But according to David Gibson, a national reporter for the Religion News Service, the challenge lies in transforming the pope’s words into global action: “The question is — as always in politics, frankly — how do you translate that into a mandate? How do you translate that into policy? How do you make actual changes?” On our latest podcast, Gibson guides us through a history of papal influence around the world, decoding just how far the Vatican and pope can reach into the political life of a nation and actually impact policy and politics.

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Bonus: Housing discrimination - one man's story

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Tue, Sep 22, 2015


Antoine Lynch is having a hard time finding an affordable place to live. That is, until the DC government provided him with a housing voucher that guaranteed partial payment of his monthly rent. But, when he called around to housing complexes where he wanted to live - apartments that were in neighborhoods with grocery stores, good schools, and low crime rates - the landlords told him they wouldn’t accept his voucher. Antoine is facing what’s called source of income discrimination, and it’s illegal. Now he’s filing a discrimination complaint with the DC Office of Human Rights, hoping to eventually settle the issue and find that stability he wants.

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106: Separate and Unequal

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Sep 17, 2015


We think our cities look a certain way because of people’s choices and preferences, but it turns out, the government has had a huge hand in keeping neighborhoods separate and unequal. This week on DecodeDC, we tackle the question that’s been vexing the country for more than half a century, how much can, and should, the government do to right its past wrongs when it comes to housing and segregation?

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105: Terrified of terrorism

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Sep 10, 2015


This week’s podcast challenges a political sacred cow. In fact, it might be the mother of all sacred cows. It is the belief that foreign terrorism is one of the most serious threats to the safety of Americans and the security of what since 9/11 we have called the “homeland.” That belief is deep. The facts supporting it are thin. But it is a premise so fundamental to our post-9/11 worldview that is rarely debated, challenged or reexamined. No one has tried harder to unsound the alarm, to show that the sky is not falling, than John Mueller, our guest this week, a political scientist at Ohio State University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington. In a book coming out in the fall, “Chasing Ghosts: The Policing of Terrorism” (Oxford University Press), Mueller and co-author Mark G. Stewart take a hard-boiled, empirical look a the politics, phobias and failed leadership that feeds the sacred cow of counterrorism at any cost.

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104: Revisiting A Brief History of Humankind

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Sep 02, 2015


Every once in a while, we like to rerun one of our most popular podcasts, and this is one of those occasions. Enjoy listening--or relistening--to our conversation with Yuval Noah Harari about his book "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind".

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103: When weed is your only hope

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 27, 2015


Renee Petro was desperate to help her son, Brandon, who sometimes would experience as many as 100 seizures a day. She tried medications, she looked into surgery...and then she discovered cannabis. On this episode of the DecodeDC podcast, guest host Miranda Green teams up with News 21 reporters who talked to parents desperate to get their children access to medical marijuana.

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102: A Glimpse into Gitmo

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 20, 2015


On this week’s podcast, we sit down with reporter Carol Rosenberg, who’s outlasted soldiers, interrogators, and lawyers at Guantanamo Bay. For more than 13 years, she has become the keeper of record for what remains a controversial response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 – the decision to detain, without trial, hundreds of men picked up around the world for their alleged connections to al-Qaeda and other U.S. enemies.

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101: David Simon

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 13, 2015


The creator of The Wire and Treme has a new miniseries debuting this Sunday. We talk with David Simon about 'Show Me A Hero,' Simons's first project that he says is explicitly about race, class and how decades of government policy have created 'two Americas'.

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100: America's Prison Problem

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 06, 2015


With more than two million people behind bars, a 500 percent increase since the mid 1970s, politicians on both sides of the aisle have come to agree that America has a prison problem. On this week’s DecodeDC podcast—our 100th episode—guest host Emily Kopp sits down with Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Sean Walker, a former inmate who spent two decades behind bars, about what they see in the push for prison reform.

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Bonus: I didn't come here to make friends

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Tue, Aug 04, 2015


The similarities of reality TV and politics – especially with The Donald on the debate stage – are the topic of this bonus episode of the DecodeDC podcast. Host Miranda Green talks with Robert Galinsky, president and coach at the Reality TV School of New York, who says politicians could learn a thing or two from reality TV stars. Alanna Haefner contributed to this story.

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99: Why would Iran give up on its nuclear program?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 30, 2015


On this week’s DecodeDC podcast, guest host Todd Zwillich talks with Rupal Mehta, an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska, about why countries that start down the path of developing nuclear weapons decide to stop.

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98: Spirited History

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 23, 2015


Forget the debate over Alexander Hamilton’s spot on the ten-dollar bill. The founding father’s image may be better suited on a bottle of bourbon. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, guest host Todd Zwillich sits down with Reid Mitenbuler, author of Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey. Zwillich and Mitenbuler discuss a battle between two founding fathers—Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson—and how that battle has profoundly affected both American bourbon and business.

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97: Tell me a (political) story

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 16, 2015


Political campaigns are about a lot of things: message, money, organization and of course, more money. But campaigns are also about storytelling. Stories help candidates connect with voters, putting a human face on dry policy debates. Some politicians are born storytellers, while others need some help. That’s where strategists like Burns Strider come in. Strider is a long-time Democratic operative who has worked on more than 100 campaigns, including as the head of faith outreach for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, guest host Michelle Cottle chats with Strider about political storytelling, which he sees as the heart and soul of American politics. “A candidate’s job is to share themselves with the American people. And the stories, the narrative has to be real. It has to be honest. It has to be told,” says Strider. Strider’s storytelling craft extends beyond just the candidates. Lately, he’s been helping train a pro-Hillary Clinton army of workers at the grassroots level, organizing classes to teach people how to tell their own personal stories about Clinton. “You have to equip and empower surrogates out around the country, and let it work its way down and sideways and up and about in a campaign and in your body of supporters, and have them telling your story too,” Strider explains. Strider admits that it’s a little ironic that he’s part of a team of people behind the scenes carefully crafting the “authentic” image of a candidate. But at the end of the day, he says you can’t fool the American voter.

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96: Revisiting Populism's Popularity

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 09, 2015


The number keeps growing but at the moment there are 22 noble or nutty (you pick) souls running for president – and the election is still 16 months away. One of them, Bernie Sanders, says he is a socialist, whatever that means in 2015 America. Sanders certainly does, however, fit in to the great American populist tradition, so we thought this would be the perfect time to rerun our podcast on the origins of populism.

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95: SCOTUS: The People's Court?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Jul 01, 2015


The Supreme Court’s term has ended with two supreme-sized rulings, one affirming a right to same-sex marriage, the other upholding the Affordable Care Act. Overall, the conventional rap on the term has been that it was a decidedly liberal year for the conservative Roberts court. That’s true but simplistic, according to Stuart Taylor Jr., whom we brought in to decode the court’s most recent pronouncements on this week's podcast. Taylor graduated from Harvard Law School and went on to cover the Supreme Court for the National Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek, The American Lawyer and other publications. He's also the co-author of “Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It's Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won't Admit It” and “Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Fraud.” Taylor’s take is that the Chief Justice John Roberts’ court is much more aligned with mainstream public opinion than people give it credit for. There are four consistent conservative justices and four liberals, and Justice Anthony Kennedy wanders between camps. The end result over the years has been a trail of opinions that well represent public opinion. But a certain partisanship on the court, Taylor says, is inevitable. The Constitution simply does not have direct and obvious guidance on many of the issues and social conflicts the court has to adjudicate in the modern world: same-sex marriage, abortion, lethal injections and so forth. The cases that come to the court are close calls, with strong arguments on every side. All the justices believe their opinions are the most faithful to the Constitution. Ultimately, Taylor argues, the justices’ broader views on policy and political philosophy tip the scales. And with the legislative and executive branches so often tied up in partisan and petty knots, the judiciary ends up as the final voice more often than ideal, as with Obamacare this year. All these are reasons why the Supreme Court may be the most intellectually interesting political game in town. Music in this episode by: Thijs Bos ( http://soundcloud.com/thijs-b-1 ) Hex Cougar ( http://soundcloud.com/hex-cougar ) Joss Ryan ( http://soundcloud.com/jossryan ) The Quadraphonnes ( http://quadraphonnes.com )

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94: The $140 Billion Investment No One Is Tracking

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jun 25, 2015


Every year, we spend $140 billion on grants and loans for college students. How's that investment doing? Well, we really don't know, and to find out, it turns out we'd have to break the law.

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93: LBJ and the racial divide, 50 years later

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jun 18, 2015


It isn’t often that the president of the United States opens up about America’s history of racism or about how African Americans have suffered because of it - or about how white America must accept responsibility for these wrongs. But that is exactly what happened 50 years ago this month when President Lyndon Johnson delivered the commencement address at Howard University in Washington, D.C. And those who were in the crowd June 4, 1965, say what they heard on still feels relevant today. “I think anyone could give that speech today, and with few exceptions, not recognize that it was something that was related to a 50-year-old occasion,” said Judith Winston, a Howard student at the time who was there. “It’s a speech that in many sad ways has the same resonance today that it had 50 years ago.” Despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a voting rights bill that was on its way to getting passed, Johnson told the crowd of mostly African-Americans gathered in the quadrangle that those laws were not enough. “You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want and do as you desire, and choose your leaders please,” he said. It was time for the next and the “more profound stage of the battle for civil rights…” The speech is known as the intellectual framework for affirmative action. Johnson spoke of a widening gulf between blacks and whites in unemployment, infant mortality and economic opportunity. “It is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates,” he said. “It was good to hear him speak of those things and to realize that he really understood, and not only understood but really wanted to do something about it,” said Pricilla Harris Wallace, graduate of Howard’s School of Social Work. Half a century later, Wallace says she is still waiting for things to change, “We’ve made progress along the way, but when you look at things and where we should be as far as race is concerned, economics and other things of that nature, I feel that we’ve gone backwards.”

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92: Laughing Matters

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jun 11, 2015


Host: Dick Meyer I’ve gotten interested in humorlessness. I’ve come to believe that politics has become less funny, more humorless. I think this is certainly true of professional politicians and their henchmen and henchwomen. I think it is true of pundits and talking heads. Most important, I think it is true of regular civilians who like to talk – and argue – about politics over dinner or at a bar. Stridency is up; the capacity to take teasing is down. At least that’s my hunch. There is no national gag-o-meter to measure such things. The absence of laughter and humor is something to worry about. So on this week’s podcast, we paid a visit to Dr. John Morreall, now retired from William & Mary University in Virginia, a scholar of the philosophy of humor and author of several books on the subject. As a consultant, he has helped businesses and leaders learn to use humor as a helpful tool. Morreall is also a very funny guy, but I’m funnier. Morreall agrees that politics has gotten more humorless to the extent it has gotten more ideological, polarized and doctrinaire. But he isn’t even mildly concerned about the national funny bone. --- Dr. John Morreall's website: http://humorworks.com This week's sponsors: MarketingProfs (Marketing Bootcamp) http://mprofs.com/decodedc & Earnest (Student Loan Refinance) http://meetearnest.com/decode Music by: Thijs Bos http://soundcloud.com/thijs-b-1 Nicolai Heidlas http://soundcloud.com/nicolai-heidlas Trazer http://soundcloud.com/trazermusic Madnap http://soundcloud.com/madnap Botlesmoker http://bottlesmoker.asia The Gregory Brothers http://thegregorybrothers.com Yoshi (ETMC2) http://soundcloud.com/etmc2

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91: Congress and...the mafia?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Jun 05, 2015


It’s no secret that members of Congress spend much of their time raising money. But here’s something you probably didn’t know: A huge chunk of the money they haul in is not spent on their campaigns. It’s funneled directly to the political parties in the form of dues. On the latest DecodeDC podcast, host Andrea Seabrook explains how Congress works a little like another organized group when it comes to money, power and loyalty — the mafia. There are no Don Corleones, of course, in the strict sense of the name, and there’s nothing illegal. Still, members are expected to pay up. Seabrook talks to former members of Congress and other players in the Washington political game about the hundreds of thousands of dollars members must collect to satisfy the party leadership. It is an enormous amount of political power — even by Washington standards — to have streams of money flowing up, up, up into the control of a few at the top of the party.

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90: Narwhal vs. Orca

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, May 27, 2015


Once upon a time in the fairytale land of politics, there was an epic clash of magical beasts. On one side, the sea-unicorn called the narwhal. With a wave of his single tusk, he could muster thousands of volunteers, knock on millions of doors and direct a laser-beam of votes on behalf of Barack Obama. On the other side, the narwhal’s natural enemy, the orca, tasked with unearthing voters across the realm for challenger Mitt Romney. This may sound too fantastical to believe, but it’s actually closer to reality than you think. The presidential race of 2012 did indeed see such a contest, between the President’s Project Narwhal team and Mitt Romney’s Project Orca. But the contest wasn’t waged on Middle Earth, it was waged online, by Silicon Valley hackers wielding the power of…database computing. For many, the showdown between the two digital camps came to symbolize the growing and dominant role technology has come to play in today’s politics. But that story is, well, a fairy tale, according to the man behind Project Narwhal. “It wasn’t technology. The answer was that we had a great field team and we had good volunteers and our grassroots was on point ,” says Harper Reed, former Chief Technology Officer for President Obama’s 2012 campaign. “We raised all the money and the finance team did this really great work. Technology just helped a little bit to make some of that stuff faster.” On this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook sits with Harper Reed to recount a story that ended up being too good to be true, about a Narwhal, an Orca, and the real magic behind campaigns that help a candidate’s dreams come true.

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89: Revisiting 'Under the Radar'

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, May 22, 2015


There’s been a major development in the wake of a Scripps News Investigation featured in a DecodeDC podcast last December. Congress has now passed legislation that requires the Department of Defense to register sex offenders directly with an FBI database available to civilian law enforcement agencies and the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website prior to an offender’s release from a military prison. A Scripps News Investigation found hundreds of convicted military sex offenders flying under the radar who did not appear on the sex offender registries created to alert the public and prevent repeat crimes. Of 1,312 cases, at least 242 were not on any public U.S. sex offender registry. In this podcast, DecodeDC Andrea Seabrook talks with Mark Greenblatt, Scripps News Investigative Correspondent, about the story behind the investigation.

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88: The Great Migration

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, May 14, 2015


In Baltimore it was Freddie Gray. In Ferguson it was Michael Brown. on Staten Island it was Eric Garner. And in many other places, poor black men and boys have died in confrontations with police. On this week’s DecodeDC podcast, we talk with author, journalist and historian Isabel Wilkerson, who says the social unrest we’ve seen in some of these places shouldn’t be shocking at all—it’s absolutely predictable. “What we’re seeing right now when we look at Ferguson or we look at Baltimore in this moment, we have to remind ourselves that this is a screenshot at the end of a very long running movie that is still not over,” Wilkerson said. Wilkerson spent 15 years researching and writing her book, “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” The book is among the most important ethnographies of the 20th century experience, which is the story of nearly 6 million African Americans who migrated out of the South. Wilkerson’s book describes the Great Migration and the families who sought lives and opportunities they thought would be more readily available outside the grip of the South’s rigid Jim Crow caste system. But Wilkerson says that in some ways, African Americans found a mutation in the North of the resistance and hostilities they experienced in the South. “We still live with the after effects of assumptions and stereotypes of structural inequalities that grew out of that era,” Wilkerson said. Wilkerson says we have to take a hard look at the lessons from the Great Migration, or we’re bound to repeat history, and the social unrest will continue.

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87: The New Wild

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, May 08, 2015


For the past 20 years, Dr. M Sanjayan has devoted his life to environmental policy and the protection of wildlife. After decades in the environmental movement, Sanjayan has come to realize that you can’t separate humans from the natural environment around them. That’s a pretty radical idea in the environmental movement and a theme that pervades his new PBS series, "Earth: A New Wild." On this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook speaks with Sanjayan about his television series, his views on preservation and what Washington can and must do about its environmental policy. “When I started in the environmental movement I thought my whole goal was to take things back to some point in the past. Then, during graduate school I thought my whole plan was to stop the train wreck and leave enough pieces that something could be rebuilt,” Sanjayan tells DecodeDC host Andrea Seabrook. “Now I think my whole purpose is to really remind people that we’re part of nature and start to explain and understand all the ways in which nature materially impacts our lives.” Sanjayan says that when it comes to making policy about nature, there are two big challenges to good decision-making. First, we consistently undervalue the role nature plays in our lives, the way it affects our jobs, the economy, even our security. And second, people who are closest to the problem often feel like policy decisions are made far from them and their concerns. That sets up a conflict situation that’s often difficult to overcome. What would the noted environmentalist do if he was in charge? Surprisingly, Sanjayan says that environmentalists and advocates have to make a case for valuing nature beyond a love of natural beauty. “Love alone is not enough. And I think that after spending half my life working to try to convince people why nature is so beautiful, I kind of threw my hands up and said I’m not a good enough story teller,” he says. “I would love it if there comes a day where people value nature just because it ought to exist right alongside of us. We’re nowhere near there.”

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86: A Brief History of Humankind

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Apr 30, 2015


“Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari is a book that has more ideas per rectangular page than anything I have read in years. I was lucky enough to have a long conversation with Harari for this week’s podcast. Harari is a historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “Sapiens” was published in Hebrew in 2011 and has since been translated into 26 languages. It is a challenging, serious book, and it is a best seller all over the world. I suspect that is because the questions Harari asks are so unlike the traditional ones in history. Harari isn’t so concerned with the rise and fall of civilizations, wars, great figures and discoveries but with how it all affected or changed the well-being of homo sapiens – not the species as a whole, but the daily lives and contentment of us humans. Did the invention of planting actually improve life? What about bridges, gunpowder or antibiotics? These are weird questions for historians and they are what make “Sapiens” such an incredibly fun, almost mischievous book. It is a genre buster. I hope this podcast gives a good feel for this strikingly original thinker. -Dick Meyer Special thanks to Itzik Yahav and Eilona Ariel from Professor Harai's team, to Tina, Katherine and Amanda from HarperCollins and to Ryan & Ben Martinez and Austin Madert for original music in this piece. Yuval Noah Harari's website is http://ynharari.com

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Bonus: Marriage Goes to Court

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Apr 29, 2015


No matter where you stand on the issue of same-sex marriage, Tuesday's historic oral arguments at the Supreme Court represented the next step in what will be an unprecedented moment to define - or redefine - the institution of marriage. On a special episode of DecodeDC, host Andrea Seabrook examines the most powerful moments from the hearing.

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85: The Changing Face of Marriage

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Apr 23, 2015


A little thing called marriage is about to have a big day in court. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on state bans against same-sex marriage. This is such a huge case that DecodeDC recently teamed up with the Scripps television station in Cincinnati, WCPO, for a multi-platform event to explore the changing face of marriage. On this week’s DecodeDC podcast, we bring you highlights from that event, from the incredible history of marriage to the dramatic shifts in public opinion about same-sex couples to the legal arguments that are now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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84: Nerd Prom

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Apr 16, 2015


When someone asks what the most important event in Washington is every year, you’d hope that the answer would involve a key piece of civic action or an instance of Americans making their voices heard. In reality, D.C’s biggest event is an altogether different affair - a weeklong extravaganza of lavish parties where journalists rub shoulders with the very people they’re supposed to hold accountable. It all leads up to one night in particular, the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, or as it has come to be known within insider circles — Nerd Prom. As a reporter for Politico, Patrick Gavin used to cover those insiders. Now, after 10 years of covering the dinner and Washington politics he’s made a documentary about the correspondents dinner, “Nerd Prom: Inside Washington’s Wildest Week”. On this week’s podcast, DecodeDC goes inside Nerd Prom with Gavin to figure out what the dinner is really for. Host Andrea Seabrook and producer Rachel Quester take you to the film’s premiere and speak with Gavin about the event he says Washington doesn’t want you to see.

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83: Terms of Surrender in the Culture War

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Apr 09, 2015


Unless you’ve been trapped in a monastery over the past month, you’ve witnessed the fire and brimstone storms over so-called religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas. Coverage of the push for these religious freedom laws tends to focus on how they have emerged as pushback against gay marriage. They are that, but the backstory is more complicated. These laws deserve some serious decoding and on this week’s podcast, we turn to Robert Jones, the director of the Public Religion Research Institute, for help. Jones is a sociologist and a scholar of public attitudes about religion. At the Public Religion Research Institute, he and his colleagues conduct large polls to track changes in religious attitudes about public issues. Jones traces this conflict of values at the center of ‘religious freedom laws’ back to the late 1970s, when the Christian right organized itself into a real political powerhouse. Groups epitomized by Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority pushed an aggressive agenda that was conservative, anti-abortion and anti-gay rights. They had enormous clout with the Republican Party and were a prominent voice in all the big national debates. But the political might of those groups has waned dramatically; their agenda has become less reaching and more defensive. For many religious conservatives, the Supreme Court has opened a path to new interpretations of existing religious freedom laws that fit their agenda. “White protestant conservative Christians who had a hold on the country's moral center, feel that slipping away, and so this is a way of trying to find leverage ,” Jones says. Legislators in Indiana and Arkansas argued the laws could protect religious business people from being sued if they chose not to serve at a gay wedding or provide health insurance coverage for women’s birth control. At the same time, the percentage of white Protestant evangelicals in the American population has declined sharply – and the percentage of people with no religious affiliation has increased. The country has come to accept changes, like gay marriage, that seemed revolutionary and outlandish just a decade ago. This has left religious conservative searching for civic refuge, for some protection from all this change and for some political “wins.” They almost got those wins in Indiana and Arkansas, but not quite.

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82: Lessons from LBJ and the Great Society

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Apr 02, 2015


The Voting Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act. Medicare. Vietnam. The 1960s were a transformational time for America and at the center of much of it was Lyndon B. Johnson. This year marks the 50th anniversary for landmark legislation that would not have been possible without one of Washington’s most heralded legislators. On this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook sits down with Julian Zelizer, author of “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress and the Battle for the Great Society.” Zelizer says yes, Lyndon Johnson was an incredible legislator. But in order to really understand how he was able to move massive change through Congress, we have to look at the broader social and political context of the time. It’s this bigger picture, says Zelizer, that can give us clues on how to break through today’s Washington gridlock.

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81: The ultimate insider's tour of the U.S. Senate

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 26, 2015


For spring break, we are going to take you on the ultimate insider’s tour of the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol. Your guide: Senate historian Donald Ritchie, who will retire in May after nearly 40 years in the Senate Historical Office. The office serves as the Senate's “institutional memory,” according to its Website, collecting information on important dates, precedents and statistics. But it is so much more. Movie set designers, mystery writers and biographers have depended on Donald Ritchie to answer the serious and the trivial questions about everything from carpet color to whether this is actually the most do-nothing Congress. We asked Ritchie for a tour of some of his favorite places in the Senate – and some of our's too – such as: --Lyndon Johnson’s Senate office, nicknamed “the Taj Mahal” for its ornate decorations. --The Old Senate Chamber, where the Senate met from 1810 to 1859. When senators first gathered there, there were 32 of them. By the time they moved out in 1859, there were 64 -- and no more room. It also is the room where abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner was severely beaten by a Southern lawmaker during the pre-Civil War debates over slavery. --The original Library of Congress – a small room that started as a law library. When the British set the Capitol on fire in 1814, they used the books in this library as fuel for the blaze. Thomas Jefferson sold his private book collection to the federal government to restock the facility and the rest is, well, library history. --The Senate bathtubs tucked deep in the Capitol. Marble soaking tubs date back to the 1850s and were a pleasure -- and hygienic necessity -- when senators would arrive after long, hot carriage rides. So come behind the scenes with guest host Todd Zwillich and Senate historian Donald Richie on this week’s DecodeDC podcast. And for a look at the some of the sites we visited, check out the slideshow below from our staff photographer, Matt Anzur. You also can see full size versions of the images on the Scripps Washington bureau Flickr page.

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80: U.S., Russia and Ukraine: A web of complexity

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 19, 2015


It isn’t every day that Democrats and Republicans are on the same side of anything, so it may come as a surprise that the nation of Ukraine has not only brought them together, but brought them together in opposition to the White House. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle feel the United States should send lethal weapons to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia. The White House does not. Only minutes before the 113th Congress was about to adjourn in December, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act passed unanimously. Four days later President Barack Obama signed it into law, authorizing $350 million in lethal and nonlethal military assistance to Ukraine. But while the bill allowed the United States to send weapons to Ukraine, it didn’t force the administration to send them – and it hasn’t. Ukraine is still waiting. The U.S.-Russian relationship is complicated – real complicated. On the one hand, there are disagreements and clashes between the two countries over Ukraine’s sovereignty. On the other hand, they need to work together on things such as a nuclear deal with Iran. And that may mean that even though Congress has overcome its usual gridlock on this one issue, the former member of the Soviet bloc may never get its weapons. On this week’s podcast, guest host Todd Zwillich decodes the web of foreign policy issues around sending – or not sending – weapons to Ukraine. It’s a story that reaches from Washington to Moscow to Berlin to Tehran. Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.

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79: The six words behind the case against Obamacare

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 12, 2015


“What did they know and when did they know it?” It’s Washington’s favorite question for scandal, for mystery or subterfuge. Senator Howard Baker coined “what did they know and when did they know it” back in the Watergate hearings. It’s what lawmakers are asking about politics within the IRS, what regulators asked bank executives about the financial crisis and, of course, what EVERYONE wants to know about Hillary Clinton’s emails. But it also is the question at the heart of the current challenge to the Affordable Care Act, the ACA, also known as Obamacare. That’s the challenge the Supreme Court heard last week. Specifically, what did the people who wrote the law know about six words in the middle of a 906-page document. Those words stipulate that for people who cannot afford health care coverage, subsidies are available through “an exchange established by the state.” A key reminder, an exchange is just another word for a marketplace where you can go and buy health insurance. If you know anything about the ACA, you know that the federal exchange, or at least its web site, healthcare.gov., was a disaster when it first launched. States have the option to set up their own exchanges and skip the federal marketplace altogether. The government argued before the court that those words refer to any exchange, whether it was set up and run by the state or run for the state by the federal government. After all, it’s called the Affordable Care Act because the whole goal was to make health insurance affordable to everyone. The people challenging the law say the language is clear, it means exactly what it says. They argue that the Democrats who wrote those words actually wanted to withhold federal subsidies from states that didn’t build exchanges. That was their intention – a sort of carrot and stick. Michael Cannon, director of Health Policy Studies at the libertarian CATO Institute did research into those six words that formed the basis of the court challenge, and this is what he says: “It’s very clear right there in the statute. … Congress really meant that -- they intended that,” he said. “We thought that we were going to find that that was just a drafting error, that those words were accidentally slipped into the law and that’s not the case. All the evidence points to the conclusion that Congress meant to do this.” John McDonough, who was a top aid to Sen. Ted Kennedy and deeply involved in writing the text of the ACA in 2009, says there’s no mystery about what the lawmakers meant when they wrote those words: “Absolutely every member who voted for the law and every staffer involved in crafting the law fully understood that the subsidies would flow and were intended to flow to all 50 states regardless of whether they had a state exchange or if they had a federal exchange.” McDonough says the opponents to Obamacare are just cherry picking six words. “The Supreme Court has talked repeatedly that you never interpret a law just looking at random words here and there. You interpret a law based upon the context and the whole meaning of the whole statute and when you do that, there is no argument left.” Our podcast guest host, Todd Zwillich examines how those six words have became a federal case and why this law never got the copy-editing it deserved.

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78: Generation Me

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 05, 2015


Political scientists and lawyers have had their chance to diagnose the causes of the obvious ills in the American body politic, and to write some prescriptions. It’s high time to give some other faculties a chance. In this week’s podcast, we talk to a psychologist, Dr. Jean Twenge, of San Diego State University and the author of “Generation Me.” Twenge’s research often involves psychological differences between generations. Her writings are smart, thought provoking and very in tune with the times. One research finding we talk about in the podcast is that the well-documented decline in the trust Americans have in government and big institutions mirrors a decline in trust we have for each other. We just generally trust people less than we have in the recent past. So which is the chicken and which is the egg, less trust in people or in “the system”? It is all scrambled. Twenge suspects that a big part of this change is that Americans’ identity – our sense of individualism – is much less bound up in belonging to community, traditions, institutions and groups than it used to be. If that’s the case, it makes sense that we are more alienated from politics and government. Twenge has found this trend is exaggerated among young people, which is depressing. Millennials, she says, are especially uninterested in the civic world around them and less idealistic. And she says they have good reason.

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77: Inside House of Cards 5

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Feb 27, 2015


We are only hours away from the release of season three of House of Cards, the dark, cynical world of Washington politics as ruled by Francis Underwood. It’s a world that series showrunner Beau Willimon is well familiar with. As a playwright, he tackled similar themes with Farragut North, later adapted into the film Ides of March, starring George Clooney. And it’s a world Willimon has also lived as a former campaign staffer during several elections. In the final installment of our special series of podcasts, “Inside House of Cards,” Willimon tells us that working on the series and working on a campaign are not that different. “You have a big team of people who are all trying to accomplish the same goal. In the case of the campaign, it’s to get someone elected on a certain date. On a TV show, its to have 13 hours of content produced and ready to be delivered by a certain date and then on that date you see what the world thinks.” Frank Underwood, a ruthless and conniving congressman maneuvers his way to the Oval office through all means necessary – regardless of the legality or the body count. But Willimon says it’s not a show about politics. “What the show is really about is power,” he says. “It’s about how we navigate power not just in D.C. but with our spouses, our lovers, our friends, our colleagues … and that’s what makes it universal.” In this final installment of “Inside House of Cards," go inside the show with the man who invented Frank, Claire, Zoe, Remy and the world they occupy.

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76: Inside House of Cards 4

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Feb 25, 2015


Francis Underwood has finally made it to the White House. The character, played by Kevin Spacey, spent the first two seasons of “House of Cards” scheming, murdering and blackmailing his way from Congress to the vice presidency to the Oval Office. Together with his equally conniving wife, Claire, played by Robin Wright, they knock down every conceivable barrier, using any means necessary, in their quest for power. The show is filled with a lot of people willing to do almost anything to get what they want – but among the sleaziest characters in the series are a couple of female political reporters. They sleep with their sources, can’t help but catfight with each other and have the ethical standards of …. Well, they don’t have any ethical standards. We’re talking about Zoe Barnes, the young ambitious upstart reporter who starts at the conventional Washington Herald and flees for greater freedom and fame at the start-up digital “Slugline.” Her nemesis is the Herald’s White House correspondent, Janine Skorsky, who ultimate joins Zoe at “Slugline.” The idea that there’s a certain amount of sex or sexism in the Washington press pool isn’t totally off base. But that doesn’t mean real-life female political reporters see themselves in these characters. Pamela Kirkland, a video reporter at The Washington Post, wants to make one thing very clear, “I don’t sleep with people to get stories, that’s not how this works,” she says. “I am a journalist in Washington, D.C., but those are the only parallels between myself and Zoe Barnes.” "House of Cards” actually uses a part of the Baltimore Sun newsroom as its set. That’s where reporter Carrie Wells works. “I think a lot of people on the staff are fans of ‘House of Cards’,” says Wells. But she cautions, “it’s good entertainment, it’s just not journalism.” Listen to what it really takes to be a successful female political reporter in part four of our podcast series “Inside House of Cards.”

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75: Inside House of Cards 3

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Tue, Feb 24, 2015


It’s “House of Cards” week on DecodeDC. We are helping get YOU ready for the release of Season 3 of the Netflix series with a five-podcast special series, “Inside House of Cards.” Today’s installment – the third – is all about the business, or maybe the bloodsport, of lobbying and politics. One day, you’re an elected official or a political staff member. The next, you’re a member of a K Street firm trying your best to influence the very same government officials and legislators you just worked with.That’s the revolving door Jimmy Williams spun through when he went from Senate staffer to lobbyist. In the Netflix series, Remy Danton is a former press secretary and protege of Frank Underwood turned lobbyist. He uses his connections and contacts on behalf of one main client, an energy company. Jimmy Williams says Danton is a great character – he’s just not realistic. “You know what a lobbyist does in Washington, D.C.?” he rhetorically asks podcast host Andrea Seabrook. “Fund-raises. Nothing more and nothing less.” Williams says being a successful lobbyist means raising and delivering the most cash to a politician. “You raise the most money, you have the most access.” And it’s all legal. We go inside the real and fictional world of lobbying in today’s installment of “Inside House of Cards.”

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74: Inside House of Cards 2

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Mon, Feb 23, 2015


In the second installment of our DecodeDC special series, “Inside House of Cards,” we go into the world of journalism and politics. Our guide, Matt Bai, spent years as a Washington political reporter for The New York Times Magazine and is now a political columnist for Yahoo News. He has a particularly interesting perspective on how “House of Cards” depicts his profession, because Bai plays himself in several episodes of the second season of the series. While Bai thinks journalism in “House of Cards” is much darker than what really happens in Washington, D.C., he says there still is a lot that rings true. Frank Underwood and other characters are more transactional than real politicians, Bai says, but the series represents some essential truths about how the public sees Washington politics. “Sadly the thing that ‘House of Cards’ gets at is that everybody is about themselves, everybody is trying to game the system to their own advantage” Bai says. “There’s virtually no one for whom the end game is the actual enactment of policy.”

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73: Inside House of Cards 1

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Feb 19, 2015


February has been a brutal month for most of us – snow and cold and ice and kids home from school and trips cancelled. Perhaps the only thing that redeems this month is the release of season three of “House of Cards” on Feb. 27. Perhaps it is our fascination with the dysfunction of Washington that makes the Netflix drama so irresistible. Perhaps it’s the fact that the series takes you where no journalist is allowed to go - into the fantastical and not so fantastical political wheeling and dealing going on all around us – with a large dose of dramatic license. Where exactly is that line between truth, fiction and Washington politics? That’s the question we try to answer with a special series of podcasts – that’s right, it is “House of Cards” week on DecodeDC. Whether you are a series fan or just want to get the inside scoop on the dirtiest deeds of politicians, journalists and the political operatives that occupy Washington, you will definitely want to listen. **Spoiler alert – we’re going to talk about things that happened in seasons one and two.** In case you missed the first two seasons – here are the essentials. Francis Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, has wheedled and schemed his way from Congress to the vice presidency to the Oval Office. Together with his equally conniving wife, Claire, played by Robin Wright, they knock down every conceivable barrier, using any means necessary, in their quest for power. Along the way there’s murder, blackmail, a risque assortment of sexual forays, a crazy trade deal with China, a lot of seduction and deception. Those on the Underwoods’ side are rewarded, those obstructing their path are mowed down. Where do these people come up with these plots? We go to the sources for the answer. In episode one of “Inside House of Cards,” we take you into the writers room. Staff writer Bill Kennedy explains the narrative and the relationships and the key scenes that define seasons one and two. Journalism takes a shellacking in the series and in our second episode, we speak with Matt Bai, formally a political reporter at The New York Times Magazine. Bai plays a political reporter for The New York Times in season two and says the series gets at some essential truths about Washington and journalism. In episode three, we enter the world of Capitol-Hill-staffer-turned-lobbyist. Jimmy Williams has led the real life of one of the fictional characters in the series, Remy Danton. Williams says the life of a lobbyist is about one thing, raising money for members of Congress. House of Cards has a lot of nasty people, but some of the nastiest are female reporters. In episode four, we talk to two real-life women journalists who cover Washington -- Pam Kirkland of the Washington Post, the paper fictionalized in "House of Cards", and Carrie Wells of the Baltimore Sun, stand-in and real life set for the imagined "Washington Herald." In our fifth and final episode, we speak with Beau Willimon, the man behind the series. Willimon adapted the British version of “House of Cards” for the American audience and runs the show. A former campaign staffer, Willimon knows how the system works from the inside out, and as playwright he knows how to do drama. Download the DecodeDC's "Inside House of Cards" special series starting today and all next week – or, you can just binge listen to them all before the 27th!

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72: The politics of love

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Feb 12, 2015


Picture this: Girl agrees to go on date with boy. Girl and boy are having a great time together. But girl has a really bad feeling about boy. Girl thinks boy is a Republican. Date comes to a screeching halt. No, this is not some weird political romance novel. It’s the true story of Jessica’s first date with her now-husband, Ross. (Side note, he’s not a Republican.) “I sort of stopped and was like, can we set the record straight on this, like are you a Republican or not? Because if you are, like we could just end this date right now,” said Jessica Morales Rocketto. It may sound a little dramatic—refusing to date someone based on political ideology. But on this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook and producer Rachel Quester explore the wonky world of how much politics actually affect our romantic relationships. For liberals and conservatives, compatibility on political ideology is more important when picking a spouse than personality or physical characteristics. That’s according to John Alford, a political science professor at Rice University. Alford says that our biology predisposes us toward one ideology or the other—that the brains of liberals and conservatives are just wired differently. And that, he says, is why it’s really difficult to marry across the aisle. “One of the nicest views about the United States is this idea of the United States as a melting pot where over generations, differences disappear…. because we’re mating disproportionately with people of like-political views, there is no melting pot,” Alford said. Now for those who haven’t already picked their mate, there is hope for the politically minded single. Two dating sites, Red State Date and Blue State Date, match people based on compatible political ideologies. Alex Fondrier, the founder of both sites, said the purpose of the dating service is to help people passionate about politics find others who share that same passion. Listen to this week’s podcast for political dating advice, and why you should start every date with this question: What’s the first word that comes to mind when someone says Hillary Clinton? Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.

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71: Is it enough to make community college free?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Feb 05, 2015


Ever since President Obama unveiled his proposal to make two years of community college free for every American, it seems like all we’ve heard about is the money. How much would it cost? (Answer: about $6 billion.) How much would it bring in, once those students graduate, get better paying jobs, and contribute more in taxes? Here’s what no one seems to be talking about: actually finishing. Just 35 percent of students who start a two-year community college program get their degree within six years. There are a lot of reasons for that, says Krissy DeAlejandro, who started a full-tuition community college scholarship program in her home state of Tennessee. There isn’t one big reason why students tend to drop out, says DeAlejandro, but a combination of lots of little reasons. If their parents haven't been to college, which is the case for most of the students DeAlejandro works with, all of the college jargon can sound like a foreign language. "Oftentimes, what we've found is that they have questions you or I would take for granted like, 'What's a semester?' or 'What's a credit hour?' Those sorts of things, little barriers, will make a student throw up their hands and say, 'You know what, this is not for me.'" In Tennessee, DeAlejandro confronts these challenges with a unique weapon: volunteer mentors. She has a cadre of thousands. They visit high schools in 83 counties and help high school seniors keep up with all of the paperwork and deadlines so they can earn the scholarship. Once the students get on campus, DeAlejandro and her team follow up with texts, emails and regular face-to-face meetings. The state of Tennesee's fall-to-fall retention rate for community college students is about 50 percent. But among DeAlejandro's scholarship students? That retention rate is closer to 80 percent. So far, President Obama's plan doesn't include any of the mentoring or other supports DeAlejandro believes are so critical. Even though she and a colleague visited the White House over the summer to brief members of Obama's staff, it doesn't appear, at least, like they've taken all her advice. Still, DeAlejandro says she supports the President's program and is excited to see how it evolves.

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70: Can we stop Boko Haram?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jan 29, 2015


Crowds in the street chanting, “Bring back our girls!” Images of distraught parents and an outraged community. That’s how most Americans first learned about the terrorist group Boko Haram, which kidnapped more than 250 school girls from a state run school in Nigeria last April. In recent weeks, several brutal attacks have brought Boko Haram back into the news, from the all out assault and destruction of a fishing village in northeastern Nigeria that may have left as many as 2,000 dead, to the use of children as young as 10 years old in recent suicide bomb attacks. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has called Boko Haram “without question one of the most evil and threatening” terrorist organizations on Earth, traveled to Nigeria earlier this week to meet with the two main candidates running in next month’s presidential elections and stress the U.S.’s support for the Nigerian government in combating this terrorist organization. But when it comes to a group committing acts that are so heinous and with seemingly no limit to what they’re willing to do, isn’t there more the United States can do? On this week’s DecodeDC podcast, we ask, why don’t we just swoop in and help the good guys in Nigeria? Or simply eliminate these Boko Haram guys? Why can’t the U.S. and the international community just say: Enough. The answers we got are stunning and a more than a little eye-opening, because many close to the situation say they're not even sure the U.S. can do anything at all. Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.

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69: Obama's Legacy on Race

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jan 22, 2015


So, here’s a question. When is it too early to assess a president’s legacy? How about two years before his term ends? Not for David Haskell, an editor at New York magazine, who polled 53 historians and asked them how they thought we’d remember President Obama 20 years from now. On this week’s DecodeDC podcast, we talk with Haskell about his piece and what he learned. When asked what the president's legacy might be, the overwhelming response, according to those Haskell spoke with: Obama’s status as the first African-American president will be the defining aspect of his legacy. Yet they didn’t always agree on how race would affect the way we will remember Obama. Some pointed to the effect his race had on the opposition. These historians said what contemporary pundits won’t: that the rise of the Tea Party had something to do with Obama’s race. “Seeing a black family in the White House reminds us that this isn’t a white nation,” wrote historian Annette Gordon Reed. That simple fact, said the historians Haskell interviewed, riled up the opposition in a way that we wouldn’t have seen if he hadn’t been black. In fact, when Haskell asked historians what they thought the most enduring image of Obama’s presidency would be, one recalled the moment during the 2009 State of the Union address when Republican Joe Wilson shouted, “You lie!” As for Obama’s biggest disappointment, Haskell said he mentioned it himself in Tuesday’s speech. He came into the office with a desire to unify, but even he admits he’s fallen short. Obama said he still believes we can overcome partisanship and gridlock -- but the historians overwhelmingly told Haskell he probably can’t -- and they don’t fault him for it. They don’t believe Washington can be a more civil, less polarized place. In the words of historian Paul Kahn, the Obama presidency will be remembered as “...the moment at which gridlock became institutionalized.” Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter

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68: Is Obama Great? Wait and See

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jan 15, 2015


For the Obama administration, it’s the beginning of the end: the fourth quarter of his presidency. That means political junkies have moved on to 2016, while historians, scholars and, undoubtedly, the president himself have turned their attention to Obama’s legacy. Will he be known for Obamacare? For his Wall St. reforms? Or for ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? And how will people view those actions -- as accomplishments or failures? “These things are not fixed,” says Julian Zelizer, political historian at Princeton University. Presidential legacies shift and change over time, so Zelizer counsels that chief executives shouldn’t work too hard to shape how they’re viewed in the future. “The best they can do is just build a very good and vibrant record,” says Zelizer. Take Lyndon Johnson, the subject of Zelizer’s new book “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society”. For decades after Johnson left office, says Zelizer, “the one thing anyone could remember about his presidency is Vietnam. It totally shaped how both liberals and conservatives spoke about him: a total disaster. But gradually there’s been more interest in his domestic accomplishments.” These days LBJ’s legacy is defined as much for his work with the Civil Rights movement as it is for his commitment to keeping US forces in Vietnam. Most scholars think future discussions about the Obama presidency will consider health care reform, financial sector regulations, and the economic stimulus coming out of the Great Recession. And most certainly, says Zelizer, “we’ll be thinking about race in American politics because that’s how the story will begin, with the first African American president.” But a big part of how a president’s legacy develops is how politics unfold in the years afterward. “We won’t remember a lot of what he says, we won’t really remember a lot of what he does in these final two years but we will remember what happens when he leaves office.”

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Bonus: Violence and Muslims

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Jan 09, 2015


We’ve all been watching events unfold in Paris with sinking horror. Another terrorist attack, turning police, civilians, writers and satirists into blood and meat. Another man-hunt broadcast on TV; mugshots of terrorists with Muslim names. And now the chattering class is once again embroiled in the divisive argument we’ve witnessed for the last couple of decades; the argument over terrorism and Islam. To one side it seems obvious that Muslims condone violence, that Islam is the problem, or part of it anyway. To the other, it’s blasphemy to even consider the idea, wrong to even ask the question, ‘is there something about Islam that leads its followers to violent tactics?’ The two sides are deeply entrenched and totally sure of their points of view -- with mostly anecdotes to back them up. Well today we talked to a guy who does have data, a political science professor at U.C. Berkeley named M. Steven Fish. His research lead to a book with this title: Are Muslims Distinctive? A Look at the Evidence. Here’s a passage from the introduction: This book provides no definitive answers and addresses only a portion of the large issues. But it does take on a substantial chunk of the big questions and it examines them using hard evidence.Unbiased by prejudice and unconstrained by political correctness, this book treats the assumptions about Muslims that rattle around public debate as hypotheses, rather than as unassailable truths or as unconscionable falsehoods. The book aims to shift the grounds of the debate from hot and wispy rhetoric to fact-finding and hypothesis testing. It occurred to us that Fish’s work is exactly what we need right now: Data. Evidence. Someone to decode these questions, and Steve Fish has answers. No matter what you think now about Islam and terrorism, we guarantee that this conversation between DecodeDC host Andrea Seabrook and M. Steven Fish will change your mind -- or at least add nuance to your thinking.

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67: The Bootstraps Myth

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jan 08, 2015


Picture this: two candidates take the stage for a debate. One steps to the podium and begins with a few biographical facts. He was born to a factory worker and a stay-at-home mom, and he went to public school. Before says a word about policy, the second candidate steps up to the mic. You find out he went to private boarding school, and his dad was a doctor. Whether you realize it or not, in that moment, your brain has already taken some shortcuts to help you process what’s going on. Despite the fact that you don’t know anything about how either candidate feels about poverty, food stamps, schools, or taxes, there’s a good chance you’ve made some assumptions about the candidate from a working class-background. This is where we get in trouble, says political scientist Meredith Sadin. She studies social class and voting behavior at U.C. Berkley, and she runs real-life experiments that look a lot like the scene you just pictured. “These stories, which are sometimes very emotionally compelling, they are persuasive,” Sadin says. “But when you actually look at lawmaker’s roll call votes and behavior, they don’t really explain much at all. On this week's podcast, we ask: why are voters so easily swayed by this narrative? Probably because it’s part of America's DNA. It’s the “bootstraps” myth, the one that says no matter where you come from or how far behind you start, you can work hard and rise up. But as compelling as the story is, the data show it’s not nearly as common as we’d like to believe. Richard Reeves is an economist at the Brookings Institution. He predicts how much money people will make by crunching data on their parents-- race, income, education levels, et cetera. Reeves says if America was really the meritocracy we believe it to be, it would be a lot more difficult for him to predict where a kid would end up in life by studying their parents. After all, isn’t that what the earliest American settlers were trying to get away from back in Old World Europe? These days, ironically, children born into poverty in European countries like Denmark and France have a much better chance of rising up, bootstraps style, than poor kids here in the U.S. A child born to parents on the lowest rung of the economic ladder in America has a 40 percent chance of staying there. Just one in ten children born into families on that rung will end up in the top fifth of the U.S. income distribution. For certain groups, Reeves says, the chances are even more slim. More than half of children born to poor parents who are black, for example, will stay poor. The children who do move up the economic ladder don’t move very far. It’s also more likely for black families who do move out of poverty into the middle class to fall back down to the bottom of the ladder. There are two lessons we learned from talking to experts about this. First, we have to ask ourselves if economic mobility is something we really want to make real in America. If it is, there’ a lot of work to be done implementing policies that help people climb out of poverty. Second, when it comes to electing our representatives, we have to keep our emotions in check. A great bootstraps story might sound great, but we can’t let it sweep us off our feet. Instead, we have to look at how a lawmaker actually acts in office. No one wants to give up on the American dream, but we have to keep it real. Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.

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Episode 66: Who told the biggest political whopper in 2014?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Dec 24, 2014


‘Tis the season for the year-end list. And we thought it fitting that our contribution to this mainstay of holiday journalism be the best political lies of 2014 - from tiny truth-stretching fibs to all out, no-shame whoppers. To help us in our task, we turned to our friends at Politifact , the Pulitzer Prize- winning independent journalism Website that fact-checks statements from the White House, Congress, candidates, advocacy groups and pundits. Politifact uses very complex, purpose-built technology to rate these statements, the Truth-O-Meter. It has a scale that runs from “true” to “pants on fire” – as in “ liar, liar...” The Truth-O-Meter’s needle also can point to half-true, mostly-true, mostly-false and false. Politifact selected 10 finalists for 2014 lie of the year. Angie Drobnic Holan is the editor of Politifact and she said some of the selections probably sound pretty familiar. “Global warming is a hoax, ” was said by South Louisiana congressional candidate Lenar Whitney in a campaign video. “It is just a strategy designed to give more power to the executive branch while increasing taxes in a progressive stream to regulate every aspect of American life," Whitney said in the video. “We’ve fact-checked global warming for years now,” Politifact’s Holan said. “It’s not a hoax, it is real. Every time we look at it there is more evidence that says global warming is happening and its being caused by human activity.” Another favorite this year, President Obama’s statement during a recent news conference in Australia that his position on immigration action through executive orders “hasn't changed.” As far as the editors at Politifact were concerned, the president was attempting to revise history. “We went back and looked at all of the statements and his position had clearly changed” Holan said. They gave this one a “false” rating. Why not pants on fire? “The definition for false is the statement is not accurate, the definition for pants on fire is the statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim, ” she explained. Another immigration-related statement rises to the top of Politifact’s worst lies of 2014, this one involved ISIS or The Islamic State. The terrorist group has brutally killed thousands of people in Iraq and Syria and displaced hundreds of thousands in the region. But here’s something it hasn’t done as far as the Politifact people can tell – attempted to cross the Mexico border into Texas. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, made this comment about the Border Patrol capturing ISIS fighters on Fox News in October. The staff of Politafact checked with federal authorities, state authorities and ultimately rated this one a pants on fire statement. “It seems to be something he got from partisan Websites that were using anonymous sources” Holan said. (Note to saavy citizens: Beware the anonymous sources.) If you want to hear about Politfact’s lie of the year…well, listen to the podcast or you can cheat and check out their website. [Also on the podcast: A missed chance to limit police chokeholds] Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.

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Episode 65: Race, police and chokeholds

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Dec 18, 2014


It was the early morning hours of Oct. 6, 1976. Adolph Lyons, a 24-year-old African-American, was driving through Los Angeles with a broken taillight. Two LAPD officers in a squad car pulled Lyons over, and approached with their pistols drawn. Lyons got out, the cops turned him around, spread eagle, and placed his hands on the back of his head. Lyons’ keys, still in his hand, dug into his scalp and he complained. One of the police officers called that resisting arrest and grabbed Lyons from behind, putting an arm across Lyons’ neck. The cop kept Lyons in the chokehold until he passed out and dropped to the ground. Lyons awoke to find that he had urinated and defecated on himself and was coughing up blood and dirt. The police officers who had pulled him over then issued him a citation -- a traffic ticket for the broken taillight -- and let Lyons go. Reporter Dave Gilson of Mother Jones Magazine rediscovered this story after the death of Eric Garner last summer. Garner had been put in a chokehold by a police officer on Staten Island, N.Y.; his death was later ruled a homicide. Gilson wanted to know if the use of chokeholds by police had ever come before the federal courts -- and it had. Adolph Lyons sued the City of Los Angeles for violating his constitutional rights: the right to due process under the Fifth Amendment, and the right to equal protection, under the Fourteenth Amendment. His case rose all the way to the Supreme Court, where, in 1982, the high court included the nation’s first African-American Justice and the grandson of slaves: Justice Thurgood Marshall. In this week’s DecodeDC podcast,host Andrea Seabrook and Mother Jones reporter Dave Gilson recount the case of Adolph Lyons and the legal battle over race, police and chokeholds. The case’s similarities with the case of Eric Garner are palpable and stunning. And the conclusions of Thurgood Marshall show that the issues of race, police and chokeholds struck people of conscience long before Eric Garner’s death.?

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Episode 64: Should local prosecutors prosecute local cops?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Dec 12, 2014


There are hard, deep-seeded questions in the public’s outcry following two police killings – that of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City. Race, poverty, police training, and the use of deadly force are only a few of them. There’s a legal question, too, only a small slice of the issue, but one that could be worked on in concrete ways. It stems from this: In both Ferguson and New York City, local prosecutors took the cases before local grand juries, and in both instances the jurors declined to indict the police officers involved in the killings. So the legal question is this: Should a criminal justice system investigate itself? Is there a conflict of interest when prosecutors, who work with cops every day putting away criminals, turn around and prosecute accused police officers? Gina Barton, an award-winning investigative reporter at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, says it’s a question people have been asking in Wisconsin for years. “If somebody in your own police department does something wrong, the investigators know this guy, they’ve worked with this guy, maybe he saved their life at some point or backed them up on something. And so, even if there’s not an actual conflict of interest, there’s definitely a perceived conflict of interest,” she says. In this week’s DecodeDC podcast, host Andrea Seabrook talks to Barton about the country’s first law to address the problem. Enacted in Wisconsin earlier this year, the law came up after two earlier police-involved deaths outraged the public, those of Michael Bell in 2004, and then Derek Williams in 2012. Barton tells these two young mens’ stories, and then recounts a third, the police killing of Dontre Hamilton earlier this year. Just days after the new law passed, a Milwaukee police officer shot Hamilton 14 times in a public park, providing a test case by which Wisconsin’s law is being judged. Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.

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Episode 63: Under the Radar

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Dec 05, 2014


Like any parent might, one Wisconsin mom wanted to make sure her adult daughter’s new boyfriend was a decent guy. So she went online and and searched for his name, Matthew Carr. What she found was nothing -- which, in retrospect, is incredibly shocking. A few years earlier, while serving in the Air Force, Carr had been court-martialed for posing as a doctor and luring women into “gynecological exams.” The Air Force convicted Carr of “indecent assault" of seven women and sentenced him to seven years in prison. But none of this came up in the Wisconsin mom’s search. Carr’s name didn’t pop up in criminal background checks or appear on any sex offender registry. So by the time the mom learned the truth -- from another family member’s deeper sleuthing -- her daughter had already submitted to several of Carr’s “exams.” This convicted military sex offender had blended back into civilian society, only to commit the same heinous crime against more women. This week on the DecodeDC podcast, host Andrea Seabrook talks with Scripps national investigative reporter Mark Greenblatt, who led a team of Scripps journalists that conducted a nine-month reporting project into military sex offenders who drop under the radar when returning to civilian life. “We took the names of all 1,300 military sex offenders that we believed were convicted,” Greenblatt tells Seabrook, “and we plugged them into the sex offender registry databases of all 50 states. We found that in an alarming number of cases, these names were not popping up on any available list that you or I or a mom in Wisconsin would ever have access to.” What the team uncovered is that Matthew Carr is one of at least 242 convicted military sex offenders whose names and offenses are not on any public U.S. sex offender registries today. Read the full investigation here and search the team's database of military sex offenders here. Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.

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Episode 62: Politics around the Turkey

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Tue, Nov 25, 2014


Does the thought of Thanksgiving make your palms sweat? Does your stomach hurt, BEFORE the meal? Maybe holiday fun translates to holiday dysfunction when it comes to your family gathering? We hear you. So just in time for your yearly gathering of the relatives, from the left, right and center, we offer this survival guide for talking turkey and politics. On this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook takes your stories of politics and holidays past and runs them by journalist Amy Dickinson , who writes the syndicated advice column Ask Amy. Here’s an excerpt of their conversation. Amy: It’s very common starting around September for people to write to me already nervous about Thanksgiving and how are they going to manage these disparate points of view. And its not like “oh how silly”, it’s a real issue. We don't spend enough time together to work things out, so it all happens around the table…I actually have a number of suggestions for families to cope with the dinner. A lot of people say pass the butter and retreat to football games. If who ever is host of the dinner can be a little more intentional they can create a different sort of atmosphere at the table. One way to do this that’s worked really well in my family is with toasting people. You sort of start the meal with toast. Andrea: Besides a toast... another thing Amy says you can do is get everyone to write down their funniest Thanksgiving memory, and then pass the stories around to read aloud... Amy: So you have a kid reading Uncle Harvey’s memory from 1942, you know it’s a lot of fun and it engages people more in a personal way because I think a lot of families if they are political and if they are likely to engage in political arguments the goal should be to just sort of stave that off just maybe over coffee instead of over turkey and stuffing. Andrea: Now what about people who WANT to talk politics around the turkey? Or worse, what if you’re seated next to one of them... That’s what happened to Jeff Pierce when his sister brought her fiance home to meet the family for the first time at Thanksgiving. Jeff Pierce: I had just won a scholarship for writing an essay on the importance of unions. Instead of not bringing it up he ask, “So what do you think of unions?” Because he knew I was the only liberal in my family. He really took advantage of my uncle who is the most conservative person in my family and together they were just jumping on me and I was just sitting there trying not to get incredibly angry. Andrea: So he’s trapped. What do you say to him? Amy: Okay, now everyone needs to focus- this is really important. This is when you get to use children as human shields. Andrea: I've been waiting for some way that was okay. Amy: I know they come in so handy! It sound like this person did what he could to suppress his anger and I think that’s great but sometimes you can just say this is a really loaded topic for me so I’m just going to ask Billy, “How was that soccer game?” Andrea: The thing to remember, says Amy, is that, it’s not just dinner, it’s THANKSGIVING. And with every helping could come a new tradition, a new memory, even if they are a little goofy.

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Politics around the Turkey Giblet - 4

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Sun, Nov 23, 2014


If you’re anxious about the dinner topics during the holiday season, Decode has your back. We hope to help you navigate your way through the Turkey dinner with our political guide to surviving Thanksgiving. So, for your listening pleasure we are releasing snippets, sneak-peeks, giblets—if you will of our upcoming Thanksgiving episode: Politics around the Turkey.

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Politics around the Turkey Giblet - 3

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Sun, Nov 23, 2014


If you’re anxious about the dinner topics during the holiday season, Decode has your back. We hope to help you navigate your way through the Turkey dinner with our political guide to surviving Thanksgiving. So, for your listening pleasure we are releasing snippets, sneak-peeks, giblets—if you will of our upcoming Thanksgiving episode: Politics around the Turkey.

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Politics around the Turkey Giblet - 2

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Sun, Nov 23, 2014


If you’re anxious about the dinner topics during the holiday season, Decode has your back. We hope to help you navigate your way through the Turkey dinner with our political guide to surviving Thanksgiving. So, for your listening pleasure we are releasing snippets, sneak-peeks, giblets—if you will of our upcoming Thanksgiving episode: Politics around the Turkey.

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Politics around the Turkey Giblet-1

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Sun, Nov 23, 2014


If you’re anxious about the dinner topics during the holiday season, Decode has your back. We hope to help you navigate your way through the Turkey dinner with our political guide to surviving Thanksgiving. So, for your listening pleasure we are releasing snippets, sneak-peeks, giblets—if you will of our upcoming Thanksgiving episode: Politics around the Turkey.

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Episode 61: Exit Interview with Rep. Bill Owens

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Nov 19, 2014


Some politicians slide into Congress after a boring, predictable, easy win as the predestined candidate. Others practically stumble — like Congressman Bill Owens, who was the last man standing in the dust of a political nuclear war back in 2009. In this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook sits down with the Democratic congressman from upstate New York as part of DecodeDC’s Exit Interview series. Owens announced his retirement in January of this year. Congressman Owens is one of the most endangered species in Washington—the rational pragmatist. “My view of the world is that there is a band of rational thought that we should all act in. I’m not saying that there is nothing you should be passionate about. But I think ultimately you have to go back to a thought-process that is fact-based and analytic,” Owens said. But to understand how a lawmaker can be so rational, let’s take a look at how he got to Congress. It was a special election in upstate New York that came at the end of President Obama’s first year in office. Republicans were in an uproar, and the tea party was on the rise. Two candidates jumped into the race from the right. One was a moderate, and the other was a tea party-endorsed conservative. But through all of this, no one seemed to notice the guy in the corner—the Democrat, Bill Owens, in the race for a seat that hadn’t been held by a Democrat since the Civil War. When the dust finally settled, Owens had won. But the day after the election, the news coverage practically ignored him and instead focused on the two opponents he beat – and Owens says he was actually pretty glad not to be on the television. “Because the narrative that they (his opponents) were putting out was in large measure inaccurate. And so it was my introduction, if you will, to the idea that people talked from a script rather from, in my perspective, what they believed,” Owens says. Owens isn’t one for the Red Team/Blue Team fight. In fact, he was a registered Independent for much of his career. “You can’t take a position, in my view, that says, ‘Well, I’m going to have you sacrifice but not me. ‘… We need to finds ways to, if you will, conjoin the interests of groups as opposed to splitting them apart. And we don’t focus on that in my view very often,” Owens says. Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.

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Episode 60: Polarized America: How'd we get here?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Nov 14, 2014


There was a time when Americans weren’t so intensely divided as we are today. In fact, says journalist and writer Bill Bishop, from World War II to the mid 1970s, Americans’ attitudes about culture, family and politics grew more alike. Then things started to change, says Bishop. Politics split us up, became harsher and more polarized. At the same time, economic forces and rising standards of living sparked a huge increase in people’s mobility; it’s no longer common to spend your life in one town, one church or one company. That new mobility added to Americans’ separating political views, as people moved to regions, cities and neighborhoods in which they felt comfortable -- surrounded by people of a similar world view. Bill Bishop outlines this process in his book, “The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart.” This week on the DecodeDC podcast, Bishop brings a fresh perspective on the polarization of politics, suggesting that, rather than point fingers at Washington, we ought to take a look in the mirror. The act of voting has new meaning for Americans argues Bishop, now that we’ve clustered together among people with similar world-views. “Politics becomes more about expressing the self rather than policy or decisions that Congress makes,” he tells host Andrea Seabrook. “People vote to reinforce their identities rather than to change policy.” The surprising conclusion to Bishop’s thesis is this: today’s intensely partisan Washington may look grid-locked and broken, but it’s actually doing exactly what Americans’ have asked of it. In Bishop's words, “it’s representative government at its best.”

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Episode 59: GOP wins BIG...but there's more to the story

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Nov 06, 2014


There’s really only one story to tell about the 2014 midterm elections, right? Only one story, that is, if you rely on the constant stream of chatter from 24-7 cable TV, election-obsessed political rags, and the twitterverse for your news. The story? Republicans won – BIG TIME. And it’s true. Not only did the GOP swoop in and seize more than enough seats to take control of the Senate, in the House they likely* increased their majority to a margin Republicans haven’t enjoyed since Harry Truman was in the White House (*likely because vote-counts aren’t complete in a handful of congressional districts). But that’s not the only story the midterms have to tell. “On one level, they (the Republicans) were the big winners of the night,” says DecodeDC’s Senior Washington Correspondent Dick Meyer. “But you scratch deeper and you see this anger towards Washington, and I think even more importantly, you see a profound pessimism about the future, about the future of the economy, about the direction the country is going in. Sixty-five percent of the people in the exit poll said they think the country is seriously on the wrong track; not a little bit on the wrong track, seriously on the wrong track.” On the latest DecodeDC podcast, Meyer and host Andrea Seabrook talk about this, and other hidden stories from the midterm elections. Plus they ponder the consequences of an angry, disappointed, and pessimistic electorate for a Congress that, so far anyway, hasn’t learned its lesson. “It will take something for politicians at some moment in time, at some moment in our history to say ‘hey, let’s change the formula, and let’s try to act more statesmen-like for awhile and see how that changes the deck’,” Meyer tells Seabrook. “I think the opportunity for this election to do that is there, because I think the message is very clear to Washington. It was a profound message that we don’t like either party, we don’t like any group of leaders. Whether it plays out that way, I’m skeptical.” Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.

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Episode 58: Future of Voting

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Oct 31, 2014


Next Tuesday Americans across the country will participate in one of the most basic civic duties: voting. For many, that means taking time off work, driving to a designated polling place and casting their ballot through standalone voting machines. But what if the process of voting could be vastly different? Today we can do almost anything on the Internet from banking to ordering take-out, so it only feels natural that we should be able to vote that way too. In this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook and Decode DC reporter Miranda Green delve into the benefits and road blocks to online voting and try to see into the future of elections. Not all elections experts think going online is a great idea. But Thad Hall, a professor of political science at the University of Utah, is ready. “You know it’s kind of the ultimate easy, convenient way to vote. And I don’t have to have a piece of paper, I don’t have to mail it back, I can send my ballot instantaneously. If Hurricane Sandy comes, I don’t have to worry about voting because I can just vote from my phone or I can vote from a computer somewhere.” But then there are the naysayers, many of them statisticians and engineers who think the Internet is too insecure for such a sacred thing as voting. Alex Halderman, a professor at the University of Michigan puts it this way, “I think most people like 100 percent accuracy in voting. The problem with voting with computer technology is [hackers] can change the election result to be whatever they wanted.” There are even those who believe electronic voting booths should be done away with, that what America needs is good old paper voting. Ronald Rivest, a professor at MIT says,“The high level goal is to not to just get the right vote count but one that’s provably right. Now here I am at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a fan of paper, but when you deal with security for a long time, you find that simpler is often better.” So when it comes to the future of voting, the crystal ball is cloudy. Some say it’s only a matter of time before Americans demand online voting, especially as younger digital-natives start voting in larger numbers. And to be sure, voting is already changing in the U.S. Not only are more states allowing mail-in ballots and early voting but one of the biggest election-tech companies is piloting ways to thread the needle between the security of paper ballots and the convenience of voting online. Want to keep up with all the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.

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Episode 57: The Dark Money Blitzkrieg

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Oct 24, 2014


Tis the season for elaborate costumes, anonymous boogiemen and masked pranksters. That's right, it’s election season. Across the country, races for the House, Senate, governors and state legislators are being haunted by nasty attack ads. In this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook takes a deep dive into dark money groups, responsible for some of the nastiest ads . As the co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, Michael Franz tracks political ads on TV stations across the country and collects data on interest groups and their spending. What makes dark money groups so ominous, Franz explains, is they are not required to disclose any information about who their donors are. So it is unclear who exactly is funding them. “You could Google American’s for America and maybe find their P.O. Box or something, but you wouldn’t necessarily find anything else really about them. And I think that from a simple standpoint of what we know when making decisions [that] this is a troubling development,” he says. And when dark money groups blast into a campaign, pouring in millions of dollars to bombard it with attack ads, it can totally confuse the entire election. “You’re going to see a candidate win on Election Day talk about voters having spoken on affirmation of my message and it might not be that at all. It could be an affirmation of the negative messages from unaffiliated organizations,” says Franz. Because the funders of those ads could be anyone, or any special interest, or any business, voters have no way of judging the real motives of the ads or who is responsible for them. Is that the way we want our democracy to work?

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Episode 56: The legacy of AIDS shapes government's response to Ebola

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Oct 17, 2014


Ebola has killed nearly 5,000 people and put America and the world on high alert. In contrast, the world’s worst pandemic, AIDS, hit the U.S. three decades ago and was largely ignored. Because of that, hundreds and then thousands fell sick and died of AIDS before the U.S. government even mentioned it publicly. “The country had never had much of a discussion about homosexuality, they loathed us and feared us,” says long-time AIDS activist Peter Staley. In those bleak years, activists organized, staged dramatic protests, and demanded new procedures at the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health -- procedures that could help Ebola patients today. “The openness to using experimental treatments and vaccines is a legacy of the AIDS epidemic and AIDS activists,” says Mark Harrington, director of the Treatment Action Group, an organization founded at the height of the crisis. The lessons learned from AIDS are informing the world’s response to Ebola. But, says Harrington, it’s also clear there are lessons the world didn’t learn. “We don’t really have a good rapid response system and these outbreaks are going to keep happening until we have better health systems in place in poor countries.” On this week’s DecodeDC podcast, host Andrea Seabrook explores the legacy of the AIDS crisis, and its reverberations in the world’s response to Ebola.

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Episode 55: Tackling unwanted pregnancies: a conversation with Isabel Sawhill

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Oct 10, 2014


A staggering number of young women are having babies today who say they didn’t mean to get pregnant. New statistics from the Brookings Institution show that, among American women under age 30, more than 70% of pregnancies are unintended. In her new book, “Generation Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without Marriage,” Brookings fellow Isabel Sawhill tackles the hot-button issues of poverty, contraception and having children out of wedlock. DecodeDC host Andrea Seabrook talked to her for our latest podcast. Here’s an edited excerpt from their conversation: Andrea Seabrook: You have a couple of different prescriptions for what the government should do. One seems to focus on the fertility of women, that women who want to make it into the middle class or to break this cycle, should be on long-term birth control. Tell me a little bit about that idea. Isabel Sawhill: Right now, the amount of unintended and unwanted pregnancies we have in the United States is enormous. Fifty percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. For single women under 30, unmarried women under 30, it’s 73%. So this is not a minor problem. This is the norm that people are having babies before they’re ready, and before they say themselves they want them. Think about the following statistics: If you and your partner are using a condom after five years, your chances of getting pregnant are 63%. People haven’t been told that. If you’re on the pill, your chances of getting pregnant after five years are 38%. Now if you’re on long acting contraceptives like the IUD or implant, your chances are 2% after five years. So it makes a huge difference what kind of contraception you use. We’ve had all of this debate about birth control, but very little discussion about how much difference it makes what kind you use. Andrea Seabrook: Your work is controversial. Some people seem to think, ‘Oh, she just doesn’t want those poor kids or those brown kids to have babies.’ What’s your response? Isabel Sawhill: This is a hugely important issue. So of course there’s huge sensitivity in this country to any suspicion that someone might be trying to prevent births to low income or minority women. And I looked at that issue very carefully and what I think people don’t realize is that the data show that rates of unintended and unwanted pregnancies are three or four times among low income women as they are amongst higher income women. The same for minority versus whites. Minority women are having huge rates of unintended pregnancy. Why shouldn't we want to empower them to align their fertility outcomes or behavior with what they really want? It’s not doing anybody a favor to allow them to have a child that came too soon or that they didn’t want. Want to keep up with the latest DecodeDC stories and podcasts? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at decodedc.com/newsletter.

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Episode 54: Disaster Prone: What you get may depend more on where you live than what you lost

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Oct 03, 2014


This week on the DecodeDC podcast we’re talking to Scripps national investigative reporter Lee Bowman about his story on the disaster behind federal disaster aid. When your house or town gets destroyed by a hurricane or a tornado, you may expect the federal government to step in and help. But whether you get money from the feds may depend more on where you live than on the extent of the damage. The original idea behind federal disaster aid was to help only when the damage and scope of an event exceeded state and local resources. Now we have something called “disaster inflation” – many smaller storms that used to be handled by state funds are getting the national disaster label and the dollars that come with it. The boom in federal disaster declarations by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama is stretching resources at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and costing taxpayers billions. These two presidents are responsible for 38 percent of all disasters declared since the federal aid programs began in 1953 – and it’s not because the weather is getting that much worse. FEMA has come under fire for distributing aid disproportionately, as some see it, often disqualifying serious emergencies in large states while giving cash to more routine events in smaller states. And with so many more national disaster declarations – and with the agency stretched thin – sometimes FEMA spends more to run an operation then delivering aid for the disaster. But politicians love to say yes when it comes to spending money to help people at home. So don’t expect any campaign slogans calling for less federal disaster aid or any changes in how the money gets distributed.

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Episode 53: Exit Interview: Rep. Henry Waxman reflects on 40 years in Congress

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Sep 25, 2014


On April 14, 1994, the top executives of America’s seven largest tobacco companies filed into the hearing room before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health and the Environment. Before speaking, the CEOs took an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – as most witnesses before Congress do. Each man then proceeded to testify that cigarettes and nicotine are not addictive. It was a moment that would change America’s relationship with tobacco. On March 17, 2005, six of the most important Major League Baseball players at the time sat side-by-side before the House Government Reform Committee: Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, Curt Schilling, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. With fans, kids, and reporters watching, most of the players refused to admit they were aware of the illegal use of steroids in baseball, or downplayed the breadth of the problem, until the question was posed to Jose Canseco. He told the assembled congressmen that a “large number of players” were using drugs, and that the trainers, managers and even team owners knew about it. It was a moment that would turn around Major League Baseball’s response to rampant drug use. The work of one individual congressman was critical to both of these historic hearings: Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. In both cases it was Waxman’s vision of bringing together the most important people at a sweet-spot in history that led to major changes in American culture. After a four-decade career in Congress, Waxman announced this year that this term would be his last. As part of DecodeDC’s “Exit Interviews” series, podcast host Andrea Seabrook talks to Waxman about his career – and about mastering the art of the congressional hearing.?

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Episode 52: The Vicar of Baghdad

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Sep 19, 2014


He is called the Vicar of Baghdad, though his life couldn’t be more different from the average English vicar. The Reverend Canon Andrew White leads St. George’s Church, the last Anglican church in Iraq. He also runs a clinic that sees thousands of patients a month, and a food program that feeds hundreds every week – regardless of their beliefs or religious affiliation. But though this work is much admired, it is not what has made Rev. White famous. As president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, White has forged personal relationships with the heads of opposing Muslim groups in Iraq. He is one of the precious few people in the world who has the trust of both Sunni and Shia leaders. Because of this, and because of the gritty humanitarian aid he extends to Iraqis, White says he is a danger to terrorists, especially ISIS, the brutal group ruling over large swaths of Iraq and Syria. “I do not allow them to maintain their own extremist positions, and I do not allow them to say, ‘look, we have got to fight against the other’,” White says. In this week’s DecodeDC podcast, host Andrea Seabrook sits down with Rev. White in the Library of Congress. He describes the danger and difficulty of continuing his work in Baghdad, and what keeps him going. White says he is driven to go deeper into the conflict, and tells Seabrook: “You do that by listening to those who might be against you. Who is my enemy? It is the person whose story I haven’t heard. And so you listen to their story, you get to know who they are, and you befriend them. You eat with them, you become their neighbor. And then you can bring about change.”

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Episode 51: Does the United States have a responsibility to act against ISIS?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Sep 12, 2014


On this week's DecodeDC podcast, host Andrea Seabrook talks to three experts about a deceptively simple question: What responsibility does the U.S. have, if any, to respond to ISIS? Many Americans have been surprised in recent weeks by the brutal takeover of large regions of Iraq and Syria by the fundamentalist regime as it threatens men, women and children who don’t comply with its violent form of strict Sharia law with the most atrocious consequences -- massacres, beheadings and crucifixions. Earlier this week, President Barack Obama outlined his plan for military action against the group and announced the country would be working with a coalition of partners to degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIS. The experts we spoke with -- Bruce Hoffman, the director of Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies; Justin Logan, the head of Foreign Policy Studies at the libertarian think tank The Cato Institute; and Jim Wallis, a public theologian and activist -- disagree on what action the U.S. should take against ISIS. But they do not differ on these two facts: Americans are exhausted and war-weary. And they are desperate to return to a world where terrible threats don’t interrupt their lives with violent images. By all accounts, this brutal form of Islamic fundamentalism and the terrorists who propagate it are not fading. The question is what could -- or should -- the United States do about it.

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Episode 50: The Political Ad That Changed Everything

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Sep 05, 2014


It aired only once. A one-minute spot during “The NBC Monday Night Movie.” But it changed every political ad that came after -- as well as the entire field of advertising. The Daisy ad aired during the height of Lyndon B. Johnson’s re-election campaign, on the night of Sept. 7, 1964. Republican Barry Goldwater, LBJ’s challenger, had said in speeches and interviews that he would be willing to use nuclear weapons to better America’s position in the Vietnam war. The ad was the Johnson campaign’s attempt at exploiting Goldwater’s aggressive military stance. And it worked. Johnson would go on to win re-election by a landslide. The ad itself has a long-lasting legacy as well. Its mastermind was a man named Tony Schwartz, a young writer at a new kind of ad agency (one that would later be the inspiration for the AMC hit TV show, "Mad Men"). Rather than focusing on a candidate’s policy statements or plans for the future, as almost every political ad before it had done, Schwartz honed in on the viewers and their emotions. His aim was to create ads that evoked feelings the audience might already have, to “strike the responsive chord”, as he called it. On this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook talks to Joe Slade White, now one of the most sought after political consultants in American politics, and David Schwartz, chief curator of the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. Their conversations range from the history and importance of the Daisy ad to the psychology that underlies it. It is critical background for the educated voter, especially in these times of political ads saturating the airwaves. You can view political ads through U.S .history at The Museum of the Moving Image’s archive of political ads, The Living Room Candidate.

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Episode 49: Why more Americans are carrying guns in more places than ever before

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 28, 2014


Americans can carry more guns in more places than ever before. Across the country, grassroots movements in states and on college campuses are demanding that gun regulations be relaxed -- and lawmakers are meeting those demands. This is one, major trend reported by News21, an eight-month project in investigative reporting that brought together top journalism students to study one issue: Guns in America. Here at DecodeDC we’re featuring many of the News21 stories, from the prevalence of women carrying guns to the refusal by some local authorities to enforce gun control laws. And last week’s DecodeDC podcast focused on the evolution of the political debate surrounding guns, and a smaller microcosm of that debate: Colorado. This week, host Andrea Seabrook talks to News21 reporters Kate Murphy and Wade Millward about the sweeping trend they found through their reporting: Americans are reacting to continuing gun violence in a new way. Whereas a few decades ago, a shooting might cause citizens to demand tighter gun control, today they demand more leeway to defend themselves.

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Episode 48: The Changing Front Lines in the Battle Over Guns

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Aug 22, 2014


It has been twenty years since Congress passed federal gun control legislation. That’s two decades in which America has seen some of the most horrific massacres in our nation’s history. But despite DC's gridlock on the issue, America’s debate over gun rights and gun regulations has gained energy. Just not in Washington. That’s just one conclusion of an in-depth, eight-month reporting project by this year’s News21 team. Student journalists tackled the issue of guns in America, turning out dozens of stories from the new, changing front lines of the debate. We here at DecodeDC have featured several of their stories, from funding of gun rights groups to the problems with our national background check system and state efforts to nullify federal gun laws. Today, we’re featuring them on the podcast. Host Andrea Seabrook talks to News21 reporters Justine McDaniel Jacy Marmaduke, getting a broad overview of the current state of the gun debate in America, and then looking at a single state that is both a microcosm of the national debate, and a crucible for activists’ tactics.

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Episode 47: Meet the Marketer of Ideas, Arthur Brooks

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 14, 2014


This week’s podcast is a conversation with Arthur Brooks, who runs the American Enterprise Institute, a big conservative think tank in Washington and our chief Washington correspondent Dick meyer. It didn’t turn out to be the podcast we expected. Brooks is a very smart, very passionate, very articulate guy. He always has a take on things that is fresh so we wanted to hear his thoughts on the world of Washington think tanks. We in the news business use the phrase “think tank” all the time but we rarely look inside them as Washington players worthy of examination. We call their experts for quotes, wisdom on deadline and TV bookings. But now a couple of the big think tanks – notably the Heritage Foundation on the right and the Center for American Progress on the left – have set-up separate organizations to do lobbying, electioneering and advocacy. Think tanks, under the tax laws, are research and scholarly organizations that don’t get involved explicitly in elections and lobbying so this new development that has drawn a lot of criticism. Generally, many believe the policy parlors have gotten just as polarized as the rest of political Washington. We asked Brooks if he thought the world of think tanks and policy analysis has gotten more partisan and politicized in recent years, less authoritative and independent. His answer surprised us. Sure, Brooks agreed, some of the players have become pretty hard-core politically. So what? Brooks’ take is that more is better -- more loud, intense, passionate political voices are good. It’s okay if the tenor of Washington is a little more obnoxious or fractious. We’re not so fragile that we can’t take it. In a nutshell, his argument is similar to those who think the Internet is going to facilitate real, positive change in the world – eventually. Yes, it might appear that the web has created a lot of trivia, time wasting, irritating social media and obnoxious behavior. It has also undermined the business models of important areas of the economy – like news, music and books. But it has also connected virtually all the information in the world; it gives people access to the public domain without a printing press or TV station. Confusing, revolutionary, unpredictable: the Web Utopians think it will lead to great things. Brooks doesn’t deny that politics has become more polarized, partisan and boorish. But he seems to view it as a stage – and a small price to pay for a burgeoning of active and ornery citizenship and engagement.

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Episode 46: A "Border Crisis" Far from the Border

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Aug 08, 2014


Tens of thousands of children have crossed into the United States this year, fleeing desperate conditions in Central America. The news media have dubbed it a “border crisis,” though none of these kids stays at the border for very long. And in Washington, Congressional leaders seem more focused on who to blame rather than what to do about it. In this week's podcast, host Andrea Seabrook goes straight to the front lines of the crisis. No, not the border but an elementary school just a few miles from the U.S. Capitol. Susan Holiday, the principal at Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary School, in Cheverly, Maryland doesn’t have the luxury of debating the politics of immigration, or playing the blame-game. With a third of her students unable to speak or read English, she and her staff focus on the practicalities: teaching young immigrants in a new language, a new school, and a new home. "On their enrollment it will say you know, 'Date first entered the United states'," says Holiday. "Let's just say their first day of school is August 25, it might say August 20. That means they just got here." Students like this have very different needs from American kids returning to school, she says. Some have just made an arduous trek through the desert, some without an adult. Many new immigrant students at Spellman school don't read or write in their native language, much less in English. And so Holiday and her staff reorganize classes, pair new students with bilingual ones, and make any accommodation they can to get those kids in class. In the end, it doesn't matter what the politics are, and it's clear that this is much more than a "border crisis." The way Susan Holiday sees it, it's a practical problem. There's work to do. Now do it.

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Episode 45: How one bill passed in the aftermath of 9/11 is still shaping U.S. modern warfare

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Aug 01, 2014


It was three days after the attacks —September 14th, 2001 -- that Congress gathered in Washington to respond to the vicious blow America had sustained. Every member of the House and Senate, save one, voted to give President George W. Bush the authority to capture or kill those responsible. The bill they passed that day is called the AUMF -- The Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists. Many predictions were made that day, of the coming war, the stamina and depth of the commitment it would require of American citizens. But what no one knew, what no one could know, is how the AUMF would anchor the country to that moment, and drag it back there again and again during the longest war in the nation's history. On this week's podcast, DecodeDC host Andrea Seabrook tells the story of how it happened, and what many think should come next.

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Episode 44: Exit Interview: Rep. Rush Holt

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 24, 2014


Members of Congress are notorious for being tight-lipped about the details of the legislative process -- especially when they’re talking to journalists. Luckily there are exceptions to the informational lock-down reporters face: members of Congress who are on their way out. Our “DecodeDC: Exit Interview” series continues with one of only a couple of lawmakers who is also a scientist: New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt. Rep. Rush Holt Jr., a Ph.D. in physics, says science trains your mind. “Scientists want the evidence first and consensus later. Politicians tend to look for consensus first, and look for the evidence to match,” Holt says. That has set up a bad precedent in the current Congress, Holt says. When it comes to climate change, and other science-based topics, “ideology has trumped evidence.” Holt is also frustrated at how the Republican Leadership is running the House of Representatives. “The House is run by people who are so skeptical of government that they don’t believe government can or should do anything to help people,” Holt says. “Of course that’s troubling to those of us who got into this because we believe the government can and should help people. “ But that’s not why he’s leaving Congress. “Everybody assumes I’m bailing out of Congress because I can’t take it anymore -- it is just too frustrating, you know -- but that’s not the reason,” Holt says. Instead, Holt says he’s leaving with a real sense of accomplishment and even optimism. “I feel good about what I’ve done and what I’ve been doing,” Holt says. The 65-year-old representative has spent slightly more than a decade and a half as a liberal Democrat promoting scientific thinking and advocating for education, environmental protection and civil rights. The scientist-turned-congressman’s political interests were inherited from his parents – his father, the youngest person ever elected to U.S. Senate. and his mother, Secretary of State of West Virginia. Holt believes his most important legacy has been increasing the trust people have in government -- at least for some. He’s leaving now, he says, simply because “it’s time.” “For more than two centuries, there has been representative following representative following representative – that’s the way it’s supposed to work,” Holt says. “It’s not about any one person, and I think it’s time for the citizens of the 12th district in New Jersey to choose their next representative.” Katherine Lepri contributed to this story.

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Episode 43: Executive Orders

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Jul 18, 2014


House Speaker John Boehner, the country’s most powerful Republican, says he’s going to sue President Barack Obama on behalf of the Congress for alleged misuse of executive orders. Is Boehner's threat more of the same partisan Washington theater or a real constitutional crisis? "The House leadership is scrambling so hard to try to reassert some kind of actual leadership, that it’s I think awfully hard for most Americans to see really this in serious way as the Congress trying to defend its authority," says political science professor Phillip J. Cooper of Portland State University, and author of “By Order of the President -- Use and Abuse of Presidential Direct Action.” Cooper points out that Speaker Boehner doesn’t have the authority to sue on behalf of Congress without a vote authorizing him to. These facts make it more likely that the would-be constitutional crisis will likely be reduced to a congressional kerfuffle. But there are important questions at play here. On this week's podcast we ask, what are executive orders for and what can the president do with them? What’s considered out-of-bounds? Most importantly, why should we care? Executive orders are written directives from the President of the United States to government departments and agencies. They detail how the law is to be implemented, often specifically citing the legislation the president is enacting. Other executive orders are based on the president’s general constitutional mandate to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Every president back to George Washington has issued Executive Orders. (Well, OK, the nation’s ninth president, William Henry Harrison, died in office before he could get around to issuing one, but most historians ignore this blip in the data.) In the last century, most presidents’ orders have numbered in the hundreds. And the vast majority of them deal with mundane, unremarkable policy actions. The president might create a commission to study and combat organized crime, or mandate new protections for small business owners. But from time to time, executive orders have been used to mandate government action that has much broader social impact - think Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which freed southern slaves by executive order or many of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal programs which were established through executive orders. More recently, George W. Bush established the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, through executive order. Presidents run into problems when they cross the line between executing existing laws, and crafting new ones. That’s what John Boehner accused Barack Obama of doing when the president delayed the enacting of portions of the Affordable Care Act by a year. Boehner’s threatened lawsuit over that executive order is what’s causing the aforementioned Congressional kerfuffle. But before you decide to ignore the issue altogether, remember this, says Professor Cooper: “A Constitutional republic is supposed to operate under the supremacy of law. No man is so high he is above the law.” If we don’t keep a critical eye on how the president uses executive orders, he or she could slip into the habit of creating new laws rather than enacting existing ones passed by Congress. Cooper reminds us, “Democracy is in the details,” and “there have to be some boundaries out there on power.”

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Episode 42: Exit Interview: Rep. Jim Moran

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 10, 2014


Members of Congress are notorious for being tight-lipped about the details of the legislative process -- especially when they’re talking to journalists. In part this is because of the intense polarization of our day. It's also because lawmakers are wary of describing the kind of compromise and flexibility it takes to actually get legislation passed. At the same time, the two-year election cycle in the House of Representatives and the narrow margin of control in both chambers makes for an environment in the Capitol of constant campaigning. Sound depressing? It is for us, too. But luckily there are exceptions to the informational lock-down reporters face: Members of Congress who are on their way out. Retiring lawmakers suddenly become great sources of honest information about how the legislative branch operates. Today we’re introducing a new feature to our podcast and blog: “DecodeDC: Exit Interviews.” In the next few months we’ll be interviewing some of the dozens of lawmakers who have announced their retirement at the end of this year. Our hope is to pull back the curtain on the congressional process, and, perhaps, collect some ideas about what could be done to get Washington back on track. First up, Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, who is retiring with a long list of un-achieved priorities. The 69-year-old lawmaker spent more than two decades passionately advocating for bedrock democratic issues, including stronger environmental protections, and the the closure of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But as we begin our interview, the white-haired Virginia Democrat slumps into a leather sofa as if to hide from the world. Moran is burnt-out. In the past four years Moran has introduced six bills regarding Guantanamo Bay and eighteen bills dealing with animal or environmental protection. None of them made it past committee consideration. "It's been extremely frustrating because the presence of Guantanamo Bay serves as a recruitment tool and a rallying cry for those who would do America harm,” Moran says. He worries that the detention center undermines the values of the U.S. justice system. "We are founded on a principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. That everyone should have the right to be represented in a legitimate court of law, that they can't be held without charges being filed against them." In fact, Moran will leave Congress with few bills to his name and a dubious sense of accomplishment. Of the 298 bills Moran introduced since 1991, only nine passed into law. Of those, three renamed post offices. The most weighty of his legislative accomplishments is a law requiring that products containing traces of animal fur be labeled correctly. "The Congress is not the institution that it was intended to be by the Founding Fathers, that it is expected to be by the voters of this country. It is a dysfunctional institution right now. It doesn't act on behalf of what are the best interests of the public. It's more inclined to act on what is in the best interests of its contributors." Moran is only one of several dozen lawmakers who’ve announced their retirement at the end of this year. And his outlook for the future members of Congress is none too bright. "I think that they're going to be all the more dependent on the money they can raise," he says. “I think that it's going to be even more messaging from the leadership rather than the following of their own course. I think things are going to get worse before they get better--and I think that's very unfortunate."

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Episode 41: Critical Infrastructure and The Next War

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 03, 2014


Episode 41: Critical Infrastructure and The Next War by The Scripps Washington Bureau

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Episode 40: The Government Has Your Number

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jun 26, 2014


When hackers broke into the computers of top American discount chain Target Corp, it made international headlines. Cyber-criminals sucked up tens of millions of credit card numbers, email and home addresses, phone numbers and more, selling them on the blackmarket to reap untold millions of dollars in profits. Target was forced to spend hundreds of millions in computer security upgrades, and much worse for the company was the loss of its customers’ trust. But what if you didn’t have a choice about whether to shop at a particular store, or whether to give an organization access to your identifying data? What if you were forced to turn over personal information that’s even more sensitive, like how much money you make, who you’re related to, and the names and ages of your children? And how would you feel if the organization collecting your data already had an incredibly poor track record for keeping that information safe? Well that’s the situation most Americans are already in, and the organization that collects all our data is the United States Federal Government. On this week’s podcast, DecodeDC examines the massive uptick in cybersecurity breaches in the federal government. Just a few years ago, in 2006, the government suffered about 5,500 data breaches. Last year that number was more than ten times higher; the government documented more than 61,000 security incidents. There are lots of reasons why security is getting worse, not least of which is the fact that cybersecurity is a constant cat-and-mouse game, with professionals constantly trying to catch up with ever-evolving criminal schemes to breach government computers. But it’s also true that the federal government is particularly bad at protecting data. With frozen salaries and Congress’s constant budget battles, the government doesn’t always have the resources to attract cybersecurity professionals with the expertise and experience to protect the massive treasure trove of data it collects. Listen to our latest show, “Cybersecurity part 1: We’ve Got Your Number." and make sure you catch up with us again next week, when DecodeDC examines the vulnerability of America’s critical infrastructure to cybersecurity attacks.

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Episode 39: Populisms New Popularity on the Right and Left

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jun 19, 2014


The words “populist” and” populism” have been ubiquitous on cable news talk shows and in the political press for the past couple of months. This makes us at DecodeDC cranky. The words, it seems to us, are being used in silly, nonsensical ways, sullying the great tradition of American populism. One person’s populism is another’s demagoguery; there’s right-wing populists, centrist populists, libertarian populists and unpopular populists. As we covered earlier this week, it’s an etymological mess. After House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary to Tea Party underdog David Brat, The Week warned “The peril of America's populist confusion.” A few weeks earlier a headline in The New York Times read “Obama’s Budget Is Populist Wish List and Election Blueprint.” Populist Wish List? Obama’s budget, really? How so, exactly? The Times headline used “populist” as a synonym for liberal or progressive. There were some items in the budget to help the poor and middle class and there were some tax hikes for the one per cent crowd. Got it, but that isn’t populism. It is liberalism. Indeed it is fairly moderate liberalism. But the Tea Party is also called populist. So what exactly is populism? Well, that is tougher to answer. In this week’s podcast, we search for a better understanding of the history of populism and its uses and abuses today. For wisdom, we turned to Michael Kazin, one of our great historians of populism. He wrote a book called The Populist Persuasion first published in 1995. He also has written a biography of the founding father of American populism, William Jennings Bryan. Kazin suggests understanding populism not as a specific political movement – or a series of movements. Rather, think of populism as a style of politics and rhetoric. It is a style that has been adapted over and over again over the last century by the right and by the left. That original Populist movement – with a capital P – came in the late 1800s. It coalesced around the People’s Party, primarily a movement of farmers crusading against bankers, railroads and the moneyed elite that became known as the Populists. In 1896, the People’s Party embraced the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, William Jennings Bryan. The People’s party faded away. But Bryan and Populism played big on the big national stage for a long time, fueling Progressive Era reforms of the early 1990s, policies such as trust-busting and the progressive income tax. Kazin maintains that Populism and later populisms share common elements. First, there’s a core belief in the idea of America and a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” Populism is not radical or revolutionary; it doesn’t seek to overthrow the Constitution or the government. The next element is belief in the virtue of “the people. Finally, there’s the notion “the people” are oppressed by a powerful elite. Populism has been associated with movements on the left and right. Today, more people probably think of populism in a liberal or progressive context. During the Cold War, it would have been more common to see populism as a right-wing force. The details of “populisms” are changeable but the word – populism – still has power and romance in American politics. What populism does not have any more is a precise definition or proper usage. Indeed, populism is often a buzzword that should alert the savvy political consumer to malarkey coming ahead. It is more often a term of spin, not straightening out. When a headline writer at The New York Times thinks it would be biased to label the administration’s budget liberal, he calls it “populist.” When a conservative pundit wants to accuse a Democrat of being of being too hard on the rich but doesn’t want come out and say so, “populist” becomes the word of choice. When liberals want to attack the Tea Party for being irresponsible and intolerant, they call them populists. So when you hear the word, alert the language police.

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Episode 38: Why hardball tactics have led to the most polarized Congress ever

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jun 12, 2014


Pop Quiz: Which was the most polarized time in American history? The Civil War? Prohibition? The Civil Rights Movement? Nope, no, and nyet. Well, if you gauge by the House and Senate, that is. Political Science professor Sean Theriault tells us that, though the American public has been extremely divided at times over the course of the nation’s history, today’s Congress is more polarized than any before it. Despite the fact that the public is much less so. Theriault teaches and conducts his research at the University of Texas at Austin, and says that unlike in the past, the current polarization in the House and Senate has little to do with big societal issues, or sea-changes in American culture. The fighting is about something much smaller, more arcane, and frankly, boring: congressional procedure. The fight, says Theriault, has become “not about the issues but about the war.” This week on DecodeDC’s podcast, Theriault explains why procedure, and not big issues, are dividing Congress. It’s because of the permanent campaign, he says, bringing hard-ball politics into an institution that used to rely on a basic level of compromise to conduct the day-in, day-out operations of the House and Senate. This is the biggest driver, he says, of the years of gridlock Americans have seen in Washington. If that makes you angry, says Theriault, don’t blame Congress. Why? Because we elected them. Earlier this week, House Republican Leader Eric Cantor’s historic primary election loss -- the first and only time in America’s history a top GOP leader has lost his primary to a challenger -- provided a perfect example of how divisive hard-ball politics have become. In recent years Cantor had been a major player in those tactics. Unfortunately for him, another Republican in his district picked them up too -- and used them against him. Amarra Ghanni contributed to this post.

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Episode 37: Cracking open the government: On the front lines of making Washington transparent

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jun 05, 2014


There’s a quiet movement afoot in Washington; one you won’t hear about on cable news or flashy political blogs. It is the 21st century iteration of a classic American ideal: radical transparency in government. The modern pursuers of this goal include non-profits and business titans, hobbyists and hackers. They have formed a kind of nerd-corps of cyber-civics - designers, computer programmers, hackers and political activists - all working to build technology that makes government more accessible to people. Every year, a non-partisan, open-government group called The Sunlight Foundation hosts a kind of conference for this nerd-corps, it’s called Transparency Camp, or T-Camp among its faithful. Sound obscure? You might be surprised to hear that T-Camp is sponsored by the likes of Google and Microsoft. Many of the attendees are rock stars in their fields, with experience developing some of the most lucrative sites and apps of recent years. They’re now turning their significant brains toward a less sexy, but in many ways much more challenging problem: Putting every citizen’s government right on their phone. DecodeDC visited this year’s Transparency Camp to bring you stories from the front lines of the fight to crack open government.

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Episode 36: Can Spelling Bee kids spell better than members of Congress? A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, May 28, 2014


"Can you spell logorrhea?" That's what DecodeDC asked Members of Congress and their constituents -- specifically those whiz-kid spellers who are in the nation's capital for the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. Turns out, the answer is N-O; just about every US Representative we spoke with had no idea what logorrhea means (excessive wordiness), and not a single one spelled it correctly. Most admitted to relying heavily on spell check and their smartphone to pick the right word at the right time. Contrast that with this fact: when we spoke with dozens of kids in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, we had trouble finding one who couldn't spell logorrhea. Most correctly identified the word's roots (from the Greek word 'logos' meaning 'words' and 'rhea,' meaning 'to flow') and even knew its meaning. Ironic, you wonder, that a bunch of pre-teens in Washington could show-up their Representatives with a word that means, 'to spew words from the mouth'? We thought so too. Of course, there are plenty of big-brained lawmakers as well -- not that they'd challenge the super-spellers. Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told us, "I am smart enough to know that I would be whooped in a moment!"

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Episode 35: Bright, Young Conservatives; But Who to Look Up To?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, May 22, 2014


DecodeDC podcast episode #35: Bright, Young Conservatives; But Who to Look Up To?

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Episode 34: What can Mars teach us about politics on Earth?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, May 15, 2014


The future of Congress has been on our minds. Recently, we considered how advances in technology and data analysis can and will change the way legislators do their work. There are places that are pushing the envelope in this arena. In Brazil official state hackers are building apps, games and data visualizations to help Brazilians – and the members of Parliament – understand the legislative process. In Finland, they are trying legal reform through crowdsourcing – literally turning the legislative process over to the people. There’s one other place we wanted to explore for ideas about the future and politics – Mars. Author Kim Stanley Robinson is probably best known for a trilogy of novels called “Red Mars,” “Green Mars” and “Blue Mars.” Their story follows the first human colony on the Red Planet, from scientific outpost through growing villages and cities, to political revolutions, independence from Earth, and a new constitution. Science fiction is like a big sandbox of ideas in science and technology, but also in culture, politics, and governance. “Lincoln’s great sentence, ‘government of the people, for the people, by the people, shall not perish from the Earth,’ is a utopian science fiction story because it’s in future tense,” Robison says. “We do science fiction all the time in stating our political goals and then acting on them.” A broad theme in Robinson’s work is tinkering with Mars to make it more hospitable to human life. He’s concocted a Martian constitution where the environment itself is an acknowledged stakeholder that has rights. As his characters embark on this massive experiment, two factions emerge: those who believe that it is right and good for humans to manipulate and change the planet as much as they like, and those who believe the wild Martian environment should be protected. Sound familiar? In this case, Robinson’s work is more about NOW than the future. He uses his science fiction to express a clear point of view on issues such as climate change. As far as he is concerned, we are actually in a better position to protect earth than his characters are on Mars. This week on the DecodeDC podcast, it’s the future of Congress from about as far outside the Beltway as you can get. Special thanks to Jeremy Stursberg for his original music in this week's podcast.

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Episode 33: Future Congress

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, May 08, 2014


We have always been innovators. It is in our nature as Americans. Heck, democracy itself was born here, as part of what the 19th century French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville called the Great American Experiment. But with the average age in Congress at around 60, plus a legislative process that has come to a grinding halt in the past several years, could the United States be losing its experimental edge? Sure, it may feel like our civic lives are advancing with the Internet age, what with the massive proliferation of ways you can contact your representatives in Washington -- email, Twitter, Facebook, and so on. The problem is, the people on the receiving end of those messages -- Congress -- hasn’t really put in place ways to deal with the modern onslaught of messages. In fact, unless you take great pains to be clear that you live in the district of the lawmaker you’re contacting, the truth is, by and large, members of Congress ignore your messages. By contrast, consider Finland. There, lawmakers are experimenting with a bold new way of reforming a law: crowdsourcing -- meaning turning the legislative process over to the people. Or consider Brazil, where there is now an experimental computer lab smack in the middle of the Parliament’s committee rooms. There, official staff hackers throw together apps and games and data visualizations to help Brazilians -- and the members of Parliament -- understand the legislative process. Today on the DecodeDC weekly podcast, we explore these forward-looking examples of legislative innovation, and ask the question of our own lawmakers here in Washington, DC: What’s the future of Congress?

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Repost Episode 1: House of (Mis) Representatives

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, May 01, 2014


This is it, folks — DecodeDC is relaunching next week! Keep an eye out for our new logo, and enjoy multimedia content on our daily blog, which will be posted on all Scripps websites. Thanks for sticking with us as we’ve been preparing for the all new DecodeDC and reposting some of our favorite podcasts. For the final repost, we’re going back to the very beginning of DecodeDC to Episode 1: House of (Mis) Representatives. This very first podcast focuses on a feeling many people get when dealing with Washington: “My voice isn’t being heard.” Why do they feel that way? It could be because they aren’t being heard.

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Repost Episode 10: A Kind of Republican

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Apr 25, 2014


As we prepare for the relaunch of DecodeDC, we are continuing to repost some of our past episodes. This week we re-present our conversation with former congressmen Jim Kolbe, a Republican from Arizona who served in the House for decades. Similar to many of his Republican colleagues, Kolbe is a strong fiscal conservative. But what makes Kolbe such a fascinating political character is what makes him very different from many members of the GOP. He’s pro-choice, and he’s openly gay. Kolbe describes his outlook on the future of Congress — what should change, and what can’t change. On another note, stick with us as we prepare for the relaunch. Very soon we’ll have a multimedia blog, new logo and even more content!

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Repost Episode 16: Belly of the Beast

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Apr 17, 2014


Last week we re-posted an episode featuring former Congressman Lee Hamilton reading his essay on how politics has changed. As promised, we’re now reposting our follow-up conversation with Hamilton from July of 2013 about the biggest problem he sees in politics today: Money. “While there’s a lot of rhetoric given to the ordinary voter — government of the people, by the people, for the people — the fact of the matter is, a politician spends most of his or her time courting money. And the people who give the money want something in return. That may not be corrupt, it’s certainly not illegal —but it does put disproportionate influence on the money side,” he says. Hamilton cautions against the assumption that the American system has worked for more than 200 years, so it will continue to do so. And another reminder that we’re getting ready to relaunch in DecodeDC in the coming weeks. We’re almost ready with a new logo, a multimedia blog, and even more content.

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Repost Episode 15: What's Wrong?

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Apr 11, 2014


It’s a question that never seems to go away or have a clear-cut answer: What’s wrong with Washington? For an answer – or some answers – we’re turning to former Rep. Lee Hamilton this week. We’re reposting a June 2013 podcast with Hamilton, who, with a resume that includes decades representing Indiana’s 9th District and vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission, knows a thing or two about Washington. In this episode, Hamilton reads his essay “How Politics Has Changed.” He argues that in the current political climate, it’s much harder to do the basic work of politics, which, according to Hamilton, is finding common ground. Next week, we’ll repost our conversation with Hamilton about the biggest problem he sees in politics today: money. On another front, stay tuned for the relaunch of DecodeDC in just a few weeks. We’re almost ready with a new logo, a multimedia blog, and a lot more content.

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Episode 32: Inside the Investigation

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Apr 04, 2014


Sometimes the journey is as interesting as the destination. That’s what our colleague at Scripps News, investigative reporter Mark Greenblatt, discovered as he pursued what he thought was a straightforward news story. Greenblatt got a tip: NASA was spending a boatload of money on first-class and business-class airfares. That set Greenblatt off on a quest worthy of Camelot, through mazes of bureaucracy, mountains of Freedom of Information requests and dungeons of unreturned phone calls. We thought the story of the story said a lot about the government – and about trying to report on the government. So we debriefed him for this week’s podcast. Semi-spoiler alert: Yes, NASA does spend millions on so-called “premium travel.” But there also is a deeper story about how the government as a whole does not know how much is spent on something as simple as premium travel, despite being ordered to keep track of it. And that raises the question: How does the government keep track of the really complicated stuff? And now another reminder: The launch of our new, multi-media DecodeDC blog is only a few weeks off. Sit tight. And tune in.

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Repost Episode 23: Morality 2.0

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Mar 28, 2014


The Obama administration called for an end Thursday to the National Security Agency's bulk collection of data about phone calls made within the United States. The proposal, which would have to be approved by Congress, stems from the uproar following NSA contractor Edward Snowden's disclosure of details about the federal government's intelligence gathering. Disclosures by Snowden and others, such as Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, raise the question of which is worse: breaking the law to leak classified secrets, or keeping quiet about what could be a violation of Americans' constitutional rights? We've gone back to the DecodeDC archives to re-present Episode 23: Morality 2.0, which tackles this issue, and what we should do about it. Featured is Northwestern Professor Peter Ludlow, who explains a generational rift, and where the country should go from here. A reminder: We are getting ready to relaunch DecodeDC in the next few weeks. In addition to the podcasts, which will be weekly, we are planning a daily, multimedia DecodeDC blog for all Scripps properties -- and for a national audience. Until then, we'll be reposting some of our favorite and smartest podcasts.

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Repost Episode 18: The Paperwork Reduction Act

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Mar 21, 2014


It’s that time of year again, where flowers are budding, the grass is growing greener, people are shedding their winter layers, and taxes are due—sorry for the reminder. Have you ever wondered why there’s so much burdensome paperwork associated with taxes? In fact, Americans spend more than two billion collective hours filling out income tax forms. To provide some clarity, we’ve gone back to the DecodeDC archives to re-present our episode on The Paperwork Reduction Act. This episode from August 2013 features Clay Johnson, a tech CEO and former Presidential Innovation Fellow. He explains how the implications of the PRA go beyond tax time, playing a fundamental role in how we interact with government. So if you feel like the government isn’t listening to you, Johnson says you have to take a look at the PRA. Another reminder: We are getting ready to relaunch DecodeDC. In addition to the podcasts, which will be weekly, we are building a daily, multimedia DecodeDC blog for all Scripps properties—and for a national audience. So over the coming weeks, we’ll be reposting some of our favorite and smartest podcasts while we build the team and our new online space.

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Episode 31: Fear and loathing in gay Washington

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Mar 14, 2014


He was an influential figure in one of the biggest social changes the country has seen in decades --x the growing acceptance of gay Americans. But, you've probably never heard of him. So we've gone back to the DecodeDC archives to bring you this encore podcast from June of 2013, featuring Rich Tafel. Tafel opened the first office in Washington for the Log Cabin Republicans, the nation's largest organization representing gay conservatives. Tafel provides stunning behind-the-scenes insight of an early 1990s Washington. He describes a vibrant, underground network of gays working in politics that cut across party lines. But Tafel tells the story of how that comradery was undermined by pure politics as the Republican Party became more socially conservative. It's a story of closed door meetings, outing campaigns, and a vast shift in how politics are done today. Quick reminder: We are getting ready to relaunch DecodeDC. In addition to the podcasts, which will be weekly, we are building a daily, multimedia DecodeDC blog for all Scripps properties -- and for a national audience. So over the coming weeks, we'll be reposting some of our favorite and smartest podcasts while we build the team and our new online space.

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Episode 30: Follow the money to understand Washington

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Mar 07, 2014


Just a few years ago, it was a big deal when the president unveiled his spending proposal, but “budget day” this week was kind of a snore. That may be because President Barack Obama’s $3.9 trillion proposal for fiscal year 2015, which begins Oct. 1, isn’t likely to have much impact. Why? Lawmakers last December passed a two-year spending plan. Still, the annual ritual does highlight the president’s vision for the coming year – and for the coming election. It's already providing fodder for Democrats and Republicans gearing up for the campaign trail. But to understand just about any argument or issue in Washington, you really need to understand the basics of the federal budget. Problem is, most of us don’t. So, we’ve gone back to the DecodeDC archives to bring you this encore podcast from April 2013 that breaks down the numbers and tries to show what exactly we are spending our money on. The episode features an interview with Jess Bachman, the guy behind an unbelievably detailed chart showing exactly how your tax money is divided among government agencies. ?And this podcast note. We are getting ready to relaunch DecodeDC. In addition to the podcasts, which will be weekly, we are building a daily, multimedia DecodeDC blog for all Scripps properties – and for a national audience. So over the coming weeks, we’ll be reposting some of our favorite and smartest podcasts while we build the team and our new online space.

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Episode 29: Actress Kathleen Turner says not all politicians are stars

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Feb 27, 2014


Some politicians have it, and some don't. That's what award-winning actress Kathleen Turner says it comes down to: There are politicians with an effective stage presence, and there are those without one. Coaching might help some of them, she says. Others, well, the camera just doesn't love them. Last week, DecodeDC asked you to participate in the Academy of Political Performances and pick the best of eight video clips. And the winner is: Sen. Ted Cruz reading "Green Eggs and Ham" on the Senate floor. This week DecodeDC asked Turner, who has two Golden Globes and starred in "Body Heat," "Romancing the Stone," and "Prizzi's Honor," to talk about what makes a good political performance. She enthusiastically agreed -- and got specific. Former President Ronald Reagan, he had it: "I'll tell you, Reagan was good --he was good. He did not overreach himself, you know." President Barack Obama has it: "I actually think Obama is terrific. He has an extraordinary blend of intelligence and openness, I mean...accessibility is the word I want." But not everybody won her praise. There was a review of how former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton comes off in front of the camera -- or doesn't come off, and some tough talk about House Speaker John Boehner's delivery -- or lack thereof. And there was more, much more.

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Episode 28: And the winner is...

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Feb 21, 2014


Politicians have been performing since history has been recorded – and some performances have stood the test of time for their eloquence, their intelligence and their ability to comfort a nation. And others, well, not so much. We have nominated eight video clips, and we are inviting you, members of the American Citizens Academy, to watch and vote for the one you think is best. You don’t get to vote for the winner of our Lifetime Achievement Award, Vice President Joe Biden. But you do get to watch a medley of his greatest hits – free and uninterrupted. So, go visit us on Twitter @DecodeDC, start watching, submit your vote and click back here on Thursday, Feb. 27, to see which political star is taking home the DecodeDC People's Choice Award.

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Episode 27: The Untold Story of the Stimulus

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Feb 14, 2014


Five years ago. It was the early days of the Obama presidency. And it was a panicky moment in what came to be called the Great Recession. Congress already had bailed out Wall Street’s most troubled companies with a program called TARP – the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Now Congress was desperately trying to find a way to pump some blood into a very sick economy. The markets, the experts, the country wanted action. ??In the House of Representatives, the man in the middle of coming up with stimulus plan fast was David Obey, a longtime Democratic congressman from Wisconsin who chaired the Appropriations Committee. Obey was known for his mastery of the appropriations process and his blunt talk. He retired in 2011, and now he is really blunt about what went on in the smoke-filled rooms five years ago and about today’s bitter budget battles. With the economy in free fall, Obey met with his Republican counterpart Jerry Lewis of California to start writing a bill. “And Jerry just grinned and said ‘Dave, I’m sorry, but we’ve got orders from headquarters, we can’t play, we can’t play,’” Obey recalls. “He said it twice.”?? Whatever Republicans thought privately – some of them told Obey they agreed that Congress needed to pass a stimulus bill – they weren’t going to publicly help the new president help the economy. But that wasn’t the scariest thing, Obey says. He realized many fellow House members – Democrats and Republicans – simply lacked a sophisticated understanding of the economy and government spending policy.?? “One of the problems that you have today, is that a lot of members of Congress just don’t know a hell of a lot anymore,” Obey says. ??Eventually, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was born. But “it was about half the size it should have been,” Obey says. “So we were from day one … we were trying to row the rowboat with only one oar.” In other words, according to Obey, the size was a result of stubborn politics and many lawmakers who struggled to comprehend what was going on. ?If bipartisanship in Congress needed a stimulus then, it needs a bailout now, Obey says. The biggest culprit: Gerrymandering that creates one-party districts and safe seats for members. “I mean you wouldn’t have such idiotic statements coming out of members of Congress if they had to be taken seriously by a majority of people across the political spectrum,” Obey says. “All you have to do is appeal to the most extreme 25 per cent. How in the hell do you bring this country together?” Exactly.

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Episode 26: Polling 2016

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Feb 07, 2014


Something happened. We lost two years. It’s already 2016, and the presidential election is here – as in right now. That must be the case. There’s a new poll out almost every day. One poll after another declares Hillary Clinton is in the lead for the Democratic nomination. Another only a few days ago declared Rep. Paul Ryan has a lock on the Republican nomination. But wait. Check your calendar. No matter how much buzz there is in the news media about the 2016 presidential polls, it’s actually 2014 – and it’s more than two years before the nominees are selected and President Barack Obama’s successor is declared. So what’s with all 2016 polls, and how much should you be paying attention? “They attract attention, for sure,” Carroll Doherty, director of political research at the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, says. But “they don’t tell us a lot. … They tell us name recognition, and not much else.” In poll speak, that means the results at this point are not predictive of what will happen in 2016. There’s that little problem of what social scientists call “intervening variables,” and what the rest of us describe as “things happen.” In other words, there still is plenty of opportunity for strong candidates to get derailed (think “bridgegate”) and weak ones to develop political muscle. Doherty emphasizes that Pew, which labels itself as a non-partisan “fact tank,” is not in the 2016 polling business at this point. Why? Well, Doherty points out that Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani looked strong in the summer of 2007, which was later in that cycle than February 2014 is in this one, and neither won the party nomination, not to mention the White House. Plus, he’s more focused on that little event coming up this November known as the midterm election. So what are you to do with the barrage of 2016 polls? DecodeDC’s latest podcast provides some guidance and perspective – along with mention of some possible candidates you definitely would never think of.

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Episode 25: The Greatest Show on Earth

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Jan 31, 2014


If you’ve ever watched or heard a State of the Union address, you might think the event starts like this: “Mr. Speaker! The President of the United States!” But, as is true with so many things in Washington, there’s more to the story. A lot more. The State of the Union address – SOTU as it’s known in Washington – is a mass media event that takes hours, no, make that days, no, make that months, of preparation. The SOTU is highly orchestrated by the White House, by members of Congress, by the news media. For many reporters, the speech itself is a blip. Their focus is Statuary Hall, which is a short walk from the House chamber where the president gives the annual speech.?? “Stat Hall” – more jargon used by the Washington in-crowd – is interview central. A lot of lawmakers pass through the hall on their way to the address – some of them stopping to give reporters their response to a speech they have not yet heard – and almost all of them head to “Stat Hall” after the speech for the media after party. A few of the lawmakers are high-profile enough for reporters to flock to them when they enter the hall; most line up at one of many television interview locations and wait for their turn in front of the camera. It’s a media mob scene. To give you a sense of the entire day it takes news crews to set up and cover the mob, we perched a camera on a balcony overlooking the room and produced a time-lapse video of the craziness. And to find out how the SOTU became such a circus – think of Stat Hall as the Big Top – listen to DecodeDC’s latest podcast: Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest show on earth!

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Episode 24: The Real Fight Over Unemployment Benefits

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Tue, Jan 14, 2014


If you've been tuning into the nightly news, you've heard the wrangling over unemployment benefits. It's not really about whether to extend them. It's about how to do it.

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23: Morality 2.0

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Nov 01, 2013


Which is worse: breaking the law to leak classified secrets? Or keeping quiet about what could be a violation of Americans' constitutional rights? Andrea Seabrook talks to an expert who believes that these modern times call for a Morality 2.0.

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22: Open and Shut Congress

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Sat, Oct 19, 2013


The government shutdown may be over, but has anything really changed? Andrea talks to Patti Daniels of Vermont Public Radio about the problems that caused the shutdown and which still plague Washington. Special thanks to Vermont Public Radio (www.vpr.net) for this episode.

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21: Justice in Shut Down

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Oct 04, 2013


Budget battles. Sequestration. And now, shut down. The political mess in Washington has consequences far from Capitol Hill. Andrea talks to a Chief Federal Judge, Loretta A. Preska, about our system of Justice, teetering on the brink of dysfunction. Read Chief Judge Preska's letter to Congress here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/160532510/Funding-Letter

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20: In Other News

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Sep 20, 2013


When the news becomes obsessed with a new story every week, do you ever wonder what's being pushed OUT of the headlines? Andrea Seabrook talks to a media critic and a historian about how news outlets choose the most important story, and why they often get it wrong.

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19: Syria's Considerations

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Mon, Sep 09, 2013


War-drums and peace-cries can drown out more considered implications of US intervention in Syria. We talk about the haunting ghosts of recent wars, plus get a much longer view -- one that advocates the return of mandatory service.

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18: The Paperwork Reduction Act

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 29, 2013


Andrea talks to tech CEO and former Presidential Innovation Fellow Clay Johnson about the Paperwork Reduction Act, OIRA, and unintended consequences.

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17: Wonderland

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 08, 2013


In an excerpt from DecodeDC's first live episode, Andrea interviews reporter Todd Zwillich on the pressures of covering Congress and doing it well.

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16: Belly Of The Beast

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 18, 2013


Andrea talks more intimately with longtime Congressman and current statesman, Lee Hamilton, about the biggest problem he sees in today's politics: money.

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15: What's Wrong

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Wed, Jun 26, 2013


Andrea Seabrook introduces America's best pUNdit -- a man you'll rarely hear from on the daily news, but who knows more than almost anyone about what's wrong with Washington.

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14: A Red Scare

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Jun 07, 2013


Rich Tafel was deeply involved in one of the most sweeping changes of recent decades -- the social acceptance of Gay Americans. What's more, he's a Republican.

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13: Documenting Immigrants

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, May 24, 2013


DecodeDC collects the stories of those most often left out of the immigration debate: actual immigrants.

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12: Canta Y No Llores

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, May 10, 2013


In the first of a two-part series on immigration, DecodeDC looks at how humor can get closer to a problem than political talking points ever could. Special thanks this week to Radio Ambulante, a Spanish-language radio program telling uniquely Latin American stories. (Check them out! http://radioambulante.org/)

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11: Paint By Numbers

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 28, 2013


Let's start from the beginning. To understand what underlies every argument in Washington these days, you have to know the basics of the federal budget. Problem is, most of us don't.

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10: A Kind of Republican

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Mar 14, 2013


Jim Kolbe, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 1985-2003, is a political outlier. He is pro-choice, he supports same-sex marriage, and he's against any kind of institutional discrimination. Even more interesting? You probably haven't heard of him.

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9: Irrational Numbers

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Mar 01, 2013


The Budget, sequestration, and how it all began.

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DDC8: There's a Plan for That

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Feb 15, 2013


Big and long-term plans SOUND great in politics, but do they really work?

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DDC7: Cerfing the Net

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Feb 01, 2013


Andrea speaks with Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf about the Net's origins and future.

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DDC6: The Future Was Now

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Jan 18, 2013


In January, 2012, America's digerati pulled off the broadest, most powerful political protest ever orchestrated on the Internet. One year later we ask, what happened? And what next?

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DDC5: The Unshow

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jan 03, 2013


What We're NOT Covering and Why. DecodeDC explores the interplay of politics and the media, and how press coverage can feed into the negative, partisan bickering in Washington. Case in point: The Fiscal Cliff.

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DDC4: The DecodeDC Voter Guide

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Mon, Nov 05, 2012


DDC4: The DecodeDC Voter Guide by The Scripps Washington Bureau

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Seabrook SoundCloud Outro

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Oct 26, 2012


A final thought about my fellowship with SoundCloud -- plus big hugs and kisses to my fellow fellows!

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The Political Stage

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Sun, Oct 14, 2012


Sarah Palin's turkey-slaughter and Kenny G is mistaken for Bill Clinton. Andrea Seabrook and Roman Mars explain the 7-1/2 secrets of political staging. This is a joint episode between DecodeDC and 99% Invisible. Double the fun!

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Mind Control

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Sep 28, 2012


Ever wonder about the neuroscience behind party politics?

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House of (mis)Representatives

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Sep 14, 2012


Ever have that sinking feeling that your voice isn’t heard in Washington? It could be because it isn’t.

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Andrea Seabrook is a 2012 SoundCloud Fellow

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Aug 23, 2012


A short introduction to my project!

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DecodeDC e1 INTRO

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Fri, Aug 10, 2012


Intro to DecodeDC Episode1 -- The House of (mis)Representatives.

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DecodeDC: Andrea Seabrook Introduction

Author: The Scripps Washington Bureau
Thu, Jul 19, 2012


Washington is broken. You are not. DecodeDC is for smart, engaged, and busy people like you. Through the podcast and blog, DecodeDC will decipher Washington's Byzantine language and procedure, sweeping away what doesn't matter so you can focus on what does.

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