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  • 131. Fabric, Dyes, Glamour, and International Affairs, with Virginia Postrel

    Author and speaker Virginia Postrel has spent many years researching and writing about, among other things, various aspects of the economics and societal context of fashion, glamour, and consumer choice. A few years ago her book The Fabric of Civilization tackled the history and global effects of fabric-making, dyeing, the clothing trade, and other textile-related activities. So when host David Priess had his curiosity piqued by some displays at the International Spy Museum related to silk, dyes, and espionage, he knew who to call.David talked to Virginia about the origins of string and of fabric, togas in fiction and reality, the value of purple in the Roman Empire, the importance of fabrics for outfitting armies and making warships' sails, the development of weaving, how textile merchants led to the modern political economy, Jakob Fugger, Chinese silk and espionage, Spain's 200 year monopoly on vibrant reds, efforts to steal Spain' cochineal secret, the long history of indigo, French efforts to steal Indian indigo, the invention of synthetic dyes, modern sneaker culture and conceptions of value, Jackie Kennedy, fashion and glamour on the world stage today, and more.Among the works mentioned in this episode:The book The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia PostrelThe TV show The VikingsThe Chatter podcast episode Private Sector Intelligence with Lewis Sage-Passant, June 9, 2022Virginia Postrel's YouTube channelThe book The Power of Glamour by Virginia PostrelThe Star Wars prequel moviesThe TV show Game of ThronesThe TV show The RegimeThe article "Trump isn't just campaigning; He's selling his supporters a glamorous life" by Virginia Postrel, Washington Post, March 18, 20The movie The Hunger GamesThe book The Rosie Project by Graeme SimsionThe book Fifth Sun by Camilla TownsendChatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.

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  • 130. The Pentagon’s Alliance with the Country Music Industry with Joseph Thompson

    For decades, country music has had a close and special relationship to the U.S. military. In his new book, Cold War Country, historian Joseph Thompson shows how the leaders of Nashville’s Music Row found ways to sell their listeners on military service, at the same time they sold country music to people in uniform.Shane Harris spoke with Thompson about how, as he puts it, Nashville and the Pentagon “created the sound of American patriotism.” Thompson’s story spans decades and is filled with famous singers like Roy Acuff, Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, and Lee Greenwood. Collectively, Thompson says, these artists helped to forge the close bonds between their genre and the military, but also helped to transform ideas of race, partisanship, and influenced the idea of what it means to be an American. Songs, people, TV shows, and books discussed in this episode include: Thompson’s book Cold War Country: How Nashville's Music Row and the Pentagon Created the Sound of American Patriotism “Goin’ Steady” by Faron Young Grandpa Jones “Hee Haw” The Black Opry “Okie from Muskogee” by Merle Haggard “Cowboy Carter” by Beyoncé “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood Learn more about Joseph Thompson and his work: 
  • 129. Why Foreign Policy Elites Matter with Elizabeth Saunders

    The "deep state." The "blob." Foreign policy elites are often so labeled, misunderstood, and denigrated. But what influence on presidents and on public opinion do they actually have?Elizabeth Saunders, professor of political science at Columbia, has researched this topic deeply and written about it in her new book, The Insiders' Game. David Priess spoke with her about her path to studying foreign policy, the ups and downs of archival research, the meaning of foreign policy "elites," the differences between the influences of Democratic and Republican elites, a counterfactual President Al Gore's decisionmaking about invading Iraq, pop cultural representations of foreign policy elites, how heightened polarization changes the dynamics of elite influence, and more.Among the works mentioned in this episode:The book The Insiders' Game by Elizabeth SaundersThe book Leaders at War by Elizabeth SaundersThe TV show The West WingThe movie The Hunt for Red OctoberThe TV show The DiplomatThe TV show The AmericansThe movie Thirteen DaysThe article "Politics Can't Stop at the Water's Edge" by Elizabeth Saunders, Foreign Policy (March/April 2024)Chatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.
  • 128. Nuclear War: A Scenario with Annie Jacobsen

    Without warning, North Korea launches a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile at the United States. American satellites detect the launch within seconds, setting off a frantic, harrowing sequence of events that threatens to engulf the planet in a nuclear holocaust. That’s the terrifying hypothetical storyline that journalist Annie Jacobsen imagines in her new book. It’s a minute-by-minute, and occasionally second-by-second account of how the vast U.S. national security apparatus would respond to a “bolt out of the blue” attack with a nuclear weapon. It’s a riveting story and the supreme cautionary tale. Shane Harris spoke with Jacobsen about the book, the present threat of a nuclear world war, and her body of work, which has dug deeply into the dark corners of intelligence and national security. Books, interviews, movies and TV shows discussed in this episode include:  Nuclear War: A Scenario Chatter interview with A.B. Stoddard about The Day After Top Gun: Maverick Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Find out more about Annie Jacobsen on:  Her Website: Twitter: 
  • 127. From Right-Wing Radio to the Heart of the Never Trump Movement, with Charlie Sykes

    Charlie Sykes recently stepped down as host of the Bulwark Podcast. He's a regular commentator on MSNBC, and has written a number of books. He tells the story here of his political journey, from being a page for the Wisconsin delegation at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, to being a working journalist increasingly disenchanted with conventional liberalism, to finding a home in Reagan Republicanism and becoming more of a political warrior than he ever meant to be--and then leaving the whole thing behind over Trumpism.
  • 126. Margaret Mead, Psychedelics, and the CIA with Benjamin Breen

    If you’re listening to this podcast, chances are you’ve heard stories about the CIA’s experiments with drugs, particularly LSD, during the infamous MKUltra program. But you may not know that the characters involved in that dubious effort connect to one of the 20th Century’s most famous and revered scientists, the anthropologist Margaret Mead. Shane Harris talked with historian Benjamin Breen about this new book, Tripping on Utopia, which tells the story of how Mead and her close circle launched a movement to expand human consciousness, decades before the counterculture of the 1960s popularized, and ultimately stigmatized, psychedelic drugs. Mead and Gregory Bateson--her collaborator and one-time husband--are at the center of a story that includes the WWII-era Office of Strategic Services, a shady cast of CIA agents and operatives, Beat poets, and the pioneers of the Information Age. Psychedelics are having a renaissance, with federal regulators poised to legalize their use - Breen’s book is an engrossing history that explores the roots of that movement and how it influenced and collided with the U.S. national security establishment.  Books, movies, and other points of interest discussed in this conversation include: Tripping on Utopia: Margaret Mead, the Cold War, and the Troubled Birth of Psychedelic Science by Benjamin Breen Tripped: Nazi Germany, the CIA, and the Dawn of the Psychedelic Age by Norman Ohler MKUltra The intelligence community’s research on “truth drugs” The Manchurian Candidate The Good Shepherd Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control by Stephen Kinzer The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death by Deborah Blum “Operation Delirium” by Raffi Khatchadourian in The New Yorker Also check out: Ben’s website Ben’s Substack Ben on Twitter 
  • 125. Spy Disguises in Fact and Fiction with Jonna Mendez

    Jonna Mendez advanced in her Central Intelligence Agency career to become Chief of Disguise despite the many institutional challenges to women's promotions. And now she has written a memoir, In True Face, about it all. David Priess spoke with Jonna about career options for women at CIA in the early Cold War, her own start there in the 1960s, how photography classes set her on a path that ultimately led to service as Chief of Disguise, her interactions over the decades with Tony Mendez, the tandem-couple problem for intelligence professionals, semi-animated mask technology and other CIA disguises, her experience briefing President George H. W. Bush in the Oval Office, how the story behind the Canadian Caper became declassified and eventually the movie Argo, the International Spy Museum, and more.Among the works mentioned in this episode:The book In True Face by Jonna Mendez"How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran," by Joshuah Bearman, WIRED, April 24, 2007The movie The Ides of MarchThe movie ArgoThe book Argo by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio The book The Master of Disguise by Antonio MendezThe movie Mission ImpossibleThe TV show The AmericansThe TV show HomelandThe movie Casino RoyaleChatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.