785: Down In Smoke Shows


February 1st – An economist overturns conventional thinking about innovation, a country overturns conventional laws about marijuana, and capitalist excess overturns all the fun left in sports. Your bitter, blind, broke, gap-toothed radio show host Chuck Mertz just tries to keep himself upright.






Mariana Mazzucato: “We are currently in danger of destroying that apparatus, so these guys will be surfing on nothing, because until now they’ve been surfing on a wave created by the state.”

The iPhone runs on government funded technology – touch screen, voice activation, cellular communication, the internet – Steve Jobs was just really good at putting it all together. Or having low-wage Chinese workers putting it all together. In her new book The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, Mariana Mazzucato argues that governments are the agents investing in the long-term research and innovation that lead to corporate profits, and defunding those programs essential defunds a future of innovative Americans. She calls in to talk about the early days of US tech firms, where they got their money and how President Obama got her book.

Mariana Mazzucato is the Reginald M. Phillips Professor in the Economics of Innovation in the Science and Technology Policy Research centre  at the University of Sussex. Here’s her 2013 TED Talk on governments and innovation.

Mariana’s website / Twitter.



Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian: “There are big social and financial costs of a prohibition. After one trillion dollars in 40 years, four percent of Americans support the war on drugs. Clearly it hasn’t worked.”

Depending on what state you’re in, marijuana is either a Schedule I drug on par with heroin, or a thing y0u line up to buy just like (or probably along with) a bag of chips. So how did we get to this super weird patchwork of state laws on pot? Journalists Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian wrote the book A New Leaf: The End of Cannabis Prohibition, and call in to talk with Chuck about their work documenting pot’s journey from demon weed to unlikely urban renewal agent.

Alyson Martin is a writer, editor and photographer. She has written for The New York Times and The Nation as a freelance journalist, and is an alumnus of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Alyson’s website / Twitter.

Nushin Rashidian is a journalist focused on drug policy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, and Tehran Bureau. Nushin is an alumnus of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Nushin’s website / Twitter.



Dave Zirin: “Too often the Olympics are used as neoliberal Trojan horses – as ways to enact austerity, as ways to enact neoliberal reform – it’s almost like a sports shock doctrine.”

The world of sports is subject to the same forces of racism, inequality and corruption as the world of the world, it just isn’t normally covered that way. That might be why Dave Zirin is The Nation’s first sportswriter in its 150 history. He calls in ahead of the big game to talk R*dsk*ns owner Dan Snyder’s bizarre popcorn diplomacy, a student-lead challenge to the NCAA cartel’s grip on college sports cash flow, and how this Olympics, and every other Olympics, will be the most corrupt yet.

Dave Zirin is the sports editor for The Atlantic and author of seven books, including his most recent, Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down.

Dave’s website / Twitter.

Todd Williams: “You decide to vote for someone else this time. Your alternate choices are: A- communists, who are really businesspeople, and B- facists, who are really just medieval anti-communists who hate gypsies.”

There are a few things you need to know about Hungary’s elections this Spring: The three parties aren’t three parties, oppression isn’t oppression until it is again, the street names are all different now but the Ronald Regan statue is still eight feet tall, the Russians are back and back and back and now cigarettes are more expensive. Our Man in Budapest, Todd Williams gets us as caught up as we’re gonna get.

Todd Williams is an African-American from Sacramento, California who has lived in Budapest, Hungary for the past 21 years, mostly by chance. It is immaterial what he does for a living; for pleasure he enjoys each moment to its fullest. Gratulálok Todd!


Kevan Harris: “It was a big meme among the Middle East lefties, but this really blew it up. The best thing that ever happened was this Scarlett Johansson blurb.”

Because Kevan Harris is a rising star in Middle East analysis, he discusses how the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing affects Iran’s emerging markets bubble. Because Kevan Harris is a correspondent on This is Hell!, he also discusses the cat-pissy notes of coconut water, why Iran is called Iran, the purchasing habits of fellow correspondent Elvis DeMorrow, the rigged horserace between diplomacy and sanctions, the week in carbonated outrage, what’s disappointing Madea Benjamin this week and a rage-triggering PBS Frontline doc on hedge funds.

Kevan Harris is a sociologist, a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University and radical pessimist. He likes to talk about big ideas and small people, including capitalism, the Middle East, and the puny American left. Contrary to rumor, he was not bitten by a spider as a teenager.

Kevan’s website / Twitter.

Interview Transcript via AntiDote.


Jeff Dorchen: “Mickey is the kind of colorful character you would get if you gelded and bleached Mitt Romney, ironed him onto a t-shirt, and bleached the t-shirt.”

Like probably a few million Americans, Jeff Dorchen went to go see the Disney film Saving Mr. Banks. He loved it! He found it horrifying! He spends this week’s Moment of Truth toppling the monument dedicated to Walt Disney’s arrogance, dissecting the bland corpse of Mickey Mouse, and watching the author of Mary Poppins getting stabbed by a big, salty, rusty knife. But other than that, Mr. Dorchen, how was the movie?

According to his contacts on LinkedIn, Jeff Dorchen can do just about anything. He’s a visual artist, songwriter/musician, actor, essayist, poet, playwright and screenwriter. He’s also an amateur scholar of Judaic, Hindu and Japanese spiritual lore. His many unfinished novels are still unfinished.



Producers Alexander Jerri and Richard Norwood figure out how to put two guests on the air at the same time, which is only impressive if you knew how long it took them to do that.