The Flaming Sword of Justice, with Ben Wikler






June 2013
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After 64 hours of original interviews, inspiring stories, and flames that leapt from our honed steel edge up to the merciless skies, The Flaming Sword of Justice has been reforged.Check out its successor, The Good Fight, with Ben Wikler, here!

The Good Fight is a new weekly podcast and radio show with the same spirit, same host, and same sponsor, but a new city (DC), format (pre-recorded, mixing comedy and news with in-depth interviews), time slot (Saturdays), and name. If you loved the Flaming Sword of Justice, you'll be utterly enthralled by The Good Fight.

Direct download: From_Sword_to_Fight.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:38pm EDT

The Dream Defenders have been occupying the Florida State Capitol for 17 days, making national headlines with their call for a special legislative session to pass a "Trayvon's Law"--to repeal Stand Your Ground, ban racial profiling, and end the school-to-prison pipeline.

They've made headlines coast to coast. They're being recognized as the next generation of civil rights leaders. But rewind a month or two, and almost nobody had heard of them. So who are they, and where did they come from? 

This episode of the Flaming Sword of Justice brings you a slice of the back story: the spellbinding journey of Phillip Agnew, the Dream Defenders' co-founder and executive director. In an interview recorded in March of 2013, Phillip recounts growing up in the black church, not much money but a lot of love; his first fight against a racist killing in Florida; the brush with racial profiling that jolted him out of his depressing job selling anti-depressants--and then the creation of the Dream Defenders in the course of a life-changing march to Sanford, Florida after the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Today's Tallahasee Takeover springs directly from the same vibrant vision and bedrock commitment that shines through in this interview, and through the voices of so many of the Dream Defenders. If you want to understand the present and future of Florida politics--and, indeed, of American politics in general, as a rising generation of young people of color moves the balance of power--then you'll want to get to know this extraordinary group.

There's a moment in this interview that we'll never forget, about 34 minutes in: the day Phillip realizes that he can never go back to his old life in corporate America. Don't miss that part. But check out the whole thing.

Direct download: FSJ_18_Dream_Defenders_Origins.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:07pm EDT

92 years of life can give you some perspective. Especially if you spend seven-odd decades in service of others, as a diplomat and peacebuilder working on five continents. 

Today, we interview Ambassador John W. McDonald, co-founder and chair of the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, about his extraordinary journey: from his far-flung childhood in a military family to his arrival as a young foreign service officer in postwar Germany in 1947; from the Berlin airlift to the nerve center of the Marshall Plan; from camel caravans through snow-choked Afghanistan to jungle airports in Bolivia. 

Our guest built a railroad from Turkey to Tehran, helped run United Nations agencies and create new ones—and then, at age 70, after a 40-year career in government, with no resources except a co-founder and a dream, created a new organization that is helping citizens build peace from Cyprus to Kashmir.

Oh, and we should mention: he has a personal connection to the show. You know our host, Ben Wikler? He's John McDonald's grandson.

As you hear Ambassador McDonald share stories and lessons from his long and world-spanning life, you'll catch the intensity of his optimism, his enthusiasm—and you'll see why he's so hopeful about where the world is going next.

Direct download: Sword_2013_07_25.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:10pm EDT

What happened to the Minutemen? 

A refresher: the Minutemen were the group that whipped up American conservatives into hysterics around the supposed issue of "border security" a few years back. They called themselves "a citizens' Neighborhood Watch on our border," and organized press stunts in which armed white people would tromp around the border with Mexico and argue that they weren't racist. 

You don't hear from them so much anymore. Partly, that's because their positions—and many of their former members—moved on to the Tea Party. But partly that's because of the story you'll hear in this episode. A story of cold-blooded murder.

The journalist David Neiwert researched the tale for his new book, And Hell Followed With HerAnd he joined us at the Netroots Nation conference in San Jose to tell the story on-air.

If you want to understand the politics and the personalities of the hardcore right-wing end of the U.S. immigration debate—or if you just like a rivetingly blood-soaked story of zealotry, xenophobia, and bad ideas gone even worse, don't miss this episode of The Flaming Sword of Justice.

Direct download: 63__Minutemen_Murders.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:56pm EDT

When the Christian Right launched the organization "True Love Waits," they might not have been intentionally referring to the wait for a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Defense Of Marriage Act. But as of Wednesday, June 26th, 2013, the wait is over. And true love won. 

Today on the Flaming Sword of Justice, we bring you three voices from inside the struggle for equality. First, Darlene Nipper of the Task Force tells about the moment she heard the news about DOMA, reflects on the struggle to get here, and fires us up for the fights ahead. 

Then Jamie McGonnigal, who married his husband one month ago, tells us what it was like to stand in front of the Supreme Court today as the decision came down. (The first sign that we'd won? An eruption of screams.) 
And finally, in an interview recorded at the Netroots Nation conference in San Jose, Minnesota's House Majority Leader tells us the tears-inducing story of passing a marriage equality law in her own state—a law that, starting today, will be recognized nationwide.

The Defense of Marriage Act has fallen, and family values have triumphed. Don't miss this special celebratory edition of the Flaming Sword of Justice.
Direct download: Sword_2013_06_26.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:55pm EDT

Remember the Dean campaign? It never ended. A decade later, the people he inspired are still winning elections coast to coast, using the idea that was always at the heart of his campaign: people powered politics.

In 2003, a 22-year-old named Arshad Hasan joined Dean's campaign for president. Today, he's preparing to depart from his post as Executive Director of Democracy for America, the organization that sprang up from the Dean community after the campaign's end. On today's Flaming Sword of Justice, recorded live at the Netroots Nation 2013 conference in San Jose, Arshad tells the story of his path to DfA—and the story of one of his proudest fights, an election battle that seasoned campaign experts were all dismissing as hopeless. 

Hearing Arshad explain what happened on that race, you can't help but get swept up in the intensity and fervor of it all. And you'll realize that when Howard Dean kept saying "this campaign is not about Howard Dean," he was right. You—we—really do have the power. 

This week, a ten years ago, Governor Dean struck a match. Today, the flame burns hot on the Flaming Sword of Justice.

Direct download: Sword_2013_06_25.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:41pm EDT

There's deadlock in DC, but in Wisconsin—as in 23 other states—Republicans have total control. So what is the party of Palin doing with all that power? 
One thing's for sure: those Republican majorities aren't interested in consensus. The GOP is ticking through its wish list (a list that includes wishes for more wishes) and ramming hard-right bills through legislatures all over the country.
Unions shut down and jobs eliminated. Women's rights abused. Votes suppressed.
And the worst part is, Wisconsin is doomed forever. 
Wait, that can't be right. There's hope! On our show today, meet two activists who are fighting extremism and trying to stem the tide—Milwaukee's Biko Baker, ED of the League of Young Voters, who tells tales from the front lines fighting GOP voter suppression, and Madison oncology nurse Anica Bausch, whose silent, nondisruptive act of dissent as the State Assembly passed an extreme anti-abortion bill led to a visit by four looming security officers.

What the Wisconsin GOP is doing is ugly. But as long as citizens are ready to fight back, nothing lasts forever. Wisconsin's long political winter isn't just about Wisconsin. It's about all of us. And together, we'll make sure that spring comes once again.
Direct download: Sword_2013_06_18_full.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:03pm EDT

The NSA vs the ACLU: one side knows everything. The other has read the Constitution very carefully. Winner gets bragging rights. And shapes the course of history.
On today's show, we'll talk to two of America's foremost experts and advocates about liberty, privacy, and digital security—and the explosive new revelations of omnipresent domestic and global surveillance by the National Security Agency. First, Ben Wizener of the ACLU will tell us about the American Civil Liberty Union's new case: a lawsuit demanding that the Obama administration bring its surveillance activities in line with the law and the US Constitution. And then we go to Margot Kaminski of Yale Law School, who expands the fight from the courts to the halls of Congress and corporate America—and explains exactly how you can help.
Direct download: Sword_2013_06_12.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:07pm EDT

Want to win an election? The formula's supposed to be simple: raise a ton of money, buy a ton of TV ads, stir in a little get-out-the-vote action, book your tickets to DC. 

Except: that's not what the research says.

A wave of political science studies have upended the conventional wisdom about what counts in politics, and suggested a very different way to win elections. And on this episode of The Flaming Sword of Justice, our guest—Becky Bond of CREDO—tells the story of how she put that research into action. While billionaires bankrolled a tidal wave of TV ads in the 2012 election cycle, her team targeted ten terrible Tea Party Republicans with the tactics suggested by scientific experiments. 

What they did, and what happened as a result, will give you hope for the future of American politics.

Direct download: Sword_2013_06_07.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00pm EDT

On March 25, a clothing factory caught fire. Workers ried to escape, but they found the doors locked—and 146 of them died. 

Sounds like Bangladesh. But this happened in New York City. In 1911. 

What happened after that has been written in a thousand history books: a national outcry; new legislation protecting workers' rights; and a wave of union organizing that helped transform the lives of workers in this country. 

Fast forward a century, loop around to the other side of the globe, and you'll find almost exactly the same story—fire, locked doors, death—in Bangladesh last year. But then it got worse: the factory collapse this April, a disaster far far deadlier than either fire. A gruesome story. But maybe, just maybe, another turning point. 

Maybe you've noticed: in recent weeks, under massive public pressure, more than three dozen huge clothing companies have joined a legally binding agreement for radically improved worker safety protections. On this show, we talk to three people in the heart of that fight: a California fashion industry veteran; a Bangladeshi woman who started working in a clothing factory at age 12, became a union organizer by 16, and now is leading the global fight for worker's rights there; and an international worker's rights campaigner who is helping rack up the victories. Through their stories, you'll get a taste of a life and death struggle—and, amidst tragedy, a rising tide of hope.

Direct download: Sword_2013_06_05.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:28pm EDT