Useful Idiots with Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper
Useful Idiots, LLC | Cumulus Podcast Network

Useful Idiots is an informative and irreverent politics podcast with journalist Matt Taibbi and podcaster/writer Katie Halper. Episodes feature on-the-road coverage of the 2020 campaign and exclusive interviews, with humor, commentary and dissection of the politics news of the week. Join Matt and Katie as they examine important stories that have slipped through the cracks and what the media got wrong – and laugh about whatever is left to laugh about.

Subscribe at usefulidiots.substack.com Ross Barkan on the New York Mayoral Race and Cuomosexuals, Plus Whale Mouthwash, Republicans Hit the Pipe, and Jeff Bezos Should Eat the Mona Lisa “This is kind of the Holy Grail for the left that can never quite get pulled off,” says Ross Barkan, author of The Prince: Andrew Cuomo, Coronavirus, and the Fall of New York. “It usually gets pulled off by moderates, or Barack Obama.” We talked to Ross about one of our favorite people — the demented neoliberal monster/werewolf Andrew Cuomo — but also about the upcoming New York City mayoral elections, which will be the large-scale litmus test on the state of the Democratic electorate since the 2020 primaries. New York City has one of the most rabidly progressive voter bases in the country, but the Democratic Primary next Tuesday has for some time now appeared likely to be dominated by moderates like former NYPD officer and Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams. Friend-ish-of-show Andrew Yang, who snubbed a Useful Idiots interview request during this campaign, has fallen off to fourth place in a recent poll, in the most recent demonstration of the ironclad Law of the Useful Idiots Bump. Will he make it back up in time to replace Bill de Blasio? Barkan discusses with us some of the factors that may be influencing the quasi-surprising New York results. Three of the four top candidates — Yang, Adams, and former sanitation chief Kathryn Garcia — seemingly go against national type. “All three of these candidates, Yang, Garcia, Adams, are explicitly against de-funding the police,” he says. “Who’s going to win? I don’t know, but I think Adams has the inside track.” Barkan, who wrote a pleasingly vicious book about Cuomo that depicts him in the garb of Machiavelli on the cover, also explained how the New York governor managed to pull off a surge in popularity last year despite horrific management of the pandemic. “Journalism… too often takes on the tropes of fiction, and seeks narratives, heroes and villains,” Ross said. “Cuomo filled that void,” giving journalists the tough-talking uncle figure to Donald Trump’s crazy-nitwit act. Reporters ran with that simple storyline for months, ignoring things like Cuomo’s craven manipulation of death toll figures for nursing homes. From there we basically just said gratuitous things about Cuomo and his doofus brother, but it’s worth a listen, particularly if you’re high. Also: we plow through the four food groups, stopping to discuss ICE’s

“Protest with a guitar? Not this candidate.” This written about a 21-year-old city council candidate with hippy sensibilities and a drive to help the underdog: Dennis Kucinich. Since that article in 1967, Kucinich served 16 years as the US house rep from Ohio, gained national fame in his two presidential bids, and was vindicated by the Washington Post as the future of American politics. Now, Kucinich is out with a new book The Division of Light and Power, which shares stories of his early days in politics as a 23-year-old city councilman and later mayor in Cleveland, Ohio (read Matt’s full book review here). What he saw was a corrupt and bent system. So his career became a crusade against it. In his first unsuccessful council run, he realized the incumbent never lost because he took care of people, giving favors to powerful donors and making sure his influential constituents were kept happy. ‘So,’ thought Kucinich, ‘that’s what I’ll do.’ But taking care of people for Dennis meant helping normal Clevelanders who, like his own family, couldn’t pay the rent, couldn’t keep the lights on, couldn’t feed their kids. He helped these people and they noticed. And he won. Whether against cheating vote-counters, corrupt utility companies, war-mongering presidents, or racist legislation, Dennis Kucinich’s political career has been a constant battle against immorality and a fight for the helpless. Kucinich describes how his life is echoed by the sound of coins clinking on a white metal table as his parents counted pennies to pay the rent. By the time he was 17, he lived in 21 different places, including a few cars. All this only built the man he is and “translated into the necessity of standing up for economic justice for people who are struggling.” That, plus music, theatre, and ripping off doors in this Useful Idiots interview. Meanwhile, we accept credit for the Breaking Points’ #usefulidiotsbump, read Hunter Biden’s drug-feuled texts about his tanned penis and love of the N-word, call out Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s attempt to imprison migrant children, and sell an invisible Kurt Loder sculpture for thousands. All this, and more, on this week’s Useful Idiots. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

After a groundbreaking and enormously successful run at The Hill, Krystal and Saagar have followed the iconic path of a certain former rock music podcast, going solo by launching a subscriber-supported show called Breaking Point that debuts next week. The longtime friends-of-show are true pioneers in the modern media age. At a time when virtually every other political discussion show is aimed exclusively at one political demographic or another, their Rising program represented literally the only mainstream effort to speak to all of America. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

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Human rights lawyer Steven Donziger has been trapped in his apartment for two years without a fair trial. Hear his story. Plus: Biden and Republicans kill journalists while the Queen kills her dog Subscribe at usefulidiots.substack.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Longtime friend-of-show Abby Martin, maker of the remarkable documentary Gaza Fights for Freedom, drops in for a Zoom chat to discuss the outbreak of hostilities in Israel. Subscribe at usefulidiots.substack.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Also, we semi mis-predict a patent waiver outcome, discuss a sex work ruling, and relive a beaver attack Subscribe at usefulidiots.substack.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Friend-of-show Dr. Cornel West has been in the news a lot of late, and not always in a happy way. At the end of February, the brilliant professor of Philosophy, Divinity, and African-American studies announced he was leaving his longtime employers at Harvard University, and moving back to Union Theological Seminary, where he began his teaching career back in 1977. Harvard denied his request to be considered for tenure, apparently for political reasons. On Useful Idiots, West talked about the likely reasons behind Harvard’s decision (outspokenness on Palestine?), Joe Biden’s first 100 days, and the influence of his late mother Irene B. West. Also: Katie and I debate how many Secret Service agents it takes to get Mike Pence up a ski hill, we denounce the deeply unfunny campaign against the #YangGang, and we give detailed reviews of all of the movies nominated for Best Picture from this year’s Academy Awards ceremony (without seeing them of course). Is Nomadland a space adventure? Is Mank a misspelled fur-bearing animal? What’s the over/under on debilitating-disease themes for next year’s Oscars? We explore all these important questions, and more, on this week’s Useful Idiots. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

David Sirota of The Daily Poster weighs in on SALT deductions, Biden's presidency, and the future of journalism. Subscribe at usefulidiots.substack.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

A nation is gripped by a police-abuse trial, and Republicans and Democrats both find a way to suck about it Subscribe at usefulidiots.substack.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Talking with the former presidential candidate about the progressive candidate summit, smears, and "liberal bullshit." Subscribe at usefulidiots.substack.com to hear the extended interview with Marianne Williamso Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

We interview some guy named Noam Chomsky (extended interview coming next week), get to the bottom of why we broke up with Rolling Stone, and scrutinize the thrilling PBS interview of former al-Nusra/al-Qaeda leader-turned-very-handsome-man Abu Mohammed al-Jolani. Katie taps her beard-crit background, while we both investigate the two most important questions of our time: which four goateed male celebrities combined look like one PBS interviewer Martin Smith, and why do I keep thinking Smith is British? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

[This interview was recorded before the Governor of Arkansas Vetoed the anti-transgender health care bill].] The Arkansas Senate just passed a bill with a title straight out of dystopian fiction: the Arkansas Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act, or SAFE. Roundly denounced as the most extreme law of its type ever passed, the bill is one of about two dozen laws aimed at trans care currently being considered at the state level. To find out what’s actually in these bills, we spoke with Dr. Erica Anderson, a trans clinician and psychology professor from the University of California, San Francisco. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

In this Useful Idiots interview, Matt Stoller walks us through some of the myths about big tech. Many members of Congress seem to believe the firms don’t intervene enough; Stoller explains that their massive existing levels of intervention are the problem, that the financial incentives of what he calls “surveillance advertising” move firms like Facebook to push users in the direction of ever more enraging, divisive, and conspiratorial content. Plus Matt (Taibbi) and Katie talk about Ted Cruz, Woke-washing and penis mishaps. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jesse Singal and Katie Herzog, co-hosts of the podcast Blocked And Reported, join Useful Idiots to talk about the failed campaign to get Singal driven off of Substack and what, according to Herzog, some of Singal's most vocal critics have in common with QAnon. They also talk about how they met and why they started their podcast and how they're not exactly canceled. Singal discusses his new book "Quick Fix," about the dangers of fad psychology. And Matt and Katie discuss the indefensible hoarding of vaccine, and debate the important question: can robbing blind people ever be funny? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

We spoke to legendary Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg about the nuclear threat nobody is talking about, the end of the world and how he, despite all that, stays hopeful. But before diving in with Ellsberg, Matt and Katie talk about, of course, Dems sucking, Republicans sucking, things being weird and terrible and even bring you a stoned moment. Stand by for the youtube episode. And, dear paying subscribers, stand by for the paywalled video and audio sections dropping soon where we talk to Ellsberg about the way he’s been cynically rehabilitated by his critics as a “good whistleblower” in order to present Snowden, Assange, and Manning as bad ones.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Useful Idiots, the podcast Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper started in the summer of 2019 at Rolling Stone, is moving. After eighty episodes that included interviews with the likes of Tulsi Gabbard (our first guest), Roger Waters, Andrew Yang, Erin Brockovich, Michael K. Williams, Noam Chomsky, Marianne Williamson, Adam McKay, Bernie Sanders, Nadya Tolkonnikova of Pussy Riot, Tim Robbins, Adolph Reed, Chris Hedges, and many others, the show that was created with the idea of being a home for voices shut out or shouted down in traditional media outlets is moving, appropriately, to Substack. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Stella Moris, lawyer and life partner of Julian Assange, joins the show to discuss the current status of Assange's case and it’s implications for global journalism. Hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper discuss arguments for and against independent journalism outlet Substack. Merch link: https://teespring.com/stores/useful-idiots Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Shahid Buttar joins the show to discuss Democrats, Fox News, and free speech. Hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper discuss Tennessee GOP efforts to prohibit kneeling during college sports national anthems. Merch link: https://teespring.com/stores/useful-idiots Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Journalist Aaron Maté joins the show to talk about the start of Biden's foreign policy, and his reporting on Syria and the OPCW Merch Link: https://bit.ly/3uiFz4D Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices