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Radiolab Presents: More Perfect

WNYC Studios

Radiolab’s More Perfect is a series about the Supreme Court. More Perfect explores how cases inside the rarefied world of the Supreme Court affect our lives far away from the bench. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other great podcasts including Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, On the Media, Nancy and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin. © WNYC Studios

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“It is an invidious, undemocratic, and unconstitutional practice,” Justice John Paul Stevens said of gerrymandering in Vieth v. Jubelirer (2004). Politicians have been manipulating district lines to favor one party over another since the founding of our nation. But with a case starting today, Gill v. Whitford, the Supreme Court may be in a position to crack this historical nut once and for all. Up until this point, the court didn’t have a standard measure or test of how much one side had unfairly drawn district lines. But “the efficiency gap” could be it. The mathematical formula measures how many votes Democrats and Republicans waste in elections; if either side is way outside the norm, there may be some foul play at hand. According to Loyola law professor Justin Levitt, both the case and the formula arrive at a critical time. “After the census in 2020, all sorts of different bodies will redraw all sorts of different lines and this case will help decide how and where.”

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We think of the Supreme Court justices as all-powerful beings, issuing momentous rulings from on high. But they haven’t always been so, you know, supreme. On this episode, we go all the way back to the case that, in a lot of ways, started it all.

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The Architect

Dec 7th, 201734:14

On this episode, we revisit Edward Blum, a self-described “legal entrepreneur” and former stockbroker who has become something of a Supreme Court matchmaker: he takes an issue, finds the perfect plaintiff, matches them with lawyers, and helps the case work its way to the highest court in the land. His target: laws that differentiate between people based on race — including ones that empower minorities. More Perfect profiled Edward Blum in season one of the show. We catch up with him to hear about his latest effort to end affirmative action at Harvard.

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Citizens United

Nov 2nd, 20171:00:36

Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission is one of the most polarizing Supreme Court cases of all time. So what is it actually about, and why did the Justices decide the way they did? Justice Anthony Kennedy, often called the “most powerful man in America,” wrote the majority opinion in the case. In this episode, we examine Kennedy’s singular devotion to the First Amendment and look at how it may have influenced his decision in the case.

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Enemy of Mankind

Oct 24th, 201754:36

Should the U.S. Supreme Court be the court of the world? In the 18th century, two feuding Frenchmen inspired a one-sentence law that helped launch American human rights litigation into the 20th century. The Alien Tort Statute allowed a Paraguayan woman to find justice for a terrible crime committed in her homeland. But as America reached further and further out into the world, the court was forced to confront the contradictions in our country’s ideology: sympathy vs. sovereignty. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Jesner v. Arab Bank, a case that could reshape the way America responds to human rights abuses abroad. Does the A.T.S. secure human rights or is it a dangerous overreach?

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Sex Appeal

Nov 23rd, 201755:48

“Equal protection of the laws” was granted to all persons by the 14th Amendment in 1868. But for nearly a century after that, women had a hard time convincing the courts that they should be allowed to be jurors, lawyers, and bartenders, just the same as men. A then-lawyer at the ACLU named Ruth Bader Ginsburg set out to convince an all-male Supreme Court to take sex discrimination seriously with an unconventional strategy. She didn’t just bring cases where women were the victims of discrimination; she also brought cases where men were the victims. In this episode, we look at how a key battle for gender equality was won with frat boys and beer.

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The Hate Debate

Nov 6th, 201736:19

Should you be able to say and do whatever you want online? And if not, who should police this? More Perfect hosts a debate about online hate speech, fake news and whether the First Amendment needs an update for the digital age.

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Justice, Interrupted

Dec 19th, 201724:17

The rules of oral argument at the Supreme Court are strict: when a justice speaks, the advocate has to shut up.  But a law student noticed that the rules were getting broken again and again — by men.  He and his professor set out to chart an epidemic of interruptions.  If women can’t catch a break in the boardroom or the legislature (or at the MTV VMA’s), what’s it going to take to let them speak from the bench of the highest court in the land?

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The Gun Show

Oct 12th, 20171:09:43

For nearly 200 years of our nation’s history, the Second Amendment was an all-but-forgotten rule about the importance of militias. But in the 1960s and 70s, a movement emerged — led by Black Panthers and a recently-repositioned NRA — that insisted owning a firearm was the right of each and every American. So began a constitutional debate that only the Supreme Court could solve. That didn’t happen until 2008, when a Washington, D.C. security guard named Dick Heller made a compelling case.

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The Imperfect Plaintiffs

Sep 28th, 201757:03

Last year, the court decided a case that could affect the future of affirmative action in this country. The plaintiff was Abigail Fisher, a white woman, who said she was rejected from the University of Texas because the university unfairly considered race as one of many factors when evaluating applicants. And while Fisher’s claims were the focus of the case, the story behind how she ended up in front of the Supreme Court is a lot more complicated. On this episode of More Perfect, we visit Edward Blum, a self-described “legal entrepreneur” and former stockbroker who has become something of a Supreme Court matchmaker — he takes an issue, finds the perfect plaintiff, matches them with lawyers, and works his way to the highest court in the land. He’s had remarkable success, with six cases heard before the Supreme Court, including that of Abigail Fisher. We also head to Houston, Texas, where in 1998, an unusual 911 call led to one of the most important LGBTQ rights decisions in the Supreme Court’s history. Edward Blum is the director of the Project on Fair Representation (AEI) John Lawrence (L) and Tyron Garner (R) at the 2004 Pride Parade in Houston (J.D. Doyle/Houston LGBT History) Mitchell Katine (L) introduces Tyron Garner (Middle) and John Lawrence (R) at a rally celebrating the court's decision (J.D. Doyle/Houston LGBT History) The key links: - The website Edward Blum is using to find plaintiffs for a case he is building against Harvard University- Susan Carle's book on the history of legal ethics- An obituary for Tyron Garner when he died in 2006- An obituary for John Lawrence when he died in 2011- Dale Carpenter's book on the history of Lawrence v. Texas- A Lambda Legal documentary on the story of Lawrence v. Texas The key voices: - Edward Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation- Susan Carle, professor of law at the American University Washington College of Law- Dale Carpenter, professor of Law at the SMU Dedman School of Law- Mitchell Katine, lawyer at Katine & Nechman L.L.P. - Lane Lewis, former chair of the Harris County Democratic Party- Sheila Jackson Lee, Congresswoman for the 18th district of Texas The key cases: - 1896: Plessy v. Ferguson- 1962: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Button- 1986: Bowers v. Hardwick- 1996: Bush v. Vera- 2003: Lawrence v. Texas- 2009: Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder- 2013: Shelby County v. Holder- 2013: Fisher v. University of Texas (1)- 2016: Evenwel v. Abbott- 2016: Fisher v. University of Texas (2) Special thanks to Ari Berman. His book Give Us the Ballot and his reporting for The Nation were hugely helpful in reporting this episode.   More Perfect is funded in part by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation, and the Joyce Foundation. Supreme Court archival audio comes from Oyez®, a free law project in collaboration with the Legal Information Institute at Cornell. A longer version of this episode aired on June 28, 2016.

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On this episode, a three-year-old girl and the highest court in the land. From the Radiolab archives, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl is the story that inspired More Perfect's creation.

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The Political Thicket

Jun 10th, 201642:22

The question of how much power the Supreme Court should possess has divided justices over time. But the issue was perhaps never more hotly debated than in Baker v. Carr. On this episode of More Perfect, we talk about the case that pushed one Supreme Court justice to a nervous breakdown, brought a boiling feud to a head, put one justice in the hospital, and changed the course of the Supreme Court – and the nation – forever.

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What happens when the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, seems to get it wrong? Korematsu v. United States upheld President Franklin Roosevelt’s internment of American citizens during World War II based solely on their Japanese heritage, for the sake of national security. In this episode, we follow Fred Korematsu’s path to the Supreme Court, and we ask the question: if you can’t get justice in the Supreme Court, can you find it someplace else?

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An unassuming string of 16 words tucked into the Constitution grants Congress extensive power to make laws that impact the entire nation. The Commerce Clause has allowed Congress to intervene in all kinds of situations — from penalizing one man for growing too much wheat on his farm, to enforcing the end of racial segregation nationwide. That is, if the federal government can make an economic case for it. This seemingly all-powerful tool has the potential to unite the 50 states into one nation and protect the civil liberties of all. But it also challenges us to consider: when we make everything about money, what does it cost us?

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On a fall afternoon in 1984, Dethorne Graham ran into a convenience store for a bottle of orange juice. Minutes later he was unconscious, injured, and in police handcuffs. In this episode, we explore a case that sent two Charlotte lawyers on a quest for true objectivity, and changed the face of policing in the US.

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American Pendulum II

Oct 2nd, 201731:56

In this episode of More Perfect, how two families grapple with one terrible Supreme Court decision. Dred Scott v. Sandford is one of the most infamous cases in Supreme Court history: in 1857, a slave named Dred Scott filed a suit for his freedom and lost. In his decision, Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney wrote that black men “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”  One civil war and more than a century later, the Taneys and the Scotts reunite at a Hilton in Missouri to figure out what reconciliation looks like in the 21st century.

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American Pendulum I

Oct 1st, 201746:10

What happens when the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, seems to get it wrong? Korematsu v. United States is a case that’s been widely denounced and discredited, but it still remains on the books. This is the case that upheld President Franklin Roosevelt’s internment of American citizens during World War II based solely on their Japanese heritage, for the sake of national security. In this episode, we follow Fred Korematsu’s path to the Supreme Court, and we ask the question: if you can’t get justice in the Supreme Court, can you find it someplace else?

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This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes. This week, More Perfect takes a look at three amendments on the more obscure end of the spectrum. The 12th, 17th, and 20th Amendments made fine-tune adjustments to the way we pick our leaders. More Perfect is here to prove these three are more interesting than you think they are. For starters, the 12th Amendment is the secret star of the hit musical Hamilton. The Election of 1800 and the kerfuffle between Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson was one of the reasons we passed the 12th Amendment, which made it so that presidential and vice presidential candidates run alongside each other on a single ticket. It was meant to avoid awkward situations where political opponents suddenly had to be partners in government. But Radiolab's Rachael Cusick reflects on the Clinton-Trump race and the ways the 12th Amendment may have polarized politics. Then, listen to Octopus Project's original song about the 12th Amendment.   The idea for the 20th Amendment, which shortened the "lame duck" period for outgoing presidents and members of Congress, was first proposed around the same time as the 12th, but it took years to get political momentum to pass it. That momentum came in part from infamous president, Warren G. Harding, whose missteps ignited a movement to pass it. Huey Supreme wrote an original song about the 20th Amendment from the perspective of a lame duck. Then, More Perfect skips back to the 17th Amendment, which made the election of U.S. senators more democratic. Our state legislatures used to hand-pick Senators, but the 17th made it so the people elect their Senators directly. More Perfect reflects on whether direct democracy is all it's cracked up to be. Listen to original songs about the 17th amendment by Stef Chura and Donny Dinero (of Mail the Horse).

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This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes. The 25th and 26th Amendments-- ratified in 1967 and 1971, respectively-- are some of the newest additions to our founding document. However, they tackle some pretty basic questions: who gets to rule, and who gets to vote? If a president dies or is incapacitated, who takes over? And how old do you have to be in order to participate in American democracy? In recent months, the 25th Amendment has swirled in and out of news cycles as Americans debate what it takes to declare a president unfit for office. But this episode looks back, even before the 25th Amendment was ratified: a moment in 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson became bedridden by stroke, and his wife, Edith Wilson, became our country’s unofficial first female president. The 26th Amendment is best encapsulated in a Vietnam-era slogan: “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are becoming victims of gun violence and finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further? When you're done with the episode, check out songs by Devendra Banhart and Suburban Living inspired by Amendments 25 and 26 on 27: The Most Perfect Album. And watch Devendra Banhart's incredible music video here!   Video illustration by Justin Buschardt.Video animation by The Mighty Coconut. Special thanks to The White House Historical Association.

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This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes. On first read the 16th and 22nd Amendments are at best sleepers and at worst, stinkers. In a list of Constitutional hits like the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, and birthright citizenship, the amendments covering taxes and term limits tend to fall by the wayside. But in Episode 6 of More Perfect's third season we take these forgotten gems and make them shine. The 16th Amendment sets up the income tax, sinking dread into the hearts of millions of Americans every April. But if the income tax is so hated, why did we vote to put it in the Constitution? And why do so many people willingly pay? In this episode we take on those questions and contemplate whether the 16th amendment might be less about money or law, than is about deciding what it means to belong. Next we move on to the 22nd Amendment and presidential term limits. If we as U.S. citizens are happy with our leadership, why shouldn't we be able to keep electing the same president for as many terms as we want? The ghost of George Washington comes back to give Franklin Delano Roosevelt some major side-eye as we explore the roots of the rule, and why it matters today. When you're done with the episode, check out songs by Post Animal and Pavo Pavo inspired by Amendments 16 and 22 on 27: The Most Perfect Album.

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This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes. Amendments 13, 14, and 15 are collectively known as the Reconstruction Amendments: they were passed as instructions to rebuild the country after Civil War. They addressed slavery, citizenship, equality and voting rights for black people. This week, the More Perfect team explores the legacy of the amendments beyond the Civil War — the ways the promises of these amendments changed the country and the ways they've fallen short. First, More Perfect Executive Producer Suzie Lechtenberg and Legal Editor Elie Mystal explore the loophole in the 13th Amendment's slavery ban that's being used in a strange context: college football. We share songs about the 13th Amendment from Kash Doll and Bette Smith. Then, producer Julia Longoria shares a conversation with her roommate Alia Almeida exploring their relationship to the amendments. Inspired by the 14th's Amendment's grant of equal protection and citizenship rights, Sarah Kay's poem tells the story of her grandmother, a U.S. citizen who was interned during World War II in a Japanese American Internment camp. Despite the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause, the Supreme Court upheld the internment of U.S. citizens based solely on their Japanese heritage in a case called Korematsu v. United States. In 2018, the Supreme Court said Korematsu was "wrong the day it was decided." The Court went on to uphold President Trump's controversial travel ban in Trump v. Hawaii. "Korematsu has nothing to do with this case," wrote the majority. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor accused the majority of "redeploying the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu" when they upheld the ban. Finally, hear songs inspired by the 15th Amendment by Aisha Burns and Nnamidi Ogbonnaya.

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This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes.Episode Four begins, as all episodes should: with Dolly Parton. Parton wrote a song for us (!) about the 19th Amendment and women (finally) getting the right to vote.Also in this episode: Our siblings at Radiolab share a story with us that they did about how the 19th Amendment almost died on a hot summer night in Tennessee. The 19th Amendment was obviously a huge milestone for women in the United States. But it was pretty well-understood that this wasn’t a victory for all women; it was a victory for white women. People of color have faced all sorts of barriers to voting throughout our nation's history. This includes poll taxes, which were fees people had to pay in order to vote. The 24th Amendment eliminated federal poll taxes in 1964. We hear a song inspired by the 24th Amendment, created for us by Caroline Shaw. Kevin Morby made an excellent song for us about the 24th, too. Check it out here. Finally, Simon Tam, from the band The Slants tells the story of the Supreme Court case about their name, and talks about the song they wrote about the 18th and 21st Amendments for our album. (It’s a jam!)

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This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes. The first eight amendments to the U.S. Constitution are literal, straightforward, and direct. But when we get to Amendments nine, 10, and 11, things get… hazy. These are some of the least literal amendments in the Constitution: they mean more than they say, and what they say is often extremely confusing. So in the third episode of the new More Perfect season we take these three blurry amendments and bring them into focus, embarking on a metaphorical, metaphysical, and somewhat astronomical journey to find the perfect analogies to truly understand each one. Episode Three reaches for lofty metaphors of moon shadows, legal penumbras, and romantic relationships — as well as more guttural, frankly gross ones, like the human appendix, to describe the three amendments that define the nature of our union and the powers of the government and the people. And when you're done with the episode, listen to the songs by The Kominas, Lean Year, and Field Medic inspired by Amendments 9, 10 and 11 on 27: The Most Perfect Album.

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This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes. The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments enshrine some of our most important civil liberties. They tell us about the rights we have when the government knocks on our door, including protections from "unreasonable searches and seizures," self-incrimination, "cruel and unusual punishments," and the right to "a speedy and public trial"-- among others. Episode Two looks at these amendments through the story of one man, Christopher Scott, who finds himself face-to-face with Dallas police officers as they investigate a violent crime. The role that these amendments play—and fail to play— in Christopher’s encounter tells a profound story about the presence of the Constitution in our everyday lives. And when you're done with the episode, listen to the songs by Briana Marela, Torres, Sons of an Illustrious Father, Adia Victoria, Nana Grizol, and High Waisted inspired by Amendments 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 on 27: The Most Perfect Album.   Special thanks to Gloria Browne-Marshall and David Gray.

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The Gun Show Reprise

Sep 19th1:09:24

Last year in the wake of the attack in Las Vegas, reporter Sean Rameswaram took a deep dive into America's twisty, thorny, seemingly irreconcilable relationship with guns. It's a story about the Second Amendment, the Black Panthers, the NRA, and a guy named Dick Heller, who in 2008 brought the Second Amendment to the Supreme Court for the very first time.

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Listen to the full song at themostperfectalbum.org   At the bottom of the kitchen trash I found the empty container of take out food With my name clearly written on it Following a trail of footsteps from the standing water in the bathroom I discovered my soaking wet bedroom slippers in the hallway Maybe I’ve been spoiled by a life of solitude Maybe there is some other way I can express my gratitude But the presence of so many friendly strangers makes me nervous And it doesn’t mean that I’m not truly thankful for your service   Lately I’ve been spending more and more Of my free time hanging out in the empty backroom Of the diner just up the highway And it’s just to give you elbow room That I’ve been making use of the sleeping bag That I keep rolled and stacked behind my couch   Do you think that I think I’m somehow better than you Please accept my word that nothing could be further than the truth   But the presence of so many friendly strangers makes me nervous And it doesn’t mean that I’m not truly thankful for your service

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Listen to the full song at themostperfectalbum.org You call for a place to lay down I’ve got no use for you sprawling out With blood on your mind You will have to stay outside You shoot your guns in my backyard You crush my flowers and scar the lawn With laws on my side I'm not letting you in tonight Cuz there’s no peace with you hanging around You’re damage walking you’re violence crowned You’re close to death and you’re far from home But I need some rest and you’re on your own I saw your friends in town last night They’re spilling drinks and starting fights If that’s who you are there’s a motel not too far Cuz there’s no peace with you hanging around You’re damage walking you’re violence crowned You’re close to death and you’re far from home But I need some rest and you’re on your own

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Listen to the song on themostperfectalbum.org   A warm day, Warm day in winter A senseless violence couldn't have been simpler   The truth is We can’t turn back time And bring back lives Don’t let them be killed in vain We have to make a change   He said he would do it Now it’s done It couldn’t have been easier for him to get a gun   So quickly he stole so many lives He couldn't have done that with a knife He said he would do it now it’s done now it’s done   Mass Shootings One after another But who’s protecting Our sisters and our brothers?   That powers that be need to see that our lives are worth more than their greed   He said he would do it now it’s done it couldn’t have been easier for him to get a gun He said he would do it now it’s done Now it’s done   How many more lives must we lose and what will it take to change their views We all have the right to live our lives It’s just not right   Disarm Disarm and Save my Heart Disarm Disarm And save my heart   He said he would do it Now it’s done It couldn’t have been easier for him to get a gun   So quickly he stole so many lives He couldn't have done that with a knife He said he would do it now it’s done now it’s done

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Listen to the song on themostperfectalbum.org   Hoy el tema es el cohete, (Today’s theme is the gun,) That notorious juguete. (toy.) You should know what you’re defending When you second the amendment.   To bear and keep your arms Is your right here in this country Your god-given right in this country Is your right to bear your arms.   To bear and keep your arms Is your right here in this country Your god-given right in this country Is your right to bear your arms.   There’s no wrong done with the left, But the right can do you harm. There’s no wrong done with the left, But the right can do you harm.   Cuidado que ahí viene el oso (Careful, here comes the bear) El oso con sus dos brazos (The bear with its two arms) El oso con sus dos brazos (The bear with its two arms) Cuidado que ahí viene el oso (Careful here comes the bear)   Cuidado que ahí viene el oso. (Careful, here comes the bear.) El oso con sus dos brazos. (The bear with its two arms.) El oso con sus dos brazos. (The bear with its two arms.) Cuidado que ahí viene el oso. (Careful, here comes the bear.)   A que el oso es mañoso. (The bear is a tricky one.) No se puede confiar. (You can’t trust it.) Un día te da un brazo, (One day, it gives you a hand (or an arm)) Otro día puede disparar (The next, it shoots)   Hoy el tema es el cohete, (Today’s theme is the gun,) That notorious juguete. (toy) You should know what you’re defending When you second the amendment.   You may want to think twice Though it’s sunny in Arizona. Though it’s sunny in Arizona You may want to think twice. If they don’t blast you with their heat They may freeze you with their ice. They don’t blast you with their heat They may freeze you with their ice.   Aunque llegué aquí hace poco (Even though I’m fresh off the boat) Una cosa a mi me encanta (There’s one thing I love) Una cosa a mi me encanta (There’s one thing I love) Aunque llegué aquí hace poco. (Though I’m fresh off the boat.) Es que me venden lo que sea (It’s that they sell me whatever I want) Es que me venden lo que sea (It’s that they sell me whatever I want) Aunque sea despeinada y fea (Even if I’m disheveled and ugly) Y el casco lo tenga loco (And crazy in the head)   Tengo mucha protección (I have a lot of protection) Gracias a la segunda enmienda. (Thanks to the second amendment.) Gracias a la segunda enmienda, (Thanks to the second amendment,) Tengo mucha protección. (I have a lot of protection).   Tengo mucha protección (I have a lot of protection) Gracias a la segunda enmienda. (Thanks to the second amendment.) Gracias a la segunda enmienda, (Thanks to the second amendment,) Tengo mucha protección. (I have a lot of protection).   Pistolera me creía (I thought myself a gunwoman) Aunque sin revolución (Though I had no revolution) Mi pistola, mi fiel amiga (Until my pistol, my loyal friend) Un día me traicionó (One day betrayed me)   Hoy el tema es el cohete, (Today’s theme is the gun,) That notorious juguete. (toy.) You should know what you’re defending When you second the amendment.

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Listen to the song on themostperfectalbum.org   What’s not found on the ballad may be better seen, Staring down the barrel instead, For the defense of the nation from the monarchy, An army lie sleepin’ bestead, Let’s clear the tree line, Watch the seasons go, Hear the boston bells sing till they’re broken, Through the police occupation, The infernos lit abroad, Not waitin’ on the grace of god, Protect my family, There goes my neighbor, He’s runnin’ through the lawn, The birds above all circle, Man what this kid do wrong, Was he out there in the twilight, Hidin’ underneath the bed, Adrift in the penumbra, In the black or in the red, Let’s clear the tree line, Watch the seasons go, Hear the boston bells sing till they’re broken, No unweedin’ this garden, Can’t put pandora back to bed, But Moses from my cold dead hands, You must be joking me.

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Listen to the song on themostperfectalbum.org    She and I are miles apart but I can feel her beating heart I melt away when i read her words on the page   I don’t know his family he and i, we feel the same I came across his story on the page And i am filled with rage   I could not have empathy I could not have rage I could not have understanding without a story on the page

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Listen to the song on themostperfectalbum.org    Chorus I’m seeing ghosts, every move I make, They can’t break me , they can’t break me, I can feel the spirit of the drum, This worlds my turf all that’s under the sun, I can feel the spirit of the drum, This worlds my turf all that’s under the sun,   Verse 1 A warrior puts on for the people, I will never fear any evil, You can never quiet my voice, All praise to the maker is my choice, I got fire inside but my flow is water, Star dust in my soul I put that on my honour, Old Native America tell me how you feel? Would you die over ethics? Come on tell me for real, We blessed by nature, Blessed for battle, I hear the war cries sitting perfect on the rattle, A snake chase it tale, a phoenix earns it’s wings, I fear no thing as the holy man sings,   Chorus 2 I’m seeing ghosts, every move I make, They can’t break me , they can’t break me, I can feel the spirit of the drum, This worlds my turf all that’s under the sun, I can feel the spirit of the drum, This worlds my turf all that’s under the sun,   Verse 2 We’re all free to speak what’s on our mind right? Well I don’t feel right when I look outside, Too many people poor corporations getting richer, People going crazy living life with the trigger, Having visions in a ceremony of the cemetery, Too many homies gone, young neechies getting buried, Thunder beings told me I was gonna take the tower down, Born for this from the heavens to the underground, Blam blam blam for the sake of the seeds, For the sake of my faith and the blood I bleed, Right off the line I been legendary, Backed by the power so real that it’s scary,   Chorus 3 I’m seeing ghosts, every move I make, They can’t break me, they can’t break me, I can feel the spirit of the drum, This worlds my turf all that’s under the sun, I can feel the spirit of the drum, This worlds my turf all that’s under the sun,

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This season, More Perfect is taking our camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes. Let's get started. If we're talking about the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, it only feels right to start at the beginning. The First and Second Amendments are arguably the most ferociously contentious amendments of them all, and the Third Amendment is the underdog that everyone underestimates but (maybe) shouldn’t. With that in mind, Episode One dives into the poetic dream behind the First Amendment. This is the amendment that reflects the kind of country the Founding Fathers hoped we would be. Next, we examine the fiercely debated words of the Second Amendment, words that often feel like they divide our nation in two. And finally, we question whether the seemingly irrelevant Third Amendment might actually be the key to figuring out where our country is going. And when you're done with the episode, take a listen to the songs by Joey Stylez, Cherry Glazerr, Sateen, Flor de Toloache, Michael Richard Klics, Palehound, and They Might be Giants inspired by Amendments 1, 2 and 3 on 27: The Most Perfect Album.

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This fall, More Perfect is doing something brand new: We’re making an album!   It’s called 27: The Most Perfect Album. We’ve partnered with some of the best musicians in the world— artists like Dolly Parton, Kevin Morby, Devendra Banhart, Aisha Burns, and more — to create songs inspired by the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Alongside the album, we’ll be launching SEASON THREE of our podcast, deep-diving into the history and resonance of the constitutional amendments with off-beat stories and lush sound.The album and podcast drop September 18, 2018. Get ready!

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The Heist

Oct 16th, 201721:03

The Supreme Court may not have been conceptualized as a co-equal branch of the federal government, but it became one as a result of the political maneuvering of Chief Justice John Marshall. The fourth (and longest-serving) chief justice was "a great lover of power," according to historian Jill Lepore, but he was also a great lover of secrecy. Marshall believed, in order for the justices to confer with each other candidly, their papers needed to remain secret in perpetuity. It was under this veil of secrecy that the biggest heist in the history of the Supreme Court took place.  The key voices: Jill Lepore, professor of American history at Harvard University The key links: "The Great Paper Caper," The New Yorker (2014) Felix Frankfurter, Supreme Court justice 1939 to 1962

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Object Anyway

Sep 29th, 201757:03

At the trial of James Batson in 1982, the prosecution eliminated all the black jurors from the jury pool. Batson objected, setting off a complicated discussion about jury selection that would make its way all the way up to the Supreme Court. On this episode of More Perfect, the Supreme Court ruling that was supposed to prevent race-based jury selection, but may have only made the problem worse. James Batson (L) with his mother Rose (R) (Sean Rameswaram) Joe Gutmann with his students in the mock trial courtroom built at the back of Gutmann's classroom (Sean Rameswaram) Joe Gutmann (L) and James Batson (R) sit together in Gutmann's classroom (Sean Rameswaram) The key links: -The prosecutor's papers highlighting black jurors from the trial of Timothy Tyrone Foster The key voices: - James Batson, the original plaintiff in Batson v. Kentucky- Joe Gutmann, the prosecutor in James Batson's case- David Niehaus, lawyer at the Jefferson County Public Defender's Office- Jeffrey Robinson, director for the ACLU Center for Justice- Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative- Stephen B. Bright, Harvey Karp Visiting Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School- Nancy Marder, professor of law at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law- Gary Dickey, lawyer for Kelvin Plain Sr.- Justice Susan B. Owens, Washington State Supreme Court The key cases: - 1986: Batson v. Kentucky- 2015: City of Seattle v. Erickson (Washington State Supreme Court)- 2016: Foster v. Chatman- 2017: State v. Plain (Iowa State Supreme Court) More Perfect is funded in part by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation, and the Joyce Foundation. Supreme Court archival audio comes from Oyez®, a free law project in collaboration with the Legal Information Institute at Cornell. Portions of this episode aired on July 16, 2016.

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We're Back

Sep 28th, 20171:23

More Perfect, the show that takes you inside the United States Supreme Court, is back on October 2, 2017.  Sex, race, guns, executive orders: Season two has it all. We'll see you in court.

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The Political Thicket

Sep 26th, 201757:01

When Chief Justice Earl Warren was asked at the end of his career, “What was the most important case of your tenure?”, there were a lot of answers he could have given. After all, he had presided over some of the most important decisions in the court’s history — cases that dealt with segregation in schools, the right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, just to name a few. But his answer was a surprise: he said, “Baker v. Carr,” a 1962 redistricting case.  On this episode of More Perfect, we talk about why this case was so important; important enough, in fact, that it pushed one Supreme Court justice to a nervous breakdown, brought a boiling feud to a head, put one justice in the hospital, and changed the course of the Supreme Court — and the nation — forever. Plus, this term, the court revisits redistricting with a case that could turn voting districts across the country upside down. Associate Justice William O. Douglas (L) and Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter (R) (Harris & Ewing Photography/Library of Congress) Top row (Left-Right): Charles E. Whittaker, John M. Harlan, William J. Brennan, Jr., Potter Stewart. Bottom row (Left-Right): William O. Douglas, Hugo L. Black, Earl Warren, Felix Frankfurter, Tom C. Clark. (Library of Congress)    Associate Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Whittaker at his desk in his chambers. (Heywood Davis)  The key links: - Biographies of Charles Evans Whittaker, Felix Frankfurter, and William O. Douglas from Oyez- A biography of Charles Evans Whittaker written by Craig Smith- A biography of Felix Frankfurter written by H.N. Hirsch- A biography of William O. Douglas written by Bruce Allen Murphy- A book about the history of "one person, one vote" written by J. Douglas Smith- A roundtable discussion on C-SPAN about Baker v. Carr The key voices: - Craig Smith, Charles Whittaker's biographer and Professor of History and Political Science at California University of Pennsylvania - Tara Grove, Professor of Law and Robert and Elizabeth Scott Research Professor at William & Mary Law School- Louis Michael Seidman, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown Law- Guy-Uriel Charles, Charles S. Rhyne Professor of Law at Duke Law- Samuel Issacharoff, Bonnie and Richard Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law, NYU Law- J. Douglas Smith, author of On Democracy's Doorstep- Alan Kohn, former Supreme Court clerk for Charles Whittaker, 1957 Term- Kent Whittaker, Charles Whittaker's son- Kate Whittaker, Charles Whittaker's granddaughter- Justin Levitt, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles The key cases: - 1962: Baker v. Carr- 2000: Bush v. Gore- 2004: Vieth v. Jubelier- 2016: Evenwel v. Abbott- 2017: Gill v. Whitford Music in this episode by Gyan Riley, Alex Overington, David Herman, Tobin Low and Jad Abumrad.  More Perfect is funded in part by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation, and the Joyce Foundation. Supreme Court archival audio comes from Oyez®, a free law project in collaboration with the Legal Information Institute at Cornell. Archival interviews with Justice William O. Douglas come from the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Library. Special thanks to Whittaker's clerks: Heywood Davis, Jerry Libin and James Adler. Also big thanks to Jerry Goldman at Oyez. Portions of this episode aired on June 10, 2016.

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We tend to think of the Supreme Court justices as all-powerful guardians of the constitution, issuing momentous rulings from on high. They seem at once powerful, and unknowable; all lacy collars and black robes. But they haven’t always been so, you know, supreme. On this episode of More Perfect, we go all the way back to the case that, in a lot of ways, is the beginning of the court we know today. Speaking of the current court, if you need help remembering the eight justices, we've made a mnemonic device (and song) to help you out.  Plus, the twisted tale of the biggest heist in Supreme Court history — when reams of Justice Felix Frankfurter’s papers, stored at the Library of Congress, seemed to vanish into thin air. Tweet The key links: - Akhil Reed Amar's book, The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era- Linda Monk's book, The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution- Jill Lepore’s article, “The Supreme Court Caper” The key voices: - Linda Monk, author and constitutional scholar- Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling Professor of Law at Yale- Ari J. Savitzky, lawyer at WilmerHale- Jill Lepore, Professor of American History at Harvard University The key cases: - 1803: Marbury v. Madison- 1832: Worcester v. Georgia- 1954: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1)- 1955: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (2) Additional music for this episode by Podington Bear. Special thanks to Dylan Keefe and Mitch Boyer for their work on the above video. More Perfect is funded in part by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation, and the Joyce Foundation. Supreme Court archival audio comes from Oyez®, a free law project in collaboration with the Legal Information Institute at Cornell. Portions of this episode aired on July 1, 2016.

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Object Anyway

Jul 16th, 201648:16

At the trial of James Batson in 1983, the prosecution eliminated all the black jurors from the jury pool. Batson objected, setting off a complicated discussion about jury selection that would make its way all the way up to the Supreme Court. On this episode of More Perfect, the Supreme Court ruling that was supposed to prevent race-based jury selection, but may have only made the problem worse.

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The Imperfect Plaintiffs

Jun 28th, 20161:03:25

On this episode, we visit Edward Blum, a 64-year-old “legal entrepreneur” and former stockbroker who has become something of a Supreme Court matchmaker. He’s had remarkable success, with 6 cases heard before the Supreme Court, including that of Abigail Fisher. We also head to Houston, Texas, where in 1998, an unusual 911 call led to one of the most important LGBTQ rights decisions in the Supreme Court’s history.

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Cruel and Unusual

Jun 2nd, 201640:11

On the inaugural episode of More Perfect, we explore three little words embedded in the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “cruel and unusual.” The Supreme Court has continually grappled with what these words mean, especially as they pertain to one of our most hot button issues as a country: the death penalty.

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