What is the Electric Politics podcast all about?
The mainstream media routinely fail to tell stories that make sense about politics. Mainstream journalists tend to focus on what we could call the "political albedo," seeing politics through a lens of who has more resources instead of asking questions about what fundamental forces might be at work. To try to tell some of those lost stories, and to highlight the critical importance both of ideas and of political institutions, I've embarked on a series of conversations with thoughtful people here in America and abroad.
The Electric Politics website/blog started up in late 2005, the podcast started in early 2006, and after an initial shakedown period of a few months the project settled into roughly the structure it has today — a weekly podcast that's posted on Friday morning with intermittent blogging on the side.
The EP podcast has earned its share of recognition. In 2007, in 2008, in 2009, in 2010, in 2011, in 2012, and in 2013 each year the EP podcast has been selected as one of ten finalists in the political/news category at the Annual Podcast Awards competition. Over the years other finalists have included, among others, the Democracy Now podcast, the Slate podcast, the Real Time with Bill Maher podcast, the Rachel Maddow Show podcast, and the No Agenda podcast with Adam Curry and John C. Dvorak. Running with the big dogs is a real thrill, and an honor!
New listeners might enjoy browsing the archive. All past podcasts are available, for free, and they cover a very wide range of topics. Now and then I hear from a new listener who has worked their way up through every year! So don't hesitate to go wild.
What do people say?
"Electric Politics — and George Kenney — offer a slant on critical and interesting issues not normally afforded by other outlets. Moreover, the listener gets in depth discussion, often searing analysis, and always productive conversation. It's the political podcast of choice."
Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell
"Like the Heineken commercials, George Kenney's podcasts reach the parts that others in the media can't. He has consistently hosted interesting and stimulating guests, who challenge much of the prevailing conventional wisdom and allow us to see events in a fresh and thoroughly insightful manner. Plus, George is a great interviewer, who always hits the key points in the time we spend with him."
Marshall Auerback, senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.
"I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with George and Electric Politics not long after leaving the State Department in 2005 following a 33-year career. Consistently, in the course of my own 5 interviews on Electric Politics as well as in listening to others on subjects of interest to me, George has prepared extensively in advance in order to engage guests with plenty of relevant expertise — plus his own special panache — to produce meaty podcasts of the highest quality. Hopefully, I will be able to benefit from, enjoy, and gain insights not typically found elsewhere for some years to come from George's superb efforts."
Wayne White, former State Department intelligence analyst.
"Among the wonders of the Internet is the willingness of some of the most thoughtful and intelligent, most intriguing and interesting personalities to share their insights and analysis, opinions and emotions with us — virtual strangers — through blogs and especially via the still new and developing technology called podcasts. For me, no one does this better than George Kenney. His website, Electric Politics, sparkles with timely and provocative mini-essays and when I have more time I especially enjoy his podcasts which regularly range from freshly informative to simply outrageous. Had the Founding Fathers known George Kenney was coming they might have had second thoughts about that First Amendment thing."
Richard Greener, bestselling author and blogger.
"If you like questions, the big questions we only give voice to in our quiet moments, questions that rattle the comfortable assumptions of our post-modern era, Electric Politics is what you've always wanted and have missed. From the foundations of modern economics, to astrophysics and the origins of our consciousness, George's questions of uncommon insight and extraordinary reflection are immensely refreshing. And it is the breadth of his curiosity that is his most impressive feat: never dull and never pedestrian. Electric Politics is the model every member of the legacy media should be racing to implement."
Sean-Paul Kelley, editor at large for The Agonist.
"Electric Politics is plugged directly into George Kenney which means it is contrarian, original, stubborn, open, intelligent, civil and endlessly curious, the perfect formula for good journalism, which EP consistently produces. You won't know what you never knew if you don't tune in to Electric Politics."
Dave Marash, Emmy Award winning television journalist.
Who are you?
I'm George Kenney. I was born in Algiers in 1956, during the battle of Algiers, to a US foreign service family. I grew up in the states, in Africa and in Europe. I spent way too much time in graduate school at the University of Chicago (MA in Economics) from which, following family tradition, I joined the foreign service. I was a tenured, mid-level career officer, serving as Yugoslav desk officer at the State Department headquarters in DC, when I resigned my commission in 1991 over disagreements regarding US policy towards the Yugoslav civil war. Subsequently, for a few years, I was a consultant in residence at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Those were my salad days as a pundit. I had about 60 articles (.pdf) published in mainstream outlets, did hundreds of radio and TV interviews and talk shows, and traveled extensively through the US on speaking tours. In the mid-1990s, however, I came down with the symptoms of a hereditary illness — hemochromatosis, or iron overload — which sidelined me for years. With treatment (phlebotomies required for the rest of my life) I'm operating at a much reduced capacity, but slowly getting better. C'est la vie... and I'm glad to be alive!
In addition to running Electric Politics, I've also been blogging occasionally since 2009 at the Huffington Post and, more recently, have made several appearances on RT television. And I was on the Board of Editors of the great magazine In These Times, while the Board existed, from April 2009 to December 2012.
What else do I need to know?
I frequently accept suggestions from listeners regarding subjects/potential guests. Just email me. This project is, by the way, a one person operation, donor supported, with occasional help from friends.
The EP music theme is very kindly provided by BJ Leiderman, who's done a lot of work for NPR. Due to popular demand, you can download a cell phone ring tone, here. Prior to late September 2006, the EP music was from Gecko3 of Edinburgh, who allowed me to chop up one of their tracks.