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Radiolab Presents: More Perfect
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Radiolab Presents: More Perfect

Author: WNYC Studios

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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
33 Episodes
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The Most Perfect Album: Episode 9
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.In More Perfect's final episode of the season, listen to liner notes for two amendments that contemplate the still-unfinished status of our Constitution. "27" is an album that marks a particular point in our history: this moment when we have 27 Amendments to our Constitution. What will be the 28th?Maybe it will address our nation's capital. The capital has been a bit of a Constitutional anomaly for much of our nation's history — it's at the heart of the democracy, but because it's not a state, people in Washington D.C. have been disenfranchised almost by accident. The 23rd Amendment solved some of the problem — it gave D.C. the right to vote for president. But it left much of D.C.'s representation questions unanswered. D.C. still does not have voting representation in Congress. Instead, D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to Congress. For this liner note, More Perfect profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role.The song for the 23rd Amendment is by The Mellow Tones, a group of students from D.C. high school Duke Ellington School of the Arts, along with their teacher Mark G. Meadows. The chorus, "Why won't you count on me?" reflects on the continued disenfranchisement of our nation's capital.  The final amendment of the album, the 27th Amendment, put limits on Senators' ability to give themselves a pay raise, and it has arguably the most unusual path to ratification of all 27. The first draft for the amendment was written by none other than James Madison in 1789, but back then, it didn't get enough votes from the states for ratification. It wasn't until a college student named Gregory Watson awakened the dormant amendment centuries later that it was finally ratified. The 27th Amendment song is by Kevin Devine and tells Watson's story.
The Most Perfect Album: Episode 8
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). 
The Most Perfect Album: Episode 7
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. 
The Most Perfect Album: Episode 6
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.
The Most Perfect Album: Episode 5
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.
The Most Perfect Album: Episode 4
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!)
The Most Perfect Album: Episode 3
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.  
The Most Perfect Album: Episode 2
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.
The Most Perfect Album: Episode 1
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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Comments (61)

Brian Gilmartin

Great episode, until the last minute where they play an absolute assault on the ears to explain the insanely contrived and, frankly, dopey title of the episode.

Dec 18th
Reply

Andrea Cash

Wow.... this is a ferociously important to hear. Blum will not be regarded fondly by history.

Dec 11th
Reply

Adam Boarman

Yeah, the album thing might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was a big fail. It came off like you were just trying to fill time without really digging deep into any of the issues. I really liked the show when it focused on the judicial branch.

Dec 10th
Reply

Deanna Nace

something about the guy who asks all the questions in each episode is annoying to the point I think I'm unsubscribing.

Dec 4th
Reply

Philip-John Savidant

911

Nov 20th
Reply

Philip-John Savidant

high times Paris Hilron

Nov 20th
Reply

Philip-John Savidant

kkk

Nov 20th
Reply

jowan sebastian

Absolutely amazing series 1&2, the album series is a real shame.

Nov 18th
Reply

Zach Wiebesiek

worst idea making an album out of the amendments. ruined one of the podcasts.

Oct 26th
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daesfu

Zach Wiebesiek I agree.

Dec 16th
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Adam Boarman

The argument that the farmer should be subject to the limits placed on production is, it seems, predicated on the federal government providing subsidies to the farmer for growing wheat. That is how the analogy of the wife sewing a dress for herself is not quite the same. If the government were to subsidize dress makers, guaranteeing all dresses a minimum price, then the case could be made to limit the number of dresses the wife can make.

Oct 4th
Reply

Joshua Davis

Avenge citizens United “TandaPay Cannot Be Regulated — 2” @joshuad31 https://medium.com/@joshuadavis31/tandapay-cannot-be-regulated-2-6982b997fe6

Sep 24th
Reply

Heath A. Wood

so its just the same damn episode played over again!? jesus tap dancing christ! post something new or nothing at all.

Sep 18th
Reply

Philip-John Savidant

Heath A. Wood HD focus

Nov 20th
Reply

Philip Roberts

Heath A. Wood I agree that, for us Radio lab/more perfect lovers who constantly keep up to date, this might be tedious... but I think this episode is still a very pertinent and important one, and it's good to keep those sorts of episodes at the top to keep the ideas within them fresh in our minds. That being said... I would love some new content soon too lol

Sep 19th
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Tyler Mattox

Everytime Elie Mystal speaks on this show, I lose more and more respect for it. We dont listen to this show for one man's idiotic knee jerk, emotional reactions. In both this episode and thw hate debate I think he absolutely embarrasses himself and it makes me doubt anything said on this show when he is such a prominent contributor.

Aug 8th
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Maureen Veto

love this show, informative, insightful and helpful

Jul 27th
Reply

Heath A. Wood

oh yea this is great. 'hey we haven't been around in a while so here's an episode we already did!'. what a spit in the eye.

Jul 11th
Reply

Cathy Fugate

I just got all excited about a new episode but it’s just re rebroadcast:(

Jul 5th
Reply

Tracie Sikorski

i've missed you!

Jul 2nd
Reply

Alex Kwong

the sound is in mono

Jun 27th
Reply

Dereck Benner

are you on a break? where did u go?

Jun 22nd
Reply

Joseph Casey

what was the bit right at the end? when there are enough women there will be "line?" or none? struggling to make sense

Jun 4th
Reply

Jennifer Buz

Joseph Casey when there are nine (i.e. it's all women)

Jun 29th
Reply
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