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To the Point

Updated 8 days ago

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A weekly reality-check on the issues Americans care about most. Host Warren Olney draws on his decades of experience to explore the people and issues shaping – and disrupting - our world. How did everything change so fast? Where are we headed? The...

Read more

A weekly reality-check on the issues Americans care about most. Host Warren Olney draws on his decades of experience to explore the people and issues shaping – and disrupting - our world. How did everything change so fast? Where are we headed? The...

iTunes Ratings

491 Ratings
Average Ratings
410
32
20
14
15

To the Point - Warren Olney

By healthwonkDC - Nov 30 2019
Read more
Fantastic podcast, especially the episodes on climate change. The Joel Stein episode was the first one to disappoint. A truly lousy guest.

Best Climate Change Coverage

By MedStudent11431 - Jun 11 2019
Read more
Olney gives climate change the coverage it deserves. Very thorough and thoughtful journalism.

iTunes Ratings

491 Ratings
Average Ratings
410
32
20
14
15

To the Point - Warren Olney

By healthwonkDC - Nov 30 2019
Read more
Fantastic podcast, especially the episodes on climate change. The Joel Stein episode was the first one to disappoint. A truly lousy guest.

Best Climate Change Coverage

By MedStudent11431 - Jun 11 2019
Read more
Olney gives climate change the coverage it deserves. Very thorough and thoughtful journalism.
Cover image of To the Point

To the Point

Latest release on Jan 16, 2020

Read more

A weekly reality-check on the issues Americans care about most. Host Warren Olney draws on his decades of experience to explore the people and issues shaping – and disrupting - our world. How did everything change so fast? Where are we headed? The...

Rank #1: Trump’s Turkey debacle

Podcast cover
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Republican U.S. Senator Mitt Romney says President Trump’s withdrawal of soldiers protecting the Kurds “will stand as a bloodstain in the annals of American history.” The move took the Pentagon by surprise, but it had been high on the wish list for Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.  Syria also stands to benefit when the Kurds no longer enjoy the protection of the U.S. It’s not clear what it means for Kurdish soldiers or their families. In Wasington and elsewhere, U.S. diplomacy looks increasingly confused and chaotic as the president acts on impulse rather than planning or principle.

Oct 24 2019

45mins

Play

Rank #2: Draining the swamp -- for better or worse?

Podcast cover
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Joel Stein went to Trump Country in Texas, where voters applaud the president for “draining the swamp” in Washington.  High-level firings and resignations have hit almost every department. But Stein says crucial experts have been replaced by “people who know nothing,” and Americans unknowingly voted against their own interests.  His new book is called “In Defense of Elitism.”

Nov 28 2019

47mins

Play

Rank #3: President Trump’s broken bromance with his generals

Podcast cover
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Donald Trump took office with more generals in his cabinet than any previous president. It didn’t take long for all to resign or be fired. Peter Bergen’s new book is “Trump and His Generals: the Cost of Chaos.” Bergen takes us inside the Pentagon’s secret decision room, called the “tank.” That’s where the new president took charge, despite his lack of military experience. After 100 interviews in Washington and around the world, Bergen assesses the consequences for the chain of command and America’s interests.

                                              “Trump and His Generals: the Cost of Chaos.”

Dec 12 2019

51mins

Play

Rank #4: Deadly protests in Iran; divestment from fossil fuels

Podcast cover
Read more

When political protesters were gunned down by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, was it a victory or a defeat for President Trump?

Also on this podcast: the rude disruption of this year’s Harvard-Yale football classic in the fight over climate change. Should their massive endowments divest themselves of fossil fuel stocks? It’s a strategy that helped end apartheid in South Africa and reign in big tobacco. Activists call it a moral imperative for training America’s next generation of leaders.

Dec 05 2019

44mins

Play

Rank #5: Do TV debates help voters decide?

Podcast cover
Read more

Presidential debates have become reality TV, complete with commercials.  This week, there are 10 Democratic candidates still onstage and two more in the wings. Polls suggest that potential voters have more choices than they need in a party sharply divided by factions.  

Party leaders can’t remember when there were so many undecided voters this close to  February’s Iowa caucuses, suggests Washington Post National Political Correspondent Jenna Johnson.  

Democratic party official Elaine Kaymark adds that Democratic leaders “allow too many people who really don’t have any business running for president.”  

Policy differences range across the political spectrum, from centrists like  Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, to leftist progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But the debate format gives them only a minute to answer complex questions on health care, foreign policy, etc.

So how do voters make up their minds? Political science professor Patrick Stewart studied the outcome when Republicans faced the same problem in 2016.  He says TV viewers are most influenced by how candidates appeal to the audience sitting inside the arena.  

He says it’s ultimately about candidates’ charisma and excitement, whether they laugh at jokes they tell, and whether they boo or applaud their opponents.

But that’s not the end of the story. Candidates who have the resources are campaigning hard to reach their supporters in Iowa and  other swing states.

Nov 20 2019

55mins

Play

Rank #6: Why Republicans stand by their man

Podcast cover
Read more

Despite mounting evidence, Republicans in the House and the Senate are defending President Trump or keeping their heads down.  Veteran GOP conservatives accuse them of sacrificing morality for short-term political gain. Meantime the Trump administration calls the impeachment inquiry “unconstitutional,” while legal scholars point out that it’s part of Article II.  And how did Ukraine, an obscure former Soviet republic, become so important? Money.

Oct 10 2019

53mins

Play

Rank #7: Preparing for climate change fires in Los Angeles

Podcast cover
Read more

For the first time, Topanga Canyon Boulevard was closed from Mulholland to Pacific Coast Highway not because of a fire, but an extreme red flag wind advisory (residents were allowed in and out). If a blaze were to break out, officials wanted to ensure that firefighters could easily get in and residents could get out.

As climate change increases, so has the risk of damage and “faster and more erratic” firestorms. And in Los Angeles, Topanga Canyon has become a “model for emergency fire preparedness.”

Emergency preparedness is the main mission of T-CEP, the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness. Board Chair Scott Ferguson says T-CEP “consists of both public agencies and private homeowners,” and is run 100% by volunteers who are trained and ready to get to their stations.

Even in what’s called the “Wildland Urban Intermix,” “wooy” for short, those who want to live away from it all are learning to get to know their neighbors in the interests of mutual protection. There could be an elderly or disabled person trapped in the house next door, or a pet left behind when its owner had to go to work. T-CEP has built a strong community awareness program, Neighborhood Network, and encourages annual meetings between neighbors.

Last year’s Woolsey Fire did not reach Topanga Canyon, but there was an eight-day evacuation anyway, which Scott Ferguson says “really woke up a lot of people” and shifted the paradigm.

“LA County Fire will be getting very aggressive about evacuations in order to prevent the kinds of tragedies that we saw up north in Paradise, in the Camp Fire, for instance,” he says.

So far Topanga hasn’t lost power, but T-CEP is integral in interfacing with utilities and government agencies. Feguson says cell phone communication is taken for granted in urban areas where cell towers are ubiquitous, which is not the case in the Canyon. “In Topanga, every part of our communications infrastructure depends on electricity and that includes cell phones,”

Ferguson goes on to emphasize that residents are not driven away by the fear of fires. Most of the time, it is a beautiful place to live. But he says he sees T-CEP as “the insurance of being prepared so that if something happens, you can save your life, or at least hopefully your home.”

Oct 31 2019

20mins

Play

Rank #8: Controlling the message; American politics and new media

Podcast cover
Read more

American politics are changing fast to keep up with evolving technology. Presidential campaigns aren’t just on TV anymore, they’re on countless digital platforms. While Democratic candidates debated on CNN, their strategists were on social media, nudging reporters and delivering instant analysis. The ultimate nominee will face the maestro of Twitter in President Trump. What’s the future of substantive dialogue when programs and policies are reduced even beyond 30-second soundbites to tweets and 3-second GIFs?

Oct 17 2019

49mins

Play

Rank #9: High crimes and misdemeanors: how much will they matter?

Podcast cover
Read more

Impeachment by Democrats in the House may lead to trial in the Senate, with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding. Can he prevent the Republican majority from rushing to judgement? Trump and many Republicans are scornful of the separation of powers between Congress, the judiciary and the administration. A president elected in 2016 might be removed from office, even before voters get another chance in 2020. Whatever the outcome, will it restore or erode America’s faith in the institutions designed by the Founding Fathers to protect democracy?

Oct 30 2019

50mins

Play

Rank #10: Is Trump dumping justice reform?

Podcast cover
Read more

With support from Democrats as well as Republicans, President Trump agreed to release inmates from harsh prison terms due to the War on Drugs.  He’s boasted about the First Step Act as an achievement in bipartisanship. But after federal judges have released some 4700 inmates, Trump’s own Justice Department wants them back behind bars.  It’s another sign of division in the Trump administration and new evidence that bipartisanship really isn’t the president’s thing. 

Nov 14 2019

49mins

Play

The climate debate and impeachment

Podcast cover
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Faced with the third impeachment trial in American history, President Trump says he’s no longer a climate denier. But he’s still rolling back environmental protections. In addition, LA Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik reports that Trump’s Securities and Exchange Commission is trying to prevent shareholder actions against companies that heat up the planet.  

In the meantime, Trump’s would-be Democratic challengers are debating climate change -- when reporters give them a chance. During the latest debate, candidates tried to bring up the issue, but moderators pushed them into yet another discussion of Medicare for All.  

That’s all too common, according to Mark Hertsgaard, head of Covering Climate Now, a journalists’ group pushing for more attention to what he calls “the defining issue of our time.” He claims prospective voters want an entire debate devoted to that one issue. Hertsgaard gives credit to Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Tom Steyer for making the right kind of proposals. But he says Joe Biden, Amy Klobochar, and “especially” Pete Buttegieg are not keeping up with the science. 

But the impeachment trial is now front and center.  The House has made charges and the Senate will hold a trial -- with the Chief Justice John Roberts presiding. But the Constitution and Senate rules will prohibit America’s senior jurist from acting like a judge. Roberts’ biographer, Joan Buskipic, says he won’t let his conservative inclinations rule, but  “he’ll try to do nothing that would steer the ultimate resolution for Donald Trump toward a conviction or an acquittal.”

Jan 16 2020

47mins

Play

President Trump is trapped in history

Podcast cover
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President Trump and Iran’s Ayatollah brushed with armed conflict this week. Did it all begin with the U.S. embassy takeover in 1979 or the violent replacement of Iran’s elected president in 1953? What will killing an Iranian general mean for America’s third president to face impeachment? We’ll get some answers to those questions.

We also touch base with a climate scientist in Sydney, Australia.  She’s a mother with two daughters in a city historically known for clear skies and fresh air.  But she’s worried about climate change and her children’s futures because of recent wildfires. The fires are so massive that they’ve created their own weather.    

Jan 09 2020

33mins

Play

‘Homewreckers’: the demolition of the American dream

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In 2008, the subprime mortgage crisis cost hundreds of thousands of American families their homes. It was a goldmine for predatory lenders. After that, a small group of investors got into the act by buying foreclosed properties for pennies on the dollar and then flipping them for fair-market value. Peabody-winning investigative reporter Aaron Glantz describes how practices that appear to be legal enriched some of Donald Trump’s inner circle, including several members of his presidential cabinet.    

Jan 02 2020

51mins

Play

The Whistleblower who came out into the cold...

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The White House insider who blew the whistle on President Trump remains under federal protection.  But whistle-blowing is a dangerous game. Warren talks with a whistle-blower who did prison time after his identity was revealed. Jeffrey Sterling was a black CIA agent convicted of espionage--after exonerating evidence was prohibited on national security grounds.  He blames racism--pervasive, he claims, in the CIA--even during the Obama Administration.  

Dec 27 2019

51mins

Play

Artificial Intelligence and your life in the future

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Amy Webb’s book title says it all: “The Big Nine, How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity.”  She warns about, “the steady erosion of humanity” by Artificial Intelligence. National security may be at stake, but so is life on the street and in the home. Richard Clarke was White House counterterrorism advisor on September 11th. He adds perspective on America’s lack of long-range planning.

Dec 26 2019

51mins

Play

Brexit: Britain’s history and America’s future

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Conservative leader Boris Johnson won big in the Brexit election. Was Jeremey Corbyn’s disastrous loss just about Brexit or did he propose policies that were too radical,  even for veteran supporters of his Labor Party? That might or might not be a lesson for America’s Democrats, who are divided over next year’s presidential nominee as the primaries are about to get under way. And Britain’s withdrawal from the EU is not the only sign that multilateralism is in decline. The 25th UN Conference on Climate Conference in Madrid didn’t get close to the needed consensus on reducing greenhouse emissions.  

Dec 19 2019

51mins

Play

President Trump’s broken bromance with his generals

Podcast cover
Read more

Donald Trump took office with more generals in his cabinet than any previous president. It didn’t take long for all to resign or be fired. Peter Bergen’s new book is “Trump and His Generals: the Cost of Chaos.” Bergen takes us inside the Pentagon’s secret decision room, called the “tank.” That’s where the new president took charge, despite his lack of military experience. After 100 interviews in Washington and around the world, Bergen assesses the consequences for the chain of command and America’s interests.

                                              “Trump and His Generals: the Cost of Chaos.”

Dec 12 2019

51mins

Play

Deadly protests in Iran; divestment from fossil fuels

Podcast cover
Read more

When political protesters were gunned down by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, was it a victory or a defeat for President Trump?

Also on this podcast: the rude disruption of this year’s Harvard-Yale football classic in the fight over climate change. Should their massive endowments divest themselves of fossil fuel stocks? It’s a strategy that helped end apartheid in South Africa and reign in big tobacco. Activists call it a moral imperative for training America’s next generation of leaders.

Dec 05 2019

44mins

Play

Draining the swamp -- for better or worse?

Podcast cover
Read more

Joel Stein went to Trump Country in Texas, where voters applaud the president for “draining the swamp” in Washington.  High-level firings and resignations have hit almost every department. But Stein says crucial experts have been replaced by “people who know nothing,” and Americans unknowingly voted against their own interests.  His new book is called “In Defense of Elitism.”

Nov 28 2019

47mins

Play

Do TV debates help voters decide?

Podcast cover
Read more

Presidential debates have become reality TV, complete with commercials.  This week, there are 10 Democratic candidates still onstage and two more in the wings. Polls suggest that potential voters have more choices than they need in a party sharply divided by factions.  

Party leaders can’t remember when there were so many undecided voters this close to  February’s Iowa caucuses, suggests Washington Post National Political Correspondent Jenna Johnson.  

Democratic party official Elaine Kaymark adds that Democratic leaders “allow too many people who really don’t have any business running for president.”  

Policy differences range across the political spectrum, from centrists like  Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, to leftist progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But the debate format gives them only a minute to answer complex questions on health care, foreign policy, etc.

So how do voters make up their minds? Political science professor Patrick Stewart studied the outcome when Republicans faced the same problem in 2016.  He says TV viewers are most influenced by how candidates appeal to the audience sitting inside the arena.  

He says it’s ultimately about candidates’ charisma and excitement, whether they laugh at jokes they tell, and whether they boo or applaud their opponents.

But that’s not the end of the story. Candidates who have the resources are campaigning hard to reach their supporters in Iowa and  other swing states.

Nov 20 2019

55mins

Play

Climate change, the EPA and protecting medical privacy

Podcast cover
Read more

The personal medical records underlying public health regulations are now stamped "confidential."  If they aren’t opened up, the Trump EPA says it intends to ignore them.  But doctors and other medical researchers warn about dangerous consequences for dealing with the impact of climate change. 

Andrew Rosenberg of the Union of Concerned Scientists says, “All public health threats are being modified by climate change.” Firestorms, heat waves, droughts, flooding, and sea-level rise all raise dangers of new and different kinds.  

If the EPA turns away from medical studies showing their impact, Rosenberg asks, can America’s public health bear the burden?

When the EPA first proposed to ignore confidential medical data, there were 600,000 public comments -- almost all against the idea.  But the agency’s new leader, former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, has continued the effort to disregard scientific evidence.

And risks from climate change aren’t the only consideration. As researchers seek to discover if new rules are needed, they’ll have to look at the old rules -- based in part of confidential information.  If they have to ignore that, will existing regulations have to be rolled back?

Nov 18 2019

14mins

Play

Is Trump dumping justice reform?

Podcast cover
Read more

With support from Democrats as well as Republicans, President Trump agreed to release inmates from harsh prison terms due to the War on Drugs.  He’s boasted about the First Step Act as an achievement in bipartisanship. But after federal judges have released some 4700 inmates, Trump’s own Justice Department wants them back behind bars.  It’s another sign of division in the Trump administration and new evidence that bipartisanship really isn’t the president’s thing. 

Nov 14 2019

49mins

Play

Climate change: Trump vs. California

Podcast cover
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President Trump’s denial of climate change has him at war with California.  Their battle over fuel emission standards has divided the auto industry as well as drivers.    

Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW North America have made a secret deal with California. “There’s no secret that blindsided the White House,” says Juliet Eilperin, who covers national affairs and environmental policy for the Washington Post.  She reports that General Motors and other carmakers are sticking with President Trump for fear of retaliation.   

She adds that the whole industry wants certainty, and the situation is contentious as Trump and California Gov. Gavin Newsom are trading insults on Twitter. She says a lot will depend on what happens in court, or whether Trump gets reelected. 

Meanwhile, 11,000 scientists worldwide have signed onto a warning: Earth faces a “climate emergency.”  Eilperin says many had not been willing to go public -- for fear that they’d appear political rather than academic.  But as evidence becomes “more and more stark… scientists are taking more of a public stand.”  

Nov 11 2019

13mins

Play

Does facial recognition software threaten our freedom?

Podcast cover
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Surveillance cameras are capturing what we do on the streets, at airports, in stores, and in much of our public space. Facial recognition software is touted as making us safer. But mass surveillance has downsides of major proportions.
Kade Crawford of the Massachusetts ACLU is concerned about violation of privacy. She worries that law enforcement agencies will have access to databases that show: “You’ve been in the vicinity of an abortion clinic six times; that you’ve been in the vicinity of a sex shop six times; that you’ve visited a therapist every week at the same time for five years.”

That can lead to the kind of systemic repression imposed on the Muslim Uighurs in Western China, she says.
Many countries in Europe have imposed restrictions on camera surveillance, but the US has not. Now, San Francisco and other cities are banning its use by local police. But others say the genie’s out of the bottle.

Scientist and science-fiction writer David Brin says attempting to “bottle technology is… absolutely, diametrically, 100% wrong.” He insists that when it comes to invasive new technology, human history demonstrates that “elites of government, commerce and criminality will not let themselves be blinded... they will simply use these technologies in secret.”

Beyond the political disagreements, some applications have surprising benefits. David Learned Miller is a computer scientist who writes facial identification software. He says it can identify symptoms of obscure diseases long before doctors can, so “it could potentially help people lead better lives.”

And he tells us that research on facial recognition is a key to understanding intelligence and the workings of the human brain.

Nov 07 2019

49mins

Play

Preparing for climate change fires in Los Angeles

Podcast cover
Read more

For the first time, Topanga Canyon Boulevard was closed from Mulholland to Pacific Coast Highway not because of a fire, but an extreme red flag wind advisory (residents were allowed in and out). If a blaze were to break out, officials wanted to ensure that firefighters could easily get in and residents could get out.

As climate change increases, so has the risk of damage and “faster and more erratic” firestorms. And in Los Angeles, Topanga Canyon has become a “model for emergency fire preparedness.”

Emergency preparedness is the main mission of T-CEP, the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness. Board Chair Scott Ferguson says T-CEP “consists of both public agencies and private homeowners,” and is run 100% by volunteers who are trained and ready to get to their stations.

Even in what’s called the “Wildland Urban Intermix,” “wooy” for short, those who want to live away from it all are learning to get to know their neighbors in the interests of mutual protection. There could be an elderly or disabled person trapped in the house next door, or a pet left behind when its owner had to go to work. T-CEP has built a strong community awareness program, Neighborhood Network, and encourages annual meetings between neighbors.

Last year’s Woolsey Fire did not reach Topanga Canyon, but there was an eight-day evacuation anyway, which Scott Ferguson says “really woke up a lot of people” and shifted the paradigm.

“LA County Fire will be getting very aggressive about evacuations in order to prevent the kinds of tragedies that we saw up north in Paradise, in the Camp Fire, for instance,” he says.

So far Topanga hasn’t lost power, but T-CEP is integral in interfacing with utilities and government agencies. Feguson says cell phone communication is taken for granted in urban areas where cell towers are ubiquitous, which is not the case in the Canyon. “In Topanga, every part of our communications infrastructure depends on electricity and that includes cell phones,”

Ferguson goes on to emphasize that residents are not driven away by the fear of fires. Most of the time, it is a beautiful place to live. But he says he sees T-CEP as “the insurance of being prepared so that if something happens, you can save your life, or at least hopefully your home.”

Oct 31 2019

20mins

Play

High crimes and misdemeanors: how much will they matter?

Podcast cover
Read more

Impeachment by Democrats in the House may lead to trial in the Senate, with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding. Can he prevent the Republican majority from rushing to judgement? Trump and many Republicans are scornful of the separation of powers between Congress, the judiciary and the administration. A president elected in 2016 might be removed from office, even before voters get another chance in 2020. Whatever the outcome, will it restore or erode America’s faith in the institutions designed by the Founding Fathers to protect democracy?

Oct 30 2019

50mins

Play

Exxon Mobil goes to court

Podcast cover
Read more

The world’s biggest oil company is on trial for defrauding investors out of $1.6 billion. Exxon admits it used two sets of books to evaluate assets, including Canadian tar sands. The suit claims that in one set of books, Exxon planned its operations taking into account climate change. But the other set of books, shown to investors, painted a far rosier and misleading future for the fossil fuel giant. Rex Tillerson is on the witness list. He was the CEO of Exxon before President Trump named him Secretary of State. If Exxon loses, others suits may follow, and the company could potentially owe millions of dollars in damages to its investors.

Oct 26 2019

11mins

Play

Trump’s Turkey debacle

Podcast cover
Read more

Republican U.S. Senator Mitt Romney says President Trump’s withdrawal of soldiers protecting the Kurds “will stand as a bloodstain in the annals of American history.” The move took the Pentagon by surprise, but it had been high on the wish list for Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.  Syria also stands to benefit when the Kurds no longer enjoy the protection of the U.S. It’s not clear what it means for Kurdish soldiers or their families. In Wasington and elsewhere, U.S. diplomacy looks increasingly confused and chaotic as the president acts on impulse rather than planning or principle.

Oct 24 2019

45mins

Play

Controlling the message; American politics and new media

Podcast cover
Read more

American politics are changing fast to keep up with evolving technology. Presidential campaigns aren’t just on TV anymore, they’re on countless digital platforms. While Democratic candidates debated on CNN, their strategists were on social media, nudging reporters and delivering instant analysis. The ultimate nominee will face the maestro of Twitter in President Trump. What’s the future of substantive dialogue when programs and policies are reduced even beyond 30-second soundbites to tweets and 3-second GIFs?

Oct 17 2019

49mins

Play

Why Republicans stand by their man

Podcast cover
Read more

Despite mounting evidence, Republicans in the House and the Senate are defending President Trump or keeping their heads down.  Veteran GOP conservatives accuse them of sacrificing morality for short-term political gain. Meantime the Trump administration calls the impeachment inquiry “unconstitutional,” while legal scholars point out that it’s part of Article II.  And how did Ukraine, an obscure former Soviet republic, become so important? Money.

Oct 10 2019

53mins

Play

iTunes Ratings

491 Ratings
Average Ratings
410
32
20
14
15

To the Point - Warren Olney

By healthwonkDC - Nov 30 2019
Read more
Fantastic podcast, especially the episodes on climate change. The Joel Stein episode was the first one to disappoint. A truly lousy guest.

Best Climate Change Coverage

By MedStudent11431 - Jun 11 2019
Read more
Olney gives climate change the coverage it deserves. Very thorough and thoughtful journalism.