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Interview #43 - He Was Our Man in Washington with Owen Symes

Hey everyone, welcome to another great interview on The Mind of a Skeptical Leftist. This time around I talk to author Owen Symes about his book, He Was Our Man In Washington: A History of the Obama Years. It was a great chat and I’m gonna tell you now that you should go out and buy the book, it’s available at Zero Books and I will make sure to put a link in the show notes.

This is another interview that I would have liked to have done weeks ago but when I mainly put out one every two weeks it makes it tough to keep up. On the plus side, I have great content for weeks and weeks pretty easily as long as I can keep up production.

What helps me keep my production schedule is if I don’t have to work on my days off. For this show and my other projects to stay on at least some kind of schedule I need to make money to help pay bills. If you want to help out with that you can become a patron at for as little as 1 dollar per month or if your in Canada it’s 1.50. If you want do a one time contribution you can do that at and if you can’t help out financially then a 5 star rating and a review on the podcast app of your choice or on podchaser would be great.

Ok with the begging out of the way I have a little bit of housekeeping to do. My latest episode when I talked to Jason Szeftel about China got some feedback from someone whose opinion I value and who I think is a thoughtful person so I thought it was worth bringing up.

Janus, who is a friend of mine on Discord and is in the Mind of a Skeptical Leftist Discord server sent me a message

I think this is a fair criticism and at times during the editing process I felt a little uncomfortable with the way Jason framed some things. I still put the episode out with minor editing because I didn’t want to be dishonest on the production end and my knowledge of China isn’t firm enough to disagree much with anything that Jason said, however he is not the only voice that is speaking on the subject of China or the actions of the Chinese state. You all know me well enough to know that I’m not interested in defending a state when that state behaves in authoritarian ways but I also want to be accurate when I talk about things so while I did feel uncomfortable with some of what Jason said, I cannot disagree with much of it without more information. I am very open to hearing more on the subject of China though I would be quite wary of someone that is overly critical or overly supportive of the CCP.

This brings me to something I’ve been thinking a lot about. Nuance. I can’t speak for all anarchists but for most of the ones that I know they can approach various things with a bit of nuance. No, we’re never going to tell you that the state is good or that any state is good. They all limit freedom in the name of withholding power in the hands of the few rather than the many. They all claim they’re doing good while doing what is good for those with power. In essence they are all bad but we can see when one state is doing better or worse than another in one area or another without being apologetic for the bad things states do. This is a strength compared to some on the left who will go out of their way to make apologies for, excuse, or outright deny the harms that states which align with their ideology carry out. It is, I think the strongest case for anarchism to say that we do not make excuses for bad actions carried out by ostensibly leftist states while being able to maintain an anti imperialist mindset. China isn’t the utopia that some leftists want you to believe it is, they do commit crimes against human rights but no that doesn’t mean the US should interfere with them but it does mean that I have solidarity with those struggling against the state so long as those struggling are not themselves participating in oppression. Anarchism is a pragmatic set of ideas but without compromise on the values that those ideas come from.

And with that I’m going to send you to my conversation with Owen Symes on his book He Was Our Man in Washington: A History of the Obama Years

Here are some links for Owen's content and his book

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