Episode 57

Airline Chaos, (Un)Happy the Elephant, Jan. 6 Hearings, FDA vs. Smoking

Ravi, Cory, and Rikki start by explaining the chaotic state of air travel these days, before turning to yet more damning updates on the police response in Uvalde and a breakthrough in the Senate on gun reform. The hosts then review what we’ve seen from the January 6 committee’s hearings so far and discuss what their case will ultimately amount to. Rikki walks us by the trunk through the fascinating legal case of Happy the Elephant as the hosts debate the concept of legal personhood and where it should be applied, and Cory brings us an update on the most sweeping regulation on cigarettes ever attempted. Finally, Ravi gives us one of his trademark radical ideas. 


Ravi leads off with his own experience flying in to record the show, describing a chaotic airline industry struggling to meet sky-high demand. Rikki argues the onerous flight hours required for U.S. pilots is a major factor behind the pilot shortage, and Cory quickly explains how the Spirit-JetBlue-Frontier merger saga factors into all of this. 

Cory takes us through a damning new allegation on the police response in Uvalde: that the supposedly locked classroom door where most of the shootings took place was never locked at all. Rikki and Ravi then turn to the gun reform deal reached this week in the Senate as the hosts debate whether we should welcome incremental progress or apply skepticism to how much progress it represents. 

The hosts recap what we’ve seen so far from the January 6 committee’s public hearings, going over some of the most explosive revelations shared with the American public and discussing whether it’s resonating with the average voter. Rikki argues the panel could’ve used more bipartisan representation while Cory and Ravi push back, arguing there were no mo

Rikki introduces us to Happy the Elephant, who, we regret to report, is not all that happy. The hosts discuss New York’s highest court ruling against Happy’s personhood and debate the far-reaching implications of that legal standard and how it could be applied in the future. 

Cory updates us on the latest and by far most ambitious smoking regulation from the FDA: a mandatory limit on nicotine levels in cigarettes. Rikki acknowledges the ways in which smoking is especially harmful while arguing nonetheless that regulating smoking will fare no better than with any other vice. 

And finally, Ravi takes us through a more pragmatic, slightly less radical idea he has for consolidating police bureaucracy.

Airline Chaos [1:48]

Why do flight cancellations and delays keep happening? (The Points Guy, 6/21)
This Is Why Your Airline Tickets Are So Expensive Right Now (Bloomberg, 6/6)
A severe pilot shortage in the U.S. leaves airlines scrambling for solutions (CNBC, 5/15)

Uvalde Update [9:00]

 Head of State Police Calls Response to Uvalde Shooting an ‘Abject Failure’ (New York Times, 6/21)
Uvalde school police chief “decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” Texas DPS director says (Texas Tribune, 6/21)
Top U.S. Senate leaders express support for bipartisan gun legislation (Reuters, 6/21)
Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – Section-by-Section (Axios, 6/21)

Jan. 6 Hearings [17:45]

Jan. 6: The Story So Far (NYT)
Rep. Liz Cheney shows testimony from Ivanka Trump, Bill Barr and Jason Miller (CNN, 6/9)
The complicated conversation about the impact of the January 6 hearings (Columbia Journalism Review, 6/21)
The One Witness at the January 6 Hearing Who Matters Most (The Atlantic, 6/9)

(Un)Happy the Elephant [31:15]

Happy the Elephant Isn’t Legally a Person, Top New York Court Rules (NYT, 6/14)
When is an animal — or even an AI — a person? (Vox, 6/21)
The Elephant in the Courtroom (New Yorker, 2/28)
“Animal Liberation” by Peter Singer (Harper Collins, 1975)
‘You Know That Chicken Is Chicken, Right?’ (NYT, 11/19/2009)

F.D.A. vs Smoking [37:55]

FDA Aims to Cut Down on Smoking by Slashing Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes (NYT, 6/21)
The FDA knows nicotine is addictive. It wants to regulate it for the first time (NPR, 6/22)
The FDA Wants To Lower Nicotine in All Cigarettes, Which Will Make Smokers Smoke More (Reason, 4/29/2021)
FDA to Order Juul E-Cigarettes Off U.S. Market (Wall Street Journal, 6/22)

Ravi’s Radical Idea [42:40]