Why Economic Inequality Can Take Down Our Republic

March 21st, 2018

hqdefault.jpgWhat is the nexus between our political system and our economic system? Certainly during the Cold War we fought to defend our political system against the economic threat of communism. So, does it work the other way around? Do we now have to defined our republic and our democracy against the threat of a new gilded age, of oligarchs and of deep income inequality? Is the fight for civility and justice, also a fight for economic justice.

In a system designed to be class blind, can the widening economic divide actually bring down the system?

The way in which these political and economic ideas are related, is the basis of Ganesh Sitaraman's new book The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic.

My conversation with Ganesh Sitaraman:


Growing Up Muslim: The Everyday Lives of Muslim American Teenage Boys.

March 20th, 2018

black_sweater_1_1.jpgEveryday we are reminded how difficult it is growing up, and being a teenger. The work of Jean Twenge and others has shown the impact of technology and social media on our culture. Add to this, the reality of what it’s like growing up black or hispanic in America and the pressure becomes even more intense..

Even tougher, imagine what it must be like growing up in America as a Muslim teenager.. particularly one who cares about their religious practices and so must walk that fine line between wanting to fit in and still trying to maintain their Muslim identity.

John O’Brien, went directly into the heart of a Muslim community to understand what all of this translates to in the everyday lives of these Muslim teenage boys. He shares that journey in Keeping It Halal: The Everyday Lives of Muslim American Teenage Boys.

My conversation with John O'Brien:


Can The Behavior of School Shooters Be Profiled and Shootings Averted?

March 19th, 2018

image1-11-700x470.jpgThere is no question that the easy availability of guns, especially assault weapons, has contributed in some way to the rash of school shootings. However, we would be naïve to think that this is the totality of the problem. Beyond guns, the broader questions always should be how these shootings can be averted. How can we understand and interpret the data from so many past events in ways that help us to prevent the next? In a world where big data is becoming the holy grail, can this data be used to keep our students safe?

Jeff Daniels is a Professor of Counseling at West Virginia University and his work in research on averting school shootings is groundbreaking. His recent article in the academic journal The Conversation is entitled “If You Want To Know How To Stop School Shootings, Ask The Secret Service.”

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Professor Jeff Daniels



Timothy Leary and Richard Nixon, Together Again

March 16th, 2018

6134wvgVLtL._AA300_.jpgEvery day the news gets darker. Polarization is increasing, constitutional norms are being overthrown, the social fabric is tearing and as Yeats said, “the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Still, as bad as it appears on cable news each night, it’s nothing compared to what was happening in the 60’s and 70’s. Cities were burning, violence was loose upon the land. Nixon was drinking himself to sleep each night, and new villains had to be created to take the heat off Watergate and Vietnam. For Nixon, one of those villains became Timothy Leary.

The story of Leary, the enemy that Nixon created to embody all that he thought wrong with the country, is story that is a little bit Wag the DogKeystone Cops and All The President's Men.

The story is that Steven L. Davis and Bill Minutaglio tell in The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD.

My conversation with Steven L. Davis:


They Once Made America Great…But What Did Factories Really Represent? : A conversation with Joshua Freeman

March 14th, 2018


We often hear that we live in a post industrial world. Yet all of those consumer goods we and the rest of the world love so much, are made in factories. Factories that, at the dawn of the industrial revolution, did not always represent the best of working conditions. Today, out of nostalgia, we romanticize them and long for the “big shoulders” of the industrial heartland.

Today things are still produced in factories. However, they are increasingly either located offshore, or are more and more manned by robots. Auto workers from the 50s and 60s would be shocked walking through the factory that turns out Teslas.

Yet in the minds of many, these factories represented something more than just places to make things. They were a symbol of another time and place. But one that we can still learn from, even in the digital age.

Few know more about his, than my guest Joshua Freeman the author of Behemoth: A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World.

My conversation with Joshua Freeman:


#MeToo in China

March 6th, 2018

China-Bans-MeToo-Campaign-Helping-Women-We hear over and over again that the future belongs to China. Looking at what the Chinese are accomplishing in both infrastructure and technology, it’s easy to believe it. But what about in human relations and the issues of the gender wars?

As the #MeToo movement reshapes or recalibrates the nature of sex, work and gender relationships in America, it’s worthwhile to look and see how and if these same issues are playing out in China.

In China, an entire cadre of well educated and financially successful woman are taking their place. The result is that the deep, deep traditions of Chinese society are having to change in ways that are even more difficult and upending than all than all the physical changes China has endured.

Taking us through this journey is Economist correspondent Roseann Lake in Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World's Next Superpower.

My conversation with Roseann Lake:


Maybe You Are Doing Everything Wrong At Work

February 28th, 2018

morten-hansen-feat.jpgA couple of weeks ago, The N.Y. Times ran a story about “global nomads.” People whose work allows them to plug-in anywhere in the world. This may not be for everybody. But it’s a reminder that the fundamentals of work are changing.

How do we work today in an always on, 24/7 world. In a world where intellectual capital is increasingly the coin of the realm, we are essentially at work. whenever we are awake. and maybe even as we sleep.

All of this change arguably creates the need for a rebalancing of our relationship to work. Even redefining what the word “work,” really means. Always changing is how we determine priorities, how generational dynamics impact work, and and is the cliche of work/life balance even a thing anymore.

There is no better person to talk to about all of this than author, professor and management guru Morten Hansen.  His latest is Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More.

My conversation with Morten Hansen:


Political Tribes: A Conversation with Amy Chua

February 26th, 2018

1f92406a03a408876287ceb5c3dc948b-rimg-w7In the debate about immigration we are reminded of the original notion of America as a melting pot. As a nation that could absorb different cultures, different identities and different ethnic groups.

The trade off was the embrace of an American identity. A kind of super nationalism that would subsume these subgroups and, at its best, world supersede ethnic and religious tribalism, and replace it all with the American brand.

Over the years we’ve seen fissures in this idea. Usually it happens when dramatic change or pressure comes to America. The onset of the industrial revolution and the Cold War against communism are some examples. We’ve always done better when we’ve had common external enemies.

But today, the pressures may be just too great. Globalization and the decline of nation states, greater economic inequality, a 24/7 always connected culture, and the rush of change, both social and technological, and at a dizzying pace, have all stoked fear, uncertainty and insecurity. The result is that it feeds a new kind of tribalism that Americans may never have experienced before.

To help us understand this, as well as the very idea of tribalism I’m joined by best selling author and Yale law professor, Amy Chua to talk about Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations.

My conversation with Amy Chua:


Who Was Edward Lansdale, and Why It Matters: A Conversation with Max Boot

February 23rd, 2018

maxresdefault.jpgThere was a saying during the Vietnam era, the attribution of which is a bit fuzzy, that said “if you grab them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

I suppose this was not inconsistent with another quote of that era that said, “come let us reason together...or we’ll burn down your village.”

Vietnam, like so many counterinsurgency efforts, before and since, was or should have been, about winning those hearts and minds. Unfortunately, the political, foreign policy and military establishment never seemed to get it right.

However, during the Vietnam era, one man did. He was Maj. General Edward Lansdale. He was military and CIA, and in retrospect he maybe the only true wise man of the time.

Now, foreign policy scholar Max Boot gives us The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam.  The fist full look at Lansdale and why this obscure figure from the period, should be a household,

My conversation with Max Boot:


Who Owns Your Thoughts?

February 20th, 2018

Lobel_Collage.jpgYears ago, the great Dorothy Parker said that the movie business was the only business where the assets went home at night….Well that may have had a ring a truth then, but today in a world where intellectual property and human capital are what makes our economy tick, it seems that the assets always go home at night.

And what they do, what they think about, and what they conceive of when they are home, opens a minefield of issues that are legal, cultural and human. Add to these issues the global world where work is 24/7, where nomadic work patterns are the subject of a NY Times Magazine cover story, and where a single idea can be worth billions and can change the world, the consequences of these issues are enormous.

Distinguished law professor Orly Lobel in You Don't Own Me: How Mattel v. MGA Entertainment Exposed Barbie's Dark Side, tells a story of the toy business that is both compelling in its own right and emblematic of the future of law and work.

My conversation with Orly Lobel:


TRUTH DECAY: The Diminishing Role of Facts in Public Life

February 20th, 2018

image1-2-700x470.jpgAmidst the cacophony of 24/7 news and information that pours in at us every day, we seem to have lost sight of what constitutes truth, facts and actual information. The signal to noise ratio has shifted overwhelming towards noise.

Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that we got our information from local papers and three television networks. The original Cronkite nightly news was only 15 minutes long. It was a big and controversial deal when it was expanded to a full half hour.

In many ways it feels like we are in a chicken and egg cycle. Technology has helped provide us with endless sources of “information,” and we are also more polarized than ever. Is it the abundance of options that creates the polarization, or is it the polarization that cause us to see or hear only information to support our cognitive bias? All of this is part of what a recent report by the RAND calls Truth Decay

RAND recently released a 300+ page report on the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life. I recently spoke with one of the authors of that report Jennifer Kavanaugh.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Jennifer Kavanaugh:



Because Capitalism Works: A Conversation with William Rempel

February 14th, 2018

Kirk-1.jpgThink about what we value today. What we give rewards for as a society? Now imagine, if you can, a business tycoon who is modest and filled with generosity. Who could gamble a million dollars on one roll of the dice, but whose story is a true Horatio Alger, rags to riches story. A man whose word is his bond. Who eschews self promotion, yet operated in Las Vegas and Hollywood. A man who saw the importance ot the larger world, and helping others in it, while still appreciating all that is American. A man who knew how to fly, but never flew too close to the sun

This is, in part, the story of Kirk Kerkorian. It's a story told by William Rempel, in The Gambler: How Penniless Dropout Kirk Kerkorian Became the Greatest Deal Maker in Capitalist History.

My conversation with William Rempel:


The Internet Needs To Grow Up: A Conversation with Andrew Keen

February 9th, 2018


At the time of the invention of writing, Socrates worried that it would destroy memory, and undermine the oral tradition. The invention of the printing press worried many. For those old enough you remember, the fear of television was once pervasive. It was the “boob tube,” “the vast wasteland.” We fragmented over other great changes, including the great migration and the move from a rural agrarian culture to an urban industrial revolution.

All of these changes came with great promise and predictive as well as unintended consequences. Why should we think that the Internet, that the digital revolution, would be any different? As someone once said, “history may repeat itself exactly, but it certainly rhymes.”

Andrew Keen has, with an objective eye, been following this history since the dawn of the information age. He wrote about the democratization of information in his book THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR, and he warned us how social media would, rather than brings us together, fragment us and feed into our narcissism.

Now in HOW TO FIX THE FUTURE, he pulls together all of the consequences of tech. He shows us what Joan Didion once said of Southern California, is true of tech, that the dream was teaching the dreamers how to live.

My WhoWhatWhy Conversation with Andrew Keen



Deutsche Bank: Where The Dots Of Russiagate Connect

February 8th, 2018

deutche_bank.jpgIf you’re following or trying to follow the Trump-Russia story, no doubt your head is filled with dozens of threads: the Trump Tower meetings; the dossier; the names of countless Russians, mobsters, and oligarchs, and bankers; banks in Germany, in Moscow, Cyprus, and Moldavia; money laundering; real estate deals; hedge funds; indictments; bankruptcies; and a cast of characters orbiting Trump that feels more like the bar scene in the original Star Wars.

How is it possible then to understand it all? Especially if, as Steve Bannon told Michael Wolff, it’s all about following the money. We could all imagine some kind of huge whiteboard or bulletin board in Mueller’s office with arrows, and pictures, and bank logos, and lines, and threads connecting them all together.

WhoWhatWhy.org has published a multi-part series entitled Deutsche Bank: A Global Bank for Oligarchs — Americans and Russians by Martin Sheil, a retired branch chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division.  His WhoWhatWhy series could easily be seen as part of a preamble or executive summary to the report that Mueller may ultimately deliver to Congress.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Martin Sheil:



A Model For The Power of Local Agriculture

February 5th, 2018

625835-pesticides.jpgIt’s ironic that at a time when our air, water and food are under siege, more people than ever seem to care about the protection of all three. Organic grocery sales have never been higher and local agriculture is undergoing a kind of millennial renaissance.

Nonetheless, for best practices, we have to turn our gaze to a small town in the Italian alps. It is the first place on earth to fully ban pesticides via referendum, and it represents what may very well be the future of local agriculture everywhere.

Philip Ackerman-Leist tells this story in A Precautionary Tale: How One Small Town Banned Pesticides, Preserved Its Food Heritage, and Inspired a Movement.

My conversation with Philip Ackerman-Leist:


A President Who Really Got Things Done: A conversation with Joshua Zeitz

February 1st, 2018

download%2B%25281%2529.jpegElections do have consequences and leaders really do matter. Grassroots voices and organizing can bring attention to a problem, but it’s the job of government, of our constitutional process, to put those policies in place.

As modern history tells us, it’s no easy task. This week we watched a State of the Union speech devoid of ideas, or programs or lofty goals to lift people up, or in the parlance of our times, to solve problems.

It was a far cry from Bill Clinton’s laundry list of small ball in his ‘95 SOTU and even further from the goals once set out by Lyndon Johnson.

So much of the legislative battle today is not about, as some commentators have said, undoing the New Deal, but undoing the remarkable achievements of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. It’s a remarkable list that includes medicare, medicai

d, public radio, public television, the voting right act, federal aid to education, consumer protections, creating the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the great 1964 Civil Rights Act. All done in five years, while struggling with the disaster that was Vietnam.

Johnson did it all not through executive orders, but through the simple Article One powers of the Constitution. That’s the story that Joshua Zeitz tells in Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson's White House

My conversation with Joshua Zeitz:


Why Art and Artists Matter…Now More Than Ever: A Conversation with Jonathan Santlofer

January 25th, 2018

oates.jpgIn the US. or anywhere else around the world, when freedom is threatened, when liberty is under siege, it is often the artist that comes to the rescue. Not necessarily in the realm of changing politics, but in reminding us why that freedom is important, inspiring us to remember what matters, amidst the fear and noise of repression.

In a new book entitled It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and ArtJonathan Santlofer, has brought together some of the most profound artists and writers of our time, to do exactly that.

My conversation with Jonathan Santlofer:


The Network vs. The Despot: A Conversation with Niall Ferguson

January 24th, 2018

cover.jpgThose that study history know that not only is it not static, but that it tends to go though seemingly recurring periods. We’ve seen times where freedom flourishes, times when despots seem to be the flavor du jour, times where great bursts of innovation happen and where darkness and stagnation cast a pall.

Even in our modern day we see the tension between, “I alone can fix it,” and the power of grassroots and social networks to try and bring people together in a common cause.

This idea, the individual vs. the network is, according to esteemed historical Niall Ferguson, one of the most recurring tensions throughout history. He takes us through this remarkable journey in his book The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook.

My conversation with Niall Ferguson:



Timing is Everything! A conversation with Daniel Pink

January 19th, 2018

Daniel-Pink-When-Crop-632x362.jpgPlaying Clue, writing, quizzing our kids or friends, or analyzing data to make decisions, we are all familiar with those key question of who, what and why. And yet the question that goes to the heart of what we actually do and how it will turn out, is often WHEN.

We make dozens of when decisions everyday. Sometimes we jump into something to quickly, sometimes we procrastinate. We schedule the hard stuff in the morning when we are fresh, or some schedule the easy stuff in the morning, to get it out of the way.

We think that most of these decisions derive from habit or intuition. But in fact, modern science and research in psychology, biology, economics and even anthropology, all provide road maps for making our when decisions.

Now bestselling and influential author Daniel Pink takes us into the essence of those when decision in When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

My conversation with Daniel Pink:



Does Political Organizing Still Matter? A talk with Gordon Whitman

January 18th, 2018

banner_mobile.pngFor those that are politically engaged, and are horrified by the current policy decisions being made and enacted by the current administration, it sometimes seems as if the challenge is overwhelming. Can any amount of the traditional forms of protest, and organizing make a dent. Or has technology, the speed of communications and our ever shortening attention spans put us in a post organizing environment?

In a world in which facts are suspect, life is lived online, only with people that we agree with, and the no ones mind ever seems to change, does protest even matter? Longtime activist and organizer Gordon Whitman  thinks it does.  His new book is Stand Up!: How to Get Involved, Speak Out, and Win in a World on Fire.

My conversation with Gordon Whitman: