Why we always fall for the con

February 10th, 2016
7250873c71eee75ccce4110bc6c9d255.jpgPaper Moon, The Sting, American Hustle, The Grifters, House of Games, The Matchstick Men; just a few of the movies we love about con men and hustlers.  Yet in real life, we don’t love the likes of Bernie Madoff, or Barry Minkow, or Steven Kunes or Charles Ponzi. 

So why the disconnect?  Why do we feel joy in being taken in by movie con men, but not so much by the real thing?  The answer may very well lie in what a con man does and what he or she is.  How they appear and how they try and manipulate us.  Unfortunately the line between con men and salesmen and politicians is fine one.  Maria Konnikova shows us the tricks in The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time.

My conversation with Maria Konnikova: 

The Future We Want

February 8th, 2016
16b670ba-9d80-4b18-95f2-77a8f2413d51.jpgThink about how much the world has changed in just the past 25 years and then think about how little our politics has changed.  Not just that we’re still talking about Clinton and Bush, but that the issues, the ideas and the ways in which they are discussed has not changed.  One does not have to throw out the principles of our Founders to retool the political process.  In fact, it is precisely those tools that should be used to reshape everything about our politics. 

The good news is that this effort is being midwifed by young people with new values, who believe in transparency and honesty as opposed to duplicity.  Who believe in fairness not obfuscation. Who see that the future is not about fixing the old car, but blowing it up and taking Tesla or Uber.  

We are at what some have called the millennial moment. When power shifts from parents to children. When adults brought up in a different era realize they've lost touch with what's going on. 

Clearly, "there's something happening here" and few understand it better than journalists Sarah Leonard (The Nation) and Bhaskar Sunkara (Jacobin,) author of The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for the New Century.

My conversation with Sarah Leonard and Bhaskar Sunkara:

The GOP end game

February 2nd, 2016
Dionne%252C%2BEJ%2BPHOTO%2BFeb%2B2016.jpThis year's GOP primary race, perhaps more than others, does not exist in a vacuum. When Barry Goldwater accepted the GOP nomination in the SF Cow Palace in 1964, he spoke of extremism in the defense liberty and eschewed moderation.  Ever since that moment, so called conservatives have been falling all over themselves trying to live up to those words.  Words that had very little to do with the true conservatism of Edmund Burke or Michael Oakeshott and words that were later called into question by Goldwater himself.

But the attempt to elevate their mythology, as Ted Cruz is trying to do,  particularly in a rapidly evolving world, may be the final nail in the Republican coffin

This is the context of E.J. Dionne’s insightful new book Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond.

My conversation with E.J. Dionne:

Why Congress needs creative destruction

February 1st, 2016
lessig_0.jpgThere must be a dozen books out right now talking about the disfunction in our politics.  Every day pundits, commentators and journalists analyze why our political system doesn’t work.

Most all of them don’t see the forest from the trees.  What they miss, and what Harvard Professor and onetime Presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig understands, is that the central institution, at the core of our democracy is broken. 

Not broken in a way that’s easily fixable by a single election or by a new Speaker of the House.  But that the institution itself has been so infected by things like big money, gerrymandering and our modern day methods of campaigning, that just maybe the whole things has to be pulled up by its roots and reimagined and rebuilt.

In fact, that’s why Lawrence Lessig briefly ran for President of the United States and wrote about his ideas in Republic, Lost: Version 2.0

Listen to my conversation for Radio WhoWhatWhy with Professor Lawrence Lessig:

Why the GOP is only a local party now!

January 31st, 2016
<a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-L_TrEAvr2_4/Vq73MJyiq8I/AAAAAAAAG1g/W2-5i35AbDU/s1600/stronghold.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="96" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-L_TrEAvr2_4/Vq73MJyiq8I/AAAAAAAAG1g/W2-5i35AbDU/s320/stronghold.jpg" width="320" /></a>This is a political year like few others.  The traditional laws of political gravity have so far, not seemed to apply.  Part of it is due to the collection of candidates, the public mood, and the long simmering divisions within the Republican party.

It’s also a result of the changing demographics of America, congressional gerrymandering and the ways in which the idea that “all politics is local,” helps one party and not the other.

These ideas are at the heart of University of Maryland Professor Thomas Schaller's new book <b><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0300172044/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325&amp;creativeASIN=0300172044&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=jeffschechtma-20&amp;linkId=2WEY2ZKPG5NNFN46" rel="nofollow">The Stronghold: How Republicans Captured Congress but Surrendered the White House</a><img alt="" border="0" src="http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=jeffschechtma-20&amp;l=as2&amp;o=1&amp;a=0300172044" height="1" style="border: none !important; margin: 0px !important;" width="1" /></b>

My conversation with Thomas Schaller:

Caught Between Two Worlds

January 26th, 2016
061827f8-aabc-11e5-950e-a7ffd3b90f12-780Two of the most powerful threads in American history are the immigrant experience and America at war and the impact that those wars have had on the nation and it's people

The impact of WWII, the Japanese American experience and the relationship with Japan that evolved out of the ashes of that war, are the penultimate manifestation of that uniquely American story.  

Pamela Rotner Sakamoto has, in her new book Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds captured its true essence.

My conversation with Pamela Rotner Sakamoto: 

The Woman Who Are Transforming the Arab World

January 25th, 2016
12240.excellent-daughters.90b09b4554814fLast month Saudi woman cast their votes for the first time in municipal elections in Riyadh.  And while this is an incredibly positive development in the region, it also, by its very nature points out how limited many of these woman are and how the deeply conservative and gender segregated world of the Middle East has changed so little.

When we look around the world at developing nations, we see that where there has been real progress, in Africa, in Latin America and in parts of Asia, women have played a vital, often central role in advocating and bringing about that progress. 

In the Middle East, where that ability has been so limited, we see the consequences on a daily basis. Katherine Zoepf in Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World gives us an inside view of how these woman are doing.

My conversation with Katherine Zoepf: 

What does the GOP do now?

January 21st, 2016
article-2610540-1D44342800000578-372_964After its loss in the Presidential election of  2012 the Republican Party felt it needed to do its own after action report.  In the end, it was determined that all was basically ok and that the party only needed to broaden its tent and do a little better with Hispanic voters.  Enter Jeb Bush.

How did that work out?  Not so well!   What we are seeing today is a total repudiation of a Republican establishment that for 40 years has held onto many of its voters with cultural, racial and religious issues, while delivering nothing of economic value.  For the GOP, today the chickens have come home to roost and we understand exactly "what’s the matter with Kansas."

Covering all of this and telling the story from those first days after the 2012 election is BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins in his new book The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party's Combative, Contentious, Chaotic Quest to Take Back the White House.

My conversation with McKay Coppins:

Why Political Marriages Matter

January 18th, 2016
arts_set7-2.jpgWhat goes on inside of a marriage is always a mystery. With a political marriage, even more so.    We all know the stories of the neighbors who have the apparently idyllic marriage, that ends in divorce.  Or the couple that battles incessantly, that have been together for 40 years.  These dynamics, and the psychological mechanism behind them are truly a riddle wrapped in an enigma.

However, with political marriages, and with public figures, we get a better glimpse.  After the fact, we often have letters, tapes, diaries and tell-alls that become a part of the public record.  In analyzing them, we learn a lot about how the marriage worked, how it shaped the individuals and in turn how it shaped history.

This is what we learn about LBJ and Lady Bird in Betty Boyd Caroli’s Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage That Made a President.

My conversation with Betty Boyd Caroli:  

With Each Fill-Up we Support Repression, Tyrants, War and Terrorism — The Link Between Natural Resources and Violence

January 18th, 2016
1-6.jpgHow many times have we heard the phrase, “Big Oil,” when sometimes what we really mean is authoritarian oil. There seems to be a direct and long standing historical nexus between those nations that have much in demand natural resources and countries which have corrupt, brutal and inept economies.

Our increasing demand for these resources, including oil and all the new resources needed by high technology, are helping to support tyrants around the world.  Think about just today’s crisis in , ISIS, Syria, Darfur, the Ukraine; many have at their roots in oil and natural resources.

Listen to my conversation, for Radio WhoWhatWhy, with King's College Philosophy Professor and "Clean Trade" advocate, Leif Wenar.

Why Place Matters

January 13th, 2016
Weiner%252C%2BEric%2BPHOTO%2B28%2BJan%2BWe live today in a world of instant communications. Our computers coupled with services like Skype, allow us to travel to anyplace on earth at the speed of light.  We have seen the surface of the Moon and of Mars and have been in meetings with participants all over the world.

So should this tell us that anyplace is everyplace?  That things like geography, place, and indigenous cultures don’t matter in the 21st century?

Eric Weiner, the author of The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley, argues that that it matters a lot.  In fact, more than ever.

After all, why is it that places like Athens, Florence, Virginia & Philadelphia in 1776 and Silicon Valley today have produced some of the crowning achievements of mankind?  Maybe it’s because, as Eric Weiner says, place matters.

My conversation with Eric Weiner: 

The Brave New World of Health - It’s not your father’s healthcare

January 12th, 2016
9781442361577.jpgThere is almost nothing that we do the way we might have done it just ten years ago.  The way we book travel, get a car, find places to stay, take photographs, date, communicate with your friends, or consume the news.  Creative destruction is everywhere.  However a few of the places where such change have been very late to the party, has been with respect to education, government and healthcare.

In the world of healthcare that’s all beginning to change.  The sheer force of science and discovery has pushed the otherwise staid walls of the medical profession to change. 

And like everything other change, it’s no longer one size fits tall.  The new long tail of medicine is about the customization of treatment and along with it, a required need for individual empowerment. Some might call it squeaky wheel medicine, other might just call it the future.   One of those is my guest Dr. David Agus who tells us about these ideas in The Lucky Years: How to Thrive in the Brave New World of Health

My conversation with Dr. David Agus: 

The Art of Memoir

January 4th, 2016
18756469-mmmain.jpgWe live in a culture that is about sharing.  First we shared music, then we shared our likes on Facebook, our photos on Instagram, our dating preferences on Tinder and now we share our cars, our houses, essentially our life.

Amidst all of this, has been our ongoing and growing appreciation of memoir and of personal stories.  Where once fiction provided a place to explore our inner lives and our moral and social choices, today memoir fills that void.

One of the people who brought us to this point, is the bestselling author of The Liars' Club, Lit, Cherry and now The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr.

My conversation with Mary Karr:

Why Forty States Don’t Matter

December 29th, 2015
Red-BlueStates-03.pngWhen Richard Nixon ran for President in 1960, he vowed to visit and campaign in all 50 States.  The strain of that effort, particularly in an era of slower air travel, exhausted Nixon and even was in part responsible for his tiredness and poor health in the first debate with JFK.

The reality is today, with our nation so divided and with red and blue States pretty much settled, that the purple States, those in play, those that make a difference, are only a handful.

Today, if all a candidate did was campaign in just ten purple States, that would be all that would be required, even in a close Presidential race. 

So how healthy is this for our democracy and who might be the first to want to try and overturn this system.  These are just some of the key issues posited by elections expert, Professor David Schultz in Presidential Swing States: Why Only Ten Matter.

My conversation with David Schultz:

A spotlight on child abuse at the Horace Mann School

December 26th, 2015
18k4swrloebk3jpg.jpgNo matter how  many times we hear the stories of pedophile priests in the Catholic Church, it’s hard to grasp that such things could go on, that they could go on for so long and that so many could be involved as both perpetrators and in the cover up. 

Perhaps it's that people didn't want to believe.  Like the story told by a victim in the new movie SPOTLIGHT.  It the story of a mother, who, even after her son tells her of his abuse, still, out of respect, puts out cookies for the priest when he visits.

In business, or in any institution, it's hard to change culture.  As Peter Drucker, has said of business, “culture eats strategy for lunch.”  

What we’ve seen in the Catholic Church is a layering of cultures.  The culture of the perpetrators, and the culture of secrecy of those that covered it up, combined with the broader culture that encouraged a respect for authority. Together they were a toxic combination

They certainly were at the Horace Mann school in New York, back in the 60’s and  70’s.   The story of Horace Mann was revealed by Amos Kamil in a scorching New York times Magazine story in June of 2012.  Now he tell the full measure of that story in Great Is the Truth: Secrecy, Scandal, and the Quest for Justice at the Horace Mann School.

My conversation with Amos Kamil:

Have we Mainstreamed Islamaphobia?

December 21st, 2015
51JalLp%252Bz2L._SX328_BO1%252C204%252C2The world has changed in many ways since 9/11.  One of those clearly has been the way we look upon Muslims, South Asians and Sikhs.  Arguably these attitudes and prejudices and the degree to which they have become embedded in the fabric of our national DNA has had a corrosive effect on all of our relationships with people of color and people that might be different than ourselves.

Today, since Paris and San Bernadino and the heated political rhetoric that has accompanied it, the depth of those divisions seems to be growing to dangerous proportions.

Deepa Iyer has studied this, written about it and works every day to counteract it.  A task made much harder each days since she wrote her book,  We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future.

My conversation with Deepa Iyer:  

Imagine a non religious world? Imagine Peace

December 21st, 2015
AmericanAtheistsLogo.pngThink about the real divisive issues today, both at home and in the wider world.  Radical Islamic faith tearing apart the Middle East. The faith that drives suicide bombers to the far corners of the planet, and at home, divisions about abortion, marriage, and end of life issues.

At a time when the focus both home and abroad should be on the global economy, health, energy, science, hunger, ending territorial disputes and ending regional conflicts, time and again, the conflict turns back to religion.

Islamists, the Religious Right, all seem allied to restrict rather than enhance individual rights.  And we know from history that such efforts always are the foundation of greater conflict and sometimes revolution.

So how has a global society do we balance religious freedom w
ith freedom from religion.  That answer today seems impossible.

All of that bring us back to atheism and why it’s so hard for atheists to get their message heard.

David Silverman, the President of the American Atheists has been at the forefront of the effort to convey that message and he does it once again in his new book Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World.

My conversation with David Silverman:  

Why is the technology to simplify our lives, so complicated?

December 14th, 2015
iphone_5s_5_side_by_side-800x830.jpgWe’ve been told for years that one of the key goals of technology was to simplify our life.  In fact, for many people the opposite has happened.  The combination of complexity, feature creep, and the ever updating world of new technology has made the complexity of the process sometimes not worth the effort.

Enter David Pogue.  He spent thirteen years  writing about personal technology for the NY Times.  He launched Yahoo Tech. He writes a monthly  column for Scientific America and created the Missing Manual computer book series. He’s won two Emmys, two Webby awards, and a Loeb award for journalism.

But most of all he is the undisputed master of how to harness the best of technology to serve us and not the other way around.  He does it in a way that is both useful and humorous in his new book Pogue's Basics: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) for Simplifying the Technology in Your Life.

My conversation with David Pogue: 

A great many children left behind

December 11th, 2015
dalerussakoff1.jpgThere is a school of thought in crisis management that says, if you have a completely intractable problem, sometimes the only solution is to create a larger problem.  In fact, to blow things up to the point where you get to start over. Sometimes that’s a strategy that happens not just by design, but by outcome.

When then Newark Mayor Cory Booker, N.J. Governor Chris Christie and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg put together a plan that they thought would completely reform and transform Newark schools back in 2010, they thought they were doing the right thing.  However what they did was reminiscent of what Ronald Reagan declared as the most terrifying phrases in the English language…”I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

What they did, what they failed at and even what they succeeded at, shows how incredibly hard it is to be transformative in public education.  This is the story told by Dale Russakoff in The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?

My conversation with Dale Russakoff:  

What did he know that his sons did not?

December 8th, 2015
Jon%2BMeacham%2BPhoto%2Band%2BBook%2B072When Oliver Wendell Holmes talked about Roosevelt's first class temperament, he never explained why that was important.

It didn’t explain how, for a future President presiding over victory in two wars in just one term, without braggadocio, might matter,
or respecting those with disabilities and allowing it to become a civil rights issues mattered, or how respecting manners in the conduct of both public and private affairs might shape the destiny of a great nation.  

Yet it is precisely that temperament, that George Herbert Walker Bush brought to the Presidency.  Imagine any of today’s candidates exercising similar temperament, or restraint or manners.  It would be a little like looking for the cool of Sinatra or Jesse Owens, in today’s  music or sports celebrities.

All of this just might be an amusing dinner table conversation about days and behaviors gone by, if Jon Meacham, in his new biography show us so profoundly how these qualities matter in the conduct and outcome of public and international diplomacy Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush.

My conversation with Jon Meacham: