Ted Kennedy’s True Compass

September 30th, 2009

Like so much in the Kennedy legacy, it was left to Teddy to tell the true family history.  He does so by telling us his story, by showing us his own courage, perseverance and optimism, which was so emblematic of his family.  In his autobiography, True Compass: A Memoir, completed just before his death, he takes us with him on his personal voyage of faith, family and politics. Kennedy's collaborator on this book was his editor Jonathan Karp.  Jonathan is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of Twelve, which published True Compass.    My conversation with Jonathan Karp.

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Why history matters!

September 29th, 2009

The "it" book of this week takes us inside of the decisions, made by the Best and the Brightest, in the 1960s and 70s, to escalate the war in Vietnam.  Gordon Goldstein in his book Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam,  just out in paperback, examines McGeorge Bundy and his role in increasing Americas troop levels in Vietnam.  Both Frank Rich in the N.Y. Times and George Stephanopoulos, among  others, have told us that not only is this a book every America should read now, but that it is one being read by every member of the Obama war team.

Last November I had the chance to talk to Gordon Goldstein about all of this.  His ideas are even more important now as the modern day Best and Brightest consider escalating the war in Afghanistan.  I will be talking with Gordon again in the next few weeks to update the story and the frightening parallels.  My November conversation with Gordon Goldstein:

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We are all Keynesians now

September 28th, 2009

"We are all Keynesians now" is a now-famous phrase coined by Milton Friedman and attributed to Richard Nixon. It is popularly associated with the reluctant embrace in times of financial crisis, of Keynesian economics by individuals who had formerly favored unfettered free market capitalism.  The phrase has gained a whole new status as a result of our current financial crisis.  Who was John Maynard Keynes and why are his ideas even more embraced today, than upon his death some sixty plus years ago. Robert Skidelsky is the premier Keynes biographer, whose latest book is Keynes: The Return of the Master.  My conversation with Robert Skidelsky:

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The case for compassion

September 25th, 2009

Renowned religion historian Karen Armstrong, in her new book The Case for God argues that our religious thinking is surprisingly less sophisticated now than it it has been in the past.  She explains how religion was never intended to answer the questions that fall withing the scope of reason or science.  The role of religion was to help people live and cope with realities for which there were no easy explanations.  She fires a shot across the bow of today's fundamentalists, as she shows that prior to the 17th century no one assumed biblical myths were factual accounts, but were meant to be interpreted and then reinterpreted.   My conversation with Karen Armstrong:

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Justice

September 23rd, 2009

Every day we move further away from being a thoughtful society.  We have lost our sense of the responsibilities of citizenship.  In our sound bite infused culture, political extremism and the simplistic allure of pop culture have destroyed our ability to think, to reason and most of all to make sound moral judgments. Michael Sandel has been working for over two decades to reverse this.  As one of Harvard's most popular professors, more than 12,000 students have taken his course JUSTICE to debate and try and reason through the big questions of political philosophy and moral judgments. I recently spoke to Professor Sandel about his new book Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?

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Is the UN Security Council Relevant

September 22nd, 2009

For over 60 years the Untied Nations has tried to play to role in the peace and security of the world.  The UN Security Council and its five permanent members (the US, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China) have been central to that effort.  From the Berlin Airlift to the Iraq War,  from nuclear proliferation to the global war on terrorism, to genocide in Africa, the council has had some successes and many failures.  But even amidst its failures, it's  provide a kind of pressure valve for the five powers.  David Bosco, in his new book Five to Rule Them All: The UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World sheds light on the competing visions of what the council is supposed to do vs. what it has actually accomplished and if, in fact, it has any relevance in a globalized 21st Century world.  My conversation with David Bosco.  

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Terrorism: How to Respond

September 16th, 2009

Do we need a radically new approach to dealing with the international terrorist threat?  Richard English, a Professor of Politics at Queen's University, Belfast, argues in his new book Terrorism: How to Respond that we need a totally new approach and that we can no longer afford to ignore the lessons of the past. English argues that we cannot adequately respond to the practical challenge of terrorist violence unless we are more honest about the precise nature of this  phenomenon, and about explaining its true and complex causes.  My conversation with Richard  English.

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Sick around the world

September 14th, 2009

The US claims 37th place in the World Health Organization's rankings of the world's health systems and 15th out of 19 in the Commonwealth Fund's rankings by avoidable mortality in industrialized countries. You would think that as a part of the health care reform debate we'd take a look at nations 1-36  or 1 -14 to learn what's working in other countries.   Why, in a scientific enterprise such as medicine, do we not look at evidence based best practices?  Why is America so myopic in its views and why, as Timothy Noah says in Slate, do we think it somehow patriotic to achieve low scores. Long time Washington Post correspondent T.R. Reid in his new book The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care takes us on the global quest for better health and better health care.  My conversation with T.R. Reid.

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If you’re a fan….

September 11th, 2009

As much as we think today's technology is changing everything, between the mid 70's and the mid '80 a series of companies were born that created a real seismic shift in entertainment.  In the mid 70's HBO forever altered the movie business.  In the early '80's MTV reshaped the music industry.  And in 1979, ESPN was born and would forever change the face of sports. ESPN The Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports, is leadership expert Anthony Smith's story of a network launched by sports junkies, funded by an oil company, marginalized by critics, yet it would ultimately transform sports into a global business.  My conversation with Anthony Smith.

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Here O Israel

September 10th, 2009

Israel is changing.  Two interviews this week shed light on the changing face of Israel both in country and in the the US Congress.  First Rich Cohen gives us insight into what makes modern Israel and modern Jews tick. In his book Israel Is Real, he explains the mishmash of politics, ideology and psychology that have gone into the deification of Israel. Then in his New York Times Magazine piece, award winning journalist James Traub talks about J Street, a new lobbying group with a very different mission of advocacy for Israel.  He shows how the old lock step model of "what's good for Israel is good for America" may be on the way out. My conversations with Rich Cohen and  James Traub:

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Capitalism 101

September 9th, 2009

Capitalism is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, a  bad system, expect for all the rest.  It's taken a beating lately, but in spite of the recent excesses and the coming onslaught by Michael Moore, its ideas are tightly woven into our identity as Americans.  Today, as the triumphs and failures of free market capitalism and globalization continue to hold sway over the daily news and our daily lives, Gretchen Morgenson, a leading business journalism at the The New York Times,  argues in her new book,The Capitalist's Bible: The Essential Guide to Free Markets--and Why They Matter to You, that it's more important now than ever to understand how our economy works.  My conversation with Gretchen Morgenson.

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Tom Ridge takes the Test Of Our Times

September 8th, 2009

The reality of government is that it is never as good as we'd like it to be, or as bad as we usually think it is. This is abundantly clear and a kind of recurring theme in the new memoir by Tom Ridge, former Governor of Pennsylvania and the first Secretary of Homeland Security.  In The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege...And How We Can Be Safe Again he comes across as an honorable man, trying to do an impossible job, amidst a nest of Bush administration vipers.  My conversation with Tom Ridge:

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Cuba and the Bacardi’s

September 4th, 2009

Every once in a while a family, a place and a cause come together to create a perfect storm that inexorably links there collective fate.  Such was the case with the Mondavi's in the Napa Valley and the Bacardi's in Cuba. Veteran NPR international correspondent Tom Gjelten, in his new book Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause takes a fresh look at the history of Cuba though the lens of the Bacardi family and in so doing shows us an island nation very different than fifty years of political sound bites.  My conversation with Tom Gjelten:

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