From Mati Hari, to Nathan Hale, to Herbert Philbrick; each is a chapter in the pantheon of espionage. Each had what George Smiley called "the ability to survive by virtue of an infinite capacity for suspicion."
In the modern day world of espionage, counter-terrorism and post cold war engagement, Henry Crumption stands astride that list. He knew he wanted to be a spy from the age of 10. He knew that sometimes you had to do things in order to find out the reason from them. From what he tells us, he seems to innately understand, from his early missions in Europe and Africa, to his leadership of the CIA war against the Taliban in 2001, that sometimes our actions are question and not answers. But he was always guided to navigate by the true north of his moral compass. His new book The Art of Intelligence: Lessons from a Life in the CIA's Clandestine Service, he sets the stage for a new kind of espionage and in fact a new geopolitical view of intelligence.
It may not be possible to predict the future, but one sure way to see that future, is to invent it, or reinvent it. This is what companies are doing every day as they have to find ways to adapt to change, creative destruction and new models of growth. Business guru Jason Jennings, in his new book The Reinventors: How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change,
takes us through example after example of how extraordinary companies are making change work for them.
We are already in the midst of the Presidential political season. Where once labor day was the official start of our national poltical drama, today it is a multi-year, multi-dimensional business. One in which presumably ordinary people must acquire that mixture of ambition, stamina, and pure shamelessness that makes a true candidate.
Adlai Stevenson one said that, “the hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning."
When we think of a globalization, we tend to think of a world more connected, more unified and more equal in terms its power politics. It’s one of the ironies of globalization that it has really made the world more fragmented, more regional and more dangerous. In many ways it’s a kind of creative destruction in global politics. Just as creative destruction and entrepreneurialism has changed almost every aspect of the business and personal landscape, we would be foolish to think it wouldn't happen in global politics as well. The institutions, infrastructure, and architecture of the world America made in the post War years, is now under review and up for grabs.
Few understand this dynamic better than Ian Bremmer. He is the president of Eurasia Group, one of the world's leading global political risk research and consulting firms, and the author of his eighth book about the state of the world's geopoliticsEvery Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World My conversation with Ian Bremmer:
It may be hard for young people to remember, but there was a time before 500 channels, before Hulu and itunes and Apple TV. A time when three networks accounted for almost the sum total of what we watched, and more importantly what shaped our popular culture. It was a time when Thursday night was “must see TV,” and totally dominated the conversation around water coolers and lunch rooms the next day. In large measure the man responsible for shepherding “must see TV,” was Warren Littlefield, the President of NBC Entertainment from 1993 to 1998. He writes about this Golden Age in Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV
The business of daily journalism is under siege. The practice of putting out a morning paper each and every day, of searching for scoops, of pushing, editing and curating great reporters and making sure that paper reaches your driveway each morning, is a craft that may soon be preserved in amber.
But forty years ago, the business reached what many thought was its apogee as The Washington Post lead the coverage a second rate, Washington D.C. burglary, that would become known as Watergate. While Woodward and Bernstein covered the story and got the scoops, they were led by Ben Bradlee, whose tenure, at Executive Editor of the Post, displayed the very best that journalism has to offer.
Jeff Himmelman, a one time Bob Woodward protege, has written an authorized biography of Bradlee, Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee. It has stirred up some controversy, kicked at some of the sacred burial grounds of of Watergate and in some ways points to the news/entertainment vortex we're in today.
The recent recession has created a great reset in a many areas of our economy, particularly with respect to labor markets. Globalization, automation, education and changing demographics have all played a roll.
Additionally, young people have struggled for work while at the same time, those who might have wanted to retire, are finding a new need to stay engaged. Even retirement itself, is being redefined. No where is this more apparent than in a factory in Needham, Massachusetts where the median age of the workforce is seventy-four. Olin College Professor Caitrin Lynch spent five years studying this factory staffed by persons in their seventies, eighties and even older. She gives us a new view ofRetirement on the Line: Age, Work, and Value in an American Factory
Perhaps the recent economic crises reminded us that corporations and business matter a lot. Over many decades we’ve seen the balance of power between government and business; the breakup of Standard Oil in the Gilded Age, the breakup of IBM, the government's battle against Microsoft. All reflect what happens when companies are feared to become too big.
But today, sitting atop the corporate colossus is Exxon Mobil. An old style corporation whose policies, politics, and personalities impact us profoundly. Pulitzer Prize winning writer and journalist Steve Coll, takes us inside the Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.
On Sunday, Tom Friedman's column talked about a new book by Harvard Professor Michael Sandel. In it, he looks at our cynicism and growing lack of civic engagement. Our stubborn refusal to engage in real discussion about real ideas. Secondly, he examines the ways in which markets have become the sine qua non of every aspect of the way we organize society. These two ideas, seemingly independent, but according to Sandel, are very much related to creating the mess we are in today.
My conversation with Michael Sandel about his book What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets:
Every major cultural, social and political movement of the modern era seems to be anchored in its own place and its own decade. Post war sensibilities were shaped by and centered in New York in the1950’s. It was the time of Mad Men and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. In the mid to late 70’s the youthful freedom of the time was enshrined by the golden age of a new independent Hollywood film industry. In the 80’s Washington was front and center as the Reagan revolution changed America. There’s no question that in the 90s Wall Street, set the stage. In the 60s however San Francisco was the center of gravity.
The culture wars that still shape every aspect of our lives today, had their roots in the San Francisco of the late 60’s; what we hear proclaimed today as San Francisco values. It was a unique flowering that would ultimately destroy The City. But San Francisco would fight back. Its’ people, its geography its intellectual heft would ultimately make its day.
All this talk about the one percent did not happen overnight. For 30 years the income gap in this country has grown geometrically. The middle class, that once provided the engine of American growth in the second half of the 20th century has shrunk and even with globalization the US is seeing economic mobility declining as compared to other western nations. How did we get here? Was it serendipity, tax policy, partisan political action or is it the inevitable result of the invisible hand of capitalism?
To be President is to be both anointed, yet at the same time scarred for life. To date, only fourty-four men have had that experience and can fully understand what that means. Never have more than six of them met, at any one time. It is arguably the most exclusive club in the world.
There is a fundamental law of physics that says that for every action, there is a corresponding and equal reaction. One year ago, the demise of Bin Laden created much speculation as to what Al Qa'ida's reaction might be and what it meant for the future of Al Qa'ida. Today, there are still many unanswered questions. Where are we in the war on terror? What is the state of Al Qa'ida and what impact did the Arab Spring have on its future?
For better or worse we've had to learn a great deal about the organization and about counter-terrorism in the days and years since 9/11. But what does the future look like? Perhaps we can best understand that by examining the past, particularly Al Qa'ida since 9/11. This is where Rand analyst and former senior advisor at the U.S. Special Operations Command, Seth G. Jones takes us in Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al Qa'ida since 9/11.
My conversation with Seth Jones:
We used to worry that schools were inadequate for the late 20th Century: that a system built around an agrarian calendar and 19th century ideas, was insufficient. Today, the disruptive impact of technology, information and globalization have once again transformed our society. And, as we move into the second decade of the 21st Century, we are still bogged down with some of the same 19th century ideas. Quite simply, do we have the momentum and energy to reach escape velocity from these old paradigms.