December 31st, 2013
Recently reports proliferated that in the House of Representatives, during the government shutdown, while meeting late into the night, the smell of booze was rampant. Perhaps if they had been smoking pot, instead of drinking alcohol, the government would never have been shut down and there might be a whiff more bipartisanship.
Sound ridiculous? Well if it had been the Colorado or Washington legislature, it might very well be the case. In fact the legalization of marijuana seems to be an idea whose time has come. Recent votes in Colorado and Washington, coupled with the twenty states already allowing medical marijuana, and the decision by the Justice Department to rescind prosecutions, are all key sign posts along the way.
My conversation with Paul Armentano:
December 28th, 2013
Recently you’ve probably heard that the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association are seeking to expand the use of statins. Cholesterol lowering drugs, that some have said should be put in our water supply. But really how safe are these drugs? Are their benefits all they are cracked up to be and what’s the nexus with the fact that they also happen to be the worlds best selling drug and the biggest tool in enhancing big pharma's profits?
Why have doctors, even those that don’t stand to benefit from those profits, been so smitten with this class of drugs; drugs that have been linked to severe muscle pain, neuropathy, diabetes, memory loss, sexual dysfunction and even Lou Gehrig's disease?
My conversation with Dr. Barbara Roberts:
December 27th, 2013
We often hear career counselors and teachers talking to young people about following their passion. Obviously good advice. But for some, that passion comes with a price. For esteemed war correspondent Marie Colvin, that passion, her desire to bear witness to the horrors of war would cost her her life. The same is true for British reporter and photographer Paul Conroy. He was with Colvin in Syria in early 2012 when they would come under fire in the city of Homs
A rocket would kill Colvin and seriously wound Conroy. As Syrian ground forces closed in on his position, Conroy was forced to make a terrifying last-ditch attempt to escape from a regime that appeared determined to murder him. He did escape, and has written Under the Wire: Marie Colvin's Final Assignment.
My conversation with Paul Conroy:
December 26th, 2013
Why is it that the pain of rejection in High School often stays with us for life? Not being asked to the prom, not making the team, or that first broken heart. All seem to imprint us in ways that scar us for life.
And what is the connection between those experiences and our seeming insatiable appetite for social networks? As we look at the evolution of technology, from cave paintings to the printing press to the telephone to Facebook and Twitter, all are advancing the effort to connect.
Maybe, we need to reassess Maslow's hierarchy of needs, in a way that makes social connection as important to our well being as food, clothing and shelter?
My conversation with Matthew Liberman:
December 23rd, 2013
Today it seems that every piece of evidence supports kinder and gentler parenting, a more cooperative workplace and a stress free education that supports deeper learning. Tiger moms, and Tiger teachers and the excessively tough boss seem to be interesting, but outliers.
But are we missing something? Does it have to be a zero sum game? Can the tough taskmaster, the dispenser of tough love teach out something about persistence, character, and resiliency that will serve us well later in life?
My conversation with Joanne Lipman:
December 22nd, 2013
Audiences flock to see them. What’s the appeal? When we hear about real life heroes like Sully Sullenberger, or Wesley Autrey, who who jumped onto NY subway tracks to save man from an oncoming train, we are captivated.
Perhaps our fascination is because we can’t ever imagine ourselves exercising such a degree of selflessness. We might fantasize about being hero, but don't think we have the right stuff.
Today science, genetics, and social psychology tells us we all, under the right circumstances and with the right experience, have what it takes.
My conversation with Elizabeth Svoboda:
December 20th, 2013
The unemployment rate still sits at a around 7%. Million of Americans, blue and white collar workers, have experienced long term unemployment. But the 2008/2009 recession didn’t just impact the US. Unemployment in many other Western nations is even higher.
What’s different, is how unemployment and job seeking varies from country to country. Who the unemployed blame for their problems, the self help industry that continues to grow and a different approach by employers, are all areas of extreme differences around the world.
My conversation with Ofer Sharone:
December 18th, 2013
Each day life gets more complex. There are more pressures on our time, we are pulled in more and more directions. To ground us, we look for the universal in everyday life. Those things that create order out of the chaos and cynicism of daily existence.
We seek comfort in the memories of loved ones, in routines we used to appreciate, like that regular weekly phone call, perhaps from a child away at school or to an aging parent. Often, even if we are not at all religious, we look for a a belief in something that transcends us.
My conversation with Mitch Albom:
December 17th, 2013
There is an old saying about popular culture, that if it’s popular, it can be good. This philosophy has at various times permeated music, film, literature, and especially the world of art. Sometimes it's no doubt true. But there are also profound exceptions.
In the world of art, maybe the most unique exception is the work of Peter Max. Few artists can be considered more American than Max. His work, often referred to a pop or psychedelic art, has come be respected for its optimism, its boldness of color and celebration of the icons of success in all aspect of American life. A story that parallels Peter Max's own success story
My conversation with Peter Max:
December 16th, 2013
With the execution of an uncle of Kim Jong Un, we saw another example of the brutality of the North Korean regime. Perhaps more than any other nation, North Korea is disconnected from the norms of civilization.
This has been the case for some time, and it’s why most efforts to bridge the divide have failed. This was the case all the way back in 1968 when the USS Pueblo, a rag tag American spy ship set out to find radar stations along the coast of North Korea.
On a January morning the Pueblo was attacked and its crew shot at and captured. The incident remains one of the seminal dramas of American foreign policy in the 60’s, of the cold war, and once again of the efforts of an American President to avert war on the Korean peninsula. Long time Los Angeles Times political reporter Jack Cheevers takes us back to this Act of War.
My conversation with Jack Cheevers:
December 13th, 2013
It’s amazing sometimes how simple ideas get lost in the big picture. Back in 1923, President Warren Harding proposed a federal department to look after the nation's health, education and welfare. The department was finally created by Eisenhower in 1953. In 1979, Education was spun off and we created the department of Health AND Human Services.
Clearly as a nation, we’ve long understood the connection between health and human services. Yet the way our health care system has evolved, preventive care, and human services have been almost abandoned as part of the health care enterprise.
Today we spend more money, per capita, on health care than any other nation. Yet our outcomes, are near the bottom. How did this happen, especially when we seemed to understand all along that there was a connection?
My conversation with Elizabeth Bradley and Lauren Taylor:
December 11th, 2013
Even looking at the broad sweep and scope of history and change in the 20th century, it’s arguable that the dynamics of Israel, its relationship to its neighbors and the meaning of the Zionist project remain one of the most vexing and truly complex issues of our time.
For events that began at the end of the 19th Century, clearly and directly link to the issues being talked about and dealt with this very day in Tel Aviv, Tehran and Washington.
But how did it all get this way? How did the desire for a homeland, a base for the Jewish diaspora, become so complex and lead to a statistically improbable number of foreign policy mistakes, on all sides?
And finally, can this huge ship, carrying the burdens of this history, be turned around in time to avoid crashing into the rocks ahead.
Israeli Journalist Ari Shavit has written what has been called the least tendentious book about Israel. A non doctrinaire examination of Israel’s past, present and future, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, is a book we’ve all need for quite some time.
My conversation with Ari Shavit:
December 10th, 2013
Back in 1996 welfare as we knew it was forever changed by President Clinton. But while public policy can address issues like food stamps, child care, Medicaid, and many other aspects, it can never address issues of trust. We know from Civil Rights legislation that no matter what the policy prescriptions, you can’t address what’s in the human heart.
My conversation with Judith Levine:
December 9th, 2013
Perhaps it's our popular culture, but the business of selling has gotten a terrible reputation. Whether it’s Willy Loman trying to be “well liked,” or Harold Hill hoodwinking people from town to town, or Alec Baldwin's character of Blake in David Mamet's’ Glengarry Glen Ross, we've seen selling portrayed as as one of the least trustworthy endeavors. Even lower on the scale than members of congress.
Selling in the 21st century is very different. No longer is it about sleaze and closing. Today it’s about science, persuasion and information. Selling is something we all do in our personal lives, and in our professional lives; even if we are not in the business of sales. Best selling author Daniel Pink, takes us inside this reality in To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.
My conversation with Daniel Pink:
December 8th, 2013
The number of angry white men in America is on the decline, just as talk radio, that panders to and inspires them, is also aging and declining. Yet their continued presence tells us a lot about change in America and the divides that separate race, gender and class.
Perhaps it all started back in 1969 when Richard Nixon tried to obscure the difference between working class and affluent voters, particular men, by portraying them all as a part of a silent majority. He portrayed them as both heroes and victims of the tumultuousness of the period. Reagan continued with similar themes to capture what came to be called “Reagan Democrats.”
All of this was before and really a precursor to the profound impacts of feminism, civil rights, gay rights, globalization, growing income disparity, more women in the workplace, the loss of manufacturing, Sex in the City, outsourcing, the technological revolution, the US attacked on 9/11, the great recession, legalized marijuana, same sex marriage and the election of a black President.
It’s enough to disorient anyone. But most notably its greatest impact was on those most threatened; the standard bearers of the old status quo, white men. Men who had stood on the wall trying to defend an old way of life, a cultural paradigm that was crumbling beneath their feet. Stony Brook University Professor Michael Kimmel examines this phenomenon in Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era.
My conversation with Michael Kimmel:
December 6th, 2013
Nelson Mandela stands as one of our greatest symbols of the struggle for freedom. His shadow will always infuse the politics and culture of South Africa. Yet almost one half the county is under 25 and doesn’t know or remember their nation in anything but it’s post apartheid period.
How does and will this disconnect shape the future of the country? How can it deal with its historical context and at the same time, the seemingly mundane issues health, welfare, justice and jobs.
My conversation with Douglas Foster:
December 4th, 2013
Most of us, over a certain age, remember when getting on a transcontinental or international flight was glamorous. We dressed to travel. Strong pilots and beautiful stewardess framed the wonders of the journey. The glamour of air travel imbued us with a sense of freedom and possibility.
How many women were inspired by the glamour of the Charlie Girl commercial to believe that having it all was possible and the holy grail?
During the depression and war years, the glamour of Joan Crawford inspired a generation to believe in social mobility.
And of course, as we just re experienced, the glamour of the Kennedy’s and Camelot, has remained frozen in time, in our collective consciousness.
All are examples of the power of glamour to shape society, define the culture and motivate each of us.
My conversation with Virginia Postrel:
December 3rd, 2013
Whenever we see or hear great art, we are usually inclined to wonder about the forces that created it. What constitutes the artistic life? What influences, combined with what DNA creates the perfect storm of artistic temperament, vision and creation?
Long time music critic and editor for the LA Times, Robert Hilburn, has made trying to understand this, his life's work. He has reported extensively about many of pop music’s legends, including Dylan, Springsteen, U2, Elton John and John Lennon.
Now he turns to the life and legend of Johnny Cash. Cash spent a good part of his career fighting both his own demons and walking the line between being a credible artists and trying do good in the world
My conversation with Robert Hilburn:
December 1st, 2013
Five years ago, on the evening of Nov. 26, 2008, heavily armed Pakistani terrorists raced to infiltrate the five-star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. At the same time, as part of a coordinated attack, other tourist sites in Mumbai were also attacked.
Throughout Mumbai more than 160 people were killed in the two day siege. The Indian commission charged with studying what happened and why, did a remarkably poor job of gathering and reporting the facts. Now we have perhaps the best and most official account yet in The Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel. A new book by two British journalists, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark.
What's particularly significant about this story, is that when we look at the trajectory of more recent terrorist attacks, including the mall in Kenya, we see this attack on the Taj, as representing the beginning of a new wave in the future of terrorism.
My conversation with Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark: