The information age, long before the internet

June 30th, 2014
image-222765-panoV9-edfk.jpgA few days ago, The New York Times ran a story about how libraries in New York were helping to provide WiFi in parts of the city.  Obviously the link between libraries and information is long standing. 

But imagine that in the 1930’s, long, long before the world wide wide was even a kernel in the mind of Tim Berners-Lee or others, the idea of interconnected information, of hyperlinks, of understanding the connections between information and ideas and then trying to pull them all together in a patchwork of analog technology.  
That’s what Paul Otlay envisioned, way head of his time.  His story, long forgotten and ignored has now come back to life in the work of my guest Alex Wright in Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age.

My conversation with Alex Wright: 
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David Boies & Ted Olson and The Legal Case for Marriage Equality

June 29th, 2014
Supreme-Court-Hears-Prop-8-argument_4_1.Already 2014 has been a huge year in the freedom to marry movement. Advocates have won 16 out of 16 federal and state court decisions across the country.  Polls show support at an all time high of 59%.  But, although it may seem that way,  this didn’t happen overnight. 

For over 30 years many have been in the trenches carrying the fight.  People like Evan Wolfson, and Bruce Bawer and Jonathan Rauch and Andrew Sullivan provided much of the early intellectual heft of the movement.  And then, when it came time for the legal battles to escalate into the federal courts,  one of the most unlikely partnerships in civil-rights history, David Boies and Ted Olson - two of Americas super lawyers, who squared off against each other in Bush v Gore, teamed up to fight California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, — all the way to the Supreme Court.

A year after their victory the have chronicled it, in Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality

My conversation with Ted Olson and David Boies:
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Laurence Tribe on The Roberts Court and the Constitution

June 27th, 2014
l_us-supreme-court_1200x675.jpgThe Supreme Court today is more influential than ever. From Citizens United to the rulings regarding Obamacare and gay marriage, privacy and free speech, the current Court, under Chief Justice John Roberts, has has had profound influence.   Yet it remains a mysterious institution. Like Churchill said of the former Soviet Union, it is often a riddle wrapped in an enigma, inside a mystery.

The motivations of the nine men and women who serve for life are often obscure and the internal influences inside the court, are even less transparent. 

What is clear, is that the Roberts’ Court, now almost 10 years old, is developing a personality of its own, even while its individual members very often defy the stereotypical roles that the 
public often assigns to them. 

Trying to make sense of this monolithic and opaque  institution of men and woman and laws, is Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe in his book Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution.

My conversation with Laurence Tribe:
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The shame of juvenile prison in America

June 26th, 2014
20031016-liss-mw08-002-910_2.jpgThe American rate of juvenile incarceration is seven times that of Great Britain, and 18 times that of France. It costs, on average, $88,000 a year to keep a young person locked up — far more than the U.S. spends per child, on education.

To examine that system requires a two fold understanding.  One of the criminal justice system that sends so many young people into these facilities and secondly the nature of the facilities themselves and the public policy decisions that have allowed them to deteriorate to the point where it’s almost certain that young people sent to these facilities will have a dramatically greater chance of adult incarceration.

How bad is the problem, can it be solved with the tools we have, and frankly, in spite of what we say, do we even care enough to do anything about it?

Nell Bernstein has spent years up close and personal in the system.  The story she tells in her new book, Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison, should make us all ashamed.

My conversation with Nell Bernstein:
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Why how we approach cancer treatment matters.

June 25th, 2014
news-051514.jpgHow often have we witnessed tragic events and then, not too long thereafter, heard jokes about those events.  What this teaches us is not disrespect, but it continually reminds us that humor is often the only way we can grasp and understand tragedy.  That humor and tragedy are, even as Shakespeare understood, two sides of the very same coin.

In the ability to find the absurdity in life’s misfortune,  we are helped to see the world as it is, not through the lens of a “reality distortion field.”   

Writer and artist Matt Freedman has applied this idea to his own life, his own battle with cancer and graphically details it in his book Relatively Indolent but Relentless: A Cancer Treatment Journal.

My conversation with Matt Freedman: 
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Why is anyone listening to Antonin Scalia?

June 24th, 2014
scalia_princeton_jpeg-0e7d8_1.jpgFew phrases get used more today than “creative destruction.”  What it really reflects though, is simply the way in which the world has changed.  Our forefathers, along with the very founders of the country, couldn’t have imaged everyday things like air travel, the interstate highway system, telephones, automobiles or even indoor plumbing.  Much less the internet, the splitting of the atom, or globalization.

So how is it that members of the our third branch of government, the Supreme Court, actually hold contemporary debates about constitutional ideas, in the context of what the founders world was once like?

The answer is Antonin Scalia.  Appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1986, Scalia, has had a profound influence, far beyond his decisions and the world of Court conferences.  His ideas about original intent and originalism have taken hold as a real principle of debate.  And that fact alone, may well be his lasting legacy.

As this current court term comes to an end, Law Professor Bruce Allen Murphy tries to understand Scalia in Scalia: A Court of One.

My conversation with Bruce Allen Murphy:
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What if you discovered your father was a notorious serial killer?

June 24th, 2014
505192-zodiac.jpgFor centuries theologians have argued about how the sins of the father might fall upon their children.  Freud talked about the need for a father's protection of his children. And Geoffrey and Tobias Wolff showed us how a deceptive father can impact his sons.

As children have to cope today, with so many fathers in prison, for crimes all the way up to murder, it’s almost a public policy concern how this plays out.

But what if a child didn’t know, at least not until his 40’s, that his father was an infamous serial killer who had never been caught or brought to justice?

That’s what Gary Stewart discovered about his father. Stewart came to believe his father was the infamous Zodiac Killer, who stalked Northern California in the late 60’s.

That’s the story that Gary Stewart now shares with the public, in his book The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father . . . and Finding the Zodiac Killer.

My conversation with Gary Stewart:
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Ceasar Chavez and the nobility of poverty

June 17th, 2014
cesar2.pngOne of the overwhelming ideas of the 20th Century has been the struggle of people throughout the world, to achieve a middle class life. The Horatio Alger mythology of pulling oneself up by their bootstraps has informed most of the American experience, but not necessarily for Cesar Chavez.

When we think of Chavez, we think of farm workers, the fields of Delano, or the organization of the UFW.  The grape boycott of the late 60’s, the secondary boycott, which would give the farm workers their greatest success and  the Chicano movement of which he would become a part. In fact, Chaves’ life and his legacy was far more complex.

More than a union organizer, he saw himself as a community organizer. Perhaps a community organizer on steroids.  He sought not just to lift up people, but to solve there problems.  Where many wanted to move farm workers to the middle class, Chavez saw a kind of nobility in poverty which actually may have limited his success.

Miriam Pawel has written the first full throated biography about The Crusades of Cesar Chavez:

My conversation with Miriam Pawel:
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Why is Green Building Exploding?

June 17th, 2014
green-building-3.jpgWhen we think about building today, almost anywhere on the planet, be it a house or a gleaming glass, steel and concrete office building, we almost reflexively think about how the building was build and how green is that building?

Market forces have made green building a premium to be desired and paid for.  But this didn’t happen by magic.  It happened primarily because one man saw the need to make this his life's work. He is David Gottfried.

David Gottfried is the founder of the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the CEO of Regenerative Ventures. His latest work is Explosion Green: One Man's Journey To Green The World's Largest Industry.

My conversation with David Gottfried
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THE American Spirit

June 15th, 2014
American+Whiskey+Bourbons.jpgFew products are more American than Bourbon.  In fact some argue that the Kentucky spirit IS the American experience, distilled and sealed in a bottle.

While the English have their Scotch, the Irish their Whisky, Latin America their rum, and Mexico it's cervezas, Kentucky Bourbon is our defining spirit.  So what does this drink say about our character as a nation and how does that history apply to today's America?

Dane Huckelbridge sought to find out and he shares it with us in Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit.

My conversation with Dane Huckelbridge:
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Is Hemp the coming disruptive Agricultural Revolution?

June 15th, 2014
save-forest-plant-hemp-farm.jpgImagine one of the strongest fibers on the planet, a potential energy sources, and something used by our founders, that is now illegal. That is the story of hemp. Sometime comic/journalist Doug Fine tells me how we all may be  Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution.

My conversation with Doug Fine:
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Junipero Serra’s mission and the Founding of California

June 15th, 2014
2140__300x400_fatherserra.jpgIf you are a Californian and especially if you went to school in California, its history and the remarkable life of Junipero Serra were an important part of that education. 

In the mid 1700’s Junipero Serra would leave Spain for the New World.  The Catholic Church, Christianity and California would never be the same. Now in Journey to the Sun: Junipero Serra's Dream and the Founding of California, Gregory Orfalea gives us a fascinating narrative of the remarkable life of Junípero Serra.

My conversation with Gregory Orfalea:
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Films Not to be MIssed

June 14th, 2014
628x471.jpgThink about the movies we remember.  They are a little like old songs, or great books, or great meals.  They are purveyors of a kind of double imagery, instantly making yesterdays events todays reality.  

But with movies there is something more, in the way they stay with us.  The way the images play around in our heads and the memories, words and images become embodied in who we are.  

If you grew up watching and loving  movies, like esteemed film critic Kenneth Turan, they take on an even more powerful meaning.

Now Turan has taken a look in the rear view mirror at a a lifetime of film and chosen his fifty-four favorites,  detailed in his new book  Not to be Missed: Fifty-four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film.

My conversation with Kenneth Turan:
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Are the Koch Brothers really as bad as they seem?

June 10th, 2014
koch_brothers.jpgIf I said we were going to talk about a story that involved grand homes, yachts, priceless painting, messy romances, private investigators and armored limousines, you probably wouldn’t  think it was the story of a family and a group of men who have been painted as the greatest political villains of the 21st Century.

In fact it is.  It is the story of the Koch brothers.  Fred and Bill and David and Charles and their father Fred, who was one of the founders of the John Birch Society.


The question is not just how this political and economic dynasty has become so powerful, its how they have created such fear in their opponents, out of all proportion to their relatively limited political success.

Also the membrane between the Koch’s libertarian ideas and the GOP’s and Tea Party's social agenda may be a sometime marriage of convenience, but one that may not be destined for the long haul. Like so many businessmen who think politics will bend to their will and money, they are often surprised.

The first full scale look at the elusive Koch family is Daniel Schulman's  Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America's Most Powerful and Private Dynasty.

My conversation with Daniel Schulman:  (We apologize for some static in the first five minutes) 
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Console Wars

June 9th, 2014
nintendo-sega.jpgLong before Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were battling it out on retail shelves, a small but nimble competitor very nearly unseated Nintendo as the top game maker of the 90’s.

This history of that battle for video game market supremacy between Sega’s Genesis gaming system and Nintendo’s SNES console is the background of a new book by Blake Harris, Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation It is also a history of how gaming become the huge business that it is today.
My conversation with Blake Harris:
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D Day and The Mantle of Command

June 5th, 2014
D-DayRooseveltSpeech.jpgWe mark the the 70th anniversary of D Day.  Not only one of the most significant events of the 20th Century, but one of the most significant decisions ever made by a President to send men into harms way. 

In a world in which decision making has become an expertise on to itself, when Presidential leadership is reexamined almost every day, it serves us well from both a historical and a contemporary perspective, to understand what really went into making that fateful decision, 70 years ago.  How it changed the war, how it changed our history and what it might teach us about navigating a dangerous world today.
Nigel Hamilton examines all of this as he looks at FDR in The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942.

My conversation with Nigel Hamilton:  
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The ongoing Dance of Anger

June 5th, 2014
anger2.jpgIn the 1960’s anger was a powerful motivator in civic discourse, as we protested, marched, fought and found new ways to understand relationships. In 1976 Howard Beale told us we had to get up, and get angry!  

in 1985, Dr. Harriet Lerner explained  how anger was a signal, an early warning system about issues in our relationships, among woman, and arguably writ large.

Today, anger is even more complex.  Anger globally, domestically and still, anger intimately.   

As such, the solutions are also more difficult to achieve.  Harriet Lerner who has since 1985 written extensively about fear, and intimacy and connection, now talks again about the issue of anger,The Dance of Anger: A Woman's Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships.
with the reissue of her iconic book 

My conversation with Harriet Lerner:
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Tinker, Tailor, Hacker, Spy

June 4th, 2014
CIA_Montage.jpgCreative destruction, change, automation, the Internet of everything.  These are all the issues that seem to impact every aspect of modern life. And whether you believe these things are good or bad, is not relevant.  What is relevant is that they are happening everywhere, including in the context of American spycraft and diplomacy and in institutions like the CIA.

In a world where quick and nimble and of course secrecy are often the objective best practices, spycraft today has gotten more mired in the institutional morass of every bigger bureaucracy.

That’s the underlying backdrop for David Ignatius in his latest spy thriller, The Director.


My conversation with David Ignatius:
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The Hoops Whisperer: Inside the Heads of Basketball’s Best Players

June 3rd, 2014
oxdi1tsfvxaxcsmm6mnw.jpgNo question we are at the apogee of  basketball playoffs.  Today, almost as much attention gets focused on star coaches as on the star players.  After all, who but stars can manage the egos of today’s NBA players?
However, one man, who is not yet a star, but who gets these players to pay attention, is Idan Ravin.  He’s been called “The Hoops Whisperer,” because of the positive impact he has been able to have on so many, already great,  NBA players.   
He’s a trainer but so much and more. His success says a lot about what it takes to succeed in anything today. He shares his story in The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Heads of Basketball's Best Players.
My conversation with Idan Ravin:  
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