The High Cost of Free Speech

July 24th, 2020

free_speech_zone_rose_bowl_1088x725-700x470.jpgWe seem to be facing a time when the speech police are everywhere, a time when even the majority of progressive people simply seem to be losing faith in the value of free speech, all the while seeming to want to narrow the words that we can use.

“Don’t you see,” George Orwell wrote in 1984, “the whole of newspeak is to narrow the range of thought. In the end,” he says, “We shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it.” Just what does free speech mean? Is it under threat today from the left and/or the right? Why is it also about safety and why are our colleges and universities front and center in this debate?

To talk about this I am joined by one of the intellectual guiding lights of the discussion of free speech, Professor Stanley Fish.

My conversation with Professor Stanley Fish: 

The Unexpected Role of Feminism in Mass Incarceration

July 15th, 2020

gruberhomepage.jpgWe regularly go through paroxysms of demanding law and order. It's a form of political rhetoric that while it has roots all the way back in the 16th century, is with us once again today.

In our contemporary history we watched Nixon in 1968, New York in the 70s and then were was 1994. A time when the law and order obsession seemed to reach some kind of peak

Rudy Giuliani had become Mayor of New York, the Simpson case shined an arc-light on domestic violence, California passed “three strikes,” and Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act.

It was a kind of perfect storm of both enforcing law, protecting women, and injecting steroids into the business of mass incarceration.

How this ultimately worked out for women, and the broad impact of these efforts on the criminal justice system is a subject that University of Colorado law professor Aya Gruber tackles in her new book The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women's Liberation in Mass Incarceration.

My conversation with Aya Gruber:

Without Newt there is no Trump: How we Got Here.

July 11th, 2020

0bd7a4c3-7442-4e30-8751-7c5dff359eb4-truDonald Trump’s presidency was not an immaculate conception. Rather, the result of 30 years of increased hyper-partisanship, the reshaping of the Republican party, the rise of Rush Limbaugh and talk radio, Robert Ailes and Fox Television, and Newt Gingrich. They all contributed to the pugilistic style of American politics. But perhaps Gingrich did the most damage.

It’s arguable that if Gingrich hadn’t come along, others would have picked up the mantle of this style that lead us directly to where we are today. But Gingrich was uniquely suited to the moment.Julian Zelizer tries to answer in his new book Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party

Understanding him, maybe a big part of that question that gets asked every day, amidst death, unemployment, and anger, how did we get there. That’s what historian and professor

My conversation with Julian Zelizer:

Is It 1968 All Over Again?

July 10th, 2020

Kerner_Report_67_Riots_1088x725-700x470.Then, as now, there was pent-up frustration, which boiled over, particularly in many poor black neighborhoods setting off riots that rampaged out of control. At the time, many Americans blamed the riots on what they saw as misplaced black rage and often vague outside agitators.

But in March 1968, the Kerner Commission Report turned those assumptions on their head. It declared that white racism, not black anger, was at the root of American turmoil. It talked about bad policing practices, a flawed justice system, unscrupulous consumer credit practices, poor or inadequate housing, high unemployment, voter suppression and other culturally embedded forms of racial discrimination that all combined to ignite the fuse on the streets of African American neighborhoods.

 “White society,” the presidentially-appointed panel reported, “is deeply implicated in the creation of the ghetto.” “The nation,” the Kerner Commission warned, “was so divided that the United States was poised to fracture into two radically unequal societies, one black and one white.”

Today, there is only one living member of that commission, and he also happens to be the oldest living current or former United States senator. He was once a candidate for president to the United States. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He served for two terms as a senator from Oklahoma. He is Senator Fred Harris.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Senator Fred Harris:

 

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The Microbiome is Revolutionizing Medicine and Yes, Probiotics Matter

June 30th, 2020

the-human-superorganism-300x200.jpgBeyond the virus we fear most, we are also surrounded by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. But wait, no need to reach for the Purell every time. In fact, these things represent what is called our microbiome. It accounts for as much as 90% of our cells, and its positive impact on our health is immeasurable.

However, as a result of antibiotics, the food we eat, urbanization and other wonders of modern world, we have done things in the name of “do no harm,” which just might be making us sicker.

Today, it’s as if this long-suffering field of research has suddenly been rediscovered. Back in 2016, when we had a White House that still believed in science, the office of science and technology announced a One Hundred and Twenty-One million dollar initiative for research into the microbiome.

Professor Rodney Dietert, has been doing this research and talking about this for a long time. He details it in The Human Superorganism: How The Microbiome is Revolutionizing The Pursuit of a Healthy Life.

My Conversation with Rodney Dietert:

The Genetic Superiority of Women

June 28th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-06-28%2Bat%2B9.48.1In the current pandemic, we have seen men succumb to COVID 19 at far greater rates than women. A lot of theories have been expounded as to why. And many theories have to do with the disease itself and its inherent impact on the human body.

In fact, the reasons may be much more fundamental. They may be reasons that transcend the disease and may be directly related to deeper biological differences between men and women.

Differences that have applications in the treatment of virtually every disease, from colds to cancer. Clearly differences in chromosome may be the ultimate customization of medicine. Understanding this is the work of Dr. Sharon Moalem. He’s an award-winning scientist and physician whose latest book is The Better Half: On the Genetic Superiority of Women.

My conversation with Dr. Sharon Moalem: 

Lincoln Almost Never Made It To The White House

June 25th, 2020

download%2B%25281%2529.jpegEarly in his political career, before he ever became president, Lincoln said referring to America, that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Little did Lincoln know at the time that he would one day stand at the fulcrum of that division. And that he might become crushed by the weight of it. Not only metaphorically, or ultimately in Ford’s Theater, but before he ever became president. 

With Americans so angry today, with tempers, and temperatures so high we admirer the great job that the secret service does of protecting Presidents of both parties.

For Lincoln, the end could have come even before he took office. In a little know footnote of history, Lincoln had to sneak his way into Washington, to prevent an assassination attempt by pro-slavery excrements. That the backbone of historian Brad Meltzer’s new book The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill America's 16th President--and Why It Failed

My conversation with Brad Meltzer:

Maybe There Were Some Smart People in Oklahoma

June 21st, 2020

heartland-4ae75fa0e15a0cae71e5fc6bf5ce53Along with the ideological divisions that are part of our political and social life today there are also the geographical divisions that essentially, at least as far as conventional wisdom goes, mirror those same divisions.

Those of us on the East and West coast, have a kind of bond that would make you think that the Atlantic and Pacific are one. That the sun rises on one coast and sets on the other and nothing much else seems to matter.

After all, it’s just “flyover country.” It’s all the same, right? Flat, backward, disconnected from the global community and connected only to the drumbeat of Fox News.

But suppose that weren’t true. Suppose there was more vibrancy and wisdom and energy there than we thought. Could a better understanding of history and physical place, perhaps give us a better understating of the lives of the people that inhabit it? That the view of Professor Kristin Hoganson in her new work The Heartland: An American History

My conversation with Kristin Hoganson:

Accepting Science is Actually a Test of Character

June 15th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-06-15%2Bat%2B12.53.It was George Orwell who said that “to see what is in front of one’s nose needs constant struggle.” 

Sometimes we are all trapped in our inability to see what is in front of us. However in the realm of science sometimes the facts should simply speak for themselves...and yet there have been those through history that have denied science. Mostly because it didn’t comport with their agenda. Sometimes they were blinded by the obvious and sometimes it was antithetical to the false gods of religion for the expediency of politics.

Yet the ability to accept science, almost more than anything else, shows the character of the people and nations, as they either evolve or head back to the primordial stew of ignorance.

This has been an issue from Galileo right up to the onset of COVID 19. To explain how we’re still dealing with the same ignorance I’m joined by Mario Livio, the author of Galileo: And the Science Deniers

My conversation with Mario Livio: 

It’s Economic Dignity, Stupid

June 9th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-06-09%2Bat%2B11.51.I’m sure you all remember when Bill Clinton ran for President in 1992, James Carville’s precinct slogan, “it’s the economy stupid” was a fundamental foundation of the campaign.

It was effective because it captured, in perhaps a more innocent time, the essence of the economy that personally impacted every single American.

Today, almost 30 years and a political chasm latter it seems there are many economies. The Wall Street economy, the economy of the one-percent, the middle class, those struggling to make ends meet, and those totally left behind. The “economy” is no longer a catchword that is a big tent for all.

Just look at the current situation as 35 million Americans are out of work, lines at food banks stretch for miles, and yet the stock markets are hitting new highs.

Today, the current pandemic and its resultant economic crises are an accelerant to further these divisions. So as we look out amidst massive unemployment and an even greater economic divide and we wonder if there might be a common goal that the economy should represent and strive for?

Former Clinton and Obama economic advisor Gene Sperling things so and he outlines it in Economic Dignity

My conversation with Gene Sperling:

Not Your Father’s CIA

June 4th, 2020

David-Igneus-Book.jpgWhen looking at the world of the CIA, spycraft, and espionage, it fair to say that the images of both WWII and particularly the Cold War, shape our vision.  Unfortunately, it does not always allow us to understand the reinvented world of 21st-century coverts action and government secrecy.

Joining me to explore this, as he has done in his nine previous books about the CIA, is Washington Post global affairs columnist David Ignatius. His new book The Paladin:  he takes us inside today's very different world of spycraft. 

My conversation with David Ignatius:

It Is A Small World After All

May 27th, 2020

richardhaass.jpgMost of you have heard about the Butterfly Effect. The butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico can cause a hurricane in China. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened. It’s how the world works today. Except with modern communications, it happens at warp speed. Coronavirus and terrorism are just two of many examples

Even for those that try and eschew globalization, the protest is futile. The world, its peoples, its governments and yes its companies are deeply interwoven and interconnected. It why we do ourselves such a disservice as citizens and as a nation if 

we don’t truly understand the world and our place in it.

Few understand this as well as Richard Haass who takes us through it in The World: A Brief Introduction

My conversation with Richard Haass:

A True Story of Piracy, Power, and History’s First Global Manhunt

May 24th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-05-24%2Bat%2B12.08.Who knew that 17th-century pirates were both the original terrorists and the original globalists. We mark seminal events that we are living through and decide which ones are important and which re not. Yet often time and history tell a different story. Sometimes it’s the small events, tiny inflection, or hinge points in history that seep into all the tentacles going out into the future.

Steven Johnson, in his new book Enemy of All Mankind: A True Story of Piracy, Power, and History's First Global Manhunt finds one of those points and gives us the recipes of how it’s become part of today’s global and cultural diet

My conversation with Steven Johnson: 

Where Did 24/7 News Come From?

May 19th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-05-19%2Bat%2B10.55.When we say, almost without much thought today, that we live in an era of 24/7 news and information, we don’t often think about the attribution of this state of affairs. No, it didn’t come from Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, or Jack Dorsey and Twitter. In fact, it wasn’t the internet at all. It was Ted Turner, a guy who in the 1970s was hustling billboards and promoting a UHF TV station in Atlanta. Until he went ahead with the crazy idea of launching a 24/7 news channel in the form of CNN and that, as they say, changed everything.

What he created not only impacted television and network news, and gave rise to the likes of MSNBC and Fox, but it changed the entire landscape of the delivery of news. It changed everything from the small-town newspaper to the N.Y. Times and the Washington Post. It was one of those seminal moments, a hinge point in the history. of television, of news and media as we know it. 

It’s the subject of the new book by author and journalist Lisa Napoli, Up All Night: Ted Turner, CNN, and the Birth of 24-Hour News

My conversation with Lisa Napoli:

The Truth About America’s “Deep State”

May 12th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-05-12%2Bat%2B2.10.3Ever since the post-war years both fear and complexity have increased. Fear of the bomb, of communists, war, political assassination, and 9/11. Fear of technology, of the growth and concentration of business, and the growing increase in the size and power of government. Ideas that are often impossible to get one’s head around and to fully understand.

Much of our division today is about how we have navigated those fears and traumas. What has emerged it seems is two central narratives that have their origins early in the mid 20th century and are still evolving today. One that the blame lies with the military-industrial complex. With shadowy generals and CIA agents and covert operatives.

On the other side, the blame goes to governments. To faceless nameless bureaucrats. Educated elites who think they know better than what Nixon called the silent majority. The group t

hat Reagan wanted to shrink small enough to go down a bathtub drain. This became known as the “deep state.”

The battle between these two world views, one on the left today and one on the right provides much of fuel for our partisanship.

How we got here, and what the deep state really is, or even if there is one, is at the core of two time Pulitzer Prize winner David Rhode's In Deep: The FBI, the CIA, and the Truth about America's "Deep State"

China and Its Ongoing Industrial Espionage

May 5th, 2020

Mara%2Bside%2Bby%2Bside.pngThere are so many stories today about the economic competition between China and the US. Competition in technology, in 5G in AI, and every other trendy high tech endeavor. However, the same competition exists in many other areas of industry, including the staid world of agriculture.

In fact, it is this world of genetically modified agriculture that may, more than the trendy tech, shape the future of the peoples of both China and the US.

It’s no wonder then that industrial espionage is rampant in this area and its national security implications go way behind missiles and planes and communication.

That’s the world that Mara Hvistendahl takes us into in her latest book The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage

My conversation with Mara Hvistendahl

“When Someone Tells You Who They Are, Believe Them”

April 28th, 2020

https___cdn.evbuc_.com_images_82051393_1People often talk about certain groups of immigrants that have come to America and wonder why some groups are so successful.

One of the reasons is that it is a self-selecting population. To escape one’s country, whether it was fleeing Germany in the 1940s or Cambodia or Vietnam in the 1960s or Central America today, takes a remarkable degree of perseverance and courage.  It’s often a high-wire act, that requires a do or die mentality.

But it has a dark side. What happens when that same drive is carried too far? When bending the rules to survive becomes bending the rules to succeed. Then it's like that old adage that “behind every great fortune is sometimes a great crime.”

This certainly is true for the Trumps and the Kushners. And we all may be the victims. Andrea Bernstein tells this story in American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power.

My conversation with Andrea Bernstein:

Our Evolution Is A Graveyard of Ancient Viruses.

April 16th, 2020

BeFunky-collage-ns.jpgPerhaps at no single moment in modern time have we been more self-aware about the human body and human anatomy. I suspect that all of you have a new understanding of how viruses work, how RNA duplicates, how generic material plays a role in the evolution of disease.

Therefore it becomes the perfect time to zoom out from that personal insight to look at the broad evolutionary perspective of how we got here to this time and palace. How did our vulnerable lungs and respiratory systems evolve and what does that evolution tell us about life now, our collective future and our own evolution prospects? And most of all in this age of cutting edge biological and genetic science, what control do we have over any of it?

Neil Shubin is the Robert R. Bensley Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago. provost of the Field Museum of Natural History and his latest work is Some Assembly Required: Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA

My conversation with Neil Shubin:

When We Come Back, Every Business Could Be A Startup: Here Are Some Rules

April 7th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-04-07%2Bat%2B8.36.1When we do come back from the current crisis, in some ways every business will be a startup. Sadly, some business will not make it through. Others will struggle to come back. And in some cases innovation will prevail. That is, new problems will result in new business opportunities. Disruption, innovation, and the desire and the will to succeed will drive entrepreneurs to imagine whole new companies and whole new ways of relaunching old ones. And some will be wildly successful and maybe even become household words.  

It makes you wonder, is there a formula for start up success. Are there rules or at least a framework? There is what Jim McKelvey calls The Innovation Stack.

My conversation with Jim McKelvey: 

A Look At What Real Leadership Skills Might Look Like

March 27th, 2020

CQUF9TkUEAEDQF8.jpgIf you go into any bookstore and go to the section with business books, you will find enough books on leadership to fill its own library.

The problem with most of them is that they focus on how to get followers to follow the orders of the leader. To enact in real life, the old kids game of follow-the-leader.

It’s often about trying to get inside the head of followers to understand what makes them tick and how to motivate them. But suppose, the real power of the leader was not to try and motivate followers but to be clear enough about articulating his or her own intent in such a way that it becomes almost axiomatic for others to understand and want to follow. Suppose motivation came from within the leader, not from external forces or orders.

That’s at the heart of the approach to leadership put forth by retired US Navy Captain David Marquet in his new work Leadership Is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say--and What You Don't.

My conversation with David Marquet: 

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