As You Look At The Emmys, Remember That It Is Only Streaming and Entertainment That is Bringing the World Together

September 18th, 2021
Streaming_Hits_3z2-1440x600.jpegIt wasn’t very long ago that to see a foreign language film, you wound up in the smallest theater in the multiplex or a little art theater somewhere in a college town...or you lived in New York or San Francisco or Boston. But like everything else, creative destruction has done its job. Streaming and the long tail of the internet has moved to supplant cable, movie theaters, broadcast television, and even the English language as the talisman of all of our entertainment. 
Even amidst the bifurcation and division in both the US and the world, filmed entertainment seems to be one of the few things bringing the world together. Suddenly at our fingertips is programming made everywhere. And rather than looking at it as an oddity reserved only for a few cinephiles, it’s now working its way into the mainstream of all of our living rooms.

Is this just a temporary blip due to COVID and the pandemic, or has global entertainment undergone a tectonic shift that both reflects and might reshape our culture? We’re going to talk about this with Scott Roxborough. 

 
Scott is an international reporter covering film and television and music. He reports on entertainment from Europe for the Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, and German TV, and wrote a seminal article for the Hollywood Reporter dealing with this subject. 
 
My conversation with Scott Roxborough: 

The News About the News: A conversation with Martha Minow

September 14th, 2021
Street_Corner_News_3x2-1440x600.jpegFor journalism, it may be the best of times and the worst of times. On the one hand, the national media is more vibrant than ever. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as broadcast and cable news networks are thriving. For these outlets, the transition to digital has been painful, but successful and is still ongoing.  It was recently announced by CNN and NBC News that they would be moving to a streaming model.
 
Today, The New York Times derives more than sixty percent of its revenue from digital subscriptions. Recurring revenue models are driving the success of independent and specific news outlets and individual journalists on Substack and similar platforms that are thriving. While romantics rap quixotic about the 23 newspapers that once were available in New York City, websites and Twitter have now subsumed that. New sites start up regularly with lower barriers to entry and what some argue is a greater democratization of information.

For local news, however, the story is different. For what’s happening in your neighborhood, your school board, your city council, is a very different story. Thousands of local newspapers and local radio stations have shut down. The economics of the enterprise has proven to be unsustainable, and even large regional papers in places like LA, Chicago, and Miami have proven to be problematic. While many of the best of these papers have been stripped and plundered by hedge funds, let’s also remember that many were acquired by the hedge funds out of bankruptcy.

All of this begs the question as to whether our political, cultural, and social divide stems from the top as is assumed, or whether the hollowing out of news in our communities, something that should be bringing us together, is at the heart of what’s wrong? If so, does the government have a role to play in fixing that effort? Is the problem with the product, with the public, or as it is often so easy to do, should we just blame social media?  Understanding this is the work that Martha Minow takes on in Saving the News: Why the Constitution Calls for Government Action to Preserve Freedom of Speech.
 
My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Martha Minow:

The Myth of ”Nobody Saw it Coming”

September 4th, 2021
81K7izy9dNS.jpegThe more we know about disasters, the more we realize that most were preordained. Covid 19 or Katrina, the current fires in California or the deep freeze this past winter in Texas. None of them were what we would call Black Swan events.

We are certainly, because of climate change, complexity and complacency, going to be experiencing more such events, we had better become much better at disaster preparedness.

If we know these disaster events are coming, how can we get better at dealing with the consequences? Fire season is yet to reach its peak this year, hurricanes are starting early and we know that more infrastructure and buildings will collapse.

Therefore, the area of disaster management should be one of our number one priority, just as it has been for my guest Dr. Samantha Montano, the author of Disasterology: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Climate Crisis 

 
My conversation with Samantha Montano:

Democracy Dies In The Chaos of Competing Truths: A Conversation with Robert M. Smith

August 31st, 2021
49af00449e89c14d99f2423165fb5e1c-w204%25401x.jpegSurvey after survey shows that trust in the news media is at an all time low. And it’s not just the left/right divide.

A recent study by the American Press Association reveals that not all Americans universally embrace core journalistic values, and that the trust crisis might best be understood through people’s moral values even more than their politics.

When journalists say they are” just doing their jobs,” the problem is many people harbor doubts about what that job should be.

Couple this with an ever changing media landscape driven by economics, the political bifurcation of news via the long tail of the internet, the news/entertainment nexus, celebrity culture, and now cancel culture, and it makes for an environment that has very little to do with getting at the truth. Maybe democracy dies not in darkness, but in the chaos of competing truths.

This is the world that long time journalist Robert M. Smith explores in Suppressed: Confessions of a Former New York Times Washington Correspondent.

 
My conversation with Robert M Smith:  

America Is No Longer A Serious Nation: My conversation with Tom Nichols:

August 24th, 2021
image1-21-1440x600.jpegAlmost everywhere in the world, liberal democracy is, if not under siege, or at least being tested. Only in rare historical times have would-be autocrats found such fertile ground. But why? 
 
The world's and yes, America’s standard of living is rising overall. As Steven Pinker has pointed out, crime and violence is down. The census tells us that diversity is naturally occurring and technology has made life easier. While we are not perfect, the arc of history is bending towards justice. And yet we’re angrier, more frustrated, and more willing to buy snake oil than ever before. 
 
We’re quick to cast blame. Quick to believe anything that fits our preconceived narrative, and each side has its Boogeyman and Straw-man. But what if the answer to these problems is not out there? What if Cassius was right? — that the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves. 
 
This is what Tom Nichols explores in his new work Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from within on Modern Democracy 
 
My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Tom Nichols:

Roger Bennett Teaches Us About Soccer AND About America

August 20th, 2021
download.jpegFrom Alexis de Tocqueville, to Alexander Solzhenitsyn to John Lennon, it has often taken those born outside of America to help us understand and define America back to those of us that have grown up here. Those of us long engulfed in both the popular culture and political noise inherent in our society, often can’t see the proverbial forest from the trees.
Today British/American broadcaster Roger Bennett has taken up that mantle. The impresario of the Men in Blazers media empire not only explains soccer to its burgeoning American audience, he also explains America in his new book Reborn in the USA: An Englishman's Love Letter to His Chosen Home.
 
My conversation with Roger Bennett: 

The Second American Revolution - Will it Ever Be Won?

August 15th, 2021
1960s_Montage_3x2-1440x600.jpegIn the 1960s and early 1970s political and social battles were fought by people who were trying to reshape America. Sixty years later, we are still at war.

My guests on this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, David and Margaret Talbot, label that war the Second American Revolution. The issues revolved around armed conflict abroad (Vietnam), civil rights, feminism, gay rights, Native American rights, workers rights, and the role of celebrities in the political process.

One of the Talbots’ conclusions is that the past is not just prologue — It’s not even the past.

They argue — in this conversation and in their new book, By the Light of Burning Dreams — that the ’60s were a time when every cultural and political progressive action was met with an equal reaction. A time when the FBI engaged in the kind of widespread, invasive surveillance that makes even today’s Pegasus project seem like child’s play.

The Talbots remind us that charismatic leadership, not just grassroots efforts, catalyzed the political and social activism of the ’60s. Leaders had to put their bodies on the line in the streets, not on social media.

Discussing how these efforts morphed from the optimism of the early ’60s to the weary cynicism of today, the Talbots draw a sobering lesson in By the Light of Burning Dreams: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Second American Revolution.

 
My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with David and Margaret Talbot: 

The Ultimate Corporate Delusion: The Story of WeWork

August 5th, 2021
45639007-0-image-a-4_1626726455317.jpegIf someone pitched the story idea of a guy who was a former baby clothes salesman who then started a company that sublet co-working office space to millennials, and that that company would then become the most well financed startup ever, and that the story of its eventual rise and fall would give birth to an Apple tv series, a Hulu documentary, an HBO movie, several books, and two podcast series, the pitch would be rejected immediately.

And yet this is the story of Adam Neumann and WeWork. But it’s also a story of Silicon Valley, of Wall Street, of international investors, of obsessions with millennials, of portfolio theory taken too far, and it all comes together to create the perfect corporate storm.

While there are some bad and greedy actors in this story, I would argue it's one with no heroes, and no real villains….because it exists, like many of our greatest corporate dramas, inside the protective bubble of a unique moment in place and time. -

Telling this story, as more than just the story of Adam Neumann and a failed business model, but telling it in the context of all of the aforementioned moving parts, is WSJ reporter Maureen Farrell in The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion

 
My conversation with Maureen Farrell:

Trump’s Final Days: My conversation with Carol Leonnig

August 1st, 2021
Screen%2BShot%2B2021-08-01%2Bat%2B5.38.53%2BPM.pngIf daily news reporting is the first draft of history, books that come out almost contemporaneously to events are I suppose the second draft.

But today the world is speeded up. Today, especially in the wake of Trump, we need the facts much sooner. We need to learn not just how to escape the mistakes of history but to escape their repetition and to learn quickly from the actions of recent times.

Pulitzer prize winning Washington Post reporters Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig have become the modern masters of this genre. With their first book A Very Stable Genius, early in the Trump presidency, they telegraphed what was ahead. No one that read their book could have been surprised at what happened next.

And now with their latest, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year they have given us a narrative history of the troubled final days of the Trump presidency, and maybe the final days of democracy as we've come to know it.

My conversation with Carol Leonnig:

A Car for the Ages: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings - A conversation with Earl Swift

July 29th, 2021
im-362429.jpegWhile everyone has their own personal list, we could all maybe agree on some of the most iconic cars ever made. The VW Beetle, the 1968 Ford Mustang, the 1960 Corvette, the 57 Chevy, the Porsche 911, The 1955 Mercedes gull-wing, the DeLorean, and just for good measure, the 1963 Aston Martin.

But equally important is a vehicle that gets little attention, All of its models together only traveled under 100 miles. When it was built it was over budget, over schedule, and was only a two-seater. It was the lunar rover vehicle that was a part of Apollo 15, 16, and 17. Without it, we’d know a lot less about the moon, about our own planet, and even the solar system. Not bad for a car that was bare bones and electrified, long before Elon Musk was born.

That’s the story that Earl Swift tell in his new book Across the Airless Wilds: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings.

 
My conversation with Earl Swift: 

Bill Gates Has Always Shown Us Who He Is: A Conversation with Tim Schwab

July 23rd, 2021
Bill_Gates_Scotland_2018_3x2-1440x600.jpegTwo years ago if you convened a focus group to give an opinion on Bill Gates and his foundation, the response would have been overwhelmingly positive. Today, not so much. 
The divorce, the behavior with respect to female employees, and violation of rules that any employee would know much less the company’s founder, former CEO, and chairman, and his condoning of poor behavior by his associates would be enough in and of itself to change public opinion. Add to this his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, and the picture gets darker.

Investigative journalist Tim Schwab, argues that none of this is as bad or as global as some of the actions of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Tim and all of this out in his recent articles in The Nation and in a book he's working on about Gates and his foundation. 

 
My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Tim Schwab:
 
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What AI Really Is, Whose Making It Happen and What It Means For The Future: My conversation with Cade Metz

July 18th, 2021
Screen%2BShot%2B2021-07-18%2Bat%2B11.44.34%2BAM.pngWhen Hal asked Astronaut David Bowman to “open the pod bay doors,” it was as if our most primal fear of machines came rushing headlong into the 20th century. Today, in our 21st-century world, we understand the basics of the artificial intelligence behind HAL.

We see on display every day our interaction with Siri and Alexa, our reliance on algorithms in flying our planes and soon our self-driving cars.

It’s the full blossoming of the promised brave new world.

But AI is just the Internet in1995. While it dominates every conversation about technology, commerce, the workplace and the economy today, there is an awful lot of misinformation.

Its impact can be felt in manufacturing, retail, healthcare, automotive, robotics, finance and science, as well as defense and national security.

The academic progress of AI is taking place every day in places like Stanford, Google, Amazon and Facebook. And the proverbial elephant in the room with respect to AI is always China and its deep, rich and no holds barred commitment to be the world leader in AI

But nothing beats understanding AI’s future like seeing how we got where we are today, who are the people making it happen and what it portents for its future.

That is what NY Times journalist Cade Metz does in his book Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World 

 
My conversation with Cade Metz:

How We Got To Globalization Today: A Conversation with Jeffrey Garten

July 12th, 2021
Screen%2BShot%2B2021-07-12%2Bat%2B11.03.34%2BAM.png

In the period immediately following WWII, the United States dominated the global economy. We had won the war, and the economic status that went along with it. 

 
Then over time, and initially as a result of our efforts and generosity, other economies began to grow. Japan, West Germany, Canada and Australia would stir, but the world would, in the war's aftermath, acquiesce to an American imposed system of monetary order. One underpinned by gold and the US direction.

But 28 years later the children would grow up. The other economies of the world would come into their full inheritance. So much so that by the time of the Nixon administration, in 1971, it had to accommodate the change.

What happened next, as Nixon and his economic advisers would meet secretly at camp David, in August of 1971, set the stage for the modern era of globalization.

The gold standard would be abandoned, and a new world economic order would be born. I think it’s fair to say that it’s impossible to understand the global economy today without understand this singular moment

Jeffrey Garten, the Dean emeritus of the Yale School of Management, takes us back to this moment in his new work Three Days at Camp David: How a Secret Meeting in 1971 Transformed the Global Economy 

 
My conversation with Jeffrey Garten:

A Constitution of Knowledge: A Conversation with Jonathan Rauch

July 8th, 2021
Const-of-Knowledge-600.jpegSome days it seems that everything we’ve taken for granted with respect to the functioning of America and American democracy is under siege. Hundreds of thousands of words are written and spoken almost every day as to why. However, before we can even begin to answer that question, we must understand what it is that’s being attacked and how the system was built before we can shore it up. It’s like a building after an explosion or a natural disaster. It can’t be righted until someone comes in, looks at the blueprints, develops engineering plans, and lays out the construction work. Today, the American experience feels like it’s in exactly the same place.

Jonathan Rauch, digs out those dusty blueprints in his new book The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth 

 
My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Jonathan Rauch:
 
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We Are Our Information: A conversation with Caleb Scharf

July 6th, 2021
9780593413586.jpeg
We are awash in data and information. So much so that we wonder if it has any meaning at all? But what if the very existence of the information and data was actually our society's knowledge. A kind of intuitive database acquired from absorbing all the information that surrounds us.

And as we do so, how does it change us? Are we even aware of it, or like velocity and position, can it even be measured.

These are just some of the mind bending ideas put forth by renowned astrobiologist and the award-winning author Caleb Scharf in his latest book The Ascent of Information: Books, Bits, Genes, Machines, and Life's Unending Algorithm 

 
My conversation with Caleb Scharf:

Amazon, Bezos and a Global Empire

June 30th, 2021
Screen%2BShot%2B2021-06-30%2Bat%2B8.42.22%2BAM.pngBack in 1953, it was reported that Charlie Wilson, the then head of General Motors, said that what’s good for General Motors was good for America. While that quote is a bit apocryphal, the idea was real. The notion that the success of any particular business was inextricably tied up with the success of the nation.

Perhaps in the 70’s it might have been said of Exxon. Today it might very well be said about Amazon.

The company has changed the way we shop...not insignificant in a nation where retail accounts for 6% of our GDP and 25% of our employment.

It has changed the way we think about the cloud, privacy, and electronic storage. It’s now changing transportation, and health care.

How did one company become so powerful and successful not just in one area….like GM or Exxon, but in multiple areas. The answer lies in understanding Amazon’s visionary founder Jeff Bezos.

Currently, the richest man in the world, the money should not obscure his vision, his talents and his place in the founder/CEO hall of fame.

Few understand Bezos better than Brad Stone. Bard is the author of Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire 

 
 My conversation with Brad Stone:

Our New Addiction to Outrage: The American Psychosis

June 28th, 2021
BOOK%252BWIDE%252Bcopy.jpegThere once was a time when we were, if not united, at least we had a common set of cultural touchstones. Movies, TV, sports, even the three networks that delivered the evening news were part of a national town square that provided both water cooler conversation and comity. No more!

Over the past 40 years, all that has changed. The long tail of the internet coupled with the evolution of our politics has divided us as never before. Even COVID, an outside enemy that should have united us, has become a cultural and political cudgel. Ironically our collective anger over politics may now be the only thing we have in common, even as it’s devolved into trench warfare.

We are divided into superclusters of like-minded people. People so siloed that they are literally shocked that everyone does not think and vote as they do. In short, reality has become negotiable and we sort ourselves accordingly.

The weaponized culture wars lead to more enmity, disgust, and dehumanization of our opponents. One wonders if all the king’s horse and all the king’s men can ever put the Humpty Dumpty that is our political civility back together again. That's the reality that Peter T. Coleman looks at in The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization.

 
My conversation with Peter Coleman: 

Reasons for Hope in Rural America: A Conversation with Gigi Georges

June 22nd, 2021
befc995985914ce67f798c89a6645a3e_XL.jpegIn an effort to make urban American understand rural America, particularly since the 2016 election, books about rural America have become almost a genre unto themselves. Works by J.D. Vance, Sarah Smarsh, Nancy Isenberg, James Fallows, Sara Kendzior and Nichols Kristoff, and others, have cast a class driven and almost apologetic eye on rural America.

Certainly much is wrong there. In part as a result of years of external change and neglect at the hands of public policy makers. Places and towns where “everybody knows your names,” are no longer appreciated or reflective of the values that they injected into the nation's DNA.

But there really are things they can still teach us. Especially if we look at the best of what these towns have to offer, not the worst. What happens when young people choose to stay? When those with gifts and talent choose to redirect it into their community, rather than spend their intellectual capital in the attempt to escape. It's not a choice for all in places like Downeast, Maine, but it’s good that it’s a choice for some.

Those are the one that Gigi Georges introduces us to in debut book Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America 

 
My Conversation with Gigi Georges:

A Conversation with Chris Matthews:

June 18th, 2021
this-country-9781982134846_hr.jpegI think we can all stipulate that we are at a precarious moment in the relatively short history of American democracy. Even among those not following it on an hour by hour basis via an addiction to cable news, people are anxious.  So many, on both the left and the right, are using millions of words to comment on the moment.

But perhaps the only way to really understand it is through the sharp lens of contemporary American political history. Particularly the years since the end of WWII.

Our divisions no matter how profound and how powerful, do not stand alone. They exist as a link in the broad scope of our contemporary political story.  Without grasping that history, this moment is just noise.

Sure we can study history. Many great books have been written about these times. But those that have lived through all of it, who have paid attention to both the players and the events of this 75 year period are best qualified to try and figure out where we are today. Chris Matthews is certainly on of these.  He writes about it in his new book This Country: My Life in Politics and History.

 
My conversation with Chris Matthews: 

The Secret Service and its Time of Reckoning: A conversation with Carol Leonnig

June 8th, 2021

51xiTW4P1wS.jpegThink of all the things you have believed in that have recently been shattered. That the government might protect us from a pandemic. That Congress and our democracy were secure. That COVID came from a wet market in Wuhan, and that Bill Gates was a paragon of business and virtue. Now add to this growing list, the belief in quality and ethics of the United States Secret Service.
With respect to the secret service, albeit some of our view comes from Hollywood. But surprise, not all secret service agents are Clint Eastwood, or Gerard Butler, or Nicholas Cage.

Now, as a result of the great investigative reporting of three time Pulitzer Prize winner Carol Leonnig we have a look inside the reality of life in the secret service.

While the service lived by the shibboleth of Zero Fail, today that goal exists inside a nation more divided than ever, more armed and angry than ever before, and a Secret Service that’s overworked, overtasked and even sometimes incompetent. It all part of Carol Leonnig's new book Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service

 
My conversation with Carol Leonnig:
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