Murdoch, The Wall Street Journal and the future of newspapers

May 27th, 2010

While many argue that newspapers are in their twilight, one of the most dramatic corporate battles of recent years involves one of our nations great newspapers, The Wall Street Journal. Rupert Murdoch, today's answer to Charles Foster Kane, had for years coveted a major, national paper, as a crown jewel to his media empire. When he realized it was unlikely he would ever get The New York Times, he set his sights on the Journal. He captured it and would begin to transform it, based on his own unique vision. What really went on in that battle and what it says about Murdoch and the future of journalism and American newspapers is the backdrop for Sarah Ellison's book War at the Wall Street Journal: Inside the Struggle To Control an American Business Empire.  My conversation with Sarah Ellison:

Paradise Beneath Her Feet

May 27th, 2010

Much of the debate and conflict in the Middle East is cast as the battle between tradition and modernity; what's still refereed to as a "clash of civilizations." But what if looking at the world this way is precisely what is causing its problems? What if understanding the unity between tradition and modernity could, in fact, bring about a whole new paradigm for finding peace? This notion, along with the increasing empowerment of woman, is the core idea of the work being done by Isobel Coleman, of the Council on Foreign Relations and outlined in her book Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East. My conversation with Isobel Coleman.

Power Crazy

May 26th, 2010

We all want "green energy." However separating the rhetoric from the reality is not so simple. In his new book Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future, Robert Bryce gives a counter intuitive assessment of the $5 trillion per year global energy industry and what really fuels the world economy. Much to the chagrin of many, he rebukes the conventional wisdom about energy. He shows the reality that the US has built the world's largest economy by relying on hydrocarbons and we cannot and will not stop using carbon based fuels for a long time to come. He makes a compelling case that our real clean energy future must be natural gas and nuclear. My conversation with Robert Bryce:

Black Swans: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

May 25th, 2010

Nassim Nicholas Taleb has redefined how we see the world. An options trader and scholar turned philosopher, he is one of the very people who predicted the financial crisis. In doing so, he devised the concept of "Black Swan Events" to describe unexpected shocks to our collective system. In his new, paperback version of The Black Swan, he outlines what's still wrong with our economic system, why we are unequipped to handle the world's problems and why many of our experts, in his view, know less than cab drivers. Taleb's is an iconoclastic, provocative, idiosyncratic view of our world. But it's one we can't afford to ignore. My conversation with Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

A Rumour of War

May 24th, 2010

And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.

Sometimes in America, there is a desperate need for war, an atavistic desire for violence. This trend has repeated itself thought our history. In 1890 there was clearly this need for war. Teddy Roosevelt embodied that need. He was ready to go to war against Spain, but according to his letters, any nation would do. He felt the need to cope with  much change and reaffirm a nation that some argued was going soft. Sound familiar? Newsweek editor-at-large Evan Thomas, in this new book The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898 spent years researching what happened in the 1890's and what lessons we might learn today. My conversation with Evan Thomas:

A lopsided Napa political race

May 22nd, 2010

Most political races, or at least the ideal ones, are between two candidates with different views, but with equal ability to articulate those views to the voters. Sometimes though, there are races which are like mismatched prizefights and a referee should shop them in the second round. Here in Napa we have such a race. It's a race for County Supervisor that pits a dynamic former police chief, with good, sound ideas, against a twelve year incumbent who serves only by virtue of  Forrest Gump like likeability and the special interests he serves.  For a good shock to the political system listen as these two answer a few questions at a recent forum.

The Other Wes Moore

May 21st, 2010

Every day we make choices. Sometimes those choices; the friends, the mentors and the teachers, shape our lives in ways we may not realize for years to come. Wes Moore escaped a  rough and tumble childhood on the streets of Baltimore, to become a model of achievement. He is a decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow and business leader. In 2000, just after he'd been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, he learned about another Wes Moore. That Wes Moore would soon be sentenced to life in prison for killing a police officer. Wes Moore, in his new book The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates truly embodies the words of Robert Frost: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." My conversation with Wes Moore:

The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr.

May 18th, 2010

The assassination forty-two years ago of Martin Luther King, marked the second in a trip-tic of political assassinations and tragedies that bookended the '60s and brought into bold relief a strain of racism, hatred and extremism that unfortunately seems all to alive today. All three assassinations, JFK, MLK and RFK have been cloaked in conspiracy theory. The assassination of King, by James Earl Ray and the international manhunt that apprehend him, makes it perhaps the most clearcut of all. It is against this backdrop that historian Hampton Sides, in his new book Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin,tells the story of the stalking of King and the search for his assassin. My conversation with Hampton Sides:

Listening to Van Morrison

May 17th, 2010

Intense, idiosyncratic, diverse, elusive. These are just a few of the words that have been used to describe singer/songwriter Van Morrison. One our our most astute cultural critics, Greil Marcus, in his new book When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison examines Morrison's particular and peculiar genius. Marcus says that Morrison willfully resists simple categorization; that his greatest songs are at one moment his own, at another covers of those by others. My conversation with Greil Marcus about listening to Van Morrison:

The Wrong Stuff

May 12th, 2010

Ours is a materialistic culture with an insatiable appetite for stuff, but at what point does that appetite cross the line and reach unhealthy levels? Researchers estimate that more than six million hoarders live in the United States. And whether we're savers, collectors, or compulsive cleaners, none of us is free of the impulses that drive hoarders to extremes. But exactly how, when, and why do these otherwise normal impulses and experiences develop into hoarding? Dr. Randy Frost in his new book Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things explains. My conversation with Dr. Randy Frost:

Social Entrepreneurship

May 10th, 2010

Enormous benefits are gained when when social ventures are teamed with business principles. The results are efforts like the Grameen Bank and its founder Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. The use of entrepreneurial principles to organize, create and manage social change is transforming the world. David Bornstein, author of the internationally acclaimed book How to Change the World, explains in his new book Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know, who social entrepreneurs are, how they organize and succeed and what challenges they face in the world today. My conversation with David Bornstein:

The things we fear most

May 6th, 2010

John Lennon said that "life is what happens while were busy making other plans." History tells us that things are the way they are, until they're not. Pulitzer prize winning journalist and bestselling author Anna Quindlen's new novel Every Last One, takes this idea into the heart of the American family. People often think that family protects them from the omnipresent danger of the outside world. But what happens when the violence comes from within? Anna Quindlen gives us a new way to look at family and perhaps a metaphor for our larger American family. My conversation with Anna Quindlen:

The Great Reset

May 5th, 2010

As Michael Lewis explained to us yesterday, there is no question we've just been through the worst economic crises since the great depression. As we begin to recover, we all wonder what will be different? What lessons will we take away? It should be clear by now that enough has changed that we can't solve everything just by regulating Wall Street. We will each have to find ways to reform ourselves and our values to reflect the changing economy, strained resources and a new emphasis on what constitutes real value. All of this is what bestselling author, public intellectual and economic development expert Richard Florida calls The Great Reset. My conversation with Richard Florida:

The Big Short

May 4th, 2010

It was John Adams who said "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." What Adams missed is that facts can be interpreted differently by different people. Bias, fed by money, greed, delusion and even by too much information, can cloud and shape those facts. In many ways that's what happened in the recent collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market and of Wall Street itself.

Twenty one years ago Michael Lewis wrote about the wreckage of Wall Street in his memoir Liar's Poker. Little did he know then that he was writing about the beginning of an era that may now finally be ending. In his new look at Wall Street and the recent financial crisis The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine,he paints a powerful narrative of smart and fearless men, some of whom see things as they are and ask why, and others who never ask why not. My conversation with Michael Lewis:

Climate change and energy..the real deal

May 3rd, 2010

There was time when we looked to and trusted science to provide answers to the most pressing questions facing mankind. Today, science like so much else in America, has become politicized and ignorance has been elevated as a political philosophy. Dr. Burton Richter, a Nobel Prize winning American physicist, who lead the Stanford Linear Accelerator and is one of the leaders of the revolution in particle physics, takes on the huge task of trying to educate us about climate change and energy. His book Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Climate Change and Energy in the 21st Century provides an understandable explanation of the situation, including realistic and actionable approaches to addressing the problems. Sometimes it takes a great mind to give us the simplicity we need to understand complex topics. My conversation with Dr. Burton Richter:

Maid as Muse

May 1st, 2010

Usually we look at how great writers influence our language and culture. Emily Dickenson turned this notion upside down. It was in fact her household staff that influenced her writing and altered her sensibility. Just as cultural diversity shaped Dickenson, as we find more and more cultural and ethnic diversity in our society, it's worth wondering how this multiculturalism will influence contemporary writers? Also, as more technology and and a growing service sector give writers more time to write, what impact will that have? Aife Murray, in her new book Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson's Life and Language gives us stories about 19th century literary and social history that just might have some parallels in the 21st. My conversation with Aife Murray:

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