Why aren’t we having this conversation about Medicare and Healthcare?

October 30th, 2016

complex-medicare.jpgMedicare has often been referred to as the third rail of American politics. Because it has become so woven into the fabric of American life, so necessary and vital for seniors, , both politicians and those that have legitimate interest in improving public policy, are afraid to touch it.  It’s as if the admonition to "do no harm" is first and foremost about medicare.

Yet it is a program that at fifty-one, is showing signs of old age.  It’s solvency in question, its operational model, post ACA, is in question and its relevance within the context of 21st century medicine and medical practice is in need of reassessment. 

My conversation with Dr. Andy Lazris: 

What Can History Teach Us About Our Current Political Climate

October 28th, 2016
jz1.jpgHow many times have we heard that this election is like no other? That this is an extinction level event, threatening the very fabric of the republic.   And yet history tells us that we’ve survived far worse.  Be it the civil war, McCarthyism, violent labor strife at the turn of the last century,  political assassination and of course, the chaos of the 1960’s

To try and put all of this in context, in the home stretch of this political season, I spoke with Julian Zelizer. He is a Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton and the author, most recently of The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society.

My conversation with Professor Julian Zelizer: 

The Desert and the Cities Sing

October 28th, 2016

Looking at the broad sweep of history and change in the 20th and 21st 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 complex, historic and creative endeavors of our time.

But how did it all get this way and what can the world learn from all the good that’s come out of Israel?  How did the desire for a homeland, a base for the Jewish diaspora, become so complex and lead to a statistically improbable amount of business and artistic success. And perhaps most importantly, can all of this power through the burdens of history.

Nowhere is this shown in a more dramatic and beautiful fashion than in the work of Lin Arison, Diana Stoll and Neil Folberg in  The Desert and the Cities Sing: Discovering Today's Israel: A Treasure Box.

My conversation with Lin Arison and Diana Stoll:

Inequality….the great American Divide

October 25th, 2016
Chuck-Born-on-Third-Base.jpgMore than race and more than gender, class and wealth are the great divide in America today.  There was a time when those with wealth represented a kind of noblesse oblige.  They had sense of obligation to the larger society that had allowed them the opportunity to succeed.

Today something is different. Something that goes far beyond reaction to the "greed is good" utterances of Gordon Gekko. There is, at the heart of today's class divide, an anger at the wealth pooling at the very top. It’s fueled further by the complexity of our economic systems, the power of money to shape policy, the rural/urban divide and role of education for successful jobs.

So how did we get here and what can we really do about it. Understanding this has been the life's work of Chuck Collins. He bring in his own personal experience in his new book Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good

My conversation with Chuck Collins: 

A Contrarian View of Inequality

October 24th, 2016
upside-inequality-edward-conard-book-perIf there is a central political principle that organizes what little policy debate there is in this election it seems to be centered around the idea of “income inequality.” From the embrace of Bernie Sanders by millennials, to boomers and traditional Democrats embracing of Clinton, right on through the angry, populist rage that makes up the core of the Trump supporters.

So if this is the core idea embedded deep in the national psyche and we agree in a modern sense that crowdsourcing matters, then how could it be wrong?

Bain Capital co-founder and former Mitt Romney adviser Edward Conard thinks it’s all wrong.  He argues that it’s the one-percent that’s keeping our economy moving forward.  In his book   The Upside of Inequality: How Good Intentions Undermine the Middle Class, he makes the case that it’s not a zero sum game and that the the success of the one-percent is not what’s holding back the economic growth of the middle class.

My conversation with Ed Conard:

Are the Mexican Drug Wars a Kind of Disneyland for Teenage Boys?

October 17th, 2016
collage-2016-09-04-3.jpgPart mythology and part the result of the current Presidential campaign, we have this image of the US/Mexican border as divided territory.  We hear folks talking about it as if at one time north was north and south was south and never the twain would meet.

The truth is that this has never been the case.  The border has almost always been a porous membrane through which people, drugs, money, and crime could easily pass.  

The border is the kind of place that for poor teenage boys, was a kind of Disneyland. This is the world that Dan Slater takes us to in  Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico's Most Dangerous Drug Cartel.
My conversation with Dan Slater: 

Greil Marcus explains Bob Dylan

October 14th, 2016
<a href="https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-zeYeB--NqcI/WAEE4jY1OoI/AAAAAAAAHOo/Dh6TFNNF2rIiniGjSlTHRrM_R1gSCo-0gCLcB/s1600/OB-KT189_dylan_DV_20101105154644.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" height="320" src="https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-zeYeB--NqcI/WAEE4jY1OoI/AAAAAAAAHOo/Dh6TFNNF2rIiniGjSlTHRrM_R1gSCo-0gCLcB/s320/OB-KT189_dylan_DV_20101105154644.jpg" width="212" /></a>For any music to be successful, there must be that special bond between performer and listener. Perhaps nowhere has that bond been stronger then in the unique relationship between Bob Dylan and music critic extraordinaire Greil Marcus.

Marcus explasins how for over forty years Dylan has drawn upon and reinvented the landscape of traditional American music, its myths, heroes and villains. Throughout all of it, Greil Marcus has been there to be our ears, to be a unique listener of an unparalleled singer and now Nobel Prize winner

Marcus' forty years of writing on Dylan has been compiled into a new volume. Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968-2010.

To really understand Dylan, listen to my conversation with Greil Marcus from 2010

How Nice This Would Be Today!

October 13th, 2016
Back in 1960, in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, the world took note of the decadence of life in the Italian capital of Rome. Inspired by two major political/sex scandals of the era, the film, which would win the 1960 Palme d'or in Cannes, depicted a Rome that was ultra sophisticated, ultra modern, ultra decadent and ultra cool.

This was a sensual world that was a far cry from the overt decadence and sexuality of America today. How have the tables switched so dramatically and what does it say about the state of love, sex and popular culture in the 21st century. And for those of us that weren’t there, what did we miss in this magical time and place.

Shawn Levy takes us there in Dolce Vita Confidential: 
Fellini, Loren, Pucci, Paparazzi, and the Swinging High Life of 1950s Rome.

My conversation with Shawn Levy:

Why Presidential Staff Matter

October 12th, 2016
160827-smith-lehand-ap.jpgBecause we are in the midst of a heated presidential campaign, we know that much coverage goes to the people around the candidate.  We want to know who will be the advisors. Who gets to whisper in the ear of the President and who might have the last word before important decisions are made.

During the Presidency of FDR, one of the most influential of those closest to the President was Missy LeHand. A little known or understood figure, who functioned as FDR’s de facto Chief of Staff.

While Eleanor Roosevelt was often referred to as the President's legs, LeHand was was his right hand.  Giving us the first full scale biography of this important historical figure is Kathryn Smith in The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency.

My conversation with Kathryn Smith:

When Good People Get Caught Up in Racial Cleansing

October 4th, 2016
patrickphillips800.jpgIt is the original sin of America.  240 years later the issue of race still animates a significant portion of political and social discourse in this country.

A nation founded on the idea of all men being created equal, has at its corresponding co-founding principle slavery, racial violence and inequality.

The symbols, even today, are everywhere; Birmingham, Selma, Ferguson and even Los Angeles. They’ve all become whistle stops on the road to more violence and inequality.  Add to this Forsyth County Georgia in 1912.  

This is where Guggenheim and NEA Fellow Patrick Phillips takes us in his Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America.

My conversation with Patrick Phillips:  

Why Acceleration Equals Anger

October 3rd, 2016
9781632864550.jpgWe throw around a lot of words and ideas about technology, about disruption, about progress and about the impact of technology in speeding up our lives. 

The  fact is the speed up is more than just technology. As we move to cities at increasing rates, as the workplace demands greater productivity, as global competition abounds, the pressures to speed up are everywhere.

But how fast is fast?  How fast exceeds our evolutionary and biological ability to cope? And what happens to the the anger of those left behind in the cloud of dust from creative destruction.

These are just a few of the issues taken up by Robert Colvile in The Great Acceleration: How the World is Getting Faster, Faster.
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