Is This The End of Shopping?

January 30th, 2019

darkmall2.jpgAll over the world, as populism surges, as creative destruction makes economic change inevitable, the focus on manufacturing and manufacturing jobs is often front and center. Maybe it’s the old romantic of a nation of big shoulders; the factories and machines spinning noisily, providing well-paying jobs.

But the fact is that far more jobs, almost 30 million, exist in the retail sector in the US, and those jobs are in far greater jeopardy than anything in manufacturing.

We see it all around us on empty main streets and in malls. It’s easy and somewhat lazy to blame it all on Amazon, and the internet. The causes go far deeper. Our entire relationship to shopping, to the acquisition of things, and to brands is changing. And millennials are leading the way.

As both millennials and aging, empty nest boomers move to cities, there simply isn't as much space to store all the stuff that we used to buy. Why else has Marie Kondo become an international icon?

So if retail is to survive, a lot has to change according to Mark Pilkington in his book Retail Therapy: Why the Retail Industry is Broken – and What Can Be Done to Fix It.

My conversation with Mark Pilkington:

Black Feminist Politics

January 29th, 2019

Screen%2BShot%2B2018-12-26%2Bat%2B10.53.The Blue Wave of the recent election would not have been possible without black women voters. The election of Doug Jones in Alabama would not have been possible without the turnout of black women.

The recent focus on Stacy Abrams, Kamala Harris, Maxine Waters, Oprah, and even Michelle Obama speak to the fact that Democratic and progressive politics today, as well as our cultural politics, is being defined and even redefined by black feminist politics.

When we look back at the history of black women and racial progress, women like Ida B. Wells, Fanny Lou Hammer, and even Rosa Parks, all of this should be no surprise. Today, coupled with the Me Too movement and the resistance to Trump,  this has the makings a lasting, permanent and far-reaching a change in our politics.

Few understand this better, both historically and contemporaneously than Professor Duchess Harris, the author of Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Trump.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Duchess Harris:

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The Wives of the Vietnam Era: What We Learned and What’s Different Today

January 21st, 2019

81jjdBh5FdL.jpgThe poet John Milton writing in the 17th century got it right when he said that “They also serve who only stand and wait.” No better description could be written to capture the essence of military families.

Today, as a nation, we have acknowledged that service. We have some, but still not enough understanding and services for those waiting at home. But back during the Vietnam war, when those serving did not represent a true cross-section of America, when the opportunities, especially for the wives back home were very limited, the price our soldiers, and we as a nation paid for that was high.

As we struggle to serve the soldiers and veterans of today's Iraq and Afghanistan era, it’s a history we best heed. A history captured eloquently and powerfully by Andrew Wiest in Charlie Company's Journey Home: The Forgotten Impact on the Wives of Vietnam Veterans.

My conversation with Andrew Wiest:

Housing, Housing, Housing

January 17th, 2019

event-image-randy-shaw-2.jpgOver the past two decades, we’ve seen a modern great migration as more and more Americans move from suburban and rural America to cities. This trend cuts across all demographic groups but has been especially true for millennials and aging boomers.

As a result, our great cities have experienced skyrocketing rents, displacement of the poor, gentrification and protracted conflict between NIMBY homeowners, landlords, and renters

What was once a local debate has become a national story. How it plays out, is a kind of petri dish of our collectives values and how we see our communities in this first quarter of the 21st century.

Randy Shaw, a longtime housing activist in San Francisco, has lived these issues. Now he delivers a broad view in Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America.

My conversation with Randy Shaw:

Disruption, Terrorism, Climate Change…Just Some of the Risk Today’s Corporations Face

January 15th, 2019

DqSQVirXcAQuIvE.jpgEvery day we talk about disruption as if it's mostly positive within the business and consumer environment. But for companies today, both large and small, an array of challenges and potentially disruptive events can have a real negative impact on the company, its earnings, its employees and its customers.

Corporate executives today realize that the degree to which they can anticipate and prepare for that disruption will have a deep impact on how it all turns out on the other end. What's more, many of the approaches and techniques that today's companies can and should adhere to just might be applicable to the chaotic lives of all of us.

Studying this for years is Wharton professor Howard Kunreuther.  He's the James G Dinan Professor of Decision Science and Public Policy and co-director of the Center for Risk Management and Decision Processes at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and he’s the co-author of Mastering Catastrophic Risk: How Companies Are Coping with Disruption.

My conversation with Howard Kunreuther: 

The Pentagon’s $21 Trillion Con Game

January 9th, 2019

image1-23-700x470.jpgSome of you may recall a few weeks ago, newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made a splash, talking about $21 trillion in misappropriated Pentagon money, which she claimed was enough to take care of Medicare for all. She based her conclusions on the misreading of an article in the Nation by investigative reporter, Dave Lindorff.

It’s too bad, because her misreading took the focus away from what the story did say about the Defense Department’s shady and possibly unconstitutional budgeting practices and the massive amount of fraud that has now been uncovered. What the story did detail is how the Pentagon badly failed its audit that it has resisted for decades, and that $21 trillion of financial transactions on both sides of the ledger between 1998 and 2015 could not be accounted for.  This is the story that award-winning investigative reporter Dave Lindorff writes in"The Pentagon's Massive Accounting Fraud Exposed," in a recent issue of The Nation.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Dave Lindorff:

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San Francisco, Silicon Valley and the Future of Cities

January 5th, 2019

Screen%2BShot%2B2019-01-05%2Bat%2B10.50.Social, cultural and technological change is all around us. We live in an era of upheaval, not unlike the movement from an agrarian to a manufacturing economy that took place 100+ years ago. At the time, many thought it was, to borrow a phrase, the end of history. Many spoke about the evils of cities. They thought that leaving the farm was anti-American, that it went against the Jeffersonian ideal of America.

It produced anger, sometimes violence, labor strife, and in the end a whole new economy that some long for today. The current shift that is far from done. As AI, crypto, virtual reality and whole new ways of looking at the world change the landscape of just about everything.

Arguably ground zero for this remarkable change is San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. Ground zero in a time of monumental change is never an easy or safe place to be. And certainly, it is having its impact on a City that once saw itself first as a bastion of manners and old wealth and then as the center of progressive cultural revolution. Today, it’s the center of another kind of inevitable and inexorable revolution that Cary McClelland details in Silicon City: San Francisco in the Long Shadow of the Valley.

My conversation with Cary McClelland: