Hong Kong on the Brink

February 26th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-02-26%2Bat%2B9.21.3Trade Wars, intellectual property, public health, the global economy and democracy vs. authoritarianism. All are major parts of our public dialogues and all pertain to the state of China today. No other nation on the planet presents such an enormous footprint of the future. Perhaps even more so than the US.

That’s why the protests and events of the past year or so in Hong Kong are so important. Not just to the people of Hong Kong, but as a symbol of the face that China decides it’s comfortable putting forth to the world.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine brings this into the focus in his new book Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink.

My conversation with Jeffrey Wasserstrom

You Say You Want A Revolution

February 24th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-02-24%2Bat%2B9.52.4We look at our political and cultural divide today and think that it can’t get much worse. What we forget is that it has been worse. Not just when policy matters were settled by a duel or literally pitted brother against brother, but even in the 1960s and 1970s  when students where shot at Kent State. Law enforcement was murdered in politically motivated robberies, and even the bombing of the US Capitol was part of our contemporary political history and division.

A powerful example of this period is a group of left wing women fresh from their time in the Weather Underground. They got together in the early 1980s in the first blush of the Reagan years to become essentially domestic terrorists bent on opposing the political, corporate, and government ideologies of the time.

William Rosenau, takes us back to that time in his recent book Tonight We Bombed the U.S. Capitol: The Explosive Story of M19, America's First Female Terrorist Group.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with William Rosenau:

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Nicholas Kristoff & Sheryl WuDunn: Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope

February 13th, 2020

Screen%2BShot%2B2020-02-13%2Bat%2B1.53.4Back in 1962, sociologist and political activist Michael Harrington published a book entitled The Other America. In it, he argued that a full twenty-five percent of Americans were living in poverty. The book had a profound impact on both Jack and Bobby Kennedy and some said it was responsible for Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Forty-one years later in 2003, John Edwards spoke of “two Americas.” A nation divided by race, and by poverty.

And today, a full 58 years after Harrington’s look at poverty, the homeless crises is worse than ever, the streets of cities, large and small, are living evidence. The opiate and drug crises have hollowed out a large part of the country and the latest proposed federal budget reaches new heights in cutting social safety net programs.

It’s hard to think there is hope...for the country or for those left behind.

This is the world that Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn look at though a very personal lens in their book Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope.

My conversation with Nicholas Kristoff & Sheryl WuDunn: 

Can We Distance Ourselves From the Sins of Our Parents? A Conversation with the Daughter of George Wallace

February 11th, 2020

RCJBJXW5JZASRL5JVR5EYEI544.jpgIt’s hard to make the point in our 24/7 information-saturated culture, but all of us, politicians included, are a lot more than the worst or even the best thing that we have ever done.

Couple that with the fact that times change so quickly, values change, norms change and what might have been acceptable in 1962 certainly would get you fired today. This is perhaps most true with respect to the subject of race, the singular stain of our founders that we have worked 240 + years to try and redress.

The story of race is a long complicated one and former Alabama Governor George Wallace was a part of it. Today, his daughter Peggy Wallace Kennedy tries to put her fathers life in perspective. People like the great John Lewis and Congresswoman Barbara Lee have lent their hands to help her in that effort. All while our current president tries to rekindle the hatred she has worked hard to try and extinguish.

Peggy Wallace Kennedy talks to me about her memoir The Broken Road: George Wallace and a Daughter’s Journey to Reconciliation and about her recollection of her father.

My conversation with Peggy Wallace Kennedy: 

If You Spend Hours Watching Cable News, You Are Just A Political Hobbyist

February 5th, 2020

politics-is-for-power-9781982116781_lg.jPartly as a result of 24/7 cable news and its unending political coverage, politics today is simply another form of entertainment. A spectator sport at best.

We know the names of all the players. Nate silver homogenizes sports and election statistics as if we all had political bookies. We’re angry and we want purity tests for our candidates.

What we’ve lost sight of in all of this is what politics is actually for. It is, at its core, only about the wielding of power to accomplish something. Success comes not from shouting, or self-righteousness, or the sanctity of one’s views, but from the ability to muster the requisite number of votes.

This is true whether it’s about pre-existing conditions and guns or about filling a pothole or paving a road in your community.

Political science professor Eitan Hersh explains this in Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change.

My conversation with Eitan Hersh: