Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Last Time the CIA Was Unhappy with a President

There are some stories that just won’t ever go away. Mostly because the threads always seem to be unraveling and new information is always arriving. Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination are the most notable contemporary examples

Attorney, author and journalist Mark Shaw has, for years, been looking at the events and people surrounding the JFK Assassination. For him, the story itself, like the layers of an onion, keep getting peeled away, only to reveal another translucent layer.

In his new book The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What's My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen, he brings into bold relief, the story and the investigation of famed journalist and TV personality Dorothy Kilgallen.

My conversation on WhoWhatWhy.org with Mark Shaw:



For more information about getting the Manhattan DA to reopen the investigation into the death of Dorothy Kilgallen, click here.










It Did Happen Here

Fear is a funny thing. In our personal life, it often holds us back from things we know we should do. In our nation's collective life, fear often makes us do crazy things...to have a kind of national emotional and moral breakdown that feeds on the sum total and power of individual fears.

Such has been the case lately in our election and in our discussions of immigrants and our fear of the other, amidst a rapidly changing world.

To better understand where we are, we need only look back to the spring of 1942. A time under FDR, when we rounded up over one-hundred thousand residents of Japanese ancestry, living along the West Coast and sent them to detention centers for the duration of the war. Each lost part of their lives and some would argue that our nation lost a part of its soul.

Richard Cahan captures the sadness of that moment in Un-American: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II: Images by Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and Other Government Photographers.

My conversation with Richard Cahan:




Sunday, January 8, 2017

Jane Jacobs Understood that Cities Have Always Reflected The Best of Us

More and more of us are moving to cities. Look at any demographic map and it’s clear we are becoming a more urban nation. Cities are the vital link in our cultural, social and economic well being. And no one knew more, or understood cities better than Jane Jacobs.

100 years after her birth, her work, her insights and her chronicle of cities is the gold standard by which we judge both the good and bad policy and planning decisions we make.

Robert Kanigel gives Jacobs the biography she has needed, in Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs.

My conversation with Robert Kanigel



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Why Cities Matter...Today More Than Ever

While Rural America may have made its voice heard in our recent election, the numbers show that more and more Americans, as well as citizen around the world, are moving to cities. Look at any demographic map of the US and it’s clear that we are becoming a more urban nation. As such, cities are the vital link in our cultural, social and economic well being.

But they also are, by virtue of their density, laboratories for so many of the larger problems that face the society. Problems of inequality, education, race, class and creative disruption are all playing out in our cities.

Cornell professor William Goldsmith thinks they are also target rich in opportunities. He lays out his ideas in Saving Our Cities: A Progressive Plan to Transform Urban America.

My conversation with William Goldsmith:




Sunday, January 1, 2017

We could use her comedy perspective today!

It would be very easy these days to have contempt for where celebrity culture has taken us. Nonetheless, sometimes celebrities just by virtue of their talent, their fame and their own ambition are able to make change in the world. 

Whether it's making cracks in the glass ceiling, having us look at things we might not have seen or simply modeling a very public life with lessons for us all...celebrities do sometime provide us a window into ourselves.

Such was the case with Joan Rivers. Whether in business, in comedy, or in life she was a trailblazer. And now journalist Leslie Bennetts gives her the biography she deserves in Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Loves, Losses, and Liberation of Joan Rivers

My conversation with Leslie Bennetts:


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why So Many Homeless Families in America?

When we talk about the homeless, especially in our major cities, we imagine those that are visible on the streets and sidewalks. We don’t see the two million plus children who are homeless. The children and families living in cars, or motel rooms, or emergency shelters. They constitute an Invisible Nation: Homeless Families in America

How did this happen in a country and in cities as rich as San Francisco, or New York or Washington? Journalist Richard Schweid takes us deep into the bottom of a homeless economy that should shame us all.

My conversation with Ricahrd Schweid:



Without The Rocket Girls, There Would Be No Hidden Figures

Long before NASA's Hidden Figures in the 1960’s space program, there were the The Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars.

When Sally Ride blasted off as the first American woman into space back in 1983, she may not have know it at the time, but she stood on the shoulders of dozens of woman who, beginning in the 1940's, helped America compete in the space race and the Cold War.

Based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, these woman essentially provided the computational power that made rocketry viable. They shattered not only glass ceilings, but helped free us from what poet John Magee call the “surly bonds of earth.”

Nathalia Holt, trained at Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard, takes us back to a seminal time for woman and America in space.

My conversation with Nathalia Holt:



Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How Parents Must Raise A Generation That Will Save Us

Parenting has gone from something natural to something that has become a job with many specific rules, fears and requirements. In fact it’s both more than than and less than sum total of all those rules.

It should be a partnership with our kids, a kind of collaboration that makes both parent and child stronger. That a large part of the approach of Dr. Ross Greene lays out in Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child. It’s an approach that will be critical as we rely more on future generations to rescue us from our current folly.

My conversation with Dr. Ross Greene:



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Religion, Sin & Identity Politics

Perhaps no modern campaigns has generated as much coverage as the 2016 Presidential election. Wall to Wall and 24/7. Everything has been covered and analyzed..or has it.

Even with the occasional hat tip to the Christian Right of the Republican Party, it seems that religion has certainly not been a tool to add further analyses to this sui generis election. And few would argue that among all the other crisis engendered by the election, that a religious crisis is part of the mix.

However that is exactly one of the conclusions reached by Georgetown University Professor Joshua Mitchell.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Joshua Mitchell:


Monday, December 19, 2016

Spy vs. Spy...Then and Now

Listening to our political discourse today, vis a vis Russia, it brings back powerful reminders of the Cold War. A time when spies and covert action existed in what Le Carre called “a moral twilight.”

And yet when we think about people like Kim Philby or Alger Hiss or Aldrich Ames, is the way that they turned on their country any different than what we are seeing today?

We look at one of these instructive Cold War stories, True Believer: Stalin's Last American Spywith best selling author, and award winning journalist Kati Marton.

My conversation with Kati Marton:



Sunday, December 18, 2016

What We Can Learn from War, Peace and Conquest in the Roman World

In these troubled and uncertain times, it seems that the only thing we can take comfort from is history. Civilizations, empires and nations come and go. But how it happens and why is where we find lessons that may comfort us and maybe save us.

Few periods are as instructive as Pax Romana (Latin for "Roman peace.") It was the long period of relative peacefulness and minimal expansion by the Roman military force after the end of the Final War of the Roman Republic and before the beginning of the Crisis of the Third Century.

This is the story that famed historian Adrian Goldsworthy tells in in Pax Romana: War, Peace and Conquest in the Roman World.  It’s a story particularly instructive today.

My conversation with Adrian Goldsworthy:



Monday, December 12, 2016

Understanding The Forces That Are Shaping the World

Just as the existential question of why individuals succeed and fail, vexes every aspect of both public policy and personal debate, so to with nations. History tells us of the rise and fall of nations. In so doing it gives us clues about economics, demographics, planning and even how the individual drive for success scales up to impact whole nations.

But of course, like everything else, we seek clear and precise metrics to try and make business decisions, geopolitical policy decisions, and simply anticipate the future in order to make a better world.

Ruchir Sharma, the Head of Emerging Markets and Chief Global Strategist at Morgan Stanley, tries to do this in The Rise and Fall of Nations: Forces of Change in the Post-Crisis World.

My conversation with Ruchir Sharma:



Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Nordic Model and Why It Works

Whenever political discussion, particularly on the left, turns to what policies will really work to improve the lives of the middle class, invariably there is talk about the Scandinavian model.

Countries like Norway, Denmark, Iceland Sweden and Finland are constantly in the top tier of education, abundance of jobs, healthcare and a social safety net that is woven in the nation's DNA.

But this was not always so. Many of these countries had to work hard to achieve this and in some cases that did it from polarization as bad, if not worse than the current state of America. George Lakey takes us through this history in Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right-and How We Can, Too.

My conversation with George Lakey:


Monday, December 5, 2016

Democrats are Learning the Wrong Lessons From the False Prophet of Blue Amereica

If you listen to John F. Kennedy campaigning in the West Virginia primary in 1960, it’s amazing how so many of the same issues still haunt us. Then it was the Republicans who didn't seem to understand the plight of Appalachia and of working America.

Democrats, in the person of JFK and later Johnson and Bobby Kennedy, made the personal and policy connection. So what happened? How did their party lose touch with that part of America?

The broad answers are complicated and best left for historians. However, how the Democratic party reconnects is a very contemporary political issues.

Books are flying off the shelf trying to explain flyover country to Democrats. Books like Arlie Hochschild's Strangers in Their Own Land and most notably J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy.

But it’s possible that some of these books, particularly Vance's, teach the wrong lesson. Just like the 1960's, the lesson is not one of promulgating conservative culture and Horatio Alger stories, but of the failure of government to do the right thing.

Sarah Jones, in the most recent issue of the New Republic, deconstructs Vance's arguments.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Sarah Jones:







Friday, December 2, 2016

We'll always have sex?

It seems as if creative destruction and technology are changing everything...even sex.

This may be problematic given the degree to which sex is connected to everything else; marketing, relationships, essentially all forms of human interaction. As Emily Witt says, “we organize our society around the way we define our sexual relationships.”

The inflection point at which all these forces are coming together, is in part what Emily Witt writes about in her new book Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love.  Yet even in that future, as Woody Allen so aptly said..."we all need the eggs."

My conversation with Emily Witt:



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Imagine If Wonder Could Replace Fear

“Children's playthings are not sports and should be deemed their most serious actions," Montaigne wrote.

Freud regarded play as the means by which the child accomplishes his first great cultural and psychological achievements; through play he expresses himself. This is true, Freud thought, even for an infant whose play consists of nothing more than smiling at his mother, as she smiles at him. He noted how much and how well children express their thoughts and feelings through play.

Why then should we assume that we outgrow the value of play? The wonder of seeing the world through joy, rather than fear. Think about all that you’ve read about the creativity of silicon valley...the atmosphere of fun that entrepreneurs try to create.

Today even education is being built around the idea of projects, of teams, of fun and of wonder.

This is the world that best selling author Steven Johnson explores in Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World.

My conversation with Steven Johnson:



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The GOP Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy

I talked to a Democratic member of Congress recently who told me how both Democrats and Republicans were still surprised by the outcome of the recent election. Really? It seems as if Republicans shouldn’t have been that surprised. The predicate of the election, the drawing of congressional districts, the resulting increase in polarization, the control of state houses, state legislatures, and secretaries of state that control the election process and conduct are all areas the GOP has been trying to control and manipulate for years.

They’ve taken the practice of gerrymandering to levels never before seen. As a result, the insular nature of certain districts not only makes for a secure GOP majority in Congress, but it also closes off some of those districts from any kind of real transparency or scrutiny.

Salon editor-in-chief, David Daley, saw this coming. He wrote about it in his recent book, Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy But perhaps even he didn’t see it playing out in quite this way.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with David Daley:



Advertising Today May Be Harder To Find Than The Real Don Draper

Every aspect of our media landscape is changing. As newspapers are having to move online, they have to find new ways to engage an audience. Television is now on demand and personal and has lost its immediacy and its mandate for news and information. The long tail of blogs and specialty news sites reinforces confirmation bias.

All of this creates new problems and challenges not just for content providers, but also for the advertisers that have been the traditional supporters of traditional media.

So what’s an advertiser to do? Of late, the answer has been new efforts like native advertising, content marketing and sponsored advertising. But do these efforts have unintended consequences for the news product itself. That's what Mara Einstein looks at in Black Ops Advertising: Native Ads, Content Marketing and the Covert World of the Digital Sell.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Mara Einstein:






Monday, November 28, 2016

In The Cloud, No One Can Hear You Think

Not a day goes by that you don’t pick up your smartphone to access a piece of information. Every dinner party or get together has the scene where everyone races to their phones to look up a fact or prove a point.

It’s so easy….so easy in fact that we often think, certainly our kids think, that they don’t need a large basic body of knowledge. Why memorize anything when you can just look it up..it’s all there in the cloud...right?

Well it is. But fundamental knowledge does matter. What we know, not what Siri knows, can truly impact and shape the lives we lead, the work we do, the friends we have and really defines our place in the world. We have just witnessed what happens when large groups of people don’t have that basic
knowledge.

This is the reality that William Poundstone examines in Head in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts Are So Easy to Look Up.

My conversation with William Poundstone:



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Can Entrepreneurship Save the World?

A not terribly successful American President was right when he said that “the business of America is business.” In fact, today it would be safer to say that the business of the world is business.

Whether through globalization, or just through the individual entrepreneurship of citizen in the developing world, business is the one force that seems to counter unrest, instability, joblessness, and even extremism.

Wisdom and experience tells us we will not stop extremism in the Middle East, or other violent region, with just guns, drones and military force. But it just may be that fostering entrepreneurship and job creation may be one answer.

Leading this school of thought is former State Department official Steven Koltai.  Koltai is also the author of Peace Through Entrepreneurship: Investing in a Startup Culture for Security and Development.

My conversation with Steven Koltai:



Some of Us Want To Go To Canada...Elon Musk Wants To Go To Mars

Fifty four years ago JFK, at the height of the Cold War, set us on a path to the moon.

Today, absent the Cold War and in a world where a new photo or dating app becomes a billion dollar effort, it’s hard to think in terms of such massive, global and societal undertaking.

Yet one man does. Be it electric cars, solar powering the nation, or going to Mars, Elon Musk thinks differently than everyone else...but he does want all of us to join him in that effort. The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach has written the cover story for National Geographic's special Mars Issue


My conversation with Joel Achenbach:


Friday, November 25, 2016

Why Presidential Appointees Matter

Back in 1992 the mantra of the Bill Clinton campaign was that “it's the economy stupid.” Surprising, since the majority of American campaigns for President have always been about the economy.

However since the 1970’s that economy has been changing dramatically and rapidly. It was only as far back as the Nixon administration that we were still on the gold standard. Things like derivatives didn’t exist. Subprime lending, globalization of money and creative destruction in the economy had not yet set up a paradigm for collapse.

Presiding over so much of this change, watching all of it and dire
cting some of it, was Alan Greenspan.  Towering over the Federal Reserve for 18 years and serving five Presidents, no one knew more about the inner and outer working of the American economy than Greenspan.

Now we get the first full scale economic and person biography of Greenspan in Sebastian Mallaby's The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan.

My conversation with Sebastian Mallaby:



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Using Design Thinking for Life

Look around your home or office, or even your car. Everything there was designed. Albeit not always well. Sometimes with an eye towards function, sometimes looking at form and sometimes with thought into the human interface. Wouldn't it be great if everything was designed with equal parts engineering, aesthetics and a real understand of how human beings will interface with whatever it is?

That methodology, that combination of humanity and art and engineering is what’s now called Design Thinking. It’s an important part of Silicon Valley’s disruption and progress

But imagine if the same concepts could apply not just to computers or to a mouse or a phone, but to your entire life?

In many schools today these idea of Design Thinking are combining with project based curriculum and human centered collaborating and producing the future leaders of the 21st Century.

Two of the leader in all of this are Stanford’s Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. They are the authors of Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.

My conversation with Bill Burnett and Dave Evans:



Thursday, November 17, 2016

Why the Growing Gap Between Business and the Public Hurts Both

Herbert Hoover said that “the business of America is business.” If he were around today, in the age of globalization, he might have referred to the business of the world.

Yet as our current election shows, as the recent Brexit votes showed, the connection between people and business has never been more tattered and frayed.

Globalization itself, disruption, dislocation, the obsession with short term profits and shareholder value, coupled with the free flow of goods and money and jobs around the world, has created a chasm between the world’s businesses and ordinary citizens.

At a time when technology has made it easier for citizens to actually come together and be engaged, business has too often retreated to its C Suites in the hopes that the storm would pass.
But the clouds are getting darker. With more automation and AI, now reaching virtually every sector of work.

With worker and public anger reaching toxic levels, business can no longer hide, it must be, in the words of former BP Chief Executive John Browne, more willing to Connect.

My conversation with Lord John Browne:


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Scenes from a McMarriage

Think about those things that are usually the most personal, the most intimate and complex.

A few of them are what goes on inside a marriage, why and how people give away money (there is a reason many do it anonymously) and the degree to which the business of America is business. These are the elements that make up the story of Ray and Joan Kroc.

A story that is part Edward Albee, part Fortune magazine and part political, in the sense that the personal is indeed political.

Ray Kroc was the driving and force that made McDonald's bloom throughout the world and Joan Kroc was one of our most liberal and generous philanthropists of our times.

An unlikely combination, and an unlikely but compelling story told by Lisa Napoli in Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away.

My conversation with Lisa Napoli: