Thursday, May 25, 2017

Another False Aspect of the Roger Ailes Mythology

Last week, upon the death of Fox News founder Roger Ailes, tens of thousands of words were written about the impact that Ailes and Fox had on our politics. Much of it talked about giving voice to a particular kind of conservatism. To understanding the resentment and anger in the country, to mining the populism that has now emerged full blown. Journalists, pundits, professors and consultants all chimed in.

The problem is that very little of it is true. Sure Ailes understood television and politics. but at core what he did was to take the world of talk radio, combined it with a bit of blondification and transferred it to television.

To put it bluntly he simply exploited the rise and power of conservative talk radio. The Economist said many months ago that, “to understand the Republican politics, get in a car, turn on the radio and drive.”

Talk radio, is far more than the viewers that watch even the top rated Fox News shows each night. It's the lens through which millions and millions of it’s hard core listeners view the world.

No one understands this better than the go-to-guy for talk radio, the founder, editor and publisher of Talkers and, Michael Harrison:

My conversation with Michael Harrison:

Why Is American Health Care So Sick?

We’ve all heard the old adage that what can be done, can be undone. Well maybe we need to try that with our healthcare system.

In just fifty years we’ve gone from an affordable and human based system, to one that people hate at every level. They may like their individual doctors, but they generally hate the system.

Of course there has been change and disruptions everywhere in our society. But most of it has been to make our lives easier, better, more efficient and in many cases, to lower costs.

In healthcare, it’s become less efficient, costlier, less human centric, and the net result has not been to dramatically increase care or life expectancy. Instead it's enriched those at the top of the system while at the same time, being out of step with every system, in every other western nation. This is American exceptionalism of the very worst kind.

So how did we get here and is that knowledge useful in trying to fix it. Those are the issues that Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal takes up in An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back.

My conversation with Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Previous Golden Age of Journalsm

It’s hard to believe today, but there was time when magazines were an important source of news and images and information. LIFE and Time sat at the top of that pantheon of those once great publications.

Arguably, everything that has come after, from television to Instagram, is but a modern reflection of the predicate that Time and LIFE laid down.

Gerald Moore was a part of LIFE at a time when it helped shape the American experience. It was not only a reflection of it, but the decisions of reporters, photographers and editors at LIFE could shape the nation in new and dramatic ways.

Now Gerald Moore shares his experiences in his book, just out in paperback, LIFE Story: The Education of an American Journalist.

My conversation with Gerald Moore:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"There Are No Nations, Only Corporations"

Back in 2010, with the Citizens United decision, we thought we were witnessing a new dominance of corporations and corporate power. But in fact even before Citizens United, there were powerful corporate currents in the body politics.

Forty years ago you might remember Ned Beatty’s brilliant speech to Peter Finch/Howard Beale, about corporate power, in Paddy Chayefsky's brilliant NETWORK.

Today, add to this, the way that this unlimited corporate money is being used in statehouses, globalization, technology, AI, and the power of lobbying, and it’s a pretty powerful stew.

Gordon Lafer takes us inside this world in The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time.

My conversation with Gordon Lafer:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How N.Y.'s Fiscal Crises of the '70s Has Shaped So Much Of Our Politics Today

Many of you may remember that back in the mid 70’s, the City of New York had fallen into a kind dystopian horror...crime and graffiti were rampant, social services and infrastructure were decayed and expectations of public services had come to be taken for granted.  It was more reminiscent of Batman’s Gotham than the shining city it is today.

Even as Gerald Ford told New York to “drop dead,” in October of 1975, the seeds were being planted for New York's gentrification. As Disney rose like the phoenix from Times Square, it was the early symbol that would ultimately and symbolically show the triumph of private enterprise shaping public good and public spaces.

In so doing, it set the stage for what would become the next forty years of American urban policy. The economic policies of the Reagan administration would come just a few years after New York's nadir, and would personify this new approach.  One that is still driving public policy today, and which in many ways has shaped some of the fundamental divides of class, wealth and power in this country.

Going back to ground zero in this battle is Kim Phillips Fein in her new book Fear City: New York's Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics.

My conversation with Kim Phillips-Fein:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Criminal Justice Reform and Crime in Black Communities

In spite of everything that Jeff Sessions is doing to stand in the way, reform of our criminal justice system is perhaps one of the most important issues of our time. It’s even one that sometimes gets bipartisan support. But reform is of very little value without a real understanding of how we got here and how the current system has ruined so many lives.

How did our policies, with respect to policing in black neighborhoods, evolve since the high crimes periods of the mid 70’s and 80’s? What role did public policy play, and what role did community demands and expectations play? How has the war on drugs played a part in this, and what is the real nexus with the civil rights movement of the 60’s?

Unless we understand this history we are not only condemned to repeat it, but we can never begin to address it.

Yale Law Professor James Forman, Jr. gives us one of the sharpest, most cleared and honest analysis of these issues in his new book Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

My conversation with James Forman, Jr.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Gatekeepers: Why the White House Chief of Staff Matters

I think that we can stipulate that experience and competence matters in most things. And while you may not like all of their decisions or products, we wouldn’t want a neophyte to run Goldman Sachs, or General Motors, or Boeing or Apple,

Yet in many cases that's exactly what we’ve done with the entirety of the executive branch of the US government. And no, I don't mean the men who have been elected President. But rather the White House Chiefs of Staff.  Traditionally their
job has been to focus the President, to execute policy, to engage in Washington diplomacy and to deal with both the minutia of who uses the White House tennis courts, and at the same time have a 30,000 foot view of how America is governed.

In the modern era there have been 17 White House Chiefs of Staff, and all of them participated in a new book The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency, by esteemed journalist and documentary filmmaker Chris Whipple.

My conversation with Chris Whipple:

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Rise of A Woman In Hollywood

There was a time, not that long ago, in a galaxy not that far away, when Hollywood made movies that were both entertaining and substantive. You know, the kind we see now on Netflix, or Amazon, or HBO or Showtime.

They were movies like Fatal Attraction, Forrest Gump and Braveheart,

It was a time even when a woman would rise to the top of the Hollywood hierarchy even at 20th Century Fox…. in the pre Murdoch era.

So much of this history is embodied in the story that Stephen Galloway tells in his new biography of Hollywood executive and producer Sherry Lansing.

Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker is first a story about Hollywood. But it’s also a human story, about the confluence of who we really are, and what we choose to do with our lives.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Political Malfeasance Is Not Yet A Crime

We are reminded every day of that old political adage that elections have consequences. What we forget sometimes is the predicate of that statement. That campaigns have consequences.

In part it’s why we are alway so fascinated by campaigns, and why some of our seminal political texts have been written about campaigns and campaigning. These books are the ultimate political version of “How Things Work.”

In this unrivaled political campaign season, first out of the gate is Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign, by reporters Jonathan Allen and Amy Parnes.

My conversation with Jonathan Allen & Amy Parnes: