Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Silicon Valley Origin Story

Every company, especially the ones that go public, or are active within the public consciousness, have their origin story. While sometime apocryphal, they capture the essence of both the founders and their mission.

So it is with Silicon Valley itself. It’s only fair that the ground zero of the 21st century economy, should have it’s own origin story. One made up of the both the individual and collective energies of many smart, sometime eccentric, often driven, and always forward facing individuals.

What was it in the Silicon Valley water in the 70’s and 80’s, that gave birth to the world we take for granted today? Perhaps equally important, is that water still there, or was it just the product of that perfect time and place?

Silicon Valley historian Leslie Berlin has spent years looking at all of this, and she details it in Troublemakers: Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age.

My conversation with Leslie Berlin:

The Impossible Presidency

Think about the job of the modern day corporate CEO. He or she has a board and often difficult shareholders to answer to. Usually his or her company is global, with far flung interests and operations. The company has thousands of needy employees. And all of it exists in a swirl of 24/7, always on communications; in multiple time zones with always changing tastes, values and economic conditions. Sounds difficult right?

Now imagine those same issues on steroids. Multiply by ten or even a hundredfold and you just begin to understand the modern Presidency of the United States.

While the current occupant may find endless time to watch Fox news, tweet, and play golf. The reality is that the modern president...particularly since Roosevelt, has become an office almost beyond the functional or intellectual capacity of any one human being.

The speed, the creative destruction, the siloed and specific constituencies, 24/7 media, are just the beginning. After all, those are the things we are all dealing with. All of those things times 325 million plus the world, is the equation of modern and in fact impossible presidency. It's all described by Jeremi Suri in The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America's Highest Office

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Dance and Creative Rebirth

In her work and in her the recent documentary about her life, Joan Didion told us that “we tell stories in order to live.” But sometimes those stories and the creative energy around them, expresses itself in other ways, in order for some to live.

Sometimes, for a painter, a dancer, or a musician, it is their method of expression, their artform that gives them air and lift. So what happens then when that special skill grows cold, or is silenced by external events, like an injury? How does life go on? How can a lifetime pursuit of a special artistic expression be reassessed, or called into question, or even relearned? It may be the ultimate experience of creative rebirth.

That’s part of the story that David Hallberg tells, in his memoir A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back

My conversation with David Hallberg:

Monday, November 13, 2017

Chris Matthews on Bobby Kennedy

Forty nine years ago, on June 5th 1968, the world shifted on its axis. The assassination of Bobby Kennedy, after his victory in the California primary, changed politics forever. It’s might not be too far fetched to say th
at had Bobby survived, our politics and our country might look very different today.

Sydney Schanberg, the great reporter, once told me in an interview that he thought Vietnam and the 60’s represented the end of consensus politics in America.

Since that time we have been searching for the politician or the leader that could bridge that divide. The irony has been that in a time of polarity, it’s been impossible for that leader to emerge. So we look back to what might have been. And when we do, the image, the mythology and the reality of Bobby Kennedy rises as an apparition from the body politic.

Why? What was it about Bobby that made us think he was different?

This is where Chris Matthews takes us in Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit.

My conversation with Chris Matthews:

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Are Fraternities The Breeding Grounds for Elite Sexual Predators?

With the exception of the threat of nuclear war in North Korea, and the continuing failures and investigation of the current administration, no subject has received more attention lately than the subject of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Much of it conducted by men who are some of our most elite cultural, political and business leaders. Everyday new revelations and new perpetrators are exposed.

It begs the question as to where and how all of this begins? Is it something in the water in Hollywood or Wall Street, or Madison Avenue? Or is it something that begins sooner...perhaps in the fraternities of some of our most prestigious universities? Is the Greek system of fraternities becoming a kind of Harvey Weinstein University?

John Hechinger, a senior editor at Bloomberg News takes a look at this in True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities.

My conversation with John Hechinger:

Monday, November 6, 2017

How a Failed President Still Defined Public Service

It may be that we are as politically divided as a nation as we have even been, and that events are spinning wildly out of control. Yet history tells us that other times have been equally fraught with peril. The period that encompass both World Wars and the Great Depression was certainly filled with existential dread.

During that period one character, Herbert Hoover, played a major role and defined what it meant to be a public servant. The irony is that his failed one term Presidency, and the man himself, may have had a more lasting influence than Presidents who served much longer and appeared to be much more successful.

This real story of Herbert Hoover is told by Kenneth Whyte in Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times.

My conversation with Kenneth Whyte:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

It Is The Economy

Nowhere in the real story of Watergate did anyone really say, “follow the money.” And yet that phrase has resonated for decades in the the American psyche.

Perhaps the reason is, that the concept itself is in the very DNA of America. It really is, as the campaign slogan said, the economy stupid.

Today, when the very fabric of our republic is being stretched as never before, it allows us to examine what it is that really makes us unique among nations. We’re not the only democracy, we're not the only bastion of liberty and human rights, and the idea of American exceptionalism is discredited daily. So what matters, why do people still want to come here, as they have for centuries?

Bhu Srinivasan argues in his book Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism,
that there is something. A special sauce, mixing the right balance of capitalism and democracy. It makes us wonder to what degree our founders understood this…It’s also clear that in that original battle between agrarianism and mercantilism, it’s pretty clear who won.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Today's Real Lesson of the JFK Assination

It may not be as smooth as anticipated, but the final tranche of documents related to the JFK assassination 54 years ago, will soon be released. Hundreds of thousands of pages will make their way to the public.

This event marks not only the effort to answer questions about the assassination itself, but equally about America...then and now. When fakes news out of the White House is a daily occurrence, when alternative facts is a real thing, do we still care about getting to the truth?

And if we can get closer to it, as esteemed author and journalist David Talbot has repeatedly tried to do, what will it tell us about America’s security apparatus and deep state then, and what relationship might it have to the same components of military, security complex today.

My conversation with David Talbot: