Friday, December 29, 2017

A Look At What A Real President Was Like

I’m not sure when politics became a dirty word. But there was a time when it was a noble profession. When the best the the brightest sought to serve, and when differences of opinion were about how to better the lives of all people, not just those at the top, or those at the margins, or those in power.

To successfully engage in politics tooks a very special skill set, that was about understanding people and what they wanted, and forming coalitions to compromise and get things done. How far we have fallen from that ideal.

It was Bismarck who said that “politics was the art of the possible.” Few understood this better than the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt. Presidential historian Robert Dallek takes a deep dive into the political Roosevelt, in  Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life

My conversation with Robert Dallek:



Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Our Collective Search for Meaning And What Happens If We Can't Find It

From the time we first enter the world, to the moment we read or listen to the morning news, we are trying to make sense of the world. We are trying to discern patterns, to create a narrative, to fit the puzzle pieces together in ways that make sense. All the while creating the minimum amount of cognitive dissonance, so that we can move forward each day without having a complete nervous breakdown.

And so it is that societies and cultures do exactly the same things as part of a kind of collective effort to finding meaning. Be it in art, as we try to find metaphorical meaning in the equivalent of a grain of sand, or in the worship of religion, money, success or hierarchical achievement. The problem often comes when these patterns we internalize, run headlong into reality.

That’s a part of what I explore with Jeremy Lent as we look at The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity's Search for Meaning.

My conversation with Jeremy Lent:



Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sleep...It's Not Just For Wimps Anymore

Tune in to the news any day, and there is lots to lose sleep over. Not the least of which is the worry that if we are not sleeping correctly, we will age faster, increase our risk of Alzheimer's and be susceptible to a host of other illnesses.

It’s hard to imagine, that with all of the other crisis going on, how much time and conversation gets devoted to the subject of sleep. It must mean that it’s pretty important. At least Matthew Walker thinks so. He is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, the Director of its Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab, and a former professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, and the author of Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.

My conversation with Matthew Walker:



Saturday, December 16, 2017

This Man Could Have Prevented 9/11

Bill Binney was an NSA analyst whose work was so effective it was shut down. It threatened to derail the gravy train fueled by the kinds of problems he might have solved — including preventing potential terrorist attacks. The contractors and executives riding that train had a motto: “keep the problem going, so the money keep flowing.”


My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Bill Binney:




Monday, December 11, 2017

The Joys of Refugees

In our hyper partisan and over politicized culture, we’re always quick and anxious to talk about DACA, Dreamers, immigration, deportation, etc. Too often even the most well meaning stories are often lost in the weeds of policy and politics.

What we often forget, or can’t personally understand, is that all of this is about real people. About kids who are caught up in events they can’t control while getting impressions of how they are accepted or not as refugees. The result will shape how they grow up, what they will always believe about this country.
Even in the best of environment refugee resettlement is hard work. Although as my guest Helen Thorpe show us, in her book The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom, it should be filled with joy.

My conversation with Helen Thorpe:




Thursday, December 7, 2017

Espionage 101: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities

Once upon a time, at the apogee of the cold war, the CIA recruited the best and the brightest from our most elite universities. The likes of George HW Bush, James Jesus Angleton, William Bundy, Porter Goss, and Cord Meyer, all owed their allegiance to God Country and Yale. And Harvard also had its share. These universities were, as someone once referred them, “a nursery of spooks.”

Today, like everything else, espionage has gone through its own creative destruction. Colleges and universities are still at the epicenter of espionage, but it’s all been impacted by globalization, technology, the free flow of international students and professors and information, and yes, 9/11. It’s as if the military industrial-complex that Eisenhower warned us about, is now the military, industrial, intelligence and university complex.

Bringing this all into bold relief is Pulitzer Prize winning author Daniel Golden, in his book Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities.

My conversation with Dan Golden:



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

How Was It Ever Possible To Be Spiritual in Washington, D.C?

There was a time when faith was a very private matter. Of course there was also a time when we didn't live our lives in social media, and in the spotlight of a 24/7 always on culture.

But even as that has changed, faith and how we personally process it, or think about it, still often remains deep inside each of us. As a result we learn, if we live long enough, we come to be understanding and respectful of how people exercise their faith. Just as we do with how they deal with illness or grief, as these are the most personal of endeavors.

So it’s both rare and brave when a public figure choses to share that with us. In so doing it certainly gives us a deeper insight into them, and at its best, it should make us stop and think about ourselves in new and often insightful ways.

That what Sally Quinn has done in her new memoir Finding Magic: A Spiritual Memoir.

My conversation with Sally Quinn: