Friday, February 16, 2018

TRUTH DECAY: The Diminishing Role of Facts in Public Life

Amidst the cacophony of 24/7 news and information that pours in at us every day, we seem to have lost sight of what constitutes truth, facts and actual information. The signal to noise ratio has shifted overwhelming towards noise.

Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that we got our information from local papers and three television networks. The original Cronkite nightly news was only 15 minutes long. It was a big and controversial deal when it was expanded to a full half hour.

In many ways it feels like we are in a chicken and egg cycle. Technology has helped provide us with endless sources of “information,” and we are also more polarized than ever. Is it the abundance of options that creates the polarization, or is it the polarization that cause us to see or hear only information to support our cognitive bias? All of this is part of what a recent report by the RAND calls Truth Decay

RAND recently released a 300+ page report on the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life. I recently spoke with one of the authors of that report Jennifer Kavanaugh.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Jennifer Kavanaugh:




Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Because Capitalism Works

Think about what we value today. What we give rewards for as a society? Now imagine, if you can, a business tycoon who is modest and filled with generosity. Who could gamble a million dollars on one roll of the dice, but whose story is a true Horatio Alger, rags to riches story. A man whose word is his bond. Who eschews self promotion, yet operated in Las Vegas and Hollywood. A man who saw the importance ot the larger world, and helping others in it, while still appreciating all that is American. A man who knew how to fly, but never flew too close to the sun

This is, in part, the story of Kirk Kerkorian. It's a story told by William Rempel, in The Gambler: How Penniless Dropout Kirk Kerkorian Became the Greatest Deal Maker in Capitalist History.

My conversation with William Rempel:



Friday, February 9, 2018

The Internet Needs To Grow Up: A Conversation with Andrew Keen


At the time of the invention of writing, Socrates worried that it would destroy memory, and undermine the oral tradition. The invention of the printing press worried many. For those old enough you remember, the fear of television was once pervasive. It was the “boob tube,” “the vast wasteland.” We fragmented over other great changes, including the great migration and the move from a rural agrarian culture to an urban industrial revolution.

All of these changes came with great promise and predictive as well as unintended consequences. Why should we think that the Internet, that the digital revolution, would be any different? As someone once said, “history may repeat itself exactly, but it certainly rhymes.”

Andrew Keen has, with an objective eye, been following this history since the dawn of the information age. He wrote about the democratization of information in his book THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR, and he warned us how social media would, rather than brings us together, fragment us and feed into our narcissism.

Now in HOW TO FIX THE FUTURE, he pulls together all of the consequences of tech. He shows us what Joan Didion once said of Southern California, is true of tech, that the dream was teaching the dreamers how to live.

My WhoWhatWhy Conversation with Andrew Keen




Thursday, February 8, 2018

Deutsche Bank: Where The Dots Of Russiagate Connect

If you’re following or trying to follow the Trump-Russia story, no doubt your head is filled with dozens of threads: the Trump Tower meetings; the dossier; the names of countless Russians, mobsters, and oligarchs, and bankers; banks in Germany, in Moscow, Cyprus, and Moldavia; money laundering; real estate deals; hedge funds; indictments; bankruptcies; and a cast of characters orbiting Trump that feels more like the bar scene in the original Star Wars.

How is it possible then to understand it all? Especially if, as Steve Bannon told Michael Wolff, it’s all about following the money. We could all imagine some kind of huge whiteboard or bulletin board in Mueller’s office with arrows, and pictures, and bank logos, and lines, and threads connecting them all together.

WhoWhatWhy.org has published a multi-part series entitled Deutsche Bank: A Global Bank for Oligarchs — Americans and Russians by Martin Sheil, a retired branch chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division.  His WhoWhatWhy series could easily be seen as part of a preamble or executive summary to the report that Mueller may ultimately deliver to Congress.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Martin Sheil:






Monday, February 5, 2018

A Model For The Power of Local Agriculture

It’s ironic that at a time when our air, water and food are under siege, more people than ever seem to care about the protection of all three. Organic grocery sales have never been higher and local agriculture is undergoing a kind of millennial renaissance.

Nonetheless, for best practices, we have to turn our gaze to a small town in the Italian alps. It is the first place on earth to fully ban pesticides via referendum, and it represents what may very well be the future of local agriculture everywhere.

Philip Ackerman-Leist tells this story in A Precautionary Tale: How One Small Town Banned Pesticides, Preserved Its Food Heritage, and Inspired a Movement.

My conversation with Philip Ackerman-Leist: