Monday, March 11, 2019

Facebook and Zuckerberg Not Only Screwed Up Reality..They Even Screwed Up Virtual Reality: The Story of Palmer Luckey and Oculus

When we talk about the broad swath of technology and its progenitors in Silicon Valley rarely are we talking about great breakthroughs. A new app for dating or dog walking, the one-hundredth messaging app or new forms of enterprise collaboration are hardly the stuff of Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates or Mitch Kapor or Robert Noyce or Bill Hewlett.

But every once in a while there is a new new thing that really matters. Like the PC or the smartphone or Microsoft Word and Excell.

For years, many thought something called Virtual Reality might be that thing. What was not know is that it would take a 19-year-old dreamer, one of odder character in a world that celebrates oddness, to make it a reality. The fact that Mark Zuckerberg the man that the European Union just called a “technology gangster,” would co-opt it and screw it up, only adds to an important chapter of legends of Silicon Valley.

Like other legends, this one is told by Blake Harris in The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality

My conversation with Blake Harris


Sunday, March 3, 2019

How Our Republic Collapsed and How it Might Be Saved

How many times a day do you hear or read someone opining on what’s wrong with America and American politics? As is too often the case we love to look for the simple solution. The one answer that will explain it all. The unified field theory of American politics.

But unlike physics, the answer to understanding politics, the business and the interaction of people, is more nuanced, more complex and more like evolution than physics.

Layer upon layer of behavior, decisions, and leaders have lead us to where we are today. To a politics not just of polarization, but of pure primal tribalism

Longtime journalists and author Michael Tomasky tries to peel back these layer in is his new book If We Can Keep It: How the Republic Collapsed and How it Might Be Saved.

My conversation with Michael Tomasky:


Friday, March 1, 2019

A Look at Everything that Ivanka Trump Will Never Understand About Working People in America

As underemployment grows and many who once seemed solidly middle-class are losing their economic foothold, the working class is getting larger and more frustrated. Both its size and perspective make the working class more important than ever before. So perhaps, more than ever, Americans across the class spectrum have good reason to try and understand working-class culture and experience.

Millions of words have been written about the economic divide in America. An equally powerful divide is the one between those who make policy and those who live with the consequences of that policy. Even among well-meaning progressives, sometimes the consequences of their efforts are counter to their real objectives

Part of that comes from not really understanding the lives of working people in America. Perceptions of poverty and struggling come from our personal experience and often from popular culture and political rhetoric. That’s why it's so singularly unique and powerful when a voice emerges that can make us see what that world is really like. Today Stephanie Land adds her voice in Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive.

My conversation with Stephanie Land:



Monday, February 25, 2019

The History of our Future: A Conversation with Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

We’ve talked before about those frightening four words heard all too often. “This time it’s different.” Perhaps, besides Wall Street, nowhere else is that said as much as in Silicon Valley and the among the purveyors of every aspect of today technological and digital revolution.

No question that today is different. But it also fits into a pattern of human invention that has been a part of our evolutionary biology. It’s built around our curiosity, and the need to connect and share stories and information.

In examining this, it appears that there have been several inflection points along the way. Former FCC commissioner Tom Wheeler argues in his new book, that they are Gutenberg and the invention of movable type, and the telegraph. Both of which were every bit as profound as today's insanely great products.

To take us both back and forward on this journey I’m joined by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. to talk about From Gutenberg to Google: The History of Our Future.

My conversation with Tom Wheeler:


https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/interviews2019mixdownandregular/Wheeler%2C+Tom+mixdown.mp3

Friday, February 22, 2019

The Future is Asian

The 19th century has often been referred to as the imperial or British century. The period, after WWII was, in words coined by Henry Luce, the American Century.

Today, as we move headlong into the 21st century, we are entering what Parag Khanna sees as the Asian Century.

This dramatic change is not just about China, although China is a big part of it. It’s also about the 40 other countries that make up Asia, that are connecting in a system of trade and engagement that is both ancient and modern. It’s about the greater integration of Europe and Asia,

It’s about a world and a future where history matters, even in the face of cutting edge modernity. It’s a world where politics, economics, geography, and historical context matter. Where any nation not understanding all of these factors will do so at its own peril.

How we got here is important, as is where we are. This is the subject of Parag Khanna’s new book, The Future Is Asian

My conversation with Parag Khanna:



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Patriarchy in the Me Too Era: A conversation with Carol Gilligan

We live in an age of extremes. We talk about it every day with respect to the economic divide, the political divide, the racial divide, and the gender divide.

Particularly with respect to gender, how can we explain the election of the most patriarchal President ever, in an era of me too? A President whose election was supported by the majority of white women who voted.

Today, in our politics, we devote a great deal of attention to how we can address the economic divide. Think tanks and candidates pursue it endlessly. Pundits and political scientists opine daily, almost hourly, on this socio-political divide. But what is the nexus of all of this to the gender divide? How can we reconcile the seemly successful attacks on patriarchy on the one hand, and it’s powerful persistence on the other?

It's a kind of cognitive dissonance that takes a great thinker about these subjects to try and understand and address. That's what Carol Gilligan does in her new book Why Does Patriarchy Persist?

My conversation with Carol Gilligan:



Monday, February 18, 2019

When Did We Start This "Division Thing?"

We wonder why millennials are different. Imagine growing up in our current highly partisan, polarized political environment, and not knowing anything else. Not knowing an America where compromise is possible, where division within the political parties produced candidates that moved to center. They did not watch Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil work across the aisle, or Lyndon Johnson exhibit political courage by championing civil rights legislation.

Imagine if all you knew politically was Rush, Hannity, and Maddow? For a brief and shining moment, we tried something else. Barack Obama captured it. Rather than being radical or progressive, he really was the person who we looked to make America great, to bring back the better way it used to be.

Instead, the opposite has happened.

It seems that every day we are fighting the same battles. Boomers in a kind of one last hurrah are relitigating the fights of the 60s and ’70s and things only get works, as the center cannot hold. These are the divides examined by Julian Zelizer and Kevin Kruse in Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974

My conversation with Julian Zelizer & Kevin Kruse:



Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What If The Solution to Fix Democracy is Actually Less Democracy

According to a report just released by Freedom House, a watchdog group that advocates for democracy, political rights, and civil liberties became weaker in 68 countries. The report also says the U.S. freedom score has declined by 8 points (from 94 to 86) over the past eight years.

At the same time we know that voters are unhappy, We are told that democracy is collapsing, that fascism is on the rise. We hear particularly from the left about the need for more direct democracy. For greater citizen participation, for more direct referendum and initiatives. One group, on this program recently called for citizen assemblies that would supplant representative government.

Yet it seems the more of this do it yourself politics we have, the more anger there is, the more divided we are.

What if we are going in the wrong direction? What if the answer to democracy’s problems is not more democracy, but more appreciation for the system of parties and representative government that our founders passed down to us.

It seems today that this is a very contrarian view. Perhaps that’s why it just might be correct. It’s put forth by Yale Professor Ian Shapiro in Responsible Parties: Saving Democracy from Itself

My conversation with Ian Shapiro:


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Why We Need Special Prosecutors....It's Not For Harassment

Ken Starr, Archibald Cox, Leon Jaworski, Lawrence Walsh, and Robert Mueller. These names are almost as familiar as the Presidents they investigated. What does that say about the role of Special Prosecutors, the power the have, t
he evolution of their role in history and how we should see them today?

When a lesser know name, John Henderson was the special prosecutor pursuing Ulysses S. Grant in 1875 we didn’t have a 24/7 new cycle, and hundreds of former US Attorneys, commenting on his every move.

So once again, the question has to be asked, does this important safeguard of democracy even work in our current political, media and partisan environment.

Of course the best way to know is to examine the history. That what Andrew Coan does in Prosecuting the President: How Special Prosecutors Hold Presidents Accountable and Protect the Rule of Law

My conversation with Andrew Coan:


Monday, February 4, 2019

Philip Johnson and the Politics of Architecture, the Architecture of Politics

In an era in which everything it politicized, from the TV shows and the movies we watch to the places we shop, it’s not surprising that architecture and design would also be reflective of the politics of the day. This phenomenon is nothing new.

For proof of this, we need to look no further than Philip Johnson. Considered one of the greatest of modern architects, he would spend a good part of his life caught in the vortex between his politics and his art. His art, on the one hand, reflecting who he really was (because art seldom lies,) but also using the scope and causes of that work, to try and escape from who he was and what he believed.

That dilemma lies at the heart of an insightful new biography of Johnson by Mark Lamster, the architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News, a professor in the architecture school at the University of Texas at Arlington, a 2017 Loeb Fellow of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and the author of The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century.

My conversation with Mark Lamster:



Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Is This The End of Shopping?

All over the world, as populism surges, as creative destruction makes economic change inevitable, the focus on manufacturing and manufacturing jobs is often front and center. Maybe it’s the old romantic of a nation of big shoulders; the factories and machines spinning noisily, providing well-paying jobs.

But the fact is that far more jobs, almost 30 million, exist in the retail sector in the US, and those jobs are in far greater jeopardy than anything in manufacturing.

We see it all around us on empty main streets and in malls. It’s easy and somewhat lazy to blame it all on Amazon, and the internet. The causes go far deeper. Our entire relationship to shopping, to the acquisition of things, and to brands is changing. And millennials are leading the way.

As both millennials and aging, empty nest boomers move to cities, there simply isn't as much space to store all the stuff that we used to buy. Why else has Marie Kondo become an international icon?

So if retail is to survive, a lot has to change according to Mark Pilkington in his book Retail Therapy: Why the Retail Industry is Broken – and What Can Be Done to Fix It.

My conversation with Mark Pilkington:


Monday, January 21, 2019

The Wives of the Vietnam Era: What We Learned and What's Different Today

The poet John Milton writing in the 17th century got it right when he said that “They also serve who only stand and wait.” No better description could be written to capture the essence of military families.

Today, as a nation, we have acknowledged that service. We have some, but still not enough understanding and services for those waiting at home. But back during the Vietnam war, when those serving did not represent a true cross-section of America, when the opportunities, especially for the wives back home were very limited, the price our soldiers, and we as a nation paid for that was high.

As we struggle to serve the soldiers and veterans of today's Iraq and Afghanistan era, it’s a history we best heed. A history captured eloquently and powerfully by Andrew Wiest in Charlie Company's Journey Home: The Forgotten Impact on the Wives of Vietnam Veterans.

My conversation with Andrew Wiest:



Thursday, January 17, 2019

Housing, Housing, Housing

Over the past two decades, we’ve seen a modern great migration as more and more Americans move from suburban and rural America to cities. This trend cuts across all demographic groups but has been especially true for millennials and aging boomers.

As a result, our great cities have experienced skyrocketing rents, displacement of the poor, gentrification and protracted conflict between NIMBY homeowners, landlords, and renters

What was once a local debate has become a national story. How it plays out, is a kind of petri dish of our collectives values and how we see our communities in this first quarter of the 21st century.

Randy Shaw, a longtime housing activist in San Francisco, has lived these issues. Now he delivers a broad view in Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America.

My conversation with Randy Shaw:



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Disruption, Terrorism, Climate Change...Just Some of the Risk Today's Corporations Face

Every day we talk about disruption as if it's mostly positive within the business and consumer environment. But for companies today, both large and small, an array of challenges and potentially disruptive events can have a real negative impact on the company, its earnings, its employees and its customers.

Corporate executives today realize that the degree to which they can anticipate and prepare for that disruption will have a deep impact on how it all turns out on the other end. What's more, many of the approaches and techniques that today's companies can and should adhere to just might be applicable to the chaotic lives of all of us.

Studying this for years is Wharton professor Howard Kunreuther.  He's the James G Dinan Professor of Decision Science and Public Policy and co-director of the Center for Risk Management and Decision Processes at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and he’s the co-author of Mastering Catastrophic Risk: How Companies Are Coping with Disruption.

My conversation with Howard Kunreuther: 



Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Pentagon's $21 Trillion Con Game

Some of you may recall a few weeks ago, newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made a splash, talking about $21 trillion in misappropriated Pentagon money, which she claimed was enough to take care of Medicare for all. She based her conclusions on the misreading of an article in the Nation by investigative reporter, Dave Lindorff.

It’s too bad, because her misreading took the focus away from what the story did say about the Defense Department’s shady and possibly unconstitutional budgeting practices and the massive amount of fraud that has now been uncovered. What the story did detail is how the Pentagon badly failed its audit that it has resisted for decades, and that $21 trillion of financial transactions on both sides of the ledger between 1998 and 2015 could not be accounted for.  This is the story that award-winning investigative reporter Dave Lindorff writes in"The Pentagon's Massive Accounting Fraud Exposed," in a recent issue of The Nation.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Dave Lindorff:







Saturday, January 5, 2019

San Francisco, Silicon Valley and the Future of Cities

Social, cultural and technological change is all around us. We live in an era of upheaval, not unlike the movement from an agrarian to a manufacturing economy that took place 100+ years ago. At the time, many thought it was, to borrow a phrase, the end of history. Many spoke about the evils of cities. They thought that leaving the farm was anti-American, that it went against the Jeffersonian ideal of America.

It produced anger, sometimes violence, labor strife, and in the end a whole new economy that some long for today. The current shift that is far from done. As AI, crypto, virtual reality and whole new ways of looking at the world change the landscape of just about everything.

Arguably ground zero for this remarkable change is San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. Ground zero in a time of monumental change is never an easy or safe place to be. And certainly, it is having its impact on a City that once saw itself first as a bastion of manners and old wealth and then as the center of progressive cultural revolution. Today, it’s the center of another kind of inevitable and inexorable revolution that Cary McClelland details in Silicon City: San Francisco in the Long Shadow of the Valley.

My conversation with Cary McClelland:



Monday, December 31, 2018

We All Have A Role To Play In the Biggest Story of 2019

We think that politics might actually change the world for better or for worse. It probably won't. It's certainly more likely that climate change, weather, and rising sea levels will have a far more profound impact. The recent UN report on climate indicated that we could be facing existential risks within 20 years. So what is the world to do?

Jeff Goodell, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, takes us deep into not the debate but the story of the particle reality in The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Jeff Goodell:






Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Black Feminist Politics

The Blue Wave of the recent election would not have been possible without black women voters. The election of Doug Jones in Alabama would not have been possible without the turnout of black women.

The recent focus on Stacy Abrams, Kamala Harris, Maxine Waters, Oprah, and even Michelle Obama speak to the fact that Democratic and progressive politics today, as well as our cultural politics, is being defined and even redefined by black feminist politics.

When we look back at the history of black women and racial progress, women like Ida B. Wells, Fanny Lou Hammer, and even Rosa Parks, all of this should be no surprise. Today, coupled with the Me Too movement and the resistance to Trump,  this has the makings a lasting, permanent and far-reaching a change in our politics.

Few understand this better, both historically and contemporaneously than Professor Duchess Harris, the author of Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Trump.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Duchess Harris:






With Each New Year, Do We Loose A Little of What Makes Us Human?

How much of your work day is about emails, texts, Slack, Basecamp or Shift? And how much is about phone calls or meetings or basic human contact? If you’re like most people today, a large portion is devoted to apps, to screens, and to technology. And less and less to human contact.

How many times have you sent a work text or email to someone yards or even feet away? How many Holiday texts or emails did you send, rather than make a phone call, or a date for coffee? All of this comes with a price. It disconnects us over and over again so that we begin to lose the basic skills of human contact and interaction.

According to Dan Schawbel, the price we pay is not just in the workplace but in the very act of being human. Schawbel writes about this in Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation.

My conversation with Dan Schawbel:


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Business of Punishment

The U.S. imprisons a higher portion of its population than any country in the world. The so-called “prison industrial complex” is, for many towns in rural America, a driving force for its economy. At the same time, many of these prisons have been turned over to private companies, like Prison Corporation of America, to be run as cheaply and profitably as possible, regardless of the damage inflicted on inmates.

The result, in fact, the necessity, is the dehumanization of prisoners and subsequently the gradual dehumanization of those that work in these places.

Shane Bauer, a senior reporter for Mother Jones, went inside, as a $9 an hour guard, to see first hand what was happening inside the Winnfield, Louisiana prison. His magazine story gained national attention and has now become a new book American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Is it Possible to Believe in Nationalism and Think Globally at the Same Time?

It seems that every day, as Trump makes another seemingly horrible comment, we ask ourselves how did this happen? Millions of words have been spilled trying to answer that question. Fascism, bigotry, populism, social and cultural issues, have all been trotted out. But first and foremost is the jingoistic nationalism that seems to be rampant among Trump's base, as it is around the world. As dislocation, change, and creative destruction continues, people seek solace in their most fundamental national tribe.

But is the left making a mistake by rejecting nationalism out of hand, or is there a place for nationalism and national identity even as one believes in immigration, open borders, free trade, and globalization? That the questions that John Judis takes on in The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and the Revolt Against Globalization

My conversation with John Judis:


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

What Gonzo Journalism Might Look Like Today? A Look At Hunter S. Thompson vs. Nixon

At a time when journalism is under siege when the attacks sometimes result in too much caution when the goal of politicians is to attack journalist like they are working the refs, it’s worth thinking about times when we’ve seen full-throated, muscular and sometimes participatory journalism. The kind practiced by the likes of Jimmy Breslin, or H.L. Menken, George Plimpton, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer or Hunter S. Thompson.

Thompson had the opportunity to be present for many world-changing moments. How he saw them, and how he reported them, may have shaped a generation of readers and it may still be in the very DNA of how we consume news today.

Timothy Denevi captures the zeitgeist of the Thompson moment in Freak Kingdom: Hunter S. Thompson's Manic Ten-Year Crusade Against American Fascism

My conversation with Tim Denevi:



Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Bribery, Kickbacks and Corruption: Why It Matters

When we hear the phrase follow the money, we’ve come to understand that it usually leads back to nefarious political activities, self-dealing and corrupt public servants or worse. But sometimes that money trail leads to something that’s become so commonplace we hardly notice it anymore. The business of corporate bribery, and kickbacks around the world

As the global economy becomes ever more interconnected, as the membrane between governments and transnational corporations become ever thinner, this kickbacks and bribes have a multiplier effect that often leads directly to conflict, repression, and violence around the globe.

Like the butterfly flapping its wings in Main, the impact can be felt in the caves of Afghanistan, or the boardrooms of China, or the corridors of power on Capitol
Hill.

David Montero cuts to the quick of this in Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network.

My conversation with David Montero:


Monday, December 3, 2018

Democracies Are Not Forever...Are We Headed Down the Same Path As Rome?

Each day more of our national political and governmental norms fall away. Our national leadership is at best in a moral vacuum, at worst, a corrosive force, an autoimmune disease eating the very fabric of the nation.

The violence of the past months reminds us that it does no good to hold the Pollyannaish belief that everything will all be all right, that we’ve been through this before and that the democratic institutions that Madison and the founders designed, and that moral framework upon which it was built, can withstand what we face today.

We like to think, based on past crisis, that our systems are strong enduring, resilient. Maybe. But there is no guarantee that it will last forever. After all, the Roman Republic lasted for 500 years and then collapsed. It Collapsed for many reasons similar to the issues and choices we face today. Historian and Professor Edward Watts, in his new book Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny shines a light on the path we are headed down.

My conversation with Edward Watts:


Monday, November 26, 2018

The War Before the War: Then and Maybe Now

We study history not so that it can tell us what we should necessarily do, but to tell us what to avoid. For it is often the task of succeeding generations to escape history to escape its repetition, that is to remove from possibility the mistakes of other times. In so so one improves, and that improvement is necessary to growth and to civilization.

In the 1850s, not unlike today, America was two nations. Then it was half free and half slave. When we look to make the comparison to today, we often miss the point. It's not about the comparisons to the Civil War itself, but to the events, the efforts, the policies that actually led to the war. In fact, the war before the war.

That period is examined closely by Andrew Delbanco in The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America's Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War.

My conversation with Andrew Delbanco: