Friday, August 17, 2018

The Kids Are All Right

Millions of words have been written about millennials and the Democratic Party. The debate about how left they are, how involved they are, how can, or will they be mobilized to participate in the midterms are all subjects of feature stories and cable news fodder. It all goes with the old adage, the origins of which are a bit murky, that if you're not a liberal when you're young you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative by middle age you have no head.

The fact is there are many young conservatives, be they Young Republicans, College Republicans, or members of many other groups. Some are traditional conservatives, some libertarian, some Trumpian, and some trying to define a new millennial approach to what it means to be a conservative or a Republican.

Clearly like the divisions on the left, the gap between Donald Trump and Edmond Burke is wide, but filled with opportunity and consequences for the GOP of tomorrow. Journalist Eliza Gray takes a look at this in her recent article in The Washington Post Magazine: “The Next Generation of Republicans: How Trumpian Are They."

My conversation with Eliza Gray:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump

Almost from the day he was elected, certainly from the day her took office, people have been talking about the impeachment of Donald Trump. His basic failure to divest his business holdings, his refusal to abide by ethical norms, nepotism, cronyism, his odd and still not fully known relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin, and his disregard for the intelligence community, have all stoked the fires.

But are there legitimate grounds for impeachment, as laid out by the constitution? What kind of constitutional crisis might be precipitated by such efforts, and how do we define, political vs. legal impeachment and would that even matter? After all, so much of what our founders did was designed as a bulwark against the corruption that we see playing out each and every day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

To try and put all of this rhetoric in context is constitutional scholar Ron Fein, the co-author of The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump.

My conversation with Ron Fein:

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Even Power Has Been Subject to Change. Here's How

Look at any book of quotations, and the subject of power is one of the most discussed topics. Sometimes it seems everyone has an opinion on it. And why not? It is at the heart of all of our relationships, at home, with family, kids and spouses and at work, with our bosses and our coworkers.

Certainly the Me Too movement and racial politics have both provided fertile ground for both the understanding of and the exercise of power. It’s one of the things we most desire, and at the same time we are afraid, or put off by it.

Our relationship to power begins when we are young. It’s imprinted from grade school, right on through high school, which is everyone's mosh pit of power dynamics.

Power and how we talk about it has changed since the days of Michael Korda, and Cyndi Suarez understands this. She is the author of The Power Manual: How to Master Complex Power Dynamics

My conversation with Cyndi Suarez:

Monday, August 13, 2018

When Does No Drama Make For A Better Show and a Better Government?

Deep inside our first reality TV presidency, one designed, whether you like the policy or not, to squeeze maximum drama from every encounter, it’s almost hard to remember that the Obama presidency was 180 degrees away. It was built on the idea of “no drama.”

In the current context, it may look almost dull. It was professional, competent and the apogee of the work of hundreds, who’s life's work was to serve their country, and leave it better than they found it.

That’s why perhaps now, more than ever, we need the bracing reminder of what competence, rational decision making, and hard work were really like in the exercise of government.

Brian Abrams does this in his comprehensive oral history of the Obama administration, Obama: An Oral History.

My conversation with Brian Abrams:

The Iran Nuclear Deal and The View from Tehran

For George Bush, it was once part of the Axis of Evil. For Donald Trump, Iran seems only to be part of an axis of firing up his base, placating Israel, and being supine to the Saudis. The Iran Nuclear Deal was far better and more enforceable than anything we will ever see with North Korea. Iran, according to those on the ground, the IAEA inspectors and other parties to the deal often referred to as the JCPOA, was a deal that Iran more or less was abiding by.

Now with the US having pulled out of the deal and imposing new sanctions, the Europeans, the Chinese, and the Russians, the other parties to the deal, are trying along with Iran to hold all the pieces together. The problem and complexity is that it’s about both proliferation and economics. And while the administration is filled with Iran hawks, many of whom still seek regime change in Iran, there’s no telling where all of this will wind up. In a global neighborhood it remains a tinderbox: what’s next for Iran, for Syria, and for the region.

To try and bring all of this together and provide an Iranian perspective, I’m joined by Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian, one of the foremost authorities on the subject of Iran.

My conversation with Seyed Hossein Mousavian:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Mouth That Roared - How Rush Limbaugh Changed America

It began as a crazy idea. DJs would get bored with music and start talking to the audience. They would take calls, tell stories, and even talk a little politics, sports, and pop culture. Early on, it produced some enduring national personalities like Jean Shepherd, and Brad Crandall, Long John Nebel, and Larry King, and Barry Gray, and Joe Franklin. It was known first as Spoken Word Radio. Later, it would give way to an even more colorful and cantankerous cast of characters. People like Joe Pyne, Alan Berg and Morton Downey Jr..

Talk radio moved to the big cities with folks like Don Imus and Howard Stern. In New York, Bob Grant would redefine the formula beginning in the early 70s. In fact so much of Trump on race, comes directly out of the Bob Grant playbook. Grant was the soundtrack for the New York that Donald Trump came of political age in.

The Fairness Doctrine would be repealed in 1987 and suddenly radio would be set up to have political power. Then in 1988, a little known Sacramento newscaster and talk show host named Rush Limbaugh would be let loose nationally. He took the freedom of being untethered from the Fairness Doctrine, combined it with the formulas that had already proven successful in talk, added conservative politics in a sardonic and entertaining tone, and the rest is radio history. It began 30 years ago last week, and it certainly changed our entertainment, news, and the political landscape.

To bring this all into focus, I'm joined by Michael Harrison, the editor and publisher of Talkers Magazine, the "bible of the talk radio industry."

My conversation with Michael Harrison:

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Our Crises of Connection - Why We Need to Gather Now, More Than Even

How many gatherings do you really enjoy? Certainly not meetings. But what about social events? How many times have you felt awkward at a party, an event or even just a gathering of friends. How often have you had the feeling that everyone else was invited for dinner, and you were only invited for cocktails?

And if you were the host, you made sure that all the napkins and silverware was just right, but what about the inner workings of the gathering? How did you prepare?

In a world where networking and face to face gatherings are the rare exception to being transfixed to screens, shouldn't we pay more attention to those face to face encounters? Priya Parker look at our crises of connection in The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

My conversation with Priya Parker:

Friday, August 3, 2018

Is Hope or Change Ever Possible After Trump?

Once upon a time, hope and change formed the basis of our political discourse. That now seems so long ago. Remember a time when the Koch brothers were the enemy, when we thought John McCain was the far right, when those of us on the left thought the FBI and the justice department needed watching?

In just ten years, we’ve gone through the looking glass. Now up really down, down is up, black is white and our enemies are embraced.

Our divisions over culture, politics, race and class have been weaponized. And demographics, geography, social media and technology make it so we seldom have to interact with anyone that disagree with us.

In this atmosphere of tribalism on steroid, is any kind of positive national politics still possible? Clearly on a local or community level, there is some reason to be optimistic. However on a national level, have we digressed to a point where even the instruments of our founding father, may not bring us back.

Dan Pfeiffer is a bit more optimistic in his new book Yes We (Still) Can: Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter, and Trump

My conversation with Dan Pfeiffer:

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Why Teams Are The New Normal

Look at any business or education sector today and discussion of teams often dominates the agenda. Teams and partnerships, particularly in business, have become not just the new normal, but almost a requirement.

However for every Hewlett and Packard, Jobs and Wozniak and Brin and Page, there are many partnerships and teams that don’t work. So what’s the secret sauce? Why are some more than the sum of the parts and some carry within them the seeds of their own destruction

Science and business journalist Shane Snow digs deep into this phenomenon in Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart.

My conversation with Shane Snow:

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Wherever you are in the political spectrum, we should at least be able to agree on a set of facts about the forces reshaping our society. The cost of housing, particularly in our cities, continues to rise. The cost of higher education, healthcare, and quality day care continue to take a larger and larger share of individual and family incomes.

Income inequality is growing. The impact of automation and AI is only in its infancy. The freelance and gig economy, and recent political and legal moves, have shattered the ability of workers to bargain collectively. All at a time when the social safety net of Medicare, Social Security and pensions are under siege.

What was once the middle class is being hollowed out. While there is no question that some people are doing well in this economy, as evidenced by the fact that retail sales are up, housing sales, particularly driven by women, are holding steady, and the technical unemployment numbers are low. There is no question that as the song lyrics go, “there’s something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.” Whatever it is, the net result is hurting and squeezing a lot of people.

Alissa Quart takes us onto the front lines in Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America.

My conversation with Alissa Quart:


When Putin singled out Americans he’d like to have sent to Russia for interrogation, a lot of attention was focused on former US Ambassador Michael McFaul. He also mentioned others, including very prominent international businessman, Bill Browder. More significantly, Putin talked about the Magnitsky Act, which Browder birthed with the help of the United States Congress.

We often throw terms around today in our political and geopolitical debate like capitalist and community and oligarch, but very few who use these terms really understand the essence of what they mean. One of those that does understand is Bill Browder. He rebelled against communism as a teenager, became a very successful capitalist, and made millions in Putin’s Russia. What he didn’t know was just what kind of price he would pay for getting involved in the ever-entangled web of Putin, oligarchs, and a system 180 degrees from our own, a system of men and not of laws.

The ultimate result was the brutal death of Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. Browder has since carried on Magnitsky’s legacy at great personal risk to himself. Putin’s remarks underscore that Bill Browder’s ongoing quest for justice for the murder of Sergei Magnitsky has taken a dark turn under the presidency of Donald Trump.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Bill Browder:

Monday, July 30, 2018

Lazy Thinking, Intellectual Cowardice and Safe Spaces On Today's College Campus

Not since the civil war have we been as tribal as a nation as we are today. What’s worse, is that today, through the power of modern communication, social media, bifurcated business models, and 24/7 news, we can be siloed from dawn to dusk. We never have to associate with people whose views are different than ours. We never have to friend people with uncomfortable or different points of view. We get our news, our products and even sometimes our meals, only from people that agree with us.

It’s all very comfortable. But what have we lost in the process. Intellectual challenge, empathy, understanding, compassion, bravery, and getting out of our comfort zone are all lost. All so we can be cocooned in the warm bath of confirmation bias.

And as bad as this is in society at large, no where is it worse than on college campuses. A world where “safe spaces” mean don’t challenge me. 50 Years ago college campuses were alive with ferment and yes, even revolution. Today, to many campuses represent a world of intellectual cowardice and laziness.

No one knows this better than former Williams College student, Zachary Wood. He writes about this experience in Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America.

My conversation with Zachary Wood:

Monday, July 23, 2018

Men Behaving Badly, Or How To Prevent More Trump Supporters In The Future

There is a boy crisis in America. Girls are graduating from college in far greater numbers. Their numbers in law schools, business schools and in post graduate programs are exceeding boys, and the imbalance keeps growing.

Concurrently, everyday we see bad behavior on the part of men. Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose and the president are the tip of the proverbial iceberg. They are just the poster boys for bad behavior.

So how to stem the tide? The answer perhaps lies in understanding today's boys and the hope that by setting them on a better path as teenagers, there is hope for the 21st century.

Dr. Adam Cox has been working on just that for years. His latest work on the subject is Cracking the Boy Code: How to Understand and Talk with Boys

My conversation with Adam Cox:

Friday, July 20, 2018

Today's Struggle With Russia Is More Than Cold War 2.0

Not since the apogee of the Cold War has Russia been so paramount in our national discourse. But Churchill’s “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” is a very different Russia than the former Soviet Union. Although as Churchill pointed out, Russian national interest still seems the key.

Vladimir Putin, while Russian to the core, is somehow different from Khrushchev, and Brezhnev and Gorbachev, or the Tsars that came before.

Our conflicts and tensions with Russia today are also different. We risk making a big mistake if we don’t understand modern context. If we don’t understand that this is not just Cold War 2.0, but rather a global conflict whose antecedents may be the Cold War, but whose reality is sui generis to the world in the 21st century.

Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul pulls of this together and a lot more in From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia.

My conversation with Ambassador Michael McFaul:

Thursday, July 19, 2018

What's the Matter With America?

Back in 2004, a full fourteen years ago, Thomas Frank published a book entitled What’s The Matter with Kansas? In it, he looked at how a segment of the population was consistently voting against their own economic self interests. He argued that so called “culture war” issues, played to emotions that overrode economic concerns.

Twelve years later that trend reached its apogee with the election of Donald Trump. Therefore it’s important to remember that Trump didn’t create the economic, class and cultural divisions in America, he merely exploited them.

Those trends, fed by changes in the nature of work, technology, communication, and global economics have resulted in a society that is, in many ways, not recognizable from the America of yore.  Given that, it's important to remember that the American people played a role in creating this environment, do they now have the power to fix it? Can they put Humpty Dumpty back together again?

Thomas Frank, like the Simon and Garfunkel song, has spent a long time, looking for America to try and find the answer to this question. He reports it in his new book Rendezvous with Oblivion: Reports from a Sinking Society.

My conversation with Thomas Frank:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Silicon Valley: The Origin Story...Live As It Happened

When we talk about change, about creative disruption, about all the ways that the world, both local and global is different, it all seems to have it’s genesis in Silicon Valley.

The games, the apps, the communication and the nature of life and work itself. But these changes were not the result of some kind technological immaculate conception. Sure they were engineered, and 0s and 1s and transistors were all a part. But this also had a cultural underpinning, based on the people, the characters and often the geniuses that migrated to the Valley

Hollywood is often been referred to as High School with money. If that’s true, then Silicon Valley has all the element of Hollywood, but its results have truly changed the world.

Capturing the zeitgeist of the Valley though all its’ ups and downs is Adam Fisher in his book Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (As Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom)

My conversation with Adam Fisher:

Monday, July 9, 2018

Driven to Succeed...A Conversation with Dr. Ned Hallowell

Be it the troubled minds, young and old, that commit mass shootings, the incredible and successful talents that commit suicide, or those that seek solace in alcohol or opiates, mental illness is all around us.

What’s encouraging is that we are finally talking about it. Not enough and not openly enough. But remember back in the 50’s there was a reluctance to even talk about cancer.

Times change. And one of the things that precipitates that change is the courage of individuals that are willing to come forward and tell their story. Suddenly when we see our friends, neighbors, even our doctors and other people like us, reveal all, suddenly that shroud falls away sunlight does it’s job.

Edward Hallowell, one of our most distinguished psychiatrists and a leading authority in the field of ADHD, has now pulled back the curtain on his own life to reveal a story of dysfunction, hope and ultimately of survival and success. He shares the story with me and in his new memoir Because I Come from a Crazy Family: The Making of a Psychiatrist.

My conversation with Ned Hallowell:

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Nationalism and Culture Need Not be A Zero Sum Game

We hear over and over, that we are a nation of immigrants. Unfortunately, we’re hearing it in a boiler factory. We are hearing it over the cacophony of noise about race, about change and about security and raw politics.

What’s lost is the reality of the very personal immigrant experience. What it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land. To straddle two nations, appreciate both, and not look at nationalism and culture as a zero sum game.

The immigrant experience demands a degree of self awareness that is not present in most Americans. That by itself changes that way that immigrants see themselves and the world around them. It creates a kind of heightened reality, appreciation and skepticism that most of us don't have the privilege of seeing.

That’s why we need people like award winning journalist Alfredo Corchado, who’s recent book is Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration.

My conversation with Alfredo Corchado: 

Friday, July 6, 2018

THE AGE OF POLITICAL PERSUASION IS OVER To Attract the Next Generation, Politics Must Be About Advocacy, Organization, and Winning

Fifty years ago, during the last great social and political upheaval in America, young people lead the way. The mantra of the day, of not trusting anyone over 30, defined the generational and political divide.

Today we face an altogether different, but equally powerful social and political dislocation. Except that this time we wonder, where are the young people. Where are the millennials, where is the rising generation.

Perhaps it’s why the Parkland kids struck such a resonate note. With David Hogg reminding us that the children will lead us.

But in our current divide, all sides of boomers and gen X, red and blue, are battling for the hearts, minds and soul of the millennial generation. The left has the advantage of the natural state of liberalism in the young, but the right has the organization, the business savvy and the money.

How this plays out may truly impact the fate of the republic. This is the subject of a series of stories by journalist Michael Hobbes.

My conversation with Michael Hobbes:

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Groucho Was Right!

Groucho Marx famously said, upon resigning the Friars club, that he would “never want to belong to any club that would have him as a member.” That line has been used since by those that are afraid of not belonging. What better way to prevent being excluded than saying, or convincing yourself, that you don’t want to join?

The facts, and our world today, tell us something entirely different. Not only do we want to belong, but we want to belong to groups that are exactly like us. While tribalism may be built into our DNA, the added anxiety and fear in our culture today, puts that tribalism on steroids.

This tribalism is enhanced by our hi-speed 24/7 world. It accentuates fear of the other, it drives our identity politics, and it fuels our confirmation bias driven life. In short, the more we want or need to belong, the more we are divided. All leading us to the conclusion that Groucho had the right idea.

This is also the idea put forth by Howard J. Ross in his new book Our Search for Belonging: How Our Need to Connect Is Tearing Us Apart.

My conversation with Howard Ross:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Freedom of the Press and Freedom From Fake News

The founders were wise enough that they made freedom of the press first among equals, as a constitutional guarantee. They also even understood fake news in the form of the pamphleteers of the day. But they never could have imagined bots and trolls and social media, as a way for that fake news to be disseminated at light speed. We’ve seen how lies beak from the gate quickly, and the truth can seldom seem to catch up.

For those that aren’t monitoring the news 24/7, and for the vast majority of the country that has neither the time nor resources to fact check every story, or each new online site, how are we to determine, as Stephen Colbert would say, the truthiness of stories.

We’ve seen lately that algorithms alone simply don’t work. So how can the human element be brought in, in a way that is informative and yet not intrusive? In a process that allows for advocacy, opinion and human bias, but still respects facts, expertise and professionalism? The answer might be Newsguard.

Steven Brill is the founder of American Lawyer, Court TV, Brill's Content and the Yale Journalism initiative. He’s recently confounded NewsGuard.

My conversation with Steven Brill:

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Can Something That's Popular, Still Be Creative and Good?

There's an old axiom with respect to quality and culture that says if something is popular, it can't be very good. Certainly that's true for fast-food, overhyped action movies and maybe even some crummy literature. However, there's a way that creativity can be combined with commercial success that brings out the best of both. What's more, creativity in this regard, is not something that's limited to those that are born geniuses.

To examine this, I talked to Allen Gannett, the author of The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time.

My conversation with Allen Gannett:

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Dinner in Camelot: How Far We Have Fallen

A few weeks ago , the press reported aggressively on the fact that Kim Kardashian had visited the White House. Just as it had the visits of Kid Rock and Ted Nugent before her. With homage toDr. Seuss, Oh, how far we have fallen.

On April 29, 1962, John F. Kennedy welcomed a group of Nobel Prize winners to the White House. Other guests included William Styron, James Baldwin, Mary Welsh Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s widow, who sat next to the President and grilled him on Cuba policy. Also there were John Glenn, historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Researcher Linus Pauling, and Pablo Casals. Actor Fredric March gave a public recitation after the meal,

Held at the height of the Cold War, the dinner celebrated American achievement, and symbolized a time when ideas and facts were esteemed, divergent viewpoints could be respectfully discussed and the great minds of an age might all dine together in the glamour of “the people’s house.”

It was about this event that Kennedy said, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

To revel for twenty minutes on what used to be, you’ll want to listen to Joesph Esposito, the author of Dinner in Camelot: The Night America's Greatest Scientists, Writers, and Scholars Partied at the Kennedy White House. 

My conversation with Joseph Esposito:

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Ultimate Silicon Valley Scam

By now we are all familiar with crimes and criminals on Wall Street. Bernie Madoff, Enron, Ivan Boesky, Barry Minkow and many others that have become household names. On the West Coast, the startup world of Silicon Valley had been somewhat spared from this taint. The world of “insanely great products,” “do no evil,” and “bringing friends together,” has, at least until recently, kept it’s patina.

Yet in a world where people want to see the future and want to be a part of it, it certainly was a fertile ground for fraud. And no one perpetrated a greater fraud than Elizabeth Holes and her company Theranos.

The story of a company whose mission was to tell you everything about your blood, with a simple finger prick, seemed too good to be true. And like most thing that seem too good to be true, it was.

John Carreyrou is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter at The Wall Street Journal.  He has, from the beginning, been the leader in telling the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. His book, soon to be a major motion picture, is Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

My conversation with John Carreyrou:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Things Can Always Get Worse in America...And They Often Have

I assume that most of you believe that the state of America has seldom been worse. Racial progress, America as a melting pot, the global alliance that has seen us through the past 75 years, character, civility, and liberal democracy itself, all seem to be under siege. While this is all true, it's also true is that we’ve been here before.

There have been many dark moment in American history. Maybe there is something in our very DNA that sets us up for it. But certainly from the Alien and Sedition acts though the Civil War, the industrial revolution, America First, the great depression, Jim Crow, the cold war and the tyranny of Joe McCarthy, we’ve seen that bad things happen to good countries.

Each time though we have emerged stronger. We have understood that the fault was not in our stars, but in ourselves and so we have reached deeply within ourselves for our better angels. But as the pundits of Wall Street ask all the time, is it different this time?  This is the heart of Pulitzer Prize winning historian and best selling author Jon Meacham's latest work The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels

My conversation with Jon Meacham: