Monday, January 20, 2020

It's Ok To Compromise and Maybe Even to Sellout Sometimes

In our current political and social climate, when polarization is so extreme, when purity tests are often required by your tribe, the idea of compromise and what some call “selling out,” takes on added weight and significance.

But because positions and even sometimes values are often so extreme does compromise and selling out even mean what it used to? And if not, can we actually square the circle of compromise, selling out and ethics.

That's the question that Inge Hansen asks in The Ethical Sellout: Maintaining Your Integrity in the Age of Compromise.

My conversation with Inge Hansen:



Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Human Nature Always Finds A Way

Most of you know the story of the scorpion and the frog and what it tells us about human nature.

It’s no surprise than that our everyday encounters, at work, at home, and on the street are driven by our innate nature. Wouldn’t it be easier if there were a set of immutable laws by which to understand that nature? Law that really might have been helped that frog?

These are the rules laid down by bestselling author Robert Greene. Greene, the author of The 48 Laws of Power and the Art of Seduction, now lays out The Laws of Human Nature

My conversation with Robert Greene:


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Can the Generational Divide Lead Us Out Of Division?

We see endlessly how we are siloed with respect to politics, race, and geography. Add to this the generational silos that we all seem to live in.

Reams have been written about intergenerational conflict, particularly in the workplace. But might this be the one area where the imaginary lines of divisions can be crossed? Can the improvement of intergenerational relationships in the workplace be a kind of Rosetta Stone for better understanding all of the other issues that divide us? Issues that are fed by speed, modernity, technology, and popular culture. This is the exploration that Hayim Herrirng give us in Connecting Generations: Bridging the Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial Divide.

My conversation with Hayim Herring:


Sunday, January 5, 2020

Do You Need Further Reminders that This Is Not Your Father's Workplace

The Harvey Weinstein trial, which begins this week, while perhaps extreme in its nature, reminds us of the realities of today’s work place.

Today it’s not enough to just stay on top of one's career and professional knowledge and development. There is also the changing dynamics and culture of the workplace itself. Multi-generational, multi-gender, multi-age, and the seemingly increased sensitivity and scrutiny.

The irony is that it is this very diversity, that carries within it the seeds and the power, to help us understand and to strive to function frictionlessly within it. In fact, it is only by embracing this very diversity that businesses can succeed in today’s environment.

Lauren Stiller Rikleen is the founder and president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership, and is a provider of training, speaking, and consulting services to professional services entities. In her new book The Shield of Silence: How Power Perpetuates a Culture of Harassment and Bullying in the Workplace she addresses the strengthening multi-generational teams, women’s leadership and advancement, and minimizing the impact of unconscious bias.

My conversation with Lauren Stiller Rikleen:


Monday, December 30, 2019

Why Most Health Care is Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Some of you may have seen the story that owning a dog gave you a 27% chance of living longer. Some of that was related to the exercise of walking the dog, some to the companionship, and the basic human-dog bond.

But suppose the reality was much deeper than that. Suppose dogs could be diagnosticians and even healers and protect us from the onset of symptoms. They can and many already do.

This is the world that Maria Goodavage, veteran journalist and New York Times bestselling author of Soldier Dogs, takes us into in her latest Doctor Dogs: How Our Best Friends Are Becoming Our Best Medicine

My conversation with Maria Goodavage:



Friday, December 27, 2019

William Greider R.I.P.

William Greider always knew that the chickens would come home to roost. Over many conversations, since 1997, he seemed to know and report the truth of that old adage "that if things were going to stay the same, a lot of things had to change." My conversation with Greider in March of 2010. RIP William Greider



Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Something to Think About As You Eat that Holiday Steak........

It’s long been an adage that what we eat, defines who we are. That’s never been truer than in our polarized world today and beef and its mass production has long been at the center of this definition

From the mid 19th century, the history of beef parallels, and often reflects social, cultural and economic changes. From the great plains in the 1850s to the slaughterhouses of the midwest, to the first McDonalds in San Bernardino in 1940, “where’s the beef,” has often told us who we are.

Joshua Specht tells us more in  Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America 

My conversation with Joshua Specht:


Thursday, December 19, 2019

Can America's Military Ever Recover?

We all know that whether it’s a child’s toy or a powerful institution if something is built solid, misuse or the infliction of damage will not usually break it. How many times have you dropped your phone and it’s been fine? On the other hand, that which is weak or frayed will unravel with the least amount of stress.

In many ways, we can say that about America’s foreign policy and military establishment. Weakened over the years by uncertainly, hesitation partisanship, bad decisions and an exaggerated admiration that acted like a kind of superglue, that held the whole thing together.

However, in the hands of a rambunctious child, one with no respect for his property or what he was given, it can not hold.

This is the world of Donald Trump and today’s American military and foreign policy. Fragile from the start, this spoiled, bratty impetuous child may have finally broken it.

That’s the story that my guest Peter Bergen tells in Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos.

My conversation with Peter Bergen:


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

From Useful Idiot to Working Asset

Perhaps our greatest spy novelist of the cold war, John le CarrĂ©, talks about what he sees as the appetite for superpower, that still exists in the U.S. and Russia.  He says that what’s shared is the desire for oligarchy, the dismissal of truth, the contempt actually for the electorate, and for the democratic system. That’s common to both of them.

While the U.S. has certainly made mistakes, and was not always been pure in its motives and actions, today under Donald Trump something is different. What is it, and how did we get here, and to what extent is the Trump-Russia connection part of what’s changed? Is Putin as Machiavellian as we’ve been led to believe, and have we now gone too far down the rabbit hole for any of this to change?

Few understand this better than Malcolm Nance, who back in 2014 was prescient about some of the issues that we’re facing and litigating, on this very day.

Malcolm Nance is a former U.S. Navy officer specializing in cryptology. He’s an internationally recognized intelligence, a foreign policy commentator, and a counter terrorism analyst for NBC news and MSNBC and his newest work is

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Malcom Nance:




Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Model For Taking It To The Streets

Just as we saw in America in the 1960s, as we saw when the Berlin Wall fell, as we witnessed in the Middle East, during the Arab Spring, and as we are witnessing today in Hong Kong, young people are always at the ramparts of change and revolution. This was equally true in France in the run-up to WWII and in the resistance to the German occupation.

On a day when people, mostly young, are taking to the streets, it’s worth talking to Ronald Rosbottom, about Sudden Courage: Youth in France Confront the Germans, 1940-1945

My conversation with Ronald Rosbottom:

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Why Quantum Mechanics Matter and Why You Should Care: A Conversation with Physicist Sean Carroll

The great screenwriter William Goldman once said of Hollywood that "nobody knows anything."  The physicist Richard Feynman once said that "no one understands quantum mechanics."

And yet random as knowledge sometimes might be, it safe to say that the entire technological infrastructure of modern society, all of Silicon Valley, is built on top of the reliable functioning quantum mechanics.

Quantum Mechanics has been around since 1927. It is so ubiquitous in some ways that it’s been a little like being able to tell time and use that value of the information while not having any understanding of how a watch (digital or otherwise) actually works.

That where Sean Carroll comes and his book Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime.

My conversation with Sean Carroll:


Monday, December 9, 2019

What Happens to Ancestry Testing DNA?

It’s no surprise that many fear technology is out of control. AI, facial recognition and robotics are the stuff of science fear. But it’s biotechnology and the understanding of what makes us tick that may be the ultimate frontier to both human understanding and human abuse by those that are malevolent.

Few understand this better than bestselling novelist Dr. Robin Cook. He has used his insights into the future to scare the bejesus out of us in his books like Coma, Cure, and Fever. Now in his latest work, Genesis he walks us through the cost-benefit analysis of DNA and even your simple search for ancestry.

My conversation with Dr. Robin Cook:


Monday, December 2, 2019

The Best and the Brightest of America's Diplomats

Clausewitz said that politics or diplomacy was “war by other means.”

Churchill put it more colorfully when he said that “diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions.”

The Impeachment hearings have pulled back the cover on the work, the integrity, and the quality of America’s diplomats. Perhaps it’s their self effacing, sometimes quiet professionalism that makes them targets for the more malevolent unprofessional forces in government. This was as true with respect to the attacks on the State Department During the dark days of Joe McCarthy, or equally dark days of Donald Trump.

Whatever the reason, perhaps there is no better time to look at these talented and smart men and women than in the middle of the current Ukraine scandal. That's what Paul Richter does inThe Ambassadors: America's Diplomats on the Front Lines

My conversation with Paul Richter:



Monday, November 25, 2019

Kickstarting a Better World

The great playwright Arthur Miller once wrote that too often “we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Perhaps nowhere is that truer than today. In a world where profit maximization and transactional value often seems to dominate, and the current push back to that could have unintended consequences, how do we find our equilibrium? How do we create a world of money and value, a world of profit and purpose, unbridled ambition and deeper meaning?

Yancey Strickler, a co-founder and former CEO of Kickstarter, now looks beyond the narrow focus of Silicon Valley into a way that just might bring on an exciting and better world. He shares his views in This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World

My conversation with Yancey Strickler:



Monday, November 18, 2019

Fake is Sometimes Real

Artificial flavors, fake news, authentic copies, and real replicas. They all sound like oxymoronic gibberish at worst, overzealous marketing at best.

And so it is that sometimes the fake is indeed real. Today we can appreciate and even learn or feel something by looking at a replica piece of art or liking an artificial version of our favorite food flavor or enjoying fake meat, But how about owning a Chinese made Louie Vuitton bag, Rolex or Mont Blanc pen?

The danger of course, on every level, is that we may have so blurred the lines between fake and real that virtual reality is no longer something we need glasses to see, it just the world we live in every day. That's the world that Lydia Pyne teaches us about in Genuine Fakes

My conversation with Lydia Pyne:



Monday, November 11, 2019

Only Whistleblowers Can Save Democracy

Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Coleen Rowley, and the whistleblower who let us know about the Ukraine call, are just a few whose actions sparked international dialogue and their names may be universally recognized. But brave though they were, their courage isn’t universally revered.

Back in 2002 TIME magazine named three whistleblowers as people of the year and famed whistleblowers such as Frank Serpico, Jeffrey Wigand, and Karen Silkwood have been the subject of major films. Yet vitriol continues against individuals willing to speak out when they see crimes being committed.

Why are those who dare to expose corruption and worse so frequently ostracized? Why are we so quick to call treason on those who speak truth in the face of power? And what historical and patriotic obligation do we have to support and protect those that speak up? That’s our focus today as I’m joined by Middlebury College professor Allison Stanger to talk about Whistleblowers: Honesty in America from Washington to Trump

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Allison Stanger:




Why is Science Under Assault, and What We Should Do About?

Even when we don’t realize it, science is part of our lives. Physics, chemistry, biology...it’s all essential to our survival. So why is the general subject so confusing these days? Why do laymen think they know better than scientists?

And perhaps more importantly, at a time when everything else is advancing, when the cutting edge of
science impacts us all, how have the methodologies of science kept pace with modernity? Perhaps we’re all too stuck in the mindset of high school science class, and maybe that’s why we can’t progress in our thinking.

James Zimring, Professor of pathology at the University of Virginia, where he pursues basic and translational research in the field of transfusion medicine and blood biology, gives us some insight in What Science Is and How It Really Works

My conversation with James Zimring:



Monday, November 4, 2019

The Battle of Mosul - The Last Great Battle Against Isis

While many of you can recite the great battles of WW I and II and even the Civil War, the more recent battle that have been fought in the Middle East against ISIS are already forgotten. Certainly, the battle for Mosul was one of those

Beyond that, there is the relevance to events taking place today. The battle for Mosul, which helped take down ISIS in 2017, had as a major component, the forces of the autonomous region of Kurdistan. 40,000 Kurds that were part of the joint military effort in a battle every bit as important and as bloody as those of WW II.

Journalist James Verini was embedded with the Iraqi counter-terrorism service during the battle and tells the remarkable story in They Will Have to Die Now: Mosul and the Fall of the Caliphate

My conversation with James Verini:

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

He is a Being Made of Television

There is not a morning that goes by without some story about the impact of social media. The power of Facebook or Twitter, or Instagram. With all of that, it’s easy to forget the power of television. Its impact on our lives growing up, its power today and what it has wrought. It’s given us Ronald Regan, Josiah Bartlet, and Donald Trump.

Howard Beal laid it out for us in Network, but James Poniewozik gives us the contemporary context in his new book Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America

My conversation with James Peniewozik:


Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Science of Kindness Is Real

In many communities you often see people wearing a button that says Be Kind. In an ever competitive
and sometimes selfish world that’s not always easy to do. Our political dialogue makes it even more difficult. Add to that our economic and personal pressures and the acceleration that we all face, and kindness often gets left way behind.

But suppose we found out that kindness is not just something we can do to make us feel better, suppose we discovered that kindness can really help us live longer and healthier lives. Not in some mystical and karmic way, but in a very real, practical and scientifically based context.

Discovering this has been the work of Dr. Kelli Harding. She explains in her book The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness.

My conversation with Dr. Kelli Harding:


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Why Health Care Is Broken, and How to Fix It...Hint..Medicare for All is Not the Answer

Imagine if you went to buy a car and rather than one price for the car, you had to essentially buy it ala carte. You had to negotiate a separate price for the wheels, for the engine, for the paint, for seats, all separate. All from different suppliers and all with hidden fees. Sound ridiculous? But that is essentially how we pay for health care in America.

It’s no wonder that there is no more polarizing issues than the delivery and the cost of health care. It’s why it’s front and center in our politics, and in all of our lives. It’s a system that alone makes us sick.

It’s amazing how many people say they like their doctors, but hate the system. A system that is broken, has lost public trust and has become a business model in which price gouging is built-in, outcomes are not part of pricing, and it corrupts people who often start out as idealists.

This is the system that Dr. Marty Makary details in The Price We Pay: What Broke American Health Care--and How to Fix It.

My conversation with Dr. Marty Makary:


Monday, October 21, 2019

Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law: A conversation with James B. Stewart

The world is a complex place. The news comes at us at hyper-speed and 24/7.  All while we have to deal with family, work and life.

Therefore more than ever, it’s critical that there are those among us, journalists mostly, whose job it is to distill and explain events to us. Not to tell us how or what to think, but to present the big stories in-depth and in a narrative that allows us to be smarter about the world, and refine how we are to live in it.

Few do this better than James B. Stewart. He has been doing it for years with books such as Blood Sport, Den of Thieves, and Disney Wars. Now with his latest Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law, he  takes us deep inside what we’ve all lived through for the past three years. The investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails and of Trump, Russia, Comey and the Mueller Report.  All of which has lead us to where we are today.

My conversation with James B. Stewart:


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Harold Bloom 1930 - 2019

Harold Bloom, who died last week at the age of 89, was one of our great teachers and literary critics. Often out of sync with contemporary literary fashion, he defended the “Western canon” and fought against what he called “the School of Resentment,” multiculturalists and those whom he argued betrayed what he saw as literature’s essential purpose.

I had the opportunity to know Professor Bloom as a student, and later in life, I had the opportunity to interview him. Most recently in 2000 upon the publication of his book How to Read and Why

Here is that conversation with Professor Harold Bloom:


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Conversation with the Recipients of This Year's Nobel Prize in economics: Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee

Beyond the common denominator of poverty what are aspects of the poor that we just don't understand?

We've learned that poverty itself creates a different life, a different view of the world. A view that arguably accounts for the fundamental failures of so many well-meaning programs. Why this is, what works and why has it been so hard to find the magic bullet. Trying to answer this has been the work of the winners of this year's Nobel Prize in economics, Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee.

My conversation with Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee:



Monday, October 14, 2019

The End of America's Cultural Hegemony

A look at the news any day reminds us that America is no longer the singular dominant power in the world. This is true vis a vis soft power, moral persuasion, and now cultural power.

American movies, music, and art no longer are the single option for global entertainment. Perhaps not since the British invasion of the ‘60s have we seen so much art and entertainment coming from outside of the U.S. This time form India, South Korea, and even Turkey.  This is the world that Fatima Bhutto takes us into in New Kings of the World: Dispatches from Bollywood, Dizi, and K-Pop

My conversation with Fatima Bhutto:



Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Tyranny of Virtue: Political Correctness Run Amuck on Our Campuses

Once upon a time, we didn’t have to think about political correctness. And we survived as a culture! We self-corrected, we became more sensitive to others, we learned to accept and appreciate diversity. It was sometimes difficult, even painful. But a lot of it was organic. Often we slipped up. We fell backward, and sometimes it even took appropriate legislation to provide better guardrails for our behavior. Such was the forward march of mankind.

But today, the bludgeon of political correctness hangs over all of us. And nowhere worse than on our college campuses. The fear of free speech, the absurdity of safe spaces, the desire to silence unpopular ideas and the seeking out of problems and conflicts that don’t really exist, are all hallmarks of where we are today.

But how did we get here, and is there any path out that does not divides us still further, polarize us even more and further enhance the sanctimony of those who consider their ideas singularly virtuous.

Skidmore professor Robert Boyers, the subject of a story in this week’s New Yorker takes us into the belly of the beast of political correctness in his new book The Tyranny of Virtue: Identity, the Academy, and the Hunt for Political Heresies.

My conversation with Robert Boyers:


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Just Who is Brett Kavanaugh?

Most of us remember being transfixed, just one year ago, to the hearings from now Supreme Court Justice Brent Kavanaugh. This week, as the court begins its new term, Justice Kavanaugh will be part of a court deciding on some of the most fundamental cases that affect our politics, our culture, and our freedoms. All in an atmosphere that, if even possible, is even more polarized than it was a year ago.

So who is Brett Kavanaugh? Certainly the one week FBI investigation and the televised circus that was his hearing may not have told the whole story. For that, we must rely on the reporting of Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly in their new book The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.

My conversation with Robin Pogrebin: