Monday, November 30, 2009

Biden v. Cheney

For better or worse, Dick Cheney redefined the role of the modern Vice President.  By creating his own executive branch inside the Bush White House, he wielded power and influence that often usurped the President he served.  Today Joe Biden inherits that office and himself has extraordinary power and influence, but he achieves it in a wholly different way; by partnering rather than competing with his President.  His influence in the area of US foreign policy is profound and might be felt in the President's Af/Pack speech tomorrow night.  The idea of Joe Biden as "the second most powerful Vice President in history" is the cover story of this week's New York Times Magazine by contributing editor James Traub.

My conversation with James Traub:

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Rainbow in the Night

As we Americans celebrate a small group of European settlers who landed on our shores, it's worthwhile to stop and look at the impact of another group of settlers who landed on the the cape that is now South Africa in 1652.  They were noble in their mission, but within decades a small group that broke off set in motion centuries of conquest, war and oppression.  The Dutch settlers of South Africa convinced themselves that whey were God's chosen people, destined to rule over the masses of the continent.  By 1948, the Purified National Party came to control the South African government and Apartheid came into being.  It was a system of segregation marked by horrors second only to those of Hitler's Germany.  This system became the law of the land.  Now humanitarian and historian Dominique Lapierre in his book A Rainbow in the Night: The Tumultuous Birth of South Africa tells the story of this violent history and the heroes that changed it.  If only such heroes existed today in the Middle East.

My conversation with Dominque Lapierre:
Bookmark and Share

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fourty-Six years and we still are seeking the truth

Forty-six years after the murder of John F. Kennedy new information continues to come to light.  The link between a secret coup planned by JFK and Robert Kennedy against Cuba and their personal war against Mafia all culminated in a perfect storm, as Kennedy's Cuban exile aid, who would go on to become one the Watergate burglars, Bernard Barker, sells out the JFK coup plan to long-time mob bosses Santo Trafficante and Carlos Marcello.

If it sounds hard to believe, historian Lamar Waldron lays it all out in 944 pages of painstaking detail in his book Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination.

My two part conversation with Lamar Waldron:

Part One:

Part Two:
Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tales from a Rock 'n' Roll Life

In a business as transient a journalism it is remarkable that Robert Hilburn was the pop music critic for the Los Angels Times for 35 years! During that time he witnessed most of rock 'n' roll's seminal moments and interviewed virtually every major pop figure of the period. In his new memoir Corn Flakes with John Lennon: And Other Tales from a Rock 'n' Roll Life, he gives us a totally unique account of the symbiotic relationship between critic and artist and reflects on the ways in which he has changed and been changed by the subjects he's covered.

My conversation with Robert Hilburn:
Bookmark and Share

Literary Catholics

We've had two guests recently whose conversion to Catholicism is both surprising and literary.  Both came to their faith late in life, yet from very different places.

First Anne Rice who, long before "Twilight" introduced us to vampires, now turns her attention to Angel Time as the "personification" of her new found faith.

Next, Mary Karr, who jump started a renaissance in memoir with "The Liars' Club" and then "Cherry" talks in her latest memoir Lit, about her apocalyptic childhood and outlaw adolescence and how she overcame her feral upbringing to become an esteemed poet and professor and found the Catholic faith.

My conversation with Anne Rice:
My conversation with Mary Karr:
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why we miss Molly Ivins

As a journalist she was ahead of her time.  As a columnist she was the last of a dying breed.  She was one of the most provocative, courageous and influential journalists in American history.  Presidents and senators called her for advice; her column ran in 400 newspapers; her books were bestsellers. Yet, despite her fame, few people really knew Molly Ivins. Now Bill Minutaglio, a professor of journalism at the University of Texas,  gives us the comprehensive and definitive biography of Molly in his book Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life

My conversation with Bill Minutaglio:

Bookmark and Share

Tear Down this Country.......

While Mad Men and even Barack Obama remind us of the idealism of the 60's, it is in fact the 80's, the Reagan years, that shape most of what we are struggling with today.  From our post cold war diplomacy, the state of the Republican Party and the very heart of our culture wars, Ronald Reagan and the 80's shaped American life for the past 30 years. Historian and McGill University Profession Gil Troy in his two new works Living in the Eighties and The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction tells the story of the Reagan era in our politics, religion, crime, music, the city and the free market.

My conversation with Gil Troy:

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tear Down This Wall....

Regardless of the scope of their contribution, many iconic leaders are often reduced to a single sound byte or single speech: "We have nothing to fer but fear itself", "Ask not what your country can do for you...", and for Ronald Reagan "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"  This November marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the end of the Cold War.  In his new book X, Time magazine deputy managing editor Romesh Ratnesar deconsturcts the speech and the remarkable events that brought it about. 

Ultimately, Ratnesar argues that Reagan's speech offers lessons for the political problems of today.  That it should reminds us that historically, thing that once seemed immutable DO change.

My conversation with Romesh Ratnesar:

Friday, November 13, 2009

And the Plane he rode in on...

Ten months ago, when "Sully" Sullenberger landed his plan on the chilly waters of the Hudson River, we celebrated his cool, his skill as a pilot as well as the coordination of the flight crew and the rescuers. But there was another character in this story. That is the A320 Airbus that Sullenbuerger flew and the advanced generation of aircraft that it represented. Taking a look at this aircraft, the job of piloting and of the totality of what happened that day is one of our most distinguished journalists, William Langewiesche, in his new book Fly by Wire: The Geese, the Glide, the Miracle on the Hudson.

My conversation with William Langewiesche:

Powered by

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"A really big show."

Before the advent of cable, i Pods, Satellite or the Internet, we got all of our home entertainment from just three television networks.  And each Sunday night, for 23 years, we gathered around the cathode ray hearth to watch an awkward host name Ed Sullivan serve as our entertainment gatekeeper.  Now journalist, entertainment critic, and humor columnist Gerald Nachman, in his book Right Here on Our Stage Tonight!: Ed Sullivan's America, has given us a new look at The Ed Sullivan Show and exposed it to a whole new generation.  

My conversation with Gerald Nachman:

Powered by

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A survivor's tale

By any account it was one of the most gruesome and heinous crimes of our times. On April 14, 1989 Ramon Salcido went on a killing sprees in Sonoma, California, shooting and killing his wife, her two younger sisters and his wife's mother. Then he slashed the throats of his three young daughters, leaving them for dead in the county dump.  Miraculously, one of the daughters, tiny, three year old Carmina Salcido was still alive.  Astonishingly, that was only the beginning of Carmina's troubles.  She's written about her life in her new memoir Not Lost Forever: My Story of Survival.

My conversation with Carmina Salcido:

Powered by

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Smart on Crime

Kamala Harris may be the next Attorney General of the state of California. She is currently the District Attorney of San Francisco and named by Newsweek one of the "20 Most Powerful Women in America."  In her new book Smart on Crime she argues that our current system for fighting crime and protecting the public is simply not working.  We spend $200 billion annually fighting crime and there are over two million people currently incarcerated in America.  Are we getting value for our dollars? The way Harris sees it, if we are going to be really effective, we must attack small problem long before they become big problem.

My conversation with Kamala Harris:

Powered by

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nothing Was the Same

Kay Redfield Jamison, in her best selling THE UNQUIET MIND, was a guide in understanding the nature of depression, bipolar disorder and the chemistry of the brain.  Now, in her memoir Nothing Was the Same, she turns her attention to understanding the psychology and physiology of grief and grieving. In these troubled times, and as baby boomers age and face the tragedies of love and loss and suddenly being alone in the world, Jamison's work provides powerful insights.

My conversation with Kay Redfield Jamison:

Powered by

Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 6, 2009


It is the behemoth of the digital age.  It has steamrolled over traditional media companies and yet it's run by engineers who strive to be at the cutting of technology.  It is a distributor as well as a creator of content. The company is Google and we get our first look inside what really makes it tick in Ken Auletta's new book Googled: The End of the World As We Know It Auletta is one of the most astute media journalists, a long time columnist for The New Yorker, he now turns his attention to nothing less than the future of media.

My conversation with Ken Auletta:

Powered by

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, November 5, 2009

One year and counting......

One year ago this week we concluded one of the most transformative Presidential campaigns of all times.  A campaign and an election that will forever change the paradigm of American politics. One of the most astute chroniclers of that campaign was The New Yorker's Rick Hertzberg.  In his new book Obamanos!: The Rise of a New Political Era,he gives us his insights into the birth of a this new political epoch.  

My conversation with Rick Hertzberg:

Powered by

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How Poker Explains the World

Invented in China, refined in France, for almost two hundred years, poker has been the favorite American pastime.   In his new book Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker, poker journalist James McManus, illustrates the connections between poker, politics and our national identity.  In an age where the heart of capitalism is questioned, poker serves as an iconic example of our romance with market democracy.  

My conversation with James McManus:

Powered by

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tokyo Vice

You may have recently seen Jake Adelstein on 60 Minutes, expounding as one of the worlds most knowledgeable voices on the Yakuza and the Japanese underworld.  In his new book Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japanhe pulls back the curtain on the most sordid elements of Japanese society.  Very few Americans have ever come close to discovering what really goes on in Japan's most closed society.  Adelstein's is a dark journey through the underworld of Tokyo vice and the Yakuza, as told by the only American journalist every to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police press club.  

My conversation with Jake Adelstein:

Powered by

Bookmark and Share