Saturday, February 27, 2010

The human side of immigration

With controversy over immigrants and immigration escalating, and the debate surrounding both the ability of undocumented immigrants to pursue the American dream of going to college and to access health care in this country, two recent books compassionate and intelligently tackle both of these issues.

First, Dr. Danielle Ofri, in her book Medicine in Translation: Journeys with My Patients tells us riveting stories about her immigrant patients at Bellevue. Living and dying in the foreign country we call home, they have much to teach us about the American way, in sickness and in health. Additionally, journalist Helen Thorpe in her book Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America gives us a powerful account of our young Mexican woman coming of age in Denver - two of whom have legal documents, and two whom do not.

My conversation with Danielle Ofri

My conversation with Helen Thorpe

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Should college athletes be paid to play?  Are big name coaches worth the millions they receive?  And who really benefits from the astronomical media deals that schools sign?  From the insanity of recruiting to March Madness, sports have long been seen as a financial engine for many schools.  However today, in these times of austerity, how does this square with the roll and mission of our great universities?  Are sports more entertainment than education?  Veteran Wall Street Journal writer Mark Yost digs into these and other provocative questions in his new book Varsity Green: A Behind the Scenes Look at Culture and Corruption in College Athletics.

My conversation with Mark Yost:

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

The mental game

As sports become more competitive, as we learn new ways to push the body to its dynamic limits, as faster, higher, stronger becomes a given, what will separate the good from the great.  Even in fighting, perhaps the ultimate physical endeavor, it's often more mental than physical.  Sam Sheridan, in his new book The Fighter's Mind: Inside the Mental Game looks inside the minds of fighters to give us a view of the mental game.

My conversation with Sam Sheridan:

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Thursday, February 18, 2010


If there is a dysfunction symptomatic of our times, perhaps it is procrastination. It often separates those who succeed from those who don't.  It causes loose of productivity. It prevents so many from fully achieving what they are truly capable of.  Why is it so prevalent, how do psychiatrists see it, and why is it so hard to correct.  Dr. Jane Burka, a psychologist, has been looking at this problem for over twenty-five years.  Her bookProcrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It Now, is just out in an updated 25th Anniversary Edition.

My conversation with Dr. Jane Burka:

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

One happy customer...

If we are to reignite the economy, bring back jobs and really recover from 2009, we're going to only do it based on the success of American business.  Concurrently, if American business is to succeed and prosper, it must fully embrace the idea of customer service.  Multi-million dollar Super bowl ads are nice, but for the same cost business should be focused on taking care of and solidifying the customers they already have.  Joseph Jaffe understand this and he spells it out in his new book Flip the Funnel: How to Use Existing Customers to Gain New Ones.

My conversation with Joseph Jaffe:

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Monday, February 15, 2010

American Journalism, DOA?

Newspapers are closing, bureaus are shuttering, whole areas of state, local and federal government are operating with no press coverage. At the same time, corporate and political power is rising. Is democracy threatened? Did the founders intend for the media to have a more active role in balancing democratic forces? If so, it's another sign that our democracy may be in trouble. We are awash in formation, but as T.S. Elliot wrote,"where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" Journalism professor Robert W. McChesney, in his new book The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again argues that our journalism is in more trouble than many believe and the the internet and technology alone may not be the answer.

My conversation with Robert McChesney:

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The road most traveled

Roads are the infrastructure by which advanced civilizations have always been able to connect with each other.  From the ancient spice routes to the interstate highway system, roads have symbolized progress and have been the backbone of our economy.  Today, it is no accident that the information superhighway is the metaphor for a whole new way of connecting. In his new work The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World and the Way We Live TodayTed Conover takes a look at how roads work, for good and ill, and what their future likely holds.

My conversation with Ted Conover:

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The Suburban future?

Unlike much of the west, America's population continues to grow.  But will the demographic makeup of this growth be good for America?  Social thinker Joel Kotkin thinks so.  In his new book The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 says that within fourty years ever more Americans will move to new "greener" suburbs and will be less reliant on cities. His arguments run counter to the views of the New Urbanists and people like Richard Florida.  Is Kotkin's vision really a view of the continued Walmartiation of America?

My conversation with Joel Kotkin:

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Iraq...the worst is yet to come

Washington Post special military correspondent Thomas Ricks predicts that the war in Iraq is likely to last at least another five to ten years.  He argues that invading Iraq was perhaps the worst decision in the history of American foreign policy.  As such we've made a mess that won't be easy to clean up as this preemptive and false war will continue to haunt us.  Ricks' believes that Iraq was an epic mistake for which there are now few good solutions.  He concludes that the worst may still be ahead of us.  His book The Gamble: General Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq is put just out in paperback.

My conversation with Thomas Ricks:

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Autobiography of an Execution

While executions in the U.S. are considered public policy, they are carried out in private; often far, far away from public scrutiny.  In Texas, the execution capital of America, they happen with barely a mention.  Yet, at least outside of Texas, the tide may be turning against state sponsored murder.  David R. Dow, the litigation director of the Texas Defender Service and a Professor at the University of Houston Law Center, in his new book The Autobiography of an Execution gives us an up close and personal look inside the death penalty.

My conversation with David Dow:

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

The world in a grain of sand

We live in a world of ever increasing complexity.  Our economy, our social networks, the very fabric of our lives seem at times random and unfathomable.  Yet if we look carefully we find that complex behaviors can often be defined by simple rules. If we understand this truth, perhaps we can better manage the chaos around us.  Patterns of "self organization" are everywhere. And if we understand these patterns, physicist and science writer Dr. Len Fisher explains in his new book The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life, we will understand the ideas of complexity theory that, he believes, underpins some of the most confounding mysteries in life and provides simples answers to why they occur.

My conversation with Dr. Len Fisher:

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Do Not Enter

Whether we are discussing the war on terrorism, the onslaught of modern technology, or the rightward shift of the Supreme Court, we continue see within them the erosion of the right to privacy in America.  Thought history, it seems that it's the one right we've always been willing to cede for what we often mistakenly perceive as the great good.  Journalist and attorney Frederick Lane, in his new book American Privacy: The 400-Year History of Our Most Contested Right, explains that "the history of America is the history of the right to privacy." Yet Lane explains that the right to privacy has never kept pace with technological and social change.

My conversation with Fredrick Lane:

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Monday, February 1, 2010

The Inheritance

While the Bush Administration focused almost entirely on Iraq, the world moved on. Places and situations that were dangerous because more dangerous.  By the time Obama came into office, he inherited a nation engaged in two wars, a rising China, a more intractable Israeli government and an Iran torn by internal strife. And that's just for starters.  This is the backdrop for N.Y. Times chief Washington correspondent David E. Sanger's book The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power. It's just out in paperback with a new and updated epilogue by the author.

My conversation with David Sanger:

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