Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Is something rotten in Denmark...and the rest of Europe?

Around 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville revealed a unique set of American character traits. Traits that in total, would come to define the American experience. Today most of those traits are still with us; but we often lose sight or forget about them. Like de Tocqueville, sometimes it takes an outsider to remind us of those things that make us, if not exceptional, at least unique in what we've been able to achieve.

Daniel Hannan, is a Conservative member of the European Parliament and first came to international prominence when he took on then British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, regarding his economic polices.

In his recently published book The New Road to Serfdom: A Letter of Warning to America,  Hannan sounds a clarion call to America not to be seduced by all that seems attractive about the European system. Since the original publication of his book, he has proved prescient in several ways.

My conversation with Daniel Hannan:

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Voices of Poverty

What does poverty look like in America today? Almost fifty years ago, Lyndon Johnson, during a State of the Union address, proposed a War on Poverty . Today, in many ways, we seem to have lost that war.

The plight of the poor in America is growing worse and the attention paid to them declining. Perhaps if we really understood, separate from the politics of economics, what that plight was like, if we really understood the stories of individuals, beyond the stereotypes, maybe then society might take notice and take action.

A significant effort in this regard is under way with a new project, encompassing a website, and ultimately a book. The project is entitled Voice of Poverty and it’s the idea of freelance journalist and U.C. Davis lecturer Sasha Abramsky. The project could radically change how we think about the poor in America.

My conversation with Sasah Abramsky.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

How Ahmad Chalabi lead the Bush administration into Iraq

Now that the war in Iraq is officially ending, just maybe we can go back and look at why there really was an Iraq war. Not because of the so called “weapons of mass destruction” that Sadam allegedly had; but because one man had made it his life's mission, from the time he was a teenager, to overthrow Sadam. Over the years he tried many ways, but none would be more successful for Ahmad Chalabi than co-opting the Bush administration, the CIA, the New York Times, and the Defense Department. How did pull it off, and in so doing precipitate what may very well be the biggest and most expensive foreign policy blunder in us history?

Five time Emmy winner and 60 Minutes Producer Richard Bonin takes us up close and personal to Ahmad Chaabi and how be lead the US into a calamitous nine-year war. He lays it out in Arrows of the Night: Ahmad Chalabi's Long Journey to Triumph in Iraq.

My conversation with Richard Bonin:

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Why are we so interested in foresnics?

More than twenty years ago, Patricia Cornwell originated the modern-day forensic thriller. In so doing, she changed the face of contemporary crime fiction with the creation of medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta. Since then, she has been often imitated, but never copied and continues to be the #1 bestselling crime writer in the world today.

My conversation with Patricia Cornwell about her latest Kay Scarpetta novel, Red Mist

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The God particle, Higgs boson and what are we looking for?

Scientists announced Tuesday that they had found hints, but not quite definitive proof of the particle that is believed to be a basic component of the universe. Clearly physicists are closing in on an elusive subatomic particle that, if found, would confirm a long-held understanding about why matter has mass and how the universe's fundamental building blocks behave.

Few people outside of physics can fully comprehend the search for the Higgs boson, which was first hypothesized 40 years ago. However, Oxford University physicist Frank Close, in his new book The Infinity Puzzle, takes us inside this very human and high pressure quest to uncover the order of the universe.

My conversation with Frank Close:

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Greats of the Game or why sports continues to grow

This weekend it was reported that movie attendance is at a recent low. Our interest in politics and politicians couldn't be lower. However the one area where where both attendance and interest continues to explode is the world of sports.

In part it's the clarity of the story, the colorful, volatile and often egotistical personalities and also a whole new perking order of quality sports reporting.  Perched atop that order is John Feinstein. The author of twenty-eight books, most notably A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled,  he is also a commentator on NPR's Morning Edition, a regular on ESPNs The Sports Reporters, and is also a regular contributor to The Washington Post.

His new book, One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game is a look at his relationships with some of those legendary personalities in sports.

My conversation with John Feinstein:

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Monday, December 12, 2011

The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior

At the Republican debate, this past Saturday night, the question was raised about the impact of fidelity and by connection trustworthiness, on Presidential character. Perhaps that was the wrong question. Perhaps the better question was not on how trustworthiness impacts character, but how a sense of trust and moral understanding might actually impact public policy, economies and fairness? How does trust, morality and a sense of fairness shape our view of how the economy should work? To answer, we only need look at how greed and pure opportunism has shaped the events of the past two years. Professor David C. Rose, in The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior shows us how moral choices do play a role in the development and operation of market economies.

My conversation with David Rose:

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bernie Madoff and the destruction of an American Family

In the movie Wall Street, Oliver Stone told us that "the only thing worse than not having money, is to have had it and lost it." Such is certainly the case with the family of Bernie Madoff. But the question still remains, for this family that lived high on the hog for so long, "what did they know and when did they know it?"

Journalist Laurie Sandell was the first to really get inside the Madoff family and tried to ascertain whether or not we should have any sympathy for Ruth, Mark and Andrew; or should we simply share a sense of schadenfreude for the destruction of this American family. In her new book Truth and Consequences
she spends hours talking to members of the family.

My conversation with Laure Sandell:

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Caution, FDA Approved

It seems like every day now, as certain drugs move to generic formulation, we're told how wonderful the original is. Every day, on television, we see advertising for the latest, so called wonder drug. These ads are filled with images of families, health and vibrancy. Little do these ads tells us about what really goes on behind the scenes of the big pharmaceutical companies. How are these miracle drugs developed, marketed and tested? And then imagine a drug that looks wonderful on paper, except that it never really worked for a disease that never really existed....and it came with powerful risks.

Investigative journalist Kathleen Sharp in her new book Blood Feud: The Man Who Blew the Whistle on One of the Deadliest Prescription Drugs Ever takes us inside Big Pharma and shows how one good man, a whistleblower named Mark Duxbury, fights to project the vulnerability of innocent patients.

My conversation with Kathleen Sharp:

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Strike that Changed America

In this time of renewed labor unrest, particularly in the public sector, it's worth looking back at the most momentous public sector strike of the second half of the 20th Century. It came when the Professional Air Traffic Controllers, a group that would reflect he progressive idealism and hope of the 60's, would run headlong into Ronald Reagan's conservative revolution of the 1980's. These two forces, which had been on a collision course since JFK signed an Executive Order allowing government workers to organize unions, had their ultimate collision on August 3rd, 1981. Since that time, like the big bang, the the pieces from that moment of collision are still being thrown off and still shaping our politics today.

Georgetown University labor expert Joseph McCartin takes us back to that moment and the events that lead up to it in Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America.

My conversation with Jospeh McCartin:

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Monday, November 28, 2011

William F. Buckley

As Republican candidates move around the country trying define their conservative credentials, it's worth noting, as perhaps they should, that this year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the publication, by a then 26 year old William F. Buckley, of GOD AND MAN AT YALE. A book that many consider the seminal text of the modern conservative movement. It was a book that would redefine Conservatism in the cold war era and beyond. It was a conservatism that had evolved from Edmund Burke and the French Revolution, and was near death in the late 40's and would be given new life by Buckley. Buckley would go on to found National Review, provide the intellectual heft to continue to drive conservatism, provide the ideological underpinnings of Barry Goldwater, run for Mayor of New York, write over 50 books, appear in almost 1500 episodes of Firing Line and all the while define the difference between the passion of ideas and passion of friendship. Roger Williams University Law Professor Carl T. Bogus gives us a modern view of Buckley in this new book Buckley: William F. Buckley Jr. and the Rise of American Conservatism.

My conversation with Carl Bogus:

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unbecoming British

While the American Revolution was primarily about political independence, there were a core of individuals who wanted the United States to gain cultural and social differentiation from its former colonial masters. But it proved not so easy cutting loose from a nation that for two centuries, had set the standard of civilization, not only for the colonies, but for the world. In many respects these issues of trade, of inferiority, of race and of exceptionalism, are still issues we as a nation, are still dealing with today, three hundred plus year later.

Keriann Akemi Yokota takes us back to the roots in Unbecoming British: How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation

My conversation with Keriann Akemi Yokota:

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Monday, November 21, 2011

The Unmaking of Israel

Over the past several years millions of words have been written and spoken about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rarely in history has a conflict gone on this long, without a resolution, or without taking some kind of corrosive toll on its participants. Today, it seems clear that the intransigence of Israeli leaders threatens not only Israeli and American relations, but internal American politics, the stability of the region itself  and also threatens Israel's future as an enlightened democratic nation. This is the premise of Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg, in his Book The Unmaking of Israel.

My conversation with Gershom Gorenberg:

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Friday, November 18, 2011

A Fool and his lies....

"To thine own self be true" Shakespeare tells us. Little did he know that in calling for this, he was going up against centuries of evolutionary behavior. In fact, renowned biologist and anthropologist Robert Trivers argues, in his new work The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life, that self deception has been favored by natural selection. That we lie to ourselves in order to be better able to lie to others and throughout history, to the liers go the spoils.

My conversation with Robert Trivers:

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

This years National Book Award winner

There is a reason that Hurricane Katrina still resonates with us. Not just because of the magnitude of the catastrophe, but because it signaled something profound about the American condition. Because it brought into bold relief the lives of many who lived behind a curtain of poverty, suffering and innate courage. This is the backdrop for the winner of this years National Book Award for Fiction Jesmyn Ward and her novel Salvage the Bones.

My conversation with Jesmyn Ward:

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Monday, November 14, 2011

How did conservatism get from Edmund Burke to Sara Palin?

What is conservatism and does today's conservatism bear any resemblecne to it's European roots? Why does conservatism today seem so often un-conservative, so radical and nontraditional? From its reaction against the French Revolution, to the intransigence of today's GOP, who do conservative thinkers have in common?  Brooklyn College Political Science Professor Corey Robin has sparked a new and needed public conversation about the past, present and future of the conservative movement, in his new book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.

My conversation with Corey Robin:

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Life in the Dark

A decade after her death, Pauline Kael still remains the most important figure in film criticism today. In her view the critic "was the only independent source of information." As she viewed it, "all the rest was just advertising." It's fair to say that all critics today are measured against Kael. For those that love movies and are of a certain age, we all remember waiting for those Wednesday reviews in The New Yorker. In his new book Pauline Kael: A Life in the DarkBrian Kellow gives us that first look behind the lens of Pauline Kael. She liked to say that her work was her biography, but Kellow gives us so much more.

My conversation with Brian Kellow:

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Portrait of a School Shooter

Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University, Cleveland High School. They all conjure up painful images of boys gone bad. We’ve all heard the teacher or the neighbor talk about what a good student or a nice boy some of these perpetrators were. But nice boys, normal boys, don’t kill their fellow students or themselves. So what happened? Can we ever really fully understand what goes on in the minds of these boys and what they tell us about ourselves? Was Cesar right, that “the fault is in ourselves.” Few have looked deeper into this abyss than novelist and journalist David Vann in his original Esquire article about Steven Kazmierczak and the Northern Illinois University shooting and in his most recent book  Last Day on Earth: A Portrait of the NIU School Shooter.

My conversation with David Vann:

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