Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nuclear Shadow 2.0

For Baby Boomers who grew up in the shadow of the Cold War and the nuclear age, we thought all of that ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. It seemed as if the Cuban missile crisis, 50 years ago, was the apogee of our nuclear fears.

But today, if we're paying attention, we see that the nuclear age has spread. There are not two, but nine nuclear states in the world today; and while it’s a lot less than the twenty-five that JFK thought we’d have by the 80’s, its enough to make the world of nuclear weapons 2.0, a very dangerous place.

This is the launching pad for Yale Professor Paul Bracken’s new book. The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics.

My conversation with Paul Bracken:

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Surfing the Middle East

John Stuart Mill said, back in 1848, that "It is hardly possible to overstate the value, in the present low state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar ... Such communication has always been, and is particularly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress."

Given the globalized nature of our world, nothing could be more true, even 164 years later. Jesse Aizenstat has done exactly that. Using his love of surfing, he forged a common bond with the disparate peoples of the Middle East and proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the ability of our common humanity to transcend those man made constructs that divide us.

My conversation with Jesse Aizenstat about Surfing the Middle East: Deviant Journalism from the Lost Generation

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Many fear that technology is out of control. But perhaps, what’s really out of control is an imbalance of values. Over the last few centuries we humans have drastically valued technology as a solution to the problems of life. Consequently the emotional aspect of problem solving has often been left by the wayside. Few understand this dichotomy better than bestselling novelist Dr. Robin Cook. He has used this imbalance to scare the bejesus out of us in his books like Coma, Cure, and Fever. Now in his latest work, Nano, he once again walks us through the cost benefit analysis of medical technology falling into the wrong hands.

My conversation with Robin Cook:

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

We've been here before!

If we were talk about a time of bitter angry partisanship, flawed leaders lusting after women and power, worried perhaps more about their legacy than their constituents. Politicians who were accused of being pragmatic rather than idealistic. Who sometimes did care about ideas, but to the determent of good politics. We might easily be talking about current members of Congress, President Obama, President Clinton or Jack Kennedy. In fact, we’d also be talking about Thomas Jefferson. The man whose idealization has in many ways clouded how we should see and understand the better nature of politics...even today.

Pulitzer prize winning biographer and journalist Jon Meacham, in his new book Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power gets to the heart of who Thomas Jefferson really dined with, when he dined alone.

My conversation with Jon Meacham:

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Patriarch

Forty-nine years ago last month JFK’s assassination brought the end of Camelot. Yet the Kennedy legacy and even the Kennedy Dynasty still continues. A political dynasty that was, at its core, the dream of one man. Joseph Patrick Kennedy the father of Jack, and Bobby and Teddy. Joseph Kennedy was a Zelig like character, whose impact was part of almost everything in the first half of the 20th century.

To the extent that the Kennedys have had a profound effect on this nation, then Joseph Kennedy was the progenitor of that impact. It’s worth taking a look at his remarkable, and complex life, as David Nasaw has done in The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy.

My conversation with David Nasaw:

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Faith is complicated...and simple

Faith today is a complicated business. There is organized religion, politics, irony and expectation. Yet, at its core it’s a simple idea. The notion that we don't have all the answers, that we should express gratitude for what we do have and that we can stop and smell the proverbial roses.

In these basic beliefs Anne Lamott has brought together in, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, what she knows and believes about prayer and its fundamentals. 

My conversation with Annie Lamott:

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Paging Dr. House!

If the debate about healthcare has taught us anything, it is the consequence and impact of unexpected disease. One illness can put us into poverty.  But it can also literally make us crazy. Imagine an illness, a medical mystery at first, that exhibits all the signs of demonic possession, that takes you over the line between sanity and insanity.

That's the story of Susannah Cahalan. She tell us her remarkable story in her memoir Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

My conversation with Susannah Cahalan:

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Where are the great woman chefs?

Why are there so few big name woman chefs? How are they different than men in the kitchen? Why have both Julia Child and The Food Network done a disservice to women in the kitchen? Powerhouse food journalist Charlotte Druckman takes us behind the kitchen doors of some of some of the leading female chefs in Skirt Steak: Women Chefs on Standing the Heat and Staying in the Kitchen.

My conversation with Charlotte Druckman:

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Monday, November 19, 2012

In France, they do kiss on main street

One of the many, but essential things that separates America and France are their attitudes toward love and sex; or as Joni Mitchell said, “in France they kiss on Main street,”

The French love, love. It occupies a special place in their pantheon of fashion, food, wine and sex. But how did this come to be? How is it that French, culture has come to embrace love in ways that set it apart from so many other western cultures?

Marilyn Yalom, a former professor of French and presently a senior scholar at Stanford, explains How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance

My conversation with Marilyn Yalom:

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The changing legal landscape of same-sex marriage

It is, arguably, the civil rights issue of our times. Same sex marriage has also become one of the most politically volatile. It divides red and blue states, most profoundly divides generations and, perhaps more than any other single political issues, attitudes are changing as the recent elections in Maryland, Maine and Washington showed us.

While polarized positions on issues like guns, death penalty, healthcare and immigration harden over time, in the case of gay marriage the public seems to be becoming more accepting. While we still wait to see if the US Supreme court is going to take up California’s Prop 8, it’s clear that it will hear one of many cases on the issue of gay marriage. Because more than anywhere else the battle is being fought in the courts, as well as the political battlefield.

Michael J. Klarman, is a Civil Rights historian and is the Kirkland & Ellis Professor at Harvard Law School.  He takes us inside the legal battle in From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage

My conversation with Michael Klarman:

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Friday, November 9, 2012

The Boys of Pointe du Hoc

On June 6th 1984, Ronald Reagan gave one of his most powerful speeches marking “the Boys of Pointe du Hoc,” who took on one of the toughest missions of D-Day. Now, acclaimed military historian Patrick O’Donnell takes us up close and personal with these men who led the way across Europe.

O’Donnell has collected oral histories and has woven them together as the spine of  his new work Dog Company.   It shall forever preserve the men and their mission.

My conversation with Patrick K. O’Donnell:

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Florida Again!!!!

As we saw this past weekend, every time we enter a major election, the politics of voting rights moves front and center. While the methods used and those using them to suppress voter turnout seem to shift with time and with each election, the practice seems as old as the republic itself.
The problem is that in this cynical age, it adds to the disconnect between individuals and whether they think their vote and their voice matters. The current effort at voter suppression is no different and is the subject of a new look by Tova Andrea Wang in her new work The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans' Right to Vote.

My conversation with Tova Andrea Wang:

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Case for Government

Deep within the American DNA is the faith in rugged individualism. The idea that we are the captains of our fate and that what we accomplish is solely by our own initiative and the sweat of our own brow. The problem is the reality is far different. Much of this is simply because our origin story is so inconsistent with how America works and has worked.

That gap, lies at the heart of political debate in America today. It may very well be what this coming election turns on. Who made that, how do we recover from disasters, how do we solve problems and the role of government in the 21st century

Professor and historian Steven Conn sits at ground zero of the debate, at Ohio State University. He's the editor of a collection of essays To Promote the General Welfare: The Case for Big Government

My conversation with Steven Conn:
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Monday, October 29, 2012

America's Unwritten Constitution

Perhaps more than at any other time in the history of the world, democracy is on the march. But the idea that people, individual citizens could engage in the practice of self government wasn't always so. In fact, it was only with the creation of our constitution, launched 225 years ago, that the idea was even appropriately articulated.

But that constitution as brilliant and profound and clever as it was, was not the be all and end all of democracy. It was a starting point from which we would develop laws, establish precedent, and nourish institutions which would provide the foundations of self government. Those things have grown to become, what Akhil Amar, the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale, calls America's Unwritten Constitution.

My conversation with Akhil Amar:

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

The New Global Elite

It was Scott Fitzgerald who said that "the rich are different than you and me." Today that difference goes a lot deeper. The very rich are very different! And that difference, that gap, is coming to define the future of America and of democracy.

Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandies got it exactly right when he said "you can have large amounts of money in the hands of the very few, or you can have democracy. You can’t have both."

Thompson Reuters digital editor Chrystia Freeland looks at this growing gap in Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else

My conversation with Chrystia Freeland:

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Cold War in Movies

This week we mark what was arguably the height of the Cold War, in the 50 anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. That Cold War would, for years, permeate every aspect of our culture. The paranoia and anxiety of the period was perhaps most notably reflected in our films, and the divisions of the of the time were part and parcel of the industry that produced them.

One of our nations most distinguished film critics, J Hoberman looks at this connection between American movies and the Cold War in his new book An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War.

My conversation with J. Hoberman:

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Monday, October 22, 2012


Creative destruction, while it may destroy and reshape individual companies, is an ongoing process. We all remember the earliest days of pay-per-view movies, which begat home video and the VCR, which gave rise to quaint local video stores, which gave us Blockbuster, which gave us Hollywood Video. Then the DVD made those spaces even more abundant. And then Netflix made video rental even easier. No late fees, door to door service and curation.

Now it seems Netflix is under siege. Digital delivery has replaced the DVD rental model and we’ll see how all this plays out.   Taking a look at this emblematic history is journalist Gina Keating, author of the much talked about book Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America's Eyeballs

My conversation with Gina Keating:

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Obama v. Roberts

We are reminded every day how polarized our politics have become. The gap between the Republican and Democratic parties is wider than ever. The lack of bipartisanship is not because we have leaders of ill will, but because the gap in ideas and vision has become so wide.

This is reflected in our elections, in our news, in Congress and in the Supreme Court of the United States. Barack Obama, our 44th President and John Roberts, our 17th Chief Justice personify the apex of that divide.

This is the back drop for Jeffrey Toobin's new book The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court.

My conversation with Jeffrey Toobin:

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