Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dispatches from the Front Lines of Climate Justice

We have seen that in almost any area of public endeavor, changing the status quo is almost impossible. The combination of entrenched special interests, coupled with the basic human resistance to change, in an era where change is a constant, creates a level of cognitive dissonance and fear that makes changing public policy almost impossible.

So what do we do when the only alternative to change is catastrophic for our health, for our planet, for our economy and for the peoples of the world?

Such is the case with Climate Change. While the science may be clear. The road ahead is anything but. In this we face an unprecedented situation as the world’s leaders gather in Paris this week

That’s why people like Wen Stephenson (What we're Fighting for Now Is Each Other: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Climate Justice,) are so passionate about the cause and see it not just from the point of view of science, but as a moral and social imperative.

My conversation with Wen Stephenson:

Friday, November 27, 2015

China's Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the World's Wines

One of the guiding beliefs in foreign affairs is that no two countries that were actively engaged as successful trading partners, ever went to war with each other.

But what happens when two countries, two trading partners do not have parity on the production of a particular product, but have interlocking and conflicting needs, jealously, interests and misunderstandings? The results, can create a crisis on a global level..even if the product is wine.

That’s the story my guest Suzanne Mustacich tells in Thirsty Dragon: China's Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the World's Best Wines.  It’s the story of China's quest to become a global wine power, France's Bordeaux region seeking to hang on to past glory and China expanding its tentacles into places like the Napa Valley.

My conversation with Suzanne Mustacich:

Friday, November 20, 2015

Why Lincoln would be appalled by today's income inequality

How many of the candidates that are running for President today, have the depth of character and ideas that, if they were to be elected, we still might be talking about them, studying them and being surprised by them, 150 years after their death? The answer is probably none.

That is certainly not the case with Abraham Lincoln. 150 years after his death, people like esteemed Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer are still plowing the depths of Lincoln's convictions and portraying what he accomplished.

Convictions and ideas that are, in spite of the best efforts of Lincoln’s own party today, still part of the fabric of America. Holzer displays these ideas in A Just and Generous Nation: Abraham Lincoln and the Fight for American Opportunity

My conversation with Harold Holzer:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How Art Shapes our Nature

We live in this world usually someplace between the mundane and the absurd. But regardless of which, it's one that is probably organized to the Nth degree. Our technology is almost embedded in our personal DNA, in order to keep us on task.

But is all this structure an impediment to creativity? And if so, where might we get back to our youthful sense of play, of wonder and of discovery.

For some, it’s in travel and visiting strange places and the strange surroundings that take us out of ourselves. For others, and often closer to home, it can be found in art; in what Alve Noe refers to as the boredom of art.

Art that unlike so much of culture, goes beyond surface and draws us in, sometimes to see the world in a brush stroke, a dance step, a well crafted sentence, or in a grain of sand.

Alve Noe takes this discussion of art to a new level in his book Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature

My conversation with Alva Noe:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Witchy Woman - Salem 1692

We think we know a lot about American history. About the events that shaped the formation of the republic. And while that knowledge might get you an audition for Jeopardy, at its roots sometimes, it's also true that everything we think we know is wrong.

Essentially what that means, and maybe it's even a factor in what’s gone so wrong today, is that we tend to know only surface. That when we drill down to historical events, only then do we find that the facts, the nuances, the subtlety and the psychology are what really matters. This is what
really makes up the historical ripples we are living with today.

This is the story of the Salem Witch Trials, as told now by Pulitzer Prize winning historian Stacy Schiff.  She won the Pulitzer for her book Cleopatra, and now she pivots to 1692 Salem to bring us The Witches: Salem, 1692

Monday, November 9, 2015

It would be as if Angelina Jolie had invented Google

Back in the 1930's and 40's no one had heard of women engineers. Woman were not trying to "have it all," and the Hollywood women of the day represented the apotheosis of beauty, surfaces and dreams. Yet out this time emerged a woman who not only was considered the "most beautiful woman in the world," but in her spare time, from making hit movies, gave us the technology that we still use today in our cell phones, GPS devices and in Bluetooth. A woman of brains and beauty, Hedy Lamarr was a true Renascence woman. Yet her story has been little know until now when Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Richard Rhodes captures her story in Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr.
My conversation with Richard Rhodes:

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve

It used to be, during the dark days of the Cold War, watching the Kremlin and trying to read meaning into every nuance, tea leaf and coming and going, was elevated to an art form.

Today, it’s the same for the Fed. Every meeting, every utterance of the Fed Chair and Fed Governors is parsed and analyzed and poured over for some hint of what the Fed will do and what it might mean for the markets, for the economy and for the politics of the country.

But it wasn’t always so. In the aftermath of the 1907 financial panic, Congress created the Federal Reserve. They did so for reasons not dissimilar to the state of our transitional economy today. But they did so in a spirit of compromise and national unity that seems a very far cry from anything that might happen today.

Putting all of this in its proper perspective is Roger Lowenstein in his new book America's Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve

My conversation with Roger Lowenstein:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies: Lessons from San Francisco and Los Angeles.

We’ve seen that different cities often emerge as the the center of their times. This has been true from the Greek city states, through the Roman Empire and right up until the present, here in America. It seems that every major cultural, social and political movement of the modern era seems to be anchored in its own place.

New York became a kind of capital of the 50’s. In the 60’s places like San Francisco and Berkeley were the center of gravity. New York and to a certain extent L.A. seemed to launch the post war economy of the 70’s. Washington seemed to dominate the 80’s and with the decline of New York, it seemed like the 80’s would belong to L.A.

But something happened. Something that moved the locus of the knowledge economy to San Francisco and the Bay Area.

What happened and why is at the core of the years of research done by Michael Storper and his colleagues and put forth in their book The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies: Lessons from San Francisco and Los Angeles.

My conversation with Michael Storper: