Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Why Forty States Don't Matter

When Richard Nixon ran for President in 1960, he vowed to visit and campaign in all 50 States. The strain of that effort, particularly in an era of slower air travel, exhausted Nixon and even was in part responsible for his tiredness and poor health in the first debate with JFK.

The reality is today, with our nation so divided and with red and blue States pretty much settled, that the purple States, those in play, those that make a difference, are only a handful.

Today, if all a candidate did was campaign in just ten purple States, that would be all that would be required, even in a close Presidential race.

So how healthy is this for our democracy and who might be the first to want to try and overturn this system. These are just some of the key issues posited by elections expert, Professor David Schultz in Presidential Swing States: Why Only Ten Matter.

My conversation with David Schultz:

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A spotlight on child abuse at the Horace Mann School

No matter how many times we hear the stories of pedophile priests in the Catholic Church, it’s hard to grasp that such things could go on, that they could go on for so long and that so many could be involved as both perpetrators and in the cover up.

Perhaps it's that people didn't want to believe. Like the story told by a victim in the new movie SPOTLIGHT. It the story of a mother, who, even after her son tells her of his abuse, still, out of respect, puts out cookies for the priest when he visits.

In business, or in any institution, it's hard to change culture. As Peter Drucker, has said of business, “culture eats strategy for lunch.”

What we’ve seen in the Catholic Church is a layering of cultures. The culture of the perpetrators, and the culture of secrecy of those that covered it up, combined with the broader culture that encouraged a respect for authority. Together they were a toxic combination

They certainly were at the Horace Mann school in New York, back in the 60’s and 70’s.   The story of Horace Mann was revealed by Amos Kamil in a scorching New York times Magazine story in June of 2012. Now he tell the full measure of that story in Great Is the Truth: Secrecy, Scandal, and the Quest for Justice at the Horace Mann School.

My conversation with Amos Kamil:

Monday, December 21, 2015

Have we Mainstreamed Islamaphobia?

The world has changed in many ways since 9/11. One of those clearly has been the way we look upon Muslims, South Asians and Sikhs. Arguably these attitudes and prejudices and the degree to which they have become embedded in the fabric of our national DNA has had a corrosive effect on all of our relationships with people of color and people that might be different than ourselves.

Today, since Paris and San Bernadino and the heated political rhetoric that has accompanied it, the depth of those divisions seems to be growing to dangerous proportions.

Deepa Iyer has studied this, written about it and works every day to counteract it. A task made much harder each days since she wrote her book,  We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future.

My conversation with Deepa Iyer:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Why is the technology to simplify our lives, so complicated?

We’ve been told for years that one of the key goals of technology was to simplify our life. In fact, for many people the opposite has happened. The combination of complexity, feature creep, and the ever updating world of new technology has made the complexity of the process sometimes not worth the effort.

Enter David Pogue. He spent thirteen years writing about personal technology for the NY Times. He launched Yahoo Tech. He writes a monthly column for Scientific America and created the Missing Manual computer book series. He’s won two Emmys, two Webby awards, and a Loeb award for journalism.

But most of all he is the undisputed master of how to harness the best of technology to serve us and not the other way around. He does it in a way that is both useful and humorous in his new book Pogue's Basics: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) for Simplifying the Technology in Your Life.

My conversation with David Pogue:

Friday, December 11, 2015

A great many children left behind

There is a school of thought in crisis management that says, if you have a completely intractable problem, sometimes the only solution is to create a larger problem. In fact, to blow things up to the point where you get to start over. Sometimes that’s a strategy that happens not just by design, but by outcome.

When then Newark Mayor Cory Booker, N.J. Governor Chris Christie and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg put together a plan that they thought would completely reform and transform Newark schools back in 2010, they thought they were doing the right thing. However what they did was reminiscent of what Ronald Reagan declared as the most terrifying phrases in the English language…”I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

What they did, what they failed at and even what they succeeded at, shows how incredibly hard it is to be transformative in public education. This is the story told by Dale Russakoff in The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools?

My conversation with Dale Russakoff:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Triumph of Temperament and Manners

When Oliver Wendell Holmes talked about Roosevelt's first class temperament, he never explained why that was important.

It didn’t explain how, for a future President presiding over victory in two wars, in just one term, without braggadocio, might matter. Nor did it explain that respecting those with disabilities and allowing it to become a civil rights issues mattered. Or how respecting manners in the conduct of both public and private affairs might shape the destiny of a great nation.

Yet it is precisely that temperament, that George Herbert Walker Bush brought to the Presidency.

All of this just might be an amusing dinner table conversation about days and behaviors gone by, if Jon Meacham, had not shown us how profoundly these qualities matter in the conduct and outcome of public and international diplomacy. Meacham's book about George H.W. Bush is Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush.

My conversation with Jon Meacham:

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Sinatra at 100

To say that music and pop stars today are transitory is an understatement. Very few performers today are building careers for the ages, as did entertainers like Frank Sinatra. Now on the 100th anniversary of Sinatra'x birth we’re joined by poet David Lehman for a look at Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World.

My conversation with David Lehman:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

How's Your Faith?

In these highly polarized times, we all hear the admonition, especially around holidays and family get-togethers, to make sure you never discuss politics or religion.

So what is it about both of these subjects that are so personal, so internal so potentially inflammatory that we’re admonished not to discuss them?

Long time NBC journalist and former host of Meet The Press, David Gregory has, for years, been immersed in both of these arenas. Lately he has put discussion of politics on the side burner to talk about religion, and more specifically the journey he has taken in going deeper into his own faith.

He shares that journey in his new book  How's Your Faith?: An Unlikely Spiritual Journey

My conversation with David Gregory:

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Out of Africa

Even long before the current extreme stratification of America, we heard about two Americas. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Michael Harrington and than John Edwards all talked about two nations living side by side. One of relative middle class ease on the cutting edge of technology and education and another mired in poverty, resistant to or fearing change.

Today, the same can said about Africa. For in spite of much popular imaginary parts of Africa are at the cutting edge of technology and economic development.

The rise of the African consumer economy is one of the biggest, and most under-covered, stories. In fact,
by 2020, seven of the world’s top 10 fastest growing economies will be in sub-Saharan Africa.
The continent already has more mobile subscribers than the US or the EU. Alex Perry has covered Africa for years for TIME and NEWSWEEK. Now he gives us The Rift: A New Africa Breaks Free.

My Radio WhyWhatWhy.org conversation with Alex Perry: