Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why So Many Homeless Families in America?

When we talk about the homeless, especially in our major cities, we imagine those that are visible on the streets and sidewalks. We don’t see the two million plus children who are homeless. The children and families living in cars, or motel rooms, or emergency shelters. They constitute an Invisible Nation: Homeless Families in America

How did this happen in a country and in cities as rich as San Francisco, or New York or Washington? Journalist Richard Schweid takes us deep into the bottom of a homeless economy that should shame us all.

My conversation with Ricahrd Schweid:

Without The Rocket Girls, There Would Be No Hidden Figures

Long before NASA's Hidden Figures in the 1960’s space program, there were the The Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars.

When Sally Ride blasted off as the first American woman into space back in 1983, she may not have know it at the time, but she stood on the shoulders of dozens of woman who, beginning in the 1940's, helped America compete in the space race and the Cold War.

Based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, these woman essentially provided the computational power that made rocketry viable. They shattered not only glass ceilings, but helped free us from what poet John Magee call the “surly bonds of earth.”

Nathalia Holt, trained at Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard, takes us back to a seminal time for woman and America in space.

My conversation with Nathalia Holt:

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How Parents Must Raise A Generation That Will Save Us

Parenting has gone from something natural to something that has become a job with many specific rules, fears and requirements. In fact it’s both more than than and less than sum total of all those rules.

It should be a partnership with our kids, a kind of collaboration that makes both parent and child stronger. That a large part of the approach of Dr. Ross Greene lays out in Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child. It’s an approach that will be critical as we rely more on future generations to rescue us from our current folly.

My conversation with Dr. Ross Greene:

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Religion, Sin & Identity Politics

Perhaps no modern campaigns has generated as much coverage as the 2016 Presidential election. Wall to Wall and 24/7. Everything has been covered and analyzed..or has it.

Even with the occasional hat tip to the Christian Right of the Republican Party, it seems that religion has certainly not been a tool to add further analyses to this sui generis election. And few would argue that among all the other crisis engendered by the election, that a religious crisis is part of the mix.

However that is exactly one of the conclusions reached by Georgetown University Professor Joshua Mitchell.

My conversation with Joshua Mitchell:

Monday, December 19, 2016

Spy vs. Spy...Then and Now

Listening to our political discourse today, vis a vis Russia, it brings back powerful reminders of the Cold War. A time when spies and covert action existed in what Le Carre called “a moral twilight.”

And yet when we think about people like Kim Philby or Alger Hiss or Aldrich Ames, is the way that they turned on their country any different than what we are seeing today?

We look at one of these instructive Cold War stories, True Believer: Stalin's Last American Spywith best selling author, and award winning journalist Kati Marton.

My conversation with Kati Marton:

Sunday, December 18, 2016

What We Can Learn from War, Peace and Conquest in the Roman World

In these troubled and uncertain times, it seems that the only thing we can take comfort from is history. Civilizations, empires and nations come and go. But how it happens and why is where we find lessons that may comfort us and maybe save us.

Few periods are as instructive as Pax Romana (Latin for "Roman peace.") It was the long period of relative peacefulness and minimal expansion by the Roman military force after the end of the Final War of the Roman Republic and before the beginning of the Crisis of the Third Century.

This is the story that famed historian Adrian Goldsworthy tells in in Pax Romana: War, Peace and Conquest in the Roman World.  It’s a story particularly instructive today.

My conversation with Adrian Goldsworthy:

Monday, December 12, 2016

Understanding The Forces That Are Shaping the World

Just as the existential question of why individuals succeed and fail, vexes every aspect of both public policy and personal debate, so to with nations. History tells us of the rise and fall of nations. In so doing it gives us clues about economics, demographics, planning and even how the individual drive for success scales up to impact whole nations.

But of course, like everything else, we seek clear and precise metrics to try and make business decisions, geopolitical policy decisions, and simply anticipate the future in order to make a better world.

Ruchir Sharma, the Head of Emerging Markets and Chief Global Strategist at Morgan Stanley, tries to do this in The Rise and Fall of Nations: Forces of Change in the Post-Crisis World.

My conversation with Ruchir Sharma:

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Nordic Model and Why It Works

Whenever political discussion, particularly on the left, turns to what policies will really work to improve the lives of the middle class, invariably there is talk about the Scandinavian model.

Countries like Norway, Denmark, Iceland Sweden and Finland are constantly in the top tier of education, abundance of jobs, healthcare and a social safety net that is woven in the nation's DNA.

But this was not always so. Many of these countries had to work hard to achieve this and in some cases that did it from polarization as bad, if not worse than the current state of America. George Lakey takes us through this history in Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right-and How We Can, Too.

My conversation with George Lakey:

Monday, December 5, 2016

Democrats are Learning the Wrong Lessons From the False Prophet of Blue Amereica

If you listen to John F. Kennedy campaigning in the West Virginia primary in 1960, it’s amazing how so many of the same issues still haunt us. Then it was the Republicans who didn't seem to understand the plight of Appalachia and of working America.

Democrats, in the person of JFK and later Johnson and Bobby Kennedy, made the personal and policy connection. So what happened? How did their party lose touch with that part of America?

The broad answers are complicated and best left for historians. However, how the Democratic party reconnects is a very contemporary political issues.

Books are flying off the shelf trying to explain flyover country to Democrats. Books like Arlie Hochschild's Strangers in Their Own Land and most notably J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy.

But it’s possible that some of these books, particularly Vance's, teach the wrong lesson. Just like the 1960's, the lesson is not one of promulgating conservative culture and Horatio Alger stories, but of the failure of government to do the right thing.

Sarah Jones, in the most recent issue of the New Republic, deconstructs Vance's arguments.

My conversation with Sarah Jones:

Friday, December 2, 2016

We'll always have sex?

It seems as if creative destruction and technology are changing everything...even sex.

This may be problematic given the degree to which sex is connected to everything else; marketing, relationships, essentially all forms of human interaction. As Emily Witt says, “we organize our society around the way we define our sexual relationships.”

The inflection point at which all these forces are coming together, is in part what Emily Witt writes about in her new book Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love.  Yet even in that future, as Woody Allen so aptly said..."we all need the eggs."

My conversation with Emily Witt:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Imagine If Wonder Could Replace Fear

“Children's playthings are not sports and should be deemed their most serious actions," Montaigne wrote.

Freud regarded play as the means by which the child accomplishes his first great cultural and psychological achievements; through play he expresses himself. This is true, Freud thought, even for an infant whose play consists of nothing more than smiling at his mother, as she smiles at him. He noted how much and how well children express their thoughts and feelings through play.

Why then should we assume that we outgrow the value of play? The wonder of seeing the world through joy, rather than fear. Think about all that you’ve read about the creativity of silicon valley...the atmosphere of fun that entrepreneurs try to create.

Today even education is being built around the idea of projects, of teams, of fun and of wonder.

This is the world that best selling author Steven Johnson explores in Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World.

My conversation with Steven Johnson: