Thursday, August 31, 2017

The End of White Male Privilege

You know the old adage about a stopped clock being right twice a day? The same is true of Donald Trump. Occasionally, usually by accident, even he can say something or touch on something that makes sense.

One such thing is the degree to which he has tapped into the anger and resentment of a certain class of white males in America. A group that once had untold privilege, and now simmers with grievance, as that singular privilege has to be shared with a more diverse and equally deserving population.

Wrong as it may be, broken down to it’s core ideas, it easy to see why this anger is playing out and how demagogues like Trump can exploit it. To paraphrase Caesar, that fault is not just in our president but in the changes to the broader society.

Steven M. Gillion is a Professor at the University of Oklahoma. His recent op-ed in the Washington Post was entitled Why Are So Many White Men So Angry?”

My conversation with Steven Gillon:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Civil War History Can Be Factual, but Fluid

Because memory is imperfect, because traditions and stories are often altered as they are passed down from generation to generation, because history is factual, but fluid, we often build statues or preserve buildings as triggers to our remembered past.

Normally this is played out in community battles over preservation vs. progress. But when the subject is the Civil War, everything changes. Perhaps, as it should. The civil war was after all the penultimate flashpoint of America's original sin.

While other wars come and go, often left to cloistered historians to debate, the Civil War, slavery, and fabric of the republic are re litigated over and over and over again. And so it goes today in the battle over statues, that some see as the embodiment of all that went wrong.

To better understand this, I talk to Christy Coleman, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Civil War Museum.

My conversation with Christy Coleman:

Saturday, August 26, 2017

What Could Happen While You Were Totally Off The Grid For A Few Hours?

Think about what touches us every day?Certainly technology in many forms and soon artificial intelligence. We are touched by our consumption of media, the intense partisan divide fueled by tribalism, and the fear and frustration that sometimes makes us want to escape, and be able to look at all of this from 30K feet, so that we can see it's absurdity.

But of course moments later we’re dropped right back into it. So imagine if all of these powerful and metastasizing forces came together in a recipe that multiplies all of them.

What you’d have is Matt Richtel’s prescient new novel Dead on Arrival.

My conversation with Matt Richtel:

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Attica 1971: What Lessons Have We Learned?

Certainly with respect to history, it too often seems like everything old is new again. Think about it: Racial conflict, mass incarceration, over aggressive policing, and the police getting off scot free. This is not yesterday’s news. This is the story of an event that took place on September 9, 1971. The uprising at Attica Prison.

In many ways the events of that week set the unfortunate predicate for so much that would happen after. It’s an event from which we’ve learned all the wrong lessons, often, until now, with many of the wrong facts.

Now, Pulitzer Prize winning historian Heather Ann Thompson puts it all in historical context in Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy

My conversation with Heather Ann Thompson:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Natasha - A New Film from Director David Bizmozgis

Everyday Russia is in the news. After being off of our collective radar for so long, suddenly it's a national obsession. Sure, a lot of it is political, but beyond that it makes us aware of another country, another place and and a people whose life and culture just might impact us all.

Today, a new movie appears on the scene, NATASHA, from director David Bizmozgis . It’s a little like taking a walk through a Jewish/Russian neighborhood and listening very carefully. When you get to the end of the neighborhood, you feel you know and understand a lot more about the immigrant experience overall and the Russian immigrant experience, particularly through the eyes of young people.  We’re going to look at NATASHA today with it’s two lead Alex Ozerov and Sasha K Gordon.

My conversation with Alex and Sasha:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Liberal Arts Education Should Matter Now, More Than Ever

If you do a Google search about STEM education,(science technology engineering and math,) you come up with over 69 million entries. It has become the educational mantra of our times.

Yet if one looks at the workforce, looks at the jobs of the future, looks at the needs business have and listen to the CEOs, we find that these STEM skills, while important, have become overrated and out of all proportion to our future.

I suppose everything in cyclical and the liberal arts, which certainly had its day, has gone into remission as the central pursuit of college students. It shouldn't have. Its focus on curiosity, the ongoing pursuit of knowledge, creativity, and what it means to be a good human being, make it essential if any of us are going to survive into the second half of the 21st century and beyond.

Forbes contributor George Anders looks at this in You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a "Useless" Liberal Arts Education.

My conversation with George Anders:

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Chickenshit Club: Or Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives.

Years ago you may remember that the Presidential candidate and former US Senator John Edwards spoke of two Americas. One poor and one rich and powerful The same might very well be said for America's justice system.

One which is zealous to the point of recklessness in prosecuting street crime and drug offenses and the other that is benign and feckless in prosecuting the white collar crimes, many of which have deliberately, and criminally wrecked our economy and hurt real people.

But this hasn’t always been the case. Where once, not that long ago, the government prosecuted the likes Michael Milken and the executives of Enron and Adelphia and Worldcom, today executives at Wells Fargo, or Goldman Sachs, or so many that were clearly responsible for the potential criminal acts that caused the 2008/2009 crash, have escaped the long arm of the law.

Why? What happened what's changed . Are the same forces that are giving our economy two Americas also responsible for two justice systems?

This is what Pulitzer Prize winning ProPublica reporter Jesse Eisinger tries to find you in The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Jesse Eisinger:

Monday, August 14, 2017

China's Stranglehold on Our Technology

Most of you woke up this morning hearing bellicose talk about the possibility of a trade war with China. What we don’t hear is that virtually all of the technology we depend on, from the phones in our pockets to the fighters, carriers and missiles that keep us safe, are all totally dependent on what's called rare earth minerals. Without them we become technologically paralyzed. And the funny thing is, that right now, we have no other alternative other than to get them from China.

How did this happen? Does it matter, and are we going to do anything about it? Geologist and journalist Victoria Bruce explains in Sellout: How Washington Gave Away America's Technological Soul, and One Man's Fight to Bring It Home.

My conversation with Victoria Bruce:

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Why Are We Looking Back at Vietnam?

Coming up next month, Ken Burns’ powerful documentary about the Vietnam war will be in living rooms across America. It makes you wonder why now, 42 years after the fall of Saigon, we are once again looking back at the tragedy that was the Vietnam war.

As part of this look back, it’s imperative to look at one of the seminal works of that war, A Rumor of War: By Philip Caputo. Upon its original publication in 1977, it gave Americans its first and perhaps deepest insight into what it was like for young men to fight in that war. It also helped us to understand, as much as we could at the time, the war itself.

Many have argued that the Vietnam war, more than any other modern event, shattered the innocence of America. Philip Caputo’s book, A Rumor of War, just republished in The Classic Vietnam Memoir (40th Anniversary Edition), showed us how it also shattered the innocence of those that fought in it.

My conversation with Philip Caputo: