Sunday, April 29, 2018

Immigration and the False Lure of the American Dream

There is not a day that goes by that the subject of immigration is not in some way part of our national discussion. However, even with all the talk, there is little focus on either the large number of immigrants that arrive from China, or on the their immigrant experience.

We think very little about what it must be like leaving one's country, friends, family and culture behind, to begin anew as a stranger in a strange land.

Perhaps if we all understood the commitment, the bravery, the strength it takes to do that, we would be having a very different conversation about immigration.

That experience is the world that Lauren Hilgers gives up a window into in Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown

My conversation with Lauren Hilgers:

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The 75-Year-Old Book That Drives Our Politics Today

The legendary studio boss Harry Cohn once said to one of his writers, that if you want to send a political message, use Western Union. The point was that movies were for entertainment. Some have even tried to make that argument with respect to novels, but over the years, this has hardly been the case.

One of the great examples is Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Released 75 years ago, this month. This story of ambition, love, and architecture reverberates through our political discourse today, both in middle America and in the halls of Congress. What other 75-year-old novel can spark a heated debate between Paul Ryan and Paul Krugman?

Yaron Brook is an Israeli American entrepreneur and writer. He’s the current chairman of the board of the Ayn Rand Institute where he was its executive director from 2000 to 2017 and is leading the effort to mark the 75th anniversary of The Fountainhead.

My conversation with Yaron Brook:

The Internet Is Killing Democracy Facebook Is the Shiny Object, but the Danger Is Much Larger

Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg understood how to maximize social media to achieve the highest in democratic ends. The Russians and Cambridge Analytica used that same social media to undermine democracy, to spread lies, and to manipulate facts.

Recently we’ve seen Mark Zuckerberg and members of Congress musing about the business model of Facebook and the holy grail of hyper-directed advertising. All of this, good and bad, misses the larger point.

In a world that is totally interconnected, when every aspect of  Internet culture feeds steroids to the human tribal instinct, when information moves at the speed of light, and when there is more of it than we have the evolutionary ability to process, is this technology simply antithetical to traditional ideas of democracy? Particularly to the system that our founders passed down to us.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that as the Internet grows, so to do authoritarian regimes. As tech companies get bigger, democratic institutions become smaller. What is the nexus to all of this and if it’s true, do we have to change tech or change the very idea of democracy?

All of this is at the core of work by Jamie Bartlett in his book The People Vs Tech: How the internet is killing democracy (and how we save it)

My conversation with Jamie Bartlett:

Friday, April 20, 2018

Neuroscience is The New Moneyball

I think it was Howard Cosell who first referred to sports at the “toy department of life.” Oftentimes player performance has been put down as people say that “it’s not rocket science.”

The fact is however, that we now know it is neuroscience, computer science, medical science, AI, and a whole lot more.

We often talk about the game of golf as being so much inside the heads of players. But now, new research show us that this is just as true for football, basketball, and especially baseball.

The metrics that drove Moneyball, have now been amplified to include new arenas of scientific data. This data may be the handicapping tools and tip sheets for the future of sports. Zach Schonbrun takes us inside this new science in The Performance Cortex: How Neuroscience Is Redefining Athletic Genius.

My conversation with Zach Schonbrun:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

From The Crusades To The Holocaust: Why History and Love Stories Matter

Religion, violence, anti-semitism, and the fate of the Catholic Church. All subject as contemporary as today’s headlines. To often we see these headlines and think about these issues in the moment, in the now. Yet to really understand any of these issues, begs for a deeper understanding of history.

And what better way to get that history, then in the storytelling of a great novel. That’s what James Carroll has been helping us with for years. Teaching us, while he entertains us.

James Carroll is a distinguished scholar in residence at Suffolk University and a columnist for The Boston Globe. He is the author of ten novels and seven works of nonfiction. He is a winner of the National Book Award, the best selling author of Constantine’s Sword and his latest work is The Cloister

My conversation with James Carroll:

Friday, April 6, 2018

Tribes May Be Killing Our Politics, But They May Be The Cure for Depression

Spend any time watching television and you’ll see the apotheosis of western medicine. There is a drug for everything. We live in a pharmaceutical culture where every pain, ache, and known and unknown disease has its own pill.

The areas of mental health, depression and anxiety have become a kind of hedge fund for the drug companies. And while we see the occasional pushback to this western model of drug care, we don’t see it enough in the world of mental health and depression.

Distinguished journalist Johann Hari thinks there is a better way to treat depression and it’s one that takes into account the reality of the world we live in. He sets out to prove it in is new book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions

My conversation with Johann Hari:

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

What Maxed Out Political Corruption Looks Like

Lately, there have been countless articles about the rise of authoritarian regimes. One aspect of all of these regimes is, even as we’re seeing here in America, the dramatic extremes in corruption. Often fueled by power, money laundering, drugs, and simply all manner of crimes upon the public.

Perhaps nowhere in contemporary times was this worse than in Columbia in the 1990s and 2000s. Amidst a complicated, murky civil war, drug cartels, corruption and unrestrained violence, the country came apart.

What exactly happened, where is it today and what we can learn from it, is the subject a new and powerful book by Peruvian-American activist/writer Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno entitled  There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Colombia.

My conversation with Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno: