Monday, July 30, 2018

Lazy Thinking, Intellectual Cowardice and Safe Spaces On Today's College Campus

Not since the civil war have we been as tribal as a nation as we are today. What’s worse, is that today, through the power of modern communication, social media, bifurcated business models, and 24/7 news, we can be siloed from dawn to dusk. We never have to associate with people whose views are different than ours. We never have to friend people with uncomfortable or different points of view. We get our news, our products and even sometimes our meals, only from people that agree with us.

It’s all very comfortable. But what have we lost in the process. Intellectual challenge, empathy, understanding, compassion, bravery, and getting out of our comfort zone are all lost. All so we can be cocooned in the warm bath of confirmation bias.

And as bad as this is in society at large, no where is it worse than on college campuses. A world where “safe spaces” mean don’t challenge me. 50 Years ago college campuses were alive with ferment and yes, even revolution. Today, to many campuses represent a world of intellectual cowardice and laziness.

No one knows this better than former Williams College student, Zachary Wood. He writes about this experience in Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America.

My conversation with Zachary Wood:

Monday, July 23, 2018

Men Behaving Badly, Or How To Prevent More Trump Supporters In The Future

There is a boy crisis in America. Girls are graduating from college in far greater numbers. Their numbers in law schools, business schools and in post graduate programs are exceeding boys, and the imbalance keeps growing.

Concurrently, everyday we see bad behavior on the part of men. Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose and the president are the tip of the proverbial iceberg. They are just the poster boys for bad behavior.

So how to stem the tide? The answer perhaps lies in understanding today's boys and the hope that by setting them on a better path as teenagers, there is hope for the 21st century.

Dr. Adam Cox has been working on just that for years. His latest work on the subject is Cracking the Boy Code: How to Understand and Talk with Boys

My conversation with Adam Cox:

Friday, July 20, 2018

Today's Struggle With Russia Is More Than Cold War 2.0

Not since the apogee of the Cold War has Russia been so paramount in our national discourse. But Churchill’s “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” is a very different Russia than the former Soviet Union. Although as Churchill pointed out, Russian national interest still seems the key.

Vladimir Putin, while Russian to the core, is somehow different from Khrushchev, and Brezhnev and Gorbachev, or the Tsars that came before.

Our conflicts and tensions with Russia today are also different. We risk making a big mistake if we don’t understand modern context. If we don’t understand that this is not just Cold War 2.0, but rather a global conflict whose antecedents may be the Cold War, but whose reality is sui generis to the world in the 21st century.

Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul pulls of this together and a lot more in From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia.

My conversation with Ambassador Michael McFaul:

Thursday, July 19, 2018

What's the Matter With America?

Back in 2004, a full fourteen years ago, Thomas Frank published a book entitled What’s The Matter with Kansas? In it, he looked at how a segment of the population was consistently voting against their own economic self interests. He argued that so called “culture war” issues, played to emotions that overrode economic concerns.

Twelve years later that trend reached its apogee with the election of Donald Trump. Therefore it’s important to remember that Trump didn’t create the economic, class and cultural divisions in America, he merely exploited them.

Those trends, fed by changes in the nature of work, technology, communication, and global economics have resulted in a society that is, in many ways, not recognizable from the America of yore.  Given that, it's important to remember that the American people played a role in creating this environment, do they now have the power to fix it? Can they put Humpty Dumpty back together again?

Thomas Frank, like the Simon and Garfunkel song, has spent a long time, looking for America to try and find the answer to this question. He reports it in his new book Rendezvous with Oblivion: Reports from a Sinking Society.

My conversation with Thomas Frank:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Silicon Valley: The Origin Story...Live As It Happened

When we talk about change, about creative disruption, about all the ways that the world, both local and global is different, it all seems to have it’s genesis in Silicon Valley.

The games, the apps, the communication and the nature of life and work itself. But these changes were not the result of some kind technological immaculate conception. Sure they were engineered, and 0s and 1s and transistors were all a part. But this also had a cultural underpinning, based on the people, the characters and often the geniuses that migrated to the Valley

Hollywood is often been referred to as High School with money. If that’s true, then Silicon Valley has all the element of Hollywood, but its results have truly changed the world.

Capturing the zeitgeist of the Valley though all its’ ups and downs is Adam Fisher in his book Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (As Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom)

My conversation with Adam Fisher:

Monday, July 9, 2018

Driven to Succeed...A Conversation with Dr. Ned Hallowell

Be it the troubled minds, young and old, that commit mass shootings, the incredible and successful talents that commit suicide, or those that seek solace in alcohol or opiates, mental illness is all around us.

What’s encouraging is that we are finally talking about it. Not enough and not openly enough. But remember back in the 50’s there was a reluctance to even talk about cancer.

Times change. And one of the things that precipitates that change is the courage of individuals that are willing to come forward and tell their story. Suddenly when we see our friends, neighbors, even our doctors and other people like us, reveal all, suddenly that shroud falls away sunlight does it’s job.

Edward Hallowell, one of our most distinguished psychiatrists and a leading authority in the field of ADHD, has now pulled back the curtain on his own life to reveal a story of dysfunction, hope and ultimately of survival and success. He shares the story with me and in his new memoir Because I Come from a Crazy Family: The Making of a Psychiatrist.

My conversation with Ned Hallowell:

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Nationalism and Culture Need Not be A Zero Sum Game

We hear over and over, that we are a nation of immigrants. Unfortunately, we’re hearing it in a boiler factory. We are hearing it over the cacophony of noise about race, about change and about security and raw politics.

What’s lost is the reality of the very personal immigrant experience. What it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land. To straddle two nations, appreciate both, and not look at nationalism and culture as a zero sum game.

The immigrant experience demands a degree of self awareness that is not present in most Americans. That by itself changes that way that immigrants see themselves and the world around them. It creates a kind of heightened reality, appreciation and skepticism that most of us don't have the privilege of seeing.

That’s why we need people like award winning journalist Alfredo Corchado, who’s recent book is Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration.

My conversation with Alfredo Corchado: 

Friday, July 6, 2018

THE AGE OF POLITICAL PERSUASION IS OVER To Attract the Next Generation, Politics Must Be About Advocacy, Organization, and Winning

Fifty years ago, during the last great social and political upheaval in America, young people lead the way. The mantra of the day, of not trusting anyone over 30, defined the generational and political divide.

Today we face an altogether different, but equally powerful social and political dislocation. Except that this time we wonder, where are the young people. Where are the millennials, where is the rising generation.

Perhaps it’s why the Parkland kids struck such a resonate note. With David Hogg reminding us that the children will lead us.

But in our current divide, all sides of boomers and gen X, red and blue, are battling for the hearts, minds and soul of the millennial generation. The left has the advantage of the natural state of liberalism in the young, but the right has the organization, the business savvy and the money.

How this plays out may truly impact the fate of the republic. This is the subject of a series of stories by journalist Michael Hobbes.

My conversation with Michael Hobbes:

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Groucho Was Right!

Groucho Marx famously said, upon resigning the Friars club, that he would “never want to belong to any club that would have him as a member.” That line has been used since by those that are afraid of not belonging. What better way to prevent being excluded than saying, or convincing yourself, that you don’t want to join?

The facts, and our world today, tell us something entirely different. Not only do we want to belong, but we want to belong to groups that are exactly like us. While tribalism may be built into our DNA, the added anxiety and fear in our culture today, puts that tribalism on steroids.

This tribalism is enhanced by our hi-speed 24/7 world. It accentuates fear of the other, it drives our identity politics, and it fuels our confirmation bias driven life. In short, the more we want or need to belong, the more we are divided. All leading us to the conclusion that Groucho had the right idea.

This is also the idea put forth by Howard J. Ross in his new book Our Search for Belonging: How Our Need to Connect Is Tearing Us Apart.

My conversation with Howard Ross: