Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Parenthood in an Age of Fear

By every objective measure, unless you live on the Southside of Chicago, the world is a safer place today than it’s been for long time. As people like Steven Pinker have repeatedly pointed out, almost every form of violence is less today than it was 50 or even 100 years ago.

So why is everyone so afraid, especially parents? Sure we’re afraid that our kids won’t have opportunities greater than ours, and we’re afraid about being ready to pay for their education, and we’re afraid that they will fall in with the wrong crowd.

But we’re also afraid of them going out to play, of riding a bike, of them being alone, or just being on a playground that doesn't have the proverbial good housekeeping seal of approval.

We want our kids to succeed and ultimately to feel at home in the world. But does mean overprotecting them in ways driven only by fear? Those are some of the questions that Kim Brooks as in Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear, based on and motivated by her own awful experience.

My conversation with Kim Brooks:

Monday, August 27, 2018

A Conversation with John McCain

The last opportunity I had to interview JOHN McCAIN was back in September of 2000, in the thick of the Bush v. Gore campaign and after he had lost the Republican primary to George W. Bush.

We talked about his book, FAITH OF MY FATHERS, and even then talked about patriotism vs. nationalism, money in politics, the cynicism of  young voters, the consequences of deregulation during the Reagan years and about the opening up of Vietnam and Bill Clinton's upcoming trip there.

Here is a condensed version of that conversation:

Friday, August 24, 2018

Freedom and Chaos in Egypt and the Middle East

Often understanding global affairs, particularly in the Middle East, is like a game of three-card monte. What’s in view is never really a reflection of what’s going on underneath. What’s more, alliances, loyalties and truth is ever shifting and almost always hidden.

Such has long been the case in Egypt. As the Arab spring descended on Tahrir Square in February of 201, what once seemed like the hope for freedom and democracy gave way to ongoing authorianism. And like the three-card monte game, for a while it was impossible to tell who was with who, and who was on what side, including the United States.

David Kirkpatrick, an international correspondent for the NY Times, led the papers coverage of the Arab Spring, first in Tunisia and then in Egypt and Libya. He has reported from virtually everywhere in the region, but also brings the perspective of having coved Washington, two presidential elections, and the rise of the Christian right in the US.

In his new book Into the Hands of the Soldiers: Freedom and Chaos in Egypt and the Middle East he bring us a unique and sobering perspective on the Middle East, and the US, which always seems to get it wrong.

My conversation with David Kirkpatrick:

Are Americans Afraid of Optimism?

We live in an age of paradox. Crime and murders are down, yet we are more fearful than ever about gun violence. Technology has made life easier in so many ways, yet Silicon Valley is becoming the boogeyman and technology is and will be replacing jobs with greater and greater speed. Diseases that were once a death sentence are now manageable, but healthcare costs are escalating and the divide among those that can and cannot afford quality healthcare is growing. And we’re not living as long as we used to, and other nations have a better quality of life.

Millions and millions of people in the developing world are experiencing a standard of living never imagined possible, yet some would pull up the bridges and have us disconnect from that world, all while the doomsday clock moves closer to midnight. Tribalism divides us, social media, politics, and economics reinforces that divide, and the 24/7 always on culture makes it happen faster and faster. So, where is there any reason for optimism in all of this?  This is where Gregg Easterbrook takes us in It's Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Gregg Easterbrook:

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Kids Are All Right

Millions of words have been written about millennials and the Democratic Party. The debate about how left they are, how involved they are, how can, or will they be mobilized to participate in the midterms are all subjects of feature stories and cable news fodder. It all goes with the old adage, the origins of which are a bit murky, that if you're not a liberal when you're young you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative by middle age you have no head.

The fact is there are many young conservatives, be they Young Republicans, College Republicans, or members of many other groups. Some are traditional conservatives, some libertarian, some Trumpian, and some trying to define a new millennial approach to what it means to be a conservative or a Republican.

Clearly like the divisions on the left, the gap between Donald Trump and Edmond Burke is wide, but filled with opportunity and consequences for the GOP of tomorrow. Journalist Eliza Gray takes a look at this in her recent article in The Washington Post Magazine: “The Next Generation of Republicans: How Trumpian Are They."

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Eliza Gray:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump

Almost from the day he was elected, certainly from the day her took office, people have been talking about the impeachment of Donald Trump. His basic failure to divest his business holdings, his refusal to abide by ethical norms, nepotism, cronyism, his odd and still not fully known relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin, and his disregard for the intelligence community, have all stoked the fires.

But are there legitimate grounds for impeachment, as laid out by the constitution? What kind of constitutional crisis might be precipitated by such efforts, and how do we define, political vs. legal impeachment and would that even matter? After all, so much of what our founders did was designed as a bulwark against the corruption that we see playing out each and every day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

To try and put all of this rhetoric in context is constitutional scholar Ron Fein, the co-author of The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump.

My conversation with Ron Fein:

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Even Power Has Been Subject to Change. Here's How

Look at any book of quotations, and the subject of power is one of the most discussed topics. Sometimes it seems everyone has an opinion on it. And why not? It is at the heart of all of our relationships, at home, with family, kids and spouses and at work, with our bosses and our coworkers.

Certainly the Me Too movement and racial politics have both provided fertile ground for both the understanding of and the exercise of power. It’s one of the things we most desire, and at the same time we are afraid, or put off by it.

Our relationship to power begins when we are young. It’s imprinted from grade school, right on through high school, which is everyone's mosh pit of power dynamics.

Power and how we talk about it has changed since the days of Michael Korda, and Cyndi Suarez understands this. She is the author of The Power Manual: How to Master Complex Power Dynamics

My conversation with Cyndi Suarez:

Monday, August 13, 2018

When Does No Drama Make For A Better Show and a Better Government?

Deep inside our first reality TV presidency, one designed, whether you like the policy or not, to squeeze maximum drama from every encounter, it’s almost hard to remember that the Obama presidency was 180 degrees away. It was built on the idea of “no drama.”

In the current context, it may look almost dull. It was professional, competent and the apogee of the work of hundreds, who’s life's work was to serve their country, and leave it better than they found it.

That’s why perhaps now, more than ever, we need the bracing reminder of what competence, rational decision making, and hard work were really like in the exercise of government.

Brian Abrams does this in his comprehensive oral history of the Obama administration, Obama: An Oral History.

My conversation with Brian Abrams:

The Iran Nuclear Deal and The View from Tehran

For George Bush, it was once part of the Axis of Evil. For Donald Trump, Iran seems only to be part of an axis of firing up his base, placating Israel, and being supine to the Saudis. The Iran Nuclear Deal was far better and more enforceable than anything we will ever see with North Korea. Iran, according to those on the ground, the IAEA inspectors and other parties to the deal often referred to as the JCPOA, was a deal that Iran more or less was abiding by.

Now with the US having pulled out of the deal and imposing new sanctions, the Europeans, the Chinese, and the Russians, the other parties to the deal, are trying along with Iran to hold all the pieces together. The problem and complexity is that it’s about both proliferation and economics. And while the administration is filled with Iran hawks, many of whom still seek regime change in Iran, there’s no telling where all of this will wind up. In a global neighborhood it remains a tinderbox: what’s next for Iran, for Syria, and for the region.

To try and bring all of this together and provide an Iranian perspective, I’m joined by Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian, one of the foremost authorities on the subject of Iran.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Seyed Hossein Mousavian:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Mouth That Roared - How Rush Limbaugh Changed America

It began as a crazy idea. DJs would get bored with music and start talking to the audience. They would take calls, tell stories, and even talk a little politics, sports, and pop culture. Early on, it produced some enduring national personalities like Jean Shepherd, and Brad Crandall, Long John Nebel, and Larry King, and Barry Gray, and Joe Franklin. It was known first as Spoken Word Radio. Later, it would give way to an even more colorful and cantankerous cast of characters. People like Joe Pyne, Alan Berg and Morton Downey Jr..

Talk radio moved to the big cities with folks like Don Imus and Howard Stern. In New York, Bob Grant would redefine the formula beginning in the early 70s. In fact so much of Trump on race, comes directly out of the Bob Grant playbook. Grant was the soundtrack for the New York that Donald Trump came of political age in.

The Fairness Doctrine would be repealed in 1987 and suddenly radio would be set up to have political power. Then in 1988, a little known Sacramento newscaster and talk show host named Rush Limbaugh would be let loose nationally. He took the freedom of being untethered from the Fairness Doctrine, combined it with the formulas that had already proven successful in talk, added conservative politics in a sardonic and entertaining tone, and the rest is radio history. It began 30 years ago last week, and it certainly changed our entertainment, news, and the political landscape.

To bring this all into focus, I'm joined by Michael Harrison, the editor and publisher of Talkers Magazine, the "bible of the talk radio industry."

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Michael Harrison:

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Our Crises of Connection - Why We Need to Gather Now, More Than Even

How many gatherings do you really enjoy? Certainly not meetings. But what about social events? How many times have you felt awkward at a party, an event or even just a gathering of friends. How often have you had the feeling that everyone else was invited for dinner, and you were only invited for cocktails?

And if you were the host, you made sure that all the napkins and silverware was just right, but what about the inner workings of the gathering? How did you prepare?

In a world where networking and face to face gatherings are the rare exception to being transfixed to screens, shouldn't we pay more attention to those face to face encounters? Priya Parker look at our crises of connection in The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

My conversation with Priya Parker:

Friday, August 3, 2018

Is Hope or Change Ever Possible After Trump?

Once upon a time, hope and change formed the basis of our political discourse. That now seems so long ago. Remember a time when the Koch brothers were the enemy, when we thought John McCain was the far right, when those of us on the left thought the FBI and the justice department needed watching?

In just ten years, we’ve gone through the looking glass. Now up really down, down is up, black is white and our enemies are embraced.

Our divisions over culture, politics, race and class have been weaponized. And demographics, geography, social media and technology make it so we seldom have to interact with anyone that disagree with us.

In this atmosphere of tribalism on steroid, is any kind of positive national politics still possible? Clearly on a local or community level, there is some reason to be optimistic. However on a national level, have we digressed to a point where even the instruments of our founding father, may not bring us back.

Dan Pfeiffer is a bit more optimistic in his new book Yes We (Still) Can: Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter, and Trump

My conversation with Dan Pfeiffer:

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Why Teams Are The New Normal

Look at any business or education sector today and discussion of teams often dominates the agenda. Teams and partnerships, particularly in business, have become not just the new normal, but almost a requirement.

However for every Hewlett and Packard, Jobs and Wozniak and Brin and Page, there are many partnerships and teams that don’t work. So what’s the secret sauce? Why are some more than the sum of the parts and some carry within them the seeds of their own destruction

Science and business journalist Shane Snow digs deep into this phenomenon in Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart.

My conversation with Shane Snow:

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Wherever you are in the political spectrum, we should at least be able to agree on a set of facts about the forces reshaping our society. The cost of housing, particularly in our cities, continues to rise. The cost of higher education, healthcare, and quality day care continue to take a larger and larger share of individual and family incomes.

Income inequality is growing. The impact of automation and AI is only in its infancy. The freelance and gig economy, and recent political and legal moves, have shattered the ability of workers to bargain collectively. All at a time when the social safety net of Medicare, Social Security and pensions are under siege.

What was once the middle class is being hollowed out. While there is no question that some people are doing well in this economy, as evidenced by the fact that retail sales are up, housing sales, particularly driven by women, are holding steady, and the technical unemployment numbers are low. There is no question that as the song lyrics go, “there’s something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.” Whatever it is, the net result is hurting and squeezing a lot of people.

Alissa Quart takes us onto the front lines in Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America.

My WhoWhatWhy.org conversation with Alissa Quart:


When Putin singled out Americans he’d like to have sent to Russia for interrogation, a lot of attention was focused on former US Ambassador Michael McFaul. He also mentioned others, including very prominent international businessman, Bill Browder. More significantly, Putin talked about the Magnitsky Act, which Browder birthed with the help of the United States Congress.

We often throw terms around today in our political and geopolitical debate like capitalist and community and oligarch, but very few who use these terms really understand the essence of what they mean. One of those that does understand is Bill Browder. He rebelled against communism as a teenager, became a very successful capitalist, and made millions in Putin’s Russia. What he didn’t know was just what kind of price he would pay for getting involved in the ever-entangled web of Putin, oligarchs, and a system 180 degrees from our own, a system of men and not of laws.

The ultimate result was the brutal death of Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. Browder has since carried on Magnitsky’s legacy at great personal risk to himself. Putin’s remarks underscore that Bill Browder’s ongoing quest for justice for the murder of Sergei Magnitsky has taken a dark turn under the presidency of Donald Trump.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Bill Browder: