Monday, September 30, 2019

Trump's War on the FBI

Today Trump's war is against Congress and the intelligence community. Previously he went to war with the FBI with the same mob boss approach that resulted in the firing of Jim Comey and Andrew McCabe and the repeated attacks on the integrity of the FBI

What can that recent history tell us about where we are now? About the strength and/or fragility of our fundamental law enforcement and intelligence institutions and the long term consequences to individuals and to the country?

To put it all in some kind of up-close perspective is CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell, in Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump's War on the FBI.

My conversation with Josh Campbell:


Thursday, September 26, 2019

We are All Cult Members Now!

As a nation we’ve certainly gone through difficult times, times that as Thomas Paine said, try men’s souls. We’ve been divided as during the Cold War and the Civil War. But rarely have we been as tribal as we are today. Rarely have we been as willing to throw off facts, science, and reality, in the service of a cause. It’s almost like we’ve all joined cults. Little by little we’ve been encouraged to issue our faith in institutions and believe in nothing, which makes us more vulnerable to be made to believe anything.

As we throw off critical thinking, as we look for order out of the chaos of creative destruction, as we deal with the consequences of a rapidly changing and technological world, we exhibit so many of the signs of those that fall into cults. That’s our focus  with Dr. Janja Lalich. She’s a researcher, author and educator specializing in cults and extremist groups with a particular focus on charismatic relationships and political and other social movements.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Dr. Janja Lalich:





Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Is Clothing the New Plastic?

No matter who we are, we are touched by food, shelter, and clothing. Of the three perhaps clothing is one we most take for granted. Unlike our food, we don’t usually think about where it comes from, unlike shelter, it’s in abundance and unlike these other necessities, the price keeps falling while style keeps improving.

It’s almost too good to be true. And maybe it is. Maybe there is a darker side, a steeper price for this proliferation of fashion. Dana Thomas explains this in Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes.

My conversation of Dana Thomas:


Sunday, September 22, 2019

The CIA in the Post 9/11 World

Our attention span grows shorter while the events creating a whirlwind around the world, increase. N. Korea, Iran, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, plus domestic turmoil is everywhere. In all of this, it’s easy to forget, just 18 short years after 9/11.

I often wonder how we’ll see this period that we are living through from the perspective of 50 years. But with respect to 9/11, the rearview mirror is starting to come into focus, as the objects are closer than they appear.

How the world and the US intelligence has transformed as a result of those events impacts everything we do today and is worth examining with this renewed hindsight.

In that sense, my guest Philip Mudd was present at the creation. He was in the White House as events of 9/11 unfolded and now he’s writing about them in ways that may inform or future. His recent book is Black Site: The CIA in the Post-9/11 World.

My conversation with Philip Mudd:



Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Cokie Roberts

Over the many years of doing this program, I'm sorry to say I only had one opportunity to talk with Cokie Roberts. We talked back in 1998 upon the publication of her book We Are Our Mothers' Daughters  and about the changing role of women. It was a long time before Me Too, but she was prescient about so many of the issues that would evolve over the next 20 years.

I share that 1998 conversation.


She Said

In All the President's Men, as reported by Woodward and Bernstein, Deep Throat says to Woodward, in the bowls of a garage, “it leads everywhere, get your notebook, there’s more.”

And so there was. Just as there was with the story of Harvey Weinstein. But on a larger canvas, it was the story of men behaving badly for a long time and getting away with it.

Fortunately, journalism is more than the first draft of history. Sometimes, facts, especially if they are an agreed-upon set of facts that are exposed, can change the course of history. Woodward and Bernstein are certainly an example. But so is Sy Hersh for reporting on Mai Li, Neil Sheehan on the Pentagon Papers, and Bart Gellman and the Edward Snowden revelations Now.add to this pantheon Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for their reporting on sexual harassment in the workplace, and ultimately on Harvey Weinstein and the explosion of the “Me-Too” movement.


Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey are investigative reporters at the New York Times and the authors of She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement.

My conversation with Megan Twohey:


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Charles and David Koch Are Not Who You Think They Are!

Silent Cal Coolidge is reported to have said “that the business of America is business.” Correct or not, it’s fair to say that by looking at only American business over the past 60 years, we can see the full arc of our contemporary history.

Think of all of the things that have been front and center in our politics and our culture that have sprung from business, going all the way back to the 60’s. Conglomerates, the free movement of money around the world, manufacturing changes, management and blue-collar workers, government control and union membership. Private equity, derivatives, lobbyists, corporate political contributions, climate change, think tanks and branding.

Each and every one of these things have been a part of the empire that is Koch Industries and has been touched and shaped by Charles and David Koch.

Whether you like their particular brand of politics or not, the company and the empire they built have to be respected. Whether Balzac was correct when he said that “behind every great fortune is a great crime,” is a question worth examining in the context the Koch industry.

That’s part of the deep dive into Koch that business journalist Christopher Leonard has given us in his new book Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America.

My conversation with Christopher Leonard:


Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Other Scandal: The College Dropout Scandal

In most places around the country, school is beginning. This includes the nation's colleges and universities where about 2 million high school graduates will soon start college.

Yet 40% of those incoming freshmen will drop out before graduating. Many with debt, limited job prospects, and shattered confidence.

Why is this number so high? Why are some colleges succeeding in keeping kids engaged and others failing so miserably? Are there best practices? Is this simply another reflection of the economic divide in America? Is it happening at elite universities? Can we test for it, and what are the consequences if the problem goes ignored?

All of these questions are part of the new book The College Dropout Scandal by my David Kirp

My conversation with David Kirp:



Tuesday, September 3, 2019

How Women are Changing American Politics

Our founders devised a political system that was inherently difficult to change. They saw almost every aspect of the desire for change as needing to be cooled before even the most white-hot desire for progress could be codified. With respect to race and gender, it’s been even more difficult. Those were the prejudices and stereotypes baked into the founding documents themselves.

This is certainly one of the reasons it has taken so long for people of color and for women to be a full part of the political process.

Hillary Clinton talked about those tens of millions of cracks in the glass ceiling. But the safety glass that is history, made those cracks very hard to break. In fact, perhaps it was only with the elections of 2018 that we have seen some of those cracks become full-blown breaks. Even though women have made political progress, the terms of the debate and the campaigns have been based on the historical precedents set by white men.

All of this is changing as is documented by Caitlin Moscatello in her new book See Jane Win: The Inspiring Story of the Women Changing American Politics.

My conversation with Caitlin Moscatello: