Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Amazon, Bezos and a Global Empire

Back in 1953, it was reported that Charlie Wilson, then head of General Motors, said that what’s good for General Motors was good for America. While that quote is a bit apocryphal, the idea was real. The notion that the success of any particular business was inextricably tied up with the success of the nation.

Perhaps in the 70’s it might have been said of Exxon. Today it might very well be said about Amazon.

The company has changed the way we shop...not insignificant in a nation where retail accounts for 6% of our GDP and 25% of our employment.

It has changed the way we think about the cloud, privacy, and electronic storage. It’s now changing transportation, and health care.

How did one company become so powerful and successful not just in one area….like GM or Exxon, but in multiple areas. The answer lies in understanding Amazon’s visionary founder Jeff Bezos.

Currently, the richest man in the world, the money should not obscure his vision, his talents and his place in the founder/CEO hall of fame.

Few understand Bezos better than Brad Stone. Bard is the author of Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire 

 My conversation with Brad Stone:

Monday, June 28, 2021

The New Addiction to Outrage: Our American Psychosis

There once was a time when we were, if not united, at least we had a common set of cultural touchstones. Movies, TV, sports, even the three networks that delivered the evening news were part of a national town square that provided both water cooler conversation and comity. No more!

Over the past 40 years, all that has changed. The long tail of the internet coupled with the evolution of our politics has divided us as never before. Even COVID, an outside enemy that should have united us, has become a cultural and political cudgel. Ironically our collective anger over politics may now be the only thing we have in common, even as it’s devolved into trench warfare.

We are divided into superclusters of like-minded people. People so siloed that they are literally shocked that everyone does not think and vote as they do. In short, reality has become negotiable and we sort ourselves accordingly.

The weaponized culture wars lead to more enmity, disgust, and dehumanization of our opponents. One wonders if all the king’s horse and all the king’s men can ever put the Humpty Dumpty that is our political civility back together again. That's the reality that Peter T. Coleman looks at in The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization.

My conversation with Peter Coleman:

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Reasons for Hope in Rural America: A Conversation with Gigi Georges

In an effort to make urban American understand rural America, particularly since the 2016 election, books about rural America have become almost a genre unto themselves. Works by J.D. Vance, Sarah Smarsh, Nancy Isenberg, James Fallows, Sara Kendzior and Nichols Kristoff, and others, have cast a class driven and almost apologetic eye on rural America.

Certainly much is wrong there. In part as a result of years of external change and neglect at the hands of public policy makers. Places and towns where “everybody knows your names,” are no longer appreciated or reflective of the values that they injected into the nation's DNA.

But there really are things they can still teach us. Especially if we look at the best of what these towns have to offer, not the worst. What happens when young people choose to stay? When those with gifts and talent choose to redirect it into their community, rather than spend their intellectual capital in the attempt to escape. It's not a choice for all in places like Downeast, Maine, but it’s good that it’s a choice for some.

Those are the one that Gigi Georges introduces us to in debut book Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America 

My Conversation with Gigi Georges:

Friday, June 18, 2021

A Conversation with Chris Matthews:

I think we can all stipulate that we are at a precarious moment in the relatively short history of American democracy. Even among those not following it on an hour by hour basis via an addiction to cable news, people are anxious.  So many, on both the left and the right, are using millions of words to comment on the moment.

But perhaps the only way to really understand it is through the sharp lens of contemporary American political history. Particularly the years since the end of WWII.

Our divisions no matter how profound and how powerful, do not stand alone. They exist as a link in the broad scope of our contemporary political story.  Without grasping that history, this moment is just noise.

Sure we can study history. Many great books have been written about these times. But those that have lived through all of it, who have paid attention to both the players and the events of this 75 year period are best qualified to try and figure out where we are today. Chris Matthews is certainly on of these.  He writes about it in his new book This Country: My Life in Politics and History.

My conversation with Chris Matthews

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Secret Service and its Time of Reckoning: A conversation with Carol Leonnig

Think of all the things you have believed in that have recently been shattered. That the government might protect us from a pandemic. That Congress and our democracy were secure. That COVID came from a wet market in Wuhan, and that Bill Gates was a paragon of business and virtue. Now add to this growing list, the belief in quality and ethics of the United States Secret Service.

With respect to the secret service, albeit some of our view comes from Hollywood. But surprise, not all secret service agents are Clint Eastwood, or Gerard Butler, or Nicholas Cage.

Now, as a result of the great investigative reporting of three time Pulitzer Prize winner Carol Leonnig we have a look inside the reality of life in the secret service.

While the service lived by the shibboleth of Zero Fail, today that goal exists inside a nation more divided than ever, more armed and angry than ever before, and a Secret Service that’s overworked, overtasked and even sometimes incompetent. It all part of Carol Leonnig's new book Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service

My conversation with Carol Leonnig:

Monday, June 7, 2021

What Happened In Wuhan? Why the Lab Leak Theory Has Gained Traction

Fifteen months ago most of us knew very little about viruses. Today, spike proteins, mRNA, and monoclonal antibodies are household words. 

Perhaps it’s this new knowledge that has forced science and the media to confront the reality, long ignored or covered up, that the SARS-CoV-2 virus could have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Our new knowledge and vocabulary are now liberating tools.

Investigative science journalist Nicholas Wade helped to turn the tide. His massive, in-depth article in Medium and in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists opened the floodgates on the discussion. Wade joins me on this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast. 


Friday, June 4, 2021

Campaigns Matter: A conversation with Edward-Isaac Dovere

Ever since 1960, the campaign memoir has become almost a genre unto itself. Over the years many of these books have shaped our view of politics. 

In each of these stories men and even some women have competed for the presidency with the strongest of passion, with the proverbial fire in the belly. In many cases that ambition and their foibles have driven the country's narrative. 

As divided as we are as a nation, one thing that seems to be unique and universally embedded within our democracy, is the carnival that is American presidential campaign. 2020 was no exception. Chronicling this campaign, or at least the Democratic side of it, is the Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere. His campaign memoir is Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats' Campaigns to Defeat Trump 

My conversation with Edward-Isaac Dovere: