Friday, June 2, 2023

Living and Dying by the Myth of Rugged Individualism: A Conversation with Alissa Quart

The concept of American individualism, is a fundamental aspect of our culture and the American dream. Historically shaped by the westward expansion, manifest destiny, and the Puritan theology of self-reliance, this ideology is now facing a shift. 
Current trends suggest that a growing number of young Americans are rejecting the traditional American dream. We'll explore the reasons behind this shift, questioning whether societal complexities, generational changes, or the absorption of 60s and boomer values into the culture are influencing this trend. Despite these changes, why is there a lack of reflection in our politics? This is what Alissa Quart writes about in her new book Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselves from the American Dream.

My conversation with Alissa Quart:

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Flying Green, Climate Justice, and Higher Prices

One of the great ironies of the world today is that while the problems we face, particularly with respect to climate, must, if they’re ever to be solved, bring the world closer together in seeking solutions. One of the ways that we can come together via travel or in person is also one of the supreme carbon-intensive things that we do to harm the planet.

And yet, the airline industry has committed to at least making the effort towards zero emissions by 2050. Like so much of what must save us from the ravages of climate change, technology lies at the heart of the solution. Along with it, the forces of the market, of innovators, investors, entrepreneurs, and scientists, must move with the same vision that the Wright brothers took to create the idea of flying itself.

Telling this modern story is renowned British journalist Christopher de Bellaigue, a historian, and journalist, known for his reporting and books on the Middle East and environmental and ethical issues. His latest is Flying Green: On The Frontiers of a New Aviation.  

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Christopher de Bellaigue:

Friday, May 12, 2023

The Era of Social Media Journalism Is Over: A Conversation with Ben Smith

In the early 2000s, a significant media-business mistake emerged: the belief that website traffic is a commodity like oil, which would generate increased revenue as advertising improved. However, unlike other commodities, traffic lacked scarcity. The internet made traffic virtually infinite, posing challenges for new media-business models.

In this podcast, Ben Smith, former founding editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, former media columnist for The New York Times, and author of Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion Dollar Race to Go Viral, discusses the rise and fall of new media like Gawker and BuzzFeed, the impact and consequences of megaplatforms like Facebook and Twitter, and the shifting landscape of contemporary journalism.

Smith examines the fluctuating trust in legacy news brands and the growing power of individual voices over faceless institutions, drawing parallels to developments in Hollywood, sports, and politics. Smith highlights the recent decline in both social media’s influence, and as a destination for news and information, and how this has led to more readers visiting homepages directly. He also emphasizes that conservative media outlets appear to have derived the most valuable insights from the social media era, adapting their strategies to thrive in the changing landscape.

Looking ahead, Smith suggests that journalism must help beleaguered consumers navigate the vast information landscape by providing context and a clear voice. He speculates that this may involve a return to some of the principles of print journalism — concision and an editorial perspective — while adapting to the digital era’s demands.

My conversation with Ben Smith:

A Conversation with Hernan Diaz about his Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel "Trust"

Hernan Diaz was just awarded the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for his novel, "Trust."

Last year, I had the opportunity to talk with Diaz about the book, his perspective on the Gilded Age, the persistent myths surrounding wealth, and the impact of these narratives on society as a whole. We also explored how the affluent can essentially "buy" their own reality amidst the enigmatic allure of money. Diaz's novel TRUST couldn't be more relevant to our current times. .

My conversation with Hernan Diaz:

Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Value of Killing Time: A Conversation with Sheila Liming

Struggling to find time for various tasks, our multi-colored Google calendars signify the complexity of the 21st century. The TV show Friends, popular across generations, nostalgically reminds us of simpler times in the early '90s without constant digital distractions.

This era allowed for unstructured, agenda-free time spent with friends, which now seems like a quaint memory. Nowadays, we hang out less frequently and with fewer friends, often while multitasking or participating in structured activities.

The once-common late-night dorm room hangouts have become nostalgic. Are we losing something valuable by giving up this unstructured time? Sheila Liming explores the potential disconnect between socializing and our ever-growing to-do lists in Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time.

My conversation with Sheila Liming:: 

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Myth, Religion, Fascism… The Recipe for Right-Wing Politics: My conversation with Jeff Sharlet

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Jeff Sharlet about “The Undertow.” He explores the complex relationship between religion, religious nationalism, right-wing politics, and how these forces have intertwined with Trumpism and are fueling a slow civil war 

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Jeff Sharlet:

Cyber Weapons and a New Arms Race… Without Firing a Shot: A Conversation with Nicole Perlroth

As software takes over our lives — from hospitals to schools and even our national infrastructure — we’re facing an explosive wave of cyberattacks that could threaten our very existence.

The US — a hacker’s favorite playground — is a ticking time bomb, with 80 percent of its crucial systems tied to the internet and in private hands, with ZERO government control.

Join me in my WhoWhatWhy podcast for a conversation with New York Times cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth. We are diving deep into her book This is How They Tell Me The World Ends, freshly updated with new revelations. 

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Nicole Perlroth:

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Science Is Simply Curiosity Writ Large: A conversation with Dr. Suzy Sheehy

We live in a world that's constantly evolving, driven by innovations in digital technology, AI, and space exploration. Yet, we often overlook the underlying physics that form the foundation of these advancements. The discoveries in physics of the past 120 years have truly shaped our world in ways that were once unimaginable. They were fueled by curiosity, serendipity, and the desire to ask "why?"

Dr. Suzie Sheehy, a physicist, science communicator, and academic has devoted her life to exploring the mysteries of our universe. In her groundbreaking new book, "The Matter of Everything," she delves into the incredible history of physics and the groundbreaking discoveries that have paved the way for the world we live in today.

My conversation with Dr. Suzie Sheehy: 

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

How the Police Became Untouchable: A conversation with Joanna Schwartz

Recent police shooting victims Tyre Nichols and Anthony Lowe highlight the ongoing trend of officer impunity. The recent report on the Louisville police department and Breonna Taylor further underscores this issue. Greater accountability is necessary for police improvement, but the responsibility extends beyond law enforcement to our legal system, courts, and elected officials.

UCLA law professor Joanna Schwartz, an expert in police accountability and public interest lawyering, has has studies the depths of police misconduct and details it in her new work Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable.

My conversation with Joanna Schwartz:

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Dissecting the Silicon Valley Bank Debacle: A conversation with Dean Baker and Brad DeLong

It has been a momentous week for banks and markets. What some have dubbed an “extinction-level event” was, at its core, the failure of a couple of banks.

To help us put all of this into proper perspective, we are joined on this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast by two distinguished economists, J. Bradford DeLong and Dean Baker.

DeLong served as deputy undersecretary of the treasury in the Clinton administration and is currently a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the author of the substack Grasping Reality and the recently published book Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century.

Baker co-founded the Center for Economic and Policy Research. His areas of research include housing and macroeconomics, intellectual property, Social Security, Medicare, and European labor markets. He has been credited as one of the first economists to have identified the 2007–08 United States housing bubble, and, in 2006, Baker predicted that “plunging housing investment will likely push the economy into recession.”

Together, they discuss the venture-capitalist libertarian overreaction to the event, as well as the way it has been massively misrepresented by all of the press, including the mainstream press.

They detail the differences between this event and the 2008–09 banking crisis, the power of contagion and rumor in the digital and social media age, and what actually transpired during the 36 hours the bank was shut down by the FDIC.

We discuss what this means for both small and regional banks, and for the “too big to fail” banks, which are now suddenly in favor.

While the whole story could be forgotten in a matter of weeks, the implications and downstream effects will be with us for quite some time. 

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Dean Baker and Brad DeLong:

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Spies in Hollywood: A conversation with Jonathan Gill

The hacking of Sony Pictures back in 2014, by North Korea, made us all wonder about spies in Hollywood. Today, our paranoia tells us that the Chinese have spies everywhere. If they are checking on TikTok, they must be in Hollywood?

Well, during the Cold War, it turns out the studios were infiltrated with spies. One of those was a producer/director turned double agent named Boris Morros, and Jonathan Gill tells his story in Hollywood Double Agent: The True Tale of Boris Morros, Film Producer Turned Cold War Spy.

My conversation with Jonathan Gill:

Friday, February 24, 2023

A Real Life "Succession" Drama: The Story of Sumner and Shari Redstone

The constantly changing landscape of business, finance, entertainment, and medicine is influenced by technological advancements and cultural shifts, but those in power often resist change, especially if family is involved. The #MeToo movement and the ongoing streaming wars have transformed the entertainment industry. 

The story of Sumner Redstone, a former movie theater magnate and owner of major media companies, his family, mistresses, and poor corporate governance, encapsulates these forces and is chronicled in James B. Stewart and Rachel Abrams' book "Unscripted: The Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy."

My conversation with James B. Stewart & Rachel Abrams:

Monday, February 13, 2023

Joe Biden Fought To Get To The White House. Is He the President We Need Now?: My conversation with Chris Whipple

Joe Biden is the oldest President to take office in the past 234 years. He has a long public life, and has grown into the person and politician he is today. Biden was seen as the perfect antidote to Trump, but it is still uncertain if his preference for “normalcy” will enable him to be the 21st century President we need. Chris Whipple's new book, "The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden's White House," explores this and more.

My conversation with Chris Whipple:

Thursday, February 9, 2023

We Have No Democracy Without Good Citizens: My conversation with Richard Haass

A recent Gallup survey of American concerns showed that foreign policy is nearly at the bottom of the list, with inflation and prices near the top. Other high-ranking topics include the economy in general, immigration, crime and violence, race, the environment, and, topping the list, the proper role of government.

The fact is that none of these problems can be solved without a thriving, healthy democracy to address their root causes and work together to find bipartisan solutions.

That's why it becomes clear that our collective angst about all of these issues is really about whether we have a strong enough democracy, both locally and nationally, to solve anything.

Maybe that's why one of our most distinguished foreign policy experts has turned his attention inward, from understanding the world to trying to better understand the future of our place in it.

Richard Haass takes all this on in his new book, The Bill of Obligations: The ten habits of good citizens.

My conversation with Richard Haass:

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

We Each Have the Personal Answer to Our Larger Divisions: A Conversation with Pico Iyer

Division and conflict have been the default setting for civilization. It’s what wars, shifting alliances and even relational conflict is all about. So why, even after thousands of years of evolution, of death and recrimination and unhappiness, is this still true?

Perhaps the answer lies in our human desire to try and understand to make sense of the world. In science or mathematics, there is often one right answer.

In man's understanding of the world and of each other, that does not happen. So we strive, we seek and we hope to find peace. To come to terms with some answer that explains it all. But life, physical and spiritual and even social and political is not like physics. There is no one answer

This is where I begin my conversation with Pico Iyer.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Citizenship Is Just A Commodity: A Conversation with Atossa Abrahamian

Citizenship used to be a cherished status, taken seriously by those who held it. But in today’s globalized world, it has become a commodity that can be bought and sold.

In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, journalist Atossa Abrahamian, senior editor of The Nation and author of the 2015 book The Cosmopolites, delves into the world of “global citizens.”

She explains how multiple passports are becoming more popular as a status symbol, and a plan B for those who want to live in several countries. Some nations are turning citizenship into a business, selling economic citizenship (tax havens) as a product, and offering citizenship to the wealthy, while making it more difficult for the poor to obtain it.

Abrahamian warns that this commodification of citizenship may weaken its value and lead to criminal dangers.

My WhoWhatWhy conversation with Atossa Abrahamian

Friday, January 13, 2023

In Spite of Many Problem, Flying is Safer Than Ever...Why?: A conversation with John Nance

In spite of deregulation, airline and air traffic control systems in need of updates, pilot shortages, airport overcrowding and even a pandemic, flying has never been safer.

What’s the secret sauce that makes this the case? Why, when safety in other industries from hospitals to construction to automobiles, seems so difficult to achieve, how has the airline industry been so successful and what can we all learn from their efforts?

I explore this with John Nance. John has written about all of these issues in his non fiction work and incorporated much of it in his prolific fiction. He is also an aviation analyst for ABC News and a familiar face on Good Morning America.

My conversation with John Nance:

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Another New Year, and More Promises to Sweat: A conversation with Bill Hayes

Even if you didn’t know the full story, just judging by the number of gyms on every corner, and the number of retailers selling high priced exercise equipment and workout clothing, you’d see what an obsession exercise has become. But why? A form of activity that uses huge quantities of our time, it is neither playful, sports-like, or seemingly rewarding. So why is it so popular, so all consuming, Where is the fun in sweat?

This is the subject of the new work "Sweat," by Bill Hayes.

My conversation with Bill Hayes: