Features conversations with people who offer pieces of the puzzle of “a world that just might work” -- provocative approaches to business, environment, health, science, politics, media and culture. Guests have included Michael Lewis, Ken Burns, Arianna Huffington, Paul Krugman, Temple Grandin, Bill…
Wildfires, droughts, heat waves, floods. Climate demands our attention. The next global meeting on the crisis, Cop26, opens October 31st in Glasgow, Scotland. This week I speak with BILL McKIBBEN, author, co-founder of the global climate campaign 350.org, and a frequent contributor to the New Yorker, where he recently announced a shift of focus back to organizing – specifically of Boomers and the Silent Generation. Young people are engaged with climate but those over 60 are not yet delivering what the crisis demands of them, and he's co-founding an entity called Third Act dedicated to changing that.
Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, could not have been clearer. “Time and again I saw conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests… if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they'll click on less ads, Facebook will make less money.” Sounds like a good time to listen to my 2011 conversation with Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, about her book ALONE TOGETHER Why We Expect More from Technology, Less from Each Other.
I turn to ERWIN CHEMERINSKY, Dean of Berkeley Law School, for commentary and analysis re justice, our legal system, and the courts – especially the Supreme Court. Here are two such conversations. In the first half hour, one newly recorded on current issues and his latest book PRESUMED GUILTY: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil RIghts. In the second half, a 2018 conversation on the Trump White House and the book, WE THE PEOPLE: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the Twenty-First Century. You can learn more at law.berkeley.edu.
This week's conversation recorded in 2011 is both timely and untimely. Timely - as we exit from Afghanistan - because in her book When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home, Paula Caplan asks why it's a mental illness to be devastated by war and urges us to connect with veterans and listen to their stories, one-on-one. And untimely, because Paula died of cancer July 21st. She was both one of the warmest, most generous people I've known, and at the same time, a consistently fierce and passionate advocate for justice. Three words I believe often motivated Paula: “It's not fair.” And those three words have seldom felt more true.
Need some good news about climate? I'm excited to speak with economist ROBERT POLLIN and union leader DAVE CAMPBELL, Secretary-Treasurer of United Steelworkers Local 675 in Carson CA, about the California Climate Jobs Plan. Initiated and paid for by labor unions, written by Pollin and others, it pursues the state's clean energy goals through 2030, by creating a million new jobs and offering a fair transition for those who will lose theirs. You can learn more at californiaclimatejobsplan.com
As the US deals with its exit from Afghanistan, at least some are questioning the role of our military in the world. Here's my 2013 conversation with JEREMY SCAHILL about his book and Oscar-nominated documentary, DIRTY WARS:The World is a Battlefield. Scahill reveals lethal covert operations unknown to the public, being done on your dime and in your name. How much has our military presence changed since 2013? I found articles published in 2021 that count up to 700 US bases in up to 80 countries.
I'm excited to talk with JULIE BATTILANA, professor at Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School, and founder of its Social Innovation and Change Initiative, about her new book POWER FOR ALL. It's nothing less than a call for individuals not only to understand and assert power in their own lives, but also to collectively use this power to remake society by rebalancing existing power relationships - including racial, gender, financial and political. To learn more, go to Powerforallbook.com
After 20 years, Biden's pullout of US troops from Afghanistan is inevitably followed by the chaotic evacuations of our desperate Afghan allies and the self-serving blame games of our all-knowing US pundits. Here's my 2017 conversation with MARK DANNER, a voice of conscience and reason concerning war and terrorism since at least 9/11, about his book, SPIRAL: Trapped in the Forever War.
In Last Best Hope, GEORGE PACKER explores four narratives that he says now dominate American (political) life: Free America, a nation of separate individuals that serves the interests of corporations and the wealthy; Smart America, the world view of Silicon Valley, the Clintons, and the professional elite; Real America, the white Christian nationalism of the heartland; and Just America, which sees citizens as members of identity groups who either inflict or suffer oppression. Though they may dominate, these narratives clearly do not speak for all, nor do any of them offer a viable path to restoring or sustaining a thriving democracy. What narrative might?
The UN's latest report paints a frightening picture of the time we've wasted and the urgency with which we must act to avert the worst of climate change. The daily news tells us that the unvaccinated are welcome hosts for the deadly evolution of Covid19 - though they may not believe in either. Journalist and author CHRIS MOONEY has been tracking the costs of science denial for years - long before Trumps presidence. Here's our 2011 conversation re his articles, THE SCIENCE OF WHY WE DON'T BELIEVE SCIENCE and THE REALITY GAP.
I talk with historian DAVID KAISER about two books. His own A LIFE IN HISTORY talks about how the study of history has changed. Fields like African-American History and Women's History deal with evidence nobody had bothered to look at before. But as these focused areas have developed, Kaiser says we look less today at history's broader sweep. Might this increase our tendency to repeat the past? THE FOURTH TURNING: An American Prophesy (Straus & Howe) holds that history is not linear, but cyclical, and that every 80 years or so, a crisis disrupts society, the old order crumbles, and a new order emerges. No surprise - we're in the midst of such a crisis. Will we emerge broken or renewed?
The virus takes advantage of our divisions to infect and kill us. Fires and floods ravage Europe, China, and the US. Police tell of the blood thirsty mob that attacked them as they defended Congress. Anxious? Here's my 2010 conversation with Jon Kabat Zinn and Trudy Goodman, leading lights in the teaching of mindfulness in America. Kabat Zinn has written many books including Wherever You Go, There You Are and is responsible for bringing mindfulness to many mainstream institutions. Goodman is the founder of the meditation community, Insight LA. Oh, and they've been friends since high school.
That human beings are by nature selfish and driven by self-interest is accepted by Western psychologists, philosophers, and historians. It drives our headlines as well as our laws. But what if it's not true? RUTGER BREGMAN's done the research: “Civilisation has become synonymous with peace and progress; wilderness with war and decline. In reality for most of human existence it was the other way around…It's an idea that might just start a revolution...once you grasp what it really means…you'll never look at the world the same again.”
As Democratic legislators flee Texas to stop the Republicans' latest voter suppression bill, after the Supreme Court with three Trump appointees guts the Federal Voting RIghts Act with their final two decisions of 2021, and Joe Biden speaks out against "the greatest threat to the right to vote and the integrity of our elections since the Civil War,” here's my 2017 conversation with Ari Berman, who's been covering this beat for year, about his book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.
In WHY THE INNOCENT PLEAD GUILTY AND THE GUILTY GO FREE, Federal Judge JED RAKOFF of the Southern District of NY, makes clear that the US justice system bears little relationship to what the founding fathers contemplated, what the media portrays, or what the average American believes.The US accounts for about 5% of the world’s population yet houses nearly 25% of its prisoners, with one in nine serving a life sentence, and 500K incarcerated for lack of bail. 40% are Black males and another 20% Hispanic males.
As Congress struggles to accomplish anything beyond pandemic rescue packages, aware that the only chance the Dems have of retaining power in the ’22 midterms is to actually give the American people some of what they desperately need - here’s my 2011 conversation with JACOB HACKER & PAUL PIERSON, authors of WINNER-TAKE-ALL POLITICS: How Washington Made the Rich Richer - and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class - the best book I know re what went wrong, how DC fed inequality paving the way for Trump and minority rule - and what we need to fix to save ourselves.
During the pandemic, Amazon added 425K workers and 50% more warehouse space, the stock price rose 80%, and the personal fortune of Jeff Bezos increased by $58B. In this country, 100M subscribe to Prime and Amazon reaps half of every dollar people spend online. In FULFILLMENT: Winning and Losing in One-Click America, ALEC MacGILLIS looks beyond the numbers to reveal the consequences its online commerce + immediate delivery revolution is having throughout American society.
Fifty years ago this month, publication of the Pentagon Papers led to one of the proudest moments for the Supreme Court when they upheld the right of the press to publish and the right of the public to know. Here’s my 2009 interview with DANIEL ELLSBERG, whose courageous civil disobedience exposed years of government lies about the war in Vietnam.
When was the last time the US won a war or solved a big problem? ANDREW BACEVICH served in the U.S. Army for 23 years, graduated from both West Point and Princeton, and writes for both The Nation and American Conservative. His lastest book AFTER THE APOCALYPSE: America’s Role in a World Transformed is only 172 pages but asks big, blunt questions. Will the dangers and disasters we have been facing finally move us to abandon a set of beliefs about America, its identity, and its security that have kept us sleepwalking in place - or worse - for decades?
ANTONIO DAMASIO has spent the past 30 years -- with his wife Hanna -- studying how the brain operates and written about it in award-winning and best-selling books that readers understand. In Descartes' Error, he took on the enlightenment’s vision of mind over body and elevated the role that emotion and feelings play in the experience of human rationality. This 2010 conversation focuses on the research, ideas and questions in the book, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain. Why do organisms have brains? How and why did the mind and the self evolve? How and why is consciousness created? …and what does it mean once it emerges?
A couple of weeks ago Americans filed their income taxes. Well, some of them did anyway. In the last decade, the United States has become the premiere global destination for hidden wealth. It is now the world’s second largest tax haven, moving ahead of Switzerland, and trailing only the Cayman Islands. I dig into this with CHUCK COLLINS, who directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-edits Inequality.org. We talk about his latest book, THE WEALTH HOARDERS: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions. You can learn more at inequality.org
This week, as blood is shed yet again between Israel and Hamas, and both sides are willing to kill civilians in pursuit of their domestic political agendas, listen to my conversation with Palestinian EMAD BURNAT and Israeli GUY DAVIDI, co-directors of the Academy Award-nominated documentary, 5 BROKEN CAMERAS. It tells the story of Burnat, a Palestinian farmer, his wife, and four small children in the West Bank village of Bil’in. Tracking the destruction of each of his cameras, we witness a son grow from a newborn to a young boy while families’ ancient olive trees are bulldozed and protests intensify. We spoke in February 2013, just before that year’s Academy Awards.
I believe human beings want more than anything to feel seen and heard. From clergy fighting racism in Charlottesville to a former GOP congressman engaging conservatives on climate change and Appalachian journalists restoring social trust with the public, USA Today reporter NATHAN BOMEY shares stories from his new book, BRIDGE BUILDERS: Bringing People Together in a Polarized Age. Mostly under the radar, heroic citizens and organizations pursue reconciliation, reject misinformation, and rethink compromise. This is necessary work. You can learn more at nathanbomey.com
President Biden will remove all troops from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years, the longest war in our nation’s history. Here are two interviews from 2009: First, MATHEW HOH, a former Marine who resigned from the foreign service in protest. "American families must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a worthy purpose…and I have lost confidence such assurances can be made." Second, MALALAI JOYA, youngest member elected to Afghan parliament in 2005, expelled in 2007. “The fact that I was kicked out of office while brutal warlords enjoyed immunity from prosecution should tell you all you need to know about the ‘democracy’ backed by NATO troops.”
When a guy who’s written 30,000 recipes, 30 books, and spent decades with the New York Times writes a book with the title – ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, JUNK: A History of Food from Sustainable to Suicidal - I take notice. What drove him to write this? What does someone who clearly knows and loves food have to say about how badly things have gotten - and what we need to do to turn things around before it’s too late?
I sought out LUIS RODRIGUEZ, writer in many genres, activist, and the former poet laureate of Los Angeles, for his sage take on the city, the state, the nation, and the experience of Latinx people in all three as we emerge from the Trump presidency. I got even more than I’d expected. Grounded in his native roots, his latest book, FROM OUR LAND TO OUR LAND: Essays, Journeys, and Imaginings from A Native Xicanx Writer, calls on humanity to reconcile with nature and to reconnect with ourselves, each other, and the divine. You can learn more at luisjrodriguez.com
Attorney AMY BACH spent eight years investigating the chronic lapses in courts across America. Lawyers sleep through trials. False confessions and mistaken eye-witnesses convict the innocent. The rich walk, the poor go to prison. Her book, ORDINARY INJUSTICE, reveals a culture of complicity among prosecutors, defenders, and judges that rewards shoddiness and sacrifices defendants and victims to keep the court calendar moving.
The US holds one national popular vote and Republicans have only won that vote once since 1988. Yet they have held the presidency nearly 12 of those years, and as a result, they dominate the Supreme Court. They hold 50 Senate seats though they’ve received millions fewer votes than Democrats in Senate elections. DAVID DALEY charted the worst of the Republicans’ efforts in his best-seller on gerrymandering, RATF**KED: Why Your Vote Doesn't Count, but he also draws hope from the citizens he writes about in UNRIGGED: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy
10 years ago last week pro-democracy protests began in Syria as the latest front in the - at the time still hopeful - Arab Spring. Here’s my 2019 conversation with directors Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts of the Oscar-nominated documentary, For Sama, and with Dr. Hamza al-Kateab, who ran the last hospital in East Aleppo. The film takes us inside Aleppo during the long siege by al Assad and the Russians. In the course of the film, Waad al-Kateab falls in love, gets married, and has a baby - all as bombs fall around them. You can learn more and watch this remarkable film at forsamafilm.com
I believe human beings want more than anything to feel seen and heard. That’s why I wanted to talk again with NOREENA HERTZ economist, journalist, and author most recently of THE LONELY CENTURY: How to Restore Human Connection in a World That’s Pulling Apart. One of the things I appreciate about Hertz’s approach here is that she broadly defines loneliness as a lack of connection, which opens us up to consider all the ways and all the spheres of our lives where we are lacking or losing connection. And how has our ongoing experience of the pandemic making that both better and worse? You can learn more at noreena.com
Increased tax credits contained in the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package signed this week could lower child poverty more In 2021 than any other year In U.S. history. That is a really big deal. It turns Naomi Klein’s notion of “shock doctrine” on its head - enacting policies in response to a crisis that promise to make things better than before the crisis began. So what else could we do for children? Here’s my 2011 conversation with David Kirp about his book, Kids First: Five Big Ideas for Transforming Children's Lives and America's Future. This stuff has all been tried and it works.
SHERRY TURKLE mourned the loss of conversation in ALONE TOGETHER: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other and called for its restoration in RECLAIMING CONVERSATION: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. In THE EMPATHY DIARIES: A Memoir, she turns the conversation on herself, and weaves together her very personal story and her evolving insights on technology, empathy, and ethics. Among her questions: How did her role in keeping family secrets influence her as a researcher, a teacher, a writer, and a woman? To learn more about the book and read an excerpt: bit.ly/3lyo4HS; more about Sherry’s work: sherryturkle.mit.edu
STEVEN GREENHOUSE covered labor for the New ¥ork Times for 19 years. Unions played a key role when the American economy created the greatest middle class the world had ever seen. Given how clearly unions improved the lives of hundreds of millions of laborers, why did workers allow corporations and government to weaken and shrink those unions? What can we do about it? Can our shared vulnerability to the pandemic and its destruction of the economy help us recreate the post-war experience of shared prosperity? We talk about greenhouse's latest book, Beaten Down Worked Up: The Past Present and Future of American Labor.
Impeachment #2 is over, Trump is still off Twitter, vaccines are on the rise, and Biden is committed to relief for American families. Let’s take a breath - and listen to my remarkable 2002 conversation with National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence WADE DAVIS, about his wild path to the corners of the earth from the Amazon to the Arctic, his experiences with psychotropic plants, the pluses and minuses of Western progress, and the threats to indigenous peoples as told in his book The Light at the Edge of the World: A Journey Through the Realm of Vanishing Cultures.
In 1999, MICHAEL MANN co-authored a scientific paper that included a graph that tracked temperatures over the last 1000 years. Known as “the hockey stick,” it showed that climate change was real. His integrity attacked, he learned the strategies and methods of those who would postpone and disable our efforts to deal with climate change. In his latest book, The New Climate War, Mann debunks false narratives and argues that all is not lost. He believes Biden is on the right track, but warns we won’t succeed unless we learn to recognize and defeat the latest tactics of the forces of inaction.
Biden’s pitching unity, but he seems determined to go big and the Dems sound serious about accountability. Pandemic numbers are easing and vaccines increasing, but we fear the unknown of virus variants. Normal is not around the corner. How will we come out of this - as a society and as individuals? Here’s my 2014 conversation with DANIEL GOLEMAN. In his book, FOCUS: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, he cites the latest neuroscience to make the case for the power and impact of where we choose to put our attention. Like a muscle, use attention poorly and it withers; work it in the right way and it strengthens.
In college, CHLOE MAXMIN co-founded the Divest Harvard campaign calling on the university to divest from fossil fuels. After graduating in 2015, she returned home to rural Maine, and In 2018 was elected to Maine’s House of Representatives, in a district that had voted Republican by a 16-point margin over the past three elections. In November, at 28 and after one term in the House, she defeated the incumbent minority leader to move to the State Senate. Chloe Maxmin bucks the obstacles to living democracy by focusing her energies on listening to the citizens she represents and then representing them. Today this is fairly radical behavior, radical in its simplicity and its potential.
Last week I spoke with ARLIE HOCHSCHILD, author of STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN LAND: Anger & Mourning on the American Right, about the Trump years, the insrrection, and the future. Given the inauguratiopn of Biden and Harris and the several immense crises we face, nothing may be more important at this moment than understanding our neighbors with whom we disagree. So here’s my 2018 conversation with Hochschild, in which we learn about her path to her current work and the lessons she learned from the folks she listend to. Finally we ask each other what new story might inspire more Americans to yearn for the future rather than the past.
I last spoke with Berkeley sociologist ARLIE HOCHSCHILD in 2018 about her book, STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN LAND: Anger & Mourning on the American Right, in which she shares what she learned in five years talking to Tea Partiers turned Trumpers in Southern Louisiana. Turns out she's continued to talk with the folks she met researching her book. I call on her again to try to make some sense of my fellow Americans and find a path back from the chaos and breakdown that seems possible in the days and weeks ahead.
It is a significant achievement and an enormous relief that the White House and both Houses of Congress are out of the hands of the anti-social and anti-democratic Republicans. To remind us, however, what made Trump not just possible but likely, here’s my 2012 conversation with HEDRICK SMITH, about his book, WHO STOLE THE AMERICAN DREAM? It makes clear we need more than Obama 2.0 in 2021. Smith keeps the book’s themes alive online at hedricksmith.com.
THOMAS HOMER-DIXON correctly predicted a lot of the crises we face. But, as we leave 2020 behind and give birth to 2021, i talk with him about his new book, COMMANDING HOPE: The Power We Have to Renew a World in Peril. Sample “To keep our hope from being vague and naive, it must have a clear vision of a positive future. Then, to keep it from being false, we must avoid wishful thinking about the likelihood of that future.” Learn more at commandinghope.com
Too often when we read about immigrant children, they are being torn from their parents’ arms or blamed for lawlessness. Sisters Constance Touey and Jeannette Lucey met in 1984 when they were both assigned to a parish K-8 school in inner city Philadelphia. In DO IT BETTER: How the Kids of St. Francis de Sales Exceeded Everyone’s Expectations, they tell the remarkable stories of their as principal and 8th grade teacher as they worked to educate and transform the lives of wave after wave of poor immigrant children. I’m proud to have written it with them.
Planetary health is by definition big picture, but it’s made immediate by the pandemic. I see our environmental goals as an effective reckoning with climate change and a healthy relationship with the rest of nature. I’ll talk about that relationship with SAM MYERS, Research Scientist at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health and the Founding Director of the Planetary Health Alliance (planetaryhealthalliance.org). Myers is one of the editors of PLANETARY HEALTH: Protecting Nature to Protect Ourselves, which explores the impacts of environmental change on human health and offers solutions by reimagining our cities, our food and energy systems, and even our economics and ethics.
Today we face several crises that have either grown out of the distortion of our economy and our politics or are unsolvable because of them – including inequality, climate change, social division, crippled government, and endangered democracy. In her book, REIMAGINING CAPITALISM, REBECCA HENDERSON calls for us to abandon two ideas from the 1970s at the root of our troubles: First, that business should dominate politics and write its own rules; and second, that the sole purpose of corporate behavior is to enhance shareholder value. You can learn more at reimaginingcapitalism.org
I talk with ELIE MYSTAL, Justice Correspondent at The Nation magazine. We look through a legal lens at Trump’s fraud claims and his obstruction of an effective transition, at the question of what it will take for Biden to reverse Trump’s executive orders and rules, and finally we talk about the Supreme Court. You can learn more at thenation.com
More than 72 million Americans voted for Donald Trump. 72 million voted for his incompetence, racism, ignorance, cruelty, criminality, and for his disastrous handling of the pandemic. Here’s my 2018 conversation with MILTON BENNETT, an expert on culting behavior. He spells out the methods Trump uses – consciously or unconsciously - to turn his followers into a cult, impervious to contrary influence and united in defense of their aims and their leader.
It lookls as if Joe Biden will win a very tight electoral college victory against arguably the worst president in history in the midst of a deadly pandemic and crippled economy the incumbent has bungled disastrously. How could this election even be close? ROB JOHNSON, Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), and I talk about how we got here and what it’s going to take to move forward. As long as both parties depend on Wall Street and the 1% for funding, our real challenges - climate change, restoring the middle class, healthcare, systemic racism, etc.- will never truly be dealt with.
JON WIENER'S 2006 book, Conspiracy in the Streets: the Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Eight has been re-released to sync with release of the film, The Trial of the Chicago Seven. Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, its ensemble includes Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, and Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman. Jon and I will talk about the film. We'll talk about the Trial. We'll talk about the attitudes and excesses of Mayor Daley and the Nixon administration and the parallels with 2020. With mass protests and brutal retaliation. A compromised justice department doing the President’s bidding. We will talk about this moment - how different and how similar is it to the 60s? What did we learn? What can we do better?
It’s a little over 3 weeks till the final day to turn in your ballot. Here’s my 2018 conversation with BILLY WIMSATT, founder and executive director of Movement Voter Project, one of the most effective election fundraising organizations I know of. In a clear break from the beltway strategy of big donors, big consultants, and big TV ad buys, MVP helps progressive donors move their money instead to the best local community-based organizations in battleground states. Money invested in the grassroots wins elections and makes change. Learn more at movement.vote
The US hold only one national popular vote – for President and Vice President – and The Republican party has won that national vote only once since 1988, that’s 32 years. Yet they've held the presidency 12 of those years. Under the two most recent popular vote losers / electoral college winners, we’ve suffered 9/11, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2008 recession, the monstrously failed response to the pandemic, and a devastated economy. I believe that minority rule sickens democracy. The electoral college is anti-democratic. I talk with ALEX KEYSAR about his new book, WHY DO WE STILL HAVE THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE?
Even folks who live here, as I have since 1975, may have little idea of the central role Los Angeles played in the culture and politics of the 1960s. Too often LA is portrayed as surfing, Hollywood, and gogo dancing - think Gidget, Beach Boys, 77 Sunset Strip. Wiener and co-author, Mike Davis (City of Quartz) offer a “movement history” featuring early Black Power, the Watts uprising, the Chicano Moratorium, and LA’s star turn as a locus of the anti-war, gay lib, and women’s movements, as well as a driving force of much of 60’s counterculture. Wiener and I both arrived here for the first time in 1969 and this conversation is a lot of fun. https://jonwiener.com/