It is very hard to typify what America’s relationship is with China. We are economically co-dependent and yet we’re competitors. Some say we’re frenemies in the world; yet others say be realistic and recognize that they are adversaries, growing into potential enemies, based upon their growing defense posture and designs on Taiwan. And when we do business with Chinese companies are we actually dealing with an increasingly aggressive and controlling Chinese Communist Party? As consumers we must admit that while we like the low prices, there may be a high price to pay in propping up this regime and limiting jobs opportunities in the United States. I told you this was complicated. Our guest, Isaac Stone Fish, author of ‘America 2nd’ has lived in China over the years and understands the subtleties of the relationship in its many forms. He clearly draws a distinction between the actions of The Party and the culture of the people and one of the world’s oldest civilizations. He also provokes us to think about what each country wants from the other and the unwitting help that many influential Americans have given China as they accept the money and prestige that their dealings with the country may provide.
The International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism(ICSVE) has spent a lot of time monitoring and reporting on the actions and motivation of threats from extremists abroad. Circumstances on the ground in America have forced the Center to focus new attention on the activities of home grown extremists in our midst. What might have been considered a scattered and disorganized grouping of fringe players congealed to attack our U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, a first for our nation. It also served as a wake-up call that groups like QAnon, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers must be taken seriously, as the FBI has been alerting us. Dr. Anne Speckard Director of the ISCVE joins us to discuss a report generated by her and other researchers in her group after spending a summer inside QAnon and white supremacist online forums. They designed a study to observe online forums populated and run by such groups with the aim of gaining a clearer understanding of not only what draws people to join them but also to determine how QAnon plays a part in the radicalization process. Dr. Speckhard’s team included Wilson W. Warren, Kate Strezishar and Molly Ellenberg. We discuss their chilling finds today.
The aftermath of the war in Ukraine is uncertain because so much depends on the outcome, but speculation is that relations between the United States and its European partners will take a long time to mend with Russia. Trust has been shattered in the wake of this horrific attack by Russia on a neighboring state. The question becomes what will the world look like and how will America approach this former bitter rival? There are diplomatic, economic and military considerations that will all come into play. And while the NATO alliance has been re-assembled by President Biden, will that diverse group of nations, with differing interests, particularly as it relates to energy needs, hold firm if the United States seeks to maintain sanctions and follow the course of containment as in the days of the Cold War. Now, of course, there are other considerations including the growing influence and power of China, with the ability to upend any strategies that they find counter to their interests. It’s a complicated picture. Here to help us sort it out is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Rooney.
The numbers suggest that America is in the midst of one of the largest labor upheavals in decades. The resurgence in workers declaring their rights has benefited labor unions who are now emboldened and getting a second look from younger workers. The new found confidence that the worker is in a stronger position is exemplified by the fact that 100,000 unionized workers have voted to authorize strikes in the recent period across a range of industries. Given worker shortages, they now have little fear that they will be replaced should they walk the picket line. It’s a moment unlike any for working people in decades. Having a Democratic president who is sympathetic to unions, and very open about it, doesn’t hurt, either. Peter Berg, professor of employment relations and the director of the school of Human Resources and labor relations at Michigan State University, joins us to discuss.
The baby formula crisis in America caught many off guard, but not our guest on this podcast. Richard Williams, Ph.D., served as the director for social science with the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the Food and Drug Administration. He is the author of ‘Fixing Food: An FDA Insider Unravels the Myths and the Solutions’. He was our guest on a previous podcast discussing the inner workings of the regulators at the FDA. We asked him back to discuss the specifics surrounding this massive baby formula problem made worse by actions, or in actions, of the agency. You will want to hear his perspective.
The U.S. Senate recently, by consent vote, sent to the House of Representatives what its sponsor Sen. Marco Rubio calls ‘The Sunshine Protection Act’. The measure would give us permanent daylight saving and an extra hour of afternoon sunshine in the winter. The idea is to encourage people to shop, eat out and be more active so as to boost the economy. The problem is there is only so much sunlight to go around(you can’t fool Mother Nature)so it has to come from somewhere. And that, of course, is in the morning.If this is enacted by the House and signed by the President, Many children would go to school in the dark. And the morning commute for many would start out the same way. While most Americans would like to avoid time changes twice a year, experts in the field of health suggest the smarter play is to have one standard and that being standard time which follows the human body’s rhythms and patterns more precisely. By the way, we’ve tried the daylight saving time year round model before and it didn’t work. Jay Pea, founder and president, of Save Standard Time, joins us today to discuss the many timely matters involved.
There is no denying that Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, is a skilled legislator and, perhaps, the most powerful force in the modern history of the Senate, given his years in leadership, but to what end has he used his influence? To move policy forward? To forge meaningful compromises? To enhance the institutional moorings of the Senate? Hardly. He hovers over the august body like some kind of dystopian figure insuring that I’m against whatever the other party is for. And while you would have imagined that given their differences in style and temperament, he would have been a bulwark against Donald Trump’s presidency by insuring the independence of the Senate, he allowed the Imperial Presidency to run amok, in the two impeachment trials and in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection. According to Ira Shapiro, author of ‘The Betrayal: How Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans Abandoned Amerca’, his fixation has been on stocking the federal judiciary, and particularly the US Supreme Court, with conservative jurists. If that means denying Merrick Garland his Senate hearings or reversing the logic he used in the Garland case to hasten Amy Coney Barrett’s ascension to the Court, so be it. How has McConnell’s ‘success’ tracked with our country’s fortunes and the public’s confidence in the body he holds so much sway over? Find out on this podcast.
The United States Postal Service remains the only mail and package delivery mechanism with the capability of reaching all of America. Despite new technologies and competitors that have been heralded as the end of postal delivery, it remains critical to many Americans, particularly those in rural sectors. And in 2020, when it faced greater pressures than ever during the pandemic, it rose to the challenge of becoming essential to the election process. Our guest, Christopher Shaw, author of ‘First Class’, argues that it must be preserved because it is a national treasure. At the same time, he acknowledges that since mail volume has dropped 40% over the past 15 years, its business model is in need of updating. He’s got an slew of ideas to do that. Most importantly, though, Congress just passed the Postal Reform Act on a bipartisan basis which will go a long way to making the stressed financial situation of the Postal Service better and more sustainable.
While America’s democratic institutions held in 2020’s presidential election, it was because some people, Republicans and Democrats–election officials, secretaries of state, in particular–did their constitutional duties and withstood pressure from the sitting president and his acolytes to overturn the results by various means, including pressuring state legislatures to overturn results in battleground states, challenging results in the courts, setting up alternate slates of electors to represent states in the Electoral College and enraging supporters to the point that they stormed the Capitol hoping to pressure Vice President Pence and Congress to go beyond their constitutional limits in certifying election results. A task force set up to examine what happened here and how it could be avoided in the future wrote that these attempts to overturn the election ‘likely caused lasting damage, not only to the acceptance of the 2020 election outcome, but the perceived legitimacy and long-term stability of American institutions and our system of government’. So what will we need to repair it, particularly in light of changes in many state laws making voting more restrictive based on ‘the big lie’ and not the consensus view that 2020 was the fairest election in recent memory? This task force, and others, believe that changes will be needed in election administration, election laws and the news ecosystem. To discuss this very important topic is our guest, Robert Brandon, president and CEO, of the Fair Elections Center(fairelectionscenter.org).
Most decisions we make are by listening to our gut or by talking to a few trusted friends. There is now, however, a better approach to decision-making, according to our guest, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of ‘Don’t Trust Your Gut’ and a former Google data scientist. Using data to get what we really want in life is a much better way to be happy, find the right mate and make great decisions early on that will help our children achieve great results throughout their lives. In an engaging way in his book and on the podcast, he lays out an empirical case to prove that the new religion, ‘dataism’, is a much better indicator of will bring us better approaches than methods available to us before. Data points, the breadcrumbs left on the computer road of Google searches and Facebook likes, are rich in predictive capacity to explain how your actions will achieve the results you’re hoping for. Much of this, he describes, as ‘the moneyball of life’. Just as sabermetrics has changed the stodgy game of baseball, so will a new confidence in this data offer a new the way to attain greater fulfillment and success. It’s really worth a listen.