Monthly Archives: April 2019

EP 233 Why Are All My Favorite Stores Closing?

The decline in brick and mortar retail stores is a real trend that threatens a lot in the way of jobs which are dependent upon this sector, but also the great memories of what a joy we experienced getting to know  shopkeepers in our downtown’s, for example,who influenced our thinking about fashion, books, music and all other pleasures. The demise is not only driven by Amazon, though clearly it is a factor in all of this. Mark Pilkington, author of ‘Retail Therapy: Why the Retail Industry is Broken-And What Can Be Done to Fix It’ lays out the many issues that have brought us to a point where even in Manhattan’s Golden Triangle there are serious levels of story vacancies. And the impacts are massive of real estate, restaurants and suppliers.  We take a deep divide into the issue, with some corrective actions which the industry needs to take to revive itself.

EP 232 Can We Put a Please Do Not Disturb Sign on the Grand Canyon?

One third of all the land in America is public. Protected?  Well, that’s another question altogether. In his book, ‘Grand Canyon For Sale’, Stephen Nash makes a compelling case that it is less so than we might suspect or want.  As his fulsome description of the beauty, majesty and awe inspiring sweep of this natural landscape and our other national parks will captivate you, his stark warnings about the political and natural threats to them will anger you and, perhaps, rouse you to action.  He will walk us through the rocky terrain of greedy private interests, aided and abetted by their willing supplicants in government, to sell off these lands, starve them of the support they need and leave us understanding the threats to ‘America’s best idea’. And they are many.  Get to these places soon as climate change’s gnawing reminders are paying particular havoc to our national parks. If you’re like most Americans, this issue is distressing. Absorb what’s in this podcast and call your Congressional representative.

EP 231 America’s Living Dangerously on Its Fault Lines

You do get the feeling that America’s coming apart, don’t you?  In political terms, we either talk past each other or, in this period, don’t talk to each other at all.  So, how did we get here and is there any way to repair the divide? Julian Zelizer, our guest on this podcast and a Princeton professor and frequent commentator on CNN, explores this question, along with his co-author, Kevin Kruse, in their book ‘Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974’.  This phenomenon, many years in the making, cuts across political, economic, racial and sexual lines and is often set against a backdrop of red and blue. And even though they trace much of this back to the disillusionment in the aftermath of Watergate, you have to look to the political and cultural chaos of the 1960’s as to where questions about the ‘establishment’ really began to rage.  No sooner had LBJ’s ‘Great Society’ initiatives begun than Richard Nixon picked up the mantle of a ‘Southern Strategy’ to exacerbate resentments against them. And we’ve been off the races ever since, with the most colorful characters in this national bloodletting coming from the conservative side of the political spectrum. Can we ever crawl back from the political ledge? Listen in.

EP 230 Why is The Supreme Court America’s Most Dangerous Branch of Government?

  Can you imagine telling many of the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court that you were interviewing them for a book that was focused on their overreach on many issues that should be resolved by the people’s representatives and not these unelected, lifetime appointees?  David Kaplan, author of ‘The Most Dangerous Branch’, did just that and sub-titled the book, ‘Inside the Supreme Court’s Assault on the Constitution’. That’s chutzpah! And yet, in private, some of his subjects agree. According to Kaplan, an enfeebled Congress has ceded authority to these judges to make many of the hard calls in our society.  Wasn’t it meant to be this way? The answer is ‘no’ and he’ll explain. He will also describe how the Supreme Court selection process has begun to distort presidential campaigns and which recent Court decision the body is still having a hard time recovering from. There’s some dishing in his book and on this podcast, as well. Find out who he believes is the smartest member of the U.S. Supreme Court.  His presentation is lively, engaging and insightful. Have fun with it.

EP 229 Why Are So Many Americans Dying For A Paycheck?

Is your job making you sick?  There seems to be an epidemic of bad practices in the modern American workplace that, quite literally, may be killing people.  And don’t think you have to be a coal miner or work on an oil rig in the middle of the Atlantic to find those conditions. Through OSHA regulations, we might have made the physical environments in which we work safer, but that doesn’t account for the toxicity of overwork, stress, decrease in health benefits and the resulting conditions brought on by many employers who think that doing well and doing good are mutually exclusive.  According to Stanford business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, the opposite is true. In his book, ‘Dying for a Paycheck’ he reveals stunning truths about today’s office and offers approaches employers can take to care for their workforce and increase profitability. Hint: the answer is not a gym or workplace wellness program alone.

EP 228 Why Is Smoking At An All Time Low In America?

While smoking is at an all time low in America, many are concerned that nicotine addiction through vaping and e-cigarettes may provide a gateway for a new generation of puffers.  Dr. Joel Nitzkin is a strong advocate for tobacco harm reduction and a Senior Fellow for tobacco policy at the R Street Institute and feels that the growing concerns about e-cigarettes don’t take into account the salubrious impact it may be having on the decrease in cigarette smoking.  He comes armed with many statistics and studies to buttress his case. He also discusses how far we have come in the public health battle against smoking and concerns yet to be addressed among certain populations.

EP 227 From Gutenberg to Google: A History of the Future

We hear it all the time.  The disruption of this digital age is the greatest in history.  And, perhaps, we take comfort in knowing that the obstacles we face are not of our own making.  Tom Wheeler, of the Brookings Institution, and former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, argues through the lens of history that previous eras of change, based on new communications networks, have been even more disruptive to the established order. We are on the threshold of even more convulsive change as this is the beginning of the process and we must manage the transition in a smart way in order to harness it for good. His book is the title of this podcast and he offers some of the most compelling thinking and clear eyed assessments of these times that you will hear on any podcast.  It’s as if you are attending a seminar on your future

EP 226 The White Working Class In America

Americans may have thought that we discarded a class system when we threw a tea party in Boston many years back.  If we did, Joan Williams is here to report–it’s back. And much of it revolves around the fact that our self image as a country with a large and growing middle class, with steady jobs and decent benefits, is all but gone.  In its place, those somewhere in the middle have felt a level of anxiety about the future and a certain resentment about how they are treated and represented. in her book, ‘White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America’, Professor Williams tries to explain to her fellow professional-managerial elite what they don’t understand about this large group in the sinking middle.  It’s a compelling read and listen.

EP225 Are Stronger Political Parties The Cure For What Ails American Democracy?

Was America really ever supposed to have parties, or factions, as some called them at the founding of the republic?  Yale political scientist, Ian Shapiro, first answers that question as a predicate to making the case that what our democracy really needs are stronger parties, primarily with more cohesion in Congress.  Parties are designed for the long game. However, when they lack the ability to ‘whip’ their members into a agreement on core values then we flail away sending one party to the back bench, calling on the other and getting the same results–not much. The irony is that the more we democratize the party process, with primaries and caucuses, or end around it with single question referenda, the less happy we are with the results.  Shapiro and co-author, Frances McCall Rosenbluth make a compelling argument for greater party discipline in the book, ‘Responsible Parties’.