Monthly Archives: March 2020

EP 329 Are the World’s Democracies on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown?

  At a recent gathering of the leaders of the world’s democracies in Canada, the reporting from the meeting in Politico opened with the sentence: ‘if there’s a word that sums up the current mood of the West’s high command, it’s this: despair’.  On the heels of French President Emmanuel Macron suggesting that NATO leadership was ‘brain dead’, we wanted to talk these concerns over with Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and Director of their Center on Peace and Liberty.  He spent fifteen years working for Congress on national security issues and his most recent book is ‘War and the Rogue Presidency’. We looked at the findings of Freedom House which recorded in their most recent report on Freedom in the World that for the 13th consecutive year there is a decline in global freedom.  The discussion started there and then began to highlight hot spots and vulnerabilities of the United States and other democracies as they react to fractious politics at home, and demands from many to disengage from the world as a nationalistic fervor has taken hold in many places.  The health of alliances and the rise of China and Russia to fill vacuums being left by Western democracies are growing concerns.  It’s an uncertain time with internal issues occupying many leaders who might otherwise play a greater world on the international stage.  It’s a sobering reality that we address here.

EP 328 The Sixth Stage of Grief

In the realm of groundbreaking work, David Kessler and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross introduced us to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance in 2005 in the book ‘On Grief and Grieving’. Ms. Kubler-Ross has died, but Mr. Kessler, the world’s most well-known expert on grieving, continues his work and introduces us to the sixth stage of grief in his new book, ‘Finding Meaning’.  He reminds us in this podcast that grieving is a journey that contours in different ways for each person and that you cannot put each stage in a neat box.  It’s messy. He further illuminates the essential nature of ‘meaning’ which allows you to sustain your love for the person after their death while also moving forward with yours.  It’s one of those conversations you just want to listen in on as the realities of grief will visit us all.  He offers a free on-line class with this book and describes that in this discussion.

EP 327 Plant Based Burgers Are All the Rage

See the source image

  It’s hard to drive past any fast food chain restaurant without noticing that places known for unhealthy choices have added one item that most nutritionists say is better than those historically offered.  It’s the plant-based, or meatless, burger.  So we decided to find out if this new food craze is really as good as advertised.  And the story, like most, is more complex than meets the eye. If you’re using it to replace other vegetables and fruit in your diet or coupling it with French fries, lots of toppings and a sugary drink, then you’re defeating the purpose. After all, it is a ‘processed food’.  In the podcast, we’ll rummage around to find a definition for that term.  We’ll also assess whether this is a food breakthrough or a fad and whether it’s key benefit may be weaning us off beef options for the betterment of our health and our planet.  We call upon Debbie Petitpain, a spokesperson and registered dietitian affiliated with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to provide answers and she delivers big time.  And while meatless meat is going mainstream, it’s being met with a backlash from various sources.  We’ll try to objectively tackles those, as well.

4 Special Edition Will a New Economy Emerge in the Wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Pharmaceutical manufacturing

While the major concern we have during this most extraordinary moment is for the health and safety of our friends, family and fellow Americans, it’s hard to avoid the other implications to our personal and national economic well-being.  The two converge most directly when it comes to a long documented over reliance on Chinese manufacturers for essentials in making our pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and devices.  We discuss this most critical ‘supply chain’ issue, and a host of others, with William Putsis, PhD, a Professor of Marketing, Economics and Business Strategy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Faculty Fellow for Executive Programs at Yale University.  He is the author of the new book, ‘The Carrot and the Stick: Leveraging Strategic Control for Growth’.  We discuss the impact of just in time inventory and lean manufacturing on where we find ourselves during this crisis and how we may look on the other side from an economic standpoint, including tele-commuting, brick and mortar businesses and emphasis on hygiene as a growing societal concern.  Recognizing that we are just leaning in to this crisis as we post this episode, as always, we do our best to take the long view of this tremulous moment.

EP 326 The Rise of the Transaction Man in America

How did our economy become so titled against the middle class and the poor, thus leading to an embrace of the more nationalistic soundings of Donald Trump in 2016?  We must acknowledge that the fount of his appeal had a wellspring in changes in the America fabric that took placee over a long sweep of time and with some jarring impacts in the 21st century.  Nicholas Lemann, author of ‘Transaction Man’, traces it back to a move away from an institution-oriented society to one that is based more on transactions.  Those who were relegated to minor roles as middle man in finance, for example, found their impact growing as our attachment to government and larger corporations began dwindling.  And going back to the growth of the middle class in America, after World War II, it was the corporations, with significant checks by unions and government, which really provided a kind of welfare state–good benefits, longevity and decent incomes–even for those without higher education.  As the transaction man ascended, much of that security washed away as union power was reduced, regulations of finance stripped away by both parties and exotic financial instruments put the whole economy in jeopardy.  Politicians often looked for scapegoats for conditions and fears they contributed to, as a hollowed out middle class became restless.  And while the economy is doing well on a macro basis, the emergence of the transaction man, abetted by the network man(in the gig economy), puts the onus on the individual in new and challenging ways.  You may have an aha moment or two listening to this as he frames our economic uncertainty in a clear and convincing historical light.

EP 325 Should the SECURE Act Make You More Secure in Retirement?

In an age of more do it yourself retirement planning, it’s good to see Congress put aside differences and recognize that Americans need as many tools as possible to make saving for retirement easier.  That’s the basis for bipartisan support for the first reform of retirement law in 13 years.  It’s called the SECURE Act, which stands for Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act.  Believing that you need to understand its provisions in order to take advantage of many of its provisions, we will walk you through the Act with Jeffrey Levine, Director of Advanced Planning for Buckingham Strategic Wealth.  And while this law has weeds to get through, we try to explain what it means to employers, employees and ways you can protect tax deferred savings and investing, with more options, for a longer period of time.  And, of course, we also explore how the act is paid for so that it is generally considered revenue neutral in a time of growing deficits and debt. Take the time to listen all the way through and then study it more or ask an expert what it means to you.  Here’s your primer.

EP 324 Must Politics Be War?

Tribalism is the term that has entered our political lexicon as we attempt to define the raucous, contentious political phase we have entered in this country.  That seems dangerous for a society that is built on the the ideals of fairness, justice and liberty.  All of which would seem to require that we trust each other enough to settle our political differences in an amicable fashion. After all, America hangs together, as a society not built on ethnicity, on the adherence to those values.  Kevin Vallier, professor of philosophy and author of the book ‘Must Politics Be War?’ is challenging us to restore our trust in the open society.  He shares thoughts on overcoming the cynicism and callowness of our politics and offers the nearly discarded notion that you don’t need to share strangers’ ideology in order to trust them. And in the spirit of this episode, imagine that increased diversity as our society is now experiencing need not correlate with a decline in social trust.  Let’s think about this as we enter this highly charged political season and see whether we still have the ability to reason together because more things work about our politics than are broken. Is that even possible? It’s, at least, worth a shot.  Expect an unconventional conversation over the next 30 minutes.

EP 323 The Council for National Policy May Be the Most Powerful Network You’ve Never Heard Of

You’re driving in America’s heartland and you’re listening to the radio.  You may hear Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannitty and other more popular conservative talk show hosts, but you’re just as likely to hear hosts from Salem Media, Bott Radio Network or American Family Radio.  Sure, everyone knows the impact that Fox News has had on bringing conservative Americans together to forward the fortunes and agenda of Donald Trump.  That is the tip of the iceberg.  The iceberg itself was built decades ago when a little talked about ‘Shadow Network’, as Anne Nelson calls it in her book with that title, became the strategic nerve center for channeling money and mobilizing votes for conservative candidates across America.  Combining media, money, evangelical churches and highly sophisticated approaches to digital technology, the radical right has built a powerful platform of political influence little understood by many Americans.  We lift the veil on this shadowy amalgam in this podcast as Ms. Nelson powerfully describes its tentacles.

EP 322 Reparations for Slavery: An Idea That’s Too Late or Whose Time Has Come?

Reconstruction interruptus.  It is of the great untold stories in America history.  Lincoln was shot and what died along with him was the hope and promise that America could make things right for so many who had contributed to the economy of the nation, but could not partake in its rewards.  Through a long 100 year period of Jim Crow leading to hard won civil rights legislation in the 1960’s, it’s hard to calculate the economic injustices still visited upon blacks in America.  The costs have been apparent in housing, education, employment and the gaping disparity in net worth between the races. So as the question of reparations comes up again, primarily as a result of author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article in ‘The Atlantic’ in 2014, and conversations begin swirling around it, many questions about necessity and plausibility are raised. Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut, Manisha Sinha, weighed in on the subject in the ‘Wall Street Journal’ recently.  We reached out to discuss this issue with some historical record so everyone is clear that modern history, including our own, has made accommodation to groups upon whom grave injustices were visited.  So, has the time come or passed for some form of recompense to take place?  Listen in and consider the matter in context.

EP 321 Alexa is Stealing Your Job

The other day I called a company and was told by the attendant, powered by artificial intelligence(AI), that she could understand full sentences and many commands and prompts previously decipherable only by another human being.  Thanks for the warning!  Artificial intelligence is ramping up quickly.  In fact, sixty nine percent of senior executives expect the term ‘workforce’ to eventually encompass both human employees and intelligent machines.  As a result, Americans could lose out on 24 million jobs.  However, Rhonda Scharf, author of ‘Alexa is Stealing Your Job’ thinks that at the other end of the dislocation, caused by AI, will be more and better jobs for humans.  Are you confident that you will be able to weather this fourth major technological era and preserve your dignity and your job?  Some profound challenges await us as workers as our workplaces morph, some at warp speed, to accommodate the change.  Her advice is to not be complacent and think that you are insulated.  Most professions will be visited by this technology as ways to compete in this transformative age.  The window of opportunity to proactively manage this jarring change is coming to a close, fast.  Many have already experienced the whiplash from it and have had to retrain or revise their plans for future employment.  Hang on.  It will likely be a wild ride.  Let’s us prepare you to prepare for it.