Monthly Archives: August 2020

EP 373 The Future is Asian

The 20th Century was the American Century. However, there are many signs that the world in this period is moving away from our influence and gravitating to the diverse, technocratically advanced countries of Asia. Much of this started with Japan and its re-birth after WWII and China’s modernization after Mao. However, given the the much studied governance of Singapore, the growing sophistication of India and the substantial Belt and Road Initiative of China, the eyes of the world are looking anew at what this region has to offer. According to Parag Khanna, author of ‘The Future is Asian’ that doesn’t portend a total eclipse of American influence, but a more balanced world with strengths and competition in more places, including Asia. The model that is developing in the region, including its economics and governance, represents a uniquely Asian approach, not a Western one. One in which free markets have given way to state-managed capitalism, family enterprise and investment-led growth. His insights are clear, direct and provocative. You will want to hear them.

EP 372 America: A Debtor Nation

James Madison, the architect of the written Constitution, said that our nation’s founders developed limits on debt that would be ‘clearly visible to the eye of the ordinary politician’. That was then and this is now. While we lived by that well-defined principle for the first 200 years of existence, America has begun to pile up debt at an astounding rate, since 2001. And if we didn’t enter the coronavirus moment with substantial enough debt as a nation, some say this period and the ensuing infusion of cash from the Treasury and The Federal Reserve to avoid immediate calamity has heaped on trillions more making it a tipping point. So, do you care? Does it really make any difference what our debt to GDP level is? By many measures, people still want to buy our debt, interest rates and inflation haven’t risen and the dollar is still strong. After all, we’re the reserve currency of the world. But is it time for America to stop digging a larger debt hole and get to the business of living within our means or taxing more for the services we enjoy? To discuss the issue at hand is Bill White, author of ‘America’s Fiscal Constitution’ and former mayor of Houston, Texas and Deputy Secretary of Energy in the federal government. As reports keep reminding us, Medicare and Social Security will need to be replenished sooner than later. Political leaders in Washington have to act. They may need to hear from you as to what you want to do. This episode will give you the background you need to understand the context and depth of the problem.

EP 371 Downtowns and Public Spaces: What Works in Revitalizing Them?

Many of us can remember when downtown was the bustling hub of activity in our communities. As the song of the same name suggested ‘you could forget all your troubles, forget all your cares’. However, as highways cut through central business districts and people began to use their cars to shops at malls on the periphery of the city, the many great buildings and interesting spaces in downtowns began to fall away. In many places, for over 30 years or more, plans and visions have been put forward to revitalize these city centers. Some of succeeded; while many have failed. So what are the right ingredients to create this comeback? Andrew Manshel, author of ‘Learning From Bryant Park: Revitalizing Cities, Towns and Public Spaces’ share with us his firsthand knowledge on how it’s done. For a decade, he served as associate director and counsel to the Bryant Park Restoration Program in the heart of Manhattan. What he has to say about ideas that work transcends the unique geography of New York City and can be applied around the country, in places large and small. It’s often less about the design of a space, as opposed to the programming of it to meet our greatest needs–human contact and the pleasure of food. We talk about projects around the country focusing on ideas you can use in your own community to make that important place in your city’s center once again the place to be.

EP 370 Video Streaming Services Multiply as Business Booms

Have you been binge watching like so many in our society in this stay at home moment? Do you have a favorite service or did you sign up for free trials? And do you churn, by that we mean stay with a service for several months, drop it and return when there’s something that catches your eye? If there’s been a growth industry in America before, during and, likely, after the coronavirus pandemic it is streaming video content. With so many major players stepping up to challenge Netflix the industry leader, like Disney, Comcast, Apple, Amazon and Quibbi, the competition for eyeballs and subscriptions is sure to intensify. What is the value proposition each of them offers and how will this all shake out in the period ahead? To explain what’s happening Dan Rayburn, streaming media expert and principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan, joins us. He looks at the big picture trend and delves into the various business models each service is employing. It’s a great conversation and will give you a clear picture of the rapidly expanding market for your attention.

EP 369 Netflix Co-Founder Discusses How It Began and Its Improbable (Unimaginable)Success

To imagine that what started out as a spitballing exercise on California’s Highway 17 by two newly acquainted business associates could be turned into a media giant eclipsing the size of The Walt Disney Company in the span of a few decades is almost as fantastical as Disney’s creative works. And yet, it happened. Place yourselves in the shoes of Reed Hastings and our guest, Marc Randolph, trying to determine where their creative energies would take them next, and rather than customized dog food or hand made surfboards(they were considered), they settled on a video distribution service, which later became a streaming video service. And now their brainchild, Netflix, is the leading streaming service in an industry growing rapidly. Mr. Randolph’s book, ‘That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea’ walks us through the origin story of one of the most successful technology companies in history which was born out of a dying industry–the packaged DVD business. It’s a great romp and has lessons replete throughout about what contributed to that success from its early days and how you should never listen to those who tell you your idea won’t work. This is the first of two episodes of our podcast on the video streaming business.

EP 368 The Green New Deal: Too Much Too Soon or Not Enough at All?

Most climate scientists say we have dragged our feet too long on addressing the harms that are, and will be, caused by climate change. Yet, for many, forest wildfires, powerful hurricanes and two 100 years storms in the space of five years, is not evidence enough to convince them that its effects are potentially devastating and that dramatic actions are needed. While America tamped down the Paris Climate Accords under the Obama Administration to allow the fossil fuel industry to maintain viability, that was not enough for the Trump Administration. They pulled America out of the agreement. In response, progressive politicians and citizen action groups have come forward with the Green New Deal. The question is whether it’s a big enough deal to address the continuing carbon-based warming of the planet, evidenced by the science. Enter Stan Cox, author of ‘The Green New Deal and Beyond: Ending the Climate Emergency While We Still Can’, who suggests that ‘to avoid disaster, we need a strict national emissions ceiling that delcines steeply year by year.’ He’s not looking to augment and ultimately replace the fossil fuel industry with green energy. He wants to supplant it–and fast. Of course, the implications are changes in lifestyle and consumption. Is America ready for that? What has the coronavirus epidemic told us about our willingness to sacrifice for public health? This episode should get you thinking.

EP 367 Workplace Pressures Put Employees on Overload

Today’s ways of working are not working–even for professionals in ‘good’ jobs. Responding to global competition and pressure from financial markets, companies are asking employees to do more with less, even as new technologies normalize 24/7 expectations. In their book ‘Overload’, Erin Kelly and Phyllis Moen document, with a study in the IT department of a Fortune 500 company, how this new intensification of work creates chronic stress, leading to burnout, attrition and under performance. Working on call, as it were, does not insure good results. In fact, the dominance of the immediate, with the constant barrage of texts, e-mails and shadow communications, often elevates trivial matters ahead of consequential ones. ‘Flexible’ work policies and lip service about ‘work-life balance’ don’t come close to solving the problem. On this podcast, MIT professor Kelly explains what can. And, yet, even as the study tries to help design a better approach to a more constructive work environment, the realities of these times intervene in real time. Listen in and find out what we mean.

EP 366 A Class Like No Other: The Women Entering Congress in 2019

They came with their sleeves rolled up, ready to make some noise in numbers unimagined in the past. We’re talking about the new women members of Congress making up a group that author, Jennifer Steinhauer, calls ‘The Firsts’. This history-making class includes the youngest woman ever to serve; the first two Muslim women; the first two Native American women, one openly gay; a black woman from an all white Chicago suburb; and a Hispanic woman from a heavily Republican border region. Ethnic and racial diversity wasn’t the only trademark. Some progressives, like the ‘star’ of the class, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, beat a long time incumbent who was white, male and a member of her own party. Others defeated longstanding Republican male incumbents. And while AOC and ‘the squad’ made many of the headlines in a squabble with President Trump, the more moderate national security new arrivals were key to the President’s impeachment in the House. Given that they represent purple districts, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was reluctant to go forward with it until this group of potentially vulnerable freshman signed on. And while past wave elections in 1974 after Watergate and 1992 in the wake of the Clarence Thomas hearings, had certain special qualities, this one will be certain to be a big part of the Trump legacy. They ran, and won, in response to his election in 2016. We discuss their impact on the male dominated Congress(women are still only 25 percent of The House)and their political fortunes going forward.

EP 365 Are Federal and State Prosecutors Out of Control?

According to our guest, Sidney Powell, a former federal prosecutor and her co-author, attorney Harvey A. Silverglate, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. In their book ‘Conviction Machine’, they focus on the federal courts, but Ms. Powell makes it clear that there is abuse rampant on all levels as proprietorial overreach is rampant everywhere. More than twenty million Americans have criminal convictions, while nearly one-third of Americans have a criminal record. What made our federal, and state, criminal justice system so dangerously effective at turning citizens into convicts? The Justice Department, the FBI, and Congress have all played a role in this and there are measures that can be taken to check the power to ‘indict a ham sandwich’, as the saying goes. Given that there is wide discretion given to prosecutors, particularly in grand jury settings, the FBI does not have to record interrogations and there are so many laws on the books which unwittingly we all run afoul of daily, it will not be an easy task to reform the system. With much criminal reform going on around the country, primarily at the state level, it would be nice to have many fewer wrongful convictions and unfair sentencing to dramatize in films over the next period in our history. Is it likely? Hear the discussion.