The word populism has been bandied around a lot lately in our politics. What does it really mean and what evidence do we have that it is a real force in American politics and not just a word co-opted by charlatans to bring people to their side? In his book, ‘The People, No’, author Thomas Frank gives us a history of anti-populism as the impulse to quell the logic of the mob has often superseded attempts to place authority for decision-making in the hands of the people. Historically, there are two divergent strains in our politics: the one captured in our founding documents(‘of the people, by the people and for the people’)and the institutions built to insure that the republic is not a direct democracy in many ways, like the Electoral College and the selection of the U.S. Senate, first by state legislatures and now with equal representation for all states big and small, as prime examples. Those who have amassed great wealth and power historically have had great disdain for the common man, feeling that by birth, pedigree and training they can make better decisions than the masses. At the same time, owing to a slew of bad decisions by so-called ‘experts’, people have lost faith in their judgment. The last true populist president we had, according to Frank, was Franklin D. Roosevelt. He made major institutions, like banks, change their practices to benefit the general welfare of the people. As the word gets more popular in these times, what does populism look like today and which politicians really are practitioners of it? Find out on this podcast.
Monthly Archives: October 2020
There’s been a ten year study done of women who had an abortion and women who were turned away at a clinic because they missed the deadline to have one. The intent was to see the impact that this decision had on these two groups over a long sweep of time. The Turnaway Study is the largest ever to examine women’s experiences with abortion and unwanted pregnancies in the United States. Diana Greene Foster is the principal researcher on the project and also the author of a book on the study. The book is titled ‘The Turnaway Study’ and it describes the results and methodology and illustrates many women’s stories. In general it finds that many of the common claims about the detrimental effects on women’s health of having an abortion are not supported by the evidence. For example, women who have an abortion are not more likely than those denied the procedure to have depression or anxiety. This podcast goes beyond the contours of the study to look at the issue of abortion in current day America.
The nation’s pharmaceutical companies have worked very hard to make themselves indispensable to the world’s most medicated society. They have done it by selling cures and treatments for a range of conditions, accenting the positive and downplaying the side effects which, as in the case of opioids, often are catastrophic. Further, they have marketed aggressively and lobbied hard throughout their history to overcome waves of controversy around a host of products. In the beginning, they marketed all manner of narcotics, unregulated at the time, like heroin which Bayer promoted for an array of ills from cold and coughs to asthma and epilepsy. And while safeguards have gotten stronger, according to famed investigative journalist, Gerald Posner, left to their own devices they will over promote, over promise and overmedicate whenever the opportunity presents itself. In his new book, ‘Pharma: Greed, Lies and the Poisoning of America’, he uncovers in vivid detail the fascinating history of this industry and the names that have become synonymous with our lives–like Merck and Pfizer. And we are reminded that for every Jonas Salk, there’s an Arthur Sackler, of the notorious Purdue Pharma company, ready to ride a wave like the pain management focus of the recent period to an unmitigated opioid calamity, all in the pursuit of profit. So where does this history lead us as we await a curative or vaccine from this same industry to find a way out of the coronavirus pandemic in which we find ourselves? And if we are able to conquer this virus, have we prepared ourselves adequately for the many bacterial strains waiting to become the next pandemic? This podcast is riveting. He’s as good a storyteller as he is a journalist and author.
In 1992, when Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporters, Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, set out to first determine what had gone wrong with America’s promise for its people economically and socially they found troubling signs of pervasive inequality and the public sector weakened to a point where it was unable to craft new policies to address the problems. They documented the impacts on people’s lives with hard evidence. With the passage of time, they saw those trends worsening and set about to document a growing problem in their updated 2020 edition of their book, ‘America: What Went Wrong? The Crisis Deepens’. This portrayal finds an economy in which millions of Americans find their wages stagnant, their health care unaffordable and the prospect of an impoverished retirement. This no accident. America’s tax policy and indifference to many who have a weak political voice has brought us to this point. And recent events have only made matters worse and shone a bright light on these issues. Our guest, James Steele, explains how we got here over the course of the last four decades.
Daily we are bombarded with one scientific finding after another. How often have you quoted this or that finding to a friend and suggested that a change of behavior might be in order as a result? Stuart Ritchie, author of ‘Science Fictions’ suggests that you may want to curb your enthusiasm to insure that the study has not been tainted by fraud, bias, negligence or hype. Mr. Ritchie is a man of science and doesn’t fall in with the anti-science types who have loud megaphones these days on vaccines and climate change. He is concerned, however, that even science published in prestigious journals often turns out to be faulty after further review. It gives the layman much to ponder about what to believe. Aside from corporate directed science we need to be skeptical, like good scientists, that the purported findings have been as rigorously arrived at as we would have hoped.
With well publicized concern that a spike in the coronavirus might result in a possible buckling of our health care system in America, many are imagining the changes to get better systems in place to protect public health and insure access and quality to clinical services for more Americans. As a podcast focused on the future, we wanted to explore what this crisis may have taught us and what innovations tested in an emergency, like telemedicine and more coordination between different hospital systems, might become more commonplace going forward. And, of course, there’s always the issue of how do pay for the medicine Americans want. There is wide agreement by citizens that cost and service delivery are both in need of major overhaul. To discuss these issues with us is Arielle Kane, Director of Health Policy, for the Progressive Policy Institute.
A recent headline in the New York Times indicates that the Trump Administration is reversing nearly one hundred environmental rules on issues relating to air pollution and emissions, drilling and extraction, water pollution, toxic substances and more. And this is after pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords and appointing a former coal industry lobbyist to head the Environmental Protection Agency. And while all of this has happened and climate change has been swept from view by other more immediate crises, like COVID-19 and racial inequities, still certain signs are positive. State and local governments, major businesses, and consumers are adapting life to the changing, and threatened, planet. Harriet Shugarman, executive director of ClimateMama and author of ‘How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change’ is hopeful that progress can be made, but urges that we bring children to a greater awareness of the issue now. Through her book and activism she’s attempting to do just that. We had a conversation with her about the challenges getting adults and children to focus on the fact that what is happening is not normal and is within our control to address in the age of the Anthropocene, when humans are responsible for the general health of the flora and fauna on this one planet. It’s a wake-up call that while this issue has receded in some people’s minds, it has not gone away.
The rules-based world order that developed after World War II was not an accident of history. It resulted from America’s vigorous leadership. So for our allies in Europe, Asia and around the globe is was so puzzling that President Donald Trump would walk away from treaties and organizations America designed. While he blustered about America’s being taken for granted by our friends during the 2016 election, many felt that his early picks for Cabinet positions demonstrated that the notion of America alone was all talk. That was until he pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris climate accords, the Iran nuclear deal and recently his disputes with allies regarding the World Health Organization and how to handle the pandemic. A recent Politico headline screamed ‘Trump’s Europe Strategy: Nothing’. Ivo Daalder, who served as U.S. Ambassador to NATO under President Obama and co-author of ‘The Empty Throne’, along with James M. Lindsay, joins us to discuss what that vacuum means, who is trying to fill it and whether America can re-claim the mantle of the world’s most indispensable nation. And, if so, what lessons must we learn from overreach on America’s part after the end of the Cold War.
It is constitutionally required that we do an ‘actual enumeration’ of the residents of the United States every ten years on the 00’s. Well, it’s that time. And in the middle of a pandemic and a presidential election, we are being reminded of how challenging that process can be and yet how important it is. After all it was the GOP’s Operation RedMap, in the wake of the 2010 census, that masterfully, though of dubious legality, re-drew Congressional districts in key states that swung to their advantage even while losing the popular vote statewide. The notion of gerrymandering is alive and well in America. In 2020 Democrats have set up their own approach to monitoring the process state by state in an attempt to blunt the advantage Republicans gained in the recent past. How that all plays out will take time, but of more immediate concern is how delays in doing the census, because of the pandemic, will affect states and redistricting. Many states are up against deadlines codified in their Constitutions and laws. To sort out as best we can what could result in a legal and political tangle, we talk to Christopher Lamar of the Campaign Legal Center and Jeff Zalesin, who at the time of the recording was an attorney for the Campaign Legal Center and has since left that position