American politics is loud, angry and bristling, so what else is new? Well, the make-up of the two major parties, cut more neatly along ideological lines than any point in our past, seem unable to be the vehicle for the design and acceptance of consensus policies. Perhaps, that’s because it’s not so much policy disputes that define us as much as it is cultural differences over the question ‘who are we’. These issues have long been at the heart of the American debate as they deal with race, immigration and women’s rights. It’s just that in the past many of those disputes were intra-party squabbles that had both parties finding some common ground in the center of our politics. That space has been vacated for the moment, particularly as a large segment of white America ponders life in a generation which puts them in the minority. In his book, ‘Republic of Wrath’, Brown University professor James Morone walks us through our history to show us how are current day politics tracks with our history and how it diverges. He also offers us ideas and hope that where we are today, in this uncomfortable moment, is not where we will be in a decade or so. Let’s listen and hope he’s right.
Monthly Archives: February 2021
Given the partisan battles over recent Supreme Court nominations, and the Democrats frustration over Mitch McConnell’s fixation for affecting American politics through the federal courts for a generation to come, President Biden was asked during the campaign if he would expand the size of the Court. It’s been done a number of times before in our history. He said that was not something he was intent on doing, but he did want to set up an independent commission to determine ways to reform the Supreme Court, as the debate over its extension as just another partisan branch of government have grown louder. There are other measures that can be pursued to do this including term limits, a lottery system of rotating judges and others. We called upon David Kaplan, a long-time Court journalist and author of ‘The Most Dangerous Branch: Inside the Supreme Court in the Era of Trump’, to help us understand the history what we may see happen in the period ahead. He is a return guest because on his first podcast with us he was insightful, energetic and very funny. Here;s more of the same and it’s a great listen.
In the aftermath of the presidential election of 2020, we seem to be more polarized than ever before–fully retreated into political camps and tossing verbal grenades at the opposition. Our guest, Kevin Vallier, a political philosopher from Bowling Green University argues in his new book, ‘Trust in a Polzarized Age’, that as polarization is rising, Americans trust each other and our institutions less now than any point since measurement began in the 1960’s. Through the thicket of political haze and misinformation that abounds on social media, he still argues that there is a way back to a rebuild of social and political trust. We have to resist the urge to think about political life as fundamentally good versus bad and reinvest in liberal political and economic institutions and reforming our electoral process as a way to rebuild trust. With all that’s gone on in this recent period, will that be enough? One disturbing sign is that the least trusting generation is made up of young people. Those concerns are likely to harden in adulthood, leading to a low-trust future. We discuss whether this cold war among American citizens could turn hotter.
Man has never before had as much potential to affect the future as we do today. We can cure diseases in ways never imagined, develop technology to solve problems using algorithms that would have taken countless man hours and apply modern practices to the way we live to insure plenty for all. On the flip side, this age of the anthropocene has caused environmental damage to the planet which requires us to use that genius to put the brake on climate change. It is a precious gift that humanity has gained the ability to not only imagine the future, but to design and engineer it. Dr. Andrew Maynard, an expert on socially responsible development of technology, in his new book, ‘Future Rising’, reminds us of all the human potential that gives us this unique opportunity to progress. As you read this description, and by virtue of you listening to this podcast, in some sense you are making a commitment to know what responsibility you have in shaping a future that can far exceed our expectations. In my own way, I like to think about when I arrived here in 1952 and all the work that had been done to make my world more liveable than someone born fifty years prior. Now, let’s pass it on.
Matthew Desmond’s acclaimed book, ‘Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City’ drew attention to the eviction crisis in America. Estimates suggest upwards of 900,000 renters were being evicted every year in America. And that was before the pandemic forced a policy change putting a moratorium on evictions. Without it, those numbers would have been in the millions as families would have been forced into shelters or onto the streets. When you consider the fact that there is nothing more elemental than a roof over your head for safety, stability and health of your family, you can play out the many implications of the eviction crisis. While anyone in personal finance will tell you that housing should not take up more than 30 percent of your household budget in major urban areas with skyrocketing rents, gentrification and the lack of affordable housing often those numbers careen toward 50 percent for low income households. That crowds out many other essentials for a family. As Desmond’s book illustrated the rights of tenants are marginalized in our court system and thus landlords, particularly those that own multiple units, hold the upper hand in court proceedings. John Pollock, coordinator of the National Coalition for A Civil Right to Counsel, joins us to discuss the movement to insure legal representation for tenants and the growing number of cities supporting the effort and ways in which it actually saves urban centers money in the long run. His movement is under the umbrella of the Public Justice Center(publicjustice.org).
The young people who survived the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018 became daily visitors in our home through their articulate expression of grief and the millions they attracted to their cause, which involved the rallying cry of ‘stop killing kids’. As a nation, we sensed this time would be different. What other senseless ramages had not accomplished, even the killing of elementary school students at Sandy Hook in Connecticut years earlier, we thought this expression of outrage, by teenagers, might be able to do. Has it? Did you even hear a whisper about gun safety in the course of the 2020 election? Did we let another teaching moment go unadressed? We turn to Jeff Foster an advanced placement government teacher at Stoneman Douglas High and an advisor to the students as they sought redress. He has just written a book about how our government works and why it matters, called ‘For Which We Stand’. The content is intended for ages 8-14. It’s one thing to teach about how government works and another to see how ‘a bill really becomes a law’. Or why new laws aren’t enacted when the cause seems so just. It’s a candid conversation with a man in the middle of an American tragedy.
The answer to the question may be that if you do not come out stronger on the other side of the pandemic, it may be because you’ve succumbed to the many hazards within. While Joseph Michelli, who has put on microscope on companies like Starbucks and Airbnb, was undertaking the sweet assignment of breaking down the success elements of GODIVA Chocolates, the pandemic struck in early 2020. Quickly, he adapted and asked his publisher if he could train his keen eye on how for-profit and non-profit companies were adapting to the many changes wrought by the disease. From the invaluable wisdom he gained speaking to 140 plus top global business leaders in all sectors is the book, ‘Stronger Through Adversity’. It all starts with the leader getting into the right head space and self care is a big part of the equation. Leaders then had to reach out for assistance, maintain a growth mindset, focus on the strengths and needs of their team and an added focus on safety. In meticuous detail as is his style, Michelli walks us through the stories and the lessons he gleaned. It was our pleasure to host him for the second time on our podcast.
We often hear about the notorious street gang MS-13. Some politicians make it sound as if they are a danger in all corners of the country. In many ways, they are concentrated in and around Los Angeles and local elements do, from time to time, have impact elsewhere in the country. In fact, their most deadly manifestation can be seen in Central America. Yet to most Americans we know little about their origins or their intentions. In this podcast featuring Steven Dudley, co-founder of InSight Crime, a think tank devoted to organized crime and corruption in the Americas, and author of ‘MS-13’, we explore how they formed, their methods of operation and who falls out of favor with the group and may be the subject of their brutality of choice, the use of the machete. The gang formed in the the 1980’s as many El Salvadorans escaped guerrilla assaults and death squads in their own country and re-settled in America. What began as a social network bound by heavy metal music and their Salvadoran identity morphed into a group that took on a much harder edge. But are they really the most dangerous of the gangs with which we may be more familiar? We discuss all things MS-13 with him today.