Monthly Archives: April 2021

EP 442 Is the Stay at Home Economy Here to Stay?

The pandemic has locked us in our homes and unlocked the delivery economy.  Many times a day we can look out our windows and see delivery trucks stopping to deliver all manner of goods from groceries to toiletries, from a cooked meal to a new pair of jeans.  Now that we are growing accustomed to the convenience, and the infrastructure to deliver essentials has been put in place, will we get back in our cars and troll the brick and mortar stores that have survived the pandemic?  It’s an open question.  More intriguing to our guest, Michael Mandel, the Chief Economic Strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute, is how productively we will use the time afforded us not having to tool around town now that companies, like Amazon, are geared up to more conveniently attend to our every need.  He acknowledges that we might want to get out and about again with a pent up demand to sense the aliveness of the experience.  It’s an intriguing question we posed in our title of this podcast and we explore it in depth with him.

EP 441 Cyberattacks, Cyberattacks, Everywhere a Cyberattack

 You must have read about the recent cyberattack.  Which one you ask?  Take your pick.  There seems to be a new one daily.  It could be your hospital system, your bank or one level or another of your government.  What’s amazing is how many ways hackers have of slipping through the digital back door or any opening in your computer defenses.  The recent hack of 18,000 U.S. companies and key federal government agencies really got our attention. It went undetected for a long period of time and was brazen as the perpetrator attached a computer virus to software updates a private contractor, SolarWinds, pushed out to its clients. To understand what we must do to limit and diminish the impact of these attacks we turn to Frederick Scholl, the Cybersecurity Program Director at Quinnipiac University.  I ask him how life seems to go on after these many attacks and those of us affected never sense that we have been violated.  He said the impact may be down the road.  Take a listen.  

EP 440 Electric Cars Get Big Boost From California

 Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed an executive order to end the sale of new gas-burning cars by 2035. That is a big deal because California’s impact on climate matters set the standard for 14 others states that follow their lead and automakers who will adapt to the market established by America’s country within a country, with its 40 million residents.  Are you ready for electric cars?  Can our electrical grid handle the increased demand on it?  Will the price point for these vehicles come into line with the budgets of most Americans?  Will Elon Musk dominate the market or will established automakers became major players or, perhaps, a start up we have yet to become aware of?  Jonn Axsen, associate professor at Simon Fraser University and Director of the Sustainable Transportation Research Team at the University, studies all these questions and senses none will be a major challenge to the growth of electric cars as we move along.  Much more important will be the impetus given to the industry by policy makers hastening the change.  Buckle up for major changes as to what’s under the hood.  

EP 439 The Lessons of the Afghanistan War Going Forward

 After the debacle of the Vietnam War, astute observers of our failed attempt at counterinsurgency said let us not do this again.  Yet, we went into Afghanistan following the attack on 9-11-2001 and have found ourselves in a similar quagmire ever since.  There was a more strategic approach to rooting out Al Qaeda, but we did not take it and the failed attempt at nation building has gone on since that point.  While most troops will be drawn down completely in the period ahead, it is hard to imagine that any agreement will do anything but leave the Taliban as the strongest force in the country.  One of our most astute writers and observers of defense policy, Bing West joins us as he promotes his new book , ‘The Last Platoon’: A Novel of the Afghanistan War’.  As a Marine veteran from the Vietnam era and a former assistant secretary of defense, his insights about this war and defense policy are critical to hear.  He does not hold back on this podcast.

EP 438 Pardon Me, Mr. President

In the finals days of the Trump Administration, the President attended primarily to one piece of business, the handing out of pardons.  We were told that Donald Trump liked this power because it was virtually absolute.  Others felt he he used it to keep authorities away from his front door when he became Citizen Trump by offering reprieves to those who could bear witness to any of his wrongdoing.  It is an awesome authority granted to the President in the Constitution and was meant to show mercy for those who were treated unfairly by the system, not to enhance the power of the President, like a monarch, to benefit friends and allies.  Mark Osler, Professor of Law, at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis is a scholar in this field and gives us the most granular view of clemency that you are likely to hear.  How did it come about?  Can a President self pardon?  Have presidents used it wisely and in what ways? Has the power grown with the onset of the Imperial Presidency over recent decades?  And how can we reform the process when the Constitution leaves little room to abridge this power granted to the chief executive?  If news coverage has whetted your appetite about this prerogative, take a listen. 

EP 437 Are Drugs Sold at the Pharmacy Or On a Street Corner More Dangerous?

What is the difference between pharmaceuticals and drugs?  Often it’s the type of person selling one or the other and the type of person consuming the product.  Patients who have become addicted to that which their doctor has prescribed generally have been viewed as innocent victims, while those who develop a similar habit outside of a doctor’s care are labeled junkies and addicts.  Our society has often made a dinstinction without a difference between licit and illicit drugs.  And that artifice has defined our drug policy for well over a century.  In his eye opening book, ‘White Market Drugs’, historian David Herzberg explains the impact of the ‘medicine’drug divide’ and how this misguided approach has allowed bad practices by some and imprisoned others wrongly.  Historically, because of the influence of big pharma, doctors and wholesalers, as a society, we have played down the addictive potential of prescribed drugs.  Herzberg recognizes the value that many of these prescribed drugs have but he would like to maximize their benefits and limit their harmful effects by a consumer protection approach to drug policy and by offering a way to curb the appetite for outrageous profits in the industry, which drives much of the problem.  He also approaches the street drug issue with a medicalized, rather than, a punitive approach.  This podcast will make you think differently about the issues surrounding America’s standing as the largest consumer of prescription and non-prescription drugs in the world.

EP 436 Is America Really a Welcoming Place for Immigrants?

  America tells itself a lot of stories about its ethos that turn out to be misleading, or worse yet false, when put to true historical scrutiny.  Waves of immigrants have made their way here thinking that their lot would be so much better when they reach our shores, only to find many roadblocks and impediments toward assimiliation placed in their path. In the last four years, America essentially put up a ‘do not enter’ sign and reinforced it with a wall, just to make sure the message got through.  If concepts like reparations, migration taxes and taking compensatory actions to reimburse poorer countries for the wealth that immigrants have transfered to wealthier nations are beyond anything you’ve been exposed to on this issue, then you’ve come to the right place for a transformative education.  Suketu Mehta, himself an immigrant to America, is the author of an eye-opening book, ‘This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto’. Much of the injustice in the process of immigration owes its origins to colonialism.  Just imagine this one fact: forty percent of the world’s borders were established by two former colonial powers: Britain and France.  We’ll start there. And we will discuss the current crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

EP 435 Can America Come Together Again?

Here’s some history to draw you into this podcast.  America was at the heights of solidarity and common purposes for over half a century beginning in the early 1900’s through the 1960’s and then we began to split apart as a society, as we had in the late 19th century.  America’s past was divided and troubled, found ways of cooperating and progressing and has since fallen back to atomized beings living isolated lives.  Can we find in our history ways to come together again in bonds of cooperation and social trust?  It is anything but certain that we can break the ‘I-We’I cycle’ that esteemed political scientist, Robert D. Putnam describes in his new book ‘The Upswing’.  However, it sure is an enviable goal.  In what Putnam says will be his last book, he signed on a co-author, Shaylyn Romney Garrett, who is a scholar and social entrepreneur.  Not only are we at present ‘Bowling Alone’, the title of Putnam’s profoundly impact book of two decades ago, but we are seemingly throwing bowling balls at each other.  Against the backdrop of economic inequality, political partisanship, a lack of social capital and cultural narcissism, we have a long way back in order for social scientists like the two involved in this project to ever write a book declaring that the upswing has arrived.  Garrett joins us to provide an interesting framework as to how we got to where we are today and what we might be able to do to leave the valley of despair we find ourselves in.