Monthly Archives: August 2021

EP 477 America’s Response to Health Crises

Despite major advances in medical science and epidemiology over the last century, the United States has not significantly improved its ability to predict and handle public health emergencies.  With our fractured system of local, state and federal responsibilities our historic approach to responding to health crises has been uneven.  Its a continuing theme in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic as some parts of the country recover more quickly than others.  In his book, ‘American Health Crisis: 100 Years of Panic, Planning and Politics’, Professor Martin Halliwell documents how America has lurched from health crisis to health crisis, often leaving vulnerable populations behind.  Our most troubling response often comes in the wake of natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, which does not bode well for the future shocks from climate change.  Have we learned from the past?  Will we respond with better solutions after absorbing the impact of the pandemic on all facets of American life?  We explore in this podcast.

EP 476 Who Is Canceling Who in Our Culture?

 You hear the terms ‘cancel culture’ and ‘wokeism’ bandied about these days as if people even understand what they mean.  If we’re honest our political divide, now of legendary proportions, results in each side not listening to the other. Yet the terms cancel and woke, derisive in tone, have been appropriated by the right to be the extension of political correctness. The right is trying to suggest that the left is rigid and intolerant and the left is saying that the right continues to evade truths about our history and culture and thus is not awake to the experience of many Americans.  Dr. Steven Mintz, a retired ethics professor, and I have less an interview and more a conversation about political speech and who is trying to cancel whom.  My hope is that you find it illuminating and thought provoking.

EP 475 Public Defenders Are on A Hamster Wheel of Justice

There is growing immediacy to issues surrounding criminal justice in America.  The focus is often on police violence, mass incarceration, and inequities in how justice is meted out depending on the color of the skin of the perpetrator or the victim. Yet one element of this system that has gotten little attention is the broken public defender system which is key to many other aspects of justice.  While public defenders are often typified in the public’s mind as champions of the downtrodden and the dispossessed they are working in a system which forces them to focus as much, if not more, on speed and efficiency as justice for their client.  Jonathan Rapping is the author of ‘Gideon’s Promise’ and founder and president of an organization of the same name which has as its mandate to change the culture and practice of criminal defense in America.  Get ready to have your eyes opened as we discuss what it means to live up to the creed that justice is blind.  

EP 474 Inflation is Up, Up and Away in America’s Economy

While the economy is showing signs of life as restrictions have been lifted on businesses and the pump has been primed by the federal government throughout the pandemic, there are concerning signs that inflation may eat away at some of the gains we are seeing. The question is whether this will be a short term issue or persist into the future, thus eating away at the consumers spending level and confidence. While some suggest that pent-up demand and lagging supply chains is the reason for inflation, we decided to dig deeper into the subject on today’s podcast.  Ted Oakley, Managing Partner of Oxbow Advisors, joins us to touch on many of the economic flashpoints today such as the growing debt, cryptocurrency, the spate of resignations and other issues in the job market, and then back again to the elephant in the room–inflation.  Just days ago, President Biden addressed the topic and indicated that he would look to the Federal Reserve to adjust its easy money policy if the 20 year high in inflation persists.  It’s worth keeping an eye on.  Some of us remember the impact of rampant inflation of the 1970’s.  That is a trend we do not want to see re-emerge.

EP 473 Aging Americans Growing Older Like Never Before

The many generations that are growing old in today’s America are as different from one another as they are from the millennials and Gen X’ers.  There is no way to look at the experiences of those in their 60’s and equate them to the fastest growing population in the country, those 85 plus.  Yet, many marketers lump everyone 55 plus in one bucket.  It’s a foolish strategy since an AARP study shows that Americans 50 and older would be the world’s third largest economy.  And while older Americans defy past stereotypes the notion of ageism and discrimination still exist.  This phenomenon is particularly acute related to women of a certain age.  Our guest, Maddy Dychtwald, and her husband Ken, founded Age Wave over thirty years ago and it remains a definitive source of the effects that this booming boomer generation is having on America.  In this podcast, Maddy and I explore a range of issues around aging in 21st century America.

EP 472 Populism, Nationalism, Socialism Combine to Define Crisis Moment in American Politics

A clash of competing political movements in America result in leaders presiding over a fractured and dispirited electorate and a troubled political economy.  And while President Joe Biden has attempted to restore the political order to something reminiscent of more conventional times, his success or failure could usher in a new wave of strident dissent on both flanks of the political spectrum.  Suffice to say, America’s politics has not settled into a more centrist default position.  A great chronicler of what this all means is John Judis, Editor-At-Large at Talking Points Memo and author of many books on our politics.  We discuss his recent compilation from Columbia Global Reports which clarifies and updates recent individual works on the three dominant strands in our politics–populism, nationalism and socialism.  In our wide-ranging conversation, we explore the themes laid out in ‘The Politics of Our Time’.

EP 471 Was Germany Alone a Nation That Practiced Eugenics?

The answer to the question posed in our title of this episode is an emphatic ‘no’.  Regrettably, the practice of eugenics has occurred in the United States, more specifically in California, through the 1970’s. And it has occurred in many other countries. You could look it up or just listen to our podcast, featuring University of Michigan professor, Alexandra Minna Stern, author of ‘Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America’.  The issue is pertinent today for several reasons.  As Harriet Washington pointed out in a podcast we posted in May, 2021 ‘informed medical consent’ is loosely applied in our country today.  Given our tendency to ascribe a ladder of value to different groups, some greater, some lesser, this is the genesis for the practice of eugenics. Thus there is a  need for ongoing vigilance, as the practice comes in many forms.  Further, as our society attempts to recover from a pandemic, vaccine acceptance is required among minority populations who recall their treatment in the past and thus remain hesitant. Finally, it is pertinent because ‘eugenics by choice’ may well be the future as medical technology gives us much greater information to work with before a child has left the womb.  It’s a complicated issue but we break it down today on this episode.

EP 470 Is There a Way to Make Social Media Platforms Less Polarizing?

In this moment of increasing social isolation, social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, are some of the key tools we have to communicate and understand one another.  While many consider these platforms to be a mirror to define our place in society, our guest tells us they function more like a prism that distorts our identities and gives greater voice to status-seeking extremists.  In the process, the majority in our country who consider themselves political moderates are rendered all but invisible.  Chris Bail is a professor of sociology and public policy at Duke University.  He is also the director of its Polarization Lab and author of ‘Breaking the Social Media Prism’.  Get ready as he explodes one wildly held myth that if we did not seal ourselves off in our respective echo chambers and opened ourselves up to divergent political opinions it would change the rancor that pervades our political discourse.   He’ll explain.  We also discuss a new study he’s been involved with regarding the poisonous cocktail which poses a grave danger to our democracy as our differences on issues morph into political sectarianism.  

EP 469 Can I Recycle This?

Americans aren’t particularly good at recycling.  We have no federal policy related to it and plastics manufacturers, for instance, fight the process in Congress where the effort really needs to begin.  ‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’ was a mantra from back in the 1970’s which is still applicable today.  And as our guest reminds us if you reduce and reuse, in the first place, there can be less emphasis on the whole complicated process of recycling.  So much contaminated recycled material from the United States was going to China, until a few years ago, that they stopped buying our smashed glass, cans and containers.  Jennie Romer, author of ‘Can In Recycle This?’ walks us through the economics of recycling trying to help us understand how municipalities that used to sell the recycled material for a profit now must pay to have it taken away and she walks us through what happens to a bin of recyclables after it leaves our home.  We discuss single stream vs. dual stream recycling, plastic bag bans and legislation involving single-use plastic.  We don’t leave the discussion without asking whether pizza boxes are recyclable.  Stay tuned for the answer to that $64,000 question.