Monthly Archives: November 2021

EP 503 Are College Scholarships for Athletes Really Enough?

Thanks to an interim policy put forward by the NCAA, student athletes in college are now allowed to benefit financially from the use of their name, image and likeness.  The policy is shorthanded as NIL.  That’s appropriate, really, because its impact on most athletes in Division I, the large schools, will be almost that and fully that for the smaller schools. By now, most people recognize that the value proposition of what student athlete bring to a school is greater than the value of the scholarship, particularly when many are so consumed by athletic practices, conditioning and rehabilitation, that they cannot give full attention to their school work or take courses that may not yield great results when their college career is done.  Consideration must be given to the large sums of money that the adults involved receive.  In this group are athletic directors and staffs, coaches, trainers and many others. Professor Thomas Miller, Jr. of Mississippi State University has an intriguing idea: how about 10-year scholarships for student athletes? It his view, under this plan some of the student athletes will be better off and none will be made worse off, if the plan gains popularity.  I like it.  Hear him out on this podcast.              

EP 502 The Response to 9-11 Takes on a Permanent, Subtle Tone Throughout Government

While we all can recall the fierce response America had to the horrific events of 9-11, 2001 in prosecuting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the passage of the Patriot Act, the development of the Homeland Security Department and the use of torture and black sites against those who came to be called enemy combatants.  And while many of those measures have raised justifiable concerns as to their appropriateness, even more concerning is the less obvious legacy of that era: degradation of language which gave the government free reign to do just about anything it wanted, bureaucratic porousness, secrecy and withholding of facts and an abandonment of legal and procedural norms.  As an example, the authorization for use of military force gives the growing ‘imperial presidency’ carte blanche to find ‘terrorists’ wherever they are.  And Congress, over twenty years later, has not found time to re-assert its central role in the war declaration process. Karen Greenberg is the first scholar I’ve come across to really excavate these ‘Subtle Tools’ in her new book of the same name.  This will be an eye opening podcast for you and remind you that our democracy is slipping away in more ways than the ones that are so obvious, like the big election lie and the January 6 insurrection.

EP 501 Consensus Grows to Regulate Social Media Platforms–But For Different Reasons

Section 230 is part of a set of policies passed in 1996 to protect the internet and encourage innovation within its developing framework.  These 26 words of the Communications Decency Act paved the way for Facebook, Google and Twitter.  Section 230 states that internet platforms–considered ‘interactive computer services’ in the law-cannot be considered publishers or speakers of content provided by their users.  In plain English this means that just about anything a user posts on a platform’s website will not create legal liability for the platform.  Thus, we have politicians wanting imagined behemoths, like Facebook and Twitter, when this law was written to do something about defamatory and false information on their sites.  Most concerning of late has been misinformation about the 2020 election and the pandemic.  But is content moderation really the answer?  Or have these networks just gotten too big and that is the issue that must be addressed?  It’s complicated stuff that has the right and the left railing against the sites and Section 230 for different reasons.  Donald Trump, as president, threatened not to sign a defense authorization bill until Section 230 was repealed.  His hope was to see no content moderating, which this portion of the bill allows, too, without legal pushback.  The fact that he has been thrown off Twitter for good and Facebook for a period of time demonstrates he did not win the argument.  Let’s walk through it all with Cameron Kerry of the Brookings Institution.

EP 500 Cuba and America Intertwined Through Time

In 1492, Columbus landed in…Cuba. Surprised?  There’s much about the island 90 miles to our south that ties its history to ours.  In recent years, we have been at odds with Cuba over its Communist regime.  In defiance of that regime we give Cuban immigrants the fastest track the government provides to citizenship status. We have occupied Cuba militarily in the past and controlled one of its key industries in sugar production.  Our greatest foreign policy challenge of the 20th century, and perhaps ever, is remembered as the Cuban Missile Crisis.  There is much to learn about this relationship.  To help us understand it, we call upon NYU professor, Ada Ferrer, author of the remarkable new book with the compelling title, ‘Cuba: An American History’.  Just as President Obama’s visit to Cuba during his presidency was meant to ease trade restrictions and provide new avenues of cooperation, President Trump reverted to the policies we adopted in response to the Cuban revolution in 1959 led by Fidel Castro.  It’s post Castro in Cuba and post Trump in America.  Has anything changed?  Be prepared to take a history lesson and a brief peek into the future on today’s podcast.

EP 499 Is It Worth Having a Discussion With a Science Denier?

While science denial is a precursor to reality denial on many fronts in our society, it can result in impacts as serious as life and death.  For instance, if enough people don’t get the COVID vaccine, allow it to hang around and mutate, even the vaccinated may be at great risk.  So, while philosopher of science, Lee Mcintyre begins his book, ‘How to Talk to a Science Denier’, at a relatively harmless, yet otherwordly, flat earth convention, he later gets to the serious issue of climate denial, which can’t go on much longer without having even more dreadful impacts than those we are presently experiencing.  And, yet, he tells us it is worth the discomfort of having these conversations, even if we are not scientists ourselves, lest we let misinformation run rampant.  He tells us that science denialism spreads through five techniques.  Most commonly, deniers cherry-pick data and rely on fake experts.  He walks us through these common approaches and encourages us to refute them, respectfully.  It is an important conversation on a subject that will persist in what has become a society distrustful of expertise.

EP 498 How America Abandoned Peace and Reinvented the Concept of Humane War

Since 9/11, America has found itself embroiled in endless war, little discussed and rarely debated, either in barrooms or Congress.  We just are.  It is interesting how little attention conflicts of various forms get given the trillions of dollars we spend on defense and the fact that we have Special Forces in more than three quarters of the countries on the planet.  While we eschew the role of the world’s policeman, it’s hard to imagine that we are patrolling the world and surveilling it with drones and other gadgets for no reason.  Perhaps, one reason we pay less attention to our offensive defensive posture is that most of it relates to what we are doing in places far away, with a volunteer force, able to accomplish its missions with fewer casualties on either side.  According to Yale University legal scholar and historian, Samuel Moyn, in his book, ‘Humane’, we have made a clear choice to make war more humane, but placed little emphasis on avoiding war.  Swords have not been beaten into plowshares, rather they’ve been melted down for drones that are capable of conducting war from over the horizon using a joystick.  It’s a fascinating topic and we have one of the leading authorities to present it on this podcast.

EP 497 Terror Threat in the Wake of Afghanistan Pull Out

Will over the horizon technological responses cut it in places, like Afghanistan, where American boots on the ground have been replaced with eyes in the skies?  That’s the gist of the conversation we have with Ben Coes, author of ‘The Island’, a story of terror in Manhattan as seen through the imagination of a novelist who has had real world experience in the political realm.  I turned to a novelist because often their vision has a wider aperture than intelligence experts. Coes’ vivid imagination was put to the test in this interview where we went around the globe to assess threats, real and imagined.  There is a question as to whether the greatest threats really emanate from the Middle East, from Sunni or Shi’a, or whether staging areas have morphed into many other territories, most particularly in parts of Africa. America has been distracted with Covid concerns, our own domestic terror threats, but in a world in which America and its Afghan pull-out seems to be saying goodbye to the vestiges of 9-11, have the roots of terror said goodbye to us?

EP 496 The Toll of Being Unemployed in America

America is country that values hard work, almost above all else.  When you meet a stranger, one of the first questions is ‘so what do you do’?  Our occupation is often how we are defined and our value established in this culture.  It then makes it all the more difficult and painful to find yourself out of work in America.  Whether it’s from a mass layoff or a singular event, you’re left trying to explain to yourself and others what happened.  In her book, ‘The Tolls of Uncertainty’, Sarah Damaske explains how privilege and the guilt gap shape unemployment in America.  She will give definition to much of what can prove to be one of the most painful experiences of your life as search for work and meaning in the process.  This period of ‘unexpected transitions’ is traversed in different ways depending upon many factors, including social status and sex.  She also argues that unemployment is an institution–like workplaces and families–and produces its own inequalities.  Over 60 percent of us will experience a period of unemployment in our lifetimes and we explore the process today.  

EP 495 Voter Suppression Efforts Gaining Traction Across the United States

Over 60 court challenges were dismissed relating to voter fraud and irregularities in the 2020 presidential election, but that has not deterred former President Trump in mounting a crusade to undo many ballot access initiatives that came about in the wake of the hotly contest 2000 presidential campaign.  No excuse absentee ballot, early voting, mail-in ballots and the number of secure drop boxes are among the initiatives being rolled back in many states controlled by Republicans.  Two other efforts are even more problematic.  One is to run candidates for secretary of the state who will not have put up the resistance to manipulation in the way that the Georgia Secretary of the State, a Republican, did in 2020.  The second, and more insidious, is the ability for a legislature to overturn the results of a count in their states for specious cause.  Robert Brandon, the president and CEO of the Fair Elections Center, breaks down what is happening across America and how the proposed Freedom to Vote federal legislation would blunt those efforts.