America loves its cars but the romance may be cooling a bit as the increasingly urban society recognizes that the ‘internet of motion’ can provide them with many options for living the life previously available only to someone who had a car. Our guest, Tom Standage, the author of ‘A Brief History of Motion’ takes us through time to see what has become unrecognizable–a whole society built on its transport options. As those options more and more become available on a smartphone, expect that our culture will undergo radical change as well. Our choices going forward in getting around will be abundant from ride sharing to autonomous vehicles to electric scooters. The social transformations spurred by the pandemic and overshadowed by climate change create a unique opportunity to critically reexamine our relationship to the car. In this informative podcast, Tom has some fun facts about the automobile, as well. The road ahead promises some great changes for each of us.
When I worked for my state Commissioner of Education in Connecticut in the early 1980’s the educational establishment was abuzz with the concept of ‘equity and excellence’. Yet nearly 50 years later, despite lots of money and resources thrown at our old model of education, one reformer John Dewey in the early twentieth century would still recognize, is just not cutting it. In fact, David Osborne in his book ‘Reinventing America’s Schools’ says that our current system serves just over half of our children. And in the wake of the pandemic with children detached and disenrolled, particularly those already disadvantaged from a socio-economic standpoint, it is frightening to think that we might be on the verge of losing a whole generation of children. For our global competitiveness, this would be devastating, particularly given the fact that on many international measures we are already lacking. To discuss a way forward is Tress Pankovits, co-director of the reinventing schools project at the Progressive Policy Institute. It’s a discussion we must turn into action…and fast.
Amid a wave of police shootings in 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began a series of quiet protests on the field, most notably refusing to stand and taking a knee during the national anthem. Much controversy ensued in the wake of his action and while he has found himself, despite a strong showing on the field, in exile as a result, there is a direct line between his actions and protesters on the streets across America in 2020. They were there to protest another knee, that of Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, which choked the life out of George Floyd. While some commenentators say ‘shut up and play ball’, that flies in the face of athlete activism throughout our history, most notably names like Jackie Robinson, Muhammed Ali, Bill Russell and today, LeBron James. In his book ‘The Kaepernick Effect’, sports writer Dave Zirin documents the many acts of courage by athletes in high school and college who were inspired by Colin Kaepernick. He has made his mark. And as promising as he career on the field was, until he was used as an example of what NFL authorities would not tolerate, his impact off the field has been far greater.
Once a little regarded niche of the investment world, private equity has grown into a juggernaut, with impacts on a wide range of industries as well as financial markets. While most pension funds and endowments rely to a large degree on publicly traded securities and bonds, the portfolios of many of these funds add private equity to their mix. The question is why. Do private equity firms get better returns? Cost less in fees? Have more transparency? The answer in each case is–no. In his book, ‘The Myth of Private Equity’, Jeffrey Hooke tries to explain why up to 10 percent of investment dollars today are in private equity. Looking back as far as 2006 it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense given the fact that it hasn’t between plain vanilla, low cost index funds or portfolios with a traditional 60/40 blend of stocks and bonds. So why have many money managers been enamored with private equity, which involves not buying shares, but rather whole companies. It seemed hard for me to understand the aura surrounding these financial instruments so, on your behalf, I asked him to explain to you and me what’s really the state of play in the finance world surrounding private equity. We, indeed, explode some myths today on the podcast.
It takes a lot of knowledge, research and time to write 500 pages on the way that infectious disease has intersected with the history of humanity on this planet. Kyle Harper, our guest and author of ‘Plagues Upon the Earth’ does a masterful job of breaking it down for us on this podcast. If you think we have all the tools to eradicate future plagues and pandemics using modern technology, I must ask where you’ve been for the last two years. It’s inevitable and accelerating as more people mean more opportunity for our invisible companions to find a host. The story of disease has enduring effects in patterns of wealth, health, power and inequality. The good news is that we who are alive today won the pathogen lottery. For the 10,000 generations of humans who came before us, life was short. It has been only the last three or four generations when we would not be gone within 30 years. Yet we cannot take this advance for granted. While we have antibiotics, vaccines and insecticides, we are dealing with a shrewd nemesis determined to attack an ever growing population on this earth. Be alert and learn the history in order to understand the threat more clearly.
The friendly car salesman is still waiting for you at the showroom to take you for a test drive, but you are now entering what was a lose/lose battle with a lot more information and many more choices. Just as we previously did a podcast on the changing nature of purchasing a home, our second greatest outlay–buying a car–is undergoing a great transformation. CarMax, Carvana and Vroom are changing the way used cars are sold. AutoNation is buying up a good number of dealerships. Dealerships now offer a range of different brands and are employing new technology. And now Ford Motor Co. has just announced a shift in the way it sells vehicles. It plans to do a bigger portion of its sales by having buyers order from the factory and wait six to eight weeks, rather than choosing from the selection in inventory at a local dealership. To sort out the future of car purchasing for us is Max Zanan, the ultimate automotive retail expert. He knows what’s changing, why its changing and how it affects you. You can find him at maxzanan.com, but why wait. Listen to him here.
Much attention has been paid to the plight of young girls in American society as we attempt to knock down barriers to their dreams and build more protections from predatory practices often visited upon them. What about the boys? Much research tells us that they are falling short in academic performance, suffering greater rates of suicide and having trouble launching from the nest. In a new book ‘To Raise a Boy’, investigative journalist Emma Brown tell us that there is more to the story. While sexual violence is often framed as an issue of male on female, there is much male on male violence that is often described in other terms. Yet the practice is prevalent and can result in the victimized later becoming a victimizer. Young boys are often required to suppress their emotional selves causing stunted development of vital parts of their being which leads to a lack of connection so common among older boys and men. America Trends has done more reporting on this topic and will revisit that material to add to your understanding of the complexity and importance of this topic.
We all watched as America accomplished a very messy end to the twenty year Afghanistan War, the longest in our history. So what was it like on the ground for those who fought in it and how did they view the withdrawal, given their sacrifice? Was it all in vain? Scott DeLuzio, author of ‘Surviving Son’, had a unique perspective. While he fought in the war, more tragically his brother, Steven, was serving at the same time and was killed while Scott was in country. He gives us his view as to whether what was accomplished over this twenty years, his feelings about the way America sends men and women off to war and leaves that one percent to do our bidding as we go on with our lives at home, generally unaware of their experience in any material way. He returned to civilian life, but his homecoming was not the hero’s welcome he deserved. This chapter of American history is closed for many of us, but it lives on for Scott in the memory of the brother he lost and the PTSD he deals with. He continues to give back to veterans of the conflict through his Drive On podcast at driveonpodcast.com.
It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. We are not talking about the third shift at a factory in this podcast We are focusing on ethically challenging positions that many ‘respectable’ citizens will not do and yet avoid considering the consequences for those who, for one reason or another, are required to take them on. In fact, we increasingly shield and distance ourselves from many morally questionable activities that other, less privileged people perform in our name. Our guest, Eyal Press, in his eye-opening book ‘Dirty Work’ demands that we look at drone pilots who carry out targeted assassinations to keep us ‘safe’, undocumented immigrants who occupy the ‘kill floors’ of industrial slaughterhouses and guards who patrol the wards of our most violent and abusive prisons. These types of jobs exist in all societies, but don’t we have an obligation in a democratic society to question the morality of these roles and ask ourselves what the impact is on us, as well as those performing society’s most ethically troubling jobs? It’s time to consider some glaring societal enigmas directly and determine their hidden costs.