Monthly Archives: February 2022

EP 529 How Did America Leave the Miss America Competition Behind?



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In its heyday, the Miss America pageant could attract nearly three quarters of those watching television at that time.  It was considered the first reality show and had become the focal point of community life for many young girls entering competitions in places far and wide in hopes of having a chance to compete on the stage in Atlantic City.  Today, as the brand fades, it is worth looking back to find out what happened in the context of the changing role of women, reality programs on television and in the culture itself.  In her deeply reported book, ‘There She Was: The Secret History of Miss America’, Amy Argetsinger, an editor for the Washington Post Style section, brings a true pageant enthusiast’s eye to the subject, while at the same time critically examining the convulsive changes in our society around gender, race, feminism and beauty that now confront the sisterhood of Miss America in its struggle to survive.  If you wonder what happened and how it was ever a true cultural phenomenon for such an uncharacteristically long sweep of time, this podcast describes the complexities surrounding this American institution.


Special Edition13 War: Leading Scholar Brings Context to Russian Invasion of Ukraine



 

Is war the locomotive of history?  While that is a hard question to answer we seem never to escape its grip, whether we are talking about minor skirmishes, infra-state disputes, ethnic purges and major cataclysms.  And while the latter category has not touched the world in most of our lifetimes, it’s not hard to imagine that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has the possibility of drawing NATO and China in by virtue of one miscalculation or a madman’s intent.  Just days ago, we spoke to Jeremy Black, an emeritus professor of history at Exeter University and author of ‘A Short History of War’ among so many other titles about conflict. In fact, he is recognized as the most prolific historian in the English language.  His knowledge about war and military history make him the per-eminent source on the subject.  His first thoughts about Ukraine in the context of his vast knowledge of conflicts from antiquity to this day will be showcased on this podcast.  Listen carefully.


EP 528 Will Problem Gambling Grow in America: You Can Bet On It



 

The days of having to find a bookie to make a bet are long over.  Today, many states will oblige with a host of state lottery options, relationships with Native American casinos and legalized sports book in person and on-line. In addition to the range of choices, greater proximity and ability to gamble on your phone, the boredom and isolation of the pandemic exacerbated the tendency for many.  The rivalry of Fan Duel and DraftKings for dominance in this new arena of legalized sports betting has added a marketing presence which makes it both mainstream and alluring.  Against this backdrop, we see headlines warning of a ‘ticking time bomb’ which will go off in the coming years as people get in over their heads, despite guardrails that have been put in place to limit their financial exposure.  Some experts see the impulse for profit far outstripping the safeguards and the meager resources put into addiction programs for those who are caught up in a more invisible form of undertow than drugs or alcohol.  Keith Whyte, our guest on the podcast, is the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling and he has a lot to offer.  By the way, the National Problem Gambling Helpline number is 1-800-522-4700.


EP 527 America’s Commitment to Public Lands: Something All Americans Can Agree on?



 

 

 

America’s public lands encompass more than 600 million acres of forests, plains, mountains, wetlands, deserts and shorelines, comprising about thirty percent of the nation’s land mass.  In a country built on the concept of private property rights it is remarkable that for the last century and half there has been so little debate about the necessity for this set aside.  Both parties have generally supported more conservation with their actions, even if time the rhetoric has suggested that some of these lands should be opened up for private exploitation.  John Leshy, a former solicitor for the U.S. Department of Interior and author of ‘Our Common Ground: A History of America’s Public Lands’ has written a political history of these lands which Americans own and manage through their national government.  Matters relating to these parks are inherently political and the inclusion of formerly excluded populations, like Native Americans, in their use is one of the many trends we discuss with him on this podcast.  Today these lands offer Americans refuge for recreation, education and conservation of biodiversity and cultural resources.  The National Parks are a crown jewel, but there is so much more as you will learn.


EP 526 The American Dream of Home Ownership Slipping Away From Many



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While much of what’s been written recently about housing in America are the exploding costs and great value of ownership, between 2010 and 2019, the number of renters in the country grew twice as fast as the homeowner population.  In fact, renters now make up a majority of residents in large American cities.  The cost of owning a home has been eating up household budgets and eclipsing the standard of thirty percent as the basis for what you should spending on housing a month.  A hidden factor in all of this is how much housing stock was gobbled up after the housing bubble of 2008 by banks, private equity firms, speculators and overseas money.  Their goal has been to maximize profit by renting or selling properties at inflated prices.  Our guest, Andrew Ross, author of ‘Sunset Blues’ lays out the conditions that have made the housing market so problematic for so many and why the American Dream is becoming unaffordable in many places. His book focuses on a particular area of central Florida to make his point, but our conversation discusses the failure of the housing market throughout urban and rural locales throughout the country.


EP 525 Are We on a Path to a Livable Future?



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The last two years has demonstrated that unanticipated events, like a pandemic, can force drastic changes in the way that we live.  Climate science has been warning for decades now that we are on an unsustainable path and yet we seem incapable, or unwilling, to confront this reality.  More intense storms, raging wildfires, climate fluctuations and droughts have been dismissed by many as natural occurrences unaffected by human activity. The science says otherwise. So are we likely to make the necessary changes and can we do it it in time?  Our guest, Stan Cox, author of ‘The Path To a Livable Future’ questions whether the Green New Deal or the recent Glasgow summit on climate really address the sacrifices we need to make.  As long as America’s North Star continues to be the devotion to more and more economic growth the path he describes may lead to a ruinous end.  He discusses the need to deal with entangled emergencies, including climate change, racism and the next pandemic in this podcast.


EP 524 Key to Police Reform in America Rests in the Hands of Nine Jurors-the U.S. Supreme Court



 

 

 

 

 

When you think about police reform and where the greatest responsibility for it rests, the institutions that come to mind are local governments, state governments and Congress.  Rarely does the U.S. Supreme Court and its role get much mention or discussion. The legal justification for things like stop and frisk, limits in bringing lawsuits to reform police departments and even the use of lethal choke holds rests with the Supreme Court.  Our guest documents a decades-long history of judicial failure in America, revealing how the Supreme Court has enabled racial profiling and intimidation and given legitimacy to law enforcement excesses that disproprtionately affect people of color.  Even though the Constitution clearly tries to limit police power, the Supreme Court rarely rules against police, according to Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law and author of the book, ‘Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights’.  It’s an eye-opening discussion of this august body’s tipping of the scales of justice toward police excess.


EP 523 If There’s a Battle Between Democracy and Autocracy Why Are We Aiding the Enemy?



                  Money talks in Washington DC and China and Russia sure have their attention. not  the voters  

There exists a powerful lever the West can use to weaken authoritarian governments and stop the global backslide of democracy.  Why we choose not to use it speaks powerfully to the forces at play in our own society often blunting social and political reforms in favor of profits.  You see almost every authoritarian regime is a kleptocratic one and they rely on the Western financial system to launder and safeguard their billions.  We can–and must–rein in the white collar professionals, particularly bankers at places like Goldman Sachs, BNP, Deutsche Bank and HSBC, who are selling out democracy to get rich.  And we must address the issue of some Western politicians in league with them.  As Frank Vogl, a leader in global anti-corruption efforts, shows in his book, ‘The Enablers” How the West Supports Kleptocrats and Corruption–Endangering Our Democracy’, oligarchs and authoritarians could not reap the material benefits of plundering their countries without the help of bankers, lawyers, accountants and realtors in places like New York, London and other financial centers.  So if we want to weaken their political and financial power, we must act.  First, the public needs to understand what’s happening here.  This podcast is a start.


EP 522 Reinventing Death in the 21st Century



 

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Death in America is undergoing a quiet revolution.  You now can have your body frozen, dissected, composted, dissolved or tanned.  Your family can incorporate your remains into jewelry, shotgun shells, paperweights and artwork.  Cremations have more than doubled and will reach nearly 70 percent by 2030.  As the grip of traditional religion is loosening on the culture, traditions of the past are giving way to DIY home funerals, personalized memorials and green burials. According to our guest, Shannon Lee Dawdy, the author of ‘American Afterlives: Reinventing Death in the 21st Century’, there have been more changes in the professional death industry in the last few decades than in the previous one hundred years.  Much of it stemming from our reaction to seeing death so vividly on 9-11, 2001.  Death is being reinvented simultaneously on three levels: disposition of human remains, new rituals and ideas about the afterlives.  It’s a fascinating discussion no one should avoid having about an issue we will all face regarding those closest to us and ourselves.