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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.