The field of public relations has been most simply described as ‘doing good and communicating it’. Even in days when newspapers, television and radio were the prime sources of information, a skilled public relations practitioner would have to work hard for placement, by having a great understanding as to what the media outlet was looking for and being creative in pitching the content. Today with the emergence of social media the tools of the trade are vastly expanded and complicated as clients want their content to ‘go viral’, whatever that means. The noise and the fractionalization of the market means meeting expectations regarding impacts that are wholly unrealistic. And, at its most practical, the value assigned to publicity is ephemeral. To discuss this nuanced subject is Freda Drake, author of ‘Publicity on Steroids’. You will gain a great understanding of what it takes to get a message out in this new age of mass, and niche, communication.
In these complicated economic times it’s easy to miss the forest amidst the trees. Just as basic telephony gave way to smart telephony, which now resides in all of our pockets and has revolutionized the way we communicate and do e-commerce, our guest, Mark Mills, author of ‘The Cloud Revolution’ directs our thinking to the fact that the next positive revolution we will experience is invisible, but more impactful than anything we’ve seen to date. And it’s all in the cloud, ready to fundamentally change how we share and process information. The infrastructure is being built all around the globe in huge warehouse like data centers which will change business relationships and spawn incredible economic growth for the planet. His hopefulness is grounded in historical precedent and will lead to a condition economically that will lift all boats. Any still floating aimlessly offshore will find greater help from coffers filled with public monies to address any issues owing to disruption. It is an incredible book and gives us hope that the roaring 20’s we soon will refer to are the 2020’s. I say anytime now.
Our guest, Howard Husock, author of ‘The Poor Side of Town and Why We Need It’, has a warm spot for what he considers ‘naturally occurring affordable housing’, the kind that used to be available to those who were finding their way in this country as they went from an apartment to a starter home and beyond. For a host of reasons that we discuss and that he covers in his book, he describes housing policy throughout the years and what remains today in a market that is hostile to millions looking for the first or second rung on the ladder, in communities that provide for a range of services and options. Tenements, projects, subsidized housing and new up zoning efforts are all discussed. Clearly, we have an affordable housing problem in this country, as evidenced by any number of measures. The question is how do we best get more of it onto the market. That’s our topic today.
It’s likely that when you see double digit increases in the price of food, energy and other essentials, you are in a state of inflation. As anyone who uses our currency, in whatever fashion knows, that’s the place we find ourselves today. It’s having a major impact on household budgets and causing reactions in markets and in federal monetary policy. Harder to determine is what are the factors that brought it on and what you do about it to bring those inflation numbers down. Our guest, Nathan Lewis has co-authored a book with Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames, called ‘Inflation: What It Is, Why It’s Bad, and How To Fix It’. They attribute our present circumstance to the massive amount of money created out of thin air by the Federal Reserve in the wake of the housing crash in 2009 and in response to the COVID-19 emergency in recent years. In their view that has significantly weakened the value of the dollar. Others say that supply chain issues and the quicker than anticipated rate of recovery have overheated the economy. In any event, as impactful as inflation is the dollar is still king among all currencies and borrowers still buy U.S. debt. Our discussion got to the hottest topic in financial circles: Modern Monetary Theory. You need to be aware of what it is, agree or disagree with it.
President Biden has been stressing the fragility of democracy in the context of a growing authoritarian strain around the globe. Poster child for this is the most irascible person on the international stage, Russian thug Vladimir Putin. And then there are authoritarian populists in our own midst, like Donald Trump, making the cause of democracy a challenge even in a free state. This form of populism is often ascribed to economic stagnation and the harmful effects of disinformation on social media. Often left out of the list of causes is the trick of turning a monoethnic democracy into multi ethnic one. Now you might say that America doesn’t fall into that category given our history as a nation of immigrants. However, key ethnic minorities in America, such a African-Americans, are newly enfranchised in the 1960’s with repeated and ongoing efforts to limit their impact at the voting booth. Clashes between different identity groups is a major driver of human conflict around the globe. It takes many forms. Political scientist, Yascha Mounk, in his new book ‘The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure’, describes what is happening as fissures in our body politic play out. The good news is that we can rise above our differences and create a better place for all of us. The question is do we have the leadership and will to do it.
Remember Steinbeck’s “The Old Man and the Sea”? It is a striking image of a curmudgeonly type of grisled character trolling the waters aimlessly. As it relates to modern day commercial fishing in America, particularly New England, nothing could be further from the truth. New 21st century approaches to fishing are addressing the negative perceptions ascribed to both wild fishing and fish farming that date back decades. Practices like wild catch, stricter catch quotas, protections against accidental ‘by catch’ and restrictions on the ‘days at sea’ have all improved the status of the fishing profession and the US stocks of fish. Today, roughly 84 percent of all 400-plus stocks managed by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration are neither over fished nor subject to over fishing. Those who fish commercially, which one could argue represents America’s first industry, have entered a postindustrial age, using high tech tools to better do their job and protect the environment. If you, like a growing number of people, like great fish I think you’ll be amazed and heartened at the story Nicholas Sullivan tells in his new book, “The Blue Revolution” and shares with us on this podcast.
It is very hard to typify what America’s relationship is with China. We are economically co-dependent and yet we’re competitors. Some say we’re frenemies in the world; yet others say be realistic and recognize that they are adversaries, growing into potential enemies, based upon their growing defense posture and designs on Taiwan. And when we do business with Chinese companies are we actually dealing with an increasingly aggressive and controlling Chinese Communist Party? As consumers we must admit that while we like the low prices, there may be a high price to pay in propping up this regime and limiting jobs opportunities in the United States. I told you this was complicated. Our guest, Isaac Stone Fish, author of ‘America 2nd’ has lived in China over the years and understands the subtleties of the relationship in its many forms. He clearly draws a distinction between the actions of The Party and the culture of the people and one of the world’s oldest civilizations. He also provokes us to think about what each country wants from the other and the unwitting help that many influential Americans have given China as they accept the money and prestige that their dealings with the country may provide.
The International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism(ICSVE) has spent a lot of time monitoring and reporting on the actions and motivation of threats from extremists abroad. Circumstances on the ground in America have forced the Center to focus new attention on the activities of home grown extremists in our midst. What might have been considered a scattered and disorganized grouping of fringe players congealed to attack our U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, a first for our nation. It also served as a wake-up call that groups like QAnon, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers must be taken seriously, as the FBI has been alerting us. Dr. Anne Speckard Director of the ISCVE joins us to discuss a report generated by her and other researchers in her group after spending a summer inside QAnon and white supremacist online forums. They designed a study to observe online forums populated and run by such groups with the aim of gaining a clearer understanding of not only what draws people to join them but also to determine how QAnon plays a part in the radicalization process. Dr. Speckhard’s team included Wilson W. Warren, Kate Strezishar and Molly Ellenberg. We discuss their chilling finds today.
The aftermath of the war in Ukraine is uncertain because so much depends on the outcome, but speculation is that relations between the United States and its European partners will take a long time to mend with Russia. Trust has been shattered in the wake of this horrific attack by Russia on a neighboring state. The question becomes what will the world look like and how will America approach this former bitter rival? There are diplomatic, economic and military considerations that will all come into play. And while the NATO alliance has been re-assembled by President Biden, will that diverse group of nations, with differing interests, particularly as it relates to energy needs, hold firm if the United States seeks to maintain sanctions and follow the course of containment as in the days of the Cold War. Now, of course, there are other considerations including the growing influence and power of China, with the ability to upend any strategies that they find counter to their interests. It’s a complicated picture. Here to help us sort it out is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Francis Rooney.
The numbers suggest that America is in the midst of one of the largest labor upheavals in decades. The resurgence in workers declaring their rights has benefited labor unions who are now emboldened and getting a second look from younger workers. The new found confidence that the worker is in a stronger position is exemplified by the fact that 100,000 unionized workers have voted to authorize strikes in the recent period across a range of industries. Given worker shortages, they now have little fear that they will be replaced should they walk the picket line. It’s a moment unlike any for working people in decades. Having a Democratic president who is sympathetic to unions, and very open about it, doesn’t hurt, either. Peter Berg, professor of employment relations and the director of the school of Human Resources and labor relations at Michigan State University, joins us to discuss.