December 22, 2009
An interview with Sasha Abramsky the author of Inside Obama’s Brain.

From the moment he burst onto the national political scene, Barack Obama has fascinated people more than any politician in decades. Many biographers have already retold his story, but no previous book truly explains how his mind works, what passions drive him, or what makes him such an effective leader.

Abramsky explores the ideas, inspirations, and experiences that have shaped the president. It quotes a wide network of sources, including many who broke long-standing vows of silence to offer their candid and surprising observations. Abramsky interviewed close to one hundred of Obama's current and former friends, colleagues, classmates, teachers, staff, mentors, basketball buddies, fellow Chicago activists, media consultants, editors, and even his next-door neighbors from Hyde Park. These people each know a part of Obama's life and career, which the author blends the pieces into a uniquely detailed analysis.

Abramsky explains the origins of Obama's extraordinary poise, focus, and self-confidence; his powerful storytelling and speaking skills; and his empathetic listening style. He shows why Obama's experiences as a community organizer are widely misunderstood and more influential than many people realize. And he explores how Obama found a unique way to bridge America's racial divides.

Abramsky is a freelance journalist. His work has appeared in The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, New York magazine, The Village Voice, and Rolling Stone.


Listen to the Abramsky interview here


December 15, 2009
An interview with Winslow Myers the author of Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide.

After thousands of years, the dream of a world without war may seem hopelessly unrealistic. But, as Winslow Myers shows in this concise, eloquent primer, what is truly unrealistic is the notion that war remains a reasonable solution to the conflicts on our planet. He begins by showing why war has become obsolete (though obviously not extinct): it doesn't solve the problems that ostensibly justify it; its costs are unacceptably high; the destructiveness of modern weapons could lead to human extinction; and there are better alternatives. After elaborating on these points, he outlines a new way of thinking that will be necessary if we are to move beyond war, in particular a recognition of our oneness and global interdependence. Finally, he outlines practical alternatives and inspiring examples that anticipate the goal of a world beyond war.

Winslow Myers is an artist and teacher who has worked for many years with Beyond War.


Listen to the Myers interview here

December 8, 2009
An interview with Steven Pinker, one of the world's leading cognitive scientists and author of How the Mind Works.

Pinker explains the mind by "reverse-engineering" it — figuring out what natural selection designed it to accomplish in the environment in which we evolved. The mind, he writes, is a system of "organs of computation" that allowed our ancestors to understand and outsmart objects, animals, plants, and each other.

How the Mind Works explains many of the imponderables of everyday life. Why does a face look more attractive with makeup? How do "Magic-Eye" 3-D stereograms work? Why do we feel that a run of heads makes the coin more likely to land tails? Why is the thought of eating worms disgusting? Why do men challenge each other to duels and murder their ex-wives? Why are children bratty? Why do fools fall in love? Why are we soothed by paintings and music? And why do puzzles like the self, free will, and consciousness leave us dizzy?

Steven Pinker is Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Until 2003, he taught in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time, and The New Republic, and is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, Words and Rules, The Blank Slate, and The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.

Pinker will speak on the Evolution of the Mind on Saturday, December 12, 2009 at UCI’s Beckman Canter as part of The National Academy of Sciences conference.


Listen to the Pinker interview here

December 1, 2009
An interview with Russ Baker the author of Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America.

We'll talk to Baker about his recently published article What Obama Is Up Against — on the pressures Obama faces from the military-industrial-intelligence-finance sector and how that ties his hands on Afghan and Iraq.

In Family of Secrets, Baker goes deep behind the scenes to deliver an arresting new look at George W. Bush, his father George H. W. Bush, their family, and the network of figures in intelligence, the military, finance, and oil who enabled the family’s rise to power. Baker’s exhaustive investigation reveals a remarkable clan whose hermetic secrecy and code of absolute loyalty have concealed a far-reaching role in recent history that transcends the Bush presidencies. Baker offers new insights into lingering mysteries — from the death of John F. Kennedy to Richard Nixon’s downfall in Watergate. Here, too, are insider accounts of the backroom strategizing, and outright deception, that resulted in George W. Bush’s electoral success. Throughout, Baker helps us understand why we have not known these things before.

Russ Baker has written for the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, the New York Times, the Nation, Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Esquire, and served as Columbia Journalism Review contributing editor. In 2005, he founded the Real News Project, a nonprofit investigative news organization. His exclusive reporting on George W. Bush’s military record received a 2005 Deadline Club award.


Listen to the Baker Interview here

November 24, 2009
An interview with Alexandra Natapoff the author of Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice.

Albert Burrell spent thirteen years on death row for a murder he did not commit. Atlanta police killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston during a misguided raid on her home. After being released by Chicago prosecutors, Darryl Moore — drug dealer, hit man, and rapist — returned home to rape an eleven-year-old girl.

Such tragedies are consequences of snitching — police and prosecutors offering deals to criminal offenders in exchange for information. Although it is nearly invisible to the public, criminal snitching has invaded the American legal system in risky and sometimes shocking ways. Snitching is the first comprehensive analysis of this powerful and problematic practice, in which informant deals generate unreliable evidence, allow criminals to escape punishment, endanger the innocent, compromise the integrity of police work, and exacerbate tension between police and poor urban residents. Driven by dozens of real-life stories and debacles, the book exposes the social destruction that snitching can cause in high-crime African American neighborhoods, and how using criminal informants renders our entire penal process more secretive and less fair. Natapoff also uncovers the farreaching legal, political, and cultural significance of snitching: from the war on drugs to hip hop music, from the FBI’s mishandling of its murderous mafia informants to the new surge in white collar and terrorism informing. She explains how existing law functions and proposes new reforms. By delving into the secretive world of criminal informants, Snitching reveals deep and often disturbing truths about the way American justice really works.

Alexandra Natapoff is an award-winning scholar and a nationally-recognized expert on snitching in the criminal justice system and Professor of Law at Loyola University in Los Angeles. Prior to joining the faculty she served as an assistant federal public defender in Baltimore. She also founded the Urban Law & Advocacy Project with a community fellowship from the Open Society Institute.


Listen to the Natapoff interview here

November 17, 2009
An interview with James W. Douglass the author of JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters — an astonishing new examination of the Kennedy assassination and its meaning today.

Douglass lays out the journey that led JFK in the course of three years from his position as a traditional Cold Warrior to his determination to break with the logic of the Cold War and lead the world in an entirely different direction. This sequence of steps led his adversaries in the military and intelligence establishment to view him as a virtual traitor who had to be eliminated.

Douglass's book has all the elements of a political thriller. But the stakes couldn't be higher. Only by understanding the truth behind the murder of JFK can we grasp his vision and assume the urgent struggle for peace today.

James W. Douglass is a longtime peace activist and writer. He and his wife Shelley are co-founders of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, Washington, and Mary's House, a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in Birmingham, Alabama. His books include The Nonviolent Cross, The Nonviolent Coming of God, and Resistance and Contemplation.


Listen to the Douglass interview here

November 10, 2009
An interview with Dahr Jamail the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The U.S. project in Iraq has been condemned by a vibrant and vocal antiwar movement as illegal and unjust since before the invasion began. Since 2006, a majority in the United States have opposed the contination of the occupation, and reported to pollsters that they believe the invasion was a mistake. But how do the soldiers who carry out the occupation see the war?

Fragmented reports of battalions refusing orders, of active duty soldiers signing antiwar petitions, of individual soldiers refusing redeployment and taking a public stand against the occupation have trickled into the mainstream reportage over hte last five years. But how deep does the current of resistance run? What makes soldiers deployed in Iraq decide to go AWOL, file for conscientious objector status, or even serve sentences in military prisons to avoid taking part in this unpopular engagement?

Dahr Jamail's comprehensive study of the today's military resisters sheds new light on the contours of dissent within the ranks of world's most powerful military, documenting the fight for justice inside the belly of the beast.

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has covered the Middle East for more than five years. He is the author of Beyond the Green Zone. Jamail writes for the Inter Press Service and many other outlets.


Listen to the Jamail interview here

November 3, 2009
An interview with Jake Adelstein the author of Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan.

At nineteen, Jake Adelstein went to Japan in search of peace and tranquility. What he got was a life of crime . . . crime reporting, that is, at the prestigious Yomiuri Shinbun. For twelve years of eighty-hour workweeks, he covered the seedy side of Japan, where extortion, murder, human trafficking, and corruption are as familiar as ramen noodles and sake. But when his final scoop brought him face to face with Japan’s most infamous yakuza boss—and the threat of death for him and his family — Adelstein decided to step down . . . momentarily. Then, he fought back.

Adelstein tells the riveting, often humorous tale of his journey from an inexperienced cub reporter—who made rookie mistakes like getting into a martial-arts battle with a senior editor — to a daring, investigative journalist with a price on his head.

Jake Adelstein was a reporter for the Yomiuri Shinbun, Japan’s largest newspaper, from 1993 to 2005. From 2006 to 2007 he was the chief investigator for a U.S. State Department-sponsored study of human trafficking in Japan. Considered one of the foremost experts on organized crime in Japan, he works as a writer and consultant in Japan and the United States. He is also the public relations director for the Washington, D.C.-based Polaris Project Japan, which combats human trafficking and the exploitation of women and children in the sex trade.


Listen to the Adelstein interview here


October 27, 2009
An interview with James W. Loewen author of Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History.

Loewen takes history textbooks to task for their perpetuations of myth and their lack of awareness of today's multicultural student audience (not to mention the astonishing number of facts they just got plain wrong).

How did people get here? Why did Europe win? Why Did the South Secede? In Teaching What Really Happened, Loewen goes beyond the usual textbook-dominated viewpoints to illuminate a wealth of intriguing, often hidden facts about America's past. Calling for a new way to teach history, this book will help teachers move beyond traditional textbooks to tackle difficult but important topics like conflicts with Native Americans, slavery, and race relations. Throughout, Loewen shows time and again how teaching what really happened connects better with all kinds of students to get them excited about history.

James W. Loewen is the bestselling author of Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America. He taught race relations for twenty years at the University of Vermont and gives workshops for teacher groups around the United States. He has been an expert witness in more than 50 civil rights, voting rights, and employment cases.


Listen to the Loewen interview here

October 20, 2009
An interview with Viktor Mayer-Schonberger the author of Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age.

Mayer-Schonberger looks at the surprising phenomenon of perfect remembering in the digital age, and reveals why we must reintroduce our capacity to forget. Digital technology empowers us as never before, yet it has unforeseen consequences as well. Potentially humiliating content on Facebook is enshrined in cyberspace for future employers to see. Google remembers everything we've searched for and when. The digital realm remembers what is sometimes better forgotten, and this has profound implications for us all.

In Delete, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger traces the important role that forgetting has played throughout human history, from the ability to make sound decisions unencumbered by the past to the possibility of second chances. The written word made it possible for humans to remember across generations and time, yet now digital technology and global networks are overriding our natural ability to forget--the past is ever present, ready to be called up at the click of a mouse. Mayer-Schönberger examines the technology that's facilitating the end of forgetting — digitization, cheap storage and easy retrieval, global access, and increasingly powerful software--and describes the dangers of everlasting digital memory, whether it's outdated information taken out of context or compromising photos the Web won't let us forget. He explains why information privacy rights and other fixes can't help us, and proposes an ingeniously simple solution — expiration dates on information — that may.

After ten years on the faculty of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is director of the Information and Innovation Policy Research Centre at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He is the coeditor of Governance and Information Technology: From Electronic Government to Information Government.


Listen to the Mayer-Schonberger interview here

October 13, 2009
An interview with Les Leopold the author of The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity — and What We Can Do About It.

Leopold debunks the prevailing media myths that blame low-income home buyers who got in over their heads, people who ran up too much credit-card debt, and government interference with free markets. Instead, he reveals how Wall Street undermined itself and the rest of the economy by playing and losing at a highly lucrative and dangerous game of fantasy finance.

As the country teeters on the brink of what could be the next Great Depression, we should be especially wary of the so-called financial experts who got us here, and then conveniently got themselves out. So far, it appears they've won the battle, but The Looting of America refuses to let them write the history—or plan its aftermath.

Les Leopold cofounded and currently directs two non-profit educational organizations: The Labor Institute (1976) and the Public Health Institute (1986). He designs research and educational programs on occupational safety and health, the environment and economics. He is now helping to form an alliance between the United Steel Workers Union and the Sierra Club.


Listen to the Leopold interview here

October 6, 2009
An interview with Peter Maass the author of Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil.

Every unhappy oil-producing nation is unhappy in its own way, but all are touched by the “resource curse” — the power of oil to exacerbate existing problems and create new ones. Peter Maass presents a vivid portrait of the troubled world oil has created. He takes us to Saudi Arabia, where officials deflect inquiries about the amount of petroleum remaining in the country’s largest reservoir; to Equatorial Guinea, where two tennis courts grace an oil-rich dictator’s estate but bandages and aspirin are a hospital’s only supplies; and to Venezuela, where Hugo Chávez’s campaign to redistribute oil wealth creates new economic and political crises.

Maass, a New York Times Magazine writer, also introduces us to Iraqi oilmen trying to rebuild their industry after the invasion of 2003, an American lawyer leading Ecuadorians in an unprecedented lawsuit against Chevron, a Russian oil billionaire imprisoned for his defiance of Vladimir Putin’s leadership, and Nigerian villagers whose livelihoods are destroyed by the discovery of oil. Rebels, royalty, middlemen, environmentalists, indigenous activists, CEOs — their stories, deftly and sensitively presented, tell the larger story of oil in our time.

Peter Maass is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and has reported from the Middle East, Asia, South America and Africa. He has written as well for The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post and Slate. Maass is the author of Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War, which chronicled the Bosnian war and won prizes from the Overseas Press Club and the Los Angeles Times.


Listen to the Maass interview here

September 29, 2009
An interview with Kevin Mattson the author of 'What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?': Jimmy Carter, America's 'Malaise,' and the Speech that Should Have Changed the Country.

In 1979, in an effort to right our national malaise, Jimmy Carter delivered a speech that risked his reputation and the future of the Democratic Party, changing the course of American politics for the next twenty-five years.

At a critical moment in Jimmy Carter’s presidency, he gave a speech that should have changed the country. Instead it led to his downfall and ushered in the rise of the conservative movement in America. Mattson gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the weeks leading up to Carter’s “malaise” speech, a period of great upheaval in the United States: the energy crisis had resulted in mile-long gas lines, inciting suburban riots and violence; the country’s morale was low and Carter’s ratings were even lower. The administration, wracked by its own crises, was in constant turmoil and conflict. What came of their great internal struggle, which Mattson conveys with the excitement of a political thriller, was a speech that deserves a place alongside Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or FDR’s First Inaugural. Prominent politicians on both sides of the aisle play important roles, including Carter, Vice President Walter Mondale, speechwriter Hendrik Hertzberg, Ronald Reagan, and Ted Kennedy.

Kevin Mattson is the Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History at Ohio University. He's the author of Rebels All!, When America Was Great, Upton Sinclair and the Other American Century, and Intellectuals in Action. He writes for the American Prospect, Dissent, the Nation, the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post Book World, and many others.


Listen to the Mattson interview here

September 22, 2009
An interview with David Swanson author of Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.

Daybreak is an assessment of how Bush/Cheney fundamentally altered the way our government works, inflated the powers of the executive, and deteriorated the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Only through the active efforts of citizens, Swanson argues, can we restore our rights, and expand our conception of political rights to meet new challenges. Daybreak offers a shocking and inspirational breakdown of all that we have lost, and all that we have to gain.

What powers were stripped from Congress and handed to the White House, and what will it take to permanently move them back? Which of these powers is Barack Obama making use of or even expanding upon? And in the future, how can we embellish our rights, create democratic representation in Congress, and make presidents into executives rather than emperors?

Daybreak is a citizen’s guide to the long-term task of putting an end to the all-powerful executive, and reasserting our democracy. Major structural changes are needed. Here we have clear plans for how we may declare our rights, and truly set out for a new America..

Swanson is co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org, creator of ProsecuteBushCheney.org, the Washington Director of Democrats.com, and a board member of Progressive Democrats for America. He served as press secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign and has been a leading voice for the prosecution of Bush and Cheney for war crimes.


Listen to the Swanson interview here

September 15, 2009
An interview with Charles P. Pierce the author of Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.

The Culture Wars are over and the idiots have won.

In the midst of a career-long quest to separate the smart from the pap, Charles Pierce had a defining moment at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where he observed a dinosaur. Wearing a saddle... But worse than this was when the proprietor exclaimed to a cheering crowd, “We are taking the dinosaurs back from the evolutionists!” He knew then and there it was time to try and salvage the Land of the Enlightened, buried somewhere in this new Home of the Uninformed.

Pierce delivers a gut-wrenching, side-splitting lament about the glorification of ignorance in the United States, and how a country founded on intellectual curiosity has somehow deteriorated into a nation of simpletons more apt to vote for an American Idol contestant than a presidential candidate.

Pierce's denunciation is also a secret call to action, as he hopes that somehow, being intelligent will stop being a stigma, and that pinheads will once again be pitied, not celebrated.

Pierce has been a writer-at-large for Esquire since 1997 and is a frequent contributor to American Prospect and Slate. His work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Nation, The Atlantic, and the Chicago Tribune, among other publications.


Listen to the Pierce interview here

September 8, 2009
An Interview with Len Saputo, MD the author of A Return To Healing: Radical Health Care Reform and the Future of Medicine.

For several decades, a rapidly emerging new medical paradigm has supported a renaissance in our understanding of lifelong wellness. Saputo presents the story of this new medicine, and reveals how it can unlock the door to a health care system that works for all Americans.Conventional medicine's obsession with profitably treating symptoms drives up the cost of health care. And with nearly half of us lacking access to adequate health insurance, how do we deliver care to every American? Saputo argues that single-payer national health insurance is a necessary but insufficient solution. A genuine return to healing requires that we combine regulatory reform with support for a transformed medical paradigm.

Len Saputo, MD, a 1965 graduate of Duke University Medical School, is board certified in internal medicine. After his awakening to the deep flaws in conventional medicine, Saputo developed a new paradigm that is now known as integral-health medicine. Saputo founded the Health Medicine Forum in 1994, and went on to found and direct the Health Medicine Center in Walnut Creek, California — one the first integrative clinics.


Listen to the Saputo interview here

September 1, 2009
An interview with Peter Schrag the author of California: America's High-Stakes Experiment.

Schrag takes on the big issues — immigration, globalization, and the impact of California's politics on its quality of life — in this dynamic account of the Golden State's struggle to recapture the American dream. In the past half-century, California has been both model and anti-model for the nation and often the world, first for its high level of government and public services — schools, universities, highways — and latterly for its dysfunctional government, deteriorating services, and sometimes regressive public policies. California explains how many current "solutions" exacerbate the very problems they're supposed to solve and analyzes a variety of possible state and federal policy alternatives to restore government accountability and a vital democracy to the nation's most populous state and the world's fifth-largest economy.

Peter Schrag is a contributing editor and columnist at the Sacramento Bee. He is the author of many books, including Paradise Lost and Final Test.


Listen to the Schrag interview here

August 25, 2009
An interview with Frederick Hertz
co-author of Making it Legal: A Guide to Same-Sex Marriage, Domestic Partnership & Civil Unions.

11,000 couples have married in California since the Supreme Court legalized marriage in May of 2008, and nearly as many married in Massachusetts between May of 2004. Further, nearly a quarter of the U.S. population lives in a state with some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples — with more than 40% of these states' couples having registered their relationships.

Authored by a Frederick Hertz, a nationally recognized expert in same-sex relationship law, Making it Legal is a comprehensive, easy to understand guide to the past, present and future of same-sex law in America. The book offers lesbians and gay men a comprehensive review of all of the issues that influence the decision to marry and helps the reader navigate the complexity of same-sex laws and understand the newest legal options while providing practical guidance on how to make one of the most important decisions in one's lifetime.

The book provides a brief history of the same-sex marriage movement, a survey of the current legal landscape and a view toward emerging trends and targets, and moves on to a discussion of the factors involved in the personal decision to marry along with the issues that every married couple may face

Hertz is a practicing attorney-mediator and the author of Legal Affairs: Essential Advice for Same-Sex Couples (Owl Books) and co-author of Nolo's Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples and A Legal Guide for Lesbian & Gay Couples.


Listen to the Hertz interview here

August 18, 2009
An interview with Jarret S. Lovell the author of Crimes of Dissent Civil Disobedience, Criminal Justice, and the Politics of Conscience.

From animal rights to anti-abortion, from tax resistance to anti-poverty, activists from across the political spectrum often deliberately break the law to further their causes. While not behaviors common to hardened or self-seeking criminals, the staging of civil disobedience, non-violent resistance, and direct action can nevertheless trigger a harsh response from law enforcement, with those arrested risking jail time and criminal records. Crimes of Dissent features the voices of these activists, presenting a fascinating insider’s look at the motivations, costs and consequences of deliberately violating the law as a strategy of social change.

Crimes of Dissent provides readers with an in-depth understanding of why activists break the law, and what happens to them when they do. Using dynamic examples, both historic and recent, Jarret Lovell explores how seasoned protesters are handled and treated by the criminal justice system, shedding light on the intersection between the political and the criminal. By adopting the unique vantage of the street-level activist, Crimes of Dissent provides a fascinating view of protest from the ground, giving voice to those who refuse to remain silent by risking punishment for their political actions.

Jarret S. Lovell is Associate Professor of Politics, Administration & Justice at California State University, Fullerton and the host of KUCI's Justice or Just Us?.


Listen to the Lovell interview here

August 11, 2009
An Interview with Barney Hoskyns author of Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits.

With his trademark growl, carnival-madman persona, haunting music, and unforgettable lyrics, Tom Waits is one of the most revered and critically acclaimed singer-songwriters alive today. After beginning his career on the margins of the 1970s Los Angeles rock scene, Waits has spent the last thirty years carving out a place for himself among such greats as Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Like them, he is a chameleonic survivor who has achieved long-term success while retaining cult credibility and outsider mystique. But although his songs can seem deeply personal and somewhat autobiographical, fans still know very little about the man himself. Notoriously private, Waits has consistently and deliberately blurred the line between fact and fiction, public and private personas, until it has become impossible to delineate between truth and self-fabricated legend.

Lowside of the Road is the first serious biography to cut through the myths and make sense of the life and career of this beloved icon. Barney Hoskyns has gained unprecedented access to Waits’s inner circle and also draws on interviews he has done with Waits over the years. Spanning his extraordinary forty-year career from Closing Time to Orphans, from his perilous “jazzbo” years in 1970s LA to such shape-shifting albums as Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs to the Grammy Award winners of recent years, this definitive biography charts Waits’s life and art step by step, album by album.

Barney Hoskyns (born 1959) is a British music critic and editor of the online music journalism archive Rock's Backpages.

Due to technical difficulties the Hoskyns interview was not recorded.

August 4, 2009
An interview with Christopher Steiner the author of $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better.

Imagine an everyday world in which the price of gasoline (and oil) continues to go up, and up, and up. Think about the immediate impact that would have on our lives. Of course, everybody already knows how about gasoline has affected our driving habits. People can't wait to junk their gas-guzzling SUVs for a new Prius. But there are more, not-so-obvious changes on the horizon that Chris Steiner tracks brilliantly in this provocative work. Consider the following societal changes: people who own homes in far-off suburbs will soon realize that there's no longer any market for their houses (reason: nobody wants to live too far away because it's too expensive to commute to work). Telecommuting will begin to expand rapidly. Trains will become the mode of national transportation (as it used to be) as the price of flying becomes prohibitive. Families will begin to migrate southward as the price of heating northern homes in the winter is too pricey. Cheap everyday items that are comprised of plastic will go away because of the rising price to produce them (plastic is derived from oil). And this is just the beginning of a huge and overwhelming domino effect that our way of life will undergo in the years to come.

Steiner, an engineer by training before turning to journalism, sees how this simple but constant rise in oil and gas prices will totally re-structure our lifestyle. But what may be surprising to readers is that all of these changes may not be negative — but actually will usher in some new and very promising aspects of our society. Steiner will probe how the liberation of technology and innovation, triggered by climbing gas prices, will change our lives.

Christopher Steiner is a civil engineer and a staff writer at Forbes who regularly reports on energy, technology and innovative entrepreneurs. Before his first reporting job at the Chicago Tribune, Steiner worked as a civil-environmental engineer in San Francisco and Park City, Utah.


Listen to the Steiner interview here

July 28, 2009
An interview with Fred Kaplan the author of 1959: The Year Everything Changed.

It was the year of the microchip, the birth-control pill, the space race, and the computer revolution; the rise of Pop art, free jazz, "sick comics," the New Journalism, and indie films; the emergence of Castro, Malcolm X, and personal superpower diplomacy; the beginnings of Motown, Happenings, and the Generation Gap-all bursting against the backdrop of the Cold War, the fallout-shelter craze, and the first American casualties of the war in Vietnam.

It was a year when the shockwaves of the new ripped the seams of daily life, when humanity stepped into the cosmos and commandeered the conception of human life, when the world shrank but the knowledge needed to thrive in it expanded exponentially, when outsiders became insiders, when categories were blurred and taboos trampled, when we crossed into a "new frontier" that offered the twin prospects of infinite possibilities and instant annihilation-a frontier that we continue to explore exactly fifty years later, at an eerily similar turning point.

Kaplan chronicles this vital, overlooked year that set the world as we know it in motion. Drawing on original research, including untapped archives and interviews with major figures of the time, Kaplan pieces together the vast, untold story of a civilization in flux-and paints vivid portraits of the men and women whose creative energies, ideas, and inventions paved the way for the new era. They include:

Fred Kaplan writes the "War Stories" column in Slate, contributes frequently to the New York Times' Arts & Leisure section, and blogs about jazz for Stereophile. A Pulitzer Prize winning former Boston Globe reporter who covered the Pentagon and post-Soviet Moscow, he has also written for the New Yorker, New York, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, and other publications. He is also the author of Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power.


Listen to the Kaplan interview here

July 21, 2009
An interview with Ellen Ruppel Shell the author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture.

From the shuttered factories of the rust belt to the look-alike strip malls of the sun belt — and almost everywhere in between — America has been transformed by its relentless fixation on low price. This pervasive yet little examined obsession is arguably the most powerful and devastating market force of our time—the engine of globalization, outsourcing, planned obsolescence, and economic instability in an increasingly unsettled world.

Low price is so alluring that we may have forgotten how thoroughly we once distrusted it. Ellen Ruppel Shell traces the birth of the bargain as we know it from the Industrial Revolution to the assembly line and beyond, homing in on a number of colorful characters, such as Gene Verkauf (his name is Yiddish for “to sell”), founder of E. J. Korvette, the discount chain that helped wean customers off traditional notions of value. The rise of the chain store in post–Depression America led to the extolling of convenience over quality, and big-box retailers completed the reeducation of the American consumer by making them prize low price in the way they once prized durability and craftsmanship.

Ellen Ruppel Shell is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly magazine and has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Time, Discover, Seed, and dozens of other national publications. She is the author, most recently, of The Hungry Gene, which was published in six languages. She is a professor of journalism at Boston University, where she codirects the graduate program in science journalism.


Listen to the Shell interview here

July 14, 2009
An interview with Steve Early the author of Embedded with Organized Labor: Journalistic Reflections on the Class War at Home.

Collected for the first time, the essays that comprise Embedded With Organized Labor present a unique and informed perspective on the class war at home from a longtime organizer and “participatory labor journalist.” Steve Early tackles the most pressing issues facing unions today and describes how workers have organized successfully, on the job and in the community, in the face of employer opposition now and in the past.

This wide–ranging collection deals with the dilemmas of union radicalism, the obstacles to institutional change within organized labor, and strategies for securing workers’ rights in the new global economy. It also addresses questions hotly debated among union activists and friends of labor, including workers’ rights as human rights, new forms of worker organization such as worker centers, union democracy, cross–border solidarity, race, gender, and ethnic divisions in the working class, and the lessons of labor history.

Steve Early is a labor journalist and lawyer based in Boston.


Listen to the Early interview here

June 30, 2009
An interview with Mark Ellingsen author of Sin Bravely: A Joyful Alternative to the Purpose-Driven Life.

Ellingsen demonstrates that awareness of sin is shown to lead to freedom and joy, as the pressure is removed to do and be good all the time. The book's other primary aim is to flesh out an alternative approach to life to Rick Warren's and the dominant American Christian vision. This alternative, life of brave sinning, is rooted in the worldview of the Protestant Reformation (esp. of Martin Luther). When people sin bravely, believing everything done is done in sin, people can get out of the way and recognize that all the good done is done by God despite individual seedy motives. This awareness leads to freedom and joy, since the pressure is now removed to do and be good. In addition, total dependence on God entails a self-forgetfulness that leads to happiness.

The bolder one acknowledge's their sin, in failing to take credit for the good done, the more focused on God the individual becomes. Correspondingly this self-forgetful lifestyle is a promising counter-cultural alternative to the cultural Narcissism which so dominates in many segments of contemporary American society. Ellingsen provides practical ways to sharpen these insights, to 'own' them. He aims to clarify why the lifestyle of brave sinning and total dependence on God lead to happiness, with an emphasis on current neurobiological research on happiness and brain function. Ellingsen, then, demonstrates both the how and why brave sinning leads to joy, while in so doing offers readers practical advice on living this way.

Mark Ellingsen is Associate Professor of Church History at the Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta.


Listen to the Ellingsen interview here

June 23, 2009
An interview with Alain de Botton the author of The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.

We spend most of our waking lives at work – in occupations often chosen by our unthinking younger selves. And yet we rarely ask ourselves how we got there or what our occupations mean to us.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is an exploration of the joys and perils of the modern workplace, beautifully evoking what other people wake up to do each day – and night – to make the frenzied contemporary world function. With a philosophical eye and his signature combination of wit and wisdom, Alain de Botton leads us on a journey around a deliberately eclectic range of occupations, from rocket science to biscuit manufacture, accountancy to art–in search of what make jobs either fulfilling or soul-destroying.

Along the way he tries to answer some of the most urgent questions we can ask about work: Why do we do it? What makes it pleasurable? What is its meaning? And why do we daily exhaust not only ourselves but also the planet? Characteristically lucid, witty and inventive, Alain de Botton’s “song for occupations” is a celebration and exploration of an aspect of life which is all too often ignored and a book that shines a revealing light on the essential meaning of work in our lives.

Alain de Botton is a writer of essayistic books that have been described as a 'philosophy of everyday life. They include How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Art of Travel, Status Anxiety and The Architecture of Happiness. Alain also started and helps to run a school in London called The School of Life, dedicated to a new vision of education.


Listen to the de Botton interview here


June 16, 2009
An interview with Douglas Rushkoff the author of Life Incorporated: How the World Became a Corporation and How To Take It Back.

In Life Inc., award-winning writer, documentary filmmaker, and scholar Douglas Rushkoff traces how corporations went from a convenient legal fiction to the dominant fact of contemporary life. Indeed as Rushkoff shows, most Americans have so willingly adopted the values of corporations that they’re no longer even aware of it.

This fascinating journey reveals the roots of our debacle, from the late Middle Ages to today. From the founding of the chartered monopoly to the branding of the self; from the invention of central currency to the privatization of banking; from the birth of the modern, self-interested individual to his exploitation through the false ideal of the single-family home; from the Victorian Great Exhibition to the solipsism of MySpace; the corporation has infiltrated all aspects of our daily lives. Life Inc. exposes why we see our homes as investments rather than places to live, our 401k plans as the ultimate measure of success, and the Internet as just another place to do business.

Most of all, Life Inc. shows how the current financial crisis is actually an opportunity to reverse this 600-year-old trend, and to begin to create, invest and transact directly rather than outsourcing all this activity to institutions that exist solely for their own sakes.

Winner of the first Neil Postman award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity, Douglas Rushkoff’s ten best-selling books on new media and popular culture have been translated to over thirty languages. They include Cyberia, Media Virus, Playing the Future, Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism, and Coercion, winner of the Marshall Mcluhan Award for best media book. Rushkoff also wrote the acclaimed novels Ecstasy Club and Exit Strategy and graphic novel, Club Zero-G. He has written and hosted two award-winning Frontline documentaries — The Merchants of Cool looked at the influence of corporations on youth culture, and The Persuaders, about the cluttered landscape of marketing, and new efforts to overcome consumer resistance.


Listen to the Rushkoff interview here

June 9, 2009
An interview with John R. Talbott
the author of The 86 Biggest Lies on Wall Street.

Talbott exposes the lies and then exposes us to the truth of what it will take to rebuild our economy. As a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs, he knows firsthand how the financial system operates and how to fix it. As the “oracle” who predicted the housing crisis in his 2003 book, The Coming Housing Crisis, and called the election for Obama when the senator from Illinois was still the underdog (Obamanomics), Talbott’s revelations about how Wall Street really works are as clear-eyed and undeniable as his predictions and recommendations for our economic future are tough, sensible, and exciting. We may ignore them at our peril.

Talbott is the author of six previous books on economics and politics, including, most recently, Obamanomics: How Botton-Up Economic Prosperity Will Replace Trickle-Down Economics and Contagion: The Financial Epidemic That is Sweeping the Global Economy . . . and How to Protect Yourself from It. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Buzzflash.com, and Alternet.


Listen to the Talbott interview here

June 2, 2009
An interview with Sasha Abramsky author of Breadline USA: The Hidden Scandal of American Hunger.

Trapped in a triangle of the housing market collapse, rising energy costs, and an increasingly dysfunctional healthcare system, America's working poor are now battling an even more formidable enemy: hunger. This time, the battle is taking place well outside of the media spotlight, which has focused on obesity, another food-related epidemic affecting the poor.

Breadline USA tells the stories of Americans in all types of communities who struggle to put any type of food on the table come the end of the month when money runs out and the social safety net isnt there to catch them.

Sasha Abramsky is a freelance journalist. His work has appeared in The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, New York magazine, The Village Voice, and Rolling Stone. In 2000 he was awarded a Soros Society, Crime, and Communities Media Fellowship, and he is currently a Senior Fellow at the New York City-based Demos Foundation. He is the author of American Furies: Crime, Punishment, and Vengeance in the Age of Mass Imprisonment and Hard Time Blues.


Listen to the Abramsky interview here

May 26, 2009
An interview with Wendy Kaminer the author of Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU.

What happens when an organization with the express goal of defending individual rights and liberties starts silencing its own board? Lawyer and social critic Wendy Kaminer has intimate knowledge of the ensuing conflict between independent thinking and group solidarity. In this concise and provocative book, she tells an inside story of dramatic ethical decline at the American Civil Liberties Union, using it as a poignant case study of conformity and other vices of association.

Kaminer calls on her experience as a dissident member of the ACLU national board to illustrate the essential virtues of dissent in preserving the moral character of any group. When an organization committed to free speech succumbs to pressure to suppress internal criticism and disregard or “spin” the truth, it offers important lessons for other associations, corporations, and governments, where such pressure must surely be rampant. Kaminer clarifies the common thread linking a continuum of minor failures and major disasters, from NASA to Jonestown. She reveals the many vices endemic to groups and exemplified by the ACLU’s post-9/11hypocrisies, including conformity and suppression of dissent in the interests of collegiality, solidarity, or group image; self-censorship by members anxious to avoid ostracism or marginalization by the group; elevation of loyalty to the institution over loyalty to the institution’s ideals; substitution of the group’s idealized self-image for the reality of its behavior; ad hominem attacks against critics; and deference to cults of personality.

Wendy Kaminer is the author of many books, including Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today; I’m Dysfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional: The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help Fashions; and Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety. Her articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Nation, the Atlantic, Newsweek, and the American Prospect.


Listen to the Kaminer interview here

May 19, 2009
An interview with Captain Charles Moore the discoverer and prime researcher of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

In 1995 Captain Moore launched his purpose designed, aluminum hulled research vessel, Alguita, in Hobart, Tasmania, and organized the Australian Government's first "Coastcare" research voyage to document anthropogenic contamination of Australia's east coast. Upon his return to California, he became a coordinator of the State Water Resources Control Board's Volunteer Water Monitoring Steering Committee, and developed chemical and bacterial monitoring methods for the Surfrider Foundation's "Blue Water Task Force." As a member of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project's Bight '98 steering committee, he realized the need for and provided a research vessel so that Mexican researchers from Baja California could participate for the first time in assessing the entire Southern California Bight.

The Oceanographic Research Vessel Alguita and its Captain found their true calling after a 1997 yacht race to Hawaii. On his return voyage, Captain Moore veered from the usual sea route and saw an ocean he had never known, "there were shampoo caps and soap bottles and plastic bags and fishing floats as far as I could see. Here I was in the middle of the ocean, and there was nowhere I could go to avoid the plastic." Ever since, Captain Moore has dedicated his time and resources to understanding and remediating the ocean's plastic load. In this February 26 presentation for TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), Captain Moore demonstrates why it is imperative that plastic ends its life in a recycling plant, rather than in our waterways and oceans.

Captain Moore’s 1999 study shocked the scientific world when it found 6 times more plastic fragments by weight in the central Pacific than the associated zooplankton. His second paper found that plastic outweighs plankton by a factor of 2.5 in the surface waters of Southern California.

Captain Moore has now done ocean and coastal sampling for plastic fragments over twenty thousand miles of the north Pacific ocean, across 22 degrees of latitude and 50 degrees of longitude. His latest 7,500 mile voyage was featured in the November 4, 2008 issue of US News and World Report.


Listen to the Moore interview here

May 12, 2009
An interview with Andrew J. Bacevich the author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.

Bacevich identifies a profound triple crisis facing America: the economy, in remarkable disarray, can no longer be fixed by relying on expansion abroad; the government, transformed by an imperial presidency, is a democracy in form only; U.S. involvement in endless wars, driven by a deep infatuation with military power, has been a catastrophe for the body politic. These pressing problems threaten all of us, Republicans and Democrats. If the nation is to solve its predicament, it will need the revival of a distinctly American approach: the neglected tradition of realism.

Bacevich, uniquely respected across the political spectrum, offers a historical perspective on the illusions that have governed American policy since 1945. The realism he proposes includes respect for power and its limits; sensitivity to unintended consequences; aversion to claims of exceptionalism; skepticism of easy solutions, especially those involving force; and a conviction that the books will have to balance. Only a return to such principles, Bacevich argues, can provide common ground for fixing America’s urgent problems before the damage becomes irreparable.

Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of colonel. He is the author of The New American Militarism, among other books. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He is the recipient of a Lannan award and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Listen to the Bacevich interview here

May 5, 2009
An interview with Peter T. Leeson, the author of The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates.

Leeson takes us inside the wily world of late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century pirates uncovering the hidden economics behind pirates' notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior. Why did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a "pirate code"? And what made them so successful? Leeson uses economics to examine these and other infamous aspects of piracy while arguing that the pirate customs we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.

Pirates understood the advantages of constitutional democracy — a model they adopted more than fifty years before the United States did so. Pirates also initiated an early system of workers' compensation, regulated drinking and smoking, and in some cases practiced racial tolerance and equality. Leeson contends that pirates exemplified the virtues of vice — their self-seeking interests generated socially desirable effects and their greedy criminality secured social order. Pirates proved that anarchy could be organized.

Revealing the democratic and economic forces propelling history's most colorful criminals, The Invisible Hook establishes pirates' trailblazing relevance to the contemporary world.

Peter T. Leeson is the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism in the Department of Economics at George Mason University.


Listen to the Leeson interview here

April 28, 2009
An interview with Heather K. Gerken the author of The Democracy Index: Why Our Election System Is Failing and How to Fix It.

Despite howls for reform, the only thing separating us from another election disaster of the kind that hit Florida in 2000, and that almost struck again in Ohio in 2004, may simply be another close vote. In this lucid and lively book, Heather Gerken diagnoses what is wrong with our elections and proposes a radically new and simple solution: a Democracy Index that would rate the performance of state and local election systems. A rough equivalent to the U.S. News and World Report ranking of colleges and universities, the Index would focus on problems that matter to all voters: How long does it take to vote? How many ballots get discarded? How often do voting machines break down? And it should work for a simple reason: no one wants to be at the bottom of the list.

For a process that is supposed to be all about counting, U.S. elections yield few reliable numbers about anything — least of all how well the voting system is managed. The Democracy Index would change this with a blueprint for quantifying election performance and reform results, replacing anecdotes and rhetoric with hard data and verifiable outcomes. A fresh vision of reform, this book shows how to drive improvements by creating incentives for politicians, parties, and election officials to join the cause of change and to come up with creative solutions — all without Congress issuing a single regulation.

In clear and energetic terms, Gerken explains how to realize the full potential of the Index while avoiding potential pitfalls. Election reform will never be the same again.

Heather K. Gerken is a professor at Yale Law School, where she teaches election and constitutional law. She is a frequent media commentator on elections and has written for the New Republic, Roll Call, Legal Affairs, and the Legal Times.


Listen to the Gerken interview here

April 21, 2009
An interview with Kathryn Joyce the author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.

Fundamentalist Christianity may have lost some access to power in the last election, but it has long-term plans. Joyce introduces us to the world of the patriarchy movement and Quiverfull families. Here, in direct and conscious opposition to feminist calls for marital equity, women live within stringently enforced doctrines of wifely submission and male headship. Instead of raising independent daughters, these Christians advocate a return to keeping daughters at home — and out of college — until their marriage to a suitor approved by Dad. To counter reproductive rights, they eschew all contraception in favor of the Quiverfull philosophy of letting God give them as many children as possible — families of twelve and more children that will, they hope, enable them to win the religious and culture wars through demographic means.

Quiverfull is a fascinating examination of the twenty-first-century women and men who proclaim self-sacrifice and submission as model virtues of womanhood — and as warfare on behalf of Christ.

Kathryn Joyce is a freelance writer based in New York City. Her freelance writing and reviews have appeared in The Nation, Mother Jones, Salon, The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, The American Prospect, Search, Religion Dispatches, The Massachusetts Review, RH Reality Check, Newsweek.com, Alternet and other publications. She is former managing editor of The Revealer.org, a project of the New York University Center for Religion and Media, and currently writes and produces at the Revenue Watch Institute.


Listen to the Joyce interview here

April 14, 2009
An interview with Mahmood Mamdani the author of Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror.

Mamdani explains how the conflict in Darfur began as a civil war (1987—89) between nomadic and peasant tribes over fertile land in the south, triggered by a severe drought that had expanded the Sahara Desert by more than sixty miles in forty years; how British colonial officials had artificially tribalized Darfur, dividing its population into “native” and “settler” tribes and creating homelands for the former at the expense of the latter; how the war intensified in the 1990s when the Sudanese government tried unsuccessfully to address the problem by creating homelands for tribes without any. The involvement of opposition parties gave rise in 2003 to two rebel movements, leading to a brutal insurgency and a horrific counterinsurgency – but not to genocide, as the West has declared.

Mamdani also explains how the Cold War exacerbated the twenty-year civil war in neighboring Chad, creating a confrontation between Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi (with Soviet support) and the Reagan administration (allied with France and Israel) that spilled over into Darfur and militarized the fighting. By 2003, the war involved national, regional, and global forces, including the powerful Western lobby, who now saw it as part of the War on Terror and called for a military invasion dressed up as “humanitarian intervention.”

Ugandan-born Mahmood Mamdani is Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University and the author of numerous books including When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and Genocide in Rwanda.


Listen to the Mamdani interview here

April 7, 2009
An interview with Erna Paris author of The Sun Climbs Slow: Justice in the Age of Imperial America — an investigation of the story and individuals behind America’s refusal to acknowledge international law and an inquiry into the urgent role of international criminal justice.

At the end of the twentieth century, two extraordinary events took place. The first was the end of the Cold War, which left the world with a single empire that dominated global affairs with a ready fist. The second event was the birth of the International Criminal Court–the first permanent tribunal of its kind. The ICC prosecutes crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Its mandate is to confront impunity and demand accountability for the worst crimes known.
But on March 11, 2003, when the new court was inaugurated in a moving ceremony, one country was conspicuously missing from the celebrations. The government of the United States had made it clear that the International Criminal Court was not consistent with American goals and values.

The Sun Climbs Slow grapples with an emerging dilemma of the twenty-first century: the tension between unchallenged political power and the rule of international law.

Erna Paris is the winner of ten national and international writing awards, including a gold medal from the National Magazine Awards Foundation. She is the author of seven books of literary non-fiction, including The End of Days: A Story of Tolerance, Tyranny and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, which won the 1996 Canadian Jewish Book Award for History.


Listen to the Paris interview here

March 31, 2009
An interview with Russ Baker the author of Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America.

After eight disastrous years, George W. Bush leaves office as one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. Baker asks the question that lingers even as this benighted administration winds down: Who really wanted this man at the helm of the country, and why did his backers promote him despite his obvious liabilities and limitations?

Baker goes deep behind the scenes to deliver an arresting new look at George W. Bush, his father George H. W. Bush, their family, and the network of figures in intelligence, the military, finance, and oil who enabled the family’s rise to power. Baker’s exhaustive investigation reveals a remarkable clan whose hermetic secrecy and code of absolute loyalty have concealed a far-reaching role in recent history that transcends the Bush presidencies. Baker offers new insights into lingering mysteries — from the death of John F. Kennedy to Richard Nixon’s downfall in Watergate. Here, too, are insider accounts of the backroom strategizing, and outright deception, that resulted in George W. Bush’s electoral success. Throughout, Baker helps us understand why we have not known these things before.

Russ Baker has written for the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, the New York Times, the Nation, Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Esquire, and served as Columbia Journalism Review contributing editor. In 2005, he founded the Real News Project, a nonprofit investigative news organization. His exclusive reporting on George W. Bush’s military record received a 2005 Deadline Club award.


Listen to the Baker interview here

March 24, 2009
An interview with P. W. Singer the author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.

An amazing revolution is taking place on the battlefield, starting to change not just how wars are fought, but also the politics, economics, laws, and ethics that surround war itself. This upheaval is already afoot -- remote-controlled drones take out terrorists in Afghanistan, while the number of unmanned systems on the ground in Iraq has gone from zero to 12,000 over the last five years. But it is only the start. Military officers quietly acknowledge that new prototypes will soon make human fighter pilots obsolete, while the Pentagon researches tiny robots the size of flies to carry out reconnaissance work now handled by elite Special Forces troops.

Wired for War takes the reader on a journey to meet all the various players in this strange new world of war: odd-ball roboticists working in latter-day "skunk works" in the midst of suburbia; military pilots flying combat mission from their office cubicles outside Las Vegas; the Iraqi insurgents who are their targets; journalists trying to figure out just how to cover robots at war; and human rights activists wrestling with what is right and wrong in a world where our wars are increasingly being handed over to machines.

Singer is Senior Fellow and Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution. His first book Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry pioneered the study of the new industry of private companies providing military services for hire, an issue that soon became important with the use and abuse of these companies in Iraq.


Listen to the Singer interview here

March 17, 2009
An interview with Andrei Codrescu author of The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess.

The Posthuman Dada Guide is an impractical handbook for practical living in our posthuman world — all by way of examining the imagined 1916 chess game between Tristan Tzara, the daddy of Dada, and V. I. Lenin, the daddy of communism. This epic game at Zurich's Café de la Terrasse — a battle between radical visions of art and ideological revolution — lasted for a century and may still be going on, although communism appears dead and Dada stronger than ever. As the poet faces the future mass murderer over the chessboard, neither realizes that they are playing for the world.

Taking the match as metaphor for two poles of twentieth — and twenty-first-century thought, politics, and life, Codrescu has created his own brilliantly Dadaesque guide to Dada — and to what it can teach us about surviving our ultraconnected present and future. Here dadaists Duchamp, Ball, and von Freytag-Loringhoven and communists Trotsky, Radek, and Zinoviev appear live in company with later incarnations, including William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gilles Deleuze, and Newt Gingrich. The Posthuman Dada Guide is arranged alphabetically for quick reference and (some) nostalgia for order, with entries such as "eros (women)," "internet(s)," and "war." Throughout, it is written in the belief "that posthumans lining the road to the future (which looks as if it exists, after all, even though Dada is against it) need the solace offered by the primal raw energy of Dada and its inhuman sources."

Andrei Codrescu is an award-winning writer and National Public Radio commentator. His latest books are Jealous Witness: New Poems and New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writing from the City. The author of many essay collections, including The Disappearance of the Outside, he is the MacCurdy Distinguished Professor of English at Louisiana State University.


Listen to the Codrescu interview here

March 10, 2009
An interview Susie Orbach the author of Bodies.

Throughout the Western world, people have come to believe that general dissatisfaction can be relieved by some change in their bodies. Orbach explains the origins of this condition, and examines its implications for all of us. Challenging the Freudian view that bodily disorders originate and progress in the mind, Orbach argues that we should look at self-mutilation, obesity, anorexia, and plastic surgery on their own terms, through a reading of the body itself. Incorporating the latest research from neuropsychology, as well as case studies from her own practice, she traces many of these fixations back to the relationship between mothers and babies, to anxieties that are transferred unconsciously, at a very deep level, between the two. Orbach reveals how vulnerable our bodies are, how susceptible to every kind of negative stimulus — from a nursing infant sensing a mother's discomfort to a grown man or woman feeling inadequate because of a model on a billboard. That vulnerability makes the stakes right now tremendously high.

In the past several decades, a globalized media has overwhelmed us with images of an idealized, westernized body, and conditioned us to see any exception to that ideal as a problem. The body has become an object, a site of production and commerce in and of itself. Instead of our bodies making things, we now make our bodies. Susie Orbach reveals the true dimensions of the crisis, and points the way toward healing and acceptance.

Orbach is the co-founder of the Women's Therapy Centre in London and New York. A former Guardian (UK) columnist, she was visiting professor for ten years at the London School of Economics and is the convener of Any-body.org. She is a consultant and co-originator of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. The author of a number of books, including On Eating, The Impossibility of Sex, and the bestseller Fat is a Feminist Issue, she lectures extensively worldwide.


Listen to the Orbach interview here

March 3, 2009
An interview with William Kleinknecht author of The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America.

Since Ronald Reagan left office — and particularly after his death -his shadow has loomed large over American politics: Republicans and many Democrats have waxed nostalgic, extolling the Republican tradition he embodied, the optimism he espoused, and his abilities as a communicator.

This carefully calibrated image is complete fiction, argues award-winning journalist William Kleinknecht. The Reagan presidency was epoch shattering, but not — as his propagandists would have it — it invigorated private enterprise or made America feel strong again. His real legacy was the dismantling of an eight-decade period of reform in which working people were given an unprecedented sway over our politics, our economy, and our culture. Reagan halted this almost overnight.

In the tradition of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?, Kleinknecht explores middle America — starting with Reagan's hometown of Dixon, Illinois — and shows that as the Reagan legend grows, his true legacy continues to decimate middle America.

William Kleinknecht is a veteran crime correspondent for the Newark Star-Ledger. He previously covered the crime beat for the New York Daily News. The winner of awards from the Associated Press and the American Society of Professional Journalists, he has contributed to American Journalism Review, National Law Journal, and the Boston Phoenix. The author of New Ethnic Mobs: The Changing Face of Organized Crime in America, he lives in Glen Rock, New Jersey.


Listen to the Kleinknecht interview here

February 24, 2009
An interview with Garry Leech author of Beyond Bogotá: Diary of a Drug War Journalist in Colombia

The United States has sent more than $6 billion dollars to Bogotá in the past eight years as part of Plan Colombia, to help eradicate cocaine production and secure rural regions held by illegal armed groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)-Colombia's largest guerilla force-and right-wing paramilitary groups. However, despite significant media coverage of the Colombian conflict, there has been a remarkable absence of firsthand reporting about the situation on the ground. Foreign reporters rarely have the necessary protection to leave Bogotá, and Colombian journalists run serious risks if they report the whole story — with over 30 having been killed since 1995.

Independent journalist Garry Leech has spent the last eight years investigating in the country and has seen firsthand the conditions that have garnered international attention: widespread human rights abuses, collusion between government soldiers and paramilitaries, the effects of violent displacement and aerial fumigation on rural communities, and the consequences of American involvement in the region. Leech interviews high-ranking leaders and civilians on both sides of Colombia's conflict as he searches for meaning in the midst of violence, poverty, and devastation.

Garry Leech is an independent journalist, editor of Colombia Journal, author of Crude Interventions and Killing Peace, and coauthor of The People Behind Colombian Coal. A lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Cape Breton University, Leech lives in Nova Scotia.


Listen to the Leech interview here

February 17, 2009
An interview with Rose George author of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters.

Produced behind closed doors, disposed of discreetly, and hidden by euphemism, bodily waste is something common to all and as natural as breathing, yet we prefer not to talk about it. But we should — those of us who take care of our business in pristine, sanitary conditions. For it’s not only in developing countries that human waste is a major public health threat: population growth is taxing even the most advanced sewage systems, and the disease spread by waste kills more people worldwide every year than any other single cause of death. Even in America, 1.95 million people have no access to an indoor toilet. Yet the subject remains unmentionable.

George takes aim at the taboo, revealing everything that matters about how people do — and don’t — deal with their own waste. Moving from the deep underground sewers of Paris, London, and New York — an infrastructure disaster waiting to happen — to an Indian slum where ten toilets are shared by 60,000 people, Rose George stops along the way to explore the potential saviors: China’s five million biogas digesters, which produce energy from waste; the heroes of third world sanitation movements; the inventor of the humble Car Loo; and the U.S. Army’s personal lasers used by soldiers to zap their feces in the field.

With razor-sharp wit and crusading urgency, mixing levity with gravity, Rose George has turned the subject we like to avoid into a cause with the most serious of consequences.

Rose George is a freelance writer and journalist who regularly contributes to Slate, The Guardian, The Independent, and the Financial Times.


Listen to the George interview here


February 10, 2009
An interview with Will Bunch author of Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future.

Bunch unravels the story of how a right-wing cabal hijacked the mixed legacy of Ronald Reagan, a personally popular but hugely divisive 1980s president, and turned him into a bronze icon to revive their fading ideology. They succeeded to the point where all the GOP candidates for president in 2008 scurried to claim his mantle, no matter how preposterous the fit.

With clear eyes and an ever-present wit, Bunch reveals the truth about the Ronald Reagan legacy, including the following:

• Despite the idolatry of the last fifteen years, Reagan's average popularity as president was only, well, average, lower than that of a half-dozen modern presidents. More important, while he was in office, a majority of Americans opposed most of his policies and by 1988 felt strongly that the nation was on the wrong track. Reagan's 1981 tax cut, weighted heavily toward the rich, did not cause the economic recovery of the 1980s. It was fueled instead by dropping oil prices, the normal business cycle, and the tight fiscal policies of the chairman of the Federal Reserve appointed by Jimmy Carter. Reagan's tax cut did, however, help usher in the deregulated modern era of CEO and Wall Street greed.

• Most historians agree that Reagan's waste-ridden military buildup didn't actually "win the Cold War." And Reagan mythmakers ignore his real contributions — his willingness to talk to his Soviet adversaries, his genuine desire to eliminate nuclear weapons, and the surprising role of a "liberal" Hollywood-produced TV movie.

• George H. W. Bush's and Bill Clinton's rolling back of Reaganomics during the 1990s spurred a decade of peace and prosperity as well as the reactionary campaign to pump up the myth of Ronald Reagan and restore right-wing hegemony over Washington. This effort has led to war, bankrupt energy policies, and coming generations of debt.

Bunch is the senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and its former political writer. He has been covering presidential campaigns and conventions all the way back to Jesse Jackson's historic 1984 bid.


Listen to the Bunch interview here

February 3, 2009
An interview with Daniel Tammet author of Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind.

Owner of "the most remarkable mind on the planet," (according to Entertainment Weekly) Daniel Tammet captivated readers and won worldwide critical acclaim with the 2007 New York Times bestselling memoir, Born On A Blue Day, and its vivid depiction of a life with autistic savant syndrome. In his fascinating new book, he writes with characteristic clarity and personal awareness as he sheds light on the mysteries of savants' incredible mental abilities, and our own.

Tammet explains that the differences between savant and non-savant minds have been exaggerated; his astonishing capacities in memory, math and language are neither due to a cerebral supercomputer nor any genetic quirk, but are rather the results of a highly rich and complex associative form of thinking and imagination. Autistic thought, he argues, is an extreme variation of a kind that we all do, from daydreaming to the use of puns and metaphors. He explains how our natural intuitions can help us to learn a foreign language, why his memories are like symphonies, and what numbers and giraffes have in common. We also discover why there is more to intelligence than IQ, how optical illusions fool our brains, and why too much information can make you dumb.

Tammet is the subject of the 2005 award-winning documentary film 'Brainman' which has been shown in more than 40 countries. He set a European record on March 14th 2004 when he recited the famous mathematical constant Pi (3.141...) to 22,514 decimal places from memory in a time of 5 hours, 9 minutes. His remarkable memory, mathematical and linguistic abilities have been studied by some of the world's leading neuroscientists at California's Center for Brain Studies and the UK's Cambridge Autism Research Centre.


Listen to the Tammet interview here

January 20, 2009
An interview with Dacher Keltner the author of Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.

In a new examination of the surprising origins of human goodness, Keltner demonstrates that humans are not hardwired to lead lives that are "nasty, brutish, and short"— we are in fact born to be good. He investigates an old mystery of human evolution: why have we evolved positive emotions like gratitude, amusement, awe, and compassion that promote ethical action and are the fabric of cooperative societies?

By combining stories of scientific discovery, personal narrative, and Eastern philosophy, Keltner illustrates his discussions with more than fifty photographs of human emotions. Born to Be Good is a profound study of how emotion is the key to living the good life and how the path to happiness goes through human emotions that connect people to one another.

Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, director of the Greater Good Science Center, and coeditor of Greater Good magazine. His research focuses on pro-social emotions, power, and moral reasoning.


Listen to the Keltner interview here

January 13, 2008
An interview with Michael Haas author of George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes.

Eminent jurists, professional legal organizations, and human rights monitors in this country and around the world have declared that President George W. Bush may be prosecuted as a war criminal when he leaves office for his overt and systematic violations of such international law as the Geneva and Hague Conventions and such US law as the War Crimes Act, the Anti-Torture Act, and federal assault laws.

George W. Bush, War Criminal? identifies and documents 269 specific war crimes under US and international law for which President Bush, senior officials and staff in his administration, and military officers under his command are liable to be prosecuted. Haas divides the 269 war crimes of the Bush administration into four classes: 6 war crimes committed in launching a war of aggression; 36 war crimes committed in the conduct of war; 175 war crimes committed in the treatment of prisoners; and 52 war crimes committed in postwar occupations. For each of the 269 war crimes of the Bush administration, Professor Haas gives chapter and verse in precise but non-technical language, including the specific acts deemed to be war crimes, the names of the officials deemed to be war criminals, and the exact language of the international or domestic laws violated by those officials. Haas proceeds to consider the various US, international, and foreign tribunals in which the war crimes of Bush administration defendants may be tried under applicable bodies of law. He evaluates the real-world practicability of bringing cases against Bush and Bush officials in each of the possible venues. Finally, he weighs the legal, political, and humanitarian pros and cons of actually bringing Bush and Bush officials to trial for war crimes.

Michael Haas, has written more than thirty books, most recently International Human Rights: A Comprehensive Introduction (2008). A well-known political scientist, he played a key role in stopping American funding of the Khmer Rouge. His book exposing Singapore's many human rights violations is banned in that authoritarian country.


Listen to the Haas interview here

January 6, 2009
An interview with Wendy Chapkis co-author of Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine.

Marijuana as medicine has been a politically charged topic in this country for more than three decades. Despite overwhelming public support and growing scientific evidence of its therapeutic effects (relief of the nausea caused by chemotherapy for cancer and AIDS, control over seizures or spasticity caused by epilepsy or MS, and relief from chronic and acute pain, to name a few), the drug remains illegal under federal law.

In Dying to Get High, noted sociologist Wendy Chapkis (along with co-author Richard J. Webb) investigates one community of seriously-ill patients fighting the federal government for the right to use physician-recommended marijuana. Based in Santa Cruz, California, the WoMen’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) is a unique patient-caregiver cooperative providing marijuana free of charge to mostly terminally ill members. For a brief period in 2004, it even operated the only legal non-governmental medical marijuana garden in the country, protected by the federal courts against the DEA.

Using as a stage this fascinating profile of one remarkable organization, Chapkis tackles the broader, complex history of medical marijuana in America. Through compelling interviews with patients, public officials, law enforcement officers and physicians, Chapkis asks what distinguishes a legitimate patient from an illegitimate pothead," "good" drugs from "bad," medicinal effects from "just getting high." Dying to Get High combines abstract argument and the messier terrain of how people actually live, suffer anddie, and offers a moving account of what is at stake in ongoing debates over the legalization of medical marijuana..

Wendy Chapkis is Professor of Sociology and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, ME. She is the author of the award-winning book Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labor and Beauty Secrets: Women and the Politics of Appearance.


Listen to the Chapkis interview here



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