#180 Thanks a Thousand. Gratitude: A.J. Jacobs

Just in time for Thanksgiving, we speak with best-selling author and "immersive journalist" A.J. Jacobs about his extraordinary gratitude project and brand new book, "Thanks a Thousand".

He decided to say "thank you" to every single person involved in producing his morning cup of coffee. "It turned out to be thousands of people," A.J. tells us. "I thanked the barista, the lid designer and the coffee bean farmer, but also the truck driver who delivered the beans. The idea is to show the interdependence and interconnectivity of our world."

We hear useful insights about gratitude, including tips that can be helpful and fun at Thanksgiving Day gatherings. 

This episode is a joint "simul-pod" with our friends at "Half Hour of Heterodoxy" podcast. Deb Mashek, Executive Director of the Heterodox Academy is the co-host  along with Richard and Jim. 

In our confrontational and troubled times, this episode is a reminder that cooperation plays a vital role in many of the most basic human rituals. "To make a cup of coffee, you need dozens of countries, and so it's partly an argument against this rise of nationalism and tribalism to show that we are so interconnected," says A.J.

Several books and lectures are mentioned, including "Enlightenment Now" by Stephen Pinker and "I Pencil" by economist Milton Friedman. A.J .recommends a worthwhile charity: Dispensers for Safe Water, an innovative low-cost approach to increase rates of household chlorination in East Africa.

#170 The Codding of the American Mind: Jonathan Haidt

At the recent funeral for Republican Senator John McCain, former Presidents and leaders of both parties paid tribute to his belief that America "is a nation of ideals, not blood and soil." In the farewell statement to the country he loved, Senator McCain described our democracy as “325 million opinionated, vociferous individuals.” 

The funeral was a rare, and perhaps passing moment of bipartisan unity and friendship at a time of bitter partisan division. 

In this episode, we look at some of the roots of political tribalism, why some young people are turning against free speech, and the need to "play our way to a better democracy." 

Our guest is social psychologist, Professor Jonathan Haidt, co-author of the highly-praised book, "The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation For Failure."

We discuss the ideas and research in his book: Why so many college students are anxious and depressed and how recent problems on campus have their origins in three damaging, destructive ideas that have become increasingly woven into American childhood and education:

  • What doesn't kill you makes you weaker.
  • Always trust your feelings.
  • Life is a battle between good and bad people.

We also examine constructive ways to deal with microaggressions, helicopter parenting, "safetyism" and the growing intolerance for opposing points of view that threaten the future of our national political discourse.

#166 Populism: Bigger Than Trump? Salena Zito

Was Donald Trump's election a one-off event, or did it represent a fundamental realignment of American politics?

Washington-based political experts wrongly called the 2016 election, and our guest, Salena Zito, author of "The Great Revolt", argues that they keep blowing it today. Democrats who ignore the concerns of those who went for Obama in 2012, but then backed Trump four years later, do so at their peril.

We examine the spread of populism that is reshaping American politics on the right and the left, and why it may have much more staying power than critics would like to admit.

Despite President Trump's weak approval ratings, the coalition that brought him to the White House is largely holding together. Salena drove many thousands of miles on back roads, speaking with hundreds of Trump voters in ten Great Lake swing counties while reporting for the New York Post, the Washington Examiner, and contributing to The Atlantic. 

She takes them seriously. From "red-blooded blue-collared" conservative populists to "rough rebounders" and "girl gun power" supporters, we learn why so many believe that Trump stands up for working people against powerful corporate interests.

"Modern populism today is a healthy skepticism of large things, big institutions, big government, big entertainment, big sports," says Salena. "This coalition isn't just impacting the ballot, its having an impact on how we shop and how we consume things."

In this episode we look at the roots of populism, but also take a skeptical view of its future.

#163 The High Cost of America First: James Bacchus

President Trump has withdrawn from international agreements, criticized NATO, The European Union, and attacked the policies of Canada, Mexico, Britain, France and Germany-- all traditional allies. He praised President Putin, and continues to sow chaos in the international trading system, reportedly threatening to pull the U.S. out of the World Trade Organization-- W.T.O.

This last step, above all, could have the most serious impact on the American economy, damaging businesses, destroying jobs, and weakening U.S. influence around the world.

In this episode, we look at solutions for climate change, sustainable growth, the need for smarter international co-operation, and the reason why the W.T.O. is so crucial to the future of the global trading system. 

Our guest is former Florida Congressman James Bacchus, Director of the Center for Global Economic and Environmental Opportunity at the University of Central Florida. He was twice the chief judge of the highest court of world trade at the W.T.O. in Geneva, Switzerland.

Jim's new book is "The Willing World. Shaping and Sharing a Sustainable Global Prosperity."

"I believe our President is a pessimist," he says. "He doesn't really believe in America or the American people, despite all he says about putting America first."