#59 Why the Human Touch Still Matters: Steve Hilton

When is the last time you called a big company or government agency and after two or three rings, a real live human being answered the phone and said "Hello, how can I help you?" 

From big data, automation, complex algorithms and giant corporations to massive government bureaucracy, we've lost the human touch.  Everyday life often seems increasingly impersonal.

 

Our guest, Steve Hilton, argues for radical change.  The former senior policy advisor to ex-British Prime Minister David Cameron has co-authored  "More Human: Designing a World Where People Come First."  The book is a clarion call for reform of government, law, education, welfare and business systems.
 
"I think one of the most destructive and damaging words in the entire world right now both in government and the private sector is efficiency, "Steve tells us in this episode. "In the name of efficiency really stupid and inhuman things are often done."

Find out what he's talking about and what fixes he has in mind... "More Human" and link to Crowdpac, where voters make a difference to how we run politics. 

We also interviewed Hilton about Brexit; to listen to that interview click here.

#3 Fix It Shorts. Should Britain Leave the European Union?: Steve Hilton

Would Britain face lasting economic and political harm if it votes to quit the European Union in June 23rd's referendum?  Our show looks at the case for Brexit.

Steve Hilton, one of David Cameron's closest friends and a former senior political advisor to the Prime Minister, is a leading member of the Vote Leave campaign.  He tells us in this episode that a bureaucratic, over-centralized EU has become far too entangled in British life and is incapable of reform.

Richard and Jim disagree on the best outcome for Britain and Europe.  They discuss some of the arguments for and against.

Note: This episode was recorded shortly before Thursday's tragic murder of British MP, Jo Cox. Several campaign events were cancelled after the attack. 

#2 Fix It Shorts: 2016 Presidential Campaign: Lessons From History. Sean Wilentz

How many times have heard somebody say that the political campaign has reached a new low?  How much worse is the 2016 race compared to previous elections?

We asked Princeton University Professor, Sean Wilentz, to give us a history lesson. 

In his latest book, "The Politicians and the Egalitarians" Sean makes the case for pragmatism, arguing that politicians serve the country best through the art of compromise.

 On this episode, he tells us that "nasty, slimy stuff" is nothing new in Presidential campaigns, using the wild rhetoric of 1828 and 1860 as examples.  But what is new this year, Sean argues, is hyper-partisanship, "where you cannot imagine the other side even existing. You want to obliterate them. You want to wipe them off the face of the earth." 

The SOLUTIONS start with us.
 How we talk about those we disagree with.  Are you gleefully vilifying the opposition?

  • Go beyond our information silos.  Read and listen to those we disagree with. allsides.com has daily examples, looking at the news from the left, right and center. Follow journalists who cover solutions.
  • Revitalize civil discourse. If you have a strong disagreement with friends or neighbors, consider setting up a living room conversation.  

Support politicians who are pragmatic and work for common ground.
Useful articles: "What The Decline of Partisanship Would Look Like" and"How Conservatives and Progressives Will Work Together Next Year."
 

#53 Medical Mistakes: The 3rd Largest Cause of Death. How Do We Fix It?

Medical errors are America's third largest cause of death. Only heart disease and cancer have a higher body count. 

A new report estimates that about 250,000 Americans die each year because of screw-ups in hospitals, doctors' offices and other medical settings.  In 2013, research by NASA's chief toxicologist put the number at as many as 440,000.

In this episode of "How Do We Fix It?", Pittsburgh-based lawyer James Lieber brings a passion for practical solutions to a widespread problem. James has spent more than a decade researching medical errors after his friend and mentor died from a prescription overdose following a lung transplant. Last month, his provocative and practical op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, "How To Make Hospitals Less Deadly", caught our attention. (Note: readers can get behind the Journal's paywall by pasting the link at news.google.com).

His recent book is "Killer Care: How Medical Error Became America's Third Largest Cause of Death, And What Can Be Done About It" 

Solutions:

  • Standard medical records.  All medical information about a patient should be available in the exam room with a few clicks. Despite efforts by Congress and the Obama Administration to reach this goal, many online medical records are on closed systems, unavailable to hospitals and doctors when they need them most. 
  • Structured handoffs. Miscommunication can happen during shift changes in hospitals or when a patient is transferred to a new room or different section of the hospital. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine suggested adverse events could be reduced 30% by structured handoffs.
  • Bring in pharmacists. In many cases, they have more up-to-date knowledge than doctors about how drugs interact with diet, age, disease and each other.
  • Get serious about infections. Adopt guidelines from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  According to the CDC, more than 700,000 patients become infected while hospitalized each year.
  • Reduce diagnostic error.  Improve communications between doctors, surgeons, nurses, pathologists and radiologists.

#1 Fix It Shorts. Solutions for Laws & Crazy Red Tape: Philip K. Howard

It's the biggest issue of the Presidential campaign that the candidates are not talking about: bloated government and the poor delivery of services.

From very long TSA airport security lines to the dysfunction at your local DMV, our interactions with government can be extremely frustrating.  Exceedingly complex rules and laws make things even worse. 

For decades, Philip K. Howard has been a leading voice on how to streamline government and make it work for all of us. His latest book is "The Rule of Nobody: Saving America From Dead Laws and Broken Government." He's the founder of the good government group, Common Good.

In this 12-minute episode of "Fix It Shorts," Philip gives alarming examples of how regulations have programmed officials and politicians of both parties to follow rigid rules that often leave very little room for human judgement.

Solutions:

  • Rules and regulations need to be radically simplified. 
  • Laws based on principles and goals rather detailed rules.
  • Sunset provisions for laws: they can be re-examined every five or ten years.
  • Founding father James Madison's warning about laws should be heeded. They must not be "so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood."

"Four Ways to Fix A Broken Legal System." Philip K. Howard Ted Talk.

#49 Don't Freak Out About Terrorism: Fixes from The Security Mom

"Stuff happens," says homeland security expert, and mom of three, Juliette Kayyem.

The government has got to find a better way to talk about the threat of terrorism and natural disasters. Most of us need to have a better plan to prepare.

 

"We talked in a way when people would either tune out or freak out," says Juliette of her time as a top official at The Department of Homeland of Homeland Security. "We are all in this together," she tells on this episode of "How Do We Fix It?"

 Her new book is "Security Mom: An Unclassified Guide to Protecting Our Homeland And Your Home." The book is packed with common-sense ways to think about positively about a difficult subject.

Juliette's solutions:

  • The government shouldn't scare, but prepare. Pretending that America is invulnerable is both unrealistic and unhelpful to citizens.
  • Homeland security is not just about tragedy or terror, it's what all of us can do every day to keep ourselves strong, safe and prepared.  Families should have a "72 on you" plan. If you call 9-1-1 in an emergency, don't assume help will come quickly.  Have 72 hours of vital supplies, including non-perishable food, water, first-aid kit, flashlights and batteries.
  • "You can get yourself prepared for almost any eventuality in a very small amount of time," says Juliette. "You're going to feel better being prepared for something rather than nothing." 

#48 John Gable Do You Know How Biased You Are? John Gable of AllSides.com

"At the end of the day everybody is biased," says our guest, John Gable, founder CEO of AllSides. "You're biased by what you know. You're biased by what you know and you're biased by your entire human existence before then."

AllSides is unique in how it covers the news - displaying stories on its front page - from different points of view. It urges readers to "engage in civil dialog and discover a deeper understanding of the issues."

The left-hand column at AllSides has stories from liberal-leaning sites (New York Times, Huffington Post, Salon), the right column features conservative-leaning media coverage of the same event (Fox News, The Blaze). The centrist column plays things down the middle (USA Today, Christian Science Monitor).

"Part of what we do is help people understand that they are biased as well," says John.

With deep experience in technology and his former involvement in political campaigns, he understands how so many of live in a bubble - only listening to those we agree with. And why that's a threat to our democracy.

Solutions:

#46 An Environmental Case for Nuclear Power: Michael Shellenberger

With the approach of Earth Day, this show looks at the clean air, carbon-free case for nuclear power.  And it challenges the view held by many environmentalists that the only way to save the planet is for all of us to get by with less. 

Guest Michael Shellenberger is is coauthor of An Ecomodernist Manifesto, a which argues that human prosperity and an ecologically vibrant planet go hand-in-hand.  In 2007, Michael received the Green Book Award and Time magazine's "Hero of the Environment." His recent TEDx talk is "How Humans Save Nature."

Nuclear power is an anathema to many of his fellow environmentalists, but Michael tells us its a crucial form of energy that "produces zero air and water pollution... There's no pollution that comes out of nuclear plants." 

He says that we can boost growth all over the world and still set aside more land for nature and wildlife. Michael makes argument that humans, who have caused so much destruction to the planet, have the ingenuity to save it. 

 Michael recently started a new group, EnvironmentalProgress.org and is the author of the book "Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility." He calls on those who care about the future of the planet to reject the language of limits and embrace possibility and the aspirations of people around the world who strive to improve their standard of living.

#45 The Case for Children's Free Play: Lenore Skenazy

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You can't have too much of a really good thing.  That's why we decided to invite Lenore Skenazy,founder of Free Range Kids, to make a welcome return to "How Do We Fix It?"  She was a guest on an earlier show. 

Lenore is the passionate and playful campaigner, who says most American kids don't have nearly enough unstructured free time, when they can be curious and engage the world on their own terms. 

"Free time is unsupervised time," Lenore tells us. "It's not a parent sitting there saying 'oh, that was really good, or try it this way.' Sometimes you've got to do things that are really bad and try it the wrong way, because that's the creative process." 

Lenore says parenting styles have changed in the past 30 years, especially for many urban and upper-middle classes Moms and Dads. Risk avoidance seems more important than stimulating a child's imagination. 

"Think back on your own childhood. Your parents loved you and they let you go. And it's a new thing not to give children any freedom."

From the Free Range Kids statement of where it stands:  "Fighting the belief that are children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of the non-organic grape." 

#43 Joan Blades Part 2 - How to Speak With People You Disagree With

 

This episode looks at the simple, highly personal way that living room conversations allow people of different viewpoints to really hear each other.

A progressive activist, Joan Blades was deeply involved in starting MoveOn.org in the late 90's. More recently she has also worked on ways to encourage respect and dialog among liberals, independents and conservatives.  She is the cofounder of LivingRoomConversations.org.

In part one last week (episode 43), we looked at why Americans need to find new ways to speak about our differences, such as visiting websites with opposing political opinions, and having conversations that are not vindictive.

"It's actually really fun having a living room conversation," says Joan. "They're more fun than if you have a bunch of people around that you know what they're going to say.  We get to laugh about our differences once we understand what's going on."

Among the first conversations the group had was a discussion on climate and energy. "One of the problems progressives have right now is that if they run into someone who doesn't believe in climate science, they roll their eyes."  As soon as you do that, "you've lost your conversation," Joan says. "Nobody listens to anybody."

Here are some of the topics we raised in this episode: 

  •  LivingRoomConversations.org has simple for ground rules each meeting - encouraging participants to be curious, show respect and take turns.  
  • Listening to people is the best way to get people to listen to you. 
  • These conversations are not debates. Instead of winning, the aim is come up with solutions.
  •  LivingRoomConverstions.org guidelines are open-source. People can use what works for them.

#42 Neighbors Divided Over Politics: Joan Blades: How Do We Fix It?

This show is another response to the deep partisan divide in America - part one of a fascinating conversation with Joan Blades. 

Much of our political campaign has been dominated by personal insults, name-calling and dogma.  Voters have rewarded politicians who use anger and blame others for the country's problems.  Individual citizens are part of the problem and the solution. 

"We live with the dysfunction of partisan behaviors and believe we must and can do better," says Joan, co-founder of Living Room Conversations She makes the case for personal dialog across party lines, arguing that it's a key part of changing the way all of us think about politics.

A strong progressive, who co-founded the liberal activist group, MoveOn.org in  the late 90's, Joan makes the case for listening to those you don't agree with. 

"It's actually really fun having a living room conversation," she tells us."They're more fun than if you have a bunch of people around and you what they're going to say."

#41 Mark Earls Explains Donald Trump: Emotions & The Power of "We"

Let's face it.  Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have won far more votes than almost any "expert" forecast. 

The reason may well be that emotions and learned behavior from others play a far bigger role in our decision making than most of us realize. 

Our "Fix It" guest Mark Earls - the HERDMeister - is an award-winning British writer and consultant on marketing, communications and human behavior. In his latest book, "Copy, Copy, Copy," Mark shows how we vote and buy stuff by copying others - our friends, family and our neighbors.

"Donald Trump is "much smarter than we give him credit for," says Mark.. "He gets that people need to feel stuff rather than think about it." 

In his advertising work, Mark has used the lessons of behavioral science and marketing success to advise clients.  He shares his fascinating, if somewhat frustrating insights with us.

As voters and consumers we can learn from what his research tells us - even when he go to the supermarket or spend time with friends. 

"I would not recommend buying grocery shopping when you're hungry," Mark tells us. And...  "If I find myself in a British bar I tend to have a glass of beer and that's how it goes, unless somebody else around me goes 'ooh, a gin and tonic. I haven't had a gin and tonic for a long time'. So we both have the same thing."

Original Photo taken by Gage Skidmore: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/8566727275