#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.

#58 Our Problem With Polls. Gary Langer: How Do We Fix It?

Are opinion polls accurate?  Did they miss the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?  Do they properly measure America's increasingly sharp political and cultural divisions?  What's the difference between a well-designed poll conducted with careful methodology and a sloppy opt-in online survey?

Our guest is Gary Langer, an internationally recognized opinion researcher and longtime director of polling at ABC News. He has overseen and analyzed more than 750 surveys on a broad range of topics.

Gary has a passion for numbers and explains what listeners should know about polls.  He tells us that surveys taken at least a year ago - when many pundits dismissed Trump as an outlier - clearly showed that his views on banning oversees Muslim visitors and building a wall along border with Mexico had substantial support among Republican voters. Trump led the  GOP field throughout the lead-up to the primary season.  

"The news media have for far too long indulged themselves in the lazy luxury of being both data hungry and math phobic," Gary tells us.  "I would suggest polls are anti-pundit. A good quality poll ... holds a pundit's feet to the fire "

In this episode we get some vital takeaways on how well researched randomized polls are conducted and what changes have been made recently to ensure that a representative sample is reached.

#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."
 

#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.

#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: