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Now displaying: February, 2018

Welcome to the WhoWhatWhy Podcast.

Feb 26, 2018

The US government is currently holding about 400,000 men and women in a patchwork of immigration prisons. Some are kept in corporate facilities that are guaranteed a minimum number of prisoners daily; others are in cells leased from county jails and other lockups.

 Carlos Hidalgo has spent two stretches at California’s Adelanto Detention Facility, where he witnessed food with maggots, guards having sex with inmates, easy access to drugs, and difficult access to legal counsel and family members. It’s an eye-opening look at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prisons in America today.

 In this WhoWhatWhy podcast, Hidalgo also reports that ICE guards have little training, and says they are more like mall cops than professional prison guards. With a population ranging from serious felons to undocumented people with a DUI or minor violation, the guards are outnumbered and unable to break up fights between prisoners.

 And he tells of the time he spent in solitary confinement for helping others with legal papers and organizing a hunger strike over food and other issues.

Related:The Hidden Truth About Mass Incarceration

Related:Youth Jailed at Age 16 for Years With No Trial, Kills Self — Who’s Responsible

Related: Radio Who: Many Prisoners Say They are Innocent. Some Truly Are

Related: TVWhoWhatWhy: Russ Baker Talks Private Prisons and Their Real Toll

Feb 23, 2018

The traditional American notion of almost absolute freedom of speech may have run its course.

Journalist and academic Damon Linker says some Americans may be having second thoughts about what we’ve come to accept as free speech. In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, he talks to Jeff Schechtman about his recent analysis that found free speech is under siege from all sides.

Linker notes what’s happening on college campuses, where arguments over diversity are polarizing students and faculty, and, on the political right, where state power is being marshaled to suppress “unpatriotic” speech. The result, according to Linker, is a potential constriction of public dialogue and a clear decline in democratic values.

Civics classes once taught that untrammeled freedom of speech would allow the truth to triumph. But does this work when propaganda, multiplied many fold by social media, drowns out other voices in a blare of noise?

In his conversation with Schechtman, Linker digs deep into the many complexities of the issue and what the current situation portends for the future of democracy.

Feb 21, 2018

Coleen Rowley is a former FBI special agent whose bravery as a whistleblower exposed many of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures. She was named one of Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. This week she talks with Jeff Schechtman about the recent shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

 Rowley accentuates two problems with the FBI. One, that local threats — even in high schools — are not the province of the FBI. It would, however, have been the bureau’s job to make sure that local law enforcement was aware of the tips it received.

 The second problem she identifies is that too much information is coming into the bureau. Ever since 9/11, and particularly since the revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden, we know that giant sweeps of “national security data” are producing more information than the government can process, no matter how many analysts are employed. She claims that, at this moment, there may be over one hundred million names on a government watch list.

 Rowley’s biggest concern, though, is what she sees as the US culture of violence. More than 17 years of perpetual war has left Americans psychologically bruised, and this is putting their safety at risk.

 In this week’s podcast she points out that military service is emerging as something that is significantly correlated with — if not a cause of — America’s dramatic increase in mass shootings. Nikolas Cruz’s ROTC experience may be related to this very idea.

Feb 16, 2018

To understand the plundering of Iraq’s oil wealth, we have to look first at the original sin of the invasion itself. Blueprints showing how oil could help rebuild the country were drawn up post Desert Storm in the 1990s and resurrected in 2003. It never happened.  

 

Journalist Erin Banco explains why, as she talks to Jeff Schechtman in this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast. She laments the dashed hopes of the Kurds and the Iraqi people. She explains the hapless actions of the Bush and Obama administrations, the real role of big oil and the damage done by tribal rivalries in Iraq.

 

She tells the story of the Talibani and the Barzani families, and how they got rich along with oil company executives, government staffers and political parties. Meanwhile, the Iraqi people, who knew very little about what was happening, ended up with virtually nothing.

 

Banco says that for years Iraqi journalists have been killed in Iraq for even trying to report this story. Today, with entirely different players, the corruption and mismanagement goes on, and may be the keys to the Iraq elections scheduled for May.

 

Erin Banco is the author of Pipe Dreams:The Plundering of Iraq’s Oil Wealth (Columbia Global Reports, January 2018).

Feb 9, 2018

Andrew Keen is the Anthony Bourdain of technology. The author, entrepreneur and futurist has traveled the far corners of the world to see what works and what doesn't. He has seen the internet reflecting both the best and the worst of us, and concluded that we and our technology need to grow up.

 

In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, Keen talks to Jeff Schechtman about the next chapters in the digital revolution.

 

Keen reminds us that we’ve been here before. The digital revolution is not that dissimilar from revolutions and changes that preceded it. But “history is not an algorithm.”

 

To shape technology before it shapes us will take human agency to make the kind of changes that will allow us to define ourselves in contrast to our machines.

 

Keen outlines five tools to fix our digital future. Among them, we need to address inequality, jobs and education, he says, and we need to bring humanity back into the sciences. He admonishes us that, while our technological future may be global, Silicon Valley is not the center of the world. Important trends are happening elsewhere.

 

He also talks extensively about how consumers have been turned into a digital product, in what he calls “Surveillance Capitalism.” He argues that this business model cannot continue to work: we need to stop thinking of the digital world as free, and start paying for everything from the internet itself just as we pay for food, clothing and cars. We need to take responsibility for our digital future and not leave it to others. Finally, we’re left with the reminder that, as far as technology goes, the really important stuff is yet to come.


Andrew Keen is the author of How To Fix the Future (Atlantic Monthly Press, February 2018), The Internet Is Not the Answer (Grove Press, January 2016), and The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values (Doubleday, August 2008).

Feb 2, 2018

The shrinking role of facts and evidence-based analysis in American public life poses a threat to democracy, to policy making, and to the very notion of civic discourse.

 

This is the alarming conclusion spelled out in the RAND Corporation’s recently released 300+ page report provocatively titled “Truth Decay.” The co-author of this report, RAND political scientist Jennifer Kavanagh, is Jeff Schechtman’s guest on this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast.

 

The report’s authors compare what’s happening now in the public arena to four other historical periods when truth was under siege: the era of “yellow journalism,” the rise of tabloids and talk radio, the impact of television on news media, and even the advent of so-called New Journalism.

What the authors found, Kavanaugh says, is that disagreements over objective facts have never been so wide and so deep.

 

The RAND report examines the growing lack of trust in institutions, the erosion of civil discourse, the ever-worsening political paralysis and lack of policy discussion, and the disengagement of citizens from the political process.

 

While “Truth Decay”makes many recommendations about how we might unwind all of this, the report also constitutes a warning about the possible end of democracy as we know it.

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