The Hollywood Blacklist and the Classic Western ‘High Noon’

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, as anti-communist sentiment gained ground in the United States, paranoia and persecution swept through Hollywood. The House Un-American Activities (HUAC) began interrogating filmmakers and actors, accusing them of being communists or communist sympathizers. The president, Congress, the courts and the press all played a part.
Many who appeared before the HUAC were put on a blacklist that made it impossible for them to work in show business. Among the blacklisted was screenwriter Carl Foreman, whose 1952 classic western ‘High Noon’ is seen as a parable about the toxic political climate of the time.
Glenn Frankel revisits the film — and Foreman’s experiences testifying on Capitol Hill — in his new book, also called ‘High Noon’. “The blacklist movement stems out of a backlash by people who felt they want to get their country back,” Frankel says. “In those days it was [from] communists, and Jews and liberals. Today you might say it’s Islamic terrorists and undocumented immigrants.”

Fresh Air | 21st February 2017

The Pull of Putin

Why do populist politicians across the West want warmer relations with Russia? Tim Whewell travels from Russia to America and across Europe to unravel the many different strands of pro-Moscow thinking. Donald Trump is just one of a new breed of Western politicians who want warmer relations with Vladimir Putin. Most Western experts say that’s dangerous: an aggressive Russia is plotting to divide and weaken the West. But Trump and others seem to have tapped into a popular desire to reduce tension and discover what Moscow and the West have in common. Could Moscow now lead a “Conservative International”, promoting traditional social values and national sovereignty around the world? On the right, some see Russia as a spiritual beacon. Others, both on the right and left, simply think the threat from the East is much exaggerated – and are warming to Russia as a protest against the Western establishment. Maybe it’s time for a new way of understanding relations between the old superpowers.

BBC Radio 4 – Analysis | 16th February 2017

Usonia 1 – Budget Housing Proposition by Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright was a bombastic character that ultimately changed the field of architecture, and not just through his big, famous buildings. Before designing many of his most well-known works, Wright created a small and inexpensive yet beautiful house. This modest home would go on to shape the way working- and middle-class Americans live to this day. And it all started with a journalist from Milwaukee.

99% Invisible | 7th February 2017

Uncovering Wall Street’s Biggest Insider-Trading Scandal

The investigation of billionaire hedge-fund trader Steven A. Cohen. Sheelah Kolhatkar, the author of “Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, And The Quest To Bring Down The Most Wanted Man On Wall Street,” discusses her findings in how Cohen’s hedge fund, SAC Capital, acquired enormous wealth by using illegal methods, black edge, and how common such practices are on Wall Street.

DAVIES: You tell this book in part through the experiences of the FBI investigators and other government investigators. And you describe how when they started listening to conversations of people in hedge funds and traders and they talked so casually about trading this illegal inside information, it made them wonder – does everybody do this? Is this just the way it is? You worked in a hedge fund early in your career. Did it seem that way to you?

KOLHATKAR: …(Laughter) SAC Capital. But yeah – in fact, at the time, you end up in these jobs and whatever’s going on around you just seems normal, and you don’t even necessarily know to question it. And it was only later, looking back on what I had done earlier in my career as a hedge fund analyst that I realized sort of what it was. I was trying to get edge, too. I spent my days trying to sort of analyze our different investments and get information about them. I certainly didn’t venture into any areas that would’ve qualified as black edge, for example, but I didn’t really know the difference. And it was generally understood that you wanted to get the best intelligence that you could.
Illustration: Le reve by Picasso, bought by Steven A Cohen for $155m

Fresh Air | 7th Febryuary 2017

Trump’s Road to the White House

Investigation of how Donald Trump defied expectations to win the presidency. Through interviews with campaign insiders, the film based podcast examines how Trump rallied supporters and defeated adversaries.

“The only thing that is predictable is the unpredictability of Washington, D.C. from this point forward,” says Republican pollster Frank Luntz.

Frontline | 6th February 2017

Beneath the Financial Secrecy

Trillions of dollars are flowing through the world’s over 90 tax havens. This playground of the rich is growing rapidly. How do they do it?
A panel of expert economic writers examine some of the most significant financial exposes of our time, and discuss the challenges and dangers faced when pursuing justice.
Highlights from Griffith University’s Integrity 20 Conference, ‘What Lies Beneath’ 26th October, 2016

Big Ideas | 2nd February 2017

George Washington and the Hyper-Partisan Now

In 1796, George Washington gave his farewell address as he left the American presidency. His speech warned against the dangers of partisanship,

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

In this episode New York Times political correspondent Maggie Haberman joins Daily Beast editor-in-chief John Avlon to discuss how Washington’s views have held up or proven inadequate within the political context of the present. Avlon has recently published new book, Washington’s Farewell: the Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations.

Illustration: The ghost of George Washington chopping down cherry trees

New York Public Library | 31st January 2017

Human Instinct to Herd

The instinct to herd is hardwired into us. And while humans still might physically clump into groups, it does translate into behavior linked to financial markets, news consumption, restaurant-picking and Brooklyn facial hair decisions.
Michelle Baddeley – a professor in economics and finance of the built environment at University College London — tells how modern herding often follows from an information imbalance, real or perceived, in which a person follows the wisdom of crowds. The decision to join in, she explains, is often based an astute reading of risk; as she quotes John Maynard Keynes, “It’s better to be conventionally wrong than unconventionally right.” As a real world example of that, she points to the plight of the junior researcher, whose career is best advanced by serving up their innovative insights along conventional lines.
Apart from reputational damage control, there are pluses and minuses to human herding, Baddeley notes there are advantages to finding safety in numbers: “It’s a good way to find a hotel.” But there are pernicious outcomes, too, like groupthink, as individuals join thought groups that reinforce their existing world-view. And it doesn’t help, her research finds, that people are more likely to herd the less well-informed they are.
Baddeley was principal investigator on a Leverhulme Trust project focused on neuroeconomic examination of herding in finance and has observed dire consequences of this in financial markets, where pushing against the grain makes for a short career for anyone other than the luckiest professional stockpicker.

Social Science Bites | 1st February 2017