I hope everyone had a happy Passover, a happy Easter, or just a happy weekend. Great to be back and better knowing Stephen’s and Jon’s guests—although I assure you, I am still in the midst of freelance madness, editing and writing and then editing and writing some more. A little crazy, but basically wonderful.
This weekend has been relatively quiet, considering how super-heated the news has been recently. I myself cannot even guess what our favorite faux pundits will cover on Monday. Well, being surprised is a good thing, and there’s never any shortage of political madness to play with. And this week, as we all know, Stephen has a big guest: Michelle Obama! I’m really excited to see how she’ll do in the hot seat; my suspicionÂ is that she’ll handle it all very coolly and well, with her customary flair. As for The Daily Show, a favorite returns: Ricky Gervais is back yet again. I’m expecting the usual hilarity.
So onward to our guests!
Monday, 4/9: Bob Lutz
When Obama was putting his economic recovery act into effect, one of the industries that generated the most controversy was car manufacturingâand especially one-time powerhouse General Motors, now only a shadow of its former self. (Ask Michael Moore.) Should the auto makers get bailed out? Were they more or less deserving than the bankers who got their cash relatively easily, despite having done far worse things to the economy? And how did the General Motors and the other manufacturers get into this mess, anyway? Last year, Bob Lutz— once the head of Chryslerâs Global Product Development, executive vice president of sales at BMW, executive vice president at Ford, and vice chairman of GMâattempted to answer that question in the bestselling Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business. In his view, the money men, more concerned with counting pennies than building a good product, overtook the innovators who once designed automobiles that could capture Americaâs imagination. Lutz has been in and out and in again at GM, working for them from 1963-71; rejoining them in 2001 and retiring at the end of 2009 from his job as Vice Chairman, Marketing and Communications. In September 2011 he came back yet again.
He certainly has played an important role in the company: In 2008, just as the auto bailout was being angrily debated in DC, the then-76-year-old Lutz testified before Congress to help stem GMâs public relations damage. He ultimately resigned from the corporation because he felt the constraints of government regulation stopped him from giving the customers what they wanted. But during the time he held the post, he succeeded in getting GM and the other Detroit automakers the money they required to stave off bankruptcy. Curiously, though he does agree that cars should be fuel efficient and that electric vehicles are the wave of the future, he does not accept global warming as a reality.Â Here he is debating our own dear Neil deGrasse Tyson on the topic, with Bill Maher on Real Time. Really, who are you going to believe on climate change: an astrophysicist or an auto executive?
Lutz now runs his own company, Lutz Communications. Visit his website.
Watch him on Charlie Rose.
In 2010, he helped British carmaker Lotus promote its vehicles.
Lutz discusses his legacy in Forbes.
Tuesday, 4/10: Richard Hersh
Though it has been a while now since Iâve done it, I used to teach as an adjunct professor in New York area colleges. Some classes were better than others, but all too often I was left dispirited by two things: the studentsâ lack of cultural knowledge, and their inability to write well.Â Tonightâs guest, Richard Hersh, seems to share some of my opinions about the problems with our educational system, for he has co-written a book with Richard P. Keeling on the topic cleverly titled: We’re Losing Our Minds: Rethinking American Higher Education. Hersh believes that if we donât do something to remedy the problem, and encourage students to think critically and problem-solve effectively, we will have an economic, social, and political crisis.
Hersh has extensive experience as a high school teacher, college professor, and dean. His many posts included: President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges; President of Trinity College; Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at The University of New Hampshire (and the same at Drake University); Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Oregon; and Director of the Center for Moral Education at Harvard. These are top schools, so he has generally dealt with the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me of students.
Hersh is a senior consultant at Keeling Associates, a higher-education consulting firm.
Hereâs an article he wrote in The Atlantic.
Wednesday, 4/11: Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama is definitely the biggest âgetâ of the week, the buzz-worthy guest I can’t wait to see. Good going, Stephen! Americaâs First Lady certainly doesnât need much introduction. The Chicago-born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama attended both Princeton (major in sociology; minor in African studies) and Harvard Law, where she worked for the universityâs Legal Aid Bureau. Post-graduation, she joined the law firm Sidley Austin, where she met her husband-to-be, and later worked for both Mayor Richard M. Daley and was Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago. She ended up becoming a great asset during the presidential campaign and proved to have a pitch-perfect sense of how to present herself to voters. (Everyone remember her affordable, on-sale Gap dressâwhich cost a whopping $29.99? It sold out within hours of her wearing it.)
As First Lady, Michelle Obama has advocated for childhood heath, particularly to eradicate obesity. She established the âLetâs Move!â program to encourage young people to exercise, and has had an organic garden planted on the White House grounds, along with bee hives. Hmmmâinspiration for a âThought for Foodâ segment, perhaps? Of course, sheâs also mom to daughters Sasha and Malia.
Here is her official âElect Obama/Bidenâ website.
Visit her government page.
Follow the First Ladyâs much-admired style.
Like her on Facebook.
Follow her on Twitter.
She is known for her strong support for military families, particularly injured vets. She recently visited some former soldiers at the Fisher House in Bethesda, bringing along dog Bo.
Listen to a speech she gave to a girlsâ school urging them to get a good education.
She was in the TIME magazine 100 in 2011.
Thursday, 4/12: Ben Rattray
Ben Rattray founded Change.org, a website dedicated to making a difference. Basically, Change.org allows people to create and distribute petitions for various political and social causes. The petitions have focuses on a range of topics, from getting justice for Trayvon Martin to eliminating pink slime from school lunches to forcing Bank of America to drop unexpected fees. The site has nearly ten million members (of which I am one), but until now has not made very much money. It has, however, done exactly what it was supposed to do: create change and call attention to unfairness and inequality.
A graduate of both Stanford University and the London School of Economics, Rattray has been a government affairs consultant and he just won a â40 Under 40â award for progressive political entrepreneurship.
What is Rattray accomplishing? This article explains.
Read a Q&A with him in the Wall Street Journal.
Subscribe to him on Facebook.
Follow him on Twitter.
Along with Stephen, heâs a nominee for the 2012 TIME 100.
Watch a video of him discussing social change.
Hereâs his blog.
And now, letâs check in with our good friend, Jon Stewart!
Monday, 4/9: Tim Weiner
Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Tim Weiner reports for The New York Times, where he has primarily worked as a foreign correspondent in such hot-button countries as Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Sudan, and Mexico. He previously has covered such topics as âblack budgetâ spending at the CIA and the Pentagon. (A black budget is undisclosed money given to an agency in order to carry out work that it does not wish to be publicâeg. for weapons research or secret operations.) His newest book is Enemies: A History of the FBI, about the more hidden, often illegal, side of the agency.
Read the New York Times review of Weinerâs book, which they call: âan outstanding piece of work, even-handed, exhaustively researched, smoothly written and thematically timely.â
Hereâs the link to some of his articles heâs written for the Times.
Hear him discuss the book on NPR.
Read his article in Slate.
60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace just died, and Tim Weiner wrote his obituary.
Tuesday, 4/10: Elon Musk
If youâve ever bought anything with PayPal, youâve can thank Elon Musk, because heâs the founder of that company. But thatâs not all, because this combination businessman/physicist has also created Space.X , which aims to make space travel less costly and more reliable than ever, and Tesla Motors, which produced one of the first all-electric cars. Â Heâs won the Heinlein Prize TrustÂ award for âaccomplishments in commercial space activities.â
Musk has also established the Musk Foundation, a charitable organization that funds science education, clean energy, and child healthcare.
Like him on Facebook.
Follow him on Twitter.
Read his TechCrunch interview.
Space.X may go public.
Watch Elon Musk over at Space.X!
Wednesday, 4/11: Ricky Gervais
Well, I don’t have to tell you who Ricky Gervais is, do I? You all know The Office, Extras, and perhaps now Life’s Too Short—which is just ending its first season on HBO. Maybe you listen to his podcast. You’ve probably seen the Emmy and BAFTA winner cause controversy when he hosts The Golden Globes. He’s becoming one of the most frequent guests on The Daily Show, and one of the funniest.
Visit his website.
He’s got a new show debuting on Britain’s Channel 4 this week, and guess what? Mr. Gervais has somehow caused another uproar, as he’s accused of mocking the disabled. A defense against the allegations has been launched. The Daily Mail likes the series and has posted some teasers.
Thursday, 4/12: Esperanza Spalding
Just two years ago, Esperanza Spalding shocked the world and distressed Beliebers everywhere when she won the Grammy for Best New Artist over the Biebster. No one knew who she was, and now she’s famous, which may—although it so rarely happens—be exactlyÂ the result the Grammy voters should want. A graduate of the renowned Berklee School of Music, Spalding is best known for playing bass and she sings as well.
You can watch her latest video here.
Follow her on Twitter.
Like her on Facebook.
Hear her on NPR.
That’s it for this week, folks! Let me know which guest you’re most looking forward to!