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Podcast Review: NPR’s Up First

Host Guy Raz spoke to Tony Hsieh about his background and the ups-and-down of his business dealings during the 30-minute episode. Raz said the interview was one of his most difficult to conduct because he had to beg the millionaire businessman to brag about himself and his achievements.

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The rise of the late Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, an Ivy League businessman who graduated to become one of the leading sales and customer service minds in America, is a story of perseverance, resilience, and unfortunately great tragedy.

Over Thanksgiving we learned that Hsieh had perished in a house fire in New London, Connecticut. Reports indicate that Hsieh was on the verge of real danger dealing with drugs and alcohol. NPR spoke to Hsieh in 2017 and re-aired the interview on a bonus edition of the Up First Podcast Sunday.

Host Guy Raz spoke to Hsieh about his background and the ups-and-down of his business dealings during the 30-minute episode. Raz said the interview was one of his most difficult to conduct because he had to beg the millionaire businessman to brag about himself and his achievements.

“As Zappos was growing, we were also losing more money,” recalled Hsieh. “All of this was happening at a bad time in terms of the dot com crash back in 2000. Even if someone wanted to invest in an online company, the last thing they wanted to do was to invest in an online shoe company.”

Hsieh admitted that he was never a big fan of shoes, claiming to only own 3-4 pairs himself. “I’m actually not passionate about shoes at all, I’m passionate about customer service and company culture, so I could talk forever about those two things.”

As a self-described introvert, Hsieh said that his philosophy was to surround himself with people that were more extroverted than himself. Hsieh described his childhood living with his two parents who wanted him to practice the violin and piano. “I would get up super early and I would play back a recording of me practicing those things,” he said. “That was my way around that.”

He would eventually go onto college and graduate from Harvard with a degree in business science. Hsieh did not experience success immediately after graduating. He worked with Oracle as a low-level programmer. “I was there for just five months, right out of college and the actual work I was assigned to do was pretty boring, this was right around when the internet started.”

During his lunch breaks and after work at Oracle, Hsieh and his college roommate decided to work for web hosting companies, designing and setting up websites for small local businesses. “We contacted 100 of the best websites that we thought were interesting. We basically told them that if they put this little piece of code up on their website a little banner would show up on other people’s websites.”

The pair launched a site called LinkExchange which had over 20,000 participating web pages. Two years after its launch, the site had 400,000 members and 5 million ads rotated daily. Hsieh and his partner ended up selling the company to Microsoft for $265 million.

Zappos launched in 1999 with Hsieh coming on two years later as the CEO. In 2004, recorded nearly $200 million in gross sales, that same year the company moved from San Francisco to Las Vegas, Nevada. In the early years, Hsieh was funding the company from the sales of his own loft apartments in San Francisco. “In the early years sometimes, we had to lay people off just to keep the company going.”

Hsieh made another major deal that strengthened his portfolio. In 2009, he sold Zappos to Amazon in a deal worth $1.2 billion. “Amazon allowed us to be our own separate subsidiary, with our own separate culture,” Hsieh said. “We have been able to continue to do our own thing and our culture is very different.”

In the days before his death, Hsieh was reportedly having a difficult time with the isolation of COVID-19 and started using mushrooms and ecstasy. According to the Wall Street Journal he was planning to enter rehab to get treatment for his problems.

The podcast ended eerily with Hsieh talking about a conversation he had with a friend a few years back. “I was having coffee with a friend of mine and we were talking about a quiz or something. The question was, if your house was on fire and you could only save one thing, what would that be?”

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Podcast Review: The Rubin Report

The Rubin Report hosted by Dave Rubin talks to the former Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States Sebastin Gorka, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and journalist Jack Murphy.

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With President Donald Trump out of the picture, some believe the GOP has some soul searching to do as it tries to come to terms with losing control of the White House and the Senate. The Rubin Report hosted by Dave Rubin talks to the former Deputy Assistant to the President of the United States Sebastin Gorka, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and journalist Jack Murphy about the obstacles Trump faced during his presidency and what’s next for the MAGA movement.

Trump has reportedly entertained the idea of creating a third party, called the Patriot Party. The former president believes that the third party gives him leverage to prevent Republican senators from voting to convict him during the Senate impeachment trial.

Sean Spicer believes that if the MAGA movement is to survive, it cannot go the way of a third political party. “It would literally guarantee the Democratic majority going forward for a generation. Parties are bigger than ideas, they are about mechanics, they are about getting on ballots. We’ve seen this with the Green Party and the Libertarian Party, there is a reason we have a two-party system.”

Spicer said Trump’s true value to America was the authenticity he brought to politics. Gorka agreed, pointing out that the amount of people that voted for him in 2020, greatly exceeded the number of people who voted for him in 2016.

“Let’s remember one thing,” he said. “He received 10 million more votes more than he did last time. That was not because of Mitch [McConnell] or Kevin McCarthy, that was because of Donald’s message.”

White working-class voters increased their support for Trump last year. More surprisingly, Trump received the highest share of non-white votes by a Republican candidate in 60 years.

Journalist Jack Murphy described the MAGA movement as a phenomenon that bubbled up from the people. He also said that the “emergent network” that elected Trump is still here and still plays a role in politics today.

“Democrats acknowledge that,” said Murphy. “The biggest question I have is that is Trump still in charge of the GOP?”

Some Republicans, like Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, have been contemplating this question since the election ended.

“We have to decide if we are going to continue heading down the direction of Donald Trump or if we are going to return to our roots,” Hogan said during an interview. “The party would be much better off if they purge themselves of Donald Trump. But I don’t think there is any hope of him completely going away.”

“The GOP defeated Donald Trump while he was in office,” said Murphy. “I still see him battling the GOP, that is what the MAGA movement was all about, fighting back against the GOP and the establishment.”

Part of that establishment, Senator Mitch McConnell, asked Democrats last week to delay an impeachment trial for Trump until mid-February. McConnell has not officially announced how he would vote during that trial, but he did say that Trump “tried to use fear and violence” to stop a government simply because he did not like the outcome of the election.

What is next for the GOP is somebody that can bring the power necessary to circumvent the political parties and to capture the party the way that Trump did. “I would look for somebody in the future that is already bringing with them network power, somebody that already has their own built-in distribution system, and who has a brand,” said Murphy.

Republican voters remain overwhelmingly supportive of Trump. A recent Washington Post – ABC News poll found six in 10 Republicans believe the party should follow Trump’s leadership going forward, rather than chart a new path.

The Rubin Report is the largest talk show about free speech and big ideas. Whether its debate surrounding religion and atheism, foreign policy issues like immigration and terrorism, or big ideas like the role of government.

For a complete listing of Dave’s podcast or to learn more about The Rubin Report, click on this link.

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Podcast Review: Skimm This

On the latest edition of Skimm This hosted by Justine Davie, thousands of National Guard troops are in Washington D.C. this week as the world prepares for a transition of power. Jytte Klausen, professor of politics, Brandeis University, discusses the security breaches that led to the riots at the Capitol building.

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The attack on the U.S. Capitol during a rally hosted by President Trump raises questions about the safety of the upcoming inauguration. The security breaches experienced on that day brought some disturbing realizations to the surface leading to the resignations of the head of the U.S. Capitol Police and two other senior security officials.

On the latest edition of Skimm This hosted by Justine Davie, thousands of National Guard troops are in Washington D.C. this week as the world prepares for a transition of power. Jytte Klausen, professor of politics, Brandeis University, discusses the security breaches that led to the riots at the Capitol building.

Klaussen saidthat ever since several members of a Michigan militia were arrested after plotting to kidnap the state’s governor last year, she has anticipated more political violence. “The minute I was watching the footage of the storming of the Capitol building and noticed people carrying zip ties that is what I thought about.”

Another that became apparent during that fateful day was the lack of information sharing going on between the several law enforcement agencies that patrol the area around the Capitol. Reports indicate that there was plenty of intelligence that was available in the weeks leading up to the riots.  

“The lack of information sharing, the usual threat assessment mechanisms, police were not engaged, they were not meeting prior to the events,” Klaussen said. “I think we just need to say that this was a situation where all the information was there, but no upper hand picture ended up forming.”

Days after the Capitol was attacked, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund resigned amid pressure that he could have prepared his force better in the days before the attack. Sund pushed back against that assessment saying that he requested the D.C. National Guard to be placed on standby in case his forces were overwhelmed by protestors.

“If we would have had the National Guard, we could have held them at bay longer until more officers from our partner agencies arrived,” Sund said to the Washington Post. Sund said that six calls for backup during the riots were rejected or delayed.

To prevent further violence, law enforcement officials are considering designating groups that participated in last week’s attack, domestic terrorist organizations. The challenge in taking that step is that domestic terrorism is not a federal crime, according to Brette Steele, director of prevention and national security, McCain Institute.

“Here in the United States the Secretary of State is authorized to designate an organization as a foreign terrorist organization,” Steele said. “The charges for domestic terrorism in the United States are incredibly limited. For instance, if you use certain types of mechanisms like explosives, there may be a terrorism charge.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said they are seeing a lot of online chatter about several events centered on the inauguration. A rehearsal of the inauguration was cancelled Sunday because of security concerns.

If the federal government is going to designated certain groups as domestic terrorist organizations ahead of the inauguration, there are some advantages and disadvantages that are particularly noteworthy.

“The advantage is that once you designate a group as a terrorist organization, then being a member of that group and providing support for that group becomes a criminal offense,” Klaussen said. “The disadvantage is that sometimes it makes it harder to identify the groups because they go underground. This type of criminalization is particularly useless.”

The U.S. Secret Service is the lead agency responsible for inauguration security. The Defense Department will deploy up to 25,000 service members in Washington.

The Transportation Security Administration is on high alert following the events at the Capitol with several airlines implementing new rules.

Skimm This podcast breaks down the most complicated stories of the week and gives you the context for why they matter. You can find the podcast by clicking this link.

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Podcast Review: This Weekend With Gordon Deal

Nationally syndicated radio host Gordan Deal welcomed Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal to discuss the events at the U.S. Capitol on his most recent podcast, This Weekend with Gordon Deal.

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Last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol by hundreds of people purported to be supporters of President Trump and fighting against what they perceived was a stolen election, further divided a nation already battling massive unemployment due to a global pandemic and a contentious election that ended more than two months after Trump claimed widespread election fraud.

Nationally syndicated radio host Gordan Deal welcomed Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal to discuss the events at the U.S. Capitol on his most recent podcast, This Weekend with Gordon Deal.

Deal wondered if the tone of the debates the country is having about politics will change now that a group of people who claim to represent the president has carried out public violence. “I do think one of things that will happen here is that President Trump’s claim to be the leader of the Republican party going forward has sustained a big hit,” Seib said. “I think it’s going to be hard for a lot of Republicans to accept him as the face of their party.”

During the incident at the Capitol, a woman, later identified as Ashli Babbitt, was shot to death inside of the building by federal agents. One U.S. Capitol police officer also died from injuries he sustained while fighting angry protestors. 

Seib said given the injuries and the loss of life that is associated with Trump’s supporters that day, the GOP party is going to have a difficult time forgiving the president.

“Trump supporters basically breached security at the Capitol, vandalized the building, and sent Republican lawmakers into lockdown, including Vice President Pence.”

Seib reiterated that there might be a chance for a cooling down period after everybody steps back to get a different perspective on the situation. “Mitch McConnell was already arguing that in his comments about the election challenge before the mob arrived on the hill. It is not one of those things that people will not forget soon. It may take days, months, or years for this stuff to blow over.”

Deal wondered if President Trump was to blame for the chaos that turned deadly in Washington D.C last week. “He (Trump) sort of set the fire here, you have to admit,” said Seib. “He spoke at the rally near the White House, he said we will never concede the election, we will never stop fighting, and he told his supporters that they have been betrayed by the Republican party’s leaders.” 

Seib said people will inevitably blame the Trump administration for Wednesday’s violence and that the manifestation of that day will be around a while.

Seib, who has been the Wall Street Journal’s deputy bureau chief in Washington since 1997 said the violence that he witnessed in our nation’s capital was “pretty remarkable.” Seib has seen a lot of things in D.C. including the aftermath of 9/11 which he said was an atmosphere that he had never seen before.

“I don’t think anything that has happened since 9/11 has shaken people to the core, except for what happened on Wednesday. I just didn’t think that I would see the type of Democratic processes being disputed and stopped and a vice president being whisked into a lockdown to keep him safe from supporters of his own boss, the President of the United States.”

Every week, This Weekend with Gordon Deal’s podcast goes beyond the headlines with a look at stories, politics, and business news from the U.S. and around the world.

Deal’s nationally syndicated radio show This Morning, America’s First News is broadcast on 250 radio stations across the country. The show features news anchor Jennifer Kushinka and producer Mike Gavin.

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