To the Point

To the Point

A weekly reality-check on the issues Americans care about most. Host Warren Olney draws on his decades of experience to explore the people and issues shaping – and disrupting - our world. How did everything change so fast? Where are we headed? The conversations are informal, edgy and always informative. If Warren's asking, you want to know the answer.

Since March some 387 Boeing 737 Max jets have been grounded by regulators and airlines with no end in sight. Boeing profits have tanked. Last month the company recorded its biggest ever quarterly loss and deliveries are at their lowest since 2012. Boeing says it expects the plane to return to service by the end of this year, as it continues to focus on the plane’s software system, thought to be the cause of both plane crashes. Boeing’s crisis highlights a problem beyond flight safety. The aircraft manufacturer chose to prioritize big spending on CEO compensation and stock buybacks rather than reinvest profits on its employees, infrastructure and R and D. Last year alone, Boeing’s chief executive Dennis Muilenburg took home $30 in compensation and gains from options. Buybacks over investment; the financial strategy that’s great for shareholders but may well have cost Boeing the public’s trust.

Will mass shootings become part of America’s background noise?   That’s an ugly prospect raised by the deaths of 34 people this week in Texas, Ohio and California.

California’s relentless clean-air enforcer, Mary Nichols, has divided the automobile industry. After weeks of secret negotiations, the Chair of the State’s Air Resources Board has announced that Ford, Honda VW and BMW of America won’t go along with President Trump’s rollback of Barack Obama’s fuel-economy standards. Nichols claims it’s an “olive branch,” giving car makers the “flexibility” to clean up the air at the same time they continue to market vehicles that make the most money. Brady Dennis of the Washington Post calls it a “big deal,” even if Toyota, GM and 11 other companies revert to Trump’s new federal standards--at least for the moment. Alan Baum is a consultant for both the industry and environmental organizations. He says the four who made the deal with California have a slight lead on their competitors in developing the technology of the future, with China currently far ahead of them all. He says the western car makers are doing a poor job of educating consumers about the benefits of hybrids and electrics. Nichols’s history with the Air Resources Board goes back to the 1970’s. She was named Chair by Republican Governor Arnold Schwartenegger and reappointed by Democrats Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom. She made an international name for herself for years ago when she blew the whistle on Volkswagen for faking emissions tests on the diesel cars it sold for decades all over the world.

Once again it’s the race for the White House as Reality TV, with  20 performers focused on making the next audition. Are “bold proposals” politically risky?

The original purpose of cities was to bring people together. That was their function for thousands of years. Then came the 20th Century and the automobile, which, “blew cities apart.”

Teddy Roosevelt coined the term “Bully Pulpit.” Other presidents have used it to get the nation behind them. For President Trump, it’s an instrument of division.

Science continues to suffer attack from the Trump administration. Testimony on climate change and national security has been censored.

“False flag” reports, even outright deceptions, have led to some of America’s longest wars. New technology makes another disastrous mistake more likely than ever.