tv KQED Newsroom PBS May 27, 2018 5:00pm-5:30pm PDT
vu: next, a "kqed newsroom" special... richards: my motto now is, "start before you're ready." whatever new opportunity comes your way, jump at it. vu: ...authors speaking about everything from sexism in silicon valley... chang: the women sort of feel like, "this is where powerful people are, but they're damned if they do and damned if they don't." vu: ...to the role of religion in today's turbulent political climate. aslan: evangelicalism and the republican party have been married as a single force, and this is the culmination of that marriage, and perhaps it's time for a divorce. vu: hello. i'm thuy vu. welcome to a special edition of "kqed newsroom." on this program, we're revisiting interviews from our archives with dynamic, provocative authors. we begin with the politics of health care. cecile richards has been the president and ceo of planned parenthood for more than a decade.
the organization offers low-cost reproductive health-care services to millions of people across the country. one of those services is abortion, making the nonprofit a frequent target of conservative lawmakers who have threatened to cut off federal funding. richards announced in january that 2018 will be her last at the helm of planned parenthood, and she has a book out, "make trouble." it chronicles her stories of bucking the system and fighting for change from an early age. cecile richards, nice to have you here. richards: great to be back. thank you. vu: well, in the introduction in your book, you write right off the top practically, "for the first time in my life, i'm wondering whether my own daughters will have far fewer rights than i've had." which rights are you talking about, and why do you feel that way? richards: well, i'm obviously concerned under this administration and this congress at the effort to repeal women's reproductive rights, access to birth control. really basic, basic health-care rights is at risk, and that's, of course, the work we've been doing at planned parenthood this entire year is to fight back,
and we've been successful so far, and, of course, we've seen an outpouring of young women mobilizing, energized, running for office and doing all of the things i think we need to do. vu: the trump administration has done a number of things. it's rolled back contraception coverage. it's allowed states to defund planning parenthood. it's cut funds for teen-pregnancy prevention programs. what else is coming down the pipeline that has you concerned? richards: one of the biggest concerns frankly that we have is the kind of judges that are being put up into the federal judiciary now, some of the most extreme judges, some of them not qualified. vu: and the biggest fight right now seems to be over the nomination of wendy vitter to louisiana district courts. planned parenthood has taken out ads against her nomination. what are your concerns about her, and what do you think her nomination means for other bench openings across the country? richards: well, the concern about wendy vitter is... and, yes, planned parenthood has been actively opposing her nomination because she has some of the most extreme views even on issues like birth control, trying to link birth control to violent death among women.
she has not been rated qualified by the american bar association. she has no experience in the federal judicial system that would make her qualified. it seems that her only qualifications is that she's on the far right of the republican party. vu: and she supports the views of an anti-abortion advocate who says that contraceptives cause cancer. richards: and absolutely, and then we saw the hearing, you know, her hearing before the senate. she wasn't even willing to say where she was on brown vs. board of education. i mean, this is the kind of fundamental... this is a fundamental issue in this country, and so we're just concerned that this administration is putting very, very political nominees in the federal bench that are going to be there for a lifetime. vu: i want to also talk about the stories that you recount in your book. richards: mm-hmm. vu: you've had quite a life. your mother, ann richards, was the governor of texas. richards: correct. vu: the firebrand that she was. richards: yes. vu: your father, david, is a civil-rights attorney, and you write in your book that your dinner table was never really about eating. it was for sorting precincts lists,
so what's your earliest memory of being politically active? richards: well, i mean, that was the... i had an incredible childhood. i mean, my parents were into every movement that came through town -- the farmworkers, the women's movement. i think the most important moment for us, though, was when my mom got to run the first campaign ever of a woman who was running for the state house, sarah weddington who had argued the roe. vs. wade case, and as kids we all got to be involved, and i saw firsthand both how hard it was for women to run for office and how important it was and how exciting it was because she won that race, and then, of course, mom went on to have her own political career. vu: and one of the most notable moments of your career, i mean, we all watched it nationally in 2015, was when congress investigated controversial videos about planned parenthood's collection of aborted fetal tissue. no evidence of wrongdoing was found. richards: none. vu: was that one of the toughest challenges during your tenure at planned parenthood? richards: oh, absolutely. i mean, you know, fake videotapes that were used to try to damage
the reputation of the organization, we had five congressional committees investigating planned parenthood, more than investigated enron or the financial crisis, but we got through that, and i think one of the most important things about that hearing was it ended up being an opportunity to educate millions of people in this country about the incredible health care that planned parenthood provides every single day to thousands of women in america. vu: and yet you're stepping down at a time when many women would argue that planned parenthood needs someone with your experience at the helm. richards: well, i'm really proud of what we've done over the last 12 years to invest in a whole new generation of leaders all across the country, and, of course, i wouldn't be stepping down if i felt like that we were at risk. we are actually stronger today than we've ever been in our 100-year history. we have now more than 12 million supporters, which is twice the membership of the national rifle association. we're making a difference in states all across the country, and i'll be an avid supporter of planned parenthood for my entire life, but i think it's time for me to move aside
and make space for someone new. vu: the 2016 presidential election, as you mentioned, has energized many women, younger women, former housewives who now are running for office for the first time. they're becoming more politically active whether it's through community volunteering or actually running for office, and you have had a long history in your life of being very politically active. i mean, you protested the vietnam war when you were just, you know, in the 7th grade... richards: right. vu: ...and you were a union organizer for a long time after graduating from college, so what would be the biggest piece of advice that you have for women who are now becoming politically active? richards: well, i think just don't wait for someone to ask you to do it. just jump right in right now. i think so many women wait until they think they have the perfect résumé whether it's to run for office or run an organization, but this is the moment. i've never seen women this active, really, literally shaking the foundation of this country in every possible way, and i think that if we support each other, help women that are running for office,
we really can make an enormous impact not only in this november but two years from now as well. vu: and yet, when the job came up for planned parenthood to head it, you almost didn't take it. richards: that's right. vu: why? richards: well, i mean, that's what i talk about in my book. you know, i thought, "well, i've never done anything that big. it's so hard. it's...you know, i don't have the skills," and i think a lot of women hold back because they think they're not ready, and so my motto now is, "start before you're ready." you are, and, you know, don't overthink it. just whatever new opportunity comes your way, jump at it. vu: and those are good words to end on. cecile richards stepping down from planned parenthood, so nice to have you here, and congratulations on your new book. richards: thank you very much. thanks. vu: turning now to the culture of high tech, silicon valley is home to some of the world's most profitable and innovative companies who are vying to create game-changing products and services, but according to bloomberg tv host emily chang, the valley is also a place where gender inequality and mistreatment of women run rampant.
chang lays out her critique in her book, "brotopia: breaking up the boys' club of silicon valley." nice to have you here. chang: thank you, thuy, for having me. it's great to be here. vu: well, how stark is the gender gap in the tech industry? chang: so just look at the numbers. i mean, women account for 25% of jobs across the computing industry, 7% of venture-capital investors. these are the people who decide what geek gets to be the next facebook, and women-led companies get just 2% of venture-capital funding, so not only are they underrepresented, they're just not getting the money that they need to start these potentially world-changing businesses. vu: but it wasn't always this way. i mean, in your book you talk about women who played a formative role in the computer industry, women like ada lovelace, women like grace hopper. tell us about them. chang: in the 1940s and 1950s -- this is what surprised me the most when i started doing my research -- women played vital roles in the computing industry. they were programming computers for the military, programming computers for nasa, and then in the '60s and '70s,
as the industry was exploding, they were desperate for new talent, and so a software company hired two psychologists to develop a personality test to identify good programmers, and what they decided is that good programmers, quote, "don't like people." vu: hmm. chang: well, if you look for people who don't like people, you'll hire far more men than women. that's what the research tells us, and there's no research to support this idea that people who don't like people are better at this job than people who do or that men are better at this job than women, but it had perpetuated this idea of the antisocial, mostly white, male nerd stereotype that persists to this day. vu: and so that's why companies, you think, keep on hiring people who fit that stereotype? chang: so that test, for example, was used for decades by companies as big as ibm, and that stereotype came to sort of permeate not just the industry but computer labs and parents and families, and then it was repeated in popular culture. a lot of people told me, "well,
this stereotype was created by tv and movies." in fact, it wasn't. the tech industry created that stereotype, and it has perpetuated this idea, you know, that a very narrow group of people are good at this when, in fact, we need people of all backgrounds making these products because billions and billions of people are using them, men and women. vu: and in your book, you also cite another example of power imbalance by talking about the sex parties that happen in silicon valley. what happens at these gatherings? chang: in silicon valley, work and personal lives are very intertwined, and a lot of business happens outside the office, so whether it is at the bar or the hotel lobby or sometimes even in the hot tub. you know, i talk about an investor who has hot-tub parties at his house, and so there's a wide spectrum of social behavior that you see, and in many ways, these parties are a lot more about power than they are about sex, and it's a power dynamic that is completely lopsided. vu: i guess some people may argue, "well, these women are coming to these parties to have a good time,
and what is wrong with that?" chang: i spoke to over three dozen people now and several who have actually come forward to me since i wrote the book, men and women. you know, the men describe a situation where they're challenging social mores and challenging traditional morality, where the women sort of feel like, "this is where powerful people are," but they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. if they do attend these parties, they're disrespected or discredited. they may never see an investment, but if they don't attend, they're locked out. they're shut out of these important social gatherings, and, you know, some of the women i spoke to actually had to... felt that they had to leave silicon valley in order to, you know, just do business on a level playing field, and they decided to continue their businesses in new york. vu: it is a bit ironic, though, as you're saying all this, that people who pride themselves on disrupting things, that kind of environment is not really disruptive at all. some would argue it's very much the status quo, you know, with a lot of what has been happening in business.
chang: it's a tale as old as time, and i do think part of the problem... sexism exists everywhere, but part of the probm with the sexism in silicon valley is that this is an industry that prides itself on changing the world anbeing so progressive, and yet if you just look at the numbers, i mean, the representation of women is just so horrifying. yes. you know, there's sexism in hollywood. there's sexism in washington, but i would argue that in silicon valley, it matters more than anywhere because this is an industry that is changing our lives every day, controlling what we see, controlling what we read... vu: how we live, how we work, how we play. chang: ...how we get around, the games that our children are playing, you know, but i... you know, i'm an optimist even after spending two years writing this book. i believe that the people who are changing the world, who have solved all of these incredibly hard problems, they can change this too. if they can get us to mars and build self-driving cars and give us rides at the push of a button, they can hire more women and pay them fairly.
vu: and it's funny that you just brought all that up about, you know, taking us to mars and outer space. elon musk has been very critical of your book. chang: mm-hmm. vu: he has said that... for example, one of the sex parties you mentioned, he has acknowledged he was there, but he said no lurid behavior happened when he was there. he thought it was a company party. he said that your account was salacious, misleading, and you should be ashamed. how do you respond to that criticism? chang: that particular party, i never said, "that party was a sex party," but that there was behavior at that party that was very disturbing and mirrors some of the behavior that we see in some of these other environments, and i spoke to men and women who were at that party who felt uncomfortable, who described drug use, who described cuddling in the middle of the floor and one woman in particular who felt that she was pressured into sexual activity and who would not have been there if such powerful people had not been there. vu: mm. chang: and so i came into this as a journalist. i don't have an agenda. i couldn't make this stuff up,
and i uncovered some things that i found very troubling. vu: all right. well, the name of the book is "brotopia." author emily chang, thank you so much. chang: thank you for having me and shining a light on these issues. i appreciate it. vu: now to religion and politics. since taking office, president trump has enacted tough new immigration policies as well as travel bans aimed at restricting travel from predominantly muslim countries. in the fall of 2017, president trump retweeted three inflammatory anti-muslim videos posted by a far-right group in britain. that incident sparked an international backlash. i talked with reza aslan, best-selling author, religious scholar and a professor at uc riverside, about the intersection of religion and politics in these turbulent times. aslan's latest book, "god: a human history," explores the evolution of the concept of god. i sat down with him in december of 2017. so nice to have you here. aslan: thank you. nice to be here. vu: so we'll get to your book in a moment, but first i wanted to ask you about those anti-muslim videos
that president trump retweeted. you were born in iran. you are muslim. what's your reaction to that? aslan: i wasn't surprised by it. this is a president who has made anti-muslim sentiment the core foundation not just of his candidacy but of his presidency. he has brought the worst elements of the islamophobia industry in the united states, including members of actually southern-poverty- law-center-designated hate groups into the white house itself. this is who he is, and i think we should stop pretending otherwise for a moment here, and i understand the confusion that often arises within the media when confronted with these seemingly racist acts and rhetoric that the president routinely involves himself with, and we try to figure out why. why would he do and say these kind of things? and maybe it's just because i think the simplest answer is the right answer,
or maybe i've just been watching this too much, but the reason that he does things that seem to support racism and white nationalism is because he has proven himself to be a racist and a white nationalist. vu: and you've also not only written about president trump. you've written about his supporters. in an op-ed in the la times, you liken trump's supporters to cult members. aslan: that's right. vu: can you explain that? aslan: i've spent a lot of time around cult members. i've lived with cult members. i've studied cults for most of my life, and i can say with a fair measure of confidence that the kind of rhetoric that i hear from trump's inner-core supporters sounds very much like the kind of rhetoric that i hear from cult members. after all, president trump himself made this very clear when he said that he could shoot somebody on 5th avenue and not lose these voters, and that's precisely what we are seeing now. now, this particularly exists in a core element of his followers among the white evangelical base,
but you have someonelike fn, pretty extraordinarily, one of his evangelical advisors, saying that trump is receiving downloads from god. you have people like franklin graham, perhaps his greatest evangelical supporter, comparing him positively to prophets like abraham and moses and david. you have pat robertson saying that trump's authority is the authority of god, and anyone who refuses to obey it is disobeying god. this is not normal political rhetoric. vu: well, so where is this intersection of religion and politics heading, then? because if you look at the 2016 election, there was a cnn poll, right, and that poll found that 61% of white catholics voted for president trump. it was even higher among white evangelical voters. aslan: 81%. vu: 81%, right. so how has that role of religion changed in politics over the years? aslan: let's be clear. 81% of white evangelicals voted for donald trump. 67% of evangelicals of color voted for hillary clinton. these are people who believe the same thing, who have the same theology
but who have a different skin tone, so again, we can't keep pretending that race isn't the primary factor in so many of these discussions that we are having here. this is an issue among white evangelicals, and i would say that that's a good thing because what we are seeing now is an enormous amount of backlash from white evangelicals themselves, many white evangelical leaders who feel as though this is a day of reckoning, that for many, many years, evangelicalism and the republican party have been married as a single force, and this in many ways is the sort of culmination of that marriage, and perhaps it's time for a divorce. vu: you have spoken out against the travel ban as well, the one that applies to eight countries, including iran, where you're from, but what would you say to those who feel, as president trump does, that this is the right thing to do, to put some travel restrictions in place? aslan: these aren't "some" travel restrictions.
they're blanket-travel restrictions. in the entire history of the united states, not a single american has ever been killed on u.s. soil by any foreign national from any one of the countries that have been banned on trump's travel list. the u.s. military thinks it's a terrible idea. the intelligence community thinks it's a terrible idea. it's a joke to say that this is about preventing terrorism. this is, again, another example of what has become a demonstrable routine of racist actions by this white house. vu: all right. now to your book, "god: a human history," it's more a study of how god is conceptualized rather than a history of god. you say that most of us try to humanize god. what do you mean by that? aslan: well, it's this sort of natural impulse that we have that we project upon god our own emotions, our own personalities, our own characteristics, even our motivations, even our own bodies. we create a god that basically looks and acts,
feels and thinks like we do, and that's precisely why we have so many great religious conflicts around the world because really what we are doing is implanting in our sense of the divine everything that's good and bad about us, and so what i am advocating for iso reverse that process, to dehumanize god and try to think of god less as a divine personality and more as an underlying reality, as sort of the spiritual force of the universe. i think it would create a more deeper, more meaningful spirituality, but i also think that it could lead to greater relations and less conflict between religions. vu: and definitely much more about that in your book, and so if you're interested, definitely pick up a copy of "god: a human history." reza aslan, thank you so much for being here. aslan: my pleasure. vu: recently, we talked with the former head of the sierra club, carl pope, about his new book titled, "climate of hope." he coauthored it with former new york city mayor michael bloomberg.
in the book, pope lays out a vision for how individuals, businesses and local governments can battle climate change even when state and national governments won't. nice to have you here. pope: great to be here again. vu: well, in your book, you say that it's time for a new type of conversation about climate change. what do you think is wrong with the way it's being discussed now, and how would you like to reframe the conversation? pope: well, we have talked about climate change as this enormous problem which requires phenomenal sacrifice, and the conversation is, "who is going to pay the bill?" that used to be true. it's not true anymore. right now, climate change is an enormous economic opportunity, and the question is, "who is going to take the lead?" that's a different kind of conversation. vu: and you also point out that a lot of it has talked about very long-term consequences, not something that people can relate to now. pope: that's exactly right, and if you look, for example, the conversation we're having, people don't realize that many of the states which have done the most to reduce their carbon footprint are states like oklahoma and texas, which did it not because they had governors who cared about climate change.
they didn't, but because they had utility customers who wanted cheaper power, and wind is cheaper than coal. vu: and so there was a money-making incentive there? pope: and it was immediate. wholesale power rates in texas have been coming down significantly because we're retiring coal and replacing it with natural gas, wind and solar. vu: and, you know, much of the debate over climate change centers around doom-and-gloom scenarios, and you point out in the book that those scaring tactics don't really work with people. why not? pope: frankly, if you're trying to get somebody... if you're a rock-climbing coach, and you're trying to get somebody to do a pitch that is harder than something they've done before, you don't get them to do it by saying, "oh, my god. this is going to be hard. i'm not sure you can do this." no. you got to say to the person you're coaching, you say, "hey, this is like something you've done before, and i know you can do it, and you're going to have to stretch. you're going to have to work. you're going to have to be on." that's what we need to tell people about climate change. you say, "wait a minute.
we got rid of a class of refrigeration chemicals that were destroying the ozone layer. now, we have a class of refrigeration chemicals that are destroying the climate, but we know how to replace them with better stuff. we replaced the first set. we can replace this set." so we need to make it familiar and comfortable for people. vu: you also write in the book that the major contributors to global warming are buildings, right? that is the electricity we use in our homes, our offices, also transportation and the stuff we make -- steel, toys, furniture -- and so there are so many complex layers here, so what can i as an individual do? what are the top two things i can do to help fight climate change? pope: well, it depends on who you are because everybody has a different set of institutional connections. everybody is in part of... people are part of families. they're part of communities. they vote for school boards. they work for companies. they may teach students, and in all of those roles,
you have an opportunity to focus the conversation on, "how can we simultaneously make tomorrow better and do better today?" and everybody has those opportunities. you just have to look around you and say, "where do i have connection to other people, and how can i work with those other people to speed up the rate of progress towards better outcomes for the climate, which are also going to be better outcomes for making us wealthier and healthier?" vu: we have this american lung association report that just came out this week that says, "out of the top 10 u.s. cities with the most ozone pollution, eight of them are in california, including los angeles, sacramento and fresno," and at the same time we have a federal government that is rolling back quite a few provisions of the clean air act. pope: well, the trump administration is making federal policies horrible. it turns out, that doesn't have to matter that much. for example, let's talk about air pollution in california. i've been working on this problem for 40 years.
for 40 years, california has been trying to clean up the internal-combustion engine, and we've done really a remarkable job, and for most of those 40 years, washington was resistant. so most of the progress california made in cleaning up the car, which has now translated into national progress, was made by california without washington. we now recognize we can't do the job with gas power. we need to electrify vehicles, and that's how we're going to solve california's pollution problem, and california can take the lead and is taking the lead on getting that done. even though donald trump wants to pretend that electric cars aren't better than internal-combustion cars, they are. vu: how is the administration's policies, viewpoints on climate change, for example, affecting the way that environmentalists are doing their work? pope: what really matters is, is it affecting the way american electricity consumers behave? is it affecting the way american drivers behave? is it affecting the way american manufacturers behave? not so much.
they all look at the trump administration and say, "eh, he's going to be there for a while. he's going to be gone. we're investing in the future." there was a survey done of all the public utilities when trump announced, "oh, i'm going to bring back coal," and only one company out of 42 said that it would change their investment strategy. the rest said, "we're not investing for the next 3 years. we're investing for the next 20 years, and the next 20 years we'll be using solar." vu: local governments in california, new york city, for example, even colorado this week, are now taking the strategy of suing oil and gas companies over the costs of climate chang good or bad strategy? pope: that's a good strategy, and that strategy has now been joined by a conservative-libertarian think tank in washington, so we're beginning to see people coming in from the other side and saying, "well, if the government is not going to hold the oil industry accountable, individual citizens can." vu: all right. carl pope, thank you. nice to have you here. pope: great. nice to be with you. vu: and that will do it for us. as always, you can find more of our coverage on kqed.org/newsroom.
captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for sunday, may 27: the summit isn't confirmed, but u.s. and north korean officials are planning ahead. in our signature segment, can technology and training help reduce law enforcement's use of deadly force? and, why maps throughout history were drawn incorrectly, sometimes on purpose. next on pbs newshour weekend. >> "pbs newshour weekend" is made possible by: bernard and irene schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. sue and edgar wachenheim, iii. dr. p. roy vagelos and diana t. vagelos. the j.p.b. foundation. the anderson family fund. rosalind p. walter barbara hope zuc