The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

“A clear-eyed take on how liberal democracy fell.” Rave Reviews for Yascha Mounk’s The People vs. Democracy Are Already Rolling In

It’s only been out for a week, but already The Guardian, The New Yorker, Kirkus, and more are lauding Yascha Mounk’s The People vs. Democracy—an incisive analysis on why and how liberal democracy has broken, and what can be done to fix it— as one of the most important reads of the year.

And even better than positive reviews, it’s got people talking. Mounk’s interviews in Vice, New America, and The Atlantic demonstrate his ability to stir meaningful, optimistic dialogue about the state of government today: “One thing that I think we should learn is that we mustn’t cede ground, we mustn’t make some topics taboo in such a way that only the right gets to talk about it … I think of nationalism as a half-domesticated animal. I think what we need to do is try and domesticate it.” 


Why Young Americans Are Questioning Democracy


To book Yascha Mounk, or another keynote speaker on government, politics, and society for your next event contact The Lavin Agency.   

The Definitive Book on the Islamic State: Graeme Wood’s The Way of the Strangers Arrives Next Week

Graeme Wood’s The Way of the Strangers—a gripping and myth-busting study of ISIS—hits shelves next week. Wood’s full-length expose follows his electrifying Atlantic article “What ISIS Really Wants”: a key text to understanding the theology, psychology, and strategy of the Islamic State.

Wood’s “What ISIS Really Wants” rocked the world—it was the most-read piece on the entire Internet in 2015, and called “fascinating, terrifying, occasionally blackly humorous” by Steven Pinker. Now, threading together over a decade of journalism, Wood gives us The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State—a full-length release that takes him around the world to discover the motivations, ideologies, and delusions of a group that is as destructive as it is misunderstood.


You can read an excerpt of the book here, in The Atlantic. It traces the “long and troubling journey” of John Georgelas, a precocious yet underachieving Texas boy who became an ISIS convert—and who is now one of the group’s most important recruits. 

Graeme Wood is also a powerful keynote speaker. In talks, he weaves together his original research, interviews with scholars and jihadists, and personal reflections from his close, clear-eyed look into the dark heart of modern extremism. 


Here’s the full description from Penguin Random House, and advanced praise from early readers:


Tens of thousands of men and women have left comfortable, privileged lives to join the Islamic State and kill for it. To them, its violence is beautiful and holy, and the caliphate a fulfillment of prophecy and the only place on earth where they can live and die as Muslims.


The Way of the Strangers is an intimate journey into the minds of the Islamic State’s true believers. From the streets of Cairo to the mosques of London, Wood interviews supporters, recruiters, and sympathizers of the group. We meet an Egyptian tailor who once made bespoke suits for Paul Newman and now wants to live, finally, under Shariah; a Japanese convert who believes that the eradication of borders—one of the Islamic State’s proudest achievements—is a religious imperative; and a charming, garrulous Australian preacher who translates the group’s sermons and threats into English and is accused of recruiting for the organization. We also learn about a prodigy of Islamic rhetoric, now stripped of the citizenship of the nation of his birth and determined to see it drenched in blood. Wood speaks with non–Islamic State Muslim scholars and jihadists, and explores the group’s idiosyncratic, coherent approach to Islam.


The Islamic State is bent on murder and apocalypse, but its followers find meaning and fellowship in its utopian dream. Its first caliph, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, has declared that he is the sole legitimate authority for Muslims worldwide. The theology, law, and emotional appeal of the Islamic State are key to understanding it—and predicting what its followers will do next.


Through character study and analysis, Wood provides a clear-eyed look at a movement that has inspired so many people to abandon or uproot their families. Many seek death—and they will be the terror threat of the next decade, as they strike back against the countries fighting their caliphate. Just as Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower informed our understanding of Al Qaida, Graeme Wood’s The Way of the Strangers will shape how we see a new generation of terrorists.


Advance praise for The Way of the Strangers


“Indispensable and gripping . . . Graeme Wood’s quest to understand the Islamic State is a round-the-world journey to the end of the night. As individuals, the men he encounters are misfits, even losers. But their millenarian Islamist ideology makes them the most dangerous people on the planet.”—Niall Ferguson, senior fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, author of The War of the World


“Over the course of its short life, the Islamic State has inspired millions, thousands of whom have rallied to its cause in search of a glorious death. But why? Are its devotees nothing more than sadists and two-bit mafiosi for whom religion is a fig leaf and who will fade away in the face of military defeat? In this essential book, Graeme Wood draws on more than a decade of reporting to demolish these and other comforting deceptions.”—Reihan Salam, executive editor, National Review


“Graeme Wood is America’s foremost interpreter of ISIS as a world-historical phenomenon. In The Way of the Strangers, he has given us the definitive work to date on the origins, plans, and meaning of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization.”—Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief, The Atlantic 


To book conference speaker Graeme Wood for your next event, get in touch with The Lavin Agency, his exclusive bureau. 

What Does ISIS Really Want? Ask Our Newest Speaker, The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood

Graeme Wood’s Atlantic cover story “What ISIS Really Wants” was the most-read article on the Internet—the entire Internet—in 2015. In it, he delves deep into a group few of us truly understand. And in his keynotes, he asks—and answers—vital questions. What does ISIS actually want? Who are they? And how do they convince ordinary western citizens to take up their cause? 

For nearly three years, ISIS has been the face of evil for many westerners. But what do we really know about the group? Wood, in his viral article and forthcoming book, The Way of the Strangers (December 20) presents an inside look at one of the most misunderstood organizations in history. After all, understanding ISIS—strategically, psychologically, and theologically—is the first step in defeating it.


Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg calls Wood “America’s foremost interpreter of ISIS as a world-historical phenomenon”—but this expertise isn’t merely academic. An Atlantic national correspondent and a political science lecturer at Yale, Wood traveled as far afield as London, Melbourne, Tokyo, and Norway to track down ISIS converts—and what he found surprised him. Many were otherwise normal, middle-class individuals abandoning lives of privilege for promises of fulfillment. Through first-hand interviews with key players in ISIS circles, Wood paints a surprisingly human, vivid, and eye-opening picture of the Islamic State. Watch his interview with VICE, below, for more.


Journalist Graeme Wood on the Islamic State: VICE Meets


Beyond his work for The Atlantic, Wood has been a Turkey and Kurdistan analyst for Jane’s, a contributing editor to The New Republic, and books editor of Pacific Standard. His writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The American Scholar, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the International Herald Tribune


America’s newest enemy is at best an ill-defined one. But Wood, through his speaking and writing, shows us exactly who we’re dealing with. 


Look out for The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State, which hits shelves soon. And to truly understand ISIS—its structure, motives, and goals—book Graeme Wood for a keynote by contacting The Lavin Agency, his exclusive speakers bureau.

Trump Roundup: Ali, Fallows, & Francis

The Donald Trump-Ghazala Khan saga has evolved once again. Khan, the mother of slain U.S. military captain Humayun Khan, came under fire from Trump after remaining silent while her husband spoke at last week’s Democratic National Convention. “If you look at his wife, she was standing there,” Trump said. “She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.” Trump’s comments, seen by many as deeply Islamophobic, have stirred debates across the nation on patriotism, religion, and fundamental American values. And in recent days, three Lavin speakers—Wajahat Ali, James Fallows, and Diane Francis—have voiced their thoughts on the outspoken Republican candidate. 

Ali: “Supreme Brown Karmic Justice” 


In a recent CNN segment, the debate pitted diversity speaker Wajahat Ali against “Muslims for Trump” founder Sajid Tarar, who defended Trump’s comments as representative of the realities facing Muslim countries—a statement wholeheartedly denied by host Poppy Harlow. Supporting the Khan family in full, Ali had this to say:


“I love the fact … that there’s a supreme brown karmic justice: that a Muslim Pakistani immigrant American couple with funny accents and multi-syllable names, with mocha caramel skin right now are body slamming Donald J. Trump left and right, and they are the couple reminding all Americans ― Republicans and Democrats ― about our Constitution, about our freedoms, about our values, about our core values that are under threat if a demagogue like Donald J. Trump is elected. I love it.”


The full segment is embedded below, via CNN. 


Video: Wajahat Ali Debates Disparagement of Muslim Gold Star Family with Trump Supporter on CNN


Fallows: Which is Your America?


In his regular Atlantic column, “The Daily Trump,” national correspondent James Fallows took the Republican candidate to task over his heartlessness, invoking a statement from Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy at the height of the Army-McCarthy hearings: “Until this moment, I think I never really gauged your cruelty.”


“I am not imagining that even an episode as heartless as this will necessarily change any committed Trump supporters’ minds,” Fallows continued. “Although the accumulation of Trump’s offenses should increasingly shame the ‘respectable’ Republicans standing up for him … But it is important to document the starkness of the two conceptions of America that are on clear view, 100 days before this man could become president. The America of the Khan family, and that of Donald Trump.”


Fallows, always an insightful and informed political voice, has chronicled the presidential race extensively, both in “The Daily Trump” and longer-form pieces. To read more of his writing, visit The Atlantic


Francis: It’s Bigger Than Trump 


On a separate note, author and Financial Post Editor-at-Large Diane Francis argues that Trump’s rise to popularity is not a reflection of the man himself, but rather the result of an international pushback against globalization and trade liberalization. To Francis, “It doesn’t matter what stupidity, insensitivity or contradictions Trump makes or what he looks like or how much he boasts, lies and gloats,” he’s riding a wave of anti-globalization sentiment—and maybe all the way to the White House.  

If Hillary Clinton hopes to defeat Trump in November, says Francis, she needs to embrace Bernie Sanders’s populist appeal, and fast. 


To hire politics speakers like Wajahat Ali, James Fallows, or Diane Francis for your organization’s next keynote address, contact The Lavin Agency, their exclusive speakers bureau.

Clinton, Trump Winning Same States for Different Reasons: Derek Thompson in The Atlantic

In this morning’s Atlantic, senior editor Derek Thompson reveals a curious trend in the presidential primaries: where Hillary Clinton is winning, so is Donald Trump. Despite heavy losses west of the Mississippi, both candidates have won a stretch of 15 contiguous states—from Louisiana along the Gulf and up the Atlantic to Massachusetts. And in nine of 13 states where Trump has missed the mark, so has Clinton. But the reasons behind their respective triumphs couldn’t be more dissimilar. Thompson lays out the expected presidential race as a tale of two Americas: one of “charismatic doomsdayism” led by Trump, and another, of “optimistic incrementalism,” embodied by Clinton.

Where Hillary is winning over several vital demographics, namely minorities, the elderly, and the affluent, “the Donald” pulls his votes from other sources—mainly middle-aged, uneducated whites. The upcoming election, Thompson argues, will be a battleground of style, and “a referendum on everything other than policy—race, culture, and feelings.” In November, says Thompson, the vote may be more categorically binary than ever before.  

As a senior editor for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson writes incisively about economics, the job market, technology, and entertainment. He’s also an expert on millennials—perhaps the generation most pivotal to our 21st-century economy. What do they value? What do they buy? And how will our economy change and grow around them? In eye-opening keynotes, Thompson pins down the millennial psyche and tells you how to navigate the new generation of workers—in marketing, in the workplace, and in society—and why you should care.

To book keynote speaker Derek Thompson for a talk on marketing to millennials, millennials in the workplace, or the future of paid media, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

#AskASpeaker #3: Twitter Q&A with John Ibbitson

Last Thursday, October 29th saw our third #AskASpeaker Twitter Q&A! Our guest this week was political expert John Ibbitson: author of Stephen Harper: A Biography (2015), the bestselling The Big Shift (2013), and other essential books on the Canadian political landscape.

As The Globe and Mail’s former Queen’s Park columnist, a past Ottawa political affairs correspondent, and as former bureau chief in both Washington and Ottawa, Ibbitson draws on a long career and unparalleled experience in his must-read columns and landmark books. His latest, Stephen Harper, offers an insider’s look at how our last PM changed the country, for better or for worse. His particular expertise lies in being able to tie any trend, politically or economically, to any industry—making him an invaluable keynote speaker for all audiences or fields, in Canada or the United States.

In the wake of an incredibly unpredictable election, our Q&A was suitably crowded with commentary and queries. Throughout, Ibbitson talks on Harper, Trudeau, Mulcair, proportional representation, the future leader of the Conservatives, the Liberals’ support, and much more. Read the transcript below to get a sense of our half-hour conversation.

Now, we’re excited to announce that our next #AskASpeaker guest will be Kavita Shukla—the groundbreaking social entrepreneur behind FreshPaper, one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” and Fast Company’s “7 Entrepreneurs Changing the World.” Our chat begins on Thursday, November 12th, and will take place from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. EST. As always, please join in with your own questions. Use the #AskASpeaker hashtag, and follow @thelavinagency and @KavitaFresh.

With an acumen honed from years analyzing and writing on the most important issues of the day, John Ibbitson is one of our most trusted political authorities. To hire John Ibbitson for your event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Understanding the PM: John Ibbitson’s Stephen Harper Reviewed & Profiled

Political authority John Ibbitson’s latest book, Stephen Harper: A Biography, has rocketed to the centre of the Canadian political conversation. A high-profile review in The Globe and Mail and an interview with CBC’s The Current shed some light on a book that captures our 22nd Prime Minister in ways no other biography has.

Though one our most influential yet controversial leaders, Harper’s largely been a mysterious figure—often seen as guarded and reserved, even introverted. Speaking with The Current’s Laura Lynch, Ibbitson touched on this shroud of mystery and the impetus for the book:

“We didn’t really know [Harper]; I didn’t know him. I had no idea who he was. And so when I thought about this about three years ago, I thought somebody ought to write a biography of the man. There’s a huge amount of material that’s been written about Stephen Harper. There are a couple of exceptions, but almost all of it has been diatribes, on one side of the argument or the other. No one had ever said, “Who is the guy? What pushes him? What motivates him? What’s he like off stage?” So I set out to write a biography to find out—for my own purposes, if for no one else’s—just who it was I had been covering.”

To Globe reviewer Bob Rae, Ibbitson’s biography gives insight into “the character of Stephen Harper and the party and government he has built over 30 years in politics.” Rae writes of Ibbitson’s juggling of both public and private details:

“Harper emerges from Ibbitson’s pages as a shrewd disciplined politician who values his privacy and is prepared to go to great lengths to hang on to power. He dislikes the Charter of Rights, the Supreme Court of Canada, the media, opposition leaders and their parties, and people who don’t share his approach and philosophy. He needs to be in control and in charge, and has difficulty accepting authority. He shares jokes with his friends, enjoys Seinfeld and old episodes of The Twilight Zone, has a happy private life and plays the piano.”

As a political analyst and commentator, Ibbitson’s career is unparalleled. He’s writer-at-large for The Globe and Mail and author of much-lauded books like The Big Shift, The Polite Revolution, and Loyal No More. He’s served as Ottawa political affairs correspondent, bureau chief for Washington and Ottawa, and Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation. Now, with Stephen Harper: A Biography, his unmatched insight into Ottawa—and the controversial man who leads it—will prove invaluable to our national discussion. As the 2015 federal election rolls on, and as Harper finds himself embroiled in the Senate expense scandal, Ibbitson’s fine-tuned understanding can help each industry make sense of a messy race—and one that has Harper in the electoral fight of his life.

With an acumen honed from years analyzing and writing on the most important issues of the day, John Ibbitson is one of our most trusted political authorities. To hire John Ibbitson for your event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Reviews of The Divide by Matt Taibbi: “Impossible to Put Down” (NYT)

Matt Taibbi's new book, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, has made quite a splash in the first week of its release. Not only did it debut at #8 on the New York Times bestselling hardcover nonfiction list, it has already jumped to #4. The book, which takes readers on a galvanizing journey through both sides of our new system of justice—the untouchably wealthy and the criminalized poor—has also been receiving rave reviews. Here are a few examples:

From the New York Times:

“[The Divide is] impossible to put down…[Taibbi] has a facility for rendering complex financial skulduggery intelligible [and] is similarly skillful at explaining how bureaucratic imperatives in the criminal justice system can spin scarily out of control.”

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Divide is a face-slap…When swindlers know that their risks will be subsidized, and their potential crimes will be punishable only through negotiated corporate settlements, they will surely commit more crimes. And when most of the population either does not know or does not care that the lowest socioeconomic classes live in something akin to a police state, we should be greatly concerned for the moral health of our society.”

From the Washington Post:

“Taibbi is a relentless investigative reporter. He takes readers inside not only investment banks, hedge funds and the blood sport of short-sellers, but into the lives of the needy, minorities, street drifters and illegal immigrants, to juxtapose justice for the poor and the powerful…The Divide is an important book. Its documentation is powerful and shocking.”

In his talks, Taibbi lays bare one of the greatest challenges we face in contemporary American life: surviving a system that devours the lives of the poor, turns a blind eye to the destructive crimes of the wealthy, and implicates us all. To book Matt Taibbi as a speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency.

An Unwinding American Dream: George Packer On Living In The U.S.A.

The cover of new speaker George Packer's breakthrough new book, The Unwinding, is graced with an American flag. But it's not the emblem of patriotism you'd expect: It's rusty, disintegrating, disheveled. As Packer says on CSPAN: “It's a flag that's in somewhat battered shape, but it's still the flag. So, I thought it was the perfect image for The Unwinding.” In what's been called the “defining book of our time,” Packer tells the story of the unraveling of America's institutions and the people who are trying to make it in today's hard times.

“[The] things that used to hold America together—structures, institutions, social ties—have frayed, have begun to come undone,” Packer explains. Don't look to his book to teach you how to fix these problems, though. “It does not tell you the 10 things wrong with America and how to fix them,” Packer stresses. Rather, it reads like a novel, charting the successes and failures of ordinary Americans caught between their own tenaciousness and desire to succeed and the disillusioning world they live in. To tell that study, he points out, he also needed to include what was happening in the top rungs of society. That's where 10 smaller sections of the book, devoted to celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Newt Gingrich, Sam Walton, and Jay Z, come in.

The disintegrating middle class is an important component of the last generation of American history. It's something Packer describes as the Walmartization of America. “The six Walton heirs [next in line to the Walmart and Sam's Club corporations] have the same wealth as the bottom 42 percent of Americans,” he tells Bloomberg Businessweek. “If you want to get someone’s attention on economic inequality, just throw that one at them and it will do the trick.” While swaths of the American population were going into foreclosure and losing their jobs, a small percentage was hitting it big. Often, because they weren't playing by the same tenets that other Americans were. “Jay-Z [for example] has kind of shown that you can get to the very top without waiting, without following rules,” he adds. A cynicism developed, people started to feel that doing what they were supposed to made them a sucker, and, didn't help them to succeed. It is in these two conflicting stories—the blue collar Americans struggling to make ends meet and the VIPs of society—that Packer shows us how America is unwinding.

In his sweeping keynotes, Packer delivers a hard-hitting analysis of the American institutions and its people. A bestselling author and respected journalist, he provides a truly unique portrait of life as we know it. To book George Packer as a speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.

What’s Next For China? James Fallows Says There’s More Hard Times Ahead

“There's not much debate about the scale or impressiveness of what China has achieved in the past 30+ years,” James Fallows, a prominent China speaker, writes in a new post in The Atlantic. “Hundreds of millions of people moved from rural poverty to the middle class and beyond; the country regained its pride; the landscape was covered with factories and skyscrapers and shopping malls and high speed trains; and a thousand other aspects of life were changed.” An expert on the Chinese economy, Fallows notes that the transition that the country has seen over the past several decades is impressive and “commands respect.” The question that looms now, however, is: Now what? As the China Airborne author writes, there are two conflicting theories as to how the nation will progress going forward. Are they still on an upward tick, poised to continue to gain momentum? Or, are the hard times still yet to come?

The first viewpoint involves an extrapolation of what China has experienced thus far. On the other hand, there is a conflicting opinion which argues that the “very traits that have sped China's development over the past 30+ years may impede the next phase of growth,” Fallows notes. China has been the “world's factory” because of its devil-may-care attitude about the environment, for example. However, that is now backfiring as a lack of environmental development policies puts the population at risk for health complications. Lax intellectual property laws are another issue. While it's easy to obtain pirated media material in the country, that leniency then handicaps other Chinese firms. Finally, Fallows touches on the impact that stringent government control over the internet has on the development of “real” universities, and whether it is sifting talent in a 21st century economy.

Fallows says he is more inclined to believe the latter prediction. He takes on an “anything is possible, but it's going to be a lot tougher” mindset—similar to how he presented his research in China Airborne. Fallows is a national columnist at The Atlantic, and his insightful and thought-provoking writing has earned him the National Book Award, the American Book Award and the National Magazine Award. His passionate and deeply-researched talks expand from the work he does in his writing. He paints a vivid picture of the massive changes taking place overseas in China. And, how those changes will affect us back at home.

Immigration Rises & The Power Moves West: John Ibbitson On The Big Shift

With over 250,000 immigrants coming to Canada each year, it's no wonder the new book by politics speaker John Ibbitson is called The Big Shift. Co-authored with Darrell Bricker, the immediate bestseller argues that Canada—traditionally known as one of the world's most consensual countries—is polarizing. With major changes to the population of the country, and to the cities these new Canadians choose to call home, the power in the nation is shifting toward the West. And, as the authors advise, the political parties that win will be the ones who recognize the values of new Canadians.

An infographic from Harper Collins and The Savvy Reader details some of the changing immigration patterns and voter concerns in the country. By 2031, for example, 63 per cent of the population of Toronto will be foreign born. And, 30 per cent of the country as a whole will be visible minorities. Vancouver's numbers are similar, with 63 per cent of its population poised to be foreign born by 2031 if current immigration rates continue. Not only are immigration rates remaining high, but native-born population growth is significantly lower than foreign-born growth. This leads into why Ibbitson says the concerns of these new Canadians are steering the outcomes of major issues across the country. And what were the big hot-topic issues worrying most Canadians last year? The economy topped the list while healthcare came in a close second. Employment, the environment, and education rounded off the list, respectively.

The graphic addresses some of the other key issues outined in The Big Shift as well. Is separatism still a pressing concern? Has the increasing prominence of the Pacific provinces decreased the influence of the Atlantic part of the country? And, finally, has this Western shift actually made this part of the nation too powerful? A #1 Canadian bestseller, the book proposes that the Laurentian Elites in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa are losing steam—and the Western cities and the suburban middle class (especially the suburban immigrant middle class) is picking up the slack. The nation is becoming a vastly different place than we remember says Ibbitson, The Globe and Mail's Ottawa Bureau Chief. In the book, and in his talks, he shows us how to navigate these tremendous changes. He pinpoints how this altered power centre will impact not only the government, but the media, industry, and all of the residents who call this country home.

Jared Diamond: Foreign Aid Isn’t Generosity—It’s Survival [VIDEO]

The World Until Yesterday, the latest book from environmental historian and Jared Diamond, is centered around the lessons we can learn from studying traditional societies around the world. In a recent interview at Westfield State University, Diamond argued that there is a great deal we can learn from analyzing people who live in different circumstances from our own. Where some societies have succeeded, others have failed—but they all have something to teach us today about how to interact with others.

In the interview, he shares a particularly hard-hitting lesson that the United States needs to learn. “The oceans no longer protect the United States,” he says, “and ensuring that people elsewhere in the world are satisfied has become a matter of national survival.” Other countries and societies now have the means to vent their frustrations, he explains, in the forms of economic action and, worse yet, terrorism and violence. It is no longer acceptable—or wise—to be self-interested. Foreign aid and foreign policy are no longer issues of generosity, he says. Instead, these things have become a matter of survival.

In his sweeping books and eye-opening talks, Diamond draws on extensive field research on the way society has changed over time—and how we can learn from non-modern societies that exist today. He seamlessly blends anthropology, sociology, and evolutionary biology to present a unique perspective on human and societal evolution. He teaches us how we got to where we are today—and how we can use our past to forge a better path for the future.

Cyber Espionage: James Fallows On The Threat Of Chinese Hacking

Over the past decade, government and corporate concerns about the threat of cyber attacks have been drastically increasing. According to a new study released this week, those concerns may very well be justified. James Fallows, a China speaker and national correspondent for The Atlantic, recently shared his thoughts about the findings in the Mandiant report on MSNBC. Compiled by an American computer security firm, the 60-page report lists in-depth details linking a string of recent cyber attacks to the Chinese military—allegations China’s defense ministry has denied. According to The New York Times, it also lists the P.L.A. Unit 61398 in Shanghai as one of the most aggressive and dangerous computer hacking agencies in the world.

Fallows, an expert on Chinese-American relations, tells MSNBC that the Chinese denial of these allegations is “difficult to take seriously.” What he says is more important, however, is that these incidents of espionage are happening and are being pinpointed and publicized more specifically than ever before. We are now becoming more aware of these threats whether they come from the Chinese or elsewhere. Fallows says that there seem to be two clear motives behind these attacks: first, to attain political information through the hacking of major news hubs and second, for pure commercial gain.

The former American Secretary of Defense argues that the combined efforts of these attacks could lead to a “cyber Pearl Harbor.” Fallows, however, believes that it is unlikely it will escalate to that point given the current climate between the two countries. What's more of an issue, he explains, is the ongoing theft of commercial intellectual property and attacks on news publications that are taking place every day. Having lived in China himself for several years, Fallows has become a leading voice on the social, political, and economic conditions in the country. In his talks, he expands on his his reporting for The Atlantic. He cuts through the rhetoric to explain what we need to know about what's happening overseas—and how that affects us here at home.

John Ibbitson: Three Fearless Political Predictions For 2013

In a recent video, John Ibbitson—The Globe and Mail's Ottawa Bureau Chief—lays out three fearless predictions for the political year to come:

1. The Canadian Government will buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Despite a great deal of controversy surrounding the cost, Ibbitson predicts that, eventually, the government will        decide that the American jet is the best bet to replace the old, worn-out CF-18s.

2. Adrian Dix will become a headache for Steven Harper.
Ibbitson explains that Adrian Dix is highly favoured to become the Premier of British Columbia in next May's election. He says this will cause a rift between him and Prime Minister Stephen Harper because Dix will aim to put a stop to the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal. This will cause problems because Ibbitson thinks Dix will shut the proposals down altogether—despite Harper being so “keen” on them.

3. Thomas Mulcair will go down in the polls, but then he'll come back.
Even if “rock star” Justin Trudeau wins the Liberal leadership race, Ibbitson says the NDP's popular political presence on the ground (especially in Quebec) will bring him back up to the number 2 spot by this time next year. His popularity could take a hit if Trudeau emerges as the Liberal leader, but Ibbitson says he won't stay down for long.

Ibbitson is an expert on politics in the nation and is the author of The Big Shift. In his writing and his talks, he uses his years of experience in the political sphere to make well-informed predictions for the future. He gives inspired and refreshing insight into the biggest power players in the nation and tailors his talks to the issues of the day to help audiences navigate the forever changing political landscape—and make more informed choices.

Eric Klinenberg: More Women Are Staying Single, Not Voting Republican

More women in North America are single than ever before—and studies are showing that a majority of them are Democrats. Citing evidence from the work of Eric Klinenberg, author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, a recent article by CBS reports that many unmarried women don't back the Republicans. This is especially concerning for the GOP, because the growing number of women who are forgoing marriage until later in life—and sometimes altogether—are more likely to support the Democrats. Many women, according to the article, find that Republican policies simply don't apply to them. Single women already represent one-quarter of the electorate, the article says, and they are also one of the fastest growing demographics. As this group continues to expand, it could pose a real problem for the Republicans in the future if they don't find a way to appeal to the growing number of single women.

Klinenberg, a New York University sociologist, has documented the single-by-choice trend in his book and his recent research. According to him, the average age that a woman gets married in America has been pushed back almost 7 years since 1960. Most women were married by the age of 20 back then—today, many aren't married until they're 27. Further, he found that nearly one-third of all U.S. households are comprised of singles, a jump up from a mere 9 per cent in 1950. The facts don't lie, and Klinenberg says we're facing one of the biggest demographic shifts since the baby boom. The rise of single living affects not only marriage rates, but also the economy, the political divide and the very way that we communicate to one another. In his book, and in his talks, Klinenberg explains what these changes mean for society and how we can embrace them—because this trend isn't slowing down any time soon.

Politics Speaker John Ibbitson Unpacks The Great Western Power Shift [VIDEO]

In a recent interview with Lavin, politics speaker John Iibbitson explains how Ontario, the most densley populated province in Canada and home to both the nation's capital and the biggest city in the country, is changing its ideals. “You're seeing Ontario shift its axis away from the Atlantic cutlure,” he explains, “[away from] the Atlantic economy, the Atlantic way of doing things, and [is] embracing the Pacific way of doing things.” While the giant province had once been more closely affiliated with the ideals of the East, Ibbitson says that it is beginning to have more in common with the Western provinces in the country. Given its influence, the province's attempt to redefine itself will have quite an impact on the rest of the country.

He contributes these shifting ideals to the fact that Ontario has, as he says, become “a Manhattan on Lake Ontario and whole lot of Ohio around it.” If you aren't in Toronto, you are in an area that resembles Ohio, he explains—an increasingly conservative area that relies on manufacturing and agriculture, and is declining in population. This leaves anyone living in these outlying areas looking to the West for a “common cause,” as they want to remain competitive. It is the immigrant suburban middle class especially, he notes, that is driving this shift. The concept of Canada's shifting power base is somethign that Ibbitson has covered extensively in his book, The Big Shift: The Seismic Change in Canadian Politics, Business, and Culture and What It Means for Our Future. Based on his acclaimed keynote, The Collapse of the Laurentian Consensus, the book explains that business and political elites in the East are losing power, and the West has filled the power void. He is the Ottawa bureau chief for The Globe and Mail and covers the changing landscape of the nation's federal political system in his polished writing and compelling keynotes.

Media Hype Hurts The Political Process: Politics Speaker Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi, never one to be shy about voicing his opinion, wishes that, sometimes, we could “turn down the volume” when watching coverage of the presidential race. “It's perfectly valid for us media types to advocate for the candidate we think is more qualified, based on our reporting,” writes the politics speaker in a recent Rolling Stone article. “But the hype has gotten so out of control, it's become bigger than the presidency itself.”

For Taibbi, author of the bestselling book Griftopia, there is too much focus being placed on poll numbers, rather than on the actual issues. There's also too much time and money being poured into creating a thick, uncrossable line between one political affiliation and the other. Instead, he suggests that the media pay more attention to what the candidates are saying and attempt to create a visceral connection between a voter and a candidate—instead of pitting people against each other. “Banning poll numbers would force the media to actually cover the issues, he argues, “[because], as it stands now, the horse race is the entire story.” This would stop people from being sent into a state of hysteria over who is voting for who, and people would be less likely to fly into a panic when they think that their candidate of choice is losing at the polls. Voters should feel exhilarated about the political process, not overwhelmed by it, Taibbi writes. If voters are excited about what's happening during the campaign, they can develop a true sense of patriotism and a connection to politics—even after the polls close and a decision is made.

In this article, and in his other award-winning columns, Taibbi picks apart the issues with our current political discourse and provides meaningful suggestions on how to correct them. Whether he's writing about politics in Rolling Stone, or speaking about the economic crisis in his keynotes, Taibbi presents a passionate and thought-provoking analysis of our biggest institutions.

Cause for Debate: Misha Glouberman & David Lavin Dissect Political Discourse [VIDEO]

“The debates we see on TV are terrible,” David Lavin, president of The Lavin Agency speakers bureau tells communications speaker Misha Glouberman. “They deliberately just try to get people to disagree with each other—that's not a debate, that's actually a disagreement.” 

With the first round of the U.S. Presidential Debates kicking off tonight in Colorado, Lavin and Glouberman sat down and hashed out the good and the bad about today's debate formats. Despite being highly anticipated and widely watched, the current format for political debates seldom lends itself to providing the audience with “a clearer picture of an issue,” Glouberman says. This shortcoming is ironic, as he says that the function of a debate is to help the audience learn about the candidates and understand the issues at hand. Rather than “banging up against each other for the sake of some sort of theater,” says Glouberman, the participants should focus instead on what they agree on, in order to give the audience a clearer view of their differences.

David Lavin agrees. He suggested that: “the next debate between the Republican and the Democratic candidate for president should be a discussion about what they agree about.” He adds that this formula would be “fundamentally more productive.”

Perhaps they're on to something here.

Both Lavin and Glouberman have extensive experience in the nuances of effective public discourse (David as the CEO of a top speakers bureau and Misha as the leader of the popular lecture series How To Talk To People About Things). The idea that political debate—or any debate, for that matter—should be focused more on uncovering the truth and finding common ground, rather than on who is right and wrong, is refreshing in today's hyper-polarized culture.

Rick Mercer: A Nation Worth Ranting About

Rick Mercer's a funny man, but underneath the hilarity is an ever-present keen ability to hold a mirror to the nation. In the past few weeks, with so much change coming to Canada's political landscape, Mercer has honed a new talk—“A Nation Worth Ranting About”—to address the years ahead. Mercer shows us why Canada is a country worth laughing about, cheering about, and occasionally getting angry about. He pokes fun at our institutions, reveals hypocrisy, and draws our attention to unsung heroes. His unrivaled genius—as always—remains his ability to make audiences laugh at, question, think about, and, most of all, appreciate this glorious country we all share.

Born in St. John's, Newfoundland, Mercer is a Gemini-winning television host, actor and writer who has starred on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Made in Canada, and Rick Mercer's Talking to Americans—the highest rated comedy special in Canadian history. Mercer can also inspire political change as seen by the youth vote-mobs that sprang up across the country following a trademark rant. That inspiring call to action aired during the Rick Mercer Report 2011 season finale was credited for rallying young people to, as Mercer puts it, “do what young people around the world are dying to do: vote.”

Read more about comedian Rick Mercer