#1636 The Supreme Court Is In Bad Shape. Like, Really Bad. And SCOTUS Is Going To Take Us All Down With Them (Transcript)

Air Date 6/14/2024

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#1635 Democracy on the Decline: The US is not alone in facing threats to democracy and others countries that are farther along are showing how democracies fail (Transcript)

Air Date 6/11/2024

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#1634 Abortion as the Tip of the Iceberg: the fight for privacy, bodily autonomy, and functional democracy are the path forward after the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v Wade (Transcript)

Air Date 6/7/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast. 

Banning abortion is wildly unpopular and also one of the primary motivators for the group most strongly supporting the Republican party and Donald Trump: the Christian right, which has transformed both the party and politicians into extremists made in their own image, threatening the lives and health of millions and sacrificing democracy in the process. 

Sources providing our Top Takes today include Lectures in History, The Weeds, Technically Optimistic, Consider This and CounterSpin. Then in the additional Deeper Dive half of the show, there'll be more on criminalizing abortion, abortion extremism in the Republican party, abortion in the legal system, and what there is to do now.

Abortion and Reproductive Rights - Lectures in History - Air Date 3-16-24

MARY ZIEGLER: So, I think now often when we think of reproductive rights and justice, we think of them in the context of criminalization and criminal laws, but that's a relatively recent phenomenon. So if you go back far enough, and [00:01:00] there's a dispute about this that was reflected in the Supreme Court's decision in 2022 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. the majority led by Justice Samuel Alito. suggested that in the United States, to some degree or another, abortion had always been a crime at any point in pregnancy. he might have said, or might have believed, something similar about contraception. But the reality was that for much of United States history, Either passing or implementing criminal laws regarding reproduction would have been very difficult, in part because it was all but impossible to identify when someone was pregnant before quickening, or the point at which fetal movement could be detected. Distinguishing whether a drug was a contraceptive, an abortifacient, or a drug that simply helped people who were having irregular menstruation was all but impossible, and physicians relied on highly unusual and ineffective methods to test whether someone was pregnant or not. Touching someone's abdomen was considered off limits and inappropriate at a time when women and other people who could get pregnant were often hidden behind [00:02:00] screens during examinations.

So physicians, to tell if people were pregnant, would do things like examine their noses and mouths, which you might be surprised to learn did not result in reliable diagnoses of pregnancy. 

So at this time, there was a sort of sense that there were female remedies that might influence pregnancy one way or another. And, for the most part, state laws didn't apply until quickening, the point at which abortion was most often criminalized. There were exceptions to this. There were laws, for example, poison laws that regulated drugs that could kill pregnant people early in pregnancy, particularly starting in the 1840s after a series of high profile deaths from poisonous concoctions used to end pregnancies.

There were some states that treated abortion as a misdemeanor early in pregnancy.

There was very little regulation of contraception at all until the late 19th century. And that was to change because of two independent social movements. The first was what we would view as an anti-abortion movement, though by no [00:03:00] means a fetal rights movement, that began in the mid-19th century and was led by physicians in the American Medical Association, including Horatio Storer, who's pictured here.

The American Medical Association was new at the time and medical education in general did not in any meaningful way resemble what we would see today. So there were no real licensure rules in a modern sense. Medical education was completely foreign and often not very credentialized at all. The difference between a so-called regular physician and a midwife or a homeopath selling medicines in the pages of the nation's newspapers was sometimes hard to distinguish. And the doctors in the American Medical Association were looking for a way to set themselves apart professionally. 

They also were worried about what they saw as a grievously differential birth rate. What they would have viewed as white women, Anglo Saxon Protestant women, were having fewer children. And as the 19th century continued, this disparity would only grow, so much so that when it had [00:04:00] been normal in the United States for decades for the average family to have eight children, that number would decline to three by the end of the century. And disproportionately, Storer worried, that decline was coming in families he viewed as the best American families. At the same time that immigrant families, disproportionately Catholic, were having more children.

He argued, too, that life began not at quickening, but at conception, and that only physicians like him, physicians with the expertise to understand science, knew when life began, and that this was what distinguished them both morally and professionally from the midwives and others who'd disproportionately been serving pregnant people for the centuries before.

Storer lobbied for laws that would punish not only physicians for performing abortions, but patients for procuring them, to use his word. Abortion at this time was still synonymous with miscarriage. So the crime he proposed was the crime of procuring an abortion or miscarriage. A crime that he [00:05:00] proposed should be punished the most harshly when a patient was married, because a married person having an abortion was a married person rejecting their duties to their partner, or in this case, he would say their husband, as much as it was their duties to the nation.

Storer began promoting these laws in state legislatures in the 19th century, and gradually convinced legislatures in most states to introduce laws, although they rejected some of the harshest proposals that Storer introduced. It was relatively unusual for state laws to authorize felony punishments for abortion seekers. And virtually all, with the sole exception of New Hampshire, included exceptions for the life of the pregnant person, something that Storer also was not particularly concerned about in his proposal. 

Storer wasn't alone in wanting to regulate reproduction in this era. This handsome gentleman, Anthony Comstock, was part of the picture too. Comstock's proposals were very different though. He was not concerned with what he saw as the taking of fetal life. He was concerned [00:06:00] instead with what he saw as obscenity. So, Comstock's business model first developed in New York in the late 1860s, came about because Comstock, by his own account, was a compulsive masturbator who worried that exposure to pornography was damaging the nation's fabric, for young men and women alike. He proposed a New York law that would define a much broader class of materials as obscene, everything from medical textbooks to art involving nudes, as well as abortion and contraception, which he defined as obscene, too. 

Indeed, not just abortion and contraception, but any remedy for female troubles, as he would put it. Because there was, of course, no way at the time for anyone to discern consistently whether someone was pregnant, or whether a drug acted as a contraceptive, an abortifacient, a menagogue for regulating menstruation or as a placebo or a snake oil remedy. 

Comstock's model that passed in New York in 1868 then quickly went national. With the advice of a Supreme Court Justice named William Strong, [00:07:00] Comstock went to Congress and convinced them to pass the Comstock Act, which made it a federal crime to mail any of the items listed in the Comstock Act, as well as receive them, subject to up to several years in prison and a hefty fine.

So Comstock's perspective was different. He wasn't invested in protection of fetal life. He was invested in stopping sex. He argued that the problem with abortion and contraception was that if people knew they were available, they would have what he called incentives to crime. Essentially, they would be able, as he put it, to conceal their sin because they would be able to have sex without consequences. 

And so both of these models quickly spread. There are state Comstock laws. This was an era when, for the first time, state laws of many parts of the nation criminalized birth control, many of them on Comstock's model. 

And significantly, there was always a close connection between reproductive rights and freedom of speech. Comstock's model criminalized not only the mailing of items used for things like contraception and abortion, but [00:08:00] also information about either one. So there was always a sense that telling people about how you could get these things or how you could do these things was as deeply problematic in his view as the doing of the things themselves.

Abortion and the erosion of privacy - The Weeds - Air Date 4-10-24

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: and since the Supreme Court made its decision in Dobbs, overturning Roe v. Wade and the right to an abortion, reproductive rights have been at the center of our national consciousness. Two of the latest headlines come out of Arizona and Florida. 

NEWS CLIP: A historic ruling just handed down from the Arizona Supreme Court on abortion access in our state. The justices ruling...

Florida Supreme Court ruled the state's constitution does not protect abortion rights. The ruling allows a trigger law to go into effect in 30 days...

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: The Florida Supreme Court ruled that a six week ban gets the go ahead. Now, that's not really surprising news. Lots of states have rolled back abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe. But something in the Florida state constitution makes this decision particularly interesting. 

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: [00:09:00] So, Florida has this provision in its constitution which says that every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from government intrusion into the person's private life.

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: Article 1, Section 23 of the Florida state constitution guarantees a right of privacy. And until the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion had long been considered a private issue. 

Arizona has similar language in its constitution. It says, "No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs or his home invaded without authority of law." Despite this language, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that an 1864 law that makes abortion illegal, except in the case to save the life of the mother, can take effect. That news broke while we were finishing up this very episode. 

Now, there are differences in the context for the language in these state constitutions. The language in the Arizona state constitution came [00:10:00] long before Roe, and Florida's was added post-Roe. While they're different, they have one thing in common: neither state's Supreme Court found it sufficient to protect the right to abortion. And all of this is evidence that Dobbs has shifted the very concept of privacy in the US. And that has us asking, do we still have a right to privacy? 

That's the question I posed to my colleague Ian Millhiser. He's a senior correspondent here at Vox, where he covers the Supreme Court. He's been spending a lot of time thinking about this lately.

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: So let's talk about what the right to privacy is. This is something that developed really over the course of almost an entire century of various Supreme Court decisions. The idea behind a right to privacy is that there are certain parts of our lives that are private, that the government does not get to decide for us, that we, you know, decide for ourselves after talking to our own families, after praying to our own gods. And these are decisions like, [00:11:00] do I want to have a child? Who should I marry? Who are my sexual partners going to be? How am I going to raise my children? You know, all of these questions, the Supreme Court said over the course of many years, are just not decisions that the government gets to make for you. These are decisions you make for yourself. 

One of the important components of the right to privacy is, am I going to have a child, when am I going to have a child? So wrapped up in that was the right to contraception and the right to an abortion. When the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, when it abolished the constitutional right to an abortion, it claimed that this was an abortion-only decision. You know, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a concurring opinion where he said, 'I'm not coming after any of the other privacy rights. I'm not coming after the right to marry. I'm not coming after the right to contraception'. And I guess the question is, how much can we trust these guys? And so the answer to your question of, do we still have a right to privacy, is we don't know. The [00:12:00] constitutional rights are only as good as the personnel that sit on the courts. 

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: Yeah, I wonder, is the right to privacy, it seems like it's literally all about the sexy stuff. Like, it's either gender or sex or marriage. It seems like it concentrates on these specific parts of our lives.

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: A lot of it is sexy stuff. It's not all sexy stuff. But I think that, if there is a unifying theory, it does tend to be stuff about the family, even sexuality. I mean, the idea is that, you know, when you have a sex partner, they are auditioning to become a member... 

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: [laughing] become a member of your family.

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: become a member of your family, right! Exactly. And then when you have sex, there's the potential for creating children., So, you know, that is also tied up in the notion of the family. So, like, there is this idea that, you know, the way that the United States government is set up, you have the federal government and Congress is responsible for some things, you have state governments and they are responsible for other things, and I think the family was thought [00:13:00] of as another zone of autonomy, where there's some things that just don't belong to the government at all. They are family decisions. And, you know, how you raise your children, your sexuality, whether you use contraception, whether you're going to have a child at a particular moment, all of that got roped into this broader concept that we now call the right to privacy. 

Digital surveillance and reproductive rights - Technically Optimistic - Air Date

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: I should say, I know Sue personally. I'm on the board of Planned Parenthood and we've spoken a lot about the state of things, and how urgent everything feels right now. But when I talked to her for the show, I pitched a conversation about technology's role in reproductive rights. And it's not that she wasn't interested in talking about technology, it's just that she's skeptical about putting too much faith into it. She's worked too hard, and she's seen too much. 

SUE DUNLAP: I find myself being very regressive when it comes to [00:14:00] systems. We have to have redundancy, we have to have workarounds, we can't have a single point of failure. So when I was thinking about electronic health systems, I am loathe to live in a world today where there's an interdependence and a vulnerability. And when I think about data sharing, that's what I think of. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Can you give me a lived experience that you've been having of what women are actually going through right now? 

SUE DUNLAP: Yeah, one story that for me, and there's so many stories that could break your heart. This one is a patient from Texas, chronic health condition, traveling here for an abortion, "here" being Los Angeles, so from Texas to Los Angeles, Texas to California, and we asked her for her most recent blood work. And what she shared was that the second she had even a [00:15:00] whisper, an inkling that she might be pregnant, she stopped going to any doctor whatsoever, even as she had this chronic health condition that needs to be regularly managed and monitored, because she doesn't want any record anywhere in any system in Texas that could suggest that she might be pregnant.

Now that would be true on paper. That's not specific to technology, as opposed to on paper, but when we think about what that means in the context of technology, it's horrifying to me. I just don't live in that world today, and nor do the people who I see traveling across state lines for what we know is very safe healthcare, but that is criminalized, marginalized, and increasingly creating victims.

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: In the United States, even before Dobbs, people seeking abortions [00:16:00] faced unique challenges. Despite the right to an abortion being enshrined in the Constitution, some states still put plenty of obstacles in the way. And now, without Roe, there are some terrifying new obstacles. 

SUE DUNLAP: One of the early data points in this post-Roe era tells us that one in three women who are pregnant or seeking abortion who find themselves in the criminal justice system by way of that pregnancy are essentially turned in by healthcare professionals or medical social workers. So, what I worry about when I try to balance what patients need in the moment and the potential for long term consequences and even criminalization is, there is no good answer, right?

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: When you criminalize abortion, you are criminalizing the people who seek abortions. It's a staggering coming together of healthcare and the criminal justice system. [00:17:00] Who is out there who could even be in a position to try and tackle this? 

MELANIE FONTES RAINER: I'm Melanie Fontes Rainer. I am the director at the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights.


MELANIE FONTES RAINER: For anyone paying attention, I don't think anything that's happening right now is a surprise, right? I think a lot of this was highly predictable. And so I think in some ways we've been able to try to prepare as much as we can. But there's a deficit of information when it comes to, do people even know that we exist?

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: If you've never heard of the Office of Civil Rights that's inside the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, to be honest, I hadn't either. 

MELANIE FONTES RAINER: Every single federal agency has a Office for Civil Rights. We are the second biggest one. Our office is unique to any other civil rights office because we don't just do civil rights, right? So, civil rights is a heavy mandate. It's a big lift, like non-discrimination in health programs and activities, making sure people are treated properly and getting their entitled benefits. Because we're [00:18:00] thinking about what does it mean to be discriminated against because you're pregnant, or what does it mean to now be targeted because of who you are and have your data targeted because of who you are and the kind of health care you're seeking and where you live? But we also do privacy under HIPAA. We are the only federal office that does both of those things. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It first passed in 1996, and it was a massive effort on the part of the federal government to do some rulemaking around personal health information, electronic medical records, in particular. You might know it from your own doctor's office. It's HIPAA that grants U. S. patients the right to view their own medical records. 

MELANIE FONTES RAINER: So first, if you, Raffi, sought to get your own medical records from your provider, you have a right under HIPAA. It's called the HIPAA right of access provision. You could go in, and for a reasonable cost and a reasonable amount of time, your provider must give you your records. So, that's like a tenet of HIPAA. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: It's [00:19:00] also HIPAA that says health care providers have to alert the government if patient data is ever compromised. 

MELANIE FONTES RAINER: A hospital system, a dentist, an insurance company, they're required to file a breach report and disclose that to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services so that the public can know when these breaches happen. Those are the rules that protect your Protected Health Information from impermissible use and disclosure, meaning, did somebody have a permission to use and disclose this data in the first instance? Are they protecting it? Things like cybersecurity, we have a significant role in enforcement here, and whether or not there's been a breach.

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Back when the law passed in 1996, Congress gave themselves three years to come up with a set of national security standards and safeguards for the use of electronic healthcare information, as well as a set of privacy standards for Protected Health Information. 

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Every American has a right to know that his or her medical records are protected at all times from falling into the wrong hands, and yet [00:20:00] more and more of our medical records are stored electronically. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: That was good. It would take pressure off the states and introduce a framework, not only for privacy, but for what to do when privacy was violated. 

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Today, with the click of a mouse, Protected Health Information can easily and now legally be passed around without patient's consent. I am determined to put an end to such violations of privacy. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: So, in 1999, President Clinton announced the first version of what would come to be known as the HIPAA Privacy Rule, although it wouldn't get finalized until 2002, and it wouldn't go into effect until 2003, and it would be significantly modified by the HITECH Act of 2009, as well as the HIPAA Omnibus Rule of 2013. I mean, okay, even by modern congressional standards, this is a really confusing patchwork of laws. But the HHS Office of Civil Rights has a specially designated role in the HIPAA [00:21:00] framework. 

MELANIE FONTES RAINER: And so, we enforce and implement HIPAA. The HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification rules. The HIPAA Privacy rule gives permissions and those permissions means that covered entities, whether it's a health insurance company or a health provider or a pharmacy, they have discretion as to whether or not they believe that the permission is being met and whether or not they disclose the Protected Health Information.

Anti-abortion hardliners want restrictions to go farther. It could cost Republicans - Consider This - Air Date 5-23-24

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Abortion rights has been a motivating political issue for generations, and this year might be the most intense for those on both sides of the issue. NPR's Sarah McCammon reports on the anti-abortion rights activists who want to ramp up restrictions, criminalize patients who pursue abortions, and ban procedures like IVF. 

SARAH MCCAMMON: For decades, protests outside clinics that offer abortions have been a pretty common scene in many communities around the country. Less common: protests at fertility [00:22:00] clinics that offer the procedure known as IVF. 

NEWS CLIP OF PROTESTOR AT FERTILITY CLINIC: How many children are in the freezer here? How many? 

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: That demonstration took place outside a fertility clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina last month. Dozens of protesters lined both sides of the street, as one of them preached and shouted Bible verses toward the closed front door.

NEWS CLIP OF PROTESTOR AT FERTILITY CLINIC: The fruit of the womb is the reward! 

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: They were organized by a group of activists who described themselves as abortion abolitionists, who recently spent a long weekend in Charlotte meeting and strategizing. Matthew Wiersma, who's 32, is from Gainesville, Georgia. 

MATTHEW WIERSMA: We want to ban IVF. We want to criminalize IVF.

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Using the language of the anti-slavery movement, abortion abolitionists like Wiersma say they oppose all abortions, no exceptions. Many are also speaking out against IVF, at a time when most Republicans are stressing their support for the procedure. [00:23:00] 

DONALD TRUMP: I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious, little, beautiful baby.

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Speaking in February, former President Donald Trump noted that most Americans, including most who oppose abortion rights, support access to IVF. His comments came after Alabama's Supreme Court ruled that embryos created through the process should be legally considered children. Republicans there rushed to pass a law designed to protect providers from legal consequences.

T. RUSSELL HUNTER: Pro-lifers are scared to death of that, because IVF has not been thought about. 

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: T. Russell Hunter leads Abolitionists Rising, a group of activists that hosted last month's gathering in North Carolina. He accuses mainstream anti-abortion groups of being too willing to accept incremental restrictions and inconsistent in their message.

T. RUSSELL HUNTER: You can't say life begins at conception, okay, but we're going to allow abortion in the first five weeks, you know? Well, if life begins at conception [00:24:00] and you believe that human life must be protected, well, you're stuck, logically. 

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Hunter, who is based in Oklahoma, opposes IVF, which often produces extra embryos that are then frozen or destroyed, and he believes that embryos should have legal rights. Speaking to activists last month, Hunter said that means charging patients who seek abortions, and anyone who helps them, with murder.

T. RUSSELL HUNTER: So, we think and we know that the mother is the abortionist, or the father is the abortionist, whoever it is that's the abortionist needs to be punished, and we're not going to lie about it in order to be friends with the world, because that is precisely what the pro-life movement's done, and is doing.

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: That's a departure from the long standing public position of most anti-abortion rights groups who've argued that women seek abortions under duress and that penalties for violating abortion laws should target providers, not patients themselves. Mary Ziegler is a law professor at the University of California, Davis. 

MARY ZIEGLER: And [00:25:00] increasingly, on the pro-choice side, you have voices of people saying, either, you know, abortion is really important healthcare, and there's nothing wrong with it, women understand what it is, and choose it, or people in the abortion storytelling world saying, you know, I felt no regret about abortion, I felt relieved, I felt happy. You know, these statements that I think abolitionists also have really weaponized. 

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Christine Harhoff lives in Texas and has been involved in anti-abortion activism for well over a decade. 

CHRISTINE HARHOFF: We're dealing with different types of women. 

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: She says she's met women who were reluctant to have abortions.

CHRISTINE HARHOFF: But so many other women who are loud and proud and, you know, like we had, what was it, a year ago, two years ago?, the mothers were taking the abortion pills on the steps of the Supreme Court on national TV. You know, they were not ashamed at all. 

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Harhoff says she's frustrated that even after the fall of Roe v. Wade, even in [00:26:00] Texas, where abortion is banned, women are still taking abortion pills. She's been talking with lawmakers in Texas and neighboring states like Louisiana and Oklahoma, trying to promote legislation that would treat abortion as identical to homicide. 

CHRISTINE HARHOFF: And the penalty could be anything from nothing at all, if she was truly innocent, truly forced into that abortion, to a fine or community service, to yes, some jail time, and possibly even the death penalty if the court, the judge, the jury all deemed that to be an appropriate penalty for that particular situation.

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Harhoff's position is by far the minority. Even among abortion rights opponents, like Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, a major anti-abortion group that opposes prosecuting patients. 

KRISTAN HAWKINS: I don't think that, you know, that's our focus or has been or will be our focus. 

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: Hawkins describes abortion abolitionists as social media trolls who do more harm than good and don't represent the [00:27:00] mainstream of her movement.

SARAH MCCAMMON: The pro-life movement opposes throwing mothers in jail who we believe are the second victims of abortion. Does that mean that every single mother doesn't know what's happening? No, that doesn't.. There are some mothers who, I agree, likely know that abortion kills a human child. But that's not the strategy that's going to end abortion in our country. 

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: On the subject of IVF, Hawkins' group and others have raised ethical concerns. She's described the fertility industry as underregulated. Rachel Bitecofer, a Democratic political strategist, says the line between the mainstream anti-abortion movement and the abolitionists is quite thin.

RACHEL BITECOFER: You know, if you radicalize people and tell them to gain power, and that's what Republicans did. They've been targeting those folks for 25, 30 years now with ever increasing hyperbolic rhetoric about abortion. So, if you accept that abortion is murder, then it [00:28:00] makes sense that you have pretty rigid requirements to stop it, you know, at all costs. 

MARY LOUISE KELLY - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: So far, abortion abolitionists have been mostly unsuccessful in pushing through laws that define abortion as homicide. But they've made some strides in state legislatures, including a bill that made it to Louisiana's House floor in 2022. In an interview with Time Magazine published last month, former President Trump said he'd be open to letting women who have abortions be prosecuted. He said he'd leave that question up to the states.

Abortion and Reproductive Rights Part 2 - Lectures in History - Air Date 3-16-24

MARY ZIEGLER: So this was the beginning of what would become massive anti-abortion protests outside of clinics, which were not viewed the same light as hospitals. 

It was in this era, too, that anti-abortion groups did not at all back away from the idea of fetal personhood. The overwhelming focus of the anti-abortion movement in the years after Roe was what they called the Human Life Amendment, a constitutional amendment that would change the meaning of the word "person" in the 14th Amendment to apply to a fertilized egg, or [00:29:00] any other, an embryo or fetus.

The Human Life Amendment was so important to the anti abortion movement that when members of Congress suggested it would be easier to get an amendment through that said states had the right to do whatever they wanted about abortion, anti-abortion activists overwhelmingly rejected the idea, saying it would essentially reaffirm Roe, which in their view stood not for the proposition that there was a right to abortion particularly, but that there was no right to life for a fetus. This struggle for the Human Life Amendment brought the anti-abortion movement into electoral politics, as the movement desperately strived to find allies in Congress and state legislatures who would support a Human Life Amendment. And it ultimately brought the anti-abortion movement into an alliance with the Republican Party, which in the era of Ronald Reagan came to embrace the movement and the Human Life Amendment as a potential path to power, a way to peel off conservative Catholic and evangelical Protestants who had voted Democratic often for reasons of economics, but who could be convinced [00:30:00] to change to the Republican Party as a result of the abortion issue. 

It was in this era, too, that the anti-abortion movement stumbled upon a more consequential strategy, what we would think of as kind of incrementalism, or a death of a thousand cuts. And this began with the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment was the brainchild of Henry Hyde, a long-term legislator from Illinois who proposed that Medicaid patients should be unable to get reimbursed for most or all abortions.

And at the time, the Hyde Amendment, which is part of an appropriations bill, passed with the votes of both Democrats and Republicans, at a time when abortion rights was already becoming a Democratic cause. Why that was in part was because people in the Democratic Party believed the Supreme Court would take care of it and strike down the Hyde Amendment. And it was in part because there was already less emphasis put on access for low income people than would be or really ought to be the case. 

The Hyde Amendment passed in 1976, and it had immediately significant impacts. A large percentage of people pursuing abortion in the 1970s in the [00:31:00] United States were Medicaid recipients, and by most estimates, upwards of 200 or 250,000 patients each year who otherwise would have had abortions, were prevented from doing so as a result of the Hyde Amendment. 

The Hyde Amendment also ensured that people who were low income would have to rely on an intricate network of abortion funds and private charities for money to seek out abortion. And that in some ways is what became of the grassroots of the reproductive rights movement in the immediate aftermath of Roe: they all went in to service and access work. Which is part of what I think explains the lack of somewhat of the visible grassroots in the post-Roe era. 

There was, of course, an early reproductive justice movement, too, that argued that what had become the so-called pro-choice movement, which sought to protect the right recognized in Roe, was not enough. And this movement, in part, took its inspiration from an epidemic of sterilization abuse. Women of color in this era and other people of color were being involuntarily sterilized, sometimes under existing eugenic sterilization laws, sometimes [00:32:00] under no legal authority at all. Physicians were notorious in cross parts of the South for offering what they called Mississippi appendectomies, in which patients who went in for childbirth or other services were involuntarily sterilized without their knowledge or consent, again, particularly in states like Mississippi.

The problem was particularly acute in Puerto Rico, where large percentages of women at some point in their reproductive lives were sterilized, often with questionable or no consent. And so activists, like Helen Rodriguez Trias, who's pictured here, argued that any movement for reproductive rights had to be not just a movement for freedom from the government, but a right, a movement that sought to protect people using the power of the government, right? A movement that would say the government should guarantee informed consent, the government should guarantee the means for people who want to have children to have them. And Rodriguez Trias and her colleagues founded organizations like the Committee to End Sterilization Abuse in 1974 and broader multi-issue groups like a group called CARASA or [00:33:00] R2N2, both of which were reproductive justice groups founded in the late 1970s.

But none of these groups succeeded in slowing down the attack on abortion rights and other forms of reproductive health care. Where that attack turned ironically involved two improbable things, Sandra Day O'Connor and Akron, Ohio, which don't usually go together. So Akron, Ohio was the site of an ordinance that had been marketed by the anti-abortion movement as a model for the rest of the country. And it's constitutionality ultimately came before the Supreme Court in 1980, after O'Connor had become Ronald Reagan's first Supreme Court nominee. The anti-abortion movement hated Sandra Day O'Connor. They thought she was a supporter of abortion rights and a feminist and generally just gross. And, she, to their surprise, dissented from an opinion by the court striking down this Akron ordinance, not only to say the ordinance was constitutional, but to say that Roe itself was fatally flawed. And that if Roe itself was fatally flawed, it was at least deserving of some [00:34:00] reconsideration.

So the anti-abortion movement, which had been utterly unable to get a constitutional amendment off the ground, needed a plan B. It was unable to get that constitutional amendment off the ground when Ronald Reagan was in power, when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, and when it seemed as if Republicans had fared better than usual in state legislative elections. There was still no prospect of a personhood amendment, and no prospect even of agreement on a second best solution for the anti-abortion movement. So if there was going to be no personhood amendment, what could there be? Well, there could be control of the Supreme Court. And with control of the Supreme Court, there could be the upholding of more laws like the Hyde Amendment, which would mean less access to abortion, and a right to abortion that would mean very little or less and less in practice, a right that people would feel less compelled or energized to defend.

And with that, ultimately, too, in the long term, could be a Supreme Court that would recognize a fetus as a person, in a way that an American public that seemed to reject the principle never might. 

And so with this, the anti-abortion [00:35:00] movement proceeded to focus on incrementalism, looking for laws that could be argued to be consistent with Roe and then defending them before the courts.

And the movement too began to look for arguments that would cement its relationship with an emerging conservative legal movement.

Rakeen Mabud on Greedflation, Rachel K. Jones on Mifepristone - CounterSpin - Air Date 4-5-24


RACHEL K. JONES: So we know from decades of medical research that mifepristone is safe, effective, and widely accepted by both patients and providers. And Guttmacher's own research has established that the majority of abortions are done with medication abortions: 53 percent in 2020. 

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: So what would we expect, immediately and then maybe longer term, if this effort to make mifepristone unavailable, if that were to actually go through, what sort of impacts would you be expecting.? 

RACHEL K. JONES: Okay, so there's actually a lot that we don't know about what's gonna happen or what would happen if the Supreme Court were to impose restrictions on mifepristone. But again, it's important to recognize that any restrictions that are put in place are not based on medical science. [00:36:00] We do know that it would have a devastating--any restrictions that were put in place would have a devastating impact on abortion access. Again, 53% of abortions are medication abortions.

Currently 55% of women in the US--only 55 percent of women in the US live in a county that has an abortion provider, and if mifepristone were taken away, that number would drop to 51%. But it would have a big impact. There are 10 states that would have a substantially larger notable impact. So about 40 percent of clinics in the US only offer medication abortion. And so again, there's 10 states where if this was taken, if these clinics were taken away, if these providers were taken away, that substantially large proportions of people would no longer have access to abortion. And some of these are states that are actually supportive of abortion rights. States like Colorado, Washington, New Mexico. And again, just one example, in Colorado, it's currently the case that 82 percent of women living in Colorado live in a county that [00:37:00] has an abortion provider. If mifepristone were no longer available, this number would drop to 56%. 

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: I think it's important the way that Guttmacher links health and rights, and the way that your work shows that access, sometimes media presented as though we're talking about the United States and rights to access to abortion in the United States, but it varies very much, as you're just indicating, by region, by state, and then also by socioeconomic status. So there are a number of things to consider here in terms of this potential impact. Yeah. 

RACHEL K. JONES: Definitely. Again, we know from decades of Guttmacher research on people who have abortions, that it's people in disadvantaged populations, low income populations, people of color, who access abortion at higher rates than other groups. And so by default, any restriction on abortion, whether it's a complete ban, a gestational ban, a ban on [00:38:00] a certain type of method, on a medication abortion, it's going to disproportionately impact these groups that are already, again, at a disadvantage. 

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Well, and I think particularly when we're talking about medication abortion, if you know, you know, if you never thought about it, then maybe you never thought about it, but there's a difference between having to go to a clinic where maybe you're going to go through a phalanx of red-faced people screaming at you and the ability to access that care in other ways. It's an important distinction. Yeah? 

RACHEL K. JONES: Definitely. One of the benefits of medication abortion of mifepristone is that it can be offered via telemedicine. If there's a consultation, it can be done online or over the phone, and then the drugs can be mailed to somebody. There are online pharmacies that can provide medication abortion. This means that people, right, don't have to travel to a clinic, that they don't have to, in some cases, travel hundreds of miles to get to a clinic, that they don't have to worry about child care and [00:39:00] taking off time from work.

So, again, medication abortion has the ability to-- has for a number of people made abortion more accessible. 

Abortion and the erosion of privacy Part 2 - The Weeds - Air Date 4-10-24

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: And I guess that goes back to RBG's argument about, like, No, this is about gender discrimination versus right to privacy.

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And this is why, you know, again, if I were to do this from scratch, I think that Justice Ginsburg is correct, that the feminist right, you know, the right to be free from gender discrimination, that is a better source of rights, like the right to contraception and the right to abortion than this right to privacy, which, again, it's developed over 100 years, it's not like this came from nowhere. But that came from an iterative process of the court exercising its own authority, relying on very vague provisions of the Constitution. 

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: And you wrote this piece about the right to privacy, and in it, you end it with these four different ways that this can play out. [00:40:00] It's almost like a choose your own adventure, except we don't actually get to choose. There are nine people in black robes that get to do it for us, but what are those scenarios, and how would we get there? 

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I will say we do get to choose. All of this is going to be decided, potentially, by the next election, and certainly by upcoming elections. So, one possibility is that Justice Thomas wins, and the right to privacy ceases to exist. You know, no more contraceptive right, no more right to marry the person you... you know, the government could potentially throw you in jail because they don't like who you're having sex with, in that world. And, that's not going to happen now. I mean, Kavanaugh said he's not going to vote for it. But if Donald Trump is elected and he puts more Clarence Thomas's on the Supreme Court, you know, we could very easily be in that world. I mean, this is going to be decided by this election. 

There's two different versions of if Kavanaugh's view [00:41:00] prevails. So, like, if we keep the Supreme Court we have forever, and like, Brett Kavanaugh is the king of America, everything depends on what Brett Kavanaugh believes. We know that Brett Kavanaugh has said that he will not, with the exception of abortion, roll back existing rights that the court has already said is part of the right to privacy. So, he's not going to overrule Griswold. He's not going to overrule Lawrence. The court has not said that a right to gender affirming care is implicit in the right to privacy, and we just don't know where Brett Kavanaugh is going to fall on that. You know, given that he is a conservative Republican, I'm not optimistic that what he thinks is going to be good for trans rights, but, you know, I want to analyze him in a journalistically rigorous way. I have my suspicions about what he thinks about this issue, but we don't know yet. 

And then the fourth possibility is, you know, I mentioned that there are Christian right groups that want to use the right to privacy to achieve their own [00:42:00] goals. So, you know, it is entirely possible that, if Trump wins, he could just appoint a bunch of hacks to the Supreme Court, and the right to privacy becomes a weapon that's used to, say, target trans inclusive bathroom policies.

I should mention there's a fifth possibility that I didn't discuss in my piece. The fifth possibility is that Biden wins. And if Biden wins, you know, he could potentially replace Thomas and Alito, and then we have Roe v. Wade back. Then we have the full bore right to privacy back in place. 

So, you know, again, if I have one central message in this entire interview, it's that what the Constitution says does not matter. The right to privacy comes from the vaguest provisions of the Constitution. You know, if you look at what just happened in Florida, there's no doubt that Florida's privacy amendment, which is much more specific than what's in the U. S. Constitution, was enacted to codify Roe v. Wade. But there's a Republican court in Florida, and so that right doesn't exist anymore. 

[00:43:00] All of this depends on judicial appointments. And at the federal level, judicial appointments are made by the president. So, you know, the future of the right to privacy is going to be decided, potentially forever, in the next election, and certainly in elections moving forward. You know, who picks the justices will decide whether this right remains robust and whether it remains a right that we recognize as the right to privacy that we have today, or whether it becomes a weapon that's used by the Christian right.

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: It's just all so vague and unpredictable, and I realize it would be very idealistic and, you know, probably more than a little bit naive to expect something like, Oh, let's get a constitutional amendment that says these things explicitly and codifies this right to privacy. And, you know, right now it is up to the interpretation of the Supreme Court. And clearly the makeup of that court changes over time. Like, you know, we have our eyes on 2024, but there will be a 2028 [00:44:00] and a so on and so forth until, you know, Lord knows what happens. But, what options do we have to make it a little more predictable? Like, can it be? Or is this sort of just the nature of the Constitution, the nature of the country? Like, there are just some things that will kind of always be up in the air, depending on who's in power. 

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: I think one of the biggest lessons from the post-Trump Supreme Court, is that the Constitution means whatever five justices say it means. You know, we didn't lose Roe v. Wade because anything changed in the Constitution itself. The document we have now is virtually identical to the document we had when Roe was handed down. What changed was the membership of the Supreme Court. And that has two big implications. The first big implication is that politics still matters. If Joe Biden is elected in 2024, he can appoint different justices, and those different justices can give us back Roe v. Wade. 

Even if he's not [00:45:00] elected, you know, one thing that we're seeing right now that's a little surprising is that the Republicans are sort of the dog that caught the car when it comes to abortion. In Alabama, the state supreme court tried to ban IVF, and approximately five minutes later the Republican state legislature passed a law overturning that because Republicans realized just how horribly unpopular it is. Donald Trump just put out a statement where he sort of hems and haws and says, I'm very proud that I appointed the justice who overruled Roe v. Wade, but also this is a state issue now I don't want Congress to do anything. And you know, he said that because he knows that the Republican party's position on abortion is unpopular and he's unlikely to get elected if he says what they have historically said about abortion.

Now that said, I think that we should be very cautious because, again, the Constitution says whatever five justices say it means. It doesn't [00:46:00] matter if Donald Trump is going to sign a law banning abortions. What matters is if he is going to appoint justices who will ban abortions. 

So we are in this period where everything is in flux. The Republican Party is running scared. They don't want to do things in the honest way and pass a law banning abortion, but they might be able to be willing to do it in a more underhanded way, and appoint justices who will ban abortion that way.

Digital surveillance and reproductive rights Part 2 - Technically Optimistic - Air Date 5-15-24

AMY MERRILL: The mission of Plan C is to normalize the self directed method for safe, self-managed abortion. So, it started as an idea, a concept, a question: why don't we have access to abortion pills by mail in the U. S.? And it's evolved into a robust public health directory of information and creative campaigns where we suggest and introduce this information in ways that is understandable for people about ways that we can be reclaiming abortion and have agency over this reproductive health [00:47:00] need as the country spirals.

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Plan C's central operation is to facilitate getting abortion pills to people who need them via the mail. 

AMY MERRILL: Abortion pills are a reality in all states. That's kind of the core information that still so many people don't know. Even if you live in this state that has shut down abortion access and all these other ways, you still have options. Pills are not a panacea, I want to say, too. There's always going to be a need for in person care. We advocate for all options to be available. That's also not the reality that we are living in in the U. S. And so our focus really is on expanding the notion of abortion, introducing this method of abortion pills and self directed care.

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Plan C is also committed to providing resources and support for people who get abortions. That includes legal and financial support. But also mental and emotional support as well. 

AMY MERRILL: Part of our acknowledgment at Plan C is recognizing the transformative nature of this method of the pills and the [00:48:00] opportunity for demedicalization, the opportunity for ultimately the pills to go over the counter. And that recognition is grounded in a global context that all around the world, people in other countries are already doing this by the millions. It's very common, it's more accessible, and it's known to be a method that is safe and effective. The World Health Organization calls it an essential medicine. All of that is already true. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: As early as 2013, Amy began seeing abortion pills available through online medication vendors. 

AMY MERRILL: We call them also websites that sell pills. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Many of them were operating overseas, unregulated, and pills would take weeks and weeks to arrive. So, from early on, Plan C's goal was to provide a safer, quicker alternative to the websites that sell pills. And then... 

AMY MERRILL: I mean, the beginning of the pandemic was a wild time for everyone, but we were sitting there at our computers going, Oh my gosh, this is the moment. If there [00:49:00] was ever a moment to introduce a new idea, which is accessing pills by mail, accessing care virtually, it's now. 

But then the commerce routes started to shut down. The flights were stopping, things weren't being imported, and that became a mini crisis that suddenly shipments weren't coming into the US. And so, simultaneously, the providers were looking more and more closely at these restrictions on mailing the pills, questioning, is this really the case? I mean, this is kind of crazy. Most of our other medications, the individual could go online to an online pharmacy and place their order and just do it. And this particular one has these antiquated requirements that it must be dispensed by a provider. You know, it's very patriarchal. It's very medically unnecessary. And these inquiries were moving forward. Providers were figuring out what they could do. And then the FDA rolled back the restrictions on medication abortion, on Mifepristone, [00:50:00] which are called the REMS. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: That stands for Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies, which are drug-specific guidelines put out by the Food and Drug Administration.

AMY MERRILL: So suddenly the REMS were lifted and these services popped up. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: So it's just interesting to note again, we're dealing with a convergence of two things here, which shape the future: the permissive environment around telemedicine, due to the pandemic, and the loss of privacy rights, due to Dobbs. 

AMY MERRILL: With the overturning of Roe, we absolutely updated our information to reflect the changing status, to help people understand the implications of the case and how it impacted state by state access to abortion. We are also advocating for some digital privacy recommendations on our site, or rather, we're putting them right up top. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Plan C connects with online privacy organizations, like the Digital Defense Fund, in order to provide people with concrete advice [00:51:00] for safeguarding their personal data.

AMY MERRILL: So, we've spent many years gathering all of the best tips and best practices to present them to folks along the way. So using privacy-enabled browsing, you know, browsers are typically always tracking people these days. It's gathering this history of what someone has done, where they've gone. There's another recommendation to turn off location services on your phone. That's something that has come up in the abortion issue, of people having a record of their physical location. People are using encrypted text, so there's an app called Signal that folks are using for encrypted texting. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: And real quick, in case you missed it, I talked to Meredith Whitaker, Signal's president, in Episode 2.

AMY MERRILL: And oftentimes the providers are recommending that the patient download one of these encrypted services before going back and forth. So that's often baked into the telehealth intake process. There's also recommendations around email. There is a VPN, a virtual private [00:52:00] network, that will hide your device's IP address.

You know, it's not that, I don't want to create the impression that all of these services out there are being nefarious. I mean, there's a lot we could talk about, of course, with tech and how data is being collected and used. It's business, right? We think of this in terms of keeping a clean digital footprint. It's less about surveillance and more about someone who is coming after a person who had an abortion, who's trying to build a case and is trying to collect that digital footprint in order to make the case. So, you know, these are the steps that are recommended in order for that digital footprint to be clean and that person to maintain control over their experience.

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: I agree with everything you said, but at the same time, it seems desperately unfair that we have to make the care seeker do all this work. 

AMY MERRILL: Absolutely. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: And that responsibility doesn't fall somewhere else. Like, [00:53:00] these are complicated things. 

AMY MERRILL: Yeah, um, that was a big concern that came up after Dobbs. Every individual's assessing their own risk. It is an information game. The challenge is to get all this information out there to raise their awareness to the fact that there's a flip side to all of these technologies that track data. 


AMY MERRILL: I do appreciate the way that the veil is being lifted for us. I would say, like, I appreciate that actually, yeah, these conversations are happening more openly about what is actually happening with these technologies. How can we learn more about how they function so that we know what we're opting into. We have no idea what these apps are doing with our data, right? So, now I think we're in the process of swinging back to a place where we have an opportunity to be a little more conscientious about the way we're living our life with technology.

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: It's better if we make explicit choices, not implicit choices. And I feel like with a lot of this tech, we've just implicitly chosen to use it and don't fully explore the trade offs that we're [00:54:00] making. 

AMY MERRILL: I love, love that description. Yep. There's ways that companies can step up. That's actually critical, I think, from a human rights lens, that companies that deal in data start to really assess the severity of the situation and take steps to proactively land on the right side of history with this stuff, you know, to protect their users from being caught up in a completely unjust, unconstitutional risk of a legal case against them for seeking their health care.

Note from the Editor on the abuse produced by abortion restrictions

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips, starting with Lectures in History, discussing the history of abortion and contraception in the US. The Weeds, in multiple clips, looked at abortion and the constitutional right to privacy. Technically Optimistic examined how data is being weaponized against pregnant people. Consider This look at the real restriction extremists. Lectures in History described the push for fetal personhood. And CounterSpin watched the media watch the court on further abortion cases. 

And those were just the top takes. There's a [00:55:00] lot more in the deeper dive section. But first, a reminder that this show is supported by members who get access to bonus episodes, featuring the production crew here, discussing all manner of important and interesting topics often trying to make each other laugh in the process. To support all of our work and have those bonus episodes delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at There's a link in the show notes, through our Patreon ,pageor from right inside the Apple podcast app. If regular membership isn't in the cards for you, shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now, before we continue on to the deeper dives half the show, I just wanted to add in another element of restricting abortion access that is often overlooked, I think. And since a couple of articles have summed it up real nicely, I'm just going to go ahead and read a bit of each into the record here. 

So, the first is from The Intercept. "Sterilization, murders, [00:56:00] suicide: bans haven't slowed abortions and they're costing lives". So, this article says, "For women in abusive relationships, to get pregnant is to risk your life. The narrative is well-documented. A violent, intimate partner sensing the impending loss of control over his wife's or girlfriend's body, and the arrival of a competitor for her time and attention, even if he wanted the baby at first, grows increasingly possessive, volatile and assaultive. His menacing behavior erodes not just her freedom but also her will to take care of herself. She grows depressed, skips prenatal clinic visits, eats poorly, and smokes drinks and uses drugs more, all to the detriment of her own and her fetus's health. Sometimes the partner's violence turns murderous. 'Women who are pregnant or recently gave birth are significantly more likely to be killed by an intimate partner [00:57:00] than women of the same age who are neither pregnant nor postpartum,' writes the authors of a new study from Tulane university. The harder it is to end a pregnancy the more danger women are in. Looking at the states with multiple abortion restrictions alongside their rates of intimate partner homicide committed against women and girls ages 10 to 44, the researchers found a 3.4% rise in the state homicide rate with each restriction enforced between 2014 and 2020. The authors acknowledge the limits of their methodology, but extrapolate that nearly a quarter of those murdered were associated with the statutes." 

And then from the New Republic magazine article "Dobbs was a gift to domestic abusers", they bring in another element. And it says, "Abusive partners can also use state anti-abortion laws to intimidate and threaten partners who had an abortion. If/When/How operates it's [00:58:00] helpline for questions and support about abortion and the law through which it has observed the impact of antiabortion laws and legal cases. ' Before Dobbs people did contact the helpline because they feared an abusive partner could use their abortion or knowledge of a pregnancy against them', said Ling. But since, calls have increased, and with survivors " weighing the risks of their abusive relationship against their access to abortion." Along with the helpline getting more calls, Ling said, “we have seen the threats from abusers become more specific. Some have threatened to call the police on family members who help them access abortion. Other abusers have falsely claimed it is a crime to leave the state, or [that] their victim has to have their consent to get an abortion. And abusers are weaponizing the rising abortion stigma against their victims, suggesting that their decision to get an abortion will harm them in unrelated court proceedings". [00:59:00] 

So, if you weren't angry enough already, thanks to those writers for highlighting yet another consequence of abortion restrictions. And just in case there's any question, or if you need to respond to any limp objection to this criticism based on the idea that you know, Oh, well, no one intends for abuse to increase, just know it doesn't matter. Those in the grassroots who support and those in politics who ultimately vote for extremist abortion restrictions, don't get any pass on the consequences of those laws, based on maybe some of those consequences being unintended. Which, by the way is a pretty questionable proposition in and of itself when dealing with mostly religious conservatives who tend to believe in strict father morality and the hierarchical ranking of men above women. But even for those who may be genuine and feeling bad about increased abuse and murder, due to their policies, that buys you no forgiveness until you work to undo the [01:00:00] damage. As for the rest of us, the more harm caused will just act as fuel for the campaign to take our policy back in the same direction. 


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And now we'll continue with deeper dives on four topics. Next up, criminalizing abortion. Followed by, abortion extremism in the Republican party, abortion in the legal system, and what is there to do now?

Abortion and the erosion of privacy Part 3 - The Weeds - Air Date 4-10-24

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: Yeah, I think this issue of privacy, you know, you name all these instances, like, you know, we have contraception, we have same sex marriage, we have same sex sex, sex outside of marriage, gender affirming care, all these different forms of healthcare, and I think this Issue of privacy is most well known in the Roe v.

Wade case, and when she was alive, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was very critical of the right to privacy being the reasoning behind the Roe decision. Can you talk about what her argument was? 

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I mean, she was obviously a very significant judge, but probably [01:01:00] the most significant impact she had on the law was before she became a judge, you know, when she was still a lawyer, she was a very important feminist civil rights lawyer in the 1970s.

And there's a provision of the Constitution that says no one shall be denied the equal protection of the walls. That has traditionally been thought of as something that prevents race discrimination, and like, certainly the history of it, like, it's part of the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment was essentially the treaty.

that between the North and the South that ended the Civil War. And I mean, that was a war about slavery. So it makes sense that we think of this as a race provision, but it's broadly worded. It says no one shall be denied the equal protection of the law. Not just, you know, black people won't be denied or, you know, people of a certain race won't be denied.

And so Justice Ginsburg's insight was this is something that should apply to types of discrimination that are similar in character to racism. Sexism is similar in [01:02:00] character to racism in that, you know, it is irrational. It judges people based on traits that don't have anything to do with their ability to contribute to society.

These are just arbitrary prejudice that we've held onto for a very long time. And the Constitution should always be also protect against that kind of thing. And she successfully convinced the Supreme Court that the 14th Amendment should be read not just to protect against race discrimination, but also to protect against sex discrimination.

And she saw the contraceptive right and the abortion right as part of that broad project. You know, the idea was that a woman cannot thrive in society. They cannot, you know, achieve the same professional heights. They cannot compete in the workplace. If they are constantly under threat of being taken out of the workforce for nine months at a time or more because they are pregnant, that they need to be able to control that aspect of their life if they are going to have equality in society.

[01:03:00] And, you know, personally, I find that argument more persuasive than the right to privacy argument. I mean, I think. A contraceptive and abortive rights, they make more sense if you think of them as feminist rights. I think that that, you know, hews more closely to the text of the constitution. I also think it leads to a less freewheeling judicial power, where judges are just inventing rights on the fly.

But that's sort of the dog that did not bite. Bark in the Supreme Court's jurisprudence because the most important feminist legal decision was Craig v. Boren in the mid 1970s. It was two or three years after Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. So the Supreme Court had not yet embraced that language of equality that Justice Ginsburg advocated for when Roe v.

Wade was handed down. And so that whole line, the right to privacy jurisprudence, sort of developed independently of the feminist jurisprudence. 

Abortion and Reproductive Rights Part 3 - Lectures in History - Air Date 3-16-24

Uh, eugenics, uh, as a [01:04:00] concept, was a term coined by Francis Galton, um, a cousin of Charles Darwin in the late 19th century. Uh, and the idea that Galton had was that if you could breed livestock to improve its genetic qualities, Why not breed, as Galton wrote, human beings to have better genetic qualities?

And exactly what eugenics would mean legally was complicated for some time. So some, uh, scholars and legal thinkers argued that there should be legal incentives for the quote unquote right sort of people to get married. Um, there were, for example, better baby contests, where the purported genetic quality of infants would be rewarded with cash prizes or apple pies.

And of course, there were much more interest in negative, what's called negative eugenics, right, using the law to prevent the quote unquote wrong people from having children. Initially, some of these laws focused on access to marriage, on the theory that if people We're for example, suffering from sexually transmitted infections, they shouldn't get married.

[01:05:00] But then, of course, reformers quickly realized that people could have children and have sex without getting married, and turned instead to compulsory sterilization laws, which are on the books, were on the books, in, uh, more than 30 states in the United States, including California, which was one of the nation's leaders in compulsory sterilization.

Uh, these laws applied to people we would now recognize as having, Mental illnesses or disabilities, but to a much larger class of persons as well. California, for example, often targeted persons who were viewed as sexually promiscuous on the theory that sexual promiscuity, particularly in women, was a sign of feeble mindedness or genetics.

Um, overwhelmingly, the people targeted by these laws were already in state institutions. Uh, they were overwhelmingly low income people. Initially, they were overwhelmingly white people, in part because of either de jure or de facto segregation, ensuring that people of color had no access to state institutions or services at all.

Um, this was to change after World War II, [01:06:00] when people of color, particularly black people, made up the overwhelming majority of sterilization victims as sterilization moved south. The eugenics movement changed the status quo when it came to abortion and contraception in a few ways. Obviously, in a sense, the eugenics movement was compatible with what had come before, because just as has been the case with Storer, Or Comstock.

The message of the eugenic movement had been that, of course it was the role of the state to control who reproduced and how. Um, albeit in a different way, the claim of authority from Eugen of eugenics was not moral as Comstock's was, or even Christian. It was, uh, it sounded in scientific expertise.

Eugenicists simply knew better than everyone else the argument went about who should reproduce. On the other hand, the idea of eugenicists was that more reproduction was not always an unmitigated good. And in fact, that certain circumstances, it may make sense for certain people not to have children at all, or not to have more children.

And that the cost of having children, not just to the individual, but to the [01:07:00] state, was something that the state could take an interest in. It was at this time that the first birth control movement organized and that movement had to varying degrees involvement in the eugenic movement itself. Um, so you see here pictured Margaret Sanger, who some of you, most of you know as the figure who coined the term birth control, the founder of Planned Parenthood, who began her career in the 19 teens connecting birth control to socialism and the rights of workers.

And transitioned in part to enli trying to enlist the support of eugenicists, who were at the time enjoyed popular backing across the ideological spectrum. Um, everyone from, uh, conservative Catholic activists to members of Congress viewed themselves as supporters of eugenicists. And Sanger, who was deeply pragmatic, believed that her cause, which she saw as an individual right to birth control, would be more popular, um, if it were embraced by eugenicists too.

Some of her colleagues, including Mary Ware Dennett, who's pictured to her left, rejected this [01:08:00] idea of courting eugenicists and instead framed birth control as an issue of democracy. Dennett argued that it was unreasonable to assume under the Comstock Act that Americans were incompetent to decide on birth control.

If the for themselves when to have children, much less when to consume information about birth control. And that it was inconsistent with the idea of democracy to patronize Americans in this way and to deny them this kind of information. The fight for birth control gained supporters outside of the white community, two prominent, uh Activists like W.

E. B. Du Bois and Mary Church Terrell, who's pictured here, endorsed the use of birth control in their communities, even as birth control, like many movements of the era, um, had ties to eugenics. The birth control movement, for the most part, didn't embrace the idea of a right to abortion at all, although precisely what it was embracing was complicated at a time when no one knew how drugs worked.

So common drugs that were marketed at the time [01:09:00] Like, uh, Miss Lydia Pinkham's remedy, for example, um, were sold as contraceptives and abortifacients and many viewed them as placebos that didn't work at all. So precisely what a right to birth control would entitle you to was ambiguous, even if no one was endorsing abortion on its face.

In fact, if anything, Sanger argued that abortions, which were dangerous at the time, one of the leading sources of maternal mortality and morbidity, would result in part because access to contraception was denied. There had also been an unspoken consensus about how criminal abortion laws would be implemented that had applied for this era.

Overwhelmingly, when an abortion was justified had been left to the discretion of physicians. who could invoke exceptions for the life of the patient. But the difference between life and health of the patient in the 19th and early 20th centuries was non existent at a time when maternal mortality and morbidity rates were high, even compared to the [01:10:00] shameful current standards for maternal mortality and morbidity that we still experience.

So the upshot tended to be that physicians were rarely prosecuted for abortion unless a patient actually died. Um, and then often were prosecuted using the dying declaration or dying words of the patient themselves. Um, competent practitioners, by contrast, were rarely prosecuted at all, and even those who did face prosecution often weren't facing long prison sentences and sometimes came back to practicing abortions after their prison time ended.

After the 1940s, this changed pretty dramatically for a few different reasons. Um, First, it was no longer easy to deny that abortions were occurring. In the 1930s, rates of contraceptive and abortion use increased exponentially during the Great Depression. Abortions were still unsafe, as was pregnancy, and entire hospital wards were dedicated to people suffering the complications of illegal abortions.

So the idea that abortion is just not something that happens here was no [01:11:00] longer possible. to maintain. Um, at the same time, prosecutors began to see abortion as more of a problem in the aftermath of World War II at a time when Americans were encouraged to have bigger families as part of the war effort and the rebuilding of the country after the war.

Um, being pro baby and having a big family was seen as a kind of antidote to communism at a time when the And the Soviet Union's embrace of smaller families and working women was seen as distinctly un American and un Christian. And conversely, abortion providers were seen as distinctly un American and un Christian as well.

Digital surveillance and reproductive rights Part 3 - Technically Optimistic - Air Date 5-15-24

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Take, for example, what happened in Nebraska 

NEWS CLIP: in the summer of 2022. A teenager in Nebraska and her mother are facing multiple charges after Facebook's parent company, Meta, turned over their private messages.

Police say their messages prove the teen had an illegal abortion. Of course, [01:12:00] 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: tech companies have to comply with law enforcement when they really are in possession of data that's been subpoenaed. Privacy centered apps like Signal get around this problem by using end to end encryption. They simply don't have the unencrypted version of the messages sent on their platform.

But even Google, whose revenue is clearly tied to surveillance advertising, is making some adjustments. In December of 2023, they stopped storing location data on their servers, claiming in a blog post that your location history is now stored right on your phone. Now some privacy watchdog groups question whether or not Google has really fully implemented this switch.

But the point is that companies really could step up, as Amy is saying. Not only would this insulate our data from law enforcement, it would mean finally taking some responsibility off of individual careseekers. So tech companies can do better. But [01:13:00] so could Congress. 

KEVIN WILLIAMS: Donald Trump campaigned on overturning Roe v.

Wade, and he successfully did it by appointing justices who in fact overturned Roe v. Wade. Now states can do whatever they want. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: This is Congressman Ted Lieu, the representative from California's 36th District. 

KEVIN WILLIAMS: And then some of these states have very aggressive Republican attorney generals. who will prosecute people who seek reproductive health care, who get abortions, and we don't think folks should be tracked on whether they went to a reproductive health clinic or in some of these states who are looking at banning contraception or who want to ban abortion.

You know, in vitro fertilization, we don't think people should be trapped if they go to an IVF clinic or if they go to a place that sells contraceptives. And that is the gist of the legislation we're trying to get through. The 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: bill is called [01:14:00] the Reproductive Data Privacy and Protection Act, and it was introduced this past March by Representative Liu and four of his colleagues in the House.

KEVIN WILLIAMS: Law enforcement can make demands of private sector companies. in a way that they wouldn't be able to do if Congress passed a law saying you can't do that. So for example, even if the tech companies, let's say, did the right thing in my view and said, look, we're not going to give you the data on this user who visited an abortion clinic or reproductive health clinic and law enforcement gives them a subpoena, well, you know what?

The tech company has complied. This proposed 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: law would prohibit this. It would ban all sorts of communication about an individual's reproductive or sexual health, whether electronic or otherwise, from being used against that individual. These incidents that we've been talking about, when someone's Facebook messages or any kind of digital data is used to criminalize pregnant people?

This bill would just outlaw all of that. 

KEVIN WILLIAMS: [01:15:00] BUTT. There's one problem. I frankly don't think it's going to happen in a Republican controlled Congress, but if the house flips next term, then I think this legislation could get passed. So, 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: beyond reminding everyone that election day is Tuesday, November 5th, what else can we do?

Elections won't change the makeup of the Supreme Court. And there's a scary possibility that the Dobbs decision was only the beginning. 

NEWS CLIP: Today's arguments not only brought hundreds of protesters on both sides of the issue, it was also the first abortion related hearing before the Supreme Court since the conservative majority eliminated the constitutional right to abortion.

Nearly two years ago, CNN 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Paul Reed, this past March, the court heard a case that has major implications for the availability of mitrione, the medication that's used in nearly two thirds of all abortions in the us. A decision is expected in June. 

MELANIE FONTES RAINER: [01:16:00] Absolutely, we're keeping a very close eye on that case. 


MELANIE FONTES RAINER: The case is not about making Mifepristone illegal or taking it off the shelves. It's rolling it back, again, to these early REMS, these restrictions, so that it would be prevented from being put in the mail by U. S. based providers. And I wish I had a crystal ball, but I don't. We'll have to, we'll have to wait and hear.

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: This might be an impossible question to ask, but has technology been a net positive for reproductive health? 

MELANIE FONTES RAINER: Oh, yeah. I, I would say absolutely. I am a big, Bit of a tech optimist, but I think, yes, technology is allowing people to access information from anywhere they are. Technology is the reason this whole system of pills by mail is proliferating in the U.

S. You know, it's that same system is making abortion pills available in all states for folks living in rural areas, for folks that don't have hundreds and hundreds of [01:17:00] dollars to drive or go to an in person clinic. And so, yes, I think that is all net positive. And I also believe that technology. is best thought of as a tool to get us where we want to go.

We judge it as good or bad, depending on whether it's serving our needs or whether we feel like it's controlling us or we're controlling it, you know, but it's a tool. It's our job to be stewards of it, to figure out what we want out of it, to regulate it when it's appropriate. It's looking ahead. You know, at Plan City, we talk all the time about our vision of the future.

I sometimes feel like progressive movements in the U. S. are often just fighting against something that is going wrong or in the way or whatnot, but we really want to be envisioning the future that we want to build. And that's why I believe that this is a really hopeful conversation that truly there's a beautiful vision here of liberation, of people being more in control.

People having more autonomy over their well being, their futures, their reproductive health and outcomes. 


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:18:00] You've reached section B: abortion extremism in the Republican party. 

Texas Republicans Want To Execute Women Who Defy Them - Thom Hartmann Program - Air Date 5-30-24

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: equal protection is the phrase that the anti-abortion freaks use to describe a requirement that they want to have put into law that killing a, a fetus Or to quote the U. S. Supreme Court, an unborn child, um, is the exact same thing as killing an actual born child, or an adult, in other words, homicide. And down in Texas, the Texas Republican Party is putting together their platform this week, and one of the proposals, which looks like it's going to be built into their platform, is calling for, quote, equal protection.

Now, two other states have tried this before. South Carolina and Georgia have both tried doing the same thing. Uh, they didn't succeed in either case. Uh, these, these were actually legislative attempts in South Carolina and Georgia, and they, they tried to pass [01:19:00] laws saying that an abortion is homicide, essentially.

That, that equal protection is given to unborn children as it is to, uh, real children. Um, but this is You know, pretty straightforward. And they're right up front about it. I mean, one of the Republicans, this is Representative, State Representative, Stephanie Klick. Um, who is a Texas Republican, but she's not an anti-abortion absolutist.

Uh, attacked her primary opponent, David Lowe, who's also a Republican, who does want the Equal Protection Law to be applied to abortions. She said, quote, The legislation he prefers would give the death penalty to women who had an abortion. I don't support that. What I support is the Republican Party of Texas platform on abortion, which is the same laws that protect you and me, protect everyone else, to include pre born children.

I'm sorry, that's what he said in response. So she said, the [01:20:00] legislation he prefers would give the death penalty to women who had an abortion. I don't support that. And he says, yes, you're right. He said, what I support is the Republican Party of Texas platform on abortion, which is the same laws that protect you and me, and protect everybody else, to include pre born children.

In other words, if you get an abortion in Texas, you can get a lethal injection. You can get put to death by the state. And these are not fringe groups anymore. I mean, there was once a time when this was very much the fringe. But, no longer. I mean, since 2022, Republican lawmakers have introduced at least 26 bills calling for abortion to be considered homicide.

And women who get abortions to be subject to life imprisonment or the death penalty. Pretty much every anti-abortion leader, this is Jessica Valenti who's writing about this by the way over at her Substack [01:21:00] newsletter, Jessica. substack. com. Uh, she writes, pretty much every anti-abortion leader and organization in the country signed onto a letter last year calling for, quote, equal protection for children in the womb.

And you know, not only, by the way, this has larger implications. It's not just women who get abortions. If a woman in Texas, if this becomes law, and again, you know, this is, Texas is now the third state to suggest this should become law. Or where Republicans are suggesting this should become law. And more than 22 pieces of legislation have been introduced in various states to make this law.

None of them have succeeded so far. But if this becomes law, that fetuses have the same protection under the law as do children, actual children. And a pregnant woman is seen in a bar or restaurant having a sip of wine, [01:22:00] she could be arrested for child abuse. If she smokes a cigarette, she could be arrested for child abuse.

I mean, that's, that's where this is going. And to take it even weirder, you know, there have been several women who had, uh, the story, in fact, the stories that get a lot, you know, the most high profile stories about abortion in the media these days, are stories of women who have, Uh, such severely damaged, malformed, birth defected, uh, fetuses, that there's no way they can survive outside the womb, and yet, the Republicans want to force them to give birth, rather than have an abortion.

I mean, there's, there's, you know, we've all seen, in fact, we had one of those women on this program about a month ago, or maybe two or three months ago. Well, the Texas Republican Party. has two other pieces to their [01:23:00] platform that apply to abortion. One is that they want, uh, all children in the state to be forced to watch anti-abortion propaganda videos.

And the second is that they want the state to, quote, close discriminatory loopholes that fail to protect pre born children suspected of having a fetal anomaly, end quote. In other words, if a woman is carrying a fetus that is known to have, you know, profound birth defects that will cause it to die, they want to force her to give birth to that thing rather than have an abortion.

I, you know, I, I think just five years ago, before Trump was elected and started putting over 300 right wing judges on the courts. We would not have even imagined this was possible. This is how quickly things change. When [01:24:00] you put fascists in charge of a country. And people were amazed at how quickly Hitler changed Germany.

Or Mussolini changed Italy. How quickly Modi is changing India right now. Uh, you know, how quickly Xi changed China. We're seeing, now China didn't go from a democracy to something else, but, you know, things change, things can change really rapidly when you have really committed, uh, politicians. Meanwhile, Project 2025, now Project 2025 is, this is the plan for the next Republican president.

It might be Trump in 2025, it might be J. D. Vance in 2028, or Ron DeSantis, or whoever, you know, whoever runs for president in 2028 on the Republican side. But they want to eliminate requirements that health insurance provides for birth control, number one. Number two, they want to require insurers to cover, quote, fertility awareness based methods of family planning.

In other words, [01:25:00] the rhythm method. They want your insurance company to tell you, instead of giving you birth control pills, we'll give you a brochure explaining That there is this, you know, week long period during the, during the four weeks of your cycle when you're most likely to, uh, to become pregnant.

They also want, uh, another part of Project 2025 is calling for funding a federal study into the dangers of birth control pills. The senior researcher associate at the Heritage Foundation, who's in, leading this project around conception, Emma Waters, she said, quote, I've been very concerned with just the emphasis on expanding more and more contraception.

We want to make sure women are getting the thing that's best for them. And Trump recently said, yeah, I'm looking at banning contraception. Now, he walked that back the next day. It's possible he didn't know what the word contraception meant. But, you know, I'm [01:26:00] guessing he heard the word in a conversation.

The Trump administration also overhauled the Title 10 program, which provides birth control, STD screenings, and reproductive services to low income people. He basically ended all those services. Joe Biden reversed that. And Project 2025 calls for reversing Joe Biden's reversal. In other words, going back to where Poor people can't get birth control, can't get screened for sexually transmitted diseases, can't get any kind of free reproductive services.

Not the job of government to provide anything to poor people.

Why Trumps Abortion Video Needs Some Follow-Up Questions - Brian Lehrer A Daily Podcast - Air Date 4-9-24

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: If you took time from obsessing on the eclipse yesterday to take in any political news, you're You probably know that Donald Trump staked out a new, or is it new, position on abortion rights now that there is such a backlash, right, ever since he fulfilled his 2016 campaign promise to get Roe vs.

Wade overturned by appointing anti Roe justices to the Supreme Court. [01:27:00] He appointed three. They did what Trump promised, as you all know. And in elections and referenda ever since, voters, even in red states, have made it clear that, by and large, they want women to have the right to choose. So, a little Trump history here.

In 1999, when he was first being looked at as a potential presidential candidate, he said this on NBC's Meet the Press with host Tim Russert when asked if he supports even late term abortion rights. 

DONALD TRUMP: I'm very pro choice. I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject.

But you still, I just believe in choice. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: Trump in 1999. But when he was running in 2016, he had the memorable exchange with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, which ended like this. 

MUSIC: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle? The answer [01:28:00] is that there has to be some form of punishment. For the woman?

Yeah, there 


MUSIC: to be 


MUSIC: form. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: So, in 99 he was pro choice, by 2016 he wanted women behind bars, yesterday he released a video on Truth Social which answered one question but begged several others. 

DONALD TRUMP: My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, The states will determine by vote, or legislation, or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land.

In this case, The law of the state. Many states will be different. Many will have a different number of weeks, or some will have more conservative than others, and that's what they will be. At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people. You must follow your heart, or in many cases, Your religion or your faith.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: Very confusing clip, actually, and we'll discuss why, and talk broadly about [01:29:00] abortion continuing to develop as an issue in the presidential and congressional campaigns this year with Molly Ball, senior political correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. Hi Molly, welcome back to WNYC. 

MOLLY BALL: Hi, thanks for having me.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: So there are the things Trump said yesterday and the things he didn't say. We have more clips, but by way of background first, why did he say anything in a new video on the issue rather than just let his record of overturning Roe stand on its own? 

MOLLY BALL: Well, that's a very good question. I think he seems to want to put this issue to rest.

But as you say, the statement that he did put out raised as many questions as it answered. So it certainly didn't do that. However, he has been under a lot of pressure to, uh, take a position on the many lingering questions that the overturning of Roe v. Wade, uh, created, uh, because that Supreme Court decision nearly two years ago now did send the decision making back to the states.

It raised a lot of [01:30:00] questions about how we move forward as a nation, whether there ought to be some kind of federal legislation creating a framework for when abortion is or is not allowed, uh, how states, uh, should administer this, uh, things like medication abortion, which is currently before the Supreme Court.

Uh, there's all sorts of policy areas that, uh, And that the Supreme Court decision actually opened up and that we have seen policymakers in various states and at the federal level be engaged with and so, uh, certainly activists on both sides of this issue do not see this as a closed issue and there's a lot for, for politicians to take a stand on.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: To take one of the things you just mentioned first, the Supreme Court case that they're currently deciding on whether to ban the abortion medication, the Priston. Has Trump taken a position on that? Do you know? 

MOLLY BALL: He has not. I have not seen anywhere where he has even commented on that. And that's one of the many, uh, outstanding questions that, that he has [01:31:00] yet to answer.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: And on what he did say yesterday, he said, leave it to the states, but he did not say explicitly that he would oppose any kind of national restrictions if a Republican Congress were to send him some, though a lot of people are hearing it that way. Leave it to the states means no federal ban. Is it clear?

Uh, that he drew the line somewhere. 

MOLLY BALL: Absolutely not. If anything, uh, it seems like a message that was almost designed to be unclear. He has said in the past many times that he believes there could be some kind of accommodation or compromise that pleases everyone. Uh, but I think we all know that this is an issue where you, where you can't please everyone because it is so divisive, so polarizing, and because people do feel so passionately, uh, on, on all sides of this issue.

Uh, but he, he seems to have wanted to take a position that would be perceived as moderate. He's said many times, uh, that he views As a political loser for the Republican party, and that's a statement that checks out. We have seen [01:32:00] public opinion really move toward, uh, the pro-abortion rights side of this issue.

In the years since Roe was overturned, we've seen it be a very galvanizing, mobilizing issue for voters, if not always for. Uh, the Democratic Party and its candidates. Uh, and so, you know, Trump doesn't want to lose the presidential election by taking a very hard core pro life stance, and he was criticized by many voices in the pro life movement for the stand that he did sort of take, because of that, and because, as you say, there are a lot of pro life people, anti-abortion rights activists who would like to see some kind of federal limitation, who would like to see a national framework passed by Congress that would say no abortions after a certain number of weeks.

We've seen that proposed, uh, in Congress, uh, and, in fact, get a lot of Republican sponsors in the, in the Senate, uh, right up to before Roe was overturned. [01:33:00] Uh, so, Trump, as you said, strongly implied that he would not support something like that, but he did not come out and say that he would veto such a bill if the Congress were able to pass it, and that's one of the many ambiguities that his statement left.


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And now section C: abortion in the legal system.

Abortion and Reproductive Rights Part 4 - Lectures in History - Air Date 3-16-24

We've seen two, count them two, U. S. Supreme Court cases on abortion in one term after Dobbs told us that the federal courts were out of this game, uh, one of which, um, involves the FDA's authority to approve Mifepristone, a drug used in more than half of U. S. abortions. The case also involves a claim that the FDA never had the authority to make abortion pills available via telehealth because Anthony Comstock's law was never repealed and is argued to make it a federal claim to mail abortion related items today.

There's another case involving the Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. Which, uh, the Biden administration has argued requires access for abortion to patients in certain medical emergencies. [01:34:00] Uh, this claim this case also involves the claim by states like Texas and Idaho that federal law actually treats an unborn child as a patient, and that some states like California may be prohibited from providing access to emergency abortions because of the federal law, rather than required to do so.

And finally, of course, as we saw just in the past few weeks, there's the ongoing struggle for fetal personhood. Um, if you were wondering, like, what is the next Roe v. Wade for the anti abortion movement, it was and always has been fetal personhood, but now that Roe is out of the way, the campaign for fetal personhood has intensified considerably.

Um, it's reflected in state laws recognizing the personhood of fetuses for purposes like tax deductions. Um, and child support laws, and recently in a decision of the Alabama Supreme Court, um, holding that for the purposes of the state's wrongful death of a minor law, uh, a frozen embryo is a child or person, and that therefore, suits for the destruction of embryos can be brought.

Um, as wrongful death suits. Uh, these claims are all designed eventually [01:35:00] to return, ironically, not to Congress, not to state legislators, not to voters, but to the U. S. Supreme Court. Because we've seen, um, after Roe surmised, ironically, that when voters are faced with questions involving reproductive rights and justice, they tend overwhelmingly to support reproductive rights and justice.

And so instead, uh, groups that have long complained about the, So, anti democratic courts interjecting themselves into questions of reproduction are instead seeking out courts and arguing that as a matter of the Constitution's original public meaning, access to abortion, potentially access to IVF, potentially access to contraception, is itself unconstitutional.

So when people ask me sort of my favorite question is people usually not from the United States And I think a lot of people in the United States ask me, when is this going to be over? And the answer is probably never, right? Um, but I think one of the other things that's clear in the history of reproductive rights and justice is that it's always very much been a story about, uh, the health of democracy, right?

Who gets to vote, whether you get to vote at all, how money is influencing how you vote. [01:36:00] And so I think in terms of how this turns out, a good barometer will be how healthy is the democracy in the first place.

Abortion and the erosion of privacy Part 4 - The Weeds - Air Date 4-10-24

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: All right, so what is the first court case in which privacy is the central question? 

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: There have been essentially three waves of Supreme Court decisions that we now think of as right to privacy decisions, although the earliest cases didn't use that term. So the earliest cases are two cases from the 1920s called Mayer v.

Nebraska and Pierce v. Society of Sisters. And these cases dealt with essentially the right to choose how to raise your children. Mayer was a case where Nebraska passed a law that forbade schoolteachers from teaching students in a language other than English. And there was a schoolteacher who was, who was, who charged with the crime because the teacher taught the German language.

And like that that was a crime in [01:37:00] Nebraska. If that case had come up today, it would have that would have probably been struck down on First Amendment grounds. I mean, obviously, free speech means you can teach someone to speak German. But, um, the court instead saw this as part of a right to choose the upbringing of your children.

And if you want your children to learn the German language, you Send them to school where they learn the German language. Pierce was a similar case. This was an Oregon law that, it targeted all private schools, but the real target was parochial schools. It was an attempt to ban Catholic parents from sending their kids to Catholic schools.

And the court struck that down. You know, if that case came up today, it would have been struck down under the free exercise clause of the Constitution, the provision saying that you have a right to exercise your religion. But the court in the 1920s saw this as a part of this right to raise your children.

And then that was the first wave of what we now think of as right to privacy decision. 

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: And, and that's really interesting, especially in the context of now, when [01:38:00] you're thinking about the. current parental rights movement we're seeing in a lot of states? 

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, no, I mean, the interesting thing about the early right to privacy cases being about the right to raise your children is you're seeing a divide within social conservatives and within the Christian right about what they think about the right to privacy.

Because in the second wave of right to privacy cases, these started to sweep in not just the right to, you know, choose how you raise your children, but the right to decide whether or not to have children at all. And so you're the second wave of decisions. That's Griswold, the 1965 decision involving contraception.

There were a few other contraception decisions that followed that. And then Roe v. Wade in 1973. These are right to choose whether or not to have children cases. 

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: Yeah. Can you talk about Griswold v. Connecticut? You know, we've talked about it on the show before, but give us a refresher. Like what. What was that case and why is it important?

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Griswold is an odd decision. I think to understand Griswold, you have to [01:39:00] understand, like, what happened in, like, the 30 or 40 years prior to Griswold. The 1920s cases, Mayer and Brown, if they had been decided today, they would have been decided under the First Amendment. They would have been decided under an explicit, what's called an enumerated right that is, like, written into the Constitution.

Instead, the court invented this right that is Not mentioned in the Constitution, you know, the right to decide how to raise your children, and that's just how courts operated in the 1920s. You know, this was what was called the Lochner era. Lochner said that there was a so called right to contract, and what the right to contract was, was the right to enter into a labor contract where you're paid terrible wages and you We're ridiculously long hours.

You know, there's a right of employers to exploit their workers. That's not mentioned in the Constitution either 

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: right to a job that sucks. Okay, right, 

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: right to a job that sucks. That was essentially what what the right was that was that was created in Lochner. And [01:40:00] during the New Deal, this idea that court should be finding unenumerated rights was discredited.

And it was discredited, you know, because of Lochner, you know, because of these hot, very anti worker decisions that the court had handed down. And so Griswold is a weird decision because they want to recognize a right to contraception, but they want to make it look as little like Lochner as possible. So they have this sort of tenuous reasoning that like, well, the Constitution protects these other things that deal with privacy, you know, protects you against the police searching your home without a warrant.

And so the language that the court used was penumbras and emanations. Somewhere within the penumbras and emanations of these existing enumerated right to privacy is a broader right to contraception. There was a theory behind that. You know, the theory was that if [01:41:00] it's a crime to have contraceptions, if it's a crime to use birth control, if it's a crime to use a condom, then the police can search your bedroom or can search a married couple's bedroom for evidence of, like, illicit condom use.

For evidence of like, ooh, you've got an illicit diaphragm in there. We're gonna have to throw you in jail. Yeah, 

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: I'm just like imagining a scenario where they're like, I need to check for an IUD, and I'm like, that sounds, that sounds terrible. No. 

IAN MILLHISER - SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, exactly. I mean, like, that was what the court wanted to prevent, was the idea was the sort of police investigation that would have to go on in order to determine that you were violating a contraception ban would be so offensive.

Think about modern forms of contraception and, like, the sort of search that the police would have to do in order to determine that you're using it. And so Griswold, you know, the insight was that there's something so offensive about the police being able to make this kind of [01:42:00] investigation that we're just going to take it off the table.

And that was how sexuality sort of got wrapped into this right to privacy. 

Why Trumps Abortion Video Needs Some Follow-Up Questions Part 2 - Brian Lehrer A Daily Podcast - Air Date 4-9-24

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: Let me also replay the clip of Trump from yesterday, and get your take on the confusing way this ends. If we are arguing about, or not arguing about, but if we're discussing whether Trump is trying to sow as much confusion as clarity, listen carefully as he says, up to the states, but then implies that it should actually be up to to each pregnant woman, if they want to hear it that way.

DONALD TRUMP: My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land. In this case, the law of the state. Many states will be different. Many will have a different number [01:43:00] of weeks, or some will have more conservative than others, and that's what they will be.

At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people. You must follow your heart or, in many cases, your religion or your faith. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: So, did you hear that at the end, when he threw in, you must follow your heart or your religion or your faith? Uh, that makes it sound like he supports an individual's right to choose as opposed to a state legislature's right to choose for you, but I don't think that's his position.

MOLLY BALL: Interesting. I mean, I heard that more as, uh, a political statement saying you must follow your heart in terms of how you vote on this, but as we know, this is something that Trump does all the time. He, he speaks in these, these confusing and ambiguous ways or he just, you know, Blatout takes multiple positions on an issue, uh, and he counts on that to muddy the waters and to allow people to hear whatever they want to hear.

And so, uh, the hope [01:44:00] is that, you know, people sort of give him the benefit of the doubt and say, well, I think he's here and someone else can hear it completely differently. Uh, and then, you know, the, if they, for people who are looking to, to, to get to yes and voting to, for Donald Trump, it gives them sort of permission to hear whatever they want to in his various conflicting statements.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: Yeah. We're going to talk about Florida now in this respect, Molly in brief, what just happened there? 

MOLLY BALL: I was actually in the legislative chamber in Tallahassee when the legislature passed the current six week ban in Florida. What has just happened is that the Florida Supreme Court has allowed that six week ban to go forward.

Previously, the state had a 15 week limit that also had I believe yet to be implemented, uh, pending this, the, the Supreme Court's decision. So, on, starting on May 1st, there will be a ban on abortions after 6 weeks in Florida, which is before many women even know that they're pregnant, so many people [01:45:00] consider it.

Uh, effectively a complete abortion ban. Prior to this, Florida was the only southern state that hadn't restricted abortion and had become sort of an abortion haven for that reason. But on on the basis of polling, it is the most pro choice red state. Uh, at the same time, the Supreme Court issued another opinion allowing an abortion rights ballot initiative to go on the ballot.

This is a if 60 percent of voters support it, which is a quite high bar, would allow for a right to abortion up to fetal viability, which is the limit in Roe v. Wade, about 23, 24 weeks. So many, including the Biden campaign, are hoping that this will prove a powerful motivator getting people to go to the polls and vote for abortion rights, particularly, I think, for Democrats, the fact that there will be a six week ban in place for about six months before the election.

They're hoping we'll sort of [01:46:00] demonstrate to people what it's like to live under this sort of a regime, and then they will have an opportunity to change it. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: And I think Michael in Miami has something to say about this. Michael, you're on WNYC, hello from New York. 

CALLER: Hey, Brian. Hey, Molly. Thank you so much for taking my call.

Brian, you've been my lifeline to New York, living in Florida for the last couple years. 


CALLER: you. So, I appreciate it. We still live in Inwood, uh, not too far. Uh, I think this is the supercharge. I don't think people really understand how supercharging this is going to be for Florida. The Senate race is only three points.

The Biden Trump race is only seven, and we need 60 percent to get this passed. Thank you. I think it's going to be such a big influx of money and energy and power into this state that I think could, I don't know if it'll flip it all the way presidentially, but I could certainly flip it for the Senate and, and particularly the fact that this six week ban is going to infect in the next few days, [01:47:00] um, and, and I think people are going to realize how their rights are being taken away.

It's very direct. We've got this right being removed and then a ballot measure right in November. It's almost perfect. It's almost It's the best thing I think could have happened to Florida. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: Michael, thank you very much for checking in. Call us again from down there. Molly, let me linger with you for a second on this 60 percent point.

You mentioned it. Michael mentioned it. Um, I didn't know about it. Am I hearing it right that it will take 60 percent of the vote in Florida to enshrine abortion rights? 

MOLLY BALL: That's correct. So, this measure could get a majority of the vote and still would not pass. That is the threshold for ballot measures in Florida.

So, if you recall, in Ohio, for example, the last one of these ballot measures that passed, uh, the abortion rights side did win in Ohio, but it got 57 percent of the vote. Uh, so, [01:48:00] that's a very high bar to clear, and, uh, we will see if, uh, Uh, if Florida's able to, to, to clear it. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: Um, it, it can work either way, right?

I guess the anti-abortion rights camp likes the fact that it's 60 percent because it takes that 60 40 majority, not 50 percent plus one. But maybe what Michael was hinting at there is that because the abortion rights proponents would need to get to 60%, it's even more of a turnout thing. Generator than it would be if it was 50 percent plus more than you think.

MOLLY BALL: It's possible I could also see an argument going the other direction that it's harder to motivate people when It's this hard to to pass something because they may not have a hope that they could actually get there We've seen this be, again, a very mobilizing issue in ballot initiatives, but not necessarily for candidates.

I covered the, the Florida gubernatorial election in 2022, when the [01:49:00] Democratic candidate, Charlie Crist, uh, was hammering this issue very hard, saying, you know, Ron DeSantis has already banned abortion after 15 weeks, and he's going to do further limits if you reelect him. DeSantis, of course, went on to win that election by nearly 20 points.

So, uh. Mm hmm. It's not necessarily clear that voters will take this and apply it to candidates, whether it's the Senate race, uh, between Rick Scott and his Democratic opponent, or the presidential race. Uh, but we, but what we have seen, uh, is that when abortion is on the ballot as an up or down issue, it does make a lot of people feel uncomfortable.

Go to the polls and those people tend to be Democrats and liberal leaning independents. So the hope is once you get those people out, you know, maybe they're not motivated to go vote for Joe Biden or vote against Rick Scott, but once you get those people to the polls, that's the way they're going to vote.


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And finally section D: what is there to do now?

Digital surveillance and reproductive rights Part 4 - Technically Optimistic - Air Date 5-15-24

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Through no fault of their own, Americans seeking reproductive [01:50:00] health care find themselves restricted, monitored, and under the threat of prosecution.

And because this seems so unfair, and so outside their control, It's strange that the best data privacy advice we have for them is just strong encouragement for people to take control of their data themselves. We seem to be passing the buck. We're not so much helping them as telling them to help themselves.

And as we talked about at the beginning of this episode, when we heard about Dr. Janet Vertazy's experiment to keep her pregnancy offline, opting out of mainstream internet services. can lead you to some strange places, and is itself sometimes seen as suspicious. But Director Fontes Rainer maintains that, when it comes to data privacy, you are your own best resource.

AMY MERRILL: The best advocate for my own privacy is going to be me, right? No one's going to care more about my privacy than me. Within the healthcare [01:51:00] space, we know that a lot of healthcare providers are using web tracking technologies to better understand their patient consumer populations. And in those web tracking technologies, we have some authority and we have reminded providers in particular that if you're going to use these types of technologies, take steps to be compliant with HIPAA, making sure first and foremost that you have a business associate agreement, which is basically an agreement between Google, Metapixel, these web tracking applications and the hospital, so that if there is a breach, if there is an impermissible use or disclosure of that data, it's protected.

Because if it's not, then those providers are just exposing individual protected health information, which is not compliant with HIPAA. I have limited jurisdiction, so to just like put a disclaimer, I have limited jurisdiction over that kind of data, right? So like I can't always do something. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Can I just try and make this more concrete for the people who might be listening, Director?

Are you effectively saying [01:52:00] don't use these apps? Is that basically the message I should take away? 

AMY MERRILL: I'm saying you should not be storing protected health information on your phone. In a Google app, in any sort of, you know, there was a lot of attention on period trackers when DOBS first happened, right? And a lot of steps were taken to try to get those individual apps to change how they were tracking data.

But, you know, We know that there are gaps in the regulatory authority and enforcement. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Gaps? Big enough for apps, I guess. 

NEWS CLIP: Fertility and period tracking apps have some of the most sensitive reproductive information. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: The new HIPAA reproductive privacy rule does a lot to protect people who receive out of state care.

That woman who traveled from Texas to California doesn't have to fear the results of a blood test might make it back to law enforcement in Texas. That's huge. But the data collected by birth control apps is still potentially dangerous. 

NEWS CLIP: There is no difference in the data from your reproductive [01:53:00] choices than the pair of shoes you looked at online.

It's treated exactly the same in the law right now, and that's what the problem is. 

KEVIN WILLIAMS: Leading up to DAWBS, we have been talking a lot at Planned Parenthood in and around making sure folks feel educated around what was changing within certain states. Kevin Williams 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: is the VP of Digital Products at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, where he's worked for over a decade.

KEVIN WILLIAMS: Over one in three women, plus many more folks that identify as trans and non binary, are without access in their states. And so, obviously, that is Very, very important for us to get ahead of, and, you know, we've had to really be progressive and think how to take users through this very complex matrix now of what the laws are and where access is, and it's very confusing.

It's a very challenging process. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: [01:54:00] Kevin and his team have been doing digital outreach in the face of two overlapping challenges. The suddenly remote healthcare environment of the COVID pandemic and the confusing, restrictive landscape post dops. And as both of these events led more and more patients to seek healthcare information online, he knew that Planned Parenthood had to be exceedingly cautious in how it treated personal health data.

KEVIN WILLIAMS: So birth control and period tracking seemed like something for us to 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: explore. Planned Parenthood's own fertility and period tracking app is called SpotOn, and it's been around in some form since 2016. From 

KEVIN WILLIAMS: the beginning, I'll just say, privacy and security has always been an area of focus for us. We believe that your personal health care data should never be used against you.

We don't sell data. It's very important for us, even at the ideation and design stage, to be [01:55:00] We don't collect information and sell it for advertising purposes. We don't collect the information, store it places. And I think that that is the common industry standard of collecting that information. And so what was interesting was when all of the noise In and around concerns around privacy came up.

There was a lot of focus on period trackers and folks were deleting their apps. And we had to spend a lot of time educating people around, um, understanding what we were doing was different than some other period trackers. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Planned Parenthood's app stores data locally on your phone rather than in the cloud.

KEVIN WILLIAMS: Planned Parenthood, we speak a lot about how important Privacy and security is to us. And so I think in a lot of ways, users and communities expect us to show up in this way. We've focused on thinking about accessibility, thinking about how we, uh, educate people to be empowered. I think [01:56:00] that privacy is a top priority for us and we stand by that.

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Okay. So you've been talking about how some of the values of Planned Parenthood, like transparency and data privacy, like kind of make it into your work as a product designer. Which makes me want to ask you, like, how do you think about accountability here? Like, as a developer, but a developer in this, you know, particularly urgent space?

KEVIN WILLIAMS: It's a good question because we've been talking a lot in and around accountability as well. There's a real challenge on what accountability we have as an organization, providing care as a trusted brand there to support people, and then also holding big technology accountable as far as educating people on how to use these fancy devices that, you know, have the most sensitive information that they have available.

So when our team comes together thinking about what we should build and design, I mean, First and foremost, we [01:57:00] work very closely with our information securities team, our general counsel and legal advisors and folks are brought into that process right away in the beginning so that we are thinking bigger than just the moment.

We're trying to be more thoughtful about what the idea is going to look like in execution and iteration over time. You know, there's so much conversation around weaponizing of data these days, and there's a lack of trust. And so. Positioning ourself as a trusted resource is been really important to our social media and communications team, just because there's just a, you know, it's next level out there right now.

Yeah, it's a wild west. Yes, it is a wild west right now. Totally is. We've become so dependent on big technology. We really need to find a way to use this data for good. I think there's a lot of noise in and around the [01:58:00] exploitation of data, but there's some real societal shifts that that need to be observed.

And I think part of the challenge with that is what information is being collected, where it's being stored, who's monitoring it, how is it being exchanged in between and across organizations? And I just would really like to have more conversations about that. 

NJ Rep. Mikkie Sherril On Abortion Nationwide, And Campus Protests In Her District - Brian Lehrer_ A Daily Podcast - Air Date 5-1-24

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: Let's start with the judge shopping bill. Can you explain what that's about? 

REP. MIKKIE SHERRIL: Yes, so, you know, what we've seen in some of the anti-abortion tactics is judge shopping, meaning that there are certain divisions within our, uh, judicial system that have only one judge.

So for example, if you come, uh, if you bring a case to court in New Jersey, um, you don't know which judge you are going to get to hear your case. You could have a judge appointed by Biden or Obama. You could have a judge appointed by Trump or [01:59:00] Bush. You don't know. There are multiple judges that might be picked to hear your case by the assigning judge.

However, in some of these divisions, especially, you know, in some more remote areas, there is only one judge. So that you know, if you take your case to that court, you have One person that will hear it. And so that can, uh, ensure the outcome you want in certain cases. And certainly we saw that with the Mifa Prestone case.

So what my bill does is say you have to have more than one judge if you are going to bring a case that will impact the st the rights of people nationwide. So in that type of case with say, a nationwide ban on something or impacting a nationwide law. that you have to bring your case, uh, to a division or a department that has more than one judge.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: Don't all sides in all cases judge shop if they can? And if so, how can a bill prevent it [02:00:00] in ways that would kind of advance what you're, uh, Erin Clayton, MAGA, QAnon, 

REP. MIKKIE SHERRIL: Deon Clark, Transcriptionist Quartet, enshittification, MAGA, QAnon, Deon and go to some of the most conservative judges in the nation to determine the outcome.

We want a more fair process. And certainly, they may draw a very conservative judge, but I think we want somebody to put forward a case where they are trying to make a very fair case and can't sort of game the system or determine the outcome based on where they bring that case. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: So, The bill would explicitly do that, how, and do you think you have enough support in the Republican House of Representatives to get that bill to the President's desk?[02:01:00] 

Work to the Senate. 

REP. MIKKIE SHERRIL: So the bill would specifically say that if you are trying to, um, bring a case that would impact people nationwide, you have to bring it into a district or division that has more than one judge, um, so that you can't sort of predetermine exactly the judge, uh, that is going to hear it.

Um, and, uh, you know, it's hard to say, we've had, uh, trouble in this Congress, I think, gaining enough support to get, um, Very non controversial things done. It's been very hard. So in this Congress, trying to find that group of support will be difficult, but I think we've seen movement in the Senate. Schumer introduced a similar bill, um, and I think that he's seen some bipartisan support there.

So hopefully we can build on that in the House, because really this is, this is something that, um, You know, when we're talking about rights, uh, that we want to protect in our [02:02:00] courts, um, you know, the very things that protect us against, um, some very conservative justices could protect people against some very liberal justices, so, or judges.

So I think this is an area where we could find, um, wide bipartisan support, and just trying to create a more fair justice system. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, A DAILY PODCAST: So the MIFA Pristone case was an inspiration for this bill. I see you're also concerned about another Supreme Court case on the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.

What's that? 

REP. MIKKIE SHERRIL: So the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, um, called EMTALA often, Is a case heard, being heard before the court or just was heard before the court and we expect an upcoming decision, um, that is a case where Idaho had a trigger law, meaning that once Roe was overturned, that law would immediately go into effect, um, and it was one of the most draconian laws [02:03:00] regarding abortion care across the nation.

So, you could basically, um, You only get, as far as health care for women, abortion in the case of if you were seeing the death of a mother, um, so what EMTALA says in, and how that has been interpreted is to provide what, what is called stabilizing care, but what that really means is, look, if you are in a medical situation, if you are suffering, um, a medical problem with your pregnancy, abortion may be the way that.

The, um, the way that the medical center can treat you. And in cases such as placenta previa, um, hemorrhaging, other areas, it's really an important part of reproductive health care. We're seeing in too many cases that when doctors wait until the actual life of the mother is at stake, not just the health of the mother, they're making decisions that will put the mother at risk of [02:04:00] never being able to conceive again.

Transcriptionist Quartet, enshittification, MAGA, QAnon, Transcriptionist Quartet, enshittification, to conduct an abortion if it would save the reproductive organs of a mother and the answer was really very unclear because I think the answer is no under that law and so health care providers are not protected in that case and in Idaho you can be put in jail.

Rakeen Mabud on Greedflation, Rachel K. Jones on Mifepristone Part 2 - CounterSpin - Air Date 4-5-24

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Well, if you talk to staunch anti-abortion people, the conversation is, is very rarely about science or about medicine, you know? Um, but then some of them and their media, Folks will throw around terms that sort of suggest that they're being science y, you know, they'll talk about viability or heartbeat, or they'll say it's about [02:05:00] concern about the safety of drugs.

And I just wonder, as a scientist who actually is immersed in this stuff, what do you make of the reporting on the medical reality of abortion? And would more knowledge help inform the broader conversation or is it just two kind of different conversations? What do you think? 

RACHEL K. JONES: Right, I definitely think it's two different conversations.

Like I said, we have decades of scientific medical research establishing that medication abortion is safe, effective, and widely accepted. People who don't support abortion choose to ignore the science and the safety and dig for their own factoids and, and supposed scientific facts to support their arguments.

JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: It's so strange how the media debate always seems to start again and again at point zero, you know, as though there were no facts in the matter or, or no experience. And as though women aren't And, uh, we're looking for [02:06:00] experts on their own experience, you know? Um, well, finally, we see things like the Women's Health Protection Act, you know, federalizing the right to abortion.

I know the law is not necessarily your purview, but, you know, In terms of responding to these court moves and these state level moves, do you think that federal action is the way to go? 

RACHEL K. JONES: Certainly, that is one solution, right? The Women's Health Protection Act would enshrine the right to abortion federally.

But we also need, and especially in the current environment, I don't want to say Women's Health Protection Act is pie in the sky, but given everything that's going on right now, we also need federal and state policy makers to step up to restore, protect, and expand access to abortion. A lot of these restrictions are imposed.

I mean, quite frankly, you know, the right to abortion was removed because of Roe, and that allows states to impose pretty much any restriction that they want to. We're seeing from all [02:07:00] these, uh, different laws that are being implemented, and so it really is a lot of times at the state level, and certainly in the current environment, the state level is what we might need to focus 


And then anything you would like to see more of or less of from journalism in this regard? Thank you very much. 

RACHEL K. JONES: You know, on medication abortion, it seems like the media is actually doing a decent job of covering the issue, of acknowledging, again, the decades of research showing that medication abortion is safe, effective, and commonly used.

I guess the only issue we might have is one that you see anytime that abortion is the subject of media stories, and that is a lot of times reporters think, well, if they have to Take a fair and balanced approach. That means that they have to talk to the people who oppose abortion. And again, when this is about science and facts and research, then you don't need to talk to people who don't believe in it, don't believe in sound science, or who are going to ignore the science.

Again, decades of, of solid [02:08:00] medical research. 

Digital surveillance and reproductive rights Part 5 - Technically Optimistic - Air Date 5-15-24

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Even if you know about hipaa. You probably have at least a few misconceptions about it, according to director Fontes Rainer. 

I think there's a lot of misinformation about HIPAA in the first instance, whether it's to doctors and hospitals or patients. And I have been told from people, right, you know, oh, well, HIPAA protects me for X, or HIPAA protects my data on my phone, or HIPAA protects me when I do X, or I'm going to get my records because of HIPAA.

And some of that is true and some of that isn't true. We all do everything on our phones now, and I think a lot of people have a very unrealistic expectation of privacy and expectation of protection when they think it's just, oh, it's my medical information, so it's protected, right? 

Not right, unfortunately.

AMY MERRILL: There should be a business associate agreement in place so that data is protected, but oftentimes there isn't. So oftentimes you may be using some app on your phone that is not a HIPAA covered entity, it's not a business associate agreement, you're just using it, and so you are making yourself exposed.

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: HIPAA makes many [02:09:00] concrete requirements about how healthcare providers have to treat medical records. The same is true of all sorts of private companies in the healthcare space. That's the function of these business associate agreements that the director just mentioned. But, HIPAA makes no provisions for technology companies.

AMY MERRILL: So one of the first things my office did last summer was we put out, literally, here's how to take this into your own hands even when HIPAA doesn't apply, right? Like basic things, right? Turning off, tracking things, tracking off geolocation, making sure you're not storing protected health information on your phone, on your tablet, on your devices in the first instance.

Don't store it into the Google Cloud. Don't store it into the Apple Cloud. Don't Because these things can be searchable, identifiable, and sometimes they're not protected. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: So this is the problem, and it's twofold. HIPAA goes so far, but falls short of protecting many sources of healthcare data for the 21st century American.

And in a landscape without the protections of Roe v. Wade, it also [02:10:00] became clear that HIPAA had huge gaps in it when it comes to reproductive healthcare. And when you take those two issues together, then you're at the intersection of data privacy and abortion rights. 

SUE DUNLAP: I'm gonna turn again to a story here.

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Again, here's Sue Dunlap of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. 

SUE DUNLAP: We recently had a patient here in Los Angeles who had started in Georgia, then went to South Carolina, got sent back to Georgia, then went. to Florida, then from Florida, flew to Los Angeles, all because there were various abortion limitations and bans.

The very first thing when one of our doctors came into my office to sort of explain what had happened, he said, she came with a stack of papers that made no sense. Would having had one seamless electronic health record have made her experience better? In a perfect world, [02:11:00] yes. Sure. But I can also tell you that what was contained in those papers was also informed by fears or fears.

around the limitations in each state. So what a doctor in California might expect versus what a doctor or a practitioner in a state where abortion is becoming criminalized might be able to offer are also very, very different. So, Again, I'm stuck in this in between where I can tell you what we aspire to and want isn't here today.

What should we do now? I think we have to live in both. I don't think it's a, this is the solution, health records. I think that's naive. Our patients live in a different world and that's exacerbated by dramatic differences across geography, which frankly are only going to become more intense. It just starts to create a dynamic that [02:12:00] is not going to work and isn't compatible with the beautiful vision of shared electronic health records, which is that.

Patients can travel, and they can get the best care possible. And so an electronic health record starts to become the path to transfer those disparities. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: Sue reminds me that in real life, tech doesn't live in a vacuum. In a world where your own data can be weaponized against you like this, what might seem like a simple, obvious solution to a technologist, like electronic health records, becomes a huge social issue, an emblem of the loss of autonomy and surveillance.

And not just surveillance. For many Americans seeking reproductive care, simply visiting the doctor generates a dystopian digital scarlet letter. It could lead to your being fined or jailed, or to an awful self destructive cycle where in order to avoid getting arrested, you avoid seeing a doctor. Post [02:13:00] Dobbs America is a place where people have to choose.

Should I risk prosecution? Or should I risk getting sicker? And for pregnant people, the choice is even starker. States with restrictive abortion laws have made it so your data can very literally be the difference between life and death. That's post Dobbs America. But Melanie Fontes Rainer is trying to steer us out of this nightmare.

And she's trying to do that by fixing HIPAA. 

AMY MERRILL: So, in this space that we live in now in post op, a lot of reproductive health care providers, reproductive health care clinics, OBGYN facilities, they are very aware of that. Trying to misuse data, trying to track women, going on fishing expeditions, none of this is new.

Those kinds of providers are very familiar with the landscape and they know the law. Oftentimes before you have surgery, what do they do? They give you a blood test [02:14:00] to make sure you're not pregnant. And now you have a medical record, whether or not it's related to your reproductive health care, that now affirmatively states whether or not you're pregnant, that someone wants to have, that someone could track you.

And so those are the instances I worry about because your medical record through your electronic health record can be everywhere, right? I've had people tell me, you know, uh, we had a patient, she went to California for an abortion. When she went back home, just stayed at. The provider said, I see you had an abortion in California, right, and now they may hand over those records.

And so, you know, that's why we have proposed a rule to actually take it a step further. We have a proposed rule that will actually prohibit those disclosures in the first instance. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: It's called the HIPAA Privacy Rule to Support Reproductive Healthcare Privacy. Yeah, that's right, privacy's in there twice.

And back when I spoke with Director Fontes Raynor, it was just a proposal. But on April 26th, it became official. 

NEWS CLIP: Thank you for joining [02:15:00] us, uh, to discuss today's major announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: The new rule protects patients and providers. Because it basically says, if reproductive healthcare was given or received in a state where that care was legal, 

AMY MERRILL: That information about that healthcare cannot be used or disclosed by that healthcare provider or health plan for an investigation to impose liability on the individual or the provider.

NEWS CLIP: There is one thing Dobbs did not take away, and that is the right of Americans to their privacy. 

RAFFI KRIKORIAN - HOST, TECHNICALLY OPTIMISTIC: That's HHS Secretary Javier Becerra. He's speaking at a press conference announcing the new rule, with Director Fontes Rayner at his side. 

NEWS CLIP: We took action the moment the Dobbs decision became public. We're not stopping.

AMY MERRILL: The idea, right, that me as an individual, as a human being, that I can't travel somewhere to where the healthcare is lawful to receive lawful healthcare on my dime, [02:16:00] that that's not legal and that my state thinks they own me, that is bananas. 


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: That's going to be it for today. As always, keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about today's topic or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. 

The additional section of the show included clips from Lectures in History, Technically Optimistic, The Weeds, The Thom Hartmann Program, The Brian Lehrer Show and CounterSpin. Further details are in the show notes. 

Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben and Andrew for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to all those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up [02:17:00] today at, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app.

Membership is how you get instant access to our impressively good and often funny weekly bonus episodes, in addition to there being no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with the link to join our Discord community where you can also continue the discussion. 

So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay!, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from BestOfTheLeft.Com.

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#1633 Fights for Fair Pay, Journalism vs Sensationalism, Billionaire Bailouts, and Addiction Capitalism: Sports are a Microcosm of the Ills of Society (Transcript)

Air Date 6/4/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast. Seemingly, the late Pope John Paul II said that, "Of all the unimportant things, football is the most important", referring to European football, of course. And arguably that could be extrapolated out to all of the other sports that people also invest much of their lives into following. But it's not just for the importance that people put on sports that it becomes a good topic for a political podcast; it's because the problems that arise within the systems of sports, are the same problems we all face everywhere, which makes them a good lens through which to understand the mechanisms of broader society: the fight for fair pay, both journalism and addictive games functioning under capitalism and unfair benefits for billionaires, all resonate far beyond the bounds of the 

players, owners and fans of sparks clubs. Sources providing our top takes today, include the University of Iowa, the PBS [00:01:00] NewsHour, Brett Coleman, LeBatardShow, MSNBC Reports, Robert Reich, and The Current. Then, in the additional deeper dive half of the show, there'll be more on the new world of pay for play for college athletes, the folly of taxpayer funded stadiums, sports journalism and capitalism, and the impact of addictive sports gambling.

Pay for Play: Should College Athletes be Considered University Employees? Part 1 - University of Iowa - Air Date 3-28-24

DAN MATHESON: I want to set the stage for the tectonic shift that is facing college athletics right now. It didn't happen overnight, and the path that has led to this moment provides much needed context for a full discussion of the issues that we're going to have tonight.

I want to begin by going back to 1984. In that year, the NCAA lost the antitrust lawsuit known as the Board of Regents case. In that case, the Supreme Court found that the NCAA's restrictions on the number of football games that could be televised each week were illegal [00:02:00] restraints on trade and commerce under antitrust law.

But there was a silver lining for the NCAA in that defeat: the Supreme Court acknowledged in its decision that some restraints on trade and commerce are necessary for college football to exist and wrote, quote, "The NCAA seeks to market a particular brand of football, college football. The identification of this product with an academic tradition differentiates college football from, and makes it more popular than, professional sports to which it might otherwise be comparable, such as minor league baseball. In order to preserve the character and quality of the product, athletes must not be paid, must be required to attend class and the like." End quote. 

"Athletes must not be paid." That dictum by the Supreme Court in 1984 became a foundation upon which the [00:03:00] NCAA based its legal strategy and its justification for amateurism for decades to come. But the protection the NCAA relied on from that Supreme Court decision would eventually come to an end, which I will talk about in a moment. 

20 years after that Board of Regents decision, legal challenges to the NCAA's amateurs and rules began like a snowball at the top of a mountain that grew as it tumbled downhill, and today the NCAA is at the bottom of that mountain, looking up at an avalanche coming at it.

I want to briefly walk you through a few of those important legal challenges to amateurism that have taken place over the past 20 years and set up the issues that we're considering tonight. 

First, in 2004, we have Jeremy Bloom. Jeremy Bloom was a unique [00:04:00] two-sport athlete who played college football [for] Colorado, but also was an Olympic-level skier, and he sued the NCAA because the NCAA denied his request to sign name, image, and likeness deals as a skier outside of his college sport. This was long before our current NIL environment that we've become so accustomed to. The NCAA won that lawsuit, and succeeded in holding off what was a very high-profile challenge to its authority. But in doing so, it sparked a national debate over the fairness of its amateurism rules.

Five years later, in 2009, the next legal challenge took Jeremy Bloom's fight one step further. That was a class action antitrust lawsuit known as the O'Bannon case. In that case, college athletes challenged the NCAA's amateurism rules that restricted them from profiting from [00:05:00] their name, image, and likeness in video games. This was the lawsuit that brought down the very popular EA college sports games that probably many of you students here played while you were younger. The O'Bannon case was an antitrust case, just like the Board of Regents case. So in deciding the O'Bannon case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was influenced by the Supreme Court's statement in the Board of Regents that athletes must not be paid. In the O'Bannon case, the court ruled that offering student athletes, quote, "Cash sums untethered to educational expenses is not minor. It is a quantum leap. At that point, the NCAA will have surrendered its amateurism principles entirely and transitioned from its particular brand of football to minor league status." End quote. 

That decision by the Ninth Circuit to protect NCAA [00:06:00] amateurism rules against payments unrelated to educational expenses further emboldened the NCAA and further enraged a growing number of amateurism skeptics.

Right around the same time as the decision in the O'Bannon case, another case challenging amateurism rules was decided in a different legal venue by the National Labor Relations Board. In 2014, The Northwestern University football student athletes sought recognition as a labor union by the NLRB. In that case, an NLRB regional director found the football players to be employees of Northwestern. But on appeal, the full NLRB in Washington, DC chose not to exercise jurisdiction over the case, because doing so, it said, would create instability in labor relations in college football. [00:07:00] So the players couldn't form a union, but the NLRB clarified it was not deciding whether the regional director was right or wrong in finding them to be employees, which helped further stoke the flames of the debate.

So in about a 10 year period, starting in 2004, you had the Bloom case, The O'Bannon case and the Northwestern case. And while the O'Bannon and Northwestern cases were going on, another class action antitrust lawsuit known as the Alston case was filed against the NCAA and that one would end up going to the Supreme Court.

The Alston case went a step further than the O'Bannon case in that the plaintiffs challenged any NCAA restrictions on college athlete compensation, not just NIL restrictions in video games. 

But by the time that case was litigated up to the Supreme Court, it was trimmed [00:08:00] back to a more limited focus on whether the NCAA was violating antitrust law by placing restrictions on educational benefits to student athletes. On that more limited question of educational benefits, the Supreme Court unanimously found the NCAA restrictions to be in violation of antitrust laws. And--this is significant--the Supreme Court rejected the NCAA's reliance on the Board of Regents decision and its "athletes must not be paid" comment as being some sort of safe harbor to protect the NCAA against amateurism challenges.

The Supreme Court noted in Alston how dramatically the economics of college football and college sports in general had changed in almost 40 years since the Board of Regents case, and emphasized that it would be unwise to rely on what was a stray comment [00:09:00] by the Supreme Court about student athlete compensation rules in Board of Regents, when those rules weren't even an issue in that case.

Taking things one step further in the Alston case, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a concurring opinion that signaled to future plaintiffs that at least one member of the Supreme Court would entertain a more expansive takedown of the NCAA's amateurism rules. Justice Kavanaugh delivered a searing indictment of amateurism that concluded with the following passage. Quote: "Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing not to pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate. And under ordinary principles of antitrust law, it is not evident why college sports should be any different. The NCAA is not [00:10:00] above the law." End quote.

What the historic $2.8 billion settlement to pay NCAA players means for college sports - PBS NewsHour - Air Date 5-24-24

GEOFF BENNETT - HOST, PBS NEWSHOUR: So I think it's safe to say the days of the amateur student athlete, college athlete, those days are over. Help us understand how significant this moment is.

PAT FORDE: Yes, this is the death of amateurism, which has basically been on the books forever in college athletics.

So it is a significant milestone. The castle walls of amateurism had been eroding for years, most specifically starting three years ago, when name, image, and likeness payments were first approved, but this is a major acceleration from that.

This provides, as you noted, back damages to four years' worth of college athletes who are no longer in their sports, and then also a framework to pay for a decade going forward. So this is a lot of money being transferred from the traditional coffers of the athletic administration, coaches, athletic directors, facility usage into — directly into the [00:11:00] hands of the players and it being done by the schools themselves.

That's the real change here.

GEOFF BENNETT - HOST, PBS NEWSHOUR: How soon could we see these payments start going out to student athletes?

PAT FORDE: I think it's going to be about 14 months from now, 15 months, setting into the 2025-'26 academic year. That's kind of what the target is right now.

There's still a million loose ends to this, so there's a lot of work to be done on the details, but that's the target date for when you will start seeing major sums of money going directly from institutions to the athletes.


How are schools thinking about compensating athletes in those sports that generate a lot of revenue versus those that don't, so, say, the star football player, the star basketball player versus the star pole vaulter?

PAT FORDE: Well, how this actually is going to be divided up is going to be one of the great sources of curiosity and ultimately controversy, I would imagine.

As it stands now, it seems like the [00:12:00] preponderance of thought is to make this an institution-by-institution decision. This will not be like a nationally mandated pay scale. There will not probably be conferences dictating how much is going to go to which athletes or which sports. It'll be up to each school to decide whether they can afford a full $21, $22 million a year in revenue for the athletes or if they want to pay something less than that, and then that is divided up.

Obviously, the football players, the men's basketball player and probably increasingly women's basketball players will get the majority of this, but then, even within the team, what sort of parameters are put on in terms of performance or recruiting star power or experience as far as who gets what? That's all that's good going to be have to be sussed out at the institution level.

And it's going to be quite, I think, a process to get to those deliberations.


To the point about women's sports, how does Title IX [00:13:00] factor into the financial calculus here?

PAT FORDE: Well, that's going to be another fascinating element of this, because, obviously, Title IX has really changed the game in terms of allowing females equal opportunity or near-equal opportunity to play their sports in college to the men.

But is equal opportunity the same as equal compensation? So far, in the NIL era, it hasn't been, that most NIL dollars have gone to men's football — or men's basketball and football players. So does this ruling have an effect on that and say, no women have to be compensated in a similar manner in terms of the actual outlay of money or just maybe the number of female athletes has to be somewhat commensurate or proportional to the men?

And then you decide what the money is. But that's going to be, I think a great major flash point of this, and I think we're going to be hearing a lot about that in the next year-plus.

GEOFF BENNETT - HOST, PBS NEWSHOUR: Yes, and one flash point is, how do these colleges and universities go about paying these student athletes without really [00:14:00] classifying them as employees? How are they weighing that question?

PAT FORDE: That's an attempt to thread the needle here by the NCAA and by college athletics. Once again, they have been playing the thread needle game for time immemorial of these people probably are employees in a business setting, but they don't want to be classified as such and they don't want to have to face antitrust legislation along those grounds.

So what they are hoping is for the significant movement here to get the attention and the motivation of Congress to help come up with some antitrust exemption for college athletics to protect it from further lawsuits and to have a system where athletes are sharing in revenue, where they are being compensated, but they are not necessarily considered employees of the university.


And lastly, Pat, this doesn't replace the NIL, the name, image and likeness opportunities for those student athletes that are able to take advantage of them?

PAT FORDE: It doesn't. No, NIL [00:15:00] is still going to be an ongoing fact of life. It'll be fascinating to see how much money is still in an NIL sort of pool versus what's now going into a strict, straight university reimbursement pool and if donors are necessarily less inclined to give NIL money now through a collective or otherwise, because they're already seeing athletes getting paid by the school itself.

But NIL will still be part of the dynamic and there will be schools that want to spend more than the $21, $22 million cap. And so they will turn to boosters or collectives and say, hey, can you help us out with this star quarterback over here? We'd like to give him some more money.

So the NIL era is changing, but it's not going away.

Pay for Play: Should College Athletes be Considered University Employees? Part 2 - University of Iowa - Air Date 3-28-24

ALICIA JESSOP: If you follow my journey in sports, I've had the privilege of writing for some of the greatest publications in the world. And when I started in journalism, you can go back to the very end of ruling sports, I said, I believe that there [00:16:00] are good stories about sports in this world. I am tired of hearing the negative stories, particularly about the NCAA. I knew there were good stories out there and I set out to tell them. 

But very quickly I realized that were there were some problems and I had a front row seat to Identifying them and addressing them. So now i'm going to go on script. 

It's easy to paint the NCAA as the big bad wolf, and admittedly it's something that I have done. But doing so loses sight of how we got to where we are today. 

Since the filing of O'Bannon, the focus on college sport has shifted from the field of play to the court of law. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on legal fees, only for massive blows to be dealt at every level of the American court system to the NCAA system of governance. In fact, in two legal challenges the association faces today, the House and Hubbard cases, it risks the possibility of having to pay damages greater than $5.1 billion. Repeated defeat calls [00:17:00] for a scapegoat, and in the world of college sports, the easy scapegoat to blame is the head governing body for college sport.

The story, though, of how we got where we are today, where examining whether college athletes are employees is something we're all spending our time doing, doesn't begin with O'Bannon, as we've examined here already. Nor does it start with NIL in 2021. I agree with Josh, and if I could redo this, I would go back to 1906.

I start 73 years ago, though, with the 1951 NCAA convention. And as I tell this story, I'm going to let you decide where blame lies. Is it with the head governing body? Is it with the universities? Is it with the media companies? Is it good old American greed? Or perhaps, can we stop laying blame and recognize that there is enough at the table for all to adequately be fed?

24 years before that fateful 1951 convention, a 21-year-old who lived the first 14 years of his life [00:18:00] without electricity unveiled an invention that would change the world. In a lab on San Francisco's Green Street, Philo T. Farnsworth wired to his fundraiser, quote, "The damn thing works," when after years of thinking, his contraption transmitted the first electronic television image.

It would be an understatement to say that television changed the American way of life. In 2023, 97 percent of the 125 million households in this nation owned a television. The average American spends three hours a day watching that device. Binge watching has become a common aspect of today's existence. But Farnsworth's invention hadn't proliferated American society in 1951. In fact, at that time, 96 percent of American households owned a radio, where only 12 percent owned a TV. As we are experiencing today with artificial intelligence, the potential reach and impact of new technology can spur fear in a populace awaiting its full rollout. [00:19:00] So it's not surprising that the three-person committee charged by the NCAA with figuring out what to do with what was called the, quote, "television problem," perceived that television posed the possibility of shaking up the status quo. If fans could watch games on TV, would they attend in person? If they didn't attend in person, what would happen to athletic department revenue? The committee determined, quote, "that the television problem is truly a national one and requires collective"--that's the key word there--"collective action by the colleges."

This is where the plot thickens. As the main character of our story, the NCAA's attempt to solve a " problem" ended in actually creating a bigger one, one that would embed the organization in decades worth of legal battles that it continues fighting today. To get the television problem under control, the association launched an association-wide TV plan that limited football teams exposure to two games per season. When one school, [00:20:00] Penn--and I'm not talking Penn State, I'm talking about the Ivy League school, which had televised all of its home games in the decade prior--pushed back, the association threatened to kick it out, and every team that had it scheduled for games that season canceled those games. So, needless to say, Penn acquiesced and hopped back on the system. 

In 1981, modifications were instituted into the plan wherein the NCAA negotiated an overarching four year, nearly $132 million deal with ABC and CBS. Each of the networks would carry 14 games per season. However, while they could negotiate directly with the schools the right to carry their games, there were limitations around what games could be covered. Schools could only be shown no more than six times in a two-year window, four of which nationally. And they would be paid out of that $132 million pot with the NCAA specifying ideas, but not requirements, for how the money could be allocated. [00:21:00] 

Since the turn of the 20th century--so this is the 1890s coming into the 1900s--marketplace competition has been a distinguishing aspect of the American economy. On July 2nd, 1890, Congress enacted the Sherman Antitrust Act. We are living today in a period of wide division in our American Congress, but this was a piece of federal legislation that everyone was on board with. One congressperson voted against it and it passed unanimously in the Senate. This law was enacted to combat the rise of trust that thwarted competition in this nation, like the Standard Oil Trust.

And so it was in the spirit of competition that in 1981, the NCAA's then-unchallenged television plan received its first real shake up. I don't consider Penn's attempt a real shake up because they backed down too quick. That summer, a group of schools organized as something called the College Football Association, hereafter the CFA, and they went [00:22:00] to ABC and CBS's competitor, NBC, and negotiated their own TV agreement. Pretty smart. Needless to say, the NCAA did not appreciate this because it would give these schools, quote, "an unfair competitive advantage to have more of their games broadcast on television and subsequently the ability to generate even greater revenues."

Unlike Penn though, two of the CFA schools, Oklahoma and Georgia, lawyered up. They sought a preliminary injunction preventing the association from disciplining them or interfering with their contract. Three years later, the case reached the United States Supreme Court. The seven to two decision by the court in Board of Regents versus NCAA deemed that the NCAA's television plan violated the Sherman Act, as it amounted to a restraint on trade and price fixing. 

This decision singlehandedly reshaped the landscape of intercollegiate athletics forever. That's because it opened up the marketplace for college sports tv rights. And the market quickly [00:23:00] responded. Where once 82 schools fought for a piece of a $132 million dollar deal, now schools and conferences could individually land lucrative deals, expanding their exposure and coffers. Notre Dame was the first to the market. I always love asking people who say that they're Notre Dame fans if they went there. Nine times out of ten, they didn't go there. And when you unpack why they're a Notre Dame fan, it's because they grew up watching the games on NBC. They were first to market, striking a five-year, $30 million deal.

And then the Southeastern Conference was the next to follow with its first conference deal, inking a five-year, $100 million agreement with CBS that continued until last year. 

Considering the athletic success of these programs across the last four decades, what opportunity was born from this initial financial advantage? Today, the valuation of the broadcast agreements for just the four biggest NCAA D One conferences, the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, and Southeastern conferences, along with the association's deals for men's [00:24:00] March Madness, the NCAA's other 40 championships, and then the separately-organized college football playoff, top $36.4 billion. So we're not talking about mid major conference TV deals. We're not talking about D2 or D3. $36.4 billion. That's a far cry from the $132 million allocated in 1981, which adjusted for inflation would be worth about $450 million today.

This influx of broadcast revenue into the college sport ecosystem has brought increased spending. In 2022, football bowls subdivision head football coaches saw a 15.3 percent rise in their average annual salaries. This is coming out of COVID. Ask the average American worker what raise they saw in 2022. USA Today data shows that public Power 5 conference schools will pay their head football coaches an average annual salary of [00:25:00] $6.2 million. These schools also pay their head men's basketball coaches average annual salaries of $3.35 million. In fiscal year 21 to 22, D1 FBS program spent $1.86 billion on college coaches' salaries, and another $2.04 billion on facilities and equipment. That same year, $1.19 billion was spent on athletic scholarships. I wish I had a whiteboard to write the number. 

So we're spending more on coaches salaries and facilities than we're spending on the entirety of college athletes. 

We are living in an age where there is infinite money to pay an in-demand coach and install lazy rivers and put-put courses in athletic facilities, but mention paying college athletes and suddenly the well dries up.

Sports Media has changed forever. - Brett Kollmann - Air Date 7-15-23

BRETT KOLLMANN - HOST, BRETT KOLLMANN: We are now firmly in an era where individual personal brands In sports media are king, and they [00:26:00] supersede pretty much everything else, including the corporate brands of the networks that employ those people. If you look at everything that's happened at ESPN over the last month or so, signing Pat McAfee to a mega deal, which he left an even bigger deal with FanDuel to take that deal with ESPN, and you overlay that with the unfortunate layoffs that happened at the same time, and it can feel weird, seeing the dichotomy of a whole bunch of talent get let go while at the same time they sign one talent for a lot of money. And I understand where those mixed feelings come from and why there's a lot of confusion about the state of sports media.

And as somebody who used to work in sports TV for a long time, I was in the trenches as a PA at NFL Network, cutting highlights, being in the control room for NFL Red Zone, doing graphics on Red Zone for years, working on virtually every single show that existed at that network at some point in time. And also at the same time doing local sports media at Time Warner Sportsnet, which was later [00:27:00] Spectrum Sportsnet, doing Lakers coverage, Dodgers coverage, Galaxy, Conca Cap, all that kind of stuff. Even going back to my time in high school, I started doing field cam work when I was 16. I started doing technical directing and directing when I was 17. So I spent a lot of my life in sports TV. And then I left all of that to YouTube for also almost a decade at this point. So I've been on both sides of the fence here. I have watched this transition happen, literally even to myself. So I feel like I'm in a unique position to comment on the state of sports media, and maybe give a little bit of context of what's actually happening at ESPN, or at least what I think is happening at ESPN. 

First things first, I do want to express as much empathy as I possibly can for everybody that did, unfortunately, recently get let go at ESPN. It was --I think it was twenty total on-air talent got let go. A lot of them, yes, were in very expensive [00:28:00] contracts. They were making great money. And I don't think that matters. And my buddy, Brandon Perna, made a great point when he did his video about this topic that for a lot of the folks that were on-air talent at ESPN that were not former professional athletes themselves, being on air at ESPN is literally their dream job. That is the pinnacle of the profession. That is what you work for is to be an on air talent at ESPN. And they had that. And unfortunately they got let go. And so these are people that literally in many cases lost their dream job. And regardless of the dollar amount of their contract, I think that it just sucks, right? Nobody wants to go through that. And so I empathize with that because it's a very hard thing to have everything you wanted and then have it slip through your fingers. So I want to express empathy first and foremost for those people. 

But I also want to explain the network perspective on why those layoffs were probably necessary from Disney's perspective. I do not believe that [00:29:00] Disney would have made those cuts unless they absolutely had to. Because typically, at least in this business, if a contract is not generating the revenue that they need in order to pay for that contract, they're just going to let it expire.

But these were outright layoffs. They were ending these contracts early. And I don't think they would have done that if Disney+ was not losing literally one and a half billion dollars a year. Disney+ has been a disaster for them financially for a lot of reasons, and there's a whole bunch of videos on YouTube that dive into why Disney+ has failed. But that has had an impact on the entire company as a whole. 

And so in order to make ESPN profitable, there's really only two paths they can take. The first path is obviously, hiring talent that they think is going to bring in enough eyeballs to generate ad dollars so they can be profitable. And the second path is cutting expenses, which means cutting talent that they do not believe is bringing in enough [00:30:00] eyeballs to generate enough ad dollars to pay for those salaries. 

And I do want to make a point here that these are two separate paths and two separate decisions. They're not necessarily linked together. There's not some salary cap that Disney has to adhere to where, oh, we have to cut all these contracts so that we can bring in Pat McAfee. It's really more like we're bringing in Pat McAfee because we need somebody that can generate eyeballs and get money injected into this company again, through advertising. And at the same time, unfortunately we need to get rid of contracts that we do not believe are bringing in revenue. Hence the layoffs. 

All these people that got laid off, I don't think that they would have got laid off if Disney felt that they were a plus on the balance sheet, as callous as that sounds. They need to make money. They need to be profitable. Because Disney+ is just an anchor on the entire Disney business, globally. Disney+ is dragging everything down. So ESPN has to make money. [00:31:00] And I think that those are the two paths that they're taking simultaneously. 

Now, for everyone else that is still at ESPN or FS1, or NBC, or print media, or any other outlet, anybody that's in sports media--and I know a lot of them are probably going to watch this because I know many of them all across these different outlets, so I'm sure a lot of them are going to see this video at some point--if you're watching this and you're in the industry, I want you to be aware of where sports media is right now from a consumer perspective.

Let's talk about what actually works in modern sports media and why a lot of legacy outlets are now having to play catch up with new media like YouTube and TikTok and Instagram and all the hundreds of creators. that are slowly but surely ripping eyeballs away from those networks. 

With the rise of all these different social media platforms, sports fans now have more options than ever for where they consume their sports content. Yes, they [00:32:00] could turn on a debate show in the morning while they're getting ready for work, which let's be honest, that format now is basically just background noise while people make their coffee and toast a bagel. But if they don't like the debate format, they don't have to watch that anymore. They're not locked in to network television. They can get a million different things from a million different sources. If they still want live sports content in the morning, that's a little bit more lighthearted and not so combative, they could throw in Pat McAfee. If they want something that's edited or prerecorded that just lives on YouTube, they can watch Tom Grossi's 30 in 30 series every morning. They can throw on Brandon Perna. They can watch The Pivot. They can watch FlemLo. If they want fantasy content specifically, like on-demand fantasy content because they're getting ready for their drafts, they can watch the Underdog Fantasy Channel, they can watch BDGE. If they want Madden content to get ready for the Madden release coming up, they can watch Bengal. 

There's so many options now. They don't have to watch First Take if they don't want to watch First Take. [00:33:00] This is not the 90s anymore. The audience is no longer captive. And I feel like it's taken a lot of legacy media outlets, in particular TV networks, it's taken them way too long to catch on to that fact.

For the first time ever, ESPN has to truly convince sports fans to watch their content over the hundreds of other content creators now that are making stuff for free. They never had to do that before, and they've had to change their entire content strategy as a result. And again, they're doing it a lot later than they should have. But I at least do want to give them credit for finally catching up. 

And everything that they've done over the last three weeks, by the way, in my opinion, is part of that new content strategy. ESPN is now taking a step back and they're not focusing so much on having the network brand be at the forefront. And instead they're letting individual talent brands take the spotlight. 

Dan Le Batard Tells Stephen A. Smith He Hates What He and Skip Bayless Did to Sports Media - LeBatardShow - Air Date 12-28-23

DAN LE BATARD - HOST, LE BATARD SHOW: I hate what you two have done to sports [00:34:00] television. 

STEPHEN A. SMITH: You could say that all you want to. I would say, who the hell are you to sit up there and say, me and him? What about you? What the hell were you, living under a rock, teaching at Miami U? You were part of it too? You ain't innocent? 

DAN LE BATARD - HOST, LE BATARD SHOW: I'm talking about all the imitators that you have birthed, all of the imitators that are all over the place thinking, without the journalism credentials, that the point of all this is to turn it into an argument on television.

STEPHEN A. SMITH: Well, I would take umbrage at what you're saying in this regard, Dan. Those people who don't have a journalism background, who don't exercise journalistic ethics and beyond, how are we responsible for that, when our background is based on that? 

Skip Bayless was a journalist for decades. I was a journalist for decades. We came, we come on television and [00:35:00] those ethics are applicable. The fact of the matter is, is that when I take a position, it's the same kind of position I would take right in the column. The difference is instead of writing 800 words and being limited to that space. I get to talk for a few minutes on each subject.

When was it, when did it happen that I ignored the fact that I was a journalist for the Winston Salem Journal, The Greensboro News and Record, The New York Daily News, and then The Philadelphia Inquirer, before I went to CNN/SI and then Fox Sports, and then ESPN? When was it, when did it occur in my career that I ignored the journalistic tenets that came with the job?

DAN LE BATARD - HOST, LE BATARD SHOW: Oh, it's not ignoring them, it's that they shrink in the face of the need for the argument as entertainment. It's that Kellerman offers too much nuance, so we have to make it, in the form of entertainment, we have to... it's not that it's ignored, it's that the journalism becomes less important. It's the argument, it's the sparks, it's the debate [00:36:00] that needs to be carried. 

STEPHEN A. SMITH: Yeah, but where you're missing the boat, and I'm actually surprised that you're missing it, Dan, is that it's not about us. It's about the money. The fact of the matter is, is that somewhere along the lines, social media came into play. And even with YouTube, you have the ability to monetize your product. People look at whatever it takes to monetize those products, you know, their product, and they prioritize that, and that dictates what they do. If you are on social media, and guess what? You don't have to go to college and you don't have to take 18 credit semester hours like I did each semester. And you don't have to get a bachelor's degree. And all you got to do is go on YouTube, talk smack, find a way to build subscribers and viewers per episode and monetize [00:37:00] your brand, and you get to bypass all of that stuff. And there's an industry that's been put in place that allows you to do that. And you've elected to do that just to get paid. How the hell is that Skip Bayless and Stephen A's fault? Or Dan Le Batard for that matter. Or anybody else. They created those platforms. It's allowed to be monetized. People see that that has the potential to pay you more than a $75,000-$90,000 salary working in newspapers. Everybody don't have space for you to do talk radio, or a television show. So you figured out a way to do this, rather than punch a clock, work a nine to five in corporate America, at whatever job you're doing. And that's basically been more beneficial monetarily to you. How is that Skip Bayless, Dan Le Batard, Stephen A, Wilbon, Kornheiser, or anybody else?

DAN LE BATARD - HOST, LE BATARD SHOW: Well, I don't think entirely, right?, that this category that [00:38:00] I'm talking about is something that I fit in just because you and I have had a long relationship. I don't think we've ever had an argument on or off the air. Like, the argument is not something that I pursue. I'm not saying it's not good for television. I'm not saying that. I just know that the show that you did with Skip Bayless was one kind of show. And then the one you did with Max was a different kind of show, at least in part. And you've said publicly that you didn't like how Max wasn't interested, as interested in the argument, in the sparks, as you were.

STEPHEN A. SMITH: What I'm saying to you is this: if people want to watch Dan Le Batard and they've come to know Dan Le Batard, they have an expectation of what they're getting when they click on the Dan Le Batard. And if you want to stay in business, you have to give the audience to some degree what they expect. Long before First Take was ever number one, [00:39:00] PTI was. PTI with Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser had been number one for 20 years. First Take has been number one in the mornings for 11. Nine years before we ever came along, nine, 10 years before we ever came along, they were doing it. 

DAN LE BATARD - HOST, LE BATARD SHOW: So, I should blame them. I should blame. 

STEPHEN A. SMITH: No, no. No, no. What I'm saying is no one said it about them. No one said it about Around the Horn, which was there years before we arrived. No one said it about Jim Rome or what he's doing, and you know how great Jim Rome has been. The list goes on and on. Mike and the Mad Dog. 


STEPHEN A. SMITH: Mad Dog's screaming, Mad Dog been screaming since 1987. 

DAN LE BATARD - HOST, LE BATARD SHOW: Oh, but you mutated it though. It's fair to say that you turned up the volume on all of it, that there are more flames around what you guys are doing.

STEPHEN A. SMITH: You're gonna sit up there with a straight face, Dan Le Batard and say, I turned up the volume on Mad Dog Russo. 


STEPHEN A. SMITH: Are you, have you lost your mind 

DAN LE BATARD - HOST, LE BATARD SHOW: On the argument... 

STEPHEN A. SMITH: Are you crazy? 

DAN LE BATARD - HOST, LE BATARD SHOW: On Wilbon and Kornheiser, you guys turned up the volume, uh, you guys... 

STEPHEN A. SMITH: Okay. Okay. What [00:40:00] I'm saying is, is that I just named you a plethora of shows that existed before we ever came along. That's what I'm saying. We didn't create it. We saw what was there and we maximized it to the best of our ability. Just like you do. You'll go into what you don't like or whatever and I respect that. You know that. But what I'm trying to say is that you ain't no innocent birdie in all of this. 

You've attacked many people over the years. Now, you might have had a platform where you're joined with dudes and y'all are not a debate show, so you're not debating somebody, but you've gotten into debates on your own show with people. You've gotten into arguments on your own show with people. I don't know if that former executive for the Florida Marlins will ever be in business again after the way you excoriated him because you were upset at the assets that he traded away.

You have been holding people accountable for decades. And because you don't have [00:41:00] somebody to volley back off, you know, volley off back and forth with, oh, you innocent? You're not. You're a part of it, too, and I'm saying it's not a bad thing. It's a great thing, because your intellect, your perspectives, and everything in between are very fresh, they're informed, they're not ignorant, they're not devoid of facts, the fact of the matter is, you bring a fresh perspective, and there's a lot of people out there that want to be Dan Le Batard. 

So why are you tripping? You're right here with the rest of us!

Report Finds That Sports Owners Use Their Teams To Avoid Millions In Taxes- MSNBC Reports - Air Date 7-14-21

STEPHANIE RUHLE - HOST, MSNBC REPORTS: We're learning more about the money behind the scenes, off the court, after a bombshell report from ProPublica detailed how mega rich sports team owners use their teams to avoid paying taxes.

Take Steve Ballmer, for example. He's the billionaire owner of the LA Clippers. According to this report, he only paid 12 percent in federal income tax in 2018. That is a lower rate than players like [00:42:00] LeBron James, who plays at the Staples Center, and more shockingly, a lower rate than the typical food worker at the Staples Center. But here's the real scandal. Don't be mad at Ballmer. Look to your lawmakers. All of this is totally legal. 

Let's dig deeper and bring in one of the reporters who broke this story, ProPublica investigative reporter Robert Federucci. Robert, our tax code allows sports team owners to take deductions on team assets, like their cars, that depreciate in value. Uh, you don't get to deduct your car. Walk me through how this works. 

ROBERT FATURECHI: Yeah. So, I mean, the original idea, right, is if you have a widget factory, you purchase a widget-making business, over time, the assets that make up that business—so, the widget conveyor belt, the widget maker—are going to break down and you're going to have to replace them. They lose their value. [00:43:00] So, for sports teams though, the assets are media deals and player contracts and franchise rights. These are assets that sort of automatically regenerate. And not only do they not lose value, they typically rise in value. But nonetheless, owners are able to write them off and they're able to write off almost the entire purchase price of the team.

STEPHANIE RUHLE - HOST, MSNBC REPORTS: They rise in value a lot. So, how much money is the government losing by allowing these write offs to exist? Why on earth are they letting all this happen? 

ROBERT FATURECHI: Sure. So, take Steve Ballmer, for example. We found that during a recent five year span, he reported $700 million in losses from the Clippers. What that means is that he was able to pay about $140 million less in taxes. That number is inevitably only going to grow and probably grow [00:44:00] dramatically. What this tax treatment does for owners, essentially, it allows them, if they're profitable, it allows them to tell the IRS they're actually losing money, and if they happen to actually be losing money, they can tell the IRS they're losing vastly more money, and that money, you know, those losses cancel out profits from other ventures, and they don't have to pay taxes on them. 

STEPHANIE RUHLE - HOST, MSNBC REPORTS: Okay, this is completely insane because we're sitting here looking at an infrastructure deal and how we're going to pay for it and talking about taxing rich Americans, families whose household makes 400 grand or more. Four hundred grand, these team owners blow their nose with 400 grand and they are not paying taxes. Legally. Are there any lawmakers pushing to close these loopholes? And if so, how do we do it? 

ROBERT FATURECHI: Sure. So, I mean, one type of response we got from owners was, Look, if you take away this amortization benefit, the entire American [00:45:00] economy is going to break down. But in reality, not too long ago, sports teams were not able to take these kinds of write offs. The IRS would insist that the assets that they were writing off actually had, you know, real lifespans and were actually losing value. It wasn't until 2004 that Congress completely threw their hands up and allowed all types of assets to be written off in this way. So, you know, it didn't always work this way. And, you know, like you said, it's in the hands of Congress and the president to change it. 

STEPHANIE RUHLE - HOST, MSNBC REPORTS: Okay, you heard it here first. The entire American economy will not collapse if this is changed. People who defend this say that owners do have to repay the taxes,, if and when they sell the team, but that's like getting a massive interest free loan from the government. And this is how super rich people operate—I'm just going to borrow and borrow and borrow—when regular people out there would never be able to get a loan like that from the [00:46:00] government.

ROBERT FATURECHI: Sure. And not just that. I mean, a lot of owners will die while holding their team. And if that happens and you pass your stake onto an heir, the heir never has to repay those taxes that you save. That's just a loss for the American government.

The Sports Stadium Scam - Robert Reich - Air Date 2-10-23

Robert Reich: Billionaires have found one more way to funnel our tax dollars into their bank accounts, and if we don't play ball, they'll take our favorite teams away. Ever notice how there never seems to be enough money to build public infrastructure like mass transit lines and better schools? And yet, when a multi-billion dollar sports team demands a new stadium, our local governments are happy to oblige.

A good example of this billionaire boondoggle is the host of the 2023 Super Bowl State Farm Stadium. That's where the Arizona Cardinals have played since 2006. It was built after billionaire team owner Michael Bidwell and his family spent years hinting that they would [00:47:00] move the Cards out of Arizona if the team didn't get a new stadium. Their blitz eventually worked, with Arizona taxpayers and the city of Glendale paying over two thirds of the $455 million construction tab. State Farm Stadium is not unique. It's part of a well established playbook. Here's how stadiums stick the public with the bill. 

Step number one— "Billionaire buys a sports team." Just about every NFL franchise owner has a net worth of over a billion dollars—except for the Green Bay Packers, who are publicly-owned by half a million "Cheeseheads." The same goes for many franchise owners in other sports. Their fortunes don't just help them buy teams, but also gives them clout, which they cash in when they want to get a great deal on new digs for their team.

Step number two— "Billionaire pressures local government." Since 1990, franchises in [00:48:00] major North American sports leagues have intercepted upwards of $30 billion worth of taxpayer funds from state and local governments to build stadiums. And the funding itself is just the beginning of these sweetheart deals.

Sports teams often get big property tax breaks and reimbursements on operating expenses, like utilities and security on game days. Most deals also let the owners keep the revenue from naming rights, luxury box seats, and concessions—like the Atlanta Braves' $150 hamburger! Even worse, these deals often put taxpayers on the hook for stadium maintenance and repairs.

We taxpayers are essentially paying for the homes of our favorite sports teams, but we don't really own those homes. We don't get to rent them out. And we still have to buy expensive tickets to visit them. Whenever these billionaire owners try to sell us on a shiny new stadium, they claim it will spur economic growth, from which [00:49:00] we all benefit, but numerous studies have shown that this is false. 

As a University of Chicago economist aptly put it, if you want to inject money into the local economy, it would be better to drop it from a helicopter than invest it in a new ballpark. But what makes sports teams special is they're one of the few realms of collective identity we have left.

Billionaires prey on the love that millions of fans have for their favorite teams. This brings us to the final step in the playbook— "Threaten to move the team." Obscenely rich owners threaten to, or actually do, rip teams out of their communities if they don't get the subsidies they demand. Just look at the Seattle Supersonics.

Starbucks founder Howard Schultz owned the NBA franchise, but failed to secure public funding to build a new stadium. So the coffee magnate sold the team to another wealthy businessman who moved it to Oklahoma. Now [00:50:00] that'll leave a bitter taste in your mouth. The most egregious part of how the system currently works is that every dollar we spend building stadiums is a dollar we aren't using for mass transit, hospitals, housing, or schools.

We're underfunding public necessities in order to funnel money to billionaires for something they could feasibly afford. So instead of spending billions on extravagant stadiums, we should be investing taxpayer money in things that improve the lives of everyone. Not just the bottom lines of profitable sports teams and their owners.

Because when it comes to stadium deals, the only winners are billionaires.

The gambling problem in sports - The Current - Air Date 4-3-24

MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: Walk us through the basics of this—who is Jontay Porter and what is he accused of? 

JOHN CHIDLEY-HILL: So Jontay Porter is one of the backup centers for the Toronto Raptors. He's on a G League contract, which is a two way deal where he plays sometimes for the Toronto Raptors, sometimes for their minor league team in Mississauga, [00:51:00] Ontario—the Raptors 905—and what he is accused of doing is purposely exiting games early to have an effect on proposition bets. And I'm going to define proposition bets for you, Matt. Yes, please. For your listeners, because it's important. It's important to this discussion. A proposition bet, commonly known as a "prop bet," is a kind of bet that isn't on the outcome—the result of the game.

MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: It's not about the win or the loss. 

JOHN CHIDLEY-HILL: It's not about the win or the loss. It's about a player's performance. Famously during the Super Bowl, people will bet on what color Gatorade is going to be poured over the winning coach. That's a prop bet. It has no bearing on the outcome of the game in Jontay Porter's case they will have put together parlays for online book makers where it's how many points will he have in the game? How many rebounds, how many assists? Jontay Porter, in two games left early, meaning that anyone who bet the under [00:52:00] on him to get a certain number of points, a certain number of rebounds, a certain number of assists—if they picked the under, they won lots of money. 

MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: I was reading about this, and they were saying that in some cases, some of these bets were five figures.


MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: They were placed on him. He left one of those games just four minutes in, saying that he had an eye injury that was re-aggravated or something like that, and there's a lot of money that's at stake here. 

JOHN CHIDLEY-HILL: Yes. And the money is an important thing. So if you place a bet online on a player prop bet, like the kind of bet we're discussing, most bookies only allow you to place a bet of a $1,000 to $2,000—it depends on the bookie. These are bets of $10,000, $20,000—which is why they got flagged as suspicious because it was so much and, with all due respect to Jontay Porter— 

MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: He's a fringe player. 

JOHN CHIDLEY-HILL: He's a fringe player. And frankly, he was only getting the opportunity to play because starting Raptor Center, Jakob Poeltl is injured—he has a torn ligament in his [00:53:00] hand. So, Jontay Porter was getting more playing time that he wasn't able to take advantage of because he was leaving the games early. 

MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: Who— I mean, I'd said that some of the suspicion here is that perhaps he was involved in this, aside from being on the court, that he may have had other involvement.

Who is being suspected of placing these bets? 

JOHN CHIDLEY-HILL: That's part that's not really disclosed yet. It's the MBA that's investigating this case and they haven't given a lot of information. When I reached out to them and other investigating bodies about this investigation—if it's even happening—the reply is, "We're looking into it."

They offered no other details, including who placed those bets. It's just that ESPN report that says several different parties were placing bets of $10-20,000 on Jontay Porter leaving games early. 

MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: Is the suspicion that he could have placed bets on himself? 

JOHN CHIDLEY-HILL: Allegedly, I mean it if he's not placing them himself Then the suspicion would be that he is working in party [00:54:00] with people who knew that he would leave the game early. 

MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: And why would he do such a thing? Is this just about cash money? Like, do you make lot of money in these bets? 

JOHN CHIDLEY-HILL: In these situations that would be the case. Yeah 

MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: We heard his brother there. Have the Raptors said anything about this? Has Jontay Porter said anything about this? 

JOHN CHIDLEY-HILL: Jontay Porter has not been made available and although, Raptors head coach Darko Rijakovic has made comments and, the team officially has no comment and, we asked players about it, they don't know anything.

 Darko Rayakovic was asked specifically, "Did you think it was weird when Jontay pulled himself out of the game twice?" He said, well, of course I trust my players. Like, if my player tells me he's sick, I'm going to listen. Cause why wouldn't you, right? 

And the other players on the team also said we don't know anything. This is upsetting, but we know, they all said, we know as much as you do. Like they learned as we did as news broke. 

MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: We introduced this by saying that there were a couple of different things unfolding. [00:55:00] One is this issue of Jontay Porter and the NBA. The other one is the baseball superstar caught up in a different gambling scandal. Just briefly walk me through that. What do we know about what may have happened there?

RICHARD DEITSCH: Yeah, so there's some conflicting reporting when it comes to Shohei Ohtani—who, if you want to think about it in a modern context is your modern equivalent of Babe Ruth— and what Shohei Ohtani is saying is that his longtime interpreter, but "intrepreter" is really probably not even a fair description, it's his longtime very, very close compatriot and friend— had a gambling problem. And ultimately, because, allegedly, the friend had access to Shohei's funding, was able to pay off significant debts— close to five million dollars—using Shohei Ohtani's money to pay off these debts. Where it gets a little interesting and suspicious, if that's the right word, is that the story [00:56:00] had changed.

Initially, the story, which the interpreter told to ESPN in a 90 minute interview, was that Shohei Otani had paid off this problematic gamblers' debts because he cared about his friend and wanted to help him out. The framework of all this is that we're not necessarily dealing with bets that you make in legal gambling entities in the United States.

This was done through an illegal bookmaker. So Major League Baseball, just like the NBA, has said they're investigating this. Looks like the U. S. Attorneys are investigating the bookmaker in California, and we'll see what happens. The cynic would say that the investigation may be a little bit like Casablanca because I'm not sure how much baseball would like Shohei Ohtani to be under the microscope.

MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: People have been betting on sports since sports have been played, probably. [00:57:00] How different is this now? How big is the sports betting industry right now, Richard? 

RICHARD DEITSCH: It's massive. People who live in Ontario obviously can get a little sense of it because it's very, very hard to watch any program on SportsNet or TSN, depending on the medium, without being inundated with gambling ads.

 Just think of the population in the United States compared to Canada—it's 10x. So that's how much more you'd be inundated in the United States. I think, at this current juncture, there's 38 states where sports gambling is legal in the United States. There's still some big ones out there that are expected to become legal. So, you really can't, essentially—if you are a sports fan, I would say even a casual sports fan in the United States, you really cannot escape the sports gambling element. It's essentially everywhere. And I would also say, just to be fair, as people who work in the media, there's almost no sports entity that, that has some kind of [00:58:00] content or media play that doesn't have some kind of affiliation with a gambling network. 

MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: John, you were nodding along as Richard was saying that. I mean, ESPN has a sports betting analysis segment, HockeyNet in Canada, other sports as well. How entwined now is this with pro sports? 

JOHN CHIDLEY-HILL: There's official sponsors who are bettors.

 After the Jontay Porter news broke, we spoke to veteran forward Garrett Temple, who in addition to being one of the veterans in the Toronto Raptors locker room, he's also a vice president of the National Basketball Players Association—their union—and we asked him about it and he said, yeah, it's kind of awkward we're not allowed to bet on basketball. And that's the NBA rule. They can't bet on the NBA, or the WNBA, or the G League, or any associated basketball product. But we have official sponsors, like DraftKings and FanDuel. You see it in the arenas. The Toronto Blue Jays have it. 

MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: These are these legalized entities here.

JOHN CHIDLEY-HILL: Yeah, these are legalized entities in Ontario, and they are in business, literally "in business," with [00:59:00] Major League Sports. 

Note from the Editor on the value of sports to building community

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips, starting with the University of Iowa in two parts, discussing the new pay-for-play rules. Same with the PBS NewsHour. Brett Kollmann looked at the changing landscape of sports journalism. LeBatardShow hosted a debate about the economic drive towards sensationalism. MSNBC Reports discussed sports owners using their team to avoid taxes. Robert Reich explained the scam of publicly-funded stadiums and The Current looked at the problems of sports gambling. And that's just the top takes; there's a lot more in the Deeper Dive section. 

But first, a reminder that this show is supported by members who get access to bonus episodes, featuring the production crew here, discussing all manner of important and interesting topics, often trying to make each other laugh in the process. To support our work and have those bonus episodes delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at's a link in the show notes; through our [01:00:00] Patreon page if you prefer; or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. 

If regular membership isn't in the cards for you, shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now, before we continue onto the Deeper Dives after the show, I have just a few thoughts.

I occasionally find it sort of amusing to repeat the fact that I paid quite a lot of attention to sports up until 1997 or so. I was pretty deep into it, mostly watching baseball, football, and hockey. Then at the wise old age of 13 or so, I took stock of my sports-watching time commitments and realized I was basically wasting my finite time here on earth watching sports. So I stopped, cold turkey, and never went back. 

And then it took another 25 years or so for me to soften my stance on the wastefulness and unimportance of watching professional sports. 

Now I see it as a worthwhile lens through which to [01:01:00] observe society, even if I don't follow teams closely or watch the games myself. And I also have a better impression of those who watch sports, particularly as an excuse to come together, spend time with friends and family, share special moments, make memories, that kind of thing. 

In fact, just today, I realized that when I was quite young, most of my sports watching would have been done with my older brother. But by the time I was 13, he'd moved out of the house. So when I decided that watching sports was a waste of time, what I really may have been feeling was that watching sports alone was a waste of time. And I pretty much still agree with that. 

But in terms of using sports as a window into the nature of culture and society, sports documentaries are actually a great place to start. I've definitely watched more sports documentaries in the last two years than I've watched sports games in the past decade. And I found them very insightful often [01:02:00] or revelatory, depending on what you're trying to get out of it sometimes. 

With all that said, it's still the fact that producer Deon here at the show is a sports fan, that I am reminded to take time now and again to focus on the intersection of sports and politics. It's Deon who reminds me that sports are important because they're a microcosm of the rest of society. 

For instance, as maybe a parallel to the influence of money in politics and how that distorts what politicians do and what they vote for and what laws were able to pass, and how we get a distorted perception of ourselves as to what our country believes in. I think like, gun safety laws that we cannot get passed. And we think, well, I guess the country doesn't believe in it. But no, that's the influence of money. 

So think of that compared to the sports system being overly consumed by capitalism and gambling. It will distort the game out of recognition. It will be hard to say whether [01:03:00] what we're looking at is a reflection of reality at all. Or if it ended up with a simulated version of sports to watch where the influence of the betting system throws everything off. And if that is the case, then what are we all even doing here, right? Deon made this point to me, to which I responded, speaking of the concern over reality just being a simulation, aren't we having that same problem with the entire universe as a whole? He said, Sports really is a microcosm. Sort of makes you think. 


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And now we'll continue with deeper dives on four topics. Next up, "Pay for play." Deeper Dive Section B: "Stadiums, Our Great Folly" and—by the way—I know it's a deep cut, but one of the rarely used secondary definitions of the word "folly" is, "A costly ornamental building with no practical purpose built in a large garden or park," which doesn't exactly describe stadiums, but [01:04:00] comes a lot closer than it should. 

So I just want to make sure that you enjoyed that double meaning wordplay along with me. Anyway, that's section B. Deeper Dive Section C: "Sports Journalism" and Section D: "Sports Gambling."

Yahoo’s Ross Dellenger: What NCAA Suit Settlement Means for Paying Players - The Rich Eisen Show - Air Date 5-23-24

KIRK MORRISON - HOST, THE RICH EISEN SHOW: These antitrust lawsuits that are being, that are going on right now, I'm seeing conferences or agreeing to the payout, but where's the money go? Is it going to the players or going back to the institutions? What, what does this pay out from these antitrust lawsuits that have been going on? I'm trying to keep up Ross and I'm like, how does it, what does this involve the players or no?

ROSS DELLENGER: Yeah, it definitely involves the players and it is complicated. You know, the, the settlement and it should be finalized by the end of the week, by, by Friday, uh, I will, I'll show you a portion of it should be finalized at least the NCAA in the power five conferences, which are the six defendants. in the case, they will have authorized the settlement by Friday.

It's got a long way before it's actually finalized. But the settlement right now, according to documents of [01:05:00] sources who are knowledgeable about it, will include kind of three parts. So The first part is the back damages to athletes owed NIL payments before NIL was implemented. There are four years before NIL, four years before athletes could earn compensation from their NIL.

Those athletes around 12, 15, 000 of them is the estimate will get, will be distributed, um, 2. 8 billion. That's the, that's the back damage and settlement to those athletes. So that's the first. Part of the settlement. The second part of the settlement is kind of the forward thinking part where, um, schools will be permitted, not required, but permitted to share revenue with athletes.

Um, we don't know exactly the specific amount, but it will probably be around 20 to 21, 22 million dollars. a year per school can can share with [01:06:00] athletes. It's kind of like there's a salary cap that will be put on that of around 2122 million. But that will fluctuate as the settlement, which is 10 years in length, goes on.

So that's the second part. And the third part, it's kind of a re Structured NCAA, um, where power conferences will have more control. Uh, we'll be able to create their own rules and probably enforce them. There'll be probably be a new enforcement arm. There'll be some changes to some other kind of granular things, scholarship limits, roster, things like that.

KIRK MORRISON - HOST, THE RICH EISEN SHOW: So we know that the money's going to be coming in Ross, is that what you're saying with all of these expansion of. Conferences. I saw that yesterday, though, that the college football playoff will now expand, um, its viewership opportunities, not just from ESPN, but now TNT will now hold, um, a first round matchup, I believe to first round matchups in the first couple of years, and then they'll have quarterfinals and we'll see where that [01:07:00] goes along.

But it just shows you now that college football has expanded viewership opportunities. That's more money. And now this money can now go into the pockets of the student athletes. But if I'm a volleyball player or water polo or soccer, am I entitled to what the football revenue brings in from these TV contracts?

Or is this going to be something that the NCAA is still trying to figure out how to disperse these collective television contracts coming into each university? 

ROSS DELLENGER: That is, that is a key issue is how you distribute, you know, if you hit the cap, if a school hits the cap around 20, say this around number 20 million, because of the federal title nine law, which requires higher education in education institutions to share, to offer equal opportunity to men and women.

Do you have to split? down the middle. That 20 million is 10 million go to football and men's basketball, say, and then 10 million [01:08:00] go get spread out to women athletes. A lot of These women's sports, obviously, um, in the grand scheme of things, right? Um, call schools, millions of dollars. They, they lose, they lose money.

Most of this money, as you mentioned is coming from, is generated from TV contracts in ticket sales around, around football, uh, in, in a little bit of men's basketball. So how do you do that? Do you, do you follow. The title nine law, are you required to follow the title nine law and do you split the payments or is there a way around this where you can give more of the, the money to the players who sport generated, which would be football and men's basketball.

It is a key question in all of this. Uh, and so is these booster collectives. Do they continue outside of the university offering athletes money? And does that money Count toward the cap. I don't think it will. Um, so there's a way to potentially for schools to circumvent the cap by going outside with their [01:09:00] booster collective.

And there's a way toe potentially circumvent title nine by either by either not doing it or going outside as well. So a lot of questions still on the disbursement of the money to athletes. 

“Amateurism Is Dead” - ESPN’s Jay Bilas on the Future of NCAA Sports - The Rich Eisen Show - Air Date 5-29-24

RICH EISEN - HOST, THE RICH EISEN SHOW: With the court cases and a settlement, it appears, between the NCAA and, um, I guess the Jeffrey Kessler led class, um, of players. I imagine, um, I might be botching it, but what is happening here and what's your prediction as to what happens next, if you don't mind? 

JAY BILAS: Well, a lot's going to depend on what Judge Claudia Wilkin does, uh, the, the federal court judge out in California.

So she has to approve this settlement. The settlement's basically in two parts. One of them backward looking damages, uh, for the harm that was caused by players due to the antitrust violations of the NCAA. And that's in the neighborhood of 2. 8 billion payable over 10 years. The [01:10:00] other is revenue sharing.

That's the forward looking piece of this. And my understanding after reading what I've read is that players are going to be eligible to receive up to 22 percent of revenues going forward. That's a cap. And my question for the court when the settlement is presented is what other cap is there? Whom else is subject to a wage cap other than players?

Because coaches are gonna be able to be paid as much as a school wants to pay 'em. Uh, and I don't, I don't think players should be capped, absent some sort of collective bargaining agreement where the players agree to it. To me it's not enough. And what what's clear to me is the NCAA through this settlement is gonna try to take this to Congress and say, here's a framework that we've agreed to with, uh, with the, the plaintiff's lawyers and the plaintiffs in the class.

We want you to put this into law so that they can cap [01:11:00] all this at 22 percent and that and that doesn't even mean that they have to pay anything to players if they don't want to. I think the market will dictate they have to, but a 22 percent cap with the way revenues have exploded are continuing to go up in college sports to me doesn't sit well with me.

We'll see if it sits well with the, uh, with the players and what their objections. Uh, to this settlement and objections going forward. But one thing we know for sure, rich amateurism is dead. I think it was dead a long time ago, but they pulled the plug. Now they're going to be the players are going to be paid directly by their universities now, which was a long time coming.

And that hopefully will mean contracts for the players and they can put buyouts in them. So the schools feel like they have some more protections. But amateurism is now dead. It's, it's purely professional sports. And the only thing that differs from the NBA or the NFL is, uh, is they, the players have to be enrolled in school.

That's it. 

Pay for Play: Should College Athletes be Considered University Employees? Part 3 - University of Iowa - Air Date 3-28-24

ALICIA JESSOP: I'm a big believer in the power of education. I'm a first generation college student. My father, who experienced [01:12:00] homelessness as a child, preached to me that education was my way out. I bought the sermon. I've been privileged with an incredible life and career thanks to my undergraduate and legal educations.

I also understand the value of a college scholarship. My father spent 40 years working on a factory line in the Coors Brewing Company. He and my mother provided me with a great life and home, but they didn't have the cash to finance my legal education. I was 38 years old when the 100, 000 I borrowed to pay for that education was finally paid off.

I say that to make apparent that I don't tread lightly when I say that most revenue producing college sport athletes are employees. Let me be clear. I do not believe that every college athlete is an employee. Rather, I believe that the two regional NLRB offices in the Northwestern and Dartmouth cases and the head NLRB in the Northwestern case got it right when they said that the right to control test is the correct test to apply to assess whether a college athlete is an [01:13:00] employee.

The right to control test looks at the level of control an employer exerts over how a worker does their job. By evaluating a set of factors, the greater the level of control exerted across those factors, the more likely it is that a worker is an employee who can access the benefits of the National Labor Relations Act.

I'm not gonna go through the factors, because that would be kind of boring. Not to say it's gonna be boring if someone else does it, but I'm going to give you some examples of control that I've seen in my experience as a journalist, as a lawyer, as a professor. Here's where I've seen control. It's not seeing the men's basketball players in my class at the university of Miami for close to a month during the school year, when they went on to win the NIT.

It's not because they were ditching those young men were always in class. They weren't in my class that month because the university kept them out on a business trip and kept them in New [01:14:00] York or the Northeast instead of bringing them home to go to school. It's a college football player falling asleep in the front row of my class because the television network scheduled a midweek game in a different state and he didn't get home until 4 a.

m. It's the quarterback in my class staying afterward to ask me if I know what the symptoms of a concussion are. When I tell him, no, I'm a lawyer, not a doctor, and ask why he's asking, he says, did you see what happened to me? No, I say, He says, my molar got knocked out in the game and coach told me to stop being a P word and go back and play.

Think about your molar getting knocked out. The amount of force that has to come across your head for a molar to fall out, and then not to be held out for one play seems a little problematic to me. It's the student I met who I mentioned earlier who had the reading skills of probably a 6th grader, but made it into two top 50 universities because he had NFL level talent.

I love it. [01:15:00] It's a student not being able to pick a science major because it conflicts with their practice schedule It's me spending my free time helping young men who played college sports around this nation find jobs after their playing career ends Because as one who competed at the university my missouri told me Nobody ever told him what he was capable of other than football.

And the football program demanded so much of their time that they didn't gain internship experience or meaningful networks during their college experience.

Coming back to where I started, I don't think the head governing body for college sports wanted to be where we are today. Where very valid arguments exist for the employee status of college athletes. Some may say that their television plan was an attempt to hold monopoly power, but I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I think they wanted to preserve the amateur nature of college sports and keep greed out of the game. But the Supreme Court's decision in 84 open Pandora's box and the reality of [01:16:00] college sports today is that is it is a 25 billion annual generating enterprise whose power and control is largely held by media companies and the conferences benefiting grandly from those media deals.

These media companies call all the shots. They schedule the games. They drive the bargaining power at the negotiation table to the point where West Coast schools leave historic conferences to join East Coast schools, increasing both the travel footprint and missed class time for their college athletes and the revenues that said schools generate.

D1 revenue producing college athletics is not an extracurricular. It is big business. We see this in that the expenditure for college coaches salaries and facilities often topples those of their professional counterparts. We know it's a big business because schools that say they don't have money to pay college athletes are spending tens of millions of dollars on lobbyists, hundreds of millions of dollars on legal fees [01:17:00] and possibly billions of dollars in legal damages to preserve the status quo.

As I mentioned at the outset, repeated, repeated defeat in the court of law calls for a scapegoat. Who got us to where we are today? I'll leave that for you to consider. But as sport tells us, repeated loss also calls for a new game plan. And if the NCAA wants to put an end to the litany of legal challenges it faces, it needs to turn course.

Turning course requires more than accepting that college athletes can benefit from the right of publicity that is afforded to every American. College athletes didn't gain some new right. Their right was finally restored to them through NIL. It requires coming into compliance with the law in full. And such necessitates understanding when and how the right of control test indicates that some Namely division one revenue producing sport college athletes are employees of their respective universities I know what some of you are thinking right now Here's some questions that [01:18:00] might be rolling through your head But where is the money going to come from to pay these athletes too?

Is this the end of women's and olympic sports? You What are the unintended consequences of this legal status? I've already talked a lot, so I'm not going to address those in full, but I'm happy to more. But I'll give you a few thoughts on each. I tell my students to question everything, so I hope that you'll do the same.

Don't buy that there is no money in the system. Likely this will require the reallocation of funds. Top college coaches will see pay reductions. Strength trainers will no longer earn $1 million per year. The stadium and facility spending boom will slow. Beyond that, a review of Power 5 Conference Schools 990 Forums, one of my current favorite activities, shows that there's cash in the coffers.

We were told that NIL would mean the death of women's and Olympic sports. That threat has not become reality. Instead, we are living in a time where thanks to an [01:19:00] incredible athlete from your own university, women's college basketball is seeing unprecedented success. We see from the viewership and ticket sales numbers for women's college basketball this season that opening up a market can produce greater demand for a product.

Olympic athletes now have longer windows also to financially benefit from their incredible gifts. What though of the unintended consequences? First we must recognize that the potential horror stories thrown around by those against recognizing the employee status of d1 Revenue producing sport college athletes are already true.

These things are already happening on college campuses People warn that if college athletes are recognized as employees, they would be quote fired for poor for poor poor performance Tell me what is different between that scenario and a coach, maybe one of the greatest coaches in college football history, routinely gray shirting college athletes to build winning teams.

[01:20:00] People today sport, people today say sport is the wild, wild West. My maternal grandfather was a cowboy and I'm not sure he would agree with that analogy, but the system is currently being shaken by the slow breakdown of the cartel with new additions like NIL and the transfer portal. The NCAA continues unsuccessfully and to the tune of millions of dollars in lobbying fees trying to persuade congress to grant it Antitrust immunity and deem college athletes to not be employees The likelihood of congress passing such bills is as good as caitlyn clark not being the number one overall wmba draft pick.


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Now entering deeper dive section B: stadiums are great folly.

Why Are Taxpayers Paying For Stadiums? - Long Story Short - The Daily Show - Air Date 10-27-23

DESUS NICE - HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: Right now, we're in a sports stadium building boom, and just about every one of them is funded by taxpayers. So how are billionaire team owners able to get these sweetheart deals? Easy. When asking for taxpayer subsidies, Teams come to a community like a dude asking for an open marriage. [01:21:00] Nah, girl, it's not just good for me, it's good for you, too!

Now, they say these stadiums will spread economic growth throughout the community. 

These owners also claim these stadiums will increase property values. Which is one of the biggest lies in the world. What kind of psycho is like, Yeah, I want 50, 000 drunk idiots pissing on my stoop every night. No way, bro. If any drunk idiot's gonna piss on my stoop, it's gonna be me. Next, they promise to donate money to the community or build affordable housing.

And if none of that works, uh, they threaten to move the team. And it usually works, because even though using taxpayer money in stadiums is usually unpopular, losing a team could end a politician's career. Like, for example, if Mayor Eric Adams lost to the Knicks, he would be deported. All the way back to his real home in New Jersey.

But the truth is, a lot of the time, those owners are bluffing, and we know that because they admit it. [01:22:00] 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: David Samson, the former president of the Marlins, largely credited with being a Pulling off the worst stadium deal for Miami Dade taxpayers. It's actually a pretty easy playbook. I get a lot of credit for doing the Marlins Park deal, but it really wasn't very difficult because Miami did not want to lose its baseball team and all we had to say is that we're ready to leave Miami if we don't get a deal done.

Let me ask you, were the Marlins going to leave Miami, David? Truly. Absolutely not.

DESUS NICE - HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: See? These guys are full of shit. They were never going to leave Miami, because no one ever leaves Miami. Like, even people who are just visiting don't leave Miami. Now the cousin who went to a bachelor party six months ago, he's still in a club partying with BBLs. So, the teams get their free subsidies, and now that they have their brand new stadium that boosts their value.

But don't worry. Because in return, the city gets hundreds of millions of dollars worth of jack shit. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: Economists who study stadium subsidies say little or none of the money makes it back to taxpayers. One [01:23:00] economist estimated that the contribution of a professional baseball team is similar to that of a mid sized department store.

As a University of Chicago economist aptly put it, if you want to inject money into the local economy, it would be better to drop it from a helicopter than invest it in a new ballpark.

DESUS NICE - HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: Wait, that's an option? Yo, I wish they'd drop a giant bag of money in my neighborhood. Like, rest in peace to the person it lands on, but it'd be a payday for the rest of us. So the economic boost they promised doesn't pan out. And I know that personally, because I saw that in the Bronx. In exchange for that 20 acres of parkland, the Yankees promised to donate 40 million to affected areas.

But the media community has not seen a dime from the team. And more immediately, And more importantly, we haven't seen a World Series in like 20 years, though. Like, if you want to screw my community out of 40 million, fine. That's business. But me [01:24:00] not getting a ring, that's personal.

I mean, at the very least, these teams could toss out some more shirts during games. Like, how do you have 25, 000 fans in an arena and only toss out ten T shirts? And they're all size XL? Do mediums cost more? And also, could we please get a T shirt cannon that can hit the 300s? What the f? Up top in the row!

Up top! And the thing that really gets me heated These stadiums aren't even that old. Stadiums for the Braves and the Rangers last like 20 years before they built new ones. You can't be replacing a stadium that Leonardo DiCaprio would still hit.

I'm not gonna be in Titanic 2. Sorry. But you know what the worst part is? How much this sucks for the fans. Because suddenly the team they've been rooting for their whole lives starts extorting them for a fortune. And all they can do about it is to go to the stadium, And cuts out the owner, which is what they did in Oakland.

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: Check this out. [01:25:00] A's fans packing the Oakland Coliseum for the first time in what seems like forever to send a blunt message to the Athletics top brass. A season best crowd of nearly 28, 000 A's fans came out to the Coliseum for what was deemed a reverse boycott, which encouraged owner John Fisher to sell the team so it can remain in Oakland.

instead of moving to Las Vegas. Tonight, you should call us cheers. South Shore sucks! South Shore sucks! Fisher, get the hell out of here. 30, 000 people are going to show up tonight to show John Fisher that he sucks. That's how you do it. Listen, I'm an East Coast boy, but Oakland, paying

DESUS NICE - HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: 20 to cuss out a man you've never met is big New York energy. Respect. 

Nick Wright won’t be a Chiefs fan if they move to Kansas - What's Wright? With Nick Wright - Air Date 3-31-22

NICK WRIGHT - HOST, WHAT'S WRIGHT: The public funding of stadiums is one of the [01:26:00] most It's something that I promise you, history will not look upon fondly when people are like, oh, what was one of the reasons American infrastructure and public schooling all seem to fail?

And they're going to be like, well, there's money issues, a lot of things. And then they're going to be like, oh, well, that's funny because all these municipalities sure seem to find a billion dollars when they needed it to build a stadium that's going to be used a dozen times a year. With that said. There are certain cities in America that I think you can justify the public kicking in some dollars to the team and Buffalo might be one of them.

So here's, here's my general point. Take your top 15 cities in the country. All of them should come together, have a meeting of the mayors or the governors of the states, however you need to do it, and make a pact and all a nice little collusion against the leads. Guys. [01:27:00] None of us are ever paying a dime.

You know why? Because pro sports leagues want to be in New York. They want to be in LA. They want to be in Dallas. They want to be in Houston. They want to be in Miami. They want to be in DC. They want to be in San Francisco. Their threats to leave are hollow threats. We never need to pay a dollar. If we're a major American city for a team, the leagues want to be here.

The owners have the money. Let them pay. Now, a city such as Buffalo, you can make the argument that the difference between Buffalo and Schenectady is one thing, that they have pro sports, they have the Sabres and the Bills. And that I, you know, I've said for a long time growing up from Kansas City, what's the difference between Kansas City and Des Moines?

Well, aside from the history of Kansas City and the amazing barbecue and the jazz, all that, the real contemporary difference was. Kansas City had the Chiefs and the Royals and Des Moines didn't. So I [01:28:00] do understand why a small city might feel incentivized to make sure their team doesn't move. So I get why the bills are doing it right.

The Buffalo's doing it. It's the state of New York that's doing it. And I know these two headlines aren't exactly, uh, aligned, but around the same time, I found out the state of New York's going to kick in about 800 million for the Bill's stadium. I read in the New York times. Our new governor say there's about an 850 million New York state public school shortfall.

You got to piss me off to be totally honest. But I, if you're Buffalo, if you're green Bay, if you're a small city that is kind of just happy to have a team, I get why you might want to make sure the team never leaves. But big cities should never pay a dollar to these leagues. They get tricked by them.

They're never leaving. Pro sports leagues are never leaving New York. Or LA or the cities I mentioned, they want to be there, so don't [01:29:00] get tricked into it. Speaking of the Chiefs, looks like we're gonna talk about them for a moment. 

DAMONZA BYRD: Speaking of stadiums. Yeah. Is it possible that the chiefs end up leaving Arrowhead?

NICK WRIGHT - HOST, WHAT'S WRIGHT: Okay, so listen, Arrowhead Stadium is loud and it's a fine stadium. It's not state of the art, but it's fine. It also is in the, it's in the middle of nowhere. It is 30 minutes from downtown Kansas City. The closest restaurant to Arrowhead or Kaufman is a Taco Bell. The closest hotel is a Drury Inn. Arrowhead's not ideal. It's not an ideal location. The reason the idea of the chiefs leaving is touches a tendon for me is there was a rumor. They might cross state lines into Kansas. The Kansas city chiefs, Our Kansas city, Missouri's team. And there is a big difference between being from Missouri and being from Kansas.

The audience may not care. The Kansas city and we'll get it. If people, if you're from [01:30:00] out, you're like, oh, I'm from Kansas City, and they're like, oh, you're from Kansas? No . I'm from Missouri. And the idea of the chiefs crossing the state line will, I'm not saying I won't be a fan.

This is what I'm going to say. This is what I will say. If the chiefs move to Kansas, my fandom ends when Patrick Mulholland. That's it. I'm just telling you when Patrick Mulholland retires, I'm out. If they move to Kansas.

Former A's Bruce Maxwell calls out Oakland A's owner John Fisher for Vegas move - Edge of Sports - Air Date 5-3-24

DAVE ZIRIN - HOST, EDGE OF SPORTS: I want to talk to you about the Oakland A's, their move to Sacramento, and then their subsequent move that's coming up in 2028 to Las Vegas.

You're the person I wanted to ask this. What, what, what was your impression when you played for the A's of Oakland? as a baseball town. 

BRUCE MAXWELL: It was incredible. The environment. I'm a very, I'm a big history buff when it comes to baseball. Um, my dad's favorite team was the Oakland A's and my dad's from Indiana.

Um, it's just with that team, [01:31:00] it's history. You know, it's, it's one of the oldest organizations in baseball. The players that have come through there, the winning the environment, what they've done for the city of Oakland itself. It's really given the community. a staple in a, in a, in a sports team. And that's something that you cannot allow to leave.

You cannot allow that to, to move to another area because now you're turning Oakland into almost like a wasteland when it comes to sports. I know they, they lost the warriors, the Raiders moved this and the other, but I feel like. The Oakland A's have been more of a pillar of the community than either one of those teams.

So it's upsetting and it's, it's honestly, it's bothersome to see that being allowed to happen. It's like taking the Cubs out of Chicago. 

It's like taking the Dodgers out of LA. Um, it can't happen. It can't happen. [01:32:00] So it's devastating to, to see, uh, their moves and the fact that it's just allowing, they're allowing it to happen, uh, because of greed and because of, uh, the lack of.

Uh, the lack of stature when it comes to the city of Oakland. 

DAVE ZIRIN - HOST, EDGE OF SPORTS: Yeah, what does this say about John Fisher, the owner of the team? He inherited all the money from Gap Clothing. That's where his 3. 3 billion come from. That's his net worth. What does it say about John Fisher that he's so willing to remove the team from Oakland when he clearly has the financial means to keep them there as long as he wants to?

BRUCE MAXWELL: It just says that he's selfish. And it's about as clear as I can be with that, um, it's the fact that the fans in the city of Oakland have seen him gouge our prospects and our players over the years. And then the Oakland A's fans have still been loyal and stayed loyal while watching their very players be all stars and important [01:33:00] players for their teams.

Um, the fact that he has the financial means to move the team, but not the financial means to upgrade the stadium, to upgrade the locker rooms, the field itself, to put more money into the contracts of players, to keep fans coming in wanting to support the Oakland A's. The fans took a stand and, and I would too, in that situation, especially again, for such an historical team, these people in Oakland, man, they grow up and teach their kids the love of the Oakland A's.

Even to this day, you know, it's, it's a, it's a, it's a culture up there. It's not just another team. And I think with John Fisher, he doesn't care at the end of the day. He doesn't care about the workers who've been working there for 40 years. He doesn't care about the kids and the grandparents and the great grandparents that have been coming to Oakland A's games that have had season tickets for 40 [01:34:00] years.

He doesn't care about that. He wants new and shiny things, but he could easily have made those shiny things. In Oakland, he just didn't want to be there and for him to be able to move the team without a batter of an eye. It's disappointing and it's upsetting for the people of Oakland, but also for a lot of us that I can't speak for everybody else, but it saddens me.

I played seven years with those that organization. And the whole time it was history. You have Ricky Henderson, Dave Stewart, Vita blue, all these guys coming into spring training, working with these, working with the kids. So in phase, right? All of that is because of the Oakland ace. It's not because, Oh, they're just big leaguers.

No, they, they spend a good chunk of their careers playing for this team, winning for this team. And it's part of their lives. So to see it be uprooted to a very, a new place for whatever the reason may be. It's, it's, [01:35:00] it's bothering me. 

DAVE ZIRIN - HOST, EDGE OF SPORTS: You know, I'm really glad you mentioned the stadium workers, because as awful as it is to move the team, there have been some articles about how generations of people have worked for that team and Fisher's disregard for them is just another mark against him to me as somebody who cares about the sport.

I mean, clearly he does not. 

BRUCE MAXWELL: He doesn't. And I went back, um, this off season. Um, I was, I was coaching with kids, uh, with a couple of my former teammates in Palo Alto. And when we, when I got there, I went to an A's game within about a week to go see my coaches and things. Uh, cause I, when I was there, the coaches are the same minus Bob Melvin, but they're the same.

And, um, I walked up in the players area and same security guards. They gave me a big old hug. They were like, great to see you. It's been forever. Mind you, I haven't been in the big leagues since 2018 and God, I don't remember their names, but a hundred percent. [01:36:00] They remember me and the people that men, men, the parking lot, the people that, that check you before you go into the locker room, uh, the people on the field, the grounds crew, I spent most of my time talking to all those people because Those are the people that make the difference in our days every day.

And so for him to be able to uproot that team and put all of those people out of a job, just willingly, it's, it's upsetting. And it's cruel at the end of the day, it's cruel. 


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: You've reached a deeper dive section C: sports journalism. 

Pat McAfee Gets Torn Apart by Famed Sports Writer - TYT Sports - Air Date 10-26-23

PAT MACAFEE: Andrew Marshawn is a rat. 

RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: There's no doubt Pat McAfee's tenure with ESPN has been entertaining, yet simultaneously troubling. Famous sports writer Greg Doyle has a bone to pick with the sleeveless ex punter because of instances such as this. 

AARON RODGERS: I'm 48 hours in, and I consulted with a now good friend of mine, Joe Rogan.

I'm thankful for [01:37:00] people like Joe stepping up and using their voice. And this If, if, like we learned, if science is Dr. Fauci, you're damn right I'm defiant. 


AARON RODGERS: Mr. Pfizer said he didn't think he'd be in a vax war with me. Didn't a back floor? Me? This ain't a war homie. This is just conversation. But if you want to have some sort of, uh, dual debate, have me on the podcast, I'm gonna take my man RFK, junior.

Okay. . Okay. As an independent. Hell yeah. Right? And he can have, you know, Tony Fauci or some other crat and we can have a conversation about this. 

RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: Okay. And this. Where he ripped Travis Kelsey Doyle, a longtime media member, sees through it and is called out Rogers McAfee and ESPN in his column. 

AARON RODGERS: You know, I think there's some sentiment that there's some sort of moral victory out there that we hung with the, you know, with the Champs and.

And that, uh, you know, our defense played well, and, and, you know, [01:38:00] uh, Pat didn't have a crazy game, and, uh, you know, Mr. Fizer, we kind of shut him down a little bit, he didn't have, you know, his, like, crazy impact game. Obviously, he had, you know, some yards and stuff, but I felt like, for the most part, you know, we played really tough on defense, especially the last three quarters.

RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: Because he can't stand seeing this. Here's what he wrote. Every Tuesday, Rogers emerges from his rat hole and looks around smugly, enjoying the smell of his own breath, and says something really, really stupid about vaccines. And because we live in this cult of fame, liking and believing and even electing people only because they're rich or famous, people believe Rogers so he's out there, every Tuesday, saying something that makes us less safe.

It's because As Awful Announcing put it, Rogers went from the thinking man's quarterback to an anti vax buffoon allotted time on McAfee's show to ramble about life saving medications with zero pushback whatsoever even if the information he was offering was at best misguided and at worst harmful, penned Sean Keeley.

[01:39:00] Doyle has worked in the Indianapolis market for decades at this point. Even doing radio shows with a former Colts player named Sean Keeley. Pat McAfee. They have somewhat of a history, one can say. Which makes his article even more of a must read. He'd write McAfee is allowing and enabling Rogers to spew misinformation.

He'd bring up McAfee being found to pay the quarterback more than a million dollars to appear on his show, and third, according to Doyle, McAfee doesn't believe Rogers for a minute. Doyle, it becomes quite evident, lays the blame on at McAfee's feet for all of this. Rogers was a four time MVP with the Packers, but his anti vax gibberish makes him a harmful member of the human race.

McAfee lets it happen, Doyle wrote. Rogers has done McAfee's career a huge service by appearing on his show. Pat was going to take off regardless because he's that good, but Rogers appearance put booster fuel into [01:40:00] the rocket ship. And not just that. Not to be misremembered, this was first taken on by a long time NFL media member.

Pat McAfee is getting a massive pass for allowing Aaron Rodgers to spread disinformation and lies that could lead to people dying. He tweeted, McAfee would reply, You're not picking and choosing what to report from my show in an attempt to mislead people, are you? That'd be a style of misinformation, right?

You were probably saving the world at the time, but how come you didn't cover this with a video of Charles Barkley? 

AARON RODGERS: I've been taking monoclonal antibodies. Ivermectin, zinc, vitamin C and D, HCQ. And I feel pretty incredible. 

PAT MACAFEE: Okay. So you said a lot there. 

RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: Doyle then ends his piece with this. Unlike Rogers and people of his ilk, people who think they're the smartest guy in the room.

McAfee is the smartest guy in the room. He also was born with a second serving of empathy. He's a good man with a good heart. Pat McAfee. He understands [01:41:00] vaccines are the only reason the war is over. The only reason the good guys won the biggest and most important questions Doyle poses. In his piece are these.

Why is ESPN allowing this? And why is Pat McAfee a willing accomplice?

Are Athletes a Threat to Sports Journalism? - Karen Hunter Show - Air Date 5-28-24

RODERICK MORROW: Do you find any difference in this, uh, approach that the players have where they're like considering themselves the new media, uh, As compared to, you know, the classic traditional media. Um, are you finding that there's a, a, a real separation or difference between their approach and, and, and the approach that at the networks?

CHRIS BROUSSARD: Oh yeah. Like, like Rob Parker really gets upset about it. Now he has a, uh, journalism, uh, masters from Columbia. Um, he teaches sports writing at USC. So he's really into it and he gets upset because On their podcast, the athletes generally don't push back on one another. So if you're doing a podcast and one [01:42:00] player says, yeah, I think Paul George is better than LeBron.

Now, in a lot of cases, I'm just throwing that out, but in a lot of cases, it might be, Oh, wow. Okay, cool. Whereas the natural pushback is hold up. What are you talking about? You know? And so Rob is constantly complaining about, you don't get the full story. You don't get the pushback. From the athletes. But I say that's true, but what I do like is that you get to see the athletes in their own space and their natural, like as writers, what I was trying to do when I interviewed an athlete, I always was trying to get them to be comfortable.

And to not give cliche quotes and just, okay, I'm speaking to the media. Let me have my guard up. I wanted them to just be their normal selves and then convey that to the audience or the readers. And you get that in the podcast, like with Kevin Garnett's with Paul [01:43:00] Pierce or what, you know, they're just being their natural selves.

They cussing, they talking like they would in the locker room. They're not worried about, you know, coming off a certain way for the media, but that tells you that shows you what they're really like. So I think there's a real value in that. So I like what they're doing. It is a little different from what we do, but.

You know, there's space for all of us. Do you feel that 

RODERICK MORROW: animosity too? Cause like, I feel like the new media thing is also a little bit of animosity towards the old media where it's like, y'all ain't doing it right. We're, we're going to show you how to do it. And I'm, and I'm not gonna lie. I miss a little bit of the conflict because I do like the pushback.

I do think the media has a job to fact check and, uh, and, and to be there in the space to say, Hey, that thing you just said, you need to explain that a little bit more out. So I kind of missed that a little bit. 

CHRIS BROUSSARD: Well, no, that's why I said you could listen to both because they're not journalists. They're in the media space now, but they're not journalists.

They're not doing [01:44:00] investigative reporting. They're not probing. They're just talking, which is cool. There's a space for that, but you still have to go to the real journalist if you want to get some pushback and another side of the story. And something like that. But, um, the, the thing is to athletes, they don't like being criticized, which is normal.

I mean, wait, who likes being criticized? I'm told Rob will jump on. I'm like, don't nobody like being criticized, you know, they used to say. Y'all didn't play in the NBA, you don't know what you talking about, you know, and try to play the the player card on you. But if you notice, they don't like being, uh, criticized by Charles Barkley, right?

Phil O'Neill, Kendrick ver you. They just don't like criticism, period. It is not whether you played or not. And so that's where I think maybe the animosity can come from, but you know what's happening. They're criticizing. [01:45:00] Yes. They're criticizing other players too. Cause what we do, what I do on television and the radio and what they're doing on their podcast, it's like you in the barbershop.

Debating who's better between Michael and LeBron. We're just doing it on national television or radio. And so we have to answer for it. I might see LeBron at a game or see, you know, somebody, and you have to answer for it, whereas when you in the barber shop on your couch, you can spout all this stuff. And never see a player and not have to answer for it.


RODERICK MORROW: I am, I am kind of looking forward to our first podcast fight, you know, like we're like Draymond green seas, Pat Bev. And like, we just, the gloves come off. Like, we think it's a basketball fight, but we find out, Oh no, it's cause of episode seven, you got to go back and 

CHRIS BROUSSARD: listen. Well, that's, that does make it interesting for the guys that still play, that have to.

Podcasts and our [01:46:00] players, current players. Cause you really have to answer for the stuff you say. 

Can You Afford to Watch the NFL This Year? - That's Good Sports - Air Date 5-17-24

BRANDON PERNA - HOST, THAT'S GOOD SPORTS: Welcome to That's Good Sports, I am Brandon Perna, and if you want, you can sign up for That's Good Sports Minus. What's That's Good Sports Minus? It's nothing. You sign up, you give me your money, and then you EAT IT! You shut up, and you give me your money for nothing! That's why it's called Minus! I hope you do have a war chest of extra Funds, if you wanna watch every NFL game this season.

Start cutting costs, okay, for unnecessary things in your life. Baby food, heart medicine, car insurance, to make room for your NFL viewing expenses. The NFL will now have games on YouTube TV. For the Sunday ticket, Amazon Prime, Peacock, ESPN and now two Christmas games on Netflix. I know a lot of people are complaining, but if you remember, What Jesus said, who's birthday is literally on Christmas, What a coincidence.

But he said, [01:47:00] With man, this is impossible, but with God, capitalism will save us all. That is how you get saved. By me, Jesus of Prophets. What, if Harrison Butker can use Jesus to push some weird bullshit narratives, So can I, so can I. That's America. How we will consume NFL and sports games in general is changing.

And the almighty dollar still rules this evolution of screens. Personally, I already have Netflix. I've been paying for that shit since it was DVDs. So I really don't care that games will air on that streaming service. I have all of the damn streaming services, plus cable. I hate that I have to pay for it all, but it's kind of my job, so I justify it.

That said, I want to break down what this means for us viewers, how much it's going to cost us, and if it's a good or bad thing for us in the long run. And the answer might surprise you. No, it won't. 

Let's go back 11 years to the exact moment it all changed. [01:48:00] DirecTV was king with its exclusive rights for NFL Sunday Ticket. If you wanted access to watch every game of your favorite team out of market, DirecTV was the only way to do it. I know, I had it when I lived in Sin City, Los Angeles. Yes, technically it's the City of Angels, but after what I witnessed on Hollywood Boulevard, it will always be Sin City in my heart.

 We watch NFL football on our phones now, right? And we don't even think about how that wasn't a possibility 12 years ago. DirecTV changed that with the Manning Bros.

AD: So now's your chance to have football on your phone and football in your pants.

BRANDON PERNA - HOST, THAT'S GOOD SPORTS: Now I did a video review of that commercial in the early days of this struggling YouTube channel Which predates the NFL YouTube channel, by the way, the NFL didn't create a channel until 2014 So you had to rely on idiots like me to get a chance to see highlights from your team's games. Now highlights are thrown in your face [01:49:00] Face, anytime you open up your phone, they're no longer a treasure worth hiding, but a readily available foundation of life that is simply consumed like breathing air.

Now, I say all that to emphasize that getting access to the NFL on your mobile device was a huge shift in the NFL's approach to making their product more available. Part of me believes that's what they are doing right now by making games available on services like Netflix. You can also argue that it makes its reach more limited because not everyone has Netflix.

If I were you, I'd blame Tom Brady who broke the Netflix football cherry via his roast. Would you like a massage? Which. He has said, as a parent, he now regrets doing because it greatly affected his children. As a fellow father, I agree. And if any of you are out there, and you're in a, a rare, and I mean rare, more rare than winning the lottery type situation where Netflix asks you if they can host a roast in [01:50:00] your honor, that as a parent, you should say no.

Do not, do not do a net, If you're a parent. Unless, of course, you are Harrison Butker, then definitely do it right now. I find it hilarious that one of the most prepared quarterbacks in NFL history didn't do his homework yet. On what a roast is. It's also wild to me that Tom made sure to protect Robert Craft from the massage jokes, but failed to see how his recent divorce and having a teammate that killed himself in prison, who was in prison for murder, might be, uh, the things that the comedians go hard on and ultimately offend and affect his family.

Anyway, why is this shift to streaming services happening? Duh, it's it's money right? It's money. Netflix is reportedly spending close to 150 million per game for the two christmas games and this is actually a three year deal with a couple more games coming in 2025 and 2026. Now last season an average of [01:51:00] 29. 2 million people watched the nfl games on tv. That's why Netflix is willing to pay. In addition to that, Netflix is hoping to see the big subscriber boost like Amazon saw two years ago when it took over Thursday Night Football. I forget the numbers, but they were insane. Johnny, throw them on the screen.

And also what Peacock saw when it had its exclusive playoff game this year. While we all might publicly complain about this on Twitter, it turns out that a bunch of people who signed up for Peacock, uh, just for that game, um, Didn't cancel. Peacock saw 2. 8 million people sign up and subscribe and 71 percent of those news subscribers kept paying for Peacock I don't know if those subscription numbers will translate to Netflix Or how many people stayed signed up after those seven weeks because I was too lazy to look it up.

Netflix has two regular season games that look nice on paper right now, but the must watch aspect of those Christmas games is far less compelling. Plus, I think [01:52:00] in general, Netflix has a much larger piece of the streaming service subscriptions already compared to Peacock, so I don't know if they get the big boost.

But that's what they're banking on. Now, a benefit that doesn't really get mentioned too often in all of this discussion is that Thursday Night Football on Amazon is actually a better viewing experience than it was when the NFL Network hosted all of those games. On Amazon, you have multiple broadcast options plus Prime Vision, and for hardcore fans like me, that shit's cool.

I'm not sure if a platform like Netflix can up the ante with the presentation for just two games a year, and for a company that has, uh, little to no revenue. Live production experience, the Brady Roast was good, went off without a hitch, but according to my wife Jess, their Love is Blind reunion live show was a disaster.

If they fuck up NFL games,

Netflix will look more like Quibi or PlayStation Vue after Chief Steelers and Ravens fans get done with them. They're just starting to enjoy some success again. For Netflix, it's willing [01:53:00] To drop a giant chunk of change on NFL games, because they're proven to work. For them, it's a lot less risky than spending that kind of money on a series that flops.

Tanks. Space forces, if you will. Like the NFL, Netflix was king of streaming for a very long time, but as that market became widely more competitive, they have to make some power moves. Netflix is betting on a massive influx of new subs, but for those two games. And while it's not a playoff game, Christmas is a smart play as that's when we're all in a pretty good mood and we don't have issues spending a little more money.

What's 20 bucks when I just dropped a thousand on my dumb kids who do not entertain me like football and only bring me the same misery my football equally provides? I will gladly give this for entertainment. Here's the loophole the NFL discovered, okay? They have more games than they know what to do with.

Thursday night football survived waves and waves of criticism about player safety [01:54:00] because a stand alone primetime game in the middle of the week blew up. does numbers. The NFL realized it can still satisfy all of its TV agreements because it has 14 to 16 games every single week. Plus, the game on Peacock still had fucking commercials even behind the paywall.

They can handpick one or two of their games on any week and then sell that to Netflix. And not disturb their billion dollar TV deals with Fox, NBC, CBS, and ESPN. I also think the COVID year, where they had to reschedule games, showed the league how much maneuverability they had to move games around, like chess pieces.

Which is why we have games on pretty much everything. Every day of the week at different points this year. Then you had Christmas fall on a Sunday in 2022 and a Monday in 2023 and boom, holy fuck, the NFL destroyed the holiday once formally monopolized by the NBA. 


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And now deeper dive [01:55:00] section D: sports gambling.

Is the sports betting industry a huge mistake? - Good Work - Air Date 2-9-24

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: In 2013, the American Psychological Association officially classified gambling as an addiction. Meanwhile, since its 2018 legalization, sports betting has generated a gangbusters amount of economic activity in the US $220 billion. In just the first five years it was legal. There are now over 16 million average monthly users of the most popular sports betting apps.

And next year, online sports betting revenue is expected to approach 12 billion dollars. But to understand this growth trajectory, we gotta talk about something called Daily Fantasy Sports. Daily Fantasy is an online version of Fantasy Sports. And according to my wife, a terrible reason to have my phone out during our kid's baptism.

Fantasy is when you pick a bunch of real players, assemble a fake team out of them, and keep trying. But around 2010, a new turbocharged version of fantasy came onto the scene, where you could set new lineups as often as every day, play in apps on your phone, and crucially, put money down on the results. 

KENNETH VOGEL: So you [01:56:00] had two competitors that really arose to the top of the market here, DraftKings and FanDuel.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Kenneth Vogel is a New York Times investigative reporter who was part of a team that wrote a series of major stories about the betting industry's rise in America. 

KENNETH VOGEL: And they made a business out of fantasy sports and allowed players to win. Wager, not wager, but put money on the performance of their teams.

They would push back against the use of the term wager there. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Even though gambling on sports was still broadly illegal, Congress had previously determined that fantasy sports were actually a game of skill, not luck, meaning that putting money on the results wasn't gambling. Which reminds me, a lot of an argument my high school friend Chaz used to make about the pullout method.

The gray area in which these fantasy companies operated was pretty controversial. Even at the time. A lot of state attorney generals and even some sportsbook CEOs publicly said that they considered Daily Fantasy to be gambling. But the industry saw it differently. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: So you don't view what you do here at Daily Fantasy?

Uh, FanDuel is [01:57:00] gambling. No. That's a word that isn't used very much around here, I take it. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Still, FanDuel and DraftKings clearly understood that they were operating in murky waters, and made a huge lobbying push to defend themselves. And they were pretty successful. By 2017, 19 states had passed laws explicitly legalizing daily fantasy sports.

But this effort wasn't just about creating a legal framework for daily fantasy. The industry's big kahuna was still out there, swimming around in the deep waters. Just waiting to be caught. I'm talking about full on sports betting. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: Breaking news to the Supreme Court this morning, striking down the federal ban on sports betting.

Now it leaves it up to the states. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: When that happened, the industry was ready to get lobbying, thanks to their powerful network of relationships in state capitals that they built during their daily fantasy push. 

KENNETH VOGEL: There was a lot of like, whining and dining. That was, that was my colleague, Eric Lipton, and a photographer who went out to, um, This is a party that, uh, was sponsored by the industry or by lobbyists who were representing the industry.

The lawmakers [01:58:00] were smoking cigars and drinking expensive scotch that was provided by the lobbyists and sort of schmoozing with them as the debate was unfolding a few blocks away in the Capitol. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: The industry's main arguments for legal sports betting, both then and now, are to fight black market gambling.

JASON ROBINS: There's this big illegal market, and there's no consumer protections, no tax revenue being generated. Why don't we just bring that in house? 

MATT KING: A lot of states are understanding that it's really just common sense legislation to allow mobile sports betting. Uh, it raises tax revenues and it puts an illegal market out of business.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: And look, I know it's easy to go around bashing these corporate CEOs. Especially when they got this mid as hell Zoom background. What, is this a map of the lands you plan to conquer? Why do you have a Bla black and white photo of the industrial revolution behind ya. Come on, Matt. It could be worse. You've got some work to do, buddy.

But my point, which I'm making very clearly and without getting sidetracked, my point is that the gambling black market is a problem, and regulating it would generate [01:59:00] tax revenue. 

TIMOTHY FONG: One of our biggest concerns, we have so much of the unregulated sports betting market, right? So these are the websites, uh, that are based in who knows where.

They take all electronic betting. You know, financing, so they're, they're not subjected to the regulations of the state. But trying to shut them down is impossible because you don't even know where they exist. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Now, it's impossible to know the exact size of the black market at this time, but some estimates had Americans illegally betting as much as 150 billion per year.

But the industry's second point was that if states did vote to legalize, It would instantly create tax revenue. 

KENNETH VOGEL: One of the things that the industry, sports betting industry had going for it, you know, after 2018 was, uh, you know, it's, um, sort of a perverse way to think about it, but it was the pandemic. I mean, the pandemic put a real dent in state budgets.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: So the black market, the promise of tax revenue, state budgets, absolutely decimated by the pandemic. It was the perfect storm for sports betting companies to capitalize on and capitalize. It was 

OLIVER BARNES: [02:00:00] There's a huge investor appetite around it. The companies are turning over massive amounts of money.

Everyone's very excited. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Oliver Barnes is a reporter for the Financial Times who's been covering the gambling industry both in the U. S. and the U. K. 

OLIVER BARNES: Lawmakers are also quite excited, right? Because you're sitting in a state that's yet to, um, legalize sports betting. You have a whole load of tax revenues you can just switch on there overnight.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: But in reality, many states who have voted to legalize have seen less tax revenue than expected. 

KENNETH VOGEL: The industry, the sports betting companies and the gambling trade groups push for lower tax rates. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: While lobbying for legalization in states like Kansas, the industry argued that the best way for states to maximize their tax revenue would actually be to tax betting companies less because it would create an easier market for the companies to operate in.

Okay, whatever you say, Mr. Businessman. Alright.

But in 14 jurisdictions that legalized and followed the industry's tax advice, revenues in 2022 were nearly 150 million less than predicted. And in [02:01:00] addition to negotiating lower tax rates, the industry also convinced many states to classify huge chunks of their advertising spend as tax write offs. 

KENNETH VOGEL: When we talk about deductions for advertising and marketing, what we're really talking about is the promotional bets.

And so, what that is, is you see an ad and it says, get your first 100 of like, free bets, or like, we'll match your first 100, or what have you, and this is like an incentive that the gambling companies are using to bring in new customers. And what they did was they convinced lawmakers in most states to allow them to deduct the cost of these promotional bets.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: In 2022 alone, the industry gave out almost 1 billion in these promo bets, costing states more than 120 million in potential taxes. States are losing money on promotional bets. I'm losing money on promotional bets. You and I aren't so different after all, Kansas. Maybe this could work out between us. And though tax revenue generated by the industry post legalization has been underwhelming, you might say the opposite [02:02:00] about its approach to marketing.

AD: Spreads to cover, overs to hit, and chances to live bet from the first sound to the final whistle. Download BetMGM. You know what to do.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: The industry spent about 300 million on TV ads in 2023, and an estimated 1. 8 billion in local markets. This marketing push even made it to college campuses. One deal between Michigan State and Caesars Sportsbook let Caesars Caesarize part of its campus. Another between Colorado Boulder and Pointsbet gave the school 30 every time one of their students signed up for the app and placed a bet.

Granted, there was a lot of backlash to these deals. The lead gambling industry trade group now prohibits marketing on college campuses. And since then, Michigan State, Colorado, and other schools have canceled their partnerships. But what's so bad about these ads anyway? Getting caesarized sounds fun! 

RICHARD DAYNARD: It's a public health issue.

Is that this is an addictive product. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Oh, I get it. Too fun. Richard Daynard is the lawyer who designed the litigation strategy against the tobacco industry, resulting in Big Tobaccy [02:03:00] coughing up over 200 billion dollars and changing the way they market cigarettes. We lied and told him we were 60 Minutes and he agreed to tell us about his next target, the sports betting industry.

RICHARD DAYNARD: There's the denial of, you know, of dangers. Presenting this thing as simply a harmless way to have fun. March 10th of last year of 2023. That was the day that sports betting was unleashed in Massachusetts. It was just massive marketing. You know, there'd be trash containers. It'd be on the side of buses, uh, as well as on, uh, you know, television.

Just about anything you turned on would have an ad for, you know, one of the companies. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Unfortunately, it's been a while since I've turned anything on, professor. Daynard's Public Health Advocacy Institute recently backed a lawsuit in Massachusetts against DraftKings, and its focus is on one of those fun tax write off promotional ads.

According to the lawsuit, DraftKings knowingly and unfairly designed a 1, [02:04:00] 000 sign up bonus. The 1, 000 comes in the form of additional bets, which customers could only get if they first deposited 5, 000. Risk 25, 000 within 90 days, and bet on events with worse odds than 3 to 1, which doesn't sound like I'm gonna get 1, 000.

RICHARD DAYNARD: The idea is for you to continue to bet, which is the way you develop and heighten an addiction, which is you keep at it, you keep doing it. We hope to, you know, encourage that. You know, other litigation, this is hardly the only deceptive ad running in the United States. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: And there is some backlash building.

TIMOTHY FONG: We don't see cannabis ads on TV, do we? We don't see a lot of tobacco ads on TV anymore. And all that has an impact on what people think and feel about that product, right? When you look at the gambling ads right now, they're all 120 percent positive. 

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: Regulators in Ohio. Doled out almost a million dollars in fines last year to betting companies for advertising that customers could make free bets.

Massachusetts and other states have moved to legally ban advertising on college campuses. And all the way up [02:05:00] there in Maine, lawmakers proposed banning cartoon characters, celebrities, athletes, and entertainers from being able to appear in ads. Which might sound extreme to us here in America, but is actually very simple.

Similar to the way that lots of other countries regulate gambling advertising. 

OLIVER BARNES: In the UK there's like a whistle to whistle ban on football matches. You can't advertise like during a football match. In terms of like TV commercials. Because of the advertising environment where you're bombarded with ads, it's very difficult to kind of escape that habit of like recurrent gambling.

DAN TOOMEY - HOST, GOOD WORK: The UK has also banned gambling logos on the front of Premier League jerseys and other regulators wanna move even further. In Australia, gambling ads are banned during games between 5:00 AM and eight. And Belgium and the Netherlands have fully banned gambling advertising on TV, radio, newspapers, and in public spaces.

And these regulations are all a reaction to the way that gambling has proliferated in these countries post legalization. The UK Gambling Commission earlier this year said that as many as 2. 5 percent of their adult population could be problem gambling. Meanwhile in Australia, citizens lose more [02:06:00] gambling per capita than in any other country.

And some worry that if this continues If the U. S. isn't careful, we might not learn from these more mature markets. 

The NBA’s Sports Gambling Issue Is Worse Than You Think - Hoop Reports - Air Date 4-27-24

HOST, HOOP REPORTS: On December 19th, 2023, four games were scheduled, setting the stage for an unbelievable turn of events.

I'm not usually one to gamble, and I've never placed an online bet in my life, but let me tell you, this was one of the most incredible sports bets I've ever seen. It was a four leg parlay, meaning four specific outcomes had to align for the bettor to claim the prize money. Here were the conditions.

Brandon Ingram needed to score the first basket in the Grizzlies vs. Pelicans game, Zach Collins in the Spurs vs. Bucs game, Steph Curry in the Celtics vs. Warriors game, and finally Jeremy Grant in the Sun vs. Blazers game. Each of these events was necessary for the bet to succeed. The odds were staggeringly set at 4, 428 to 1.

Translating to a mere 0. 02 percent chance of success. Yet on this day, one daring individual defied these odds, turning a modest bet [02:07:00] of 2 and 50 cents into an astonishing 11, 000 after researching other astonishing online sports gambling wins. Including two unbelievable six leg parlays on three point shots that turn 25 into over 100, 000, I gained insights into the world of online betting, specifically about prop bets and parlay bets.

Now, some of you might already be familiar with these terms, but for those who don't engage in betting, like myself, this was quite enlightening. Essentially, a prop bet is a wager on a specific occurrence within a game, rather than on the game's final result. For instance, instead of betting on the Warriors to win, one might bet on Steph Curry to score 50 points, Draymond Green to get ejected, or Klay Thompson to miss all his three point attempts.

You get the idea. A parlay bet, however, involves combining several of these prop bets. Each event included in the parlay must occur for the bet to pay out. This is precisely what led to Jontay Porter getting caught. He placed a bet that was so [02:08:00] obvious it triggered an alert from gambling sites. Actually, he made two significant errors.

The first mistake involved the prop bet set for him on January 26th, which were five and a half points, four and a half rebounds, which were One and a half assists and 0. 53 pointers made. If you're wondering why these aren't whole numbers, like five points or four rebounds, it's to prevent something known as a push.

A push occurs when the final result of a bet matches the set number exactly, meaning the bet neither wins nor loses and all wagers are returned. Well, just 4 minutes into the game, Jontay had already racked up 3 rebounds and 1 assist. This meant there were just 2 more rebounds or 1 more assist that would cause anyone who bet on him, including himself, to lose the bet.

As a result, he abruptly left the game, citing a re aggravation of an eye injury.

On the following day, during their daily report, DraftKings announced that the under on porter had been the most profitable bet for props that night. Then [02:09:00] on March 20th, in a game against the Sacramento Kings, a similar incident occurred. His over under bets for the night were set at seven and a half points and five and a half rebounds.

And just about three minutes into the game, Porter exited citing an illness and did not return.

This meant anyone who had bet on his unders immediately won the prop bet. While initially Porter's season statistics might make you question the logic of placing those types of bets. The truth is, due to injuries to Scotty Barnes and Chris Boucher, Porter's playing time had surged to about 20 minutes per game.

So, in the 4 games preceding this, he averaged 7 points and roughly 5 rebounds. But, anyway Once again, DraftKings reported that this outcome was the top moneymaker for the night across all NBA bets. What made these cases even more suspicious was the fact that the average NBA player prop bet usually falls between 1, 000 and 2, 000, but the bets placed on Jontay Porter were significantly higher, ranging from 10, 000 to 20, 000.[02:10:00] 

In fact, during the March 20th game, one bettor placed a staggering 80, 000 on a parlay bet. This bet was that if Porter scored 7 points or fewer and grabbed 5 rebounds or fewer, the bettor would win 1. 1 million.

However, the sports betting operators flagged this as suspicious and froze the wager. This action triggered the investigation which NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Issuing a permanent ban on Porter. What's somewhat ironic about this situation is that Adam silver himself played a significant role in bringing sports gambling into the mainstream in the United States.

Back in 2014, when he wrote a piece for the New York times advocating for the legalization of sports betting, using the phrase out of the underground and into the sunlight to express his stance. He also emphasized in his writing. Any new approach must ensure the integrity of the game. However, the inherent challenge lies in the fact that sports betting, and maintaining the integrity of the game, simply cannot coexist.[02:11:00] 

Over time, human nature's insatiable greed for money will inevitably take a hold and begin to exert its influence over games. This has been evident in numerous scandals throughout sports history. The 1919 Black Sox scandal, where eight players were accused of throwing the World Series for money. The 1980s Boston College basketball point shaving scandal where players manipulated scores for betting gains.

The 2000 Spanish Paralympics basketball scandal involving athletes faking disabilities for medals and sponsorships. The 2000 Hansi Kronje cricket match fixing scandal where a captain accepted bribes to influence match outcomes. The 2007 Tim Donaghy NBA betting scandal where a referee rigged games he officiated.

The 2011 Turkish football match fixing scandal implicating over 30 games. These are just a few examples of the widespread betting scandals that have plagued professional sports globally. They span various sports and nations, but share a common motive, manipulating game outcomes for financial gain. Apart from the [02:12:00] Jontay Porter incident, the true extent of betting related issues in NBA games remains largely unknown until they surface publicly.

However, given the substantial financial stakes involved, there's a valid argument to suggest that such occurrences may be more widespread than commonly perceived, implicating both players and referees. In fact, some retired NBA players assert that there's actually a significant number of referees involved in gambling activities nowadays.

RASHAD MCCANTS: Do you think it's another ref that's in the NBA right now that's like him? A club of them. I think it's a club of them. We clearly see the discrepancies in certain games where the swing for Vegas hits the numbers, right? These are elements that bookies know about, gamblers know about. Hey man, this is a game we need Luka out.

He gets two technicals before halftime. 

HOST, HOOP REPORTS: One counter argument to this notion is that the NBA players and referees already earn substantial salaries. So, why would they risk their careers for additional money? [02:13:00] However, as highlighted earlier, the potential financial gains from betting can far exceed their regular earnings.

For instance, the individual who placed the 80, 000 parlay bet on Jontay Porter stood to make over 1, 000, 000, more than double Porter's salary. However, in the case of Tim Donaghy, despite having a successful career with a comfortable salary of 300, 000 per year as an NBA referee, he still succumbed to the temptation of making extra money through illicit means.

These days, when you think about prop betting and parlay bets, you realize there's a ton of ways to cheat the system. Like even though I've never placed an online bet and likely won't just spending a few minutes brainstorming gave me some ideas on how referees can manipulate outcomes without getting caught.

For instance, imagine placing a parlay bet on a player getting exactly 5 fouls, but his team still winning by 10 points. As a referee, or a team of referees, orchestrating such an outcome might not be too difficult without anyone noticing, but the [02:14:00] potential payout could be huge. And that was a quick example I came up with in 5 minutes, without any professional refereeing or betting experience.

Just think about what experienced individuals could do in this scenario. That example should give you a quick glimpse into the extent of betting that occurs in sports. To be fair, the NBA claims to closely monitor all activities, and even has an internal team consisting of lawyers and full time data scientists dedicated to investigating any irregular bets or line movement.

However, the reality is that Pandora's box of sports gambling has already been opened, and the methods of gamblers will only become more sophisticated over time. Consider this, if the NBA couldn't effectively stop James Harden from exploiting the rules to draw fouls for a significant portion of the 2010s, how can they hope to regulate an industry where transactions amount to 50 to 80 billion dollars every year?


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: That's going to be it for today. As always, keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about today's topic or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at [02:15:00] 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. 

The deep dive sections of the show included clips from The Rich Eisen Show, University of Iowa, The Daily Show, What's Wright? With Nick Wright, Edge of Sports, TYT Sports, the Karen Hunter Show, That's Good Sports, Good Work, and Hoop Reports. Further details are in the show notes. 

Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get [02:16:00] instant access to our incredibly good and often funny weekly bonus episodes, in addition to there being no ads and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from

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#1632 SiliCON Valley: The False Promises, Enshittification Economics, and Misguided Adventures of the Twits of Tech (Transcripts)

Air Date 5/28/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast. Now, everyone knows the rule about not meeting your heroes because they'll so often disappoint you. Well, today, we look at the most disappointing yet most idolized false heroes of our day: the titans of tech and the zany hi-jinks they've been getting up to recently. Sources providing our top takes today include Jacob Ward, More Perfect Union, Decoder, Internet Today, Today, Explained, ColdFusion, There Are No Girls on the Internet, and Zoe Bee. Then in the additional sections half of the show, we'll dive deeper into "That word you keep using", in which tech bros misunderstand the world, "SiliCON Valley, Emphasis on the CON", "Microsoft the Destroyer", and "Thank You for Your Service", in which people doing good work, get fired.

When a tech company like OpenAI doesn’t get the dark message at the heart of science fiction - Jacob Ward - Air Date 5-21-24

JACOB WARD - HOST, JACOB WARD: A couple of quick thoughts on Scarlett Johansson and her threatening legal action against OpenAI. For anyone who doesn't know, [00:01:00] she says that she was approached back in September by Sam Altman saying, Will you please voice our new chatbot? And she said, No, thank you. And then two days before the demo, she says she was approached again, directly by him, and asked to reconsider. And before she had a chance to respond, they went ahead and debuted this new voice that sounds eerily like her, right? And it is a reference of course, to the 2013 film Her by Spike Jones and, you know, Sam Altman even says "Her" in a tweet that he put out around the time of the demo. 

So, a couple of things. First, the utter railroading of normal inputs, you know, when you don't get permission for a thing, you do it anyway, is a classic... it's a hallmark of tech folks who think about democratic inputs only up to the point that they get in their way. That's been my experience, but two—and this is the big one I want to [00:02:00] talk about—is the lack of imagination and, in some ways, lack of understanding of the point of the art you are copying, in this case. So, the 2013 film Spike Jonze directed is about a utopian, technologically harmonious landscape. People living in New York and Shanghai in this new tech world that seems quite nice. But the commentary at the heart of the film, this is what Spike Jones says, is that it's about how human beings could not connect with each other even under those kinds of circumstances, or maybe even especially under those kinds of circumstances. Like, it's supposed to be not an embracing of that kind of technology, but using the technology to reveal something really broken in us, right? 

And so the co opting of "Her", of the character from Her, is like, it reminds me of sales managers using Alec Baldwin's [00:03:00] incredibly traumatizing speech in Glengarry Glen Ross: "What's my name? My name is fuck you". You know, uh, "I wear a Rolex on my watch and you'll be taking the bus home". Sales managers use that to like exhort their employees to do a better job. I've heard story after story of people getting that, being shown that video as a part of a sales training. When in fact, that movie, David Mamet's script is all about critiquing the horror and the emptiness of that life and how having a terrible boss in a sales environment is the worst kind of sort of capitalist doom, right?

And so this feels so similar to me that you would use this character, who's supposed to typify the emptiness at the heart of humanity, that tech is trying and failing to fill, that you would use that for your product is just like...[sigh]. 

So, anyway. It's not going to hurt their business prospects, right? They're still making a [00:04:00] tremendous amount of money and they're going to make a tremendous amount of money and they're going to plow forward. I am interested to see the way that this changes the public relations strategy of OpenAI and their reputation in the world. Because, when this beloved actress goes hard at them, I think that's going to change their perception a little bit. But just the lack of imagination really galls me.

How Peter Thiel Got Rich | The Class Room ft. Second Thought More Perfect Union - Air Date 11-10-22

JT CHAPMAN - HOST, MORE PERFECT UNION: Thiel's good grades and familial wealth earned him a spot at Stanford University, for undergrad and law school, where he got into his first venture, an alternative student newspaper aimed at conservatives, the Stanford Review.

The publication was Thiel's response to what he perceived as a takeover by the "politically correct." It seemed designed to offend, calling the school's sexual assault regulations too strict, excoriating diversity initiatives, and attacking anything that questioned Western culture. 

The Review was the beginning of Thiel's later network. Many of the students who wrote for or staffed [00:05:00] the far-right newspaper would end up as Thiel's future business partners. 

Stanford is also where Thiel was introduced to philosopher and professor René Girard, who influenced Thiel's worldview. Gerard wrote about how humans intently imitate each other, and how that holds society back. He specifically pointed to humans' competitive nature holding back scientific and technological progress. Thiel really connected with this viewpoint, and it fueled his belief that monopolies are actually a good thing. 

PETER THIEL: If you're a startup, you want to get to a monopoly. You're starting a new company, you want to get to a monopoly.

JT CHAPMAN - HOST, MORE PERFECT UNION: Before graduating, Thiel wrote one last op-ed for The Review, where he said that the PC alternative to greed is not personal fulfillment or happiness, but anger at and envy of people who are doing something more worthwhile. So, what was more worthwhile to Thiel? The money business. Peter joined up with a few young engineers building a new way to send payment digitally--pretty revolutionary in the late 90s. The company started as Confinity, a play on infinite confidence. It briefly became [00:06:00], as partner Elon Musk insisted, but eventually became PayPal. Staffing up, Thiel recruited some of his friends from the Stanford Review. The anarcho-capitalist views of that contingent were essential in the founding of PayPal, he explained at Libertopia 2010.

PETER THIEL: The initial founding vision was that we were going to use technology to change the whole world and basically overturn the monetary system of the world. We could never win an election on getting certain things because we were in such a small minority. But maybe you could actually unilaterally change the world without having to constantly convince people and beg people and plead with people who are never gonna agree with you, through technological means.

And this is where I think technology is this incredible alternative to politics. 

JT CHAPMAN - HOST, MORE PERFECT UNION: You might think of PayPal today as a harmless mechanism for buying vintage movie posters on eBay. But the real goal was to completely destroy the global order of currency. 

PETER THIEL: Well, we need to take over the world. We can't slow down now.

JT CHAPMAN - HOST, MORE PERFECT UNION: In a PayPal All Hands meeting in 2001, [00:07:00] Thiel told staff, "the ability to move money fluidly and the erosion of the nation-state are closely related," as they were building a system to move money fluidly. But just a few months later, Thiel took the money and ran. PayPal went public with an IPO. 

PETER THIEL: We were the first company in the US to file after 9/11.

JT CHAPMAN - HOST, MORE PERFECT UNION: Shortly after, PayPal sold to eBay. Thiel's 3.7 percent stake in the company was worth $57 million. What happens when you give a guy who wants to remake the world into one that follows his own twisted political vision $57 million? Well, it's not great. Look at his investment in Patri Friedman, a young Google engineer, pickup artist blogger, amateur model, and grandson of Milton Friedman. Which, don't get us started on Milton Friedman. But Patri had a big idea: build artificial islands at sea to house lawless libertarian utopias. Peter Thiel got wind of this and offered Friedman $500,000 to quit his job at Google and get started on the project. Thiel [00:08:00] truly saw starting new nations as the same as starting companies.

Really, he said it. 

PETER THIEL: Just like there's room for starting new companies, because not all existing companies solve all the problems we need to solve, I think there is also, there should also be some room for trying to start new countries, new governments. 

JT CHAPMAN - HOST, MORE PERFECT UNION: But starting countries is difficult. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER: What if you start over in a new country, some African country with a few billion dollars and build up, build it from the ground up?

PETER THIEL: We've looked at this, we've looked at all these possibilities. I think the basic challenges are that, it's not that easy to get the country. you might have, it's, you might not want to be stuck with the people you already have. And then, actually, the basic infrastructure may actually cost quite a bit more. You want to do something that works much more incrementally and organically. 

JT CHAPMAN - HOST, MORE PERFECT UNION: Friedman eventually left the Seasteading Institute and Thiel's involvement seemed over. But let's look at the last part of that quote: "do something that works much more incrementally and organically." 

After giving up on starting a brand new country, Thiel set [00:09:00] about refashioning the country he already lived in. This is how Peter Thiel used the venture capital mindset to seize political power. Presumably to the chagrin of Thiel's friends at Libertopia, he immediately got involved with the CIA. His next company was Palantir, a surveillance and data tech outfit. And seed funding came from In-Q-Tel, a nonprofit venture capital firm dedicated to funding projects that would be helpful to the CIA.

The firm isn't officially run by the CIA, but there is a revolving door of staff between the two. And the firm is colloquially referred to as the CIA's private equity firm. Palantir eventually did help the CIA, and the FBI, and the CDC. And a host of other governmental organizations that would have gotten Thiel booed right out of Libertopia.

But to Thiel, it didn't matter that he didn't live in some anarcho-capitalist utopia, because he was building his own using his enormous wealth. Thiel exploited systems within the existing libertarian-but-only-for-billionaires system, like his tax trick. [00:10:00] ProPublica unveiled in 2021 that much of Thiel's wealth is held in a Roth IRA, a type of tax-free investment fund meant for retirement. The amount you're allowed to contribute is capped at a few thousand dollars a year. But in 1999, Thiel turned two thousand dollars he had in his account into PayPal stock, an investment which paid off. When Thiel was the first large investor in Facebook, that half a million dollar Angel investment immortalized by this guy who looks nothing like Thiel in the social network, was just a restructuring of his tax-free retirement fund.

He can eventually withdraw the over $5 billion in the account tax-free. The average IRA has 0.00008% of that. Thiel's Libertopia friends have to pay high taxes, but Thiel won't on a large portion of his wealth. 

Then there's litigation financing. The ultra rich can actually gamble on court cases. They fund legal fees for a lawsuit, then take a percentage of the winnings if they pick the right side. It's completely legal. [00:11:00] And Thiel used it to silence free speech. After Gawker, an online news and blogging outlet, outed Thiel as gay, he set his eyes on destroying them. When Gawker posted a shadily-acquired sex tape of wrestler Hulk Hogan, Thiel bankrolled Hogan's lawsuit against the publication. Gawker was bankrupted, and Thiel made a profit.

Thiel uses his inordinate wealth and investment principles to get richer, to destroy the free speech of others, and to live in his own libertarian paradise. 

Another big investment area is in ideas, pretty chilling ones. Let's look at the Dark Enlightenment Movement, which Quartz calls "an obscure neofascist philosophy" and media researcher David Golumbia calls "the worship of corporate power to the extent that corporate power becomes the only power in the world." One of the movement's loudest voices is blogger Curtis Yarvin. Thiel has invested heavily in Yarvin startups, basically funding a big portion of the Dark Enlightenment movement. And it's obvious the movement mirrors Thiel's beliefs: complete corporate [00:12:00] control.

Google's Sundar Pichai on AI-powered search and the future of the web - Decoder with Nilay Patel - Air Date 5-20-24

NILAY PATEL - HOST, DECODER: Can I put this into practice by showing you a search? I actually just did this search. It is the search for best Chromebook. As you know, I once bought my mother a Chromebook Pixel. It's one of my favorite tech purchases of all time. So this is search your best Chromebook. I'm going to hit generate at the top. It's going to generate the answer. And then I'm going to do something terrifying, which is I'm going to hand my phone to the CEO of Google. This is my personal phone. 


NILAY PATEL - HOST, DECODER: Don't dig through it.

So you look at that and it's the same generation that I have seen earlier. I asked him for best Chromebook and it says, here's some stuff you might think of. And then you scroll and it's some Chromebooks, it doesn't say whether they're the best Chromebooks. And then it's a bunch of headlines. Some of it's from like Verge headlines. It was like, here's some best Chromebooks. That feels like the exact kind of thing that an AI-generated search could answer in a better way. Like, do you think that's a good experience today? Is that a waypoint or is that the destination?

SUNDAR PICHAI: I think, look, you're showing me a query in which we didn't automatically generate the AI. 

NILAY PATEL - HOST, DECODER: Well, there was a button that said, do you want to do it? 

SUNDAR PICHAI: But, let me let me push back, right? There's an important differentiation, right? There's a reason we are [00:13:00] giving a view without the generated AI overview. And as a user, you're initiating an action, right? So we are respecting the user intent there. And when I scroll it, I see Chromebooks. I also see a whole set of links, which I can go, which tell me all the ways you can think about Chromebooks. 


SUNDAR PICHAI: I see a lot of links. So we both didn't show an AI overview in this case. As a user, you're generating the follow up question.

I think it's right that we respect the user intent. 


SUNDAR PICHAI: If you don't do that, right, people will go somewhere else too, right? I think so. I, you know, so. 

NILAY PATEL - HOST, DECODER: I'm saying the answer to the question. I did not write, what is the best Chromebook? I just wrote best Chromebook. The answer, the thing that identifies itself as an answer, is not on that page.

And the leap to, I had to push the button to Google pushes the button for me. And then says what it believes to be the answer, is very small. And I'm wondering if you think a page like that today is, that is the destination of the search experience, or if this is a waypoint, and you can see a [00:14:00] future, better version of that experience? 

SUNDAR PICHAI: I'll give you your phone back. I'm tempted to check email right now out of habit. 

Look, I think the direction of how these things will go, it's fully tough to predict. You know, users keep evolving. It's a more dynamic moment than ever. We are testing all of this. This is a case where we didn't trigger the AI overview because we felt like our AI overview is not necessarily the first experience we want to provide for that query because what's underlying is maybe a better first look at the user.


SUNDAR PICHAI: Right. And those are all quality trade offs we are making. But if the user is asking for a summary, we are summarizing and giving links. I think that seems like a reasonable direction to me. 

NILAY PATEL - HOST, DECODER: I'll show you another one where it did expand automatically. This one, I only have screenshots for.

So this is Dave Lee from Bloomberg did a search. He got an AI overview and he just searched for JetBlue Mint Lounge, SFO. And it just says the answer, which I think is fine. And that's the answer. If you swipe one over, I cannot believe I'm letting the CEO of Google swipe on my camera roll, but if you swipe one [00:15:00] over, you see where it pulled from. You see the site it pulled from. It is a word for word rewrite of that site. This is the thing I'm getting at, right? The AI generated preview of that answer. If you just look at where it came from, it is almost the same sentence that exists on the source of it. And that to me, that's what I mean. It's at some point that the better experience is the AI preview. And it's just the thing that exists on all the sites underneath it. It's the same information. 

SUNDAR PICHAI: Look, the thing with Search, we handle billions of queries, you can absolutely find a query and hand it to me and say, could we have done better on that query? Yes, for sure. But when I look across, in many cases, part of what is making people respond positively to AI overviews is the summary we are providing clearly adds value, helps them look at things they may not have otherwise thought about. If you aren't adding value at that level, I think people notice it over time. And I think that's a bar you're trying to meet. [00:16:00] And, our data would show over 25 years, if you aren't doing something which users find valuable or enjoyable, they let us know, right away. Over and over again, we see that. And through this transition, everything is the opposite. It's one of the biggest quality improvements we are driving in our product.

People are valuing this experience. So there's a general presumption that people don't know what they are doing, which I disagree with strongly. People who use Google are savvy. They understand. And I can give plenty of examples where I've used AI overviews as a user. Oh, this is giving context. Or, maybe there are this dimensions I didn't even think in my original query. How do I expand upon it and look at it? Yeah. 

NILAY PATEL - HOST, DECODER: You've made oblique mention to OpenAI a few times, I think. 

SUNDAR PICHAI: I actually haven't, I think-- 

NILAY PATEL - HOST, DECODER: you keep saying others, there's one other big competitor that is, I think a little more--

SUNDAR PICHAI: You're putting words in my mouth, but that's okay.

NILAY PATEL - HOST, DECODER: Yeah. Okay. Well, I would say, I saw OpenAI's [00:17:00] demo the other day of GPT 4.o, Omni. It looked a lot like the demos you gave at IO, this idea of multimodal search, the idea that you have this character you can talk to, you had gems, which was the same kind of idea. It feels like there's a race to get to kind of the same outcome for a search-like experience or an agent-like experience. Do you feel the pressure from that competition? 

SUNDAR PICHAI: Well, I mean, this is no different from Siri and Alexa and we worked in the industry, I think when you're working in the technology industry, I think there is relentless innovation. We felt a few years ago, all of us building voice assistants, you could have asked the same version of this question, right? And, what was Alexa trying to do and what was Siri trying to do? So I think it's a natural extension of that. I think you have a new technology now. And it's evolving rapidly. I felt like it was a good week for technology. There was a lot of innovation I felt on Monday and Tuesday and so on. That's how I feel.

And I think it's going to be that way for a while. I'd rather have it that way. You'd rather be in a [00:18:00] place where the underlying technology is evolving, which means you can radically improve your experiences which you're putting out. I'd rather have that anytime than a static phase in which you feel like you're not able to move forward fast. 

I think a lot of us have had this vision for what a powerful assistant can be. But we were held back by the underlying technology not being able to serve that goal. I think we have a technology which is better able to serve that. That's why you're seeing the progress again.

So I think that's exciting. To me, I look at it and say we can actually make Google Assistant a whole lot better. You're seeing visions of that with Project Astra. It's incredibly magical to me when I use it. I'm very excited by it. 

NILAY PATEL - HOST, DECODER: It just brings me back to the first question I asked, language versus intelligence. To make these products, I think you need a core level of intelligence. Do you have in your head a measure of this is when it's going to be good enough? Or I can trust this? On all of your demo slides and all of OpenAI's demo [00:19:00] slides, there's a disclaimer that says, check this info.

And to me, it's ready when you don't need that anymore. You didn't have "check this info" at the bottom of the 10 blue links. You don't have check this info at the bottom of featured snippets necessarily. 

SUNDAR PICHAI: Right. You're getting at a deeper point where hallucination is still an unsolved problem, right? In some ways, it's an inherent feature. It's what makes these models very creative. It's why it can immediately write a poem about Thomas Jefferson in the style of Nilay. It can do that, right? It's incredibly creative. 

But LLMs aren't necessarily the best approach to always get at factuality, which is part of why I feel excited about Search, because in Search, we are bringing LLMs in a way, but we are grounding it with all the work we do in Search and laying it with enough context, I think we can deliver a better experience from that perspective.

I think the reason you're seeing those disclaimers is because of the inherent nature, right? There are still times [00:20:00] it's going to get it wrong. But I don't think I would look at that and underestimate how useful it can be at the same time. I think that would be a wrong way to think about it. 

Google Lens is a good example. When we did Google Lens first, when we put it out, it didn't recognize all objects well. But the curve year on year has been pretty dramatic, and users are using it more and more. We get billions of queries now. We've had billions of queries now with Google Lens. It's because the underlying image recognition, paired with our knowledge entity understanding has dramatically expanded over time. 

So I would view it as a continuum. And I think, again, I go back to this saying, users vote with their feet, right? Fewer people used Lens in the first year. We also didn't put it everywhere. Because we realized the limitations of the product.

NILAY PATEL - HOST, DECODER: When you talk to the DeepMind Google brain team, is there on the roadmap a solution to the hallucination problem? 

SUNDAR PICHAI: It's Google DeepMind, but are we making progress? Yes, we [00:21:00] are. We have definitely made progress, when we look at metrics on factuality year on year. So we're all making it better. But it's not solved.

Are there interesting ideas and approaches which they are working on? Yes. But time will tell. But I would view it as LLMs are an aspect of AI. We're working on AI in a much broader way. But it's an area where I think we're all working definitely to drive more progress.

Elon's Reputation is Hurting Tesla - TechNewsDay - Internet Today - Air Date 4-4-24

ELIOT, HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: A lot of the appeal that Tesla cars have had for a while among consumers is increasingly at odds with the fact that the man who owns Tesla is a total jackass. Ten years ago, Teslas were among the few all-electric vehicles available on the market, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk was a super genius who was going to save the world.

Fast forward to more recent years though, and there's a lot more options for electric cars out there, while Tesla hasn't had a major model redesign in about half a decade. Instead, apparently focusing all of its design [00:22:00] efforts on the stupidest car ever. Just the dumbest thing you've ever seen in your life.

RICKY, CO-HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: Saw another one on the road yesterday and gave it a very enthusiastic thumbs down out the window. And I saw him see my thumb. And I know it hurt. Because he's the one spending the money. 

ELIOT, HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: Elon! People are giving me a thumbs down on my car! 

RICKY, CO-HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: Can you somehow block them from the freeway, Elon? 

ELIOT, HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: And yeah, meanwhile, Elon Musk's public persona, and the public perception of him, has steadily drifted from real-life Tony Stark to "what would happen if Howard Hughes and Henry Ford had a baby with all of their worst traits and also a crippling addiction to social media and ketamine?" 

RICKY, CO-HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: Now unlike most titans of industry who mostly avoid the spotlight, and for good reason, Elon Musk has gone out of his way to not only provide a clear look into his mind via social media, he's purchased a popular social media platform and reshaped it in his image. An image that a lot of people find incredibly off-putting. But is it bad for business? On the Twitter side, yes, [00:23:00] obviously. But what about Tesla? We've heard people online and in real life talk about Elon's dumb bullshit affecting their car shopping preferences for a while now. But now, we finally have the data. Here's Reuters just this week. "The ranks of would-be Tesla buyers in the United States are shrinking, according to a survey by market intelligence firm Caliber, which attributed the drop in part to CEO Elon Musk's polarizing persona. While Tesla continued to post strong sales growth last year, helped by aggressive price cuts, the electric vehicle maker is expected to report weak quarterly sales as early as Tuesday." 

ELIOT, HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: And yeah, side note, so Reuters published this on Monday, and that quarterly sales prediction, it proved to be accurate.


ELIOT, HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: Here's the Washington Post on Tuesday. "The delivery numbers reported Tuesday come as Tesla faces soft demand for electric vehicles, high interest rates, a string of lawsuits against its technology, and controversy surrounding its chief executive, Elon Musk. Musk had warned during a January [00:24:00] earnings call that Tesla would experience a 'notably lower growth rate' this year as the company invests in a next generation vehicle it plans to start building in 2025. Tesla said it delivered 387,000 vehicles to customers in the first quarter, down 20 percent from the previous quarter and down more than 8 percent year-over-year. Ahead of Tuesday's report, Wall Street analysts generally expected Tesla to report 443,000 deliveries for the quarter, according to Wedbush Securities Analyst Dan Ives. Tesla shares fell 4. 9 percent on Tuesday." 

RICKY, CO-HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: So yeah, Musk said straight up, this would be a bad quarter. So Wall Street analysts tamped down expectations, and the numbers still somehow managed to be even worse than those lowered expectations.

Anyways, back to that Reuters article: "Caliber's consideration score for Tesla, provided exclusively to Reuters, fell to 31 percent in February, less than half of its high of 70 percent in November 2021, when it started tracking consumer interest in the brand. [00:25:00] Tesla's consideration score fell 8 percentage points from January alone, even as Caliber's scores for Mercedes, BMW, and Audi, which produced gas as well as EV models, inched up during that same period, reaching 44 to 47 percent. Caliber cited strong associations between Tesla's reputation and that of Musk for the scores.

"'It's very likely that Musk himself is contributing to the reputational downfall,' Caliber CEO Shahar Silberschatz told Reuters, saying his company's survey shows 83 percent of Americans connect Musk with Tesla." 

That's what happens when you become the face of your big company, and-- 

ELIOT, HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: This is what happens when you refuse to take our patented advice,

RICKY, CO-HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: to simply shut the fuck up! 

And no, he went and did the other thing. He opened the fuck up. He bought a social media platform and continued to post. 

ELIOT, HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: Yeah. It is wild, like this was-- 

RICKY, CO-HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: And he said everyone has to read my posts, and MrBeast's posts. You have to. You will see that MrBeast video about being locked in a [00:26:00] grocery store 25 fucking times this week. I don't care who you are! Not Mr. Beast's fault. Elon Musk, clearly with his foot on the scale. 

ELIOT, HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: Yeah, I mean, people associate Elon with Tesla, which at one point was a great, it was a great asset. Wow. Not only are these cars cool, but Elon's pretty cool too. 

RICKY, CO-HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: Yeah. I can drive a car just like that guy. 

ELIOT, HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: Yeah. He's going to make us all live on Mars. Yeah. And it's gonna be awesome, and he's gonna save the earth, and 

RICKY, CO-HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: And he's building solar panels into roof tiles! 

ELIOT, HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: Yeah, we're all gonna have roofs that look like roofs, but they're solar roofs. And he's gonna save those children trapped in that cave, with giant, bullet-shaped, rigid submarine.

RICKY, CO-HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: Yep, and he's gonna dig a big tunnel. 

ELIOT, HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: And we're all gonna be getting in tunnels, and getting around real fast. Bye bye traffic! 

RICKY, CO-HOST, TECHNEWSDAY: But yes, as you can imagine, being that popular and the face of a company so large and so reliant on your image and marketing of it, could end up being detrimental when you inevitably turn into an alt right asshole.

Crypto’s crown prince in court - Today, Explained - Air Date 10-3-23

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: Where did Sam [00:27:00] Bankman Fried fit into that world? 

ZEKE FAUX: Sam was a schlubby guy. His uniform was cotton shorts, an FTX t-shirt, and then really messy, curly hair. He acted like he had no respect for the traditional institutions of, whether that was Washington or the venture capital world or Wall Street, and yet all the people in these various worlds were obsessed with him and competing to hand him billions of dollars. You know, the U. S. Senate were inviting him to DC. 

CORY BOOKER: So, Mr. Bankman Fried, I'm going to interrupt you because I've only got 30 seconds left, and I'm offended that you have a much more glorious afro than I once had. Um, uh, so really quick... 

ZEKE FAUX: So, he created this image that he was the guy who understood it all, kind of like the only honest guy in crypto, if you can believe it. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: He worked at a Wall Street trading firm called Jane Street. And it's a very [00:28:00] successful trading firm and his pedigree and background at Jane Street is part of what helped him get to the level that he got to.

Well, what SBF did was he operated under this philosophy of effective altruism. It basically says you make money to give away money. 

ZEKE FAUX: Sam made his first money in crypto with this one weird trick. Back in 2017, Bitcoin, on a Japanese Bitcoin exchange where Japanese people traded, cost $11,000. And in the United States you could buy one for $10,000. So, this is something that's unheard of in mainstream finance, but in theory, you could buy one Bitcoin on an American app, zap it over to a Japanese app, and make a thousand bucks right there. So, not only did he do it, but he immediately figured out how to borrow tens of millions of dollars to do it at, as much of this as possible. And within a few [00:29:00] weeks, he had exploited this arbitrage to the tune of something like 20 million bucks in profit. This profit seeded his crypto trading hedge fund, which he named Alameda Research. Sam picked the name Alameda Research because it sounds innocuous. Banks at the time did not want to be involved in crypto.

SAM BANKMAN-FRIED: We just knew that was going to be a thing. And that if we named our company, like, Shitcoin Day Traders, Inc., like, they'd probably just reject us. But, I mean, no one doesn't like research. 

ZEKE FAUX: Alameda Research was a hedge fund that traded all kinds of cryptocurrencies and, in theory, exploited, you know, cool arbitrages like this Japanese one. After a couple years of doing that, he, as he tells the story, realized that many of the crypto exchanges where Alameda did business were pretty subpar compared to the ones [00:30:00] that he was familiar from his time on Wall Street. And that's when he decided to start FTX. 

REPORTER: Why create an exchange when there were already so many big global players out there?

SAM BANKMAN-FRIED: Yeah, I mean, the basic answer is that we didn't think any of them had nailed it. 

ZEKE FAUX: FTX, which was a crypto exchange, which basically just means it's an app where you can trade all these crypto coins similar to E*TRADE or Robinhood or something like that. His app wasn't even the most popular one, but so many people were trading crypto that venture capitalists had valued FTX at 32 billion dollars.

REPORTER 2: Today, your valuation is? 

SAM BANKMAN-FRIED: It's, uh, 32 billion internationally and, uh, 8 in the U. S. 

REPORTER 2: How old is your company? 

SAM BANKMAN-FRIED: About two and a half years. 

REPORTER 2: Two and a half years. Okay, let's talk about... 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: When do we start to see cracks? 

ZEKE FAUX: FTX's downfall [00:31:00] began with a sarcastic tweet. One of Sam's lieutenants had written something nice on Twitter about Sam's biggest rival, "CZ", the head of Binance, which was the biggest crypto exchange. Under this nice post, Sam wrote sarcastically, 

TWEET VOICEOVER: Excited to see him repping the industry in DC going forward. Uh, he is still allowed to go to DC, right? 

ZEKE FAUX: The joke is that he's an international fugitive, which is not entirely untrue, but also not a very nice thing to joke about on Twitter. A couple weeks after this tweet an article came out in the crypto news site CoinDesk that was kind of confusing, but it revealed that Sam's hedge fund Alameda owned quite a lot of a token called FTT, which was essentially stock [00:32:00] in Sam's exchange FTX. Then, also on Twitter, Sam's rival "CZ" tweeted that he would be selling off his FTT tokens. He wrote, 

TWEET VOICEOVER: We won't pretend to make love after divorce. We're not against anyone, but we won't support people who lobby against other industry players behind their backs. 

ZEKE FAUX: I mean, this wouldn't necessarily seem like a big deal that, you know, a rival company is selling its stock in your company, but it kind of set off a run on FTX where other people who owned FTT tokens started to sell them too. And as the price went down, it made people start to worry about the stability of FTX, and investors who had sent money to FTX to use it to bet on other cryptocurrencies started taking their money out. In theory, this shouldn't be a problem. If people have sent money to [00:33:00] FTX to gamble with, then FTX should have no problem giving the money back. Sam went on Twitter and told people, 

TWEET VOICEOVER: FTX is fine. Assets are fine. 

ZEKE FAUX: But it turned out FTX did not have the money that it needed to repay clients and after more and more tried to ask for their money back, eventually it was revealed that FTX did not have this money. In fact, eight billion dollars had somehow disappeared and FTX had to file for bankruptcy. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: Where was all that money? 

ZEKE FAUX: It turned out that when you sent a thousand bucks to FTX to buy some "doggie coin", or dogecoin, and then you saw in the app, you know, that you now owned, you know, 2000 doge coins, in fact, what was really going on is that that thousand dollars that you had sent in was being lent to Sam's hedge fund, Alameda [00:34:00] Research, which was taking it to other exchanges to make all sorts of crazy bets. 


ZEKE FAUX: No. After FTX declared bankruptcy, I contacted Sam and said, I'd like to talk about what had happened and hear his side of it. So, I flew down to the Bahamas and we spent 11 hours, basically trying to answer that question. 

His argument is that many of the people who traded on FTX were these hedge funds, like Alameda, and that part of the deal was that FTX would give them loans that were secured by assets. And since this is a crypto world, the security was not gold or real estate or something like that. It was random coins. So, his explanation was that the borrowing was permitted, the customers should have been [00:35:00] aware of it, and that he did not realize how out of hand it gotten.

SAM BANKMAN-FRIED: Some part of it was just literal distraction. I really should have spent some time each day taking a step back and saying, What are the most important things here? Right? And, like, how do I have oversight of those and make sure that I'm not losing track of those? And frankly, I did a pretty incomplete job at that. I spent a lot... 

ZEKE FAUX: The idea that he would just not count his money to the point that eight billion dollars could just go missing without him knowing, it just seemed really implausible to me 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: It sounds like he was trying to tell you a story. What do you think the real explanation was in that moment? 

ZEKE FAUX: The amazing thing is that Caroline Ellison, the CEO of Alameda, she had actually told her version of the story to all of the employees in a way that I found to be more credible. [00:36:00] In November, 2022, while FTX was in this financial distress, there was a moment where it looked like Sam's rival "CZ" was actually going to bail out FTX and buy it. So, for a couple of days there, the people at FTX kind of thought they were in the clear. And during that time, Caroline Ellison called a meeting of all her employees at Alameda. And at this meeting, she essentially confessed. She said to all the employees, Hey, I'm really sorry, but Alameda has taken out all these loans from FTX and we invested it in illiquid, which means hard to sell, things. And like, that's why we're in this trouble. But good news is, you know, "CZ" is bailing us out and hopefully the customers can get all their money back from him. And the employees were just like floored and they said, Wait, who knew that Alameda [00:37:00] was borrowing the customer funds for it's crazy crypto bets? And Caroline said, me, Sam, and then two other top lieutenants. And then one of the employees said, Well, who decided to do this? And she said, um, Sam, I guess. 

The prosecutors who are now trying Sam have a recording of this meeting. So, this is Caroline who thinks that no one will ever find out and they're in the clear, in the moment, admitting to the crime. Which I think is, uh, pretty strong evidence. 

The Entire OpenAI Chaos Explained - ColdFusion - Air Date 11-27-23

DAGOGO ALTRAIDE - HOST, COLDFUSION: On the 22nd of November, only five days after he was fired, OpenAI announced that they'd reached an agreement with Sam, and they had a new board, too. Sam posted on his X account that he was excited to return to OpenAI and continue the strong partnership with Microsoft.

Greg Brockman also came back into the fold, announcing his return with a picture. [00:38:00] Except for Adam D'Angelo, the old board members had all left. They were replaced by Brett Taylor, the former co CEO of Salesforce, and Larry Summers, the former Treasury Secretary. Emmett Shearer, who was the interim CEO for just 72 hours, seemed to be happy with the outcome, judging from his tweet.

So, just as abruptly as it started, the five day long saga ended with Sam Altman back at the wheel. Now, the major question is, why did the board fire their CEO in the first place? The answer is complicated and murky. There is no official explanation, only rumours and speculation so far. But, based on some reports, we can piece together some possible factors.

Please keep in mind that this is just the situation at the time of writing. The board claimed that they had some disagreements with Sam about how the company was run, and also that Sam wasn't always truthful to them. This seems like a bit of a weak reason to fire a CEO who was negotiating a deal to sell [00:39:00] shares to investors at a whopping $86 billion valuation.

That should be a big achievement for any company, but OpenAI is not a typical company. It's a bit different to the other tech giants out there. In a nutshell, OpenAI was founded in 2015 as a non profit with a mission to create artificial intelligence that would benefit humanity. At its formation, it had a celebrity team of founders, including Elon Musk. Musk would leave in 2018 due to a conflict of interest. Since then, Sam Altman has been leading the firm.

He established a for profit arm that raised billions from Microsoft. The main reason was to fund the expensive research and development for their AI models. Sam Altman was in charge of the for profit section. However, the whole firm was set up in such a way that the non profit faction had the ultimate power and it was controlled by the board members.

This odd structure left Sam and Microsoft at the mercy of the board, and they were skeptical of corporate expansion. Besides Sam [00:40:00] Altman and Greg Brockman, other board members included Ilya Sutskever. We've already mentioned him quite a few times now—he is a prominent researcher in the AI field and is very vocal about AI safety.

Then there's Adam D'Angelo, a former Facebook executive and co founder of Quora. There were other notable names on the board. It would seem like there's an ethos struggle within the company—does OpenAI go all out and try to make as much money as possible? Or do they stick to their core value of making AI that will benefit humanity?

Sam has a knack for spotting trends, though he's been working on some other side projects that were beyond the reach of OpenAI's safety conscious board. One project that raised some eyebrows was WorldCoin. It was a crypto venture that used eyeball scanning technology, and was marketed as a potential solution for AI induced job losses—a stepping stone to universal basic income.

He was also toying with the idea of launching his own AI chip making venture to reduce the over reliance on NVIDIA. He reached out to sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East for a [00:41:00] potential investment in the realm of tens of billions of dollars. Additionally, he pitched to SoftBank Group another multi billion dollar investment, this time in a company he planned to start with former Apple design maestro, Johnny Ive.

The focus was AI oriented hardware. These projects were seen as distractions by some of the board members. They wanted their CEO to focus on OpenAI and its core mission. To escalate matters even more, Sam found himself in conflict with Sutskever, who formed a new team in July within the company dedicated to controlling future, "Super intelligent AI systems." the dispute reached its boiling point in October when, according to a source familiar with the relationship, Altman made a move to reduce Sutskever's role in the company. 

Fast forward to November 6th. It was the day that OpenAI hosted its first developer conference in San Francisco. Sam Altman made several announcements regarding customized versions of ChatGPT. It's going to enable users to make task specific chatbots. These custom GPTs might operate [00:42:00] independently in the future. That's a major red flag for safety concerns. 

And the last reason—a possible AGI breakthrough. According to Reuters, an additional concern may have been simmering within the company. The report suggests that some staff researchers penned an internal letter to the board, cautioning about the discovery of an advanced AI with the potential to pose a threat to humanity.

These researchers flagged the potential danger of this new model in their letter, but did not specify the exact safety concerns. There has been no official statement from OpenAI regarding these letters. But they did acknowledge a project called Q*. 

ANDREW CHANG: Because first, I need to be real with you. It is very hard to know right now what Q* actually is.

We know from Reuters reporting that, according to their sources, it may be some kind of powerful artificial intelligence discovery at OpenAI. The company behind ChatGPT and that there are fears it is so powerful it could [00:43:00] threaten humanity. That sounds really dramatic, but this discovery was apparently alarming enough that at some point after a group of OpenAI researchers took their concern to the board—like, "Oh my god, are you all aware of what this company is working on?"—the CEO, Sam Altman, was fired. 

DAGOGO ALTRAIDE - HOST, COLDFUSION: Now it gets a little murky here, but some believe that this project could be the highly anticipated AGI, or Artificial General Intelligence, which is capable of outperforming humans in any economically viable task. 

ILYA SUTSKEVER: The day will come when the digital brains that live inside our computers will become as good, and even better, than our own biological brains. We call such an AI an AGI—Artificial General Intelligence. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: It was a step towards Artificial General Intelligence. I know it sounds complicated, but simply put, it's artificial intelligence that is more powerful than humans. Now, OpenAI staffers believe that this could threaten humanity.[00:44:00] 

So some of them wrote a letter to the board. This could also be the reason for the firing of Sam Altman. 

Scarlett Johansson’s Open AI voice fight shows the need for consent in tech - There Are No Girls on the Internet - Air Date 5-21-24

BRIDGET TODD - HOST, THERE ARE NO GIRLS ON THE INTERNET: Full disclosure, I was already working on putting together an episode re watching Spike Jonze's 2013 movie, Her, starring Scarlett Johansson's voice as an AI assistant. I really wanted to compare and contrast what the movie thought AI integration with our life would be like and what it actually has been like 10 years later. I'm really excited that the movie Her is part of the public conversation right now because it's one of my favorite movies. 

If you haven't seen it, I don't want to give too much away, but Scarlett Johansson is the voice of Joaquin Phoenix's AI software. The movie imagines a future where AI is less like Siri and more like a real human. People in the Her universe fall in love with AI. They have friendships and real meaningful relationships with AI, and that's partly because AI sounds like a real human person who speaks to you and behaves like a person would, not like a robotic voice.

And as I was [00:45:00] preparing for that episode, the whole thing with Scarlett Johansson really blew up. And the more I thought about it, honestly, the madder I got. Last night I was getting ready for bed and I was sort of angrily brushing my teeth, and I found myself thinking about this yet again. And the kind of chorus in my mind that I kept saying over and over to myself was that these tech guys just think they own whatever woman they want.

Because to me, this is not even really about Scarlett Johansson, it is about what happens when consent in technology is violated again and again and again. And how it erodes the trust that we should be able to count on being at the center of our tech experiences. And how it reinforces that the most powerful companies in our world, who are shaping our collective futures, consistently demonstrate that they cannot be trusted to simply respect people, especially when those people are women.

Okay, so here's what's going on. OpenAI, the company that makes ChatGPT and a major player in the AI space, has [00:46:00] been flirting with integrating voice technology to ChatGPT since around last year. But last week, OpenAI finally revealed a new conversational interface for ChatGPT that they called Sky. Yep, just like a lot of voice technology, Sky has the voice of a woman. But Sky also has a voice that is really similar to the one that Scarlett Johansson used to play the AI assistant called Samantha in the movie Her. But then, OpenAI suddenly disabled this feature over the weekend. Grand opening, grand closing. 

And this comes after OpenAI's head, Sam Altman, who you might remember we made an episode about, he was fired for something, we don't totally know what, but it seemed to be related to his lack of honesty, and then he was rehired and is now basically doing whatever the hell he wants. Well, Sam Altman was talking up this integration and comparing it to the movie Her and talking about how we'd finally have AI that felt like a real human that you could be friends with, which is a plot line right out of the movie, which spoiler alert, I do [00:47:00] think that some of these tech geniuses might actually be low key misunderstanding the takeaway from the movie. But anyway... 

So, shutting down this new voice technology after Sam Altman was driving so much anticipation about it, everybody, myself included, was like, what is going on, what's the story there? So then on Monday, we get the real tea, which is that Scarlett Johansson told Wired in a statement that OpenAI actually reached out to her to ask her to be the actual voice of their new conversational interface, and she declined, twice, and that OpenAI basically just used her voice anyway, or at least a voice that sounds a lot like her voice. And OpenAI's Sam Altman even tweeted a reference to her work in the movie Her when announcing that new chat JPT voice interface. So there isn't really a ton of plausible deniability on his part even.

Okay, so this is what Sky, OpenAI's, not Scarlett Johansson's, voice integration sounds like. 

SKY CHAT BOT: I [00:48:00] don't have a personal name since I'm just a computer program created by OpenAI, but you can call me assistant. What's your name? 

BRIDGET TODD - HOST, THERE ARE NO GIRLS ON THE INTERNET: And here is Scarlett Johansson as the voice of the A. I., Samantha, from the movie Her.

HER MOVIE CLIP: Well, right when you asked me if I had a name, I thought, yeah, he's right, I do need a name. But I wanted to pick a good one, so I read a book called How to Name Your Baby, and out of 180, 000 names, that's the one I like the best. 

Wait, you read a whole book in the second that I asked you what your name was?

In two one hundredths of a second, actually. 

BRIDGET TODD - HOST, THERE ARE NO GIRLS ON THE INTERNET: It sounds pretty similar to me, and ScarJo agrees. Here's what she told Wired in a statement. 

"Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system. He told me that he felt, by my voicing the system, I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives, and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and AI.

He said he felt my voice would be comforting to people. After much [00:49:00] consideration, and for personal reasons, I declined the offer. Nine months later, my friends, family, and the general public all noted how much the newest system named Sky sounded like me. When I heard the release demo, I was shocked and angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference. Mr. Altman even insinuated that the similarity was intentional, tweeting a single word, Her, a reference to the film in which I voiced a chat system, Samantha, who forms an intimate relationship with a human.

Two days before the chat GPT 4.0 demo was released, Mr. Altman contacted my agent, asking me to reconsider. Before we could connect, the system was out there. As a result of their actions, I was forced to hire legal counsel, who wrote two letters to Mr. Altman and OpenAI, setting out what they had done, and asking them to detail the exact process by which they created the Sky Voice. Consequently, [00:50:00] OpenAI reluctantly agreed to take the Sky Voice down.

In a time where we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities, I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity. I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected."

So I really applaud Johansson here, and I think this is the first time that there has been a legal dispute over a sound alike that is, as far as we know, not AI generated. And I think it could set a precedent for this kind of thing going forward, especially for voice actors and creative professionals who can't afford lawyer's fees or a big lawsuit if their likeness or voice is used this way without their consent.

Her statement is also just a good reminder that Johansson has been here before. She is one of the most targeted celebrity figures for AI deepfaked images. So, finding out that OpenAI actually asked Scarlett Johansson to work on this twice, and when she said no, they just found a [00:51:00] sneaky workaround to do it anyway, enrages me. It enrages me as a voice professional, it enrages me as a creative, and it enrages me as a woman. You know, when I say on the show that the exploitation of women is baked into technology in a lot of ways from the ground up, that these are features and not bugs, this is a great example of what I mean. It matters that a company like OpenAI would build their anticipated voice system in a way that has the exploitation of a woman baked into its earliest foundation. And this is not happenstance. It colors how they see women and other marginalized people as just available to take from in service of them making money to create their vision, a vision that by design ignores and exploits us. Like, don't these people understand that no means no? 

I should say that OpenAI says that they did not actually steal her voice, but I also want to say that I 100 percent do not believe them at all. Here's OpenAI's statement. 

"We support the creative [00:52:00] community and worked closely with the voice acting industry to ensure we took the right steps to cast ChatGPT's voices. Each actor receives compensation above top of market rates, and this will continue for as long as their voices are used in our products. We believe that AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity's distinct voice. Sky's voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson, but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice. To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents."

So, here's my opinion about what's actually going on. I believe that they probably did work with a human voice actor and they probably intentionally picked a voice actor that sounded a lot like Scarlett Johansson. And I think they had this person ready to go, whether or not Scarlett Johansson agreed to do this or not. I don't think they really cared about actually having Scarlett Johansson's permission, and they were going to either use this sound alike or use Scarlett Johansson's real voice. Because in addition to his single word, "Her" tweet, Sam Altman, [00:53:00] the head of OpenAI, also said that the new AI voice technology, "feels like AI from the movies." openAI's chief technology officer, Mira Murati, said that that was all a coincidence. 

But even still, it's like they want to have it both ways. They obviously want us, the public, to be associating their new technology with the AI in the movie Her, and they're clearly trying to capitalize on that for this rollout, but they want to have all of that and benefit from all of that without actually having the consent from the real human woman behind the voice in the movie that they're referencing. As Bethany Frankel might put it, it is a cheater brand.

Fascism and the Failure of Imagination - Zoe Bee - Air Date 5-9-24

ZOE BEE - HOST, ZOE BEE: Imagination doesn't make money, or at least it's not guaranteed to make money. Imagination means creativity, and creativity means risk. When you make something new, you don't know if it's going to be any good or if it'll even work in the first place, it's inherently risky. So you have to do this balancing act of being creative enough that [00:54:00] your ideas can sell, while not being so creative that your ideas are so new that they're scary. You can't have too much imagination. You need just enough imagination to come up with new stories, new iterations on old ideas, new sequels for established properties, but the way those stories are told, the underlying structures of them, have to stay the same. You're free to come up with new stories, as long as those stories fit within a three act structure, are written in standard English, and meet industry standards of form and style. Even in business, where people say they want innovation, what they really mean is innovation within certain boundaries. Imagination is for making small adjustments to pre existing, safe bets. We see this in education, too. When we teach students about the world, we teach them how to exist within it, not how to change it.

We teach them the status quo, how to solve equations, and how to write research papers, and how the government works. [00:55:00] We don't teach them to ask if those equations are the only way to solve the problem, or why research papers have to be written like that, or whether the government should work that way. We're not training students to imagine new ways of doing things, we're training them to do what an authority figure tells them to. 

The premier example of this kind of education can actually be seen in everyone's favorite propaganda outfit, PragerU. Like I've talked about in another video, PragerU's lesson plans are bad. I think that this is all indicative of just how vapid PragerU's view of schooling is. Their lessons don't include real activities or real discussions because they simply cannot imagine a lesson that isn't someone standing at the front of a classroom talking at a bunch of children who are silently sitting at their desks with a worksheet in front of them. They say that they want to change the future of education in America, but what they're providing with these lesson plans isn't some kind of [00:56:00] educational revolution, it's boring. 

Now they actually just recently came out with their first real class, something that is actually being used for real academic credit in New Hampshire schools, and I was thinking about doing a little video on it because when I was looking into it earlier, it looks so bad, and I think that it is just endlessly fascinating how PragerU sees education. So let me know in the comments if you want me to take a look at their econ 101 class so you don't have to. 

But, anyway, all of these lessons, even their craftery art videos, all just come down to students following directions and doing things the right way. There's no room for imagination or critical thinking or creativity, because they don't care about that. They don't care about kids asking questions or expressing themselves or daring to do things differently. They care about kids doing what they're told. 

But there's still a deeper question here. [00:57:00] Why do schools and businesses not value imaginative thinking? It's like they're afraid of imagination, like they can't risk people trying new things. But risk is only a bad thing if whatever you're holding onto, whatever the status quo is, is so valuable that you just cannot possibly chance losing it. And that's interesting, right? Like, we're all so invested in keeping things how they are that now we see any suggestion to change things as a threat. You can do whatever you want within the system we've given you, but don't you dare try to come up with a new system. Imagine things that fit within this box, don't you dare try to imagine a new box, or especially no box at all. The only value imagination has is to support our structures, not create new ones.

But what we need to remember is that these structures that we're living within [00:58:00] they're all made up. To quote Ruha Benjamin in her book Imagination Manifesto, Imagination does not just animate sci fi inspired scientific endeavors or explicitly creative pursuits like Broadway musicals, viral TikTok dances, and Jean Michel Basquiat's paintings. Imagination is also embedded in the more mundane things that govern our lives, like money, laws, and grades. Everything was imagined. Language, taxes, marriage, borders, democracy. They're all just ideas that we either collectively agreed to believe, or that powerful enough people forced us to. It's like roleplay. It's that suspension of disbelief. 

Like, we all know that money is just pieces of paper, but we've all agreed to the social contract that says this piece of paper has value. That's what people mean when they talk about something being a social construct. These things are only as real as we all decide they are. [00:59:00] And that's all well and good, except, as Benjamin goes on to say, lest we forget. Designing cruel, oppressive structures involves imagination, too. 

Early on in the making of this video, I was planning to title it Fascists Have No Imagination, but that's not quite right, is it? It's not that fascists don't have an imagination, clearly they do, it's the fascist imagination that allows people to imagine children as killers, imagine entire ethnic groups as vermin, and imagine themselves as the rightful rulers. Fascists have an imagination. It's just that their imagination sucks. Their imagination is cruel, rigid, and static, and this cruel, rigid, static imagination is what I'm calling the fascist unimaginary, and it lies at the heart of bigotry.

The fascist imagination puts people in boxes based on arbitrary traits, and then refuses to imagine that they could ever leave that [01:00:00] box. White supremacy cannot imagine Black philosophers. Patriarchy cannot imagine women leaders. Cisheteronormativity cannot imagine trans people existing. The fascist unimaginary shows up in our art, too.

We've been imaginative enough to invent dwarves and mermaids, but we couldn't possibly imagine Black dwarves or mermaids. We can imagine magic wielding TTRPG characters, but not ones in wheelchairs. We can imagine post apocalyptic sci fi super soldiers, but not ones who are trans. So, we do have an imagination, we've imagined so many things, all these systems and concepts and fictions, we just can't imagine any further. And that kinda doesn't make sense, right? How can we be imaginative enough to live in this world of concepts, but not imaginative enough to create new ones? What is it about the fascist unimaginary that has gotten us so stuck? 

Note from the Editor on the misplaced excitement in private corporations pushing big technological advancements

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard [01:01:00] clips starting with Jacob Ward, discussing the lack of imagination among the tech elite who don't understand the value of art and culture they're crushing. More Perfect Union told the story of Peter Theil. Decoder spoke with and challenged the CEO of Google about the enshittification of their search. Internet Today discussed the influence of Elon Musk's nose diving reputation. Today, Explained, recorded last fall and before his conviction, discussed Sam Bankman-Fried. ColdFusion looked into the chaos at OpenAI when Sam Altman got fired and then rehired. There Are No Girls on the Internet explained the case of OpenAI getting a soundalike AI voice to Scarlett Johansson after she turned them down. And Zoe Bee described the terrible imaginations of fascists. 

And that's just the top takes, there's lots more in the deeper dive section, but first, a reminder that this show is supported by members who get access to bonus episodes, featuring the production crew here [01:02:00] discussing all manner of important and interesting topics, often trying to make each other laugh in the process. To support all of our work and have these bonus episodes delivered seamlessly to the new members only podcast feed that you'll receive. Sign up to support the show at—there's a link in the show notes—through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. And if regular membership isn't in the cards for you, shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now, before we continue on to the deeper dives, half of the show, I have just a few thoughts. I was thinking about the confluence of techno-optimism and the current state of hyper-capitalized private companies driving technological advances in ways that are both honestly, somewhat utopian and unmistakably dystopian at the same time. And I wonder myself, how do we get here in the big picture? And I thought about the last great age of [01:03:00] nationalistic pride in science driven by the Cold War and the Space Race, and realized that the last time people cared this much about science and advancement, it was basically socialized. 

There was the GI bill paid for a bunch of People to go to college, and then even for people who paid for it themselves, the cost of higher education was extremely low. So that gave a stepping stone for everyone who is interested in the sciences to get into it. And then the big projects themselves that people could join up with we're also being carried out by the government, most notably the Apollo program. So I was glad to read that, I wasn't the only one making this connection while reading a new piece in the Atlantic about the Scarlett Johannson kerfuffle, the writer quotes another piece from 10 months ago about Sam Altman in which it is explicitly recognized that democratic control over scientific advances is not an option in our current society. 

" As with other grand projects of the [01:04:00] 20th century, the voting public had a voice in both the aims and the execution of the Apollo missions. Altman made it clear that we're no longer in that world. Rather than waiting around for it to return or devoting his energies to making sure that it does, he is going full throttle forward in our present reality." 

So, what I would argue, without getting too derailed into the current state of late neoliberal economics that has poisoned society for the last 40 years and sapped all ability for collective action through government because we've idolized corporations and the individuals who run them, but without getting too far down that road. I would argue that the excitement that people feel for the current age of technological advancement, for those who do, I don't put myself in that category, but for those who do, I feel like their excitement is being filtered [01:05:00] through the historic analogy of the Space Race era, which was democratically controlled, and from which many of the benefits were also democratically shared. 

For instance, inventions famously like Velcro made by the government along the way during the space program, didn't become patented for private enrichment, but were made public as they were owned by all of us collectively. So this sort of, "where's my flying car" kind of nostalgia for an age of technological advancement that we hope might finally be upon us after feeling like we've been robbed of it, because, " if we went to the moon in the '60s we should be a lot further ahead than we are now," this sort of nostalgia and excitement is I think leading people to root for the success of private companies who are currently ascendant right now, in the same way that Americans and Soviets would have rooted for the success of their respective space programs. 

But it [01:06:00] won't just be a small degree of difference between the outcomes of a successful government venture, any successful corporate venture. There's a growing recognition that corporations function as defacto feudal, dictatorial, fiefdoms, and they just happened to be within the context. Of democratically run countries. So the difference between corporations racing to remake the world with artificial general intelligence or to populate the galaxy rather than governments having control of such projects, along with the mandate to work for the good of all the people won't just be the difference between whose logo is slapped on the side of the project. It will be the difference between continued democracy as we know it and corporate feudalism and technocracy. 


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And now we'll continue with deeper dives on four topics. Next up. That word you keep using. Section B. Silicon valley emphasis on the con. Section C Microsoft, the [01:07:00] destroyer and section D. Thank you for your service.

How Tech Bros Get Sci-Fi Wrong - Wisecrack - Air Date 3-7-22

MICHAEL BURNS - HOST, WISECRACK: The TLDR of Foundation is, One big brain man is so good at math. that he can accurately predict the future. He discovers that the galactic empire is doomed. So he takes a bunch of the best scientists to another planet to build a new empire.

A scientific meritocracy. The series is rooted in that old chestnut, American exceptionalism. Which as your 7th grade social studies teacher told you, it basically just means America is uniquely great. This notion especially took off after World War II, where America established its dominance. In its early chapters, Foundation seems to endorse this view.

But Asimov wrote the Foundation series over a long period, with a nearly three decade gap in the middle, and the core ideas he communicated changed to reflect the times. By the end of the series, Foundation had challenged the post war ideas at its core, exploring the follies of imperialism and exceptionalism within the context of Basically, the protagonist's initial goal of single handedly starting this new [01:08:00] world is sharply critiqued.

In fact, Asimov made it well known that he based the overall arc of the series on the history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. But the big boys of Silicon Valley also have some more mainstream sci fi interests. Take Star Trek. We probably don't need to explain this classic to you. With its utopian federation of forces, planets, and exploration of complex social and philosophical issues.

It's a series defined by its idealism and total standing of justice and equality. People Who worked with Steve Jobs named his ability to push you to do seemingly impossible things his reality distortion field, a term straight out of the track. And real life Scrooge McDuck Jeff Bezos has been outspoken about the influence that the show has had on him.

He almost named Amazon a MakeItSo. com after Picard's famous catchphrase. Make it so. And the complex voice controlled computers of the Enterprise were a direct inspiration for Alexa. Perhaps most tellingly, Vezos ended his high school valedictorian speech with a Star Trek quote. He [01:09:00] said, Space. The final frontier.

Meet me there. Vezos also tacitly forced William Shatner to look at his childhood Trek fan art. Billionaires. They're just as embarrassing as us. So, we've established the enormous influence sci fi has had on Silicon Valley. And hey, in some ways, knowing that these people enjoy the genre is kinda cool. And when some of the most powerful people in the world are sci fi nerds, it's going to have an impact on the culture.

But even if they share the interest of the hoi polloi, their lives are so radically different from ours, that they may be taking away something totally different from our shared sci fi faves. Let's go back to Snow Crash, which is set in a real world dystopia. Everyone lives in burb claves, which are described as a city state with its own constitution, a border, laws, cops, everything.

Everything within these burb claves has been corporatized, including the law. Meaning that big corporations can say, legally kill you for minor criminal infractions. So if [01:10:00] you work for, say, Amazon, you would likely live in the Amazon burb clave. In the world of Snow Crash, corporations basically have full control over government and society.

Not that this could ever happen in our world. And this has forced those seeking freedom into the metaverse, a place free from corporate control. It's essentially an anarchist technocracy, and the only boundaries are set by the technology you have access to. This is where companies like Meta miss the point.

Because even if other companies contribute to the Metaverse, Meta is always going to have more control. If they host the servers, if their infrastructure is what it's built upon, then the Metaverse will never be free from corporate oversight. Meta isn't going to allow anyone within the coding shops to mess around with the source code, because the company has invested time, money, Money and brain power into its design.

The metaverse of Zuckerberg's dream is one that's been divided up into multiple corporate controlled walled gardens, each with their own terms of service and currencies. [01:11:00] This ironically resembles the hellish corporate reality of snow crash more than its anarchist digital metaverse here, a tech billionaire with the.

unique ability to turn a sci fi vision into reality seems to have missed the critique at the heart of that fictional vision. And this isn't the only example of a tech bro missing some vital points from their favorite content. Take Foundation. When Musk talks about escaping climate change by moving humanity to Mars, a feat that only he is aware of, brave or willing enough to undertake, it's easy to see the connection.

Musk gets to step into the role of the big brain man who anticipates our doom and works as a private entity to solve the problem. But in being the man who built and therefore owns and operates his proposed Martian colony, Musk also takes the role of the head of the meritocracy. He contributed the most, so he's in charge.

However, in painfully ironic news, That's the very concept that the Foundation series explicitly [01:12:00] disavows, but in Musk's fantasy, he is the exceptional man with both an idea and the scientific know how to realize it. Every launch that SpaceX undertakes has the underlying goal of building towards Mars colonies.

But a one man led colonization mission and foundation isn't the solution. It's a recipe for social collapse. So not exactly something the average tech billionaire should be looking to imitate, right? But we do have one tech pro whose role model is objectively, a pretty good guy and a true bald King. Jeff Bezos is such a big tracker that he says he idolizes Enterprise Captain Jean Luc Picard.

Which is interesting because Picard is defined by his strong sense of ethics and morals, arguably even more than other captains in the series. Whereas Kirk is brash and headstrong. Picard is measured and deliberate. Kirk will make mistakes and do the right thing eventually, while Picard will agonize over the decision [01:13:00] to avoid making the mistake in the first place.

Now, we're not claiming that Bezos doesn't consider all his options before making a decision. You don't get to be a big time capitalist baron without thinking things through. There is a disconnect between the example that Picard sets and Bezos public facing actions. Here's a couple of Picard quotes to show what we mean.

In First Contact he says, 

STAR TREK CLIP: The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity. 

MICHAEL BURNS - HOST, WISECRACK: In Next Generation he says, 

STAR TREK CLIP: First time any man's freedom is trodden on. We're all damaged. 

MICHAEL BURNS - HOST, WISECRACK: And also in Next Generation, 

STAR TREK CLIP: I have to weigh the good of the many against the needs of the individual and try to balance them as realistically as possible. 

MICHAEL BURNS - HOST, WISECRACK: These aren't outliers. They all demonstrate [01:14:00] Picard's fundamental character. He's all about altruism and bettering mankind at large. In contrast, Jeff Bezos has a literally unspendable amount of personal wealth, which he keeps adding to. 

JEFF BEZOS: It's fine being the second wealthiest person in the world.

That actually 

MICHAEL BURNS - HOST, WISECRACK: And Amazon has roundly been exposed for exploiting workers. Regardless of your stance on those issues, and whether or not you agree with Picard, Bezos's actions are clearly contradictory to the fictional man he idolizes. If Picard were real and he met Bezos, it's clear he'd bar his application to the Federation.

So, who cares Musk, Zuckerberg, and Bezos are big ol sci fi nerds with poor critical reading skills? Honestly? Everybody should, due to their outsized influence on government and society. This implication is especially stark when you compare the wealth of these heads of big tech to, say, national space agencies like NASA, which are vastly underfunded.

So our forays into the galaxy are yoked into a billionaire [01:15:00] space race that's enmeshed with the egos of the bros involved. What's more, big tech has a ridiculous amount of money to spend on lobbying, tailoring legislation to best suit their needs, arguably at the expense of everybody else. Zuckerberg and Meta are already trying to colonize the internet and developing nations, transforming it into some VR driven hyper monetized corpo land that would fundamentally change how we interact with one another.

Digital platforms have become a key aspect of our social interactions, and the people in charge of them have relative freedom to do whatever they want. Zuckerberg and the metaverse. Musk and his Mars colonies. Bezos. and wearing cowboy hats. They're all billionaire passion projects that either are or have the potential to fundamentally change reality for all of us in ways both tangible and conceptual.

Driven by their love for, but perhaps not coherent understanding of, sci fi, these platforms are shaping the world we live in and what we imagine the future could look like. With [01:16:00] so much at stake perhaps it's no wonder that William Gibson, one of the most prophetic sci fi authors of all time, once said that he has explicitly decided not to write certain ideas into his books because he worried that they'd be misunderstood and possibly imitated.

How Socialism Built Silicon Valley (To Defeat Socialism) - The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder - Air Date 8-11-19

MARGARET O'MARA: We're at a moment of, um, you know, people aren't feeling particularly great about the tech industry.

So it's so much so that I find myself, um, I try to, you know, remind some critics of, well, you know, we are carrying around super computers in our pockets. Like there have been some upsides to this whole operation, but there's, but you're right. There's always been a government presence and it's both in the kind of Keynesian, you know, pour money into the system of the, you know, pre 1970s period and, and very much, you know, around defense and, and, and aerospace.

And then after the seventies, the government is still there in its, you know, in, you know, how is the other way, what's the other way the American. Government, state, uh, aides, uh, enterprise and individuals, it's through the tax [01:17:00] system. So you have, you know, tax breaks for, um, you know, capital gains taxes that benefit venture capitalists and other investors.

You have, um, you know, tax breaks for, that are, some of which are targeted towards the electronics industry or for scientific purposes. Based industry, um, that again are very generative, but also are, you know, shows that there is there's effectively a federal, you know, that the government's giving a boost, um, to to these industries, but doing it in a way that allows for enough creativity iteration and, you know, Private enterprise to flourish, um, and, and people to try and fail, uh, that, and, and also does it in such an indirect way that oftentimes the people who are the beneficiaries of it feel like they did it on all on their own.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Right. That seems to me to be highly problematic because when we get, when we go out, when California, let's say, or when, when the federal government gives a capital gains break, uh, to these companies or any type of tax breaks, what they're really [01:18:00] doing is saying, we're giving you free services. Right. It's because it's not just we're, we're, we're giving you a tax break.

It's like, we're providing you all the things that you need in terms of an environment in which to create this stuff. We're just not going to charge you for it. And so it's, we're giving you services in kind really as an investment. Rather than a tax break, we're just giving you free services. And the other thing that strikes me, too, about why California succeeded, and it goes to show that I, that I think from a, from a statutory standpoint, um, this provision where it, um, where it did not, where, where it did not allow for non compete clauses and contract law.

Will you explain that? Because that I think is, is. Is huge. And it's still very much like those type of questions are, you know, are still very much, um, uh, highly relevant across American society. It's, it seems to me, and it's a [01:19:00] very good indication. We talk about, uh, the government stepping in to the field.

to the so called freedom of contract. This was really huge. It seems to me in terms of the development of Silicon Valley, we, will you walk us through that? 

MARGARET O'MARA: Yeah. So non compete clauses essentially are, you know, things that are appended to employment agreements saying you cannot leave our employee and then go to a direct competitor.

You can't be, you know, in a, in a, in a, particularly in a knowledge, Sector where the people and the ideas are the raw materials, it's really limiting that, that free movement of, of people and ideas across companies. California does not allow those, and this is an inter, you know, I'm in Seattle, Washington State, for example, does, you know, does allow non-compete.

And, and you can even see this kind of reflected in the two ecosystems of these two tech hubs. Um, which is, you know, Seattle has been long been, it's changing now, but it was kind of, it's kind of a. by one company at a time. You know, first Boeing, then Microsoft, now Amazon. Um, although [01:20:00] that's changing quite a bit.

But down in the valley, you have this Perpetual job hopping and you have people moving from one firm to another starting from the 1950s on that, you know, and with that, they're sharing ideas, they're creating this network, which for which is really critical to, you know, going back to your why California question or why the valley, you know, one thing the valley has that The Boston does not is this.

It grows in isolation. It's a very sort of specialized economy and very tight, small and tightly networked. Everyone knows each other. Everyone, you know, their kids play on little league together. They go and drink beer after work together. They work together, not at just one company, but multiple companies.

And then they go on to become a venture capitalist that funds the next generation of companies and on and on and non compete, this legal environment, contractual environment is very important. There are also so many other. California specific things that are feeding in, you know, the, the Pat Brown era investment in [01:21:00] social infrastructure, broadly defined everything from public, uh, public schools to higher education, kind of the Clark Kerr era, higher education, the expansion of public higher ed in California during the.

During the 50s and 60s, the building of roads, building of public infrastructure of all kinds, it, it enables this, this society of, of these, this path for tremendous upward mobility for so many people who happen to be there at the time, where you see these, you know, someone like Steve Jobs, who's comes from a family and his dad had a high school education and he's a product of California public schools.

But heck, there was a, there was a computer lab in his high school in the late sixties. Um, and, and this is, you know, he's able to kind of get on this incredible escalator because in part because of this public investment, which of course changes dramatically after the late 1970s. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well, I, I, uh, tell us how, well, I, before we get to how that public investment changes, um, but, uh, you, you write [01:22:00] that.

The, uh, homogeneity of the, of Silicon Valley was both it's, it's greatest strength and it's, it's greatest weakness. Um, explain that for us. 

MARGARET O'MARA: Yeah, well the, you know, I, I refer to the valley as the, Entrepreneurial Galapagos. It grows up. I mean, it's first of all, it starts off very, it's very remote. It's rural.

You know, it's far, far away from Wall Street in Washington. The national papers don't report on Silicon Valley unless they're putting it in air quotes until like the early 1980s. It's, it's You know, it's a very kind of off to the side of the main action and that allows these very distinctive species to, to, to develop an ice in isolation of sorts, um, not only tech companies and an engineering focused businesses, but law firms and venture capital firms and marketing firms that are all devoted to, to, uh, to bringing up these, these companies.

And there's a, there's a very specific personal [01:23:00] dimension to all of it because the model of venture backed. Startups is you find a person who with promise with a promising idea and oftentimes they're a young man in his early 20s who has no business experience. Um, he comes with an engineering degree.

He's never really run anything. And so you need this whole kind of concert of services and firms that are helping you mentoring you in many different ways. And when you're making a bet on an untested person, you're often going with. Okay. You're going with, okay, this person graduated from Stanford's Masters in whatever.

That's a recognizable, you know, that produces good people. Um, this person is, um, you know, knows, used to work at this other company or knows someone I know. And so there's a lot of hiring and investing. Based on existing social networks and ties. So, when you're starting from a place to [01:24:00] a world that is entirely male and almost entirely white in the 1960s, the world of engineering, a world in which, you know, women were not We had a department chair could sort of decide they weren't going to allow women in their classes.

There were very, very few technical women in, um, in the, that world then. And those that were kind of learned on the job, but despite obstacles. And so you have this very homogenous, Pool that you're picking from and when it becomes a multi generational phenomenon. I mean, the, the real talent of, uh, the, the magic of Silicon Valley is time that you have multiple generations of people making, making it big in a company they founded or being part of a very successful enterprise.

Then they become the investors of the next generation. They're picking the winners. They're looking at the younger, you know, 20 somethings who are coming up with big ideas and saying, all right, I'm going to invest in this. Person. And oftentimes it's investing in the man, investing in the person as much as the idea.

And so [01:25:00] this is how, you know, when you're again, going with what, you know, it's very hard to let some new voices and new people in the room. 

Peter Thiel And His Dorky Little Goons – Some More News - Air Date 11-2-22

CODY JOHNSTON - HOST, SOME MORE NEWS: In a piece for Vanity Fair, journalist James Pogue details the inner workings of the new right.

The latest evolution of the alt right, post left, neo reactionary movement that seeks to distinguish itself from both the Reaganism of the 80s and Bush era conservatism. As I alluded to before, the New Right is not a unified ideology. As Pogue explains, members come from a wildly diverse set of political backgrounds, from monarchists to Marxists to the literal Unabomber, who some New Rightists call Uncle Ted.

But the idea at its center, the core tenet that makes the New Right a movement at all, is the underlying belief that individualist liberal ideology, increasingly bureaucratic governments, and big tech are all combining into a world that is at once tyrannical, chaotic, and devoid of the systems of value and morality that give human life richness and meaning.

Pug points to [01:26:00] Curtis Yarvin, friend of Peter Thiel, and an ex programmer and blogger who goes by the online name Mencius Molebug. Many people in the new right will ironically call him Lord Yarvin, because apparently this guy cannot get enough Star Wars names. Menstrual Mold Grub is credited as a co founder and or prominent voice for the Neo Reactionary or Dark Enlightenment movement.

It's basically a bunch of alt right Silicon Valley bros that, like Teal, believe that democracy is not compatible with freedom and want to replace it with a vague techno monarchy. Sounds kind of familiar, right? Yarvin once put out a blog post called The Case Against Democracy with a listing of red pills that he considered to be truths because, and this can't be understated, these guys are dorks.

They're also pretty f ing fashy and border on white nationalists. Yarvin himself has blogged that although he doesn't consider himself a white nationalist, he recognizes that many of his readers are, and said he would also [01:27:00] read and link to white nationalist content. Which sure sounds like something a white nationalist would say.

By one account, Yarvin once gave a speech where he defended Hitler's decision to invade other countries, calling it Here's another blog where he doesn't seem to understand why people hate the Nazis the most, which includes the quote, On the other hand, and then there's more, and like, do I, do I need to finish that quote?

But, but, okay, to be fair and balanced, his other hand is pointing out that the Soviet Union also did mass murders. Okay. Yes, both things can be bad. Of course, this isn't a video on Lord Yarnish Dildo Bug, the totally not racist who uses liberal democratic hypocrisy to get you to sign up for fashion adjacent neo feudalism, but it's important to talk about him because he's a man deep in Peter Thiel's circle.

Theil has funded Yarvin's startup, and they will [01:28:00] correspond to discuss the politicians that Theil backs. Yarvin and the New Right, like many far right groups, believe in a fundamental conspiracy where the people at the top hold so much power, it strips agency and freedom away from everyday people. He calls it the Cathedral because nerd, and part of his belief is that there's no single entity running the show.

In fact, he believes hardly anyone who participates in it believes that it's an organized system at all. Instead, it self perpetuates by rewarding media that goes after threats against the established order, like nationalists, libertarians, and anti vaxxers. Social media, according to Yarvin, only accelerates this cycle, since the best way to get clicks from someone is generally to reaffirm their worldview, which in Yarvin's eyes reaffirms the cathedral.

In other words, he's describing, like, Capitalism and the status quo or social norms, something that has existed for as long as society exists. But since he's a tech bro at heart, he's decided that this is a brand new thing he's invented and is now giving it a silly name. The [01:29:00] solution, in the eyes of Yarvin and the New Right, is to is for a big strong boy to take power back from the cathedral and replace the whole system with a regime structured top down like a startup.

But it's like, super not a dictatorship, you guys, that's not how it's gonna turn out. In that aforementioned speech where he defended Hitler or whatever, Yarvin also gave his solution to reboot the government. As a first step towards the goal, Yarvin advocates for retiring all government employees, or RAGE, a super chill and not at all scary acronym, and replacing them with what he calls a national CEO.

These days, Yarvin is super duper careful not to use the word dictator, but not because he doesn't think we need one, but rather the optics around that word are a tad bit bad. To quote Yarvin, if you're going to have a monarchy, It has to be a monarchy of everyone, which, when you think about the definition of monarchy for more than a second, is a completely nonsense statement.

That's like saying you want to have water, but only if it's a DRY water. [01:30:00] And that's how we get back around to Thiel, who, as we have mentioned, also seems to think a country should be structured like a corporation. Autocratically, from the top down, under a single ruling figure. Whether Yarvin and the New Right have influenced Theil away from his purely libertarian roots, or Theil has come to these positions on his own, it doesn't really matter.

Because either way, both Theil and Yarvin believe this stuff. And Theil is willing to pour his money into supporting people and causes that further these beliefs.

Before 2016, Thiel had dipped his toe into conservative politics, donating around 3 million to Ron Paul's campaign in 2012, and another 2 million to Ted Cruz the same year.

But as we've already discussed, Teal's politics, which mirror much more closely to Yarvin and the New Right's beliefs, were never all that in line with mainstream Republican values. So when everyone's favorite loud boy Donald J. Trump came along in 2016, saying and doing things that had previously been considered unsayable and undoable, Theil saw a chance to [01:31:00] finally get out of the stasis of the status quo.

And so he jumped on it, donating 1. 25 million dollars to Trump's 2016 campaign and speaking in support of Trump at the Republican National Convention.

PETER THIEL: I'm not a politician, but neither is Donald. He is a builder, and it's time to rebuild America. 

CODY JOHNSTON - HOST, SOME MORE NEWS: Oh, he's just like, A regular guy. I was honestly expecting some kind of, like, dark mist or something.

A guy hooked up to a bunch of tubes, maybe. After Trump won, Theil was appointed to the President Elect's transition team. And Trump reportedly told Theil he was a very special guy. Which is, like, kind of a weird thing to say to a grown adult, but whatever. It's Trump, that's how he talks. Despite this early strong start to their friendship, Things didn't stay quite smooth for long.

In 2018, the New York Times quotes Thiel as saying, there are all these ways that things have fallen short, pointing to his hopes that Trump would end the era of stupid [01:32:00] wars, rebuild the country, and move us past the culture wars. In this sense, Thiel is completely correct, in that Trump did not do any of those things.

Though, why Thiel thought he Would do those things in the first place is beyond me. In 2020 Theil notably and intentionally stayed on the sidelines Avoiding endorsing Trump or making any major political donations at all Whether he did this because he still had major issues with the way Trump had handled his first term or simply because he thought Trump Wasn't going to win is anybody's guess.

But regardless, Theil stayed out of the 2020 presidential election and thereby avoided having any personal stake in the ensuing debate about whether or not the election was rigged. You know, that debate .That's somehow still going on almost two years later. But now, as we approach that two year mark, Theil is stepping out of the shadows once more like the spooky venture capitalist that he is to financially back 16 conservative [01:33:00] candidates for the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.

Many of these candidates, who include J. D. Vance, Blake Masters, Eric Schmidt, Kevin McCarthy, and Ted Internet Creep Cruise himself, have embraced the pervasive lie that Donald J. Trump won the 2020 election. While Thiel hasn't said publicly what he personally believes about those election results, it doesn't really matter.

It should be clear by this point that Trump was just a sweaty tool in the Thiel toolbox. Thiel box! Tealbox, to achieve his own political ends. And these new candidates are more of the same.

DEEPER DIVE B: SiliCON VALLEY, emphasis on the CON

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Now entering deeper dive B Silicon valley emphasis on the con.

Google Search Is Died, Enron Musk - The Daily Zeitgeist - Air Date 5-14-24

 In 2019 there was a bloke called Ben Gomes, who is the head of Google search. Ben Gomes had been at Google since 1999. So basically the beginning, he worked directly with Sergey and Larry.

He is, and there are tons of articles about him where everything he talks about, he's talking like, like a Renaissance painter. He's like, I believe the connectivity between [01:34:00] data, like he's so romantic about it. So on February 5th, 2019, he gets through a connection of events, something called a code yellow, which is an internal Google thing that says there is a problem that's significant.

There are higher codes, but they're extremely rare. Code yellow itself is actually pretty rare. So what happened was this code yellow was the revenue and ad side of Google saying Google search, you are not making us enough money. You need to make us more money. And also, and this is very important, the amount of queries going into Google is not growing enough.

Now, little side note for you. Queries, in this case, is referring to the amount of times that people search. Now, if you think about it for just a second, Is that necessarily connected to how good Google is? Not necessarily. In fact, if there are less queries, maybe Google's better. Yeah. Maybe they found what they were looking for.

Right. Yes. Yeah. Which does not work for Google. Right. So Google is [01:35:00] then in this little farts of the code yellow and between Ben Gomes and some other guys, there's a conversation where he says, Hey guys, I feel like Google is getting too close to the money. Google seems to only care about growth. After about a month, they resolved the code yellow and there's a big email thread and there's a ton of emails that I'm just leaving out, but I'm summarizing as quick as possible.

There's also on the sidelines, this guy called Jerry Dishler, who was a, one of these noxious VP types who was kind of like, yeah, guys, we need to make more queries and we need to make more money. So could you just do that? Right. So the code yellow comes to an end and it turns out that the guy behind it is a guy called Prabhagar Raghavan.

Who was then the head of advertising at go ahead of ads on Google and Ben Gomez sends out a thing to a bunch of people who are all congratulating each other saying we got through this great job. Everyone probably got a response saying, Yeah, actually, engineering did that. You didn't do it. He didn't do anything.

Wow. So email. So these emails came out through Department of Justice is antitrust hearing. I realize [01:36:00] this is a lot of history. In 2020, Prabhagar becomes head of Google Search. So he takes over Google Search from the idealist guy, Bengo. From the idealist who worked on Google Search from the beginning. So he came in, he was mad at Bengo.

And basically pushed him out. And also, to be clear, this query's metric is insane. Having more queries means nothing. And in fact, these emails kind of detail that he takes over in 2020. Now, if you really think about it, Google started to get really bad in like 2019, 2020, and has got significantly worse constantly since 2020 to an end of 29, well, mid 2019.

They added this to mobile, but they put it fully onto desktop as well. In 2020, they made the change to make it harder to tell when something is an ad on Google now. Yeah, I definitely noticed that change. They made a bunch of changes to make Google worse. It used to be pretty easy. There was like a [01:37:00] background.

It seemed like pretty clear that they had a internal discussion and we're like, well, we don't want the product. We don't want to be tri actively tricking people. They, it was funnier than that. They were just like, yeah, we need to see the numbers go up, please. Make number go higher now. Line go up now. Yep.

But yeah, at some, like during the two thousands, like it was like, there was a balance of like, we need this to be a product, a product that people want to use and we need to make money off of ads, but they they've hit a point where they don't really give a shit if it's a product that people. Want to use it seems like it's that.

And also within these emails. And again, this is from the department of justice is suit against Google for monopoly. So, Hey, what monopoly could they have? And what's really stark about it is. What Mr. Rug's previous job was. [01:38:00] So can you think of a, what would the worst job that pre could be previously held by someone running Google search?

Just think about it for a second. You might not get it, but just, just think. What is the worst company he could have worked for that isn't like, I don't know. So different? Yeah, different conflict. Because like one of the worst would be Google ads. Mr. Raghavan ran search at Yahoo, 2005 to 2012. In that period, they went from, I think like a 33 percent market share versus Google's 36 percent to literally doing a deal where Bing would power Yahoo. Yeah. Yeah. Let me just fact check you real quick.

Let me go Yahoo that. Nope. Never been said. That's never been said by anyone. It's It's crazy because you read this thing. You read this story. And you read the emails. And I was writing it. And I was like, is this someone messing with, but this is ridiculous, right?

Because the emails are so grim. There's one with this guy, this engineer called Shashi Thakur, [01:39:00] who's like, can we tell Sundar Pichai about this and stop this? Dude, that's the CEO of Google and his former job was McKinsey. Yeah. Yeah. They're on the right side of a lot of things. I was going to say, bread prices, Oxycontin.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it's wild because. You read this story and you're like, it couldn't be this obvious, could it? And the timeline is just perfect. And I will, I will actually say something, I'm previewing something I'm working on. The only time I've ever seen worse than this story is in my next newsletter about Facebook.

Well, you don't have emails in this chain where someone is like, yeah, actually, it's good. The product sucks, right? I actually like this. This is good. I've got documents where there's someone writing, yeah, here are the changes we've made at Facebook to increase engagement that made Facebook worse, right?

Worse for the user. And it, and guess who, guess what? COO of Facebook, [01:40:00] Sheryl Sandberg until 2022 McKinsey. Yeah. No kidding. The people that run Facebook right now, all product managers, all growth people. This is the, this is tying it back to Google. The people in charge are management consultants, ads people, revenue people.

They're not the people who build anything. 

Silicon Valley Deserves Your Anger - Tech Won't Save Us - Air Date 3-14-24

ED ZITRON: A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece where it was saying why everyone has kind of turned on tech. And long and short of it is, tech made a ton of promises in the 2010s and they delivered on a lot of them.

They were like, your files will be wherever you need them. You won't have to use physical media, you'll be able to stream stuff. And they delivered! Genuinely. I know that, like, streaming is extremely questionable as an industry at times, and cloud computing is Not great in many ways, but for the large part, tech actually delivered stuff.

There was cool things that people could use. The jumps between iPhones were significant. There were new laptops that were just that bit much faster. It felt exciting. And then around the mid 2010s, so the around when Waymo first announced one of their first [01:41:00] robot car things, when Elon Musk started talking a lot about Autopilot, well, that was when the Apple Watch around came out as well.

It's almost like the tech industry got frozen in amber. There were new things, but things stopped being exciting, and all of the things that we were told were coming. Robots, AI, automated companions, all of these things, Never showed up and I think as we speak right now, we're kind of seeing what happens when you fail to deliver, but you still get rich because tech has existed with these massive multipliers and made all of these people obscenely rich and people have kind of accepted it because they said, well, it's how we got iPhones.

It's how we got cloud computing, it's how we got all these things. Tech hasn't done anything like that for a while and their big magical trick is AI. Which is doing what exactly is AI doing for a consumer today much more than Siri was doing five, six, seven years ago? It isn't on top of that. It's so expensive, but everyone's putting all this money into this very expensive, [01:42:00] not super useful tech.

It just feels like, especially off the back of what we're like, Less than a year since the SVB thing happened. I'm just a bit worried. It could be okay. Things as a business operator in this space feel better, but I don't know. I am very worried about this push of AI, not just for the fake job thing, but also because I don't know.

It costs too much and it does nothing. 

PARIS MARX - HOST, TECH WON'T SAVE US: Yeah, I think that's really well put. And I think there's a lot in there for us to dig into through the course of this conversation. And we'll return to the AI stuff a little bit later, but it stands out to me that, and of course, when you say SVB, that's of course, Silicon Valley Bank and the employees that happen there for listeners who might not remember, but we're in this kind of AI push this moment where this is all, you know, supposedly going to change everything.

And. It's interesting to me that you point back to the mid 2010s is this moment when a lot of stuff really significantly changed in the sense that they started making these huge promises. They were not able to fulfill on these promises. You know, the stuff that we actually got [01:43:00] from these companies were not, you know, these big steps forward, but we're like kind of incremental steps as things also seem to be getting worse and worse and worse.

And we can talk about that as well. But the mid 2010s was also kind of the last AI boom moment, right? When AI was going to replace all the jobs and all this kind of stuff. 

ED ZITRON: I had a client in 2016 telling people, oh, we'll have, it will ingest all your knowledge and be able to answer questions in a chatbot 2016.

What's different? 

PARIS MARX - HOST, TECH WON'T SAVE US: It's funny too, because like there was an article I read the other day that was about Apple and how it was like behind in the generative AI thing. And it was like, this is such a big threat to Apple's business model because everyone's going to be using these generative AI models. And it's going to make the voice assistant so much better.

And Apple has had so much trouble with voice assistants. And it's like, nobody liked the voice assistants the first time around, like, It never caught on. Like, Amazon has largely like disinvested from it. Sure, Lex is still around, but like, it's not a focus like it was a few years ago, [01:44:00] because it was just another one of these things that they pushed out and like, didn't really catch on with people.

And the generative AI moment isn't going to change that. 

ED ZITRON: And actually, there is one thing that I left out that's very important as well. 2021 was a watershed moment. For tech in the worst possible way. It was the first time I think tech has really just tried to lie. Metaverse and crypto, what did they do?

They didn't do much. They did, however, make a bunch of guys really rich, but it's the first time I saw just like an outright con on consumers where it was like, Hey, metaverse is the future. You've got to be part of this. What is it? It's a thing you've already really seen, but we would like you to claim this is the future.

Cryptocurrency. What does this do? Nothing! It might make you rich, but it probably won't. So you have this two year period where 2021 seemed like everything was going to be okay. Everyone was going to get rich. Biden administration. Everyone's doing well. Money was frothing around. And no one really knew because I don't think most people know macroeconomics, myself [01:45:00] included.

So a lot of people didn't see it coming when. Interest rates screwed everyone and you, everyone at once realized, Oh, wow. The tech ecosystem was built on a form of financial con kind of venture capital wasn't held accountable. And so now they're trying to push through AI and it's like, well, no, we saw the metaverse that didn't do anything.

We saw crypto that didn't do anything. Tell us what this will do. It's the same McKinsey freaks telling us that this is the future. 

PARIS MARX - HOST, TECH WON'T SAVE US: And, you know, the crypto and metaverse moment was like, okay, there are these visions, there are these ideas, but like, there's nothing tangible here that's really making anything better.

It's just like, how can we extract more money from people by forcing them into these features or making them believe it for a little while, whereas in the past, sure, they, you know, Lied about a ton of things and over promised about a ton of things, but there was often something tangible there that they believe, you know, there could actually be a follow through on.

And in part, it makes me think back to like the dot com boom moment where you also had a lot of these companies that really had [01:46:00] no foundation to them, but we're riding this wave. up as there was just all of this money that was flooding into the space. And it seemed like there was also a moment of that in those kind of pandemic years when there was a bunch of money flowing, it had to go somewhere.

So here's all these scams and cons to absorb it, right? 

ED ZITRON: Yeah. And I think the Another part of it, and I've written about this a great deal, is generally before this, and you know, it's not perfect, I know there are plenty of examples where they didn't, but these companies found ways to grow that somewhat benefited the customer, didn't always totally do it in the nicest way, but it kind of benefited them, there was a way of it looking, you go, okay, they're making stuff for people and the people will use it right now. I think people are waking up to the fact that tech companies are willing to make their things worse to make more money. And I think that they are more aware of it than they've ever been. And I know I'm somewhat self serving and that this is my raw economy thesis.

However, I do think that there is coming a time when people are going to realize, why are these tech companies worth 20 [01:47:00] billion when they make things worse? Why is it that Microsoft is worth, what, three trillion dollars, and they're just flooding money into this system, ChetJPT, and Copilot, and all these things?

They can't even explain why you'd use it. The Super Bowl commercial, for Copilot, it was so weird, it was like, Oh yeah, do the code for my 3D open world game. Give me Mike's Trucks, a logo for Mike's Trucks, which just doesn't work in practice. It's so weird. They spent 7 million on this commercial and you'd watch it. And you're like, not even they can come up with a reason why you need generative AI. That's crazy, man. I don't remember another time in this industry when I was just like, oh yeah, no one, like no one can tell you why they're selling it.

They're just like, oh, it's the future and you should buy it today. Please use it. Please use it now. We need you to use this so that the markets think we're growing at 10 to 20 percent every quarter and so that Satya Nadella can get, he must make at least 30, 50 million. Sundar Pichai from Google gets 280 million or something or 220 million in 2022.

[01:48:00] These guys are insanely rich, but they're creating nothing. I'm all over the place because this stuff is making me a little crazy. I'm not going to lie. 

PARIS MARX - HOST, TECH WON'T SAVE US: One of the pieces you wrote recently that I read in preparation for this interview was really going into that, right? How a lot of these companies we have been seeing it like slowly more and more over time.

Like if you think about Facebook, like making their product worse so that it could extract more money from people and get more data off of people to feed into, you know, these broader kind of considerations that they had around making more money off of what everyone's doing on their platform. But over time, you know, yeah.

People are talking about a lot now, but I think you've still seen it for the past number of years. The Google search engine getting worse as it's become more, you know, oriented toward the needs of advertisers versus the actual users who are using it. And like again and again, whether it's social media platforms and other things that happen online, there has been this slow degradation of the quality of these things because there's this need to extract more and more profit from it.

And The options for where you're going to make that profit have [01:49:00] become fewer as, you know, the real growth in this industry and the real innovation has tapered off. And so now it just becomes really extracting as much as possible from what is already there. Even if that means the experience and the actual quality of the product has to decline in the process.


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: You've reached Deeper Dive C: Microsoft, the destroyer.

The One Where Microsoft Admits Game Studios Are F_cked (The Jimquisition) - Jim Sterling - Air Date 5-20-24

JIM STERLING - HOST, JIM STERLING: Studio closures. They occur when a game's studio is failing.

They occur when a game's studio is succeeding. Like with the mass layoffs game publishers routinely indulge in, publishers shutting down studios. are motivated far less by the studio's performance and infinitely more by a perpetual drive to cut costs and please shareholders, all in the name of perpetuating the ridiculous myth that a company can get richer and bigger literally forever.

The myth of perpetual growth. Like I have reminded viewers for a while now, publishers axe people's jobs and shut down developers regardless of success, and sometimes because of it. Since the better a publisher does, the more pressure there is to [01:50:00] cut those costs, so it looks like they're making more money.

It's an unsustainable system, which is why the industry is such a tumultuous and unstable fucking mess all the time. And if you're one of the five people still watching this shit, you'll know that already. So, Why are we talking about it this time? Well, we've got some absolute piss drivel excuses from a Microsoft executive to laugh at.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Microsoft has been among the very worst. In fact, it may very well be the worst instigator of studio shutdowns and mass layoffs. Responsible for thousands of ruined lives in the name of pleasing a handful of already incredibly wealthy people. All these harmful, maliciously callous, cost cutting methods, at a time when the company is spending obscene, offensive amounts of cash to buy other companies in its attempt to create a de facto monopoly in the game industry.

Most disgustingly, those huge purchases of Bethesda and Activision have been a direct [01:51:00] cause of layoffs. And closures with Microsoft most recently treating itself to the shuttering of Bethesda's subsidiaries, arcane Austin Alpha do games, and perhaps most shocking of all Tango GameWorks. So what does Xbox leader Sarah Bond have to say for her company's habit of consuming other companies and upending thousands of careers in the process and continuing engaging in mass layoff?

Rather than cutting the executive class's extreme salaries and bonuses, or at the very least, maybe not spending literal billions to buy shiny new toys. Well, it turns out she has very little of worth to say at all. As if to unintentionally suggest that executives truly have no compelling arguments for their despicable behavior, and completely fail to justify it when they try and contrive some.

The last year or so in video games, largely, the industry's been flat. Wimpered Bond in an interview that has since blown up for how pathetic it is. And even in 2023, we saw just some tremendous releases, tremendously [01:52:00] groundbreaking games, but still, the growth didn't follow all of that. There it is. That word. Growth.

I love that, within a couple of sentences, Bond essentially backs up everything I've said about corporate motivations for years. Perpetual growth, at any cost, so long as the cost isn't felt by anyone but the employees on the ground level. It's not enough to make money, it's not enough to be successful, you have to keep growing, no matter how big and powerful you already are.

Ah, the slightest drop and the investors panic and pull out. It's fucking nonsense. It's funny though, this interview with Bummed has been criticized for being weak, but if anything it's making an incredibly strong case. It just so happens to be making my case. Anyway. Sorry, let's let Bond continue talking about the growth not being there.

A lot of that's related to our need to bring new players in and make gaming more accessible, but all of that has been happening at the same time that the cost associated with making these beautiful AAA [01:53:00] blockbuster games is going up, and the time it takes to make them is going up. Oh, and there that is.

One of the all time classic fucking excuses squirted out by people so rich they could fund an entire game's development and still be rich. Games are just too expensive to make! Oh, oh, pity the poor multi billion dollar business that can always find money to give management million dollar bonuses just for sitting on their fucking arses.

Pity the poor companies boasting of record revenue and raking in billions off the back of predatory in game economies. PLEASE And pity the poor companies to whom the expense of making games is happening at them. It's not a decision they're making. They're completely powerless. They're just the ones with complete and total fucking power.

Once again, a massive corporation pleads poverty and tries to claim it can't afford to do the thing it's in the literal business of doing. I've heard it too many times. I'd heard it too many times in 2014, let alone 2024. Oh, this ain't [01:54:00] tired. Overplayed excuses applied to every shitty business decision, as companies who make and sell games have spent over a decade trying to tell us they can't afford to make and sell games, while boasting to their shareholders about how much money they're pulling in by making and selling games.

The fact Bond is trotting out by far the laziest and most worn out argument really only says one thing. Microsoft thinks you're a gullible fucking moron. Who can't remember the last dozen things they've used this argument for. At some point, games have to make money! As Naughty Dog once famously said, while enjoying a lucrative sponsorship deal between Uncharted and Subway.

Fucking disingenuous c shutdowns, the Xbox president was no less offensive than she's already been. It's always extraordinarily hard when you have to make decisions like that, she lied. When we looked at those fundamental industry trends, we feel a deep responsibility to ensure that the games we make, the devices we [01:55:00] build, the services that we offer, are there through moments.

Even when the industry isn't growing, when you're through a time of transition, the news we announced earlier in the week is an outcome of that, in our commitment to make sure that the business is healthy for the long term. What? No, seriously, what the fuck was that? State of your corporate spiel, mate.

That was just words, just a bunch of buzzwords thrown together with waffling, obfuscating vaguery. Borderline salad, even. Like, this was the bit I was most looking forward to tearing apart, the excuse for the closures, but what? There's nothing to tear apart, she fucking said nothing! But anyway. She continues talking bollocks with all the commitment of a terminal bellend.

 Tango Gameworks last year saw massive critical acclaim and enjoyed commercial success with Hi Fi Rush. A game many would put forth as one of the best made in years. But as we've already seen, success doesn't count [01:56:00] for much in an industry designed only to reward those who are already wealthy.

JIM STERLING - HOST, JIM STERLING: Tango's closure shocked the gaming community, but sadly, I can't say I was surprised. Disgusted, yes. But I'm not surprised by any studio's closure, no matter if they've just launched a complete stinker, or released one of the most popular games of the year. Does Sarah Bond have any thoughts on that? No, no, hang on, scratch that.

Does Sarah Bond have fucking useful thoughts on that? You already know the answer. You know, one of the things I really love about the games industry is that it's a creative art form, and it means that the situation and what success is for each game and studio is also really unique, said the executive literally trying to re litigate the definition of success.

There's no one size fits all to it for us, and so we look at each studio, each game team, and we look at a whole variety of Factors when we're faced with sort of making decisions and trade offs like that, but it all comes back to our long term commitment to the games we create, the devices [01:57:00] we build, the services and ensuring that we're setting ourselves up to be able to deliver on the problems that we're facing.

You'll notice she talked a lot of shit about all the hard decisions and all the different criteria, but didn't actually explain any of it. Didn't explain what the criteria was for Tango's shutdown. What did success mean for Hi Fi Rush? What did Hi Fi Rush have to do in order to save Tango Gameworks?

Sarah Bond, once again said nothing. But in doing so, said a damn lot. What she's said, what she's admitted to, is what I've been fucking saying for ages. Success don't matter. It won't save you. If you release a failed game, you'll be shut down. If you release a successful game, You'll be shut down.

Because once you've made the claim that success is a vaguely defined idea that means different unique things depending on whatever it is the publisher feels like doing at the time, you've told your subsidiaries, your [01:58:00] employees, one thing. You are damned. Damned if you win. Damned if you lose. Damned if you do, and you don't.

Damned the second you signed the bottom line and sold your studio to a merciless, callous corporation that defines success not by success, but by whatever saves them the most money in the short term. Fuck what Bond said about long term thinking. Corporations aren't built for that. They're built for whatever gets them.

Them lurching to the next financial quarter with the illusion that it's making all the money in the world and still somehow finding change behind the couch cushions.

Microsoft's New AI Will Turn Your Computer Into a Privacy NIGHTMARE - Zaid Tabani - Air Date 5-23-24

ZAID TABANI - HOST, ZAID TABANI: For the last few months, Microsoft has been doubling. tripling, quadrupling down on the AI revolution in any way it can. It's integration of chat GPT into Bing, the 10 billion investment they made into open AI back in 2023. Also, Microsoft is entitled to up to 49 percent of. The for profit arm of open AI.

That doesn't mean they own it, but they're, they're, they're good friends. And listen, I don't need to tell you already [01:59:00] that the speed of how all of this has developed has raised a lot of concerns for a lot of people. There are a plethora of critiques on AI as well as support for AI being a tool that will enhance human's lives.

You know, the debate well, but it all got muddy this week when Microsoft announced a new feature for Windows 11 called recall. Recall is a new feature coming to Windows 11. That's going to be included in Microsoft's copilot plus suite of AI tools and essentially what the feature does. Is it has the computer take constant snapshots of what you're doing at the time on your PC, what programs you have open, what websites you're browsing, and it stores them in an archive to essentially create a history of what your activity has been on your computer.

That's searchable to you. So if there's a website you saw a few months ago, and you want to go back to it, you can immediately look it up. And when you find the snapshot, recall is supposed to be able to recreate that state of your computer. At any time, think of it as a super advanced version of system restore, or at least that's what I think Microsoft thought they were [02:00:00] pitching to everybody.

That being said, I think taking snapshots of everyone's PC every few seconds and storing them in an archive is a terrifying privacy nightmare, which is exactly how it came off. Because yes, if you've ever had a windows PC, Or honestly, any computer. There are times where your computer just starts acting weird, and you hope to God that it has a state it was in before.

Or, sometimes something you found on your PC or a website, you don't know how to get back to, and you wish you could just, Oh, what was it I was looking at the other day? All of that is useful, until it's not. When it's terrifying and falls into the hands of bad faith actors. And listen, this immediately sparked backlash.

Tons of people were like, what the fuck? This seems like an insane privacy nightmare. Not even talking about the bloatware you'll get on laptops in general, or what devices are sending information. Microsoft responded to all this by saying that, listen, all of the snapshots that are taken by recall will only be stored On the local person's PC.

Microsoft's not going to keep any of those in the cloud. [02:01:00] In fact, none of those even reach the cloud or Microsoft at all. They're all encrypted stored locally on your PC at all times. And you can tell the program to delete certain things, to not monitor certain apps and IT professionals can disable recall altogether.

Although I will say that after this backlash, I'm pretty sure Microsoft is going to bake that feature in, in some way, shape, and or form just to cover their bases. But listen, even if recall doesn't share those snapshots with other users, even if Microsoft has no access to them and is not allowed to see those snapshots or use them for any targeted advertisement, that is a good thing.

We still live in 2024, where there are tons of data breaches all of the time, where information privacy is a huge debate, and where our machines are asking us stuff like, hey, do you want us to share diagnostics about a machine? Is, is this part of diagnostics? This isn't the 50s anymore, where you have to only worry about criminals breaking in and stealing things from your safe.

You have to worry about Data thieves, that is a serious [02:02:00] issue in 2024. People get shit stolen from them all the time. It is scary. And listen, I'm not gonna give you a scared straight, so you look over your shoulder for some creepy guy with a laptop outside of your house. I'm just saying having a history of what websites you've been to and what stuff you're looking at on your computer.

In an archive can be scary. And even if it's encrypted, that doesn't mean it's uncrackable. And those are just bad faith actors. Think about governments. And I don't want us to get too tinfoil hat here, but the U S and multiple other governments have dozens of surveillance programs for searching or accessing your computer and interpreting that information, how they will in a very imperfect political environment.

And look, this is not the only major AI innovation that's come out in the last like two, three weeks, Google has recently integrated AI into their search engine in general. And that has yielded very mixed results. I can tell you from using it for a little bit. Yeah, it's actually sped up a few things, but at the same time, it's told users that they [02:03:00] should drink pee.

And a lot of times it feels like it's scrubbing information from other sites and just presenting it, which Google already did, which already had a bunch of controversies for. But also, the AI is pulling information from multiple different sites to create its overall answer. Which kind of hurts the sites you're searching for, doesn't it?

And oh, you think that's the only bad AI news. Guess what? We have more bad AI news. Scarlett Johansson's voice was stolen. I'm sorry, not stolen. Imitated. I'm sorry, not imitated. Strongly hinted at being imitated or stolen by the creator. Of ChatGPT After a meeting with Scarlett Johansson When she was like, no, I don't want you to use my voice And then after it launched, the creator going Hey, do you, are you sure?

Can we, can we please? And now the voice has been taken down because Look, Scarlett's like, I already starred in her I don't want to make it a reality, do you not see The fucking point of that movie? And she wants An investigation into it This is what I'm trying to make the video about. There are obviously serious issues with AI in terms of content theft, uh, [02:04:00] job displacement and disruption, privacy and the ability for people to function.

Like, look, there are a ton of debates about that going on. And like I said, there are many people who tout AI's positives, which are positive. There are benefits. Here's the issue and, and regardless It's going too fast, which is reckless. People tend to constantly send me things about AI music when it happens, right?

If you don't know, music has been dipping its toes into AI for fucking years now. You remember the Drake diss track where he used Tupac's voice on the AI? That's been available before chat GPT. That's been available for a while now. There was a plugin that lets you sound like Kendrick or like A$ AP. I remember those plugins coming out, but every time somebody sends me.

Something from Suna or anything like that. I'm not necessarily scared because that algorithm is trying to do something that's fundamentally not how music works. The value benefits of what it could be aren't necessarily compatible with the industry it's trying to replace. So I'm not necessarily worried about [02:05:00] that.

Even though there are some concerns, like if you, if you, if you extrapolate it, and I'm trying to be open minded, that's not what worries me. What worries me Is people doubling and tripling and quadrupling down on this technology because they think it's the gold rush and making stupid mistakes that fuck a lot of people over and create a more dangerous precedent for the world where None of the benefits of AI exist People lose jobs, or information, or privacy, or vocations, or things are stolen, and all of a sudden things are way more unstable, far more reckless, with no guardrails.

And if you know what this sounds like, it sounds like fucking NFTs. And ironically, a lot of the proponents of AI Are NFT bros and listen, I don't want to compare them entirely because these are two different things, but it's very clear that the culture from NFTs and just, just go, just, just, just rock it off.

Right. Is pervading into AI. Which is significant. It's not fake. It's very [02:06:00] real. All of the dangers and the benefits of it are absolutely real. But when you are given like a magic car, and it can do every it can cook your breakfast, it can fly, it can do everything, and you just step on the gas? And just go, look at how fast I can go!

You're gonna fucking crash! Because you haven't learned this car yet. You don't know what the dangers of it are. You don't know what the benefits of it are. 


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And now deeper dive D thank you for your service.

What’s Going on With Tesla Superchargers? - Waveform: The MKBHD Podcast - Air Date 5-9-24

MARQUES BROWNLEE - HOST, WAVEFORM: Tesla laid off, they just blew up their entire supercharger team. It's just gone. Yeah. Specifically, it seems like Elon just did it one day. 

DAVID IMEL - HOST, WAVEFORM: Wait, they shut down the superchargers?

MARQUES BROWNLEE - HOST, WAVEFORM: No, no, they laid off the entire supercharger team. Now, for those unfamiliar, Tesla superchargers pretty important part of Tesla, right?

Um, for when we talk about electric cars, almost every time we talk about Tesla's advantage, we talk about the supercharger network, which is if you need to charge this car on a road trip somewhere, the only reliable, [02:07:00] consistently reliable way to do that from our own experience for years has been the supercharger network to the point where one by one over the past few months.

Basically every EV maker that ships cars to America is going to be switching their port or shipping adapters To the NACS port to see to use tesla supercharger network because it's such a big selling point here So all that being said Tesla very suddenly laying off the entire Supercharger team, which includes all of the permitting, all of the site maintenance, all of the, uh, future planning, and basically just shutting down growth of the Supercharger network, like, nipping it right on, on that day.


MARQUES BROWNLEE - HOST, WAVEFORM: Yeah. Seems like a pretty bold move. 


MARQUES BROWNLEE - HOST, WAVEFORM: um, I think everyone sort of assumes that it's for cost cutting and, you know, Tesla stock price is doing one thing and we want their, you know, profits to do the other thing. And so, you know, there's a lot going [02:08:00] on and pretty crazy ruthless business decisions get made by this guy all the time.

So, yeah, the supercharger team is the latest victim. Completely gone. Uh, I don't know. How do we? I feel like this is going to go. 

DAVID IMEL - HOST, WAVEFORM: Yeah. It's kind of wild because like you said, everyone is moving to NACS and that layoff included Rebecca Tannoushi, who was the senior director of EV charging and was the person that pretty much like handled all of the deals, convincing all of the other companies to switch to NACS.


DAVID IMEL - HOST, WAVEFORM: So they kind of finished doing that and then now the entire team is out. And there were a bunch of employees that literally said they were breaking ground on new locations. And then they just got the news and all of a sudden they just have to stop. 

MARQUES BROWNLEE - HOST, WAVEFORM: Yeah. So it seems like at some point we're going to feel the effects of it.

And I think it will be, well, okay. So there was an Elon tweet about how, Oh, we're stopping growth and we're focusing on just maintenance and uptime. Yeah. 

ANDREW MANAGANELLI - HOST, WAVEFORM: I was just gonna say like that, my initial thought on this and I don't follow stock prices. I don't know anything about [02:09:00] business, but like when I first saw this, it felt like, Oh, we built this crazy supercharging system.

Yeah. Yeah. Everybody loves it. It's the most reliable. Everybody's going to it now. Thanks for building it later. Like, yeah, it's easier to maintain something that you built already, even instead of building it, but it seems like there's more of it. Yeah. 

DAVID IMEL - HOST, WAVEFORM: Well, except for the fact that the amount of cars using it is about to like five X.

ANDREW MANAGANELLI - HOST, WAVEFORM: Yes. I don't think it's a good decision, but my first thought was like, it feels like they did it all. And I feel like we see that in tech a lot. It's like, Oh, thanks for building this awesome software or something like that. Interesting. Good luck building something somewhere else. We have what we need now.

DAVID IMEL - HOST, WAVEFORM: The peace of mind, knowing that you're always going to have a supercharger nearby is so important to like ownership of an EV. Yeah. 

MARQUES BROWNLEE - HOST, WAVEFORM: Sorry to interrupt. There's a lot of upcoming locations on the map where people are like, I can't wait for that one because then I can finally do this route. I can finally do this drive.

Right now it looks like those aren't going to happen. Uh huh. So, yeah, that's, that's a bummer for those. 

DAVID IMEL - HOST, WAVEFORM: Yeah. He tweeted Tesla still plans to grow the supercharger network just [02:10:00] at a slower pace for new locations and more focus on a hundred percent uptime and expansion of existing locations. So I don't know if that means just adding more stalls to existing locations.

Yeah. The uptime is already pretty dang good. Like they've had very good uptime historically. Yeah. 

ANDREW MANAGANELLI - HOST, WAVEFORM: I could see focusing on uptime. Like you said, if it's going to be so many more people, maybe there's a higher opportunity of the uptime not being as good and focus on that, but. Even if that is the focus firing 500 people and slowing the growth of the network, because no matter how good the network is, if we're talking about gas cars, the network looks like crap.

MARQUES BROWNLEE - HOST, WAVEFORM: Yeah. That's the, that's the two sides of that car. It's like when you compare the Tesla supercharger network to gas cars, it seems like they need to have a lot of growth to do, but on the other side, when you compare the supercharger network to everyone else, no longer needing to build up their network because they all just signed on to do NACS.

It's like, yeah, we won. No one else is going to come close to the Tesla supercharger network. No need to build it up anymore. Yeah. [02:11:00] 

ANDREW MANAGANELLI - HOST, WAVEFORM: It, it feels like when we're talking about like, even just Tesla or Rivian in vehicle software, you're like, this is the best in vehicle software of any car and you're like, how's it to an iPad?

It's like, well, it's terrible. 


ANDREW MANAGANELLI - HOST, WAVEFORM: So like, yeah, there's still so much room for growth here. 

When a tech company says it’s disbanding its standalone safety/ethics/alignment group - Jacob Ward - Air Date 5-19-24

JACOB WARD - HOST, JACOB WARD: I've been mostly not thinking about the tech business at all lately. Honestly, since I left NBC, I've been mostly just hanging with my kids and surfing. And that's been fantastic. 

But, as I occasionally check into the news, I get more and more alarmed. And one of the things that's really alarming me right now is, OpenAI, creator of ChatGPT and the rest, which is rapidly releasing frightening new products --amazing new products, but frightening as well--has just lost the two executives in charge of what's called their super alignment team. In the AI world, super alignment is this notion that we need to--and I think no one would disagree with this--bring AI into alignment with human values before it gets out of [02:12:00] control. Well, the two executives in charge of that lofty mission have left OpenAI. Ilya Sutskever, and this guy, Jan--I've never said his name out loud, so I don't know how to say it, I only know how to spell it--Leike? Jan Leike? Lika? Anyway, Jan has gone off on X, formerly Twitter, saying that his team has been sailing against headwinds for some time inside the organization, that shiny new products have been pushing his team's concerns aside, the priorities of the organization he doesn't agree with anymore, and he says it's time to go. He says that safety is not being prioritized the way he wants it to be. He very notably pointed out a lack of computing resources made available to his team, and this is the big thing because that's what's expensive about doing AI is running these huge processing centers that do the compute to make it possible to train AI and run all of your requests for [02:13:00] cat videos and knock knock jokes.

And so he and Ilya Sutskever are out. And OpenAI for its part says they're disbanding the super alignment team. And they're instead going to integrate their work and the safety considerations into the broader landscape of OpenAI. We have seen this before. Other big companies have disbanded their standalone teams and spread them through an organization, or that's what they claim.

But what we've seen over and over again is that when you set up an adversarial think tank whose job it is to fight with the executives and try and push for different priorities than just pushing out product quarter after quarter, eventually that adversarial relationship reaches a breaking point. And in a shareholder-driven environment, I think it's just very hard to stay true to your lofty ideals about trying to support something like a super alignment team, even though the purpose of that team is [02:14:00] to keep your product from ruining the world. Literally, that's what this job is all about, in theory. 

Sam Altman has replied to this departed executive also on X and basically says, I agree it's something to worry about and we're going to keep working on it. 

And so anyway, I'm going to go back to surfing.

Closing Credits

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: That's going to be it for today. As always, keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about today's topic or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. The additional sections of the show included clips from WiseCrack, The Majority Report, Some More News, The Daily Zeitgeist, Tech Won't Save Us, Jim Sterling. Zaid Tabani, Waveform: The MKBHD Podcast, and Jacob Ward. Further details are in the show notes. 

Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation [02:15:00] in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our impressively good and often funny weekly bonus episodes, in addition to there being no ads and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast, coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from

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#1631 Body Neutrality in the World of Ozempic: Reassessing Weight, Body Positivity, Physical and Mental Health, and even the Economics of Body Size (Transcript)

Air Date 5/24/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast in which we will assess the impact of the new diet drugs on physical and mental health in the context of our unhealthy food system and societal fatphobia. Sources on our front page today include The Gray Area, Today, Explained, Consider This, What the Actual Fork, and The Majority Report. Then in the additional sections half of the show, we'll dive deeper into the business of desire, bias and risk, and body neutrality.

The world after Ozempic - The Gray Area - Air Date 5-13-24

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: Let's start with the basics here. What is Ozempic, for people who don't really know anything about it? 

JOHANN HARI: I remember the exact moment I asked this question for myself. It was the winter of 2022 and it was the end of the pandemic and I got invited to a party for the first time in all those months. And I decided to go and in the Uber on the way there, I was feeling a bit self-conscious because I gained loads of weight. So I was going to a party that was thrown by an Oscar-winning actor. I'm not saying this just to name drop, [00:01:00] it's relevant. I suddenly thought, Oh, this is going to be fascinating because everyone I know gained weight. It's going to be so interesting to see these actors kind of looking different, right? With a bit of podge on them. And I arrived, and it's not just that they hadn't gained weight, everyone was gaunt, everyone was thin, and I was kind of wandering around in a bit of a daze, and I bumped into a friend of mine, and I said to her, Wow, looks like everyone really did take up Pilates during lockdown. And she laughed at me and I said, what are you laughing at? And she said, well, you know, it's not Pilates, right? And she pulled up an Ozempic pen on her phone. And I don't remember ever feeling so conflicted about anything as what I learned, the kind of basics I learned in the next couple of days. 

So we have a new kind of weight loss drug, which works in a completely new way, on new mechanisms in your gut and in your brain that produces massive weight loss. The average person who takes Ozempic loses 15 percent of their body weight. The average person who takes Minjaro, which is the next in this class of [00:02:00] drugs, loses 21%. And for the next one that's coming down the line that will be available next year, the average person loses 24 percent of their body weight, which is only slightly below bariatric surgery.

And I remember as soon as I learned this, I don't remember any topic I ever learned about where I felt so profoundly conflicted as I did about these drugs. Because I immediately thought, well I know that obesity causes all sorts of health risks. I'm older now than my grandfather ever got to be because he died of a heart attack when he was 44. Loads of the men in my family get heart attacks. My dad had bad heart problems. My uncle died of a heart attack. So I thought, wow, if there's a drug that reverses obesity, that could be really big for me. But I also thought, come on, I've seen this story before, right? Every 20 years or so, a new miracle diet drug is announced, millions of people take it, and then we always discover it has some terrible side effect that means it's pulled from the market, leaving a wave of devastated people in its wake.

So to really [00:03:00] investigate this, I ended up going on this really big journey all over the world, from Iceland to Minneapolis, to Tokyo, to interview the leading critics of these drugs, the leading defenders of these drugs, and really dig into what actually what. are these drugs and what are they going to do to all of us?

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: Well, you mentioned how we've had these miracle drugs in the past. Again, it's perhaps too soon to say, but what makes this one different, or potentially different? 

JOHANN HARI: Lots of things. So the first is that it works on a completely new mechanism. If you ate something now, Sean, your gut would produce a hormone called GLP 1. And we now know that's part of your body's natural signals, just saying, Hey, Sean, you've had enough, stop eating. But natural GLP 1 only stays in your system for a few minutes. So what these drugs do is they inject into you an artificial copy of GLP 1, but instead of lasting for a few minutes, it stays in your system for a whole week. So it has this bizarre effect. I'll never forget the second day I took [00:04:00] it because I took it to research it for the book. I was lying in bed, I woke up, and I had this really strange sensation. And I couldn't locate in my body what it was that I was feeling. And then I realized I wasn't hungry. I had woken up and I wasn't hungry. I don't remember that ever happening before. And I went to this diner near where I live and I ordered what I used to order every day which was a huge brown roll with loads of chicken and mayo in it. And I had three or four mouthfuls and I couldn't eat anymore. I felt full. So one of the things that's different is we know that these drugs produce a feeling of satiety that lasts, the feeling of being full and having had enough. And we know that they produce sustained weight loss over a significant period of time. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: How confident are we in these early results? 

JOHANN HARI: Well, there's an extremely high level of confidence that it produces significant amount of weight loss. There's been hundreds of studies involving tens of thousands of people. And that's just in its use for obesity. These drugs have also been used for diabetics, for other purposes, which gives us some insight onto [00:05:00] the safety risks around the drugs as well. So yeah, huge numbers of people. Yeah. As robust a finding as you get with any new drug.

The Ozempic economy - Today, Explained - Air Date 2-23-24

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Okay, so last summer I saw you tweeted, "10 years from now, it'll be obvious GLP 1 drugs were a way bigger deal than AI". Okay, so you're saying Ozempic is going to be a bigger deal than ChatGPT and the end of the world and everything. That's a major thing to say. Can you make the case? 

JOSH BARRO: Well, sure. So, first of all, I think AI and software more broadly have generally been oversold in terms of their economic effects, and I think that GLP 1 drugs are a really important advance because being overweight is so common. A majority of U. S. adults are overweight, and so I think these are drugs that are ultimately, they're going to be appropriate for more than half of American adults, and I think people are going to have good results from them, and in the long run, they're not going to be prohibitively expensive and difficult to obtain, like they have been in the last few years. So, I think. it's going to be a really widely used medical intervention that is going to have a lot of positive effects for people.

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: [00:06:00] And so, for someone who says, who's listening to this and says—Yeah, that's actually really great. Like half of all people potentially could get this drug—make the case that this is a big deal for the economy, for people whom that might slide past. 

JOSH BARRO: Well, so I think it's in a few ways. One is that being overweight, and especially being obese, is a significant medical risk factor. And that has costs. It has costs in terms of medical care that people need because of conditions that are related to that, whether that's heart disease or diabetes or even joint problems. And then it also causes an increase in risk of disability. And that, you know, that obviously is a human problem, but it's also an economic problem. It means that people can't work in the way that they once did, either that they can't work as many hours or they can't work as long into their lives. And so, because I think it will reduce the disability rate, I think that will show up in productivity. 

And then it's also going to change the way people consume. There's [00:07:00] been this sort of weird fixation in a lot of the press coverage on things that people might consume less of. 

CLIP: Well, switching gears here, Walmart, seeing a slight pullback of shoppers. The company's U. S. CEO has told Bloomberg that they're seeing an impact on shopping demand from people taking the diabetes drug Ozempic.

JOSH BARRO: And that might be true on some micro levels, and there are specific businesses that you might be in where this drug is probably bad for you. But the thing is that people, if they're not going out and spending their money on Doritos, they still have that money. And in fact, maybe they have a little bit more money because they're a little bit more productive. And then they can go out and find other new things to spend that money on. 

So, basically, if you're not in an industry that has specifically negative effects on consumption and demand from Ozempic, you should tend to be thinking of that as an industry where there will be positive effects. People will have more money around, more time around to spend on your product.

Weight loss is a huge source of frustration for people. It is widely desired. People who are overweight, you know, they want to lose weight. But most things [00:08:00] don't work well. 

COMMERCIAL CLIPS: Lose 10 pounds and 5 inches overall in your first month! 

You won't just lose your weight! 1-800-94-JENNY. 

I lost 26 pounds, and I have eaten bread every single day. 

JOSH BARRO: People bang their heads against the wall and they end up feeling bad about themselves and they spend tremendous amounts of time and money on things in an often futile pursuit of weight loss. And if you instead have this intervention that works quite well and requires much less effort on the part of the consumer, that frees up time and money again to go spend on other things. 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Okay, so business and Wall Street are paying attention to Ozempic. Business and Wall Street are not the same thing. But I want you to kind of untangle those two for us. What has that looked like so far? Is it entirely hand wringing? Who's looking at the optimistic side of this and saying, Oh, guys, all this money could be good. 

JOSH BARRO: Yeah, well, I mean, so obviously the first answer is the drug companies that make these drugs, that they, you know, this is a tremendous business for them. [00:09:00] And we're just seeing, you know, a small part of the addressable market here. And of course, it's, you know, weight loss is one of the major indications for these. They're also, they're diabetes treatments, and there's, you know, diabetes is a tremendous problem, and that is also a huge market. And so, you know, you see Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, potentially Pfizer, which has a drug in the pipeline, you know, they're going to make a lot of money off this. And the prices that people are seeing right now are eye watering. List prices over $`1,000 a month. The effective pricing for Wegovy seems to have come down this year. Zepbound, which is the Eli Lilly competitor to Wegovy, that's going to be pricing at approximately $550 a month for people whose insurance is not paying for it.

And so, you know, if the Pfizer drug comes onto the market and as Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk ramp up production, I think there will be price competition that pushes those prices down somewhat farther, but the market's very big. So those drug companies are obviously going to make a lot of money from that. I mentioned the junk food thing, you also see, you know, Wall Street analysts have been interested in asking questions about this on earnings calls. [00:10:00] 

CALLER: I'm wondering your perspective on the GLP1 drugs and the impact on restaurant demand, maybe Darden's restaurant demand. I'm not going to ask your average BMI for your customers, but, um...any perspective? I know it's something that's on investors' minds, so I figured I'd ask. 

JOSH BARRO: There was a discussion that United Airlines might save millions of dollars a year, because of passengers being lighter and therefore taking less fuel to carry them.

CLIP: One study done by the Jefferies Financial Group found that if the average airline passenger lost 10 lbs., it could dramatically impact how much fuel planes need to fly, equating to 80 million dollars in savings in annual fuel costs per airline. 

JOSH BARRO: So, it's sort of an interesting fact that you'll have millions of dollars in fuel savings a year, but it's not that large relative to the overall cost of running an airline. I think part of the reason that you've had this fixation on the negative economic effects is that it's very easy to identify, you know, [00:11:00] Doritos and products like that where you'll have the decline in consumption, and basically you're likely to see the increase in basically every other category. So it's not necessarily going to be a large increase. You're not going to look at the income statement of a company and say these profits were due to Ozempic, but you should see a broad-based improvement in the areas where people are going and spending their time and their money that they used to spend on other things on those 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Just this morning, I was reading a story in Fortune Europe. The CEO of Novo Nordisk says that scared CEOs are calling him to, like, just discuss. And he didn't, he wouldn't tell Fortune who it was. And so they speculate that it's a lot of, like, potentially fast food companies, basically companies that deal with what we put in our mouths. But, like what you're saying sounds so sensible to me and I try hard to think of CEOs as sensible people who, like, game things out. Why do you think they seem so shook? 

JOSH BARRO: Well, I think first of all, it's uncertainty, and, you [00:12:00] know, people, they know their business. They have a view on their customers. Their customers are about to change in some way. I mean, I don't know what it's like to run a fine dining restaurant in New York right now where, because, you know, the market penetration for these drugs is not that high yet. But if you have, you know, certain settings with, you know, especially affluent customers who might be trendsetters in certain areas, you might be seeing a lot of your customer base on this. Are they sending back way more food than they used to on their plates uneaten? So I'm sure you're starting to see some industries where you're at actually starting to see critical mass with customers. And the customers are different. And even if in the long run it's going to be an opportunity ,they have to figure out how to capitalize on that opportunity, and that's challenging. 

There's also a specific matter in the United States, which is that employers pay for healthcare expenses. Right now, the drugs are very expensive, and they are sometimes being covered by insurance, even though they're very often not being covered by insurance. And that's a really large expenditure for whoever is the payer. And so that could be a private company if you have someone with private health insurance. In the long run, this is also going to be an issue for the US government and [00:13:00] therefore for taxpayers. 

Have the new weight-loss drugs changed what it means to be body positive - Consider This - Air Date 5-13-24

JUANA SUMMERS - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: There is a lot of noise, particularly for women, around what it means to have a healthy body: how you get it, and how you keep it. Don't eat carbs, don't eat fat, do eat protein, run, do yoga, lift weights. But at the end of the day, having a healthy body has been synonymous with one thing: being thin.

Yet in recent years, that idea has been challenged by body positivity activists who have preached a message of 'healthy at any size'. And now with the arrival of a new class of weight loss drugs, often referred to as miracle drugs, is the body positivity movement at risk of fading away? It's a question that New York Magazine contributing writer Samhita Mukhopadhyay grapples with in her recent article, "So, Was Body Positivity All a Big Lie"?

She joins me now to talk about her article. I want to start by talking about this idea that being healthy and being thin are the same thing, which is one of the main things that [00:14:00] you get into in this article. Let's start there. How do you see it? 

SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY: The conventional wisdom has long been that, you know, no matter what your health problem is, if you go to the doctor, the doctor is going to tell you to lose weight, right? Like, irrelevant of, you know, how your blood work may be or how your mobility issues are or your fitness level. And in the last couple of years, starting with body positive activists, but then also, you know, there's been quite a bit of research on this in medical science, they are seeing that the relationship between the size of your body and your health is not as linear as we have long thought, right? And, so, your fitness level really matters. Your proportions matter, your blood work matters. And I think that one of the things that we're really grappling with this in this moment is that we're still a culture that loves thinness, right? And so it's really hard to separate that from health. We have so internalized this idea that if you're fat, you're [00:15:00] unhealthy. And if you're thin, you're healthy. 

JUANA SUMMERS - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: I mean, as you're talking, I'm sitting here thinking about so many interactions I have had with healthcare professionals over the years, where you come in with an ailment and it's like, well, How many calories are you burning? Or are you active enough? Or what's your normal lunch or dinner routine look like? And it can just be so frustrating. How do you think it is that we got to a point culturally where these two things are so intertwined in what I think many would argue could be a problematic way? 

SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY: You know, we have a culture that worships thinness, right? And so, you know, Hollywood reinforces this, media reinforces this, and it's really always been the, like, thin at any cost, right? Like, we've never criticized what people have to do to get thin or how healthy that may be, whether that's physically healthy or healthy from a mental perspective, from like a psychological perspective, right? But I do think that, you know, both this media reinforcement of a type of, you know, what is considered the ideal body size, really fused with also [00:16:00] this idea of taking weight and our health, which, let's be honest, there are personal factors that lead to our health outcomes, but a lot of them are systemic, right? Like access to healthy food, having grocery stores in your neighborhood, living in an environment where you feel comfortable going for a walk, right? Like, all of these things that are really systemic issues that impact health outcomes. I do think it's both this internal process of, you know, we judge ourselves if we gain a little weight where, Oh, I'm like losing control. I'm not eating right. I need to do this. And those might be true also, right? Like we know when we're not being our best selves and we're not taking care of ourselves. But the way that the systems, both our society, our culture, and the medical system, continue to reinforce that, I think has made it very hard to disentangle those two things.

The world after Ozempic Part 2 - The Gray Area - Air Date 5-13-24

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: Another part of the book that I do want to discuss a little bit here, is the story of how we got to this place as a society, and the main character here is the modern food industry. What did you want to say about this in the book? [00:17:00] What should people know about this dimension of the problem? 

JOHANN HARI: So I guess the most important thing to know is just how recent and unusual the obesity crisis is. You have 300,000 years where obesity is exceptionally rare. So what happened? We move from eating mostly whole foods that are prepared on the day, to eating mostly processed and ultra-processed foods that are assembled in factories, made out of chemicals in a process that isn't even called cooking, it's called manufacturing food.

And it turns out that processed food affects our bodies in a completely different way to the kind of food that human beings evolved to eat. There's a brilliant scientist called Professor Paul Kenny, who I mentioned before, head of neuroscience at Mount Sinai. He grew up in Dublin in Ireland and he moved in his twenties to San Diego to do his PhD I think. And he quickly clocked, Whoa! Americans do not eat like Irish people did at the time. They eat much more processed food, much more junk food, much more sugary and salty food. And like many a good immigrant, he assimilated, [00:18:00] and within a year he'd gained 30 pounds. And he started to feel like these foods weren't just changing his body, they were changing his brain, they were changing his cravings, they were changing what he wanted.

So he designed an experiment to test this. It's very simple. He got a load of rats and he raised them in a cage. And for the first part of their life all they had was the kind of nutritious whole foods that rats evolved to eat for thousands of years. And when they had that food and nothing else, they would eat when they were hungry and then they would stop. They never made themselves fat. They seemed to have some kind of natural nutritional wisdom when they had the food they evolved for that just said, okay, stop now. 

Then, Professor Kenny introduced them to the American diet. He fried up some bacon, he bought some Snickers bars, and crucially, he bought a load of cheesecake. And he put it in the cage. And they still had the option of healthy food, but the rats went crazy for the American diet. They would literally dive into the cheesecake and eat their way out. Just [00:19:00] completely, kind of, slicked and caked in this cheesecake. They ate, and ate, and ate, and ate. The way Professor Kenny put it to me, within a few days they were different animals. And they all became very severely overweight quite rapidly.

Then Professor Kenny did something that to me as a former junk food addict seems pretty cruel. He took away all that American food and left them with nothing but the healthy food again. He was pretty sure he knew what would happen, that they would eat more of the healthy food than they did before, and this would prove that junk food expands the number of calories you eat.

That is not what happened. What happened was much weirder. They refuse to eat anything at all. When they were deprived of the American food, they would rather starve than go back to eating healthy food. It's only when they were literally starving that they went back to eating it, right? 

Now all this shows, and we have a huge amount of evidence for this in humans, there's something about the food we're eating that is profoundly undermining our ability to know when to stop. It is destroying our satiety. And what these drugs do is they give us back [00:20:00] that satiety, right? The way one scientist put it to me, Is there satiety hormones? And when you see it like that, you realize, one professor, Michael Lowe in Philly said to me, they're an artificial solution to an artificial problem.

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: The point you were making earlier about how disevolved or maladapted we are to this environment, we evolve under conditions where salty, sugary, starchy foods were very hard to come by. And now these unhealthy, super processed foods are cheap and omnipresent. And I'm not saying it's impossible to be healthy in the modern world, but as you say in the book, we have built a system that almost deliberately poisons us. Which is insane.

JOHANN HARI: Yeah, it's catastrophic and it's profoundly harming our health. And it didn't have to happen, it's not an inevitable effect of modernity. It's the effect of allowing the food industry to systematically poison the minds and bodies of the country. 

Now, they're not doing that because they're wicked Bond [00:21:00] villains. They're doing that to make money. But we've allowed them to do it and they have lobbied to prevent laws that would have sensibly prevented this, and they've massively pumped our heads full of bullshit. So you think about from the moment we're born, we are bombarded with imagery telling us to eat things that are really bad for us. And I include myself in that, by the way. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: Well, they kind of are the Bond villains, right? I mean, some of them are. There's a bit in the book where you talk about an internal memo from 1998 from a company that makes biscuits. The memo was talking about how to market their shit food to kids. 

JOHANN HARI: And they're literally saying we've got to get them when they're young. We've got to get them to shape their tastes before they're making rational choices, right? And they talk about well, let's use cartoon characters, let's advertise in kids TV, let's give our shitty food free to school so that when they go home, they demand it. Yeah, these are reprehensible people. 

As angry as I am with the food industry--and [00:22:00] I am very angry with them, I think it's despicable and they should have made different moral choices--I'm more angry with the society that didn't regulate them, right? Because those companies are maximizing profit for their shareholders. That's what the company is built to do. The bigger issue is not just moral condemnation of them. I don't think that gets us very far, they're not going to morally change. The issue is why have we not regulated them, so we end up with this shitty choice of do I continue with a risky medical condition or do I take this risky drug? That choice didn't have to happen, and that choice does not have to be the choice for the next generation of Americans, if we get this right. We can fix this. We don't have to let our kids grow up in this trap. It's really important that people know that. 

And if that sounds very pie in the sky, I would say, think about smoking, right? Think about when we were kids. When we were kids, people smoked everywhere. People smoked on the subway, people smoked on planes, people smoked on game shows. The doctor used to smoke while he examined you. I remember that when I was a kid. There's a photograph [00:23:00] of me and my mother where she's breastfeeding me, smoking and resting the ashtray on my stomach, right? Now, I'm speaking to you from Britain. The British government has just begun the criminalisation of smoking. That's an enormous public health transformation. 

We can make similar changes like this. I've been to places that have begun to do it, but it requires first an honest reckoning with how this happened and what it is physically doing to us. 

Body Neutrality - What The Actual Fork Podcast - Air Date 8-11-23

JESSI KNEELAND: So, I used to work in the fitness industry when I lived in New York City. And I had, it was pretty successful. I went under, my business name was Remodel Fitness. I got a lot of media and press. I worked with a lot of kind of big names for clients. I worked with actresses, models, like, it was awesome. Because I love strength training and I love how empowering it is. And honestly, when the modeling agency would send me a new girl who had literally never set foot in a gym before, and I like introduced her to dumbbells or whatever, it was just the best feeling. Like, there was so much about it that I really loved. And I'm a total [00:24:00] nerd for the science of training and all of that stuff. But what never sat right with me was the fact that pretty much every single person who walked in was looking to change how they looked, in order to change how they felt. Like, that was the plan. If I could just change XYZ about my body, I know I would feel confident and happy and all of the things. 

And, like, some of those changes weren't realistic or sustainable or whatever. And so there were times where I was giving people advice that I was like, I mean, if you want to get there, this is how you can do it, but I don't recommend it. Like, think of all the things you have to give up. Like, why would you do that? And it never quite felt right, but I was very much in the diet culture world. So I was like, you know, had not heard of intuitive eating or anything like that. 

So, I did what I did and then I eventually realized that, like, all of the same conversations were happening across the board, whether you were a Victoria's [00:25:00] Secret model or a mom trying to get in shape after a baby. Like, we were always having the same kinds of conversations about body image. And it just didn't feel good to be, like, Yeah, sure, I can help you with that by changing your body. A: not always! Like, that's not true all the time. In fact, a lot of the time what they wanted wasn't possible. And then also I would see people hit those goals and still not feel good.

So clearly it wasn't about how you actually looked or all the models would feel amazing all the time, right? And that wasn't happening. So, eventually I discovered things like intuitive eating, health at every size. I just started learning a lot more about where this stuff comes from and decided that that wasn't the path I wanted to take. The fitness and strength training can be an amazing tool, but they're just one tool and I wanted to have a whole bunch of tools to help people feel good in their bodies. So, I got my life coaching certification and started doing the work I do now. 

[00:26:00] But body neutrality was not a term at the time, so it was like body positivity, body acceptance maybe. So, it kind of evolved. I mean, as I learned the term, I was like, Oh, yeah, that's like what I do. But until you know the name of something, you don't necessarily know how to talk about it. 

So it's evolved over time, but a lot of the work that I do now is stuff that I've just observed in my coaching practice, 'cause I've been doing this for like a decade now, this kind of work around body image, and learned a lot, you know? And I really was obsessed with figuring out what body image issues are actually about. If they're not about how you look and they can't be solved that way, then what can solve them? What are they really about? 

So, yeah, that led into the content that got me the book deal, which is the 4 Body Image Avatars, which is just a system I used, honestly, to help people like understand that there was something else going on, that it wasn't just about how you look, and also to help people identify what that [00:27:00] might be for them quickly and easily. So, I started putting that content out into the world. It led to a book deal and my book just came out like a month ago. So yeah. 



JENNA WERNER - HOST, WHAT THE ACTUAL FORK: That is incredible. Tell us more about the book. What it is, what it's about, and maybe can you backtrack a little bit and define what is body neutrality?

JESSI KNEELAND: So, when I first heard the term 'body neutrality', it was presented as like an alternative to body positivity, because the mainstream messaging around body positivity was, like, that you should be able to love every inch of your body, you know, just like feel sort of a constant stream of goodness and affection and warmth towards your body.

And that again just started to feel unrealistic and unsustainable and it made people feel worse about themselves. So, I was like, okay, that can't be it. Body neutrality was sort of an alternative where you could just sit in the middle. You're not too attached to how you look, so [00:28:00] therefore you don't get too upset when you don't like it.

And I really loved that, but I think it was also at the time kind of posed as like focusing on what your body can do, which is a good start for sure, but is not in my understanding now in any way a complete definition of body neutrality, because if you're attaching to what you can do, you're still attaching to your body and that sets you up for the same issues.

So it's about really just stripping away all the false or inflated, like, significance and meaning and interpretation and narratives and beliefs about your body that sit on top and make us, basically, give our body so much power that it can ruin your day, ruin your month, send you down unhealthy spirals. By stripping those things away, you kind of end up in a place where your body doesn't have any power over you. Therefore, whether or not you prefer how you look to be how you look, it just doesn't really matter. It's like, you can look in the mirror, have a bad hair day and you're like, roll your eyes and move on, right? You don't be like, Why is [00:29:00] my hair so shameful and bad? Like, most people, anyway. It's the same thing with your body. Like, if you can get to a place where you look in the mirror and go, this isn't how I prefer to look today, but it is what it is, and then you move on, that's great. That's a huge improvement. And for most people, it's a lot more realistic than looking in the mirror and preferring what you see every day. 

So, to me, that's what body neutrality has evolved into. And my book is called Body Neutral: A Revolutionary Guide to Overcoming Body Image Issues. And it's about sort of introducing the concept of body neutrality, as I understand it, and then also giving like a step by step instruction for people to move toward it, to move from the body image suffering place where it has all this power, to the place where you're free from all that power. And you can just, you know, say to yourself, This isn't my favorite thing, but it also doesn't have the power to like ruin my day, ruin my life, like, my self worth is not attached to this, so I can just move on.

Examining America's Unhealthy Obsession With Fitness w. Natalia Mehlman Petrzela - The Majority Report - Air Date 6-24-23

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: What you wrote about, and I haven't really thought about the fitness industry as [00:30:00] broadly as, of course, you did in your book, and you also worked in it as well. The idea that the private sector has essentially created this explosion of gyms, fitness classes, equipment, everything kind of in the private space, and that is really what is associated with fitness, specifically in the United States, as opposed to outdoor public spaces where everyone can work out together for free. I mean, what was your take on that, particularly because I know you've worked at places like Lululemon that are clearly at the center of this. 

NATALIA MEHLMAN PETRZELA: [Laughing] Slightly privatized, part of that sector. Um, yeah, no, absolutely. So, like, there's this kind of two big picture narratives that I try to trace over more than a century. And one is how exercise went from being something considered sort of like shady and weird and suspicious and narcissistic, you know, for men and [00:31:00] women in different ways, it was considered inappropriate, to being something that in a culture where, we are so divided on basically everything, most people agree exercise is good for you. Like, I don't care who you voted for, that's kind of a consensus position. 

On the other hand, what's so sad to me is exactly what you hint at there, which is that despite these moments in our history, when that consensus almost yielded like great public infrastructure for recreation, for physical education, pools, parks, all that kind of stuff. Instead, it's actually a private industry that has run with that idea that exercise is good for you. It makes you a good person. It's like, you know, integral to mental health and to spiritual health and to community and all that. And for the most part that's something that we're sold as a product, as opposed something as opposed to something that were guaranteed as kind of a right of humanity or citizenship.

And so, you know, part of this book is I kind of look at, I don't want to say the rise and fall, but the rise and kind of, you know, dubious [00:32:00] state of the physical education profession. And also like what happened to some of these policy initiatives, you know, like in the Cold War where the idea was introduced that fitness is part of being a good American. And there were some real problems with the assumptions of like the way that works, but it was considered to be a public priority. We've largely lost that. 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Yeah. And that's what I think maybe drive some of the resentment or pushback like, well, one, when Michelle Obama was saying there should be healthy eating in schools, a lot of that's just like, Well, you're a Black woman, so there's resentment there, right? Like, just general racism about anything she does. But, also because it's not introduced to the public as a public good, providing for the fitness and nutrition of human beings. But it's such a privatized space at this point that I think there's natural gatekeeping and frustration from average people. I mean, you talk about how only 20 percent of [00:33:00] Americans actually fall under the category of exercising regularly and are able to use these systems and that's because we have a sickness in this country called capitalism that keeps people out of these spaces. But like that alienating element, I think there's a connection there.

NATALIA MEHLMAN PETRZELA: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think one of the reasons that the whole exercise ethos is so appealing in our country is because it's so individualistic, right? There's this appealing mythology, everything about the myth of the self-made man and self made fashioning. What more appealing place to think that's really possible than the gym? All you need is to get outside and have some motivation and willpower. And if you don't do that, it's on you. And that is so dominant in our kind of fitness culture. So, I try to say, Actually, that's a really unfair assumption. And that's so disempowering and doesn't even account for why 80 percent of people are not, you know, getting the recommended daily minimum of exercise. And with the books about fitness, you know, it's connected to all these [00:34:00] other aspects of inequality in our country. Like if you live in a neighborhood without tree cover, it's that much hotter to go outside and run however many days of the year. If you live in a body where you're considered suspicious or vulnerable when you go out for a job, I don't care if you have all the willpower in the world, you're going to be less likely to do that safely. Very similarly, if you even think about housing and, you know, how long it takes you to get to work, or if you work unpredictable shift labor, like, how hard is it to be able to work this into your life? And so, you know, that's something that I really try to, like, stay on topic with fitness. I would say this is connected to so many other aspects of inequality and like more individual willpower and gumption, though yes, you do need that whoever you are to get off the couch and work out, we probably all sometimes need that reminder, that is not the solution here or the problem. 

What Ozempic can't fix - Today, Explained - Air Date 2-26-34

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: There's a knee-jerk reaction I've seen to almost everything that you just laid out. And the knee-jerk reaction [00:35:00] is there are now drugs that can fix this. What was your first reaction when you started reading that there is a class of drugs that really seem to be helping people lose weight? 

KATE MANNE: So I want to be clear that I'm not against these drugs in any blanket way. But when it comes to weight loss, I do worry that these drugs are getting a bit overhyped for a bunch of reasons.

One is just in terms of the math of it. So these drugs do have a greater effect, at least in the short term, than diet and exercise, which tends to take between five and 10 percent of people's weight off, and then the weight comes back really inexorably. Whereas these drugs look like they lead to an average of about 15 percent weight, according to pretty optimistic estimates under pretty ideal conditions with a pretty select group of patients. So it's more than diet and exercise, but it's not vastly more. And it does look like the weight comes back again, really [00:36:00] inexorably following discontinuation. 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: What is it that we're actually thinking when we're thinking, Oh, Ozempic is the solution to everything? 

KATE MANNE: I do think there's a lot of anti-fat bias that can be betrayed by that reaction of, Oh, fantastic, we can eliminate an entire class of people. And it's complicated because many people who are in that high weight category do want to lose weight. And I don't want to be dismissive of that desire and it's being based in something real, which is, I think, mostly fatphobia. But there are also a lot of us who are happy with our bodies the way they are. And the expressive potential of having this message around that says, you really need to change your body because now we can, and why wouldn't you want to change? It doesn't just feel insulting sometimes, it can feel like we're not really welcome in the world anymore, that people just look at our bodies and wonder why we haven't [00:37:00] availed ourselves of a solution to what for many of us seems like a bodily non-problem in simply having more flesh in our bones. 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: And it's not as though, if we're talking about the US today, it's not as though when we talk about people in bigger bodies that we're talking about this tiny, tiny, tiny minority. 


NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: We're talking about many, many, many people. 

KATE MANNE: It's between two thirds and three quarters of Americans, upwards of 70 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese, according to the BMI charts, which are super problematic, but nonetheless, about 70 percent of Americans have a claim to be somewhat fat.

And yet, it is something where that doesn't necessarily drive more acceptance of fatter bodies, rather it drives a sense that we're a crisis, we're a problem, we need to be fixed or else, in ways that don't always track the epidemiological evidence that suggests that people in the quote unquote overweight categories aren't at greater health risks in [00:38:00] terms of all cause mortality than their so-called average weight counterparts.

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: I want to draw kind of a crude comparison here, but bias or prejudice against minorities is a thing that happens, you encounter people who are different, who are not like you, and your back goes up and you think there's something wrong with them, and then more of those people move in, and then a couple years down the line, the biases seem to go away. Like, in polite society, we don't stare crosseyed at people in interracial marriages, for example, because we're used to this now. America is this constantly changing society. And yes, we still do have racism and biases, but there are, I think there are theories that if you interact with people more, you become less likely to be prejudiced against them.

Why do you think that is not happening with people in bigger bodies?

KATE MANNE: What you've just laid out is a very good summary of what's called the contact hypothesis, that contact with members of marginalized groups [00:39:00] will have this effect of diminishing prejudice. And I think, in fact, the empirical evidence suggests that the contact hypothesis is not especially reliable for any form of marginalization.

But when it comes to fatness in particular, I think it doesn't work for a couple of additional reasons too, which is that a lot of fat people ourselves feel like there's a thin person waiting to come out triumphantly, like after the next diet or exercise plan, or set of Ozempic shots or whatever it is, that we're really not fat people deep down, that somehow the thin person is going to emerge victorious. And so we don't really identify as fat people and lobby for political change and momentum. We don't demand thin allies stand up for us. And we don't really necessarily see this political platform building where people of a certain size, despite our ubiquity, we're not really standing together in solidarity.

So, [00:40:00] yeah, I think the fact that a lot of fat people feel kind of ashamed and isolated and are trying to change, not the world, but our bodies, means that we don't always get the political coalition building that would be desirable in this arena. 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Earlier this month, an article came out in New York Magazine, and this article asked rhetorically --it was written by a person in health care--and it asked rhetorically, what if Ozempic is just a good thing?

Do you think it's possible at all that we may be freighting this with too much confusion over whether it's good or bad, or if I celebrate the existence of it, does that mean that I don't like fat people? Do you think possibly there's a simpler way to cut through this? 

KATE MANNE: So I think we're suddenly worried about this drug for some of the wrong reasons. So one point that that article made that I did like is, look, why should we insist that people do this the hard way, when for [00:41:00] many people losing weight through diet and exercise is not just hard, but nigh on impossible? Easier is actually better. It's just a fallacy to think that harder is better. I call this the harder better fallacy in my work.


KATE MANNE: Yeah. If it's harder, that's actually worse, all else being equal. So, that particular story featured a patient of that physician who had a lot going on. She was unhoused, she was a wheelchair user, she was a Type 2 diabetic, and she was put on Ozempic and she'd lost 10 pounds over a month.

Why was the focus on her weight loss rather than the things that this woman obviously needed in her life, like access to fresh foods and reliable health care and a home? She needed housing. And yet, the idea was, let's celebrate, Ozempic is such a good thing because she lost 10 pounds. I'm just not sure this relentless focus on [00:42:00] weight would do such a patient many favors.

The world after Ozempic Part 3 - The Gray Area - Air Date 5-13-24

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: One of the reasons I identified pretty early on in my life as on the political left is I would constantly see these arguments about this or that societal problem. And I thought conservatives overestimated the role of agency and choice, and liberals seemed more tuned to the realities of the incentive structure that we live in and how those constrain our actual choices. And this is the same dynamic I struggle with here, right? Like, sure, people need to make wise life choices. I get that. We need to exercise more. We need to eat as well as we can. But if you're poor or working class, eating healthy is expensive. Finding the time to work out, if you're a single mom or working two jobs or whatever, is hard. So I guess what I'm asking is how do we avoid tumbling into a post-Ozempic world that's even [00:43:00] more unequal than the world we already live in? 

JOHANN HARI: You know, you're totally right. My grandmother left school when she was 13. She raised three kids on her own because her husband died when he was very young of a heart attack. And, my grandmother came home dog tired from a day cleaning toilets, working bars. And the one comfort she had in her life was eating stodge and carbohydrates, and she ate a lot of them and became very obese. And anyone who criticizes her is an asshole. So, you're absolutely right. There's the inequality of access to healthy food, and then there's just, it's really stressful to be poor. And you don't have many comforts when you're poor. And one of them is food. With Ozempic, there's some possible scenarios for how this might play out now, and one of them is a pretty dystopian one, which is that these drugs work, that the benefits outweigh the risks, but they are only accessible to a tiny elite. So you have the real housewives of New Jersey get to be super skinny, and the real school children of New Jersey get to be diabetic at the age of 12, right? That's a real risk. I [00:44:00] think it's possibly the most likely scenario, given the current configuration.

It's not because the drugs are inherently expensive. The drugs cost about $40 a month to manufacture. It's because of the patenting system and the insane way the American medical system works. I live half the time in the US, half the time in Britain. When I'm in Britain, I buy these drugs for about 200 pounds a month. What's that, $280, something like that? When I'm in Las Vegas, it costs me like $1,000 a month, right? This disparity in drug prices happens in the U. S. the whole time. It's madness and it's insane that the United States tolerates this. It doesn't have to be that way. There are all sorts of ways that we can bring down the price. And the price will come down anyway in eight years time, because in 2032, Ozempic comes out of patent. So eight years from now, these drugs will almost certainly be in pill form. You can already get the pills, but the pills will be more effective. At that point, I anticipate, if we don't find really horrific side effects, I would guess half the American population will be taking them. 


JOHANN HARI: And don't take my word for it. Look at the markets and what they're [00:45:00] saying. Jeffrey's Financial just did a big report for the airlines saying prepare for the fact that you're going to have to spend far less money on jet fuel, because the population is about to become much thinner and you're going to have to spend a lot less money on it. The CEO of Nestle, Mark Schneider, has been making very nervous noises about the future of their ice cream market. Even think about little things. There's a company that manufactures the hinges for hip and knee replacements. Their stock is down, because fewer people are going to be having hip and knee replacements, because the main driver of those operations is obesity, and a lot fewer people are going to be obese.

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: I mean, some of that sounds really overstated to me, in terms of the impact. Talk me through that a little bit. If even if half the country is taking this drug and losing 20, 25 pounds or whatever the case may be, is that really going to be significant enough to tank airline prices and up in the market in that way? That seems wild. 

JOHANN HARI: I think you have to think about it in the wider context. In terms of the consequences of this, by [00:46:00] many measures, obesity is the biggest killer in the United States. If you can massively reduce the biggest killer in the country, yeah, that has enormous consequences. It also has huge cultural consequences, by the way, in all sorts of complex and much more worrying ways about what young women aspire to be like, what the young women they see around them look like.

But yeah, I don't think it's overblown to say, if you can reduce the biggest killer in the society, and you can transform how people look, and how they move, and how their bodies work, and what kind of illnesses they get, that's pretty, pretty big. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: If 50 percent of the country is taking this, then presumably that will include kids--young kids and teenagers. And I read what you wrote about this in the book. And it is appropriately nuanced, but man, I just--I don't know what to think about that. 

JOHANN HARI: The first thing I feel when I think about this is profound anger. It was the angriest I got when writing the book. 

So the first thing we should say is, it is an outrage that parents are being put [00:47:00] in the position where they have to make this choice. It isn't happening in countries that made better societal choices. We shouldn't allow it to continue. 

But my biggest worry about these drugs, for myself and for these kids, is we just have no idea about the long term effects. These drugs are activating key parts of the brain, right? I had a quite chilling conversation with one of the neuroscientists. She was explaining to me which brain regions we know are affected by these drugs. And I remember saying to her, so what else does that brain region do? And she said, oh, memory processing, control of your gut. And I was like, oh, well, just the trivial stuff then. 

Of course, this raises the question, if you are chronically activating these parts of the brain and you think about an eight-year-old child, to have the benefits throughout their life, they will have to take it for, what, 80 years? What will be the effect of that? The answer is, we have absolutely no idea. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: Is that the biggest concern for you in terms of the risk? Just simply the unknown? 

JOHANN HARI: It's the biggest risk for me personally, [00:48:00] because a lot of the risks don't apply to me. I'm obviously not going to get pregnant. I've never had thyroid cancer in my family. I didn't experience a loss of pleasure in food. The one that I'm most worried about, this is not for myself, but eating disorders in young women. 

So prior to the pandemic, we already had historically high levels of eating disorders among American girls. It is overwhelmingly girls, although there are of course some boys. And then during the pandemic, incredibly, it rose from the already historically high level. And I am extremely worried about what happens when people who are determined to starve themselves get hold of an unprecedentedly powerful weapon to amputate your appetite. My biggest worry is that we will have an opioid-like death toll of young women who starve themselves to death using these drugs who would not have been able to without these drugs. 

Now, there's a lot we can do to prevent that. At the moment, you can get these drugs from a doctor on Zoom. Doctors on Zoom are not good at assessing your BMI. These [00:49:00] drugs should only be prescribed in person, by doctors who have training in detecting eating disorders. That's not perfect. There's still holes in that system, but it would prevent a lot of this harm. 

Have the new weight-loss drugs changed what it means to be body positive Part 2 - Consider This - Air Date 5-13-24

JUANA SUMMERS - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: You've written in this piece and in others about your decision to go on Mounjaro. You've described it as a choice that you struggled with and you've now been off of that medication for months. I'm curious, how do you personally think about that? How has that experience changed, if it has, the way you feel about your body?

SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY: Yeah, it's been really hard. The medication does a lot of different things. You don't crave food as much. Your relationship to food really changes. So fried food is really hard to digest. If you eat too many sweets, you get really sick. And so there were certain things that happened while doing it, where my body would have a really exaggerated reaction to something that I would have normally just eaten and been like, Oh my God, I'm being so bad. And it was like, no, you're being real bad, girl! [00:50:00] Stop eating this! And so that did force me to eat fresher foods and more vegetables and more fruit. And I was craving, like I always wanted something crunchy, so I wanted crunchy salads and things like that. And that did actually have an impact on my behavior, even coming off the medication and without it, I can tell how I feel when I'm eating well or I decide to indulge, which I do. I'm human. I love food. And I'm the child of immigrants. We have delicious food. I eat rice, all of these things. But really figuring out how to balance that. 

And what my doctor had originally said about increased mobility was true. I had gotten to a point where, for me and for my body, the size of my body was impacting my mobility in very subtle ways, but they were painful. And as I get older, I was feeling knee pain and ankle pain. And as I started to move more, really all I did was I started walking, I started going on these five to seven mile hikes and walks.

And that mobility really changed my outlook. It changed my mental health. It changed my body. [00:51:00] And so even as I am gaining back some of the weight, I've managed to maintain some of the lifestyle changes. And I think that that's a really key piece of this that we don't talk about as much, which is, how can this actually be used strategically to support people that do want to take better care of themselves.

JUANA SUMMERS - HOST, CONSIDER THIS: You've been open about this. You've written multiple times about your experience on Mounjaro. And since then, what has that experience been like for you? 

SAMHITA MUKHOPADHYAY: It's been really hard. It took me two months to write this piece. And I think part of it is, it is very hard to color within the lines that have been drawn for us in this conversation. It's either that you completely support it. You want to take it. It's a great medical intervention. We should all want to be thin, right? That's the dominant narrative. 

But then the counter narrative is also that we accept our bodies as we are. And as I write about in the piece, a lot of pressure within the community to say that any move [00:52:00] towards weight loss is perpetuating this idea that thinness is the ultimate ideal.

And so, part of what I wanted to, I was like, this is messy. I don't even have all the answers. But I just know that the way that I am navigating this as somebody who is a feminist, someone who is committed to body positivity, but also somebody who was facing some serious health-related concerns that I wanted to address and get ahead of, I could not be alone in this experience. And so, yeah, it's been challenging, but it's been overwhelmingly positive in terms of the outreach that I've gotten and how many people have shared their own personal stories. My DMs are paragraphs and paragraphs of heartbreaking, gutting stories of people going to the doctor, the experiences that they've had, or mobility issues, or just so many different experiences that people have had, or even celebrities have reached out to me and said, I was feeling really judgmental about these drugs. And this really helped me understand how I should really be thinking about it. So it's been good.

Note from the Editor on the metaphor of the new show format

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips starting with The Gray [00:53:00] Area, in multiple clips, speaking with Johanne Hari about the benefits of Ozempic and the food system that necessitates it. Today, Explained looked at the impact of Ozempic on the economy of its home country, Denmark. Consider This discussed weight and health. What the Actual Fork explained body neutrality. The Majority Report looked at the privatization of exercise and fitness. Today, Explained examined fatphobia through the new lens of Ozempic. And Consider This discussed a personal experience with weight loss, drugs, and body positivity. 

And that was just the front page. There's a lot more to dive into in the additional sections of this audio newspaper. But first, a reminder that this show is supported by members who get access to bonus episodes, featuring the production crew here, discussing all manner of important and interesting topics often trying to make each other laugh in the process. 

To support all of our work and have those bonus episodes delivered seamlessly to the new members only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at [00:54:00] (link in the show notes), through our Patreon page, if you prefer, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. If regular membership isn't in the cards for you, shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. . 

And now before we continue onto the sections half of the show, just a couple comments on the existence of the sections half, which, today, happens to be a little bit less than half, while on other days it might actually be far more than half. The feedback on the new format of the show has been pretty good, few exceptions. So, we're going to keep going with the experiment. However, the constructive criticism that I definitely agree with the most is, I received a text message from a commenter who said it would be wise to use a more modern metaphor for the show than a newspaper with a front page, and then the further sections deeper in. 'Cause like sooner or later, there won't be anyone who remembers that that's how [00:55:00] newspapers used to work. But this commentator, like myself, admitted to not being able to think of a better metaphor. And the thing is with the rise of algorithmic newsfeeds, there's basically no metaphor that can bridge the gap between information organized by type and information organized by a black box into a single, endless scroll. For instance, it might be a good idea to liken the time codes to navigate between sections of the show, to something like a navigation bar, similar to how a news site will provide quick links to various news topics. That's newer than a newspaper, however, I'm in my forties and I feel like I can count the number of times I've actually used one of those new site navigation bars on one hand. And I'm sure that number drops to zero for many. In fact, full disclosure. I had to look up what that bar was called because not only do I not use it, but I don't even think about it enough to know its name. And then, you know, for the young people in my life, if they want to learn about [00:56:00] something they just searched for it a couple of times in their social media app of choice to train their personal algorithm to passively feed information to them on that topic until they think to pay attention to something else or until the algorithm decides to throw them a curve ball and they get distracted by something else and they go down a new rabbit hole. In any case, you know, none of that is something I'd like to build a metaphor out of. 

But speaking of metaphors, you know, about like 10 years ago, there was a big fight inside Apple about whether their iOS operating system needed to be designed with visual metaphors that make digital things on the phone look like real world things. Like, I think the most famous example is the note pad app had a bit of torn paper at the top, the way a real notepad does to signal to you the user that this is like a note pad. And design a thing [00:57:00] to be similar to other things, but made of different material is called skeuomorphism and to be anti-skeuo morphism people at Apple ended up winning that debate. They're like, look, we don't need metaphors anymore. Things that are on the phone just are things that are on the phone and people know how to use them. 

So, perhaps that's the real lesson here. Maybe it's just that people don't really need metaphors as often as some designers fear they do. I designed the longer format of the show and felt that urge to create a metaphor to explain it less people be confused. Also, I thought that newspaper idea was sort of fun in like a nostalgic kind of way, but I guess that'll only get you so far. So, maybe instead of a metaphorical newspaper, what you heard in the first half were the key points or top takes or something like that. I'm happily accepting suggestions on what to call that, but you know, like the key ideas, the big thoughts, [00:58:00] the... anyway, send your recommendations for what to call that. 

And what you're about to hear now in the second half is something like the deeper dives. I don't know, that sounds modern enough.


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And now we'll continue with the deep dives and the rest of the show separated into three categories. The business of desire, bias and risk. And body neutrality.

Examining America's Unhealthy Obsession With Fitness w. Natalia Mehlman Petrzela Part 2 - The Majority Report - Air Date 6-24-23

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: It's become a symbol of affluence right in the way that other say, you know, say diamonds were in the housewife era or the right kind of dress like, um, uh, or in the pre Jack Lane era before it became more mainstream, like the it's amazing how quickly it turned from a, uh, an empowering branding to something that causes like general, Uh, alienation or like a, uh, another sense of anxiety about not being enough.

Absolutely. And I mean, you 

NATALIA MEHLMAN PETRZELA: [00:59:00] see, like, starting really in like the late 1950s with some of the early kind of chain gyms. I talk about these tanny health spas. There's so much effort and there's so much. smart to realize this, that these entrepreneurs put into like selling the idea that exercise is not this like gross, weird thing that happens in basements with like big dudes pumping iron.

This is about an affluent lifestyle and they're like tropical fish tanks in the gyms and like they sit, they all say they have like, which I think is disgusting, but that's supposed to be this kind of sign of luxury that goes with exercise. But, you know, you see versions of that well into today. And to me, like big picture, it really speaks to how we think about exercise in this country as like somewhere between labor and leisure.

I think as opposed to like the diamonds or the fancy car or the expensive. cocktails, like people are actually more comfortable in some ways, spending a lot of money on exercise because like, well, that's work and that shows that you are, you know, investing in yourself and in [01:00:00] health and those are virtuous things.

Whereas the kind of overt conspicuous consumption of more flashy things, you know, there are people who are into that, but there are more people who are uncomfortable with it. One moment just recently, I think that might interest like your particular audience is like, one thing that I realized is like, you know, we have the financial crash in 2008, 2009, obviously so many people losing their homes, foreclosures, all the rats.

It's also the rise of boutique fitness in that moment, which is like the highest price point at that time. And one of the ways that I argue that I think that that actually makes sense is that. It's also the moment when social media really comes out and people are pressured to perform their lives all day, their consumption habits.

It's no longer really tasteful to show off a lot of money and spending and fancy life if you have it, but to show off, Oh, I spent, you know, 30 on this exercise class because I care about health or a hundred dollars on these yoga pants. That's sort of as a little bit more culturally acceptable because we so sanctify the pursuit [01:01:00] of health and fitness.

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Yeah, the, the, the sanctifying part is, is fascinating to me. Um, but it's just like, can you expand on that point about it, uh, becoming a consumptive, uh, performative element? Because, it, it, Fitness being consumption, I don't necessarily think is a concept that might come naturally to people when they think about it.

NATALIA MEHLMAN PETRZELA: Yeah, so I mean, if you think there's this really big turning point in the 1950s in the Cold War where, you know, exercise had been suspicious and weird for all the reasons that we said, and then there's this sense that Well, actually like the good life that Americans are living and that we say to the, you know, the Soviet union, like we've got all these great things.

We've got suburbs and cars and TV sets and frozen food and all these things. There's some people who look at the results of that on American bodies. And they're like, actually this thing that you Trump it as an example of American strength is actually making us weak and like. [01:02:00] Eisenhower and JFK jump right on this.

JFK is like, um, you know, condemning the soft American and the pages of sports illustrated. And they start to have this kind of, um, promotional program to have fitness programs, recreation, physical education in schools, like to be a good American is to be fit. That kind of falters, like it's never really very well funded.

The kind of pressures of the cold war change all these people who are actually like, what are you doing? We shouldn't be preparing like, you know, these fit people. We should be spending on science and technology. That side of like the cold war pressure kind of wins out. But what you have is this whole generation of entrepreneurs who are like, yeah, it makes you a good American.

And it also shows that you have money to spend. And it's also almost a little bit of like, you know, a kind of Protestant work ethic. Like you can show off that you're working hard, come spend money and do that and come join these communities, gyms, health clubs, et cetera, to [01:03:00] find like minded people who want to work on their bodies in the same way.

And so that's kind of like the general idea. And then it takes different shapes. Like you see, you know, um, This idea that like working on your body is part of like a fully actualized self and that it's up to you, the individual to take your health in your hands. That is so appealing across the political spectrum.

And, you know, I write about like feminists who are like, yeah, like take the power back from these doctors in white coats. Black Panthers saying versions of the same thing. And then you've got these like hardcore libertarians and people at Oral Roberts University who are like, yeah, like, you know, you know, it's up to you, personal responsibility.

Don't wait for some government like healthcare handout, get out there and run on the open road. And you really see that ideology with, with exercise at its center. Being something embraced across, um, you know, the political landscape landscape and thus marketed really, really effectively, especially as we get into an era of austerity politics, [01:04:00] when a lot of funding for all kinds of public programmings, he and otherwise fall away.

And, uh, yeah, it's, it's great. It's really something and it's really depressing. Like I read all these PE journals, physical education journals, and like in the late seventies, early eighties, they're like, our time has come, you know, for our profession, like this is going to be the boom moment for phys ed.

And it never really happened in part because a lot of those programs were defunded and people who would have gone into PE, I heard again and again in my interviews were like, Oh, Actually, I can make all this money making VHS and, you know, connecting with all these communities in other ways. Can you imagine I would have been a phys ed teacher?

And to me, that's so sad, because that's where most Americans will first encounter exercise. And it's seen as this kind of, you know, depressing path. And I think that's 


NATALIA MEHLMAN PETRZELA: you know, we don't pay our teachers 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: enough, right? Like that's, it's a part of We've commodified this space so entirely, as you lay out so well in your book, that it, it's, it keeps, uh, people who might be talented in that sphere from entering [01:05:00] into the public sector, because what is the public sector, um, for exercise?

And something that you said really reminded me of, like, when you talked about how there's the Protestant work ethic, uh, being displayed physically, if you're physically fit. It's that. It's that. It's also the fact that you're, as you also, I'm kind of reiterating, you're wealthy enough to have the time to do this.

Uh, you're also wealthy enough to probably go to a boutique fitness club like Equinox or Lifetime. Um, or, the third thing here too is, I've read about this in connection to like, analyzing the Kardashians and their social, um, what, what they kind of epitomize about our culture, is that, um, There's this new era of, like, beauty and fitness where displaying the work and money that goes into your body is a big part of the beauty standard, which is why when people say, oh, they look fake, that's kind of the point, because it's showing I have the money and the funds to make my face [01:06:00] contoured in a way through surgery, through injections, whatever, that can also display my wealth.

The Ozempic economy Part 2 - Today, Explained - Air Date 2-23-24

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Okay, so you guys export the groundbreaking medication and the United States exports the culture trash. Tell me about the company that makes Ozempic Entwigovi. Novo 

MICHAEL: Nordisk is worth about 530 billion dollars at the moment.

Totally staggering numbers. It's in the top 20 most valuable companies in the world right now. 

CLIP: Novo Nordisk is Europe's most valuable company. It takes the top spot away from luxury goods giant LVMH which sells Louis Vuitton handbags and Hennessy cognac. 

MICHAEL: And for a small country like Denmark, that is a, like, a huge thing and something that I don't think any economist or analyst would have expected just, like, five years ago.

CLIP: Novo's market capitalization has surged from about 100 billion in 2020 to a high of 461 billion earlier this month, bigger than [01:07:00] Denmark's entire GDP. 

MICHAEL: Novo Nordisk has more than doubled its market value for in the last three years. Wow. So it was a big, it was a big company in Danish terms, but it was nowhere near the top of the world when we look at market value.

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: What does Denmark's economy look like in this height of Ozempic kind of age? 

MICHAEL: A good way to just to describe that is just to referring to an interview I did with a Top analyst in the Danish National Bank a few months ago. He said basically if it wasn't for Denmark's pharmaceutical Industry and by that he really means Novo Nordisk Because they are by far the biggest.

The Danish economy wouldn't have seen any growth last year. 

CLIP: If you strip out the pharmaceutical sector which is now dominated by Novo, the Danish economy actually shrank by 0. 3%. 

MICHAEL: We have seen countries close to us in Europe, um, where the economy has not looked great at all for the last [01:08:00] year or so. Um, so it makes a huge difference for Danish economy, um, at the moment.

And You know, on top of that, Novo Nordisk is by far the largest taxpayer in this country and it also is contributing a lot to Danish education, to Danish science, so it plays a huge role in the Danish economy these years. 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Do you see those changes? 

MICHAEL: Do the average Dane feel that the country is becoming richer?

Maybe they don't, but they can see that in certain parts of the country where Novo Nordisk has its largest activity, um, Novo Nordisk is completely reshaping these parts of the country. I myself grew up in a country where Quite small town where Novo Nordisk has its largest factory. And they have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into that small town for the last couple of years.

When I go back to visit my mom who lives in Kelombo, when you drive into the city now, there [01:09:00] is like huge factories. 

CLIP: Located just one hour drive from the capital city of Copenhagen, You will find the industrial cluster of Kalimbor, home to the world's largest insulin manufacturing plant, where Nova Nordisk employ around 3, 500 staff.

MICHAEL: For a lot of years, Where you would see young people, when they go to high school or go to college, they would move away from the city. There have really been not many reasons for them to return. I think that has changed a lot.

When you get closer to the city, you can see buildings, you can see huge cranes, a lot of trucks are driving past you. When you go there in the afternoon, a lot of cars is there, people are commuting to uh, Calambo, and that is a huge difference from what you saw before. 

CLIP: There are so many jobs already for engineers.

That's, that's the good part about [01:10:00] having the education here in Calambo, is because we have all these companies, so we are surrounded, so it's so easy to get a job afterwards. 

MICHAEL: This is, um, has become a city that is, um, thriving. People are suddenly speaking English, English at the bakery and, um, and they are demanding, you know, like international schools and even in, in the suburbs.

So it has brought about a lot of change.

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Do you know the concept of resource curse? 

MICHAEL: Um, let me in on that. 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: That is when an economy becomes over, It becomes over dependent on one thing. So you will see this in the Middle East with a country that only has oil. Yeah. Um, does anyone ever say, what if we become too dependent on Wegovy and Ozempic? What if we're an Ozempic economy in 10 years and then bop, bop, bop?

MICHAEL: Some economists stress that there is a risk to countries who is significantly dependent on [01:11:00] just one or a few companies. And one example of that is, um, The country very close to us is Finland, who in the 2000, the early 2000, heavily dependent on their biggest company at the time, uh, Nokia, the cell phone manufacturer, as I'm sure you know.

But, um, when Apple and other producers overtook Nokia, um, in the late 2000s, the Finnish economy stagnated for almost 10 years.

Most economists does not consider this as an very, as a very imminent threat to, uh, the Novo Nordisk, but more as a thing worth fighting for. Thinking about, and the reason for Novo Nordisk and Danish businesses to stay frontrunners on pharmaceutical issues, but also other high technology, uh, businesses.

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: This has me wondering about your predictions for this drug because, um, So many people [01:12:00] want it and so many people could be helped by it. It seems to me that there is no end to just how big we'll go via and Osempic could be. What are your predictions for what this might mean in, in five years, in 10 years for your country's economy and for its people?

MICHAEL: The market for weight loss drugs, uh, if you ask most analysts is, you know, like 

CLIP: huge. The market potential is, uh, I would say almost unlimited. The demand outlook is incredible and the biggest problem right now for Nordisk is producing enough. They cannot meet demand. 


MICHAEL: quite difficult to get your head around what would this mean for Nordisk.

For Danish economy, how large can Novo Nordisk become, but also what do these drugs mean for our perception of what obesity is? Would we at some point get to [01:13:00] where almost everyone is taking some kind of medication to control your weight, and who's going to be selling that? Is that Novo Nordisk? It might be.

The world after Ozempic Part 4 - The Gray Area - Air Date 5-13-24

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: So if we're talking about this, this hormone, that's not just in your gut, but also in your brain, does that mean that this drug could potentially be a general anti addiction drug, a drug that bolsters your capacity for self control, as opposed to just a weight loss drug. 

JOHANN HARI: Because this is a hormone that's made in your gut, it was thought that these drugs primarily affect your gut, that they work by slowing down your gastric emptying or some other mechanism.

And that's true, and there is certainly an effect on your gut. But we also know that you have GLP 1 receptors, not just in your gut, but in your brain. And so, It's increasingly clear that these drugs work primarily not on your gut, but on your brain. If you give these drugs to rodents and then you cut open their brains, you see that the drug goes everywhere in their brain and The [01:14:00] neuroscientists I interviewed and the science they produced strongly suggest that these drugs work primarily by changing what you want, by changing your cravings and your desires.

There's a huge debate about how that works and it's slightly disconcerting to interview the leading neuroscientists and say, Okay, you're saying this works primarily on my brain. What's it doing to my brain? And they all said a very erudite vision of ah, We don't really know. There's also a huge debate about both negative and positive effects that may be happening.

There is debate about whether it's causing depression or even suicidal feelings in a minority of users. So what we know at the moment is we have a huge amount of unbelievably promising evidence in animals. So I interviewed loads of scientists who've been doing experiments on this. Think about, for example, Professor Elisabeth Jarlhag, who's at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

What she does is they get a load of rats. And they get them to drink loads of alcohol and get used to it. And rats quite like getting drunk. They wobble around their little cages. And so they give rats alcohol for quite [01:15:00] long periods of time until eventually their cage looks like a bar in downtown Vegas.

And then they inject them in the nape of their neck with GLP 1 agonists, the active component in, in ozempic and wagovi. And what they find is a dramatic reduction. In how much alcohol they consume. It's usually about 50 percent. And we discover that they get less dopamine when they drink alcohol. They like it less, they crave it less, they'll put in less effort to get it.

It really does change the amount they want alcohol. But initially it was thought, okay, well that could just be it. These drugs reduce your desire for calories, obviously alcohol has caloric content, maybe it's just that. So other scientists then experimented with drugs that don't have any calories in them.

For example, Professor Patricia Grigson, who I interviewed, is at Penn State University, got rats to use fentanyl and heroin heavily. gave them GLP 1 agonists, found they used significantly less. Uh, Dr. Greg Stanwood, who's at Florida State University with mice, gave mice [01:16:00] cocaine. When they give them GLP 1 agonists, they discover the mice use far less cocaine, again, by around 50%.

We have very little amount of human evidence. We've got a lot of anecdotes, a lot of people I spoke to who started to take Ozempic and saw their addictions go away. But very little human evidence. We are a little bit of a mixed picture. We know that these drugs reduce smoking, but only if you combine them with a nicotine patch.

We know they reduce alcohol use, but only for people who are heavy drinkers at the start. We'll know a lot more in the next few years because there is a huge number of trials going on. But you've stated rightly, the most optimistic possible scenario, which we should probably Treat with caution, but equally shouldn't dismiss, which is that actually this is not an anti obesity drug, that this is a drug that boosts self control across the board.

Now we need a lot more evidence before we start backing up statements like that, but it's, I would say it's not totally implausible. 


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Now entering deeper dive section B bias and risk.

What Ozempic can't fix Part 2 - Today, Explained - Air Date 2-26-34

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Kate's first book was about misogyny. Her new book is [01:17:00] called Unshrinking, How to Face Fat Phobia. You will perhaps not be shocked to hear that she believes the two are related.

KATE MANNE: So during my final two years of high school, I entered an all boys school the year it integrated in Australia as one of three girls. Oh, I know. It was really a rude introduction to the subject of misogyny and it meant that for me as a then chubby teen, I really encountered an enormous amount of fatphobia, which was the way misogyny manifested itself.

Um, I was called a fat bitch. I had that scrawled on my locker as well, which was I was doused with fish oil to be the kind of ultimate expression of misogynistic disgust towards the female body. And I ended up being voted the person most likely to have to pay for sex at the final Oh my God. The high school leavers assembly.

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: What a horrible place. [01:18:00] Okay, so the idea I think generally for most of us is, okay, when you're a teenage girl, boys are terrible and then everybody grows up and they grow out of this. Is that what you 

KATE MANNE: found happening? So things suddenly got better for me personally, and I was relieved to find that what I had encountered in those forms of bullying and cruelty was usually not nearly as explicit when it came to ways I was treated as a fat adult, but it was still there.

And certainly my research into this back this up, that fat phobia in particular isn't really getting better. It's actually on the rise according to some measures. 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: Right now there's a big body positivity movement underway. It definitely seems to have reached the mainstream. There are podcasts like Maintenance Phase, which is very, very popular.

CLIP: Guys, it's great over here. It is like genuinely so phenomenal. Whatever your size is to get right [01:19:00] with the body that you have is the body that you have. Why don't you take care 

NOEL KING - HOST, TODAY,EXPLAINED: of it? Companies will have plus size models. Fashion brands, fashion labels will have plus size models. It definitely seems if you're looking for evidence that things are getting better, I feel like you can definitely look around and be like, Oh yeah, I see it everywhere.

Things are getting better. You're saying data doesn't necessarily show that. What are you, what data are you looking at? What are you finding? 

KATE MANNE: Yeah, so Harvard researchers in 2019 published a really interesting study showing that when it came to prejudice and bias across various categories, they looked at race, skin tone, disability, age, sexuality, and weight.

And they found that Anti fatness, so weight bias, was the only form of implicit bias that was actually increasing. And it was also the form of explicit bias that was decreasing the most slowly. So one possibility is that we've seen more body positivity and more [01:20:00] representation, but also pretty bad backlash to those.

progressive social movements. 

CLIP: We know beauty standards. We know what's attractive and what's not attractive. It's not fatphobic to have a preference. It's not fatphobic to not be attracted to overweight people. You're not allowed to like yourself if you're thin, and God forbid you wear a bikini and say you're proud of your body when you're thin, then you get routinely attacked.

And at the same time, it's sending a signal to other women that they shouldn't want to better themselves. 

KATE MANNE: So I think it has a number of manifestations. and that makes it something systemic that occurs across different sectors of life. So it happens in education. It means that fat children are more likely to be bullied in school.

It's probably the most common basis for childhood bullying, according to the research I've seen. It's also something where teachers harbor negative stereotypes about fat students, holding that they're less able and less gifted as they gain weight, even though there are test scores. Objective measures of [01:21:00] achievement haven't changed.

It's something that we see in employment. And finally, we see huge gaps in terms of the treatment patients get within the healthcare system. So, fat patients are subject to a number of really pernicious stereotypes. We're seen as lazy, non compliant, weak willed, having done this to ourselves. And doctors tend to blame any and every symptom that we come to seek treatment for on our weight rather than looking at the true cause of those symptoms.

CLIP: It was very scary to sort of exist in a body that I thought was failing me and have medical professionals who didn't seem to take me seriously. 

KATE MANNE: So there was another really interesting and telling study of physicians that showed that physicians don't just harbor implicit bias against fat patients, they harbor explicit bias.

They will say that they are less willing to [01:22:00] help fat patients, that they regard fat patients as more of a waste of their time, and that fat patients are more likely to annoy them. 

The world after Ozempic Part 6 - The Gray Area - Air Date 5-13-24

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: I'm always wary of treating symptoms, not causes, and in this case, it is one of the bigger risks that the availability of these drugs will prevent us from dealing with these systemic problems that we have with the food industry and pop culture and that sort of thing. And if it does in fact make it harder for us to deal with these systemic problems, what is the net good over the long haul?

JOHANN HARI: I wrestled with that myself and I still wrestle with that. One person I put that to, I said, you know, will it undermine the political pressure to deal with the food system? And this is a very prominent person, I won't say who, but said, what pressure to change the food system? You won't ever find a more popular person than Michelle Obama, a more charismatic and brilliant communicator.

Even Michelle Obama couldn't get any political [01:23:00] traction for this. She couldn't get any political traction for the idea that you should physically move your body. I mean, that was regarded as controversial. Let's get our children to move. I think that's too pessimistic. I do believe we can build political pressure around this, but I don't.

Feel I can say to people you should incur negative consequences now Because it will create more political pressure further down the line to make it better for future people 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: I I get it and I wouldn't I wouldn't tell that to anyone else either but we have Benefit of being able to think dispassionately about this in conversations like this.

We're removing ourselves from the immediate emotional impact of it But yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's just it's not there's not easy answers for sure I guess the dream scenario is many people start taking these drugs. They work. Our collective health skyrockets. And then, as you say in the book, that awakens us to the insanity of the situation we got ourselves into.

And then maybe that spurs reform. [01:24:00] I don't know if it's going to play out that way, but That's the timeline I would sign up for 

JOHANN HARI: in the range of scenarios from the most pessimistic to the most optimistic. Obviously, the most pessimistic is that this is like the diet drug fen fen in the 1990s, hugely popular front page of Time magazine said the new miracle weight loss drug, 18 million fen fen prescriptions, and then we discover It causes catastrophic heart defects and lung problems.

It gets yanked from the market, leads to the biggest compensation payout in the history of the pharmaceutical industry. That's quite unlikely, given what we know about the diabetics, but it's not inconceivable. If that's the most pessimistic, the most optimistic is precisely, as you say, that the drugs work, that the benefits outweigh the risks, and that we wake up and go, how did we get to this point?

Right? I think the probably most likely scenario is somewhere in the middle. That's very disconcerting. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: I think what We don't know yet scares me as much as what we do know excites me and I guess I'm just conditioned to believe that there are no [01:25:00] biological free lunches be a smaller free lunch if it says one of the last things you write in the book is that these drugs are going to change the world for better or for worse.

So what do you think it'll be for better or worse? 

JOHANN HARI: I think it'll be both. I think it'll be better for people like me, who had heart attack risks. I think it'll be much worse for people with eating disorders. And I don't think there's a kind of moral calculator where you can put me not dying of a heart attack versus a person with eating disorders dying because they were able to starve themselves.

I don't think you can really make those calculations. We can definitely take the steps needed to protect those people with eating disorders now and many of the other risks, you know, warning people with thyroid problems, warning people who are pregnant, and, uh, whole range of things. It's definitely both, but I can't measure out the proportions yet.

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: I'm inclined to say for the better. That's just a wild guess. 

JOHANN HARI: A hundred years from now, someone in the smoking ruins of our civilization will find this episode [01:26:00] of this podcast and go, Sean, did he get it right? They'll know. I mean, to 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: me, the big hinge is the access question, right? We have to get that right, that we have to get that right.

If we don't, if this becomes a drug for rich people, that will be a moral catastrophe. Yeah. 

JOHANN HARI: Oh, it'll be disgusting. That's an eight year window. Right? We've got an eight year window until Ozempic goes out of patent, at which point they'll be able to manufacture it for 40 a month, for anyone. So we've got eight years in which this could be confined to a small elite, and that's scandalous, and lots of people will die in that eight year window who could have lived.

And then 2032 onwards, we don't have that dilemma. 

What Ozempic can't fix Part 3 - Today, Explained - Air Date 2-26-34

ALICE FULWOOD: For most of my life, as long as I can remember, I have felt like there is this sort of pressure or this idea that the sort of right way to be, the right sort of way to look is to be thin. 

COMMERCIAL CLIPS: Here's how I went from thick to thin in six months.

You want to keep the focus on vertical lines. 

KATE MANNE: Here's my easy breezy [01:27:00] diet routine. It's how I stay thin with minimal effort.

ALICE FULWOOD: It seems to be sort of all around us in the ether a lot of the time. And it's one of those things that I had sort of taken, uh, almost as a sort of given. And one day I was sort of at home working, um, and actually my husband, uh, called me into his office to show me a chart that he was looking at which was on the CDC website and it plotted BMI against income and all over the world there is a sort of negative relationship between BMI and income so the richer you are the thinner people tend to be and What was really striking about this chart is that they'd broken out that line into men and women.

And for men, there actually was no correlation at all. This sort of line was, was almost completely flat. Uh, but for women, the line sloped very sharply downwards. And I sort of, in that moment, had this realization that You know, there's this sort of pressure that [01:28:00] women feel, this sort of, you know, the, the, the vibes in the ether, I guess.

It's not just, you know, vanity or magazines. Actually, you know, perhaps there's this really powerful economic incentive that being thin as a woman, uh, helps you to become rich in a way that it maybe doesn't for men. 

COMMERCIAL CLIPS: Do you think that women are aware of this on some level? 

ALICE FULWOOD: Yeah, I think this is a sort of great point because I, it's obviously, you know, sort of a chicken and egg situation, well, sort of, why do beauty standards exist and why are they potentially enforced by the market?

And I think there sort of is an underlying awareness. There is a sense that people that do well on TikTok and social media, they tend to be, you know, thin and attractive. People who do well in the workplace. But I also think there is sort of an element of you either don't sort of fully recognize, or in some ways potentially sort of self deceive.

You know, a lot of the time when you talk to women about whether they want to be thin or whether they want to look a certain way, people say [01:29:00] that they're sort of trying to lose weight for sort of wellness and health. 

CLIP: The Daily Habits of Thin People. If you are solely focused on thinness, Losing weight and being skinny, you're not going to be successful in the long term.

As I always say, when you focus on health, you lose weight as a side effect, but when you focus on weight loss, you lose health as a side effect. 

COMMERCIAL CLIPS: I was thinking about how my friends and I, when we're talking about like, like expensive Pilates classes. We'll refer to it as like, it's an investment in me. And it's not like we're following that down the rabbit hole and being like, and next year I'm going to get paid more.

But there is the language of economics when we're talking about like, Oh, it's expensive. It's 50 bucks, but I'm going to do it. 

ALICE FULWOOD: It is interesting. I did start to think about it in that sort of, you know, okay, you're almost making like a capital investment in yourself that will pay dividends and you don't really know sort of when or sort of what those might be.

But I think sort of in general. the sort of that this way of thinking about the issue actually sort of makes a lot of sense. 

COMMERCIAL CLIPS: [01:30:00] All right. So you saw this chart and you decided to report on whether there is an economic penalty for not being thin. Where did you start? 

ALICE FULWOOD: I mean, the sort of first thing I did was I went off and I sort of looked to see whether this was true in other countries.

This sort of trend seems to hold in wealthy developed countries. It's very different in developing countries. countries, but it seems to hold sort of across the Western world. And then I started thinking about sort of the reasons that people often think that there might be this sort of negative relationship between weight and income because that was not a new piece of information.

So that's something that I think a lot of people are aware of. The sort of novel thing was that it only seems to hold true for women. And from that, sort of point I felt like a lot of the explanations people had sort of come up with in the past for why there might be a negative relationship between income and weight.

Um, you know, they didn't tell the whole story. So often they were things like, you know, if you live in poverty, it's very difficult [01:31:00] to carve out time to go to the gym. It's sometimes you don't have access to sort of fresh fruits and vegetables. It's sort of difficult to, to eat well. And I think all of those things are true, but they can't be.

be the sort of main reason for this correlation, because they would hold true sort of equally for men and women. So there sort of has to be something else going on here. Um, and then I sort of started reading a lot of the academic literature on, you know, in the workplace, if you look at women's wages and you sort of control for things like their degrees that they've taken, so your bachelor's, master's, doctoral degrees, if you control for the types of jobs they do, all these kinds of things, is there still a sort of wage penalty for Uh, BMI or weight, um, and a lot of the, the literature does sort of back that up.

Uh, there does seem to be a penalty for overweight women, uh, particularly highly educated overweight women in the workplace.

COMMERCIAL CLIPS: When we talk about, for example, like the gender wage gap, we can say, Oh, for every dollar that a man earns, a woman might be earning [01:32:00] somewhere between 60 and 80 cents. And those stats get like pretty firmly entrenched over time. Were you able to figure out if thin women make more money over time than women in bigger bodies.

Could, could you tell us how much more money we're talking about or what that adds up to? 

ALICE FULWOOD: Yeah, I didn't actually come up with a sort of neat as, uh, as neat a, uh, stat as the sort of like 80 cents on the dollar. Um, but the figure that I put in the piece at least was that for an overweight or obese woman, so someone with a BMI of above 30.

It is roughly as beneficial for her to lose 50, 60 pounds, um, in weight to get her BMI back into that normal range, uh, as it would be to do an additional year of education. So about sort of half as valuable as getting a master's degree. Wow. That seems to be the magnitude of the, um, of the penalty. 

COMMERCIAL CLIPS: And, and what you're saying is [01:33:00] the same does not seem to hold true for men.

ALICE FULWOOD: I think we have to be a sort of bit careful about that because there, there are papers that say that sort of, uh, especially for sort of very, very overweight men, there are penalties in the workplace. I'm sort of willing to believe that sort of men are discriminated against, especially if they're sort of very overweight, um, as well.

But I think that the distinguishing thing for me about how this seems to affect women is that, um, It seems to be sort of very pervasive across all kinds of careers at every level of income. The relationship is so strong, um, that it shows up at this macro level. That you can sort of look at this chart of sort of generalized population of women, um, and, and you can still see this sort of very strong relationship.


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: You've reached a deeper dive section C body neutrality.

The world after Ozempic Part 5 - The Gray Area - Air Date 5-13-24

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: Well, I think this relates to another tension you deal with in the book, which is that, you know, on the one hand, the body positivity movement.

Has been good in lots of ways. We've shattered stigmas and around weight and all of that, [01:34:00] but on the other hand, it's just a biological fact that carrying too much weight leads to bad health outcomes. And if we can conquer that, that would be a pure unmitigated good. Can we embrace this medical revolution without unwinding some of that cultural progress we've made, which is connected to these issues with, with eating disorders and the like?

JOHANN HARI: I really agonized over this question, and one of the people who really helped me to understand it and think it through was an amazing woman named Shelley Bovey. He's basically the person who introduced body positivity into Britain. So, She grew up in a working class town in Wales, where she was, as she describes herself, the only fat girl in her school.

And one day when she was 11, her teacher said to her, Bovey, stay behind after class. So she stayed behind, thinking, what have I done wrong? And the teacher said to her, You're much too fat, it's disgusting, go see the school nurse, she'll sort you out. So kind of [01:35:00] shaken, Shelley went to see the school nurse.

The school nurse said, why are you here? She said, well, the teacher says I'm too fat. She said, take off your clothes, I'm going to inspect you. She took off her clothes, and the, School nurse said, this is disgusting. You're a greedy pig. Stop eating so much. Just berated her. So Shelly left and her whole life she was soaking up abuse and insults like this.

And it made her hate herself and hate her body. In fact, she, she told me she hadn't ever looked at her body when she was showering. Even she'd never looked at her body naked because she hated it so much. And then she learned about the Body Positivity Movement, which had obviously begun in the U. S., that was saying, this is just a form of bigotry and bullying and cruelty and we don't have to take this shit.

And Shelley introduced it to Britain, right? I heard of her for the first time, I remember seeing her on TV when I was 10 years old, when she was presented as this kind of laughable madwoman. And she really pioneered opposing stigma and she remains proud to this day of the work she did, rightly so in my view.

But Shelly also faced another problem. She was extremely obese and she was finding it hard to walk. [01:36:00] In fact, she was in a wheelchair a lot of the time and her doctor told her she had heart problems. And she really began to wrestle with, well, am I betraying my body positivity if I talk about the harm caused by obesity to my health?

And she began to say, well, what kind of body positivity would it be that would judge me for keeping my body alive? That doesn't seem like body positivity to me. She lost an enormous amount of weight through calorie restriction and exercise and became much healthier and she stands by everything She said about stigma, but she said it's not either or It's not either you're against stigma or you're in favor of reducing obesity where possible It's both and if you love someone who's obese You want to protect them from cruelty shaming and bullying and if possible you want to protect them from diabetes heart disease dementia So to me, there's no playoff You Between those two.

But I think your question goes to a wider and deeper problem. And actually, weirdly, of all the time [01:37:00] I spent writing the book, the worst moment for me was what might seem like a small moment in some ways. But I've got a niece called Erin. She's the baby in my family. She's the only girl in her generation.

And she's 19 now. But last year, when I first started taking the drugs, we were FaceTiming. And she was kind of teasing me about how good I look. She said, I didn't know you had a neck. I didn't know you had a jaw before. And she said, I was kind of laughing and we were, she was saying, Oh, you look really good.

And then she looked down and she said, well, you buy me some Ozempic. And I thought she was kidding. And I laughed. She's a perfectly healthy weight. And then I realized she wasn't joking. And I thought, Oh shit, have I undercut here all the advice I've been giving her since she was a little girl. And I think there's sort of two quite different things here, but they're very hard to separate culturally.

There's overweight and obese people who are taking these drugs to be a healthy weight. And then there are people who are already a healthy weight or indeed skinny. who are taking these drugs to be very thin. They're in fact incurring health risks in the opposite direction. Like 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: the actors at the party.[01:38:00] 

JOHANN HARI: Exactly. None of them were fat to start with, right? And again, we can look at historical examples. Between 1966 and 1968, the number of young women who felt they were too fat exploded. You think that's really weird? What happened between 1966 and 1968? It's a very short period. What happened is a new model known as Twiggy was presented as the face of beauty of the 60s.

Now it's not Twiggy's fault. She was naturally skinny. Very few girls look like Twiggy, right? A new thinner body norm was created and that made more girls hate their bodies. I'm very worried about that dynamic. I think that is in fact happening now. And it's not like young girls didn't already have a nightmare set of pressures on them.

Of course they did.

Body Neutrality Part 2 - What The Actual Fork Podcast - Air Date 8-11-23

SAMMY PREVITE - HOST, WHAT THE ACTUAL FORK: so obviously there's so much nuance to this conversation because you wrote a book on it. So there's a lot of density to it. But for those listening who are like, that sounds like a dream to not spiral and spend so much time hating my body, obsessing about my body.

I wish I could just be neutral. What are some of the biggest takeaways from your [01:39:00] book or tips or places for listeners to start with body neutrality? 

JESSI KNEELAND: So the first thing I think is really important, and this is where I start with every new coaching client, is we talk about how your body image issues exist for a reason.

Like there was. a very good reason that you developed, uh, this relationship where you gave your body so much power or it ended up with so much power over you. Um, a lot of it is just a, a really clever sort of adaptive coping strategy to solve something at some point, or offer you something that you needed, or at least try to do.

Try to offer you something that you needed at the time that it developed. And so what I think happens is a lot of people come in for this kind of coaching. They're like, I don't even know why I care about this. Like, I shouldn't care about this. I just can't stop obsessing over it. And I'm like, step one.

Yes, you should be obsessing over it. It served a purpose. Let's just find out what it is. That's all. Because if we treat it like the enemy, then it's really no different than [01:40:00] treating our bodies like the enemy. And there's very little wiggle room there. You can't do a whole lot. So the first step is to acknowledge that you have these body magicians for a reason and to kind of, kind of a weird way of putting it maybe, but like to give them the respect they deserve because they helped you or tried to help you survive in some way.

And then once you Come from that place. There's a lot more compassion, a lot more, um, like for yourself, you know, self compassion. There's a lot more curiosity that can enter the conversation. Like, instead of being like, why am I like this? I'm so broken, like, and so weak and, you know, whatever. Irrational.

You can start going, oh, I wonder why I might have developed this. I wonder what problem my body image issues might be. be trying to solve for me. I wonder what needs my body image issues might be trying to get met for me. Like, when you can approach it that way, a whole world of interesting stuff opens up.

That's where your next step has to live. Like, you have to be able to start looking in the space of, [01:41:00] how are you trying to help me? Rather than, why are you here, you big jerk, I hate you. Like, it just doesn't work to do the work from that place, you know? So I would say the first big takeaway is really acknowledging that they serve a purpose.

Um, they showed up for a reason and they're trying to help or protect you. And then the next step is to figure out how. How they're helping you specifically. Cause there's so many ways that this can be. For example, like, if you, uh, became obsessed with, you know, dieting, counting calories, that kind of thing.

It could have been a strategy to distract yourself from pain or fear or uncertainty at a certain age that just stuck. It could be a way of, okay, if I can lose weight, I'll be accepted and, and feel like a sense of belonging and value. Great. That's like a whole strategy on its own to solve the problem of not feeling like you belong or not feeling like you have value.

There's so many things that could be going on, but until you identify it, you don't stand a single chance of actually being able to heal it, which is why so much of body positivity stuff, [01:42:00] like, you know, the goal may have felt unrealistic, but also there was no strategy to get there. It was like, you should love yourself.

Okay, go ahead. Um, and this is like a lot more practical and I'm so passionate about helping it feel practical so that people don't just feel overwhelmed by the process, like, almost like it's a choice. I just have to stop hating my body. Because it's not a choice. The thing serves a purpose. It's not going to go away until it no longer has a purpose.

So that's the work. 

JENNA WERNER - HOST, WHAT THE ACTUAL FORK: I love how you just framed that and I feel like it just reminds me of to put in like a Sammy analogy like it reminds me of like whack a mole right like we like identify why the mole is popping up like it's just going to keep popping up elsewhere so it's like instead of feeling the way I'm interpreting it is instead of feeling the guilt or shame or fear or embarrassment or whatever Feeling that you're feeling around your body or the coping mechanism that you used, it's like giving [01:43:00] it purpose almost.

Am I taking that the right way? 

JESSI KNEELAND: Yeah. I mean, I don't even know that we're giving it purpose. It has a purpose. Like we're just trying to identify what that purpose is. And obviously most people, because our lived experiences are so complex, the society we live in, there's so many factors happening. It's never this straightforward, but if it were as simple as just You developed an obsession with looking good in order to, um, make people be nice to you.

Let's say it was that, right? It's like a safety mechanism. You want kindness, you want connection. So you become obsessed with how you look in the hopes that looking a certain way will earn you those things. Well, you're definitely going to get really mad at your body. And feel really disappointed and betrayed by your body anytime someone's not nice to you.

Right. But the truth is your body just does not have the power to make people be nice to you. It was an impossible job you gave it. So it's no wonder then that over time with that kind of subconscious strategy, you end up. [01:44:00] Freaking hating your body. You're like, how could you do this to me? I gave you one job.

And it's like, I literally, I can't, like, no matter how thin you are, no matter how conventionally, like, you, it just doesn't have that power. And so it makes a lot of sense that you would end up, it would like, Maybe start as a coping strategy on a simple level and then get more and more of that hatred and baggage over time because you feel like it's letting you down over and over and over.

But through body neutrality, once you identify that, then you can start creating a different strategy for, uh, perhaps not making people be nice to you because that's not like a super, uh, possible, uh, strategy to create, but you could at least say like, I would like to build resilience when people are not nice to me.

For example, I would like to have built up the skill of handling that in a way that doesn't totally knock me down or make me question myself. And also, hey, I want more connection. That was another piece of it. I'm going to go create the skill [01:45:00] set or fear facing or whatever it is I need to do to have more abundant connection in my life.

Let's say you get to the You know, you're like moving into that at a certain point. You're never like, Oh, Hey, my body is great. Now you just stop thinking about it because when your needs are actually getting met, that you were hoping your body would meet for you, then your body doesn't have to meet them for you.

And it just fades. So that's when I say it doesn't have power anymore. Like on the other side of this body neutrality journey, it's really just the most anticlimactic ending of any story. Like all of my clients are like, Oh, you know what? I haven't even thought about that for months. I'm like, Did you ever think that would be possible and they're like no weird, but it's not like this big reveal like I feel Neutral all of a sudden it's more like I've just been thinking about other stuff and that hasn't crept in and this is why it's cuz Of course, it's gonna be a constant source of like obsessive thoughts when you have given your body a task to like Make your life be okay.


The world after Ozempic Part 7 - The Gray Area - Air Date 5-13-24

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: A huge part of the book is your own experimentation with Ozimbic and, you know, look, I should stress that your experience is your experience. It's a sample size of one. Uh, it may not be the experience someone else will have. Um, but it nevertheless is, Relevant. How long have you been taking it? 

JOHANN HARI: It's been a year and four months now.

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: And how much weight have you lost? 

JOHANN HARI: 42 pounds. I went from being 33 percent body fat to 22 percent body fat. It's an enormous. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: And one thing you talk about in the book is feeling not quite depressed, but feeling emotionally dulled. I think it's the phrase that you use in the book. How would you explain that distinction between not feeling depressed, but feeling emotionally dulled?

Because they're certainly similar. 

JOHANN HARI: Yeah, you know, it's funny, my friend Danielle was pregnant the first six months I was taking the drugs and every time I saw her it was like we were on reverse trajectories, like she was swelling and I was shrinking. And I remember saying to her one day, this is really weird, I'm getting what I [01:47:00] want, I'm losing loads of weight, but I don't actually feel better.

And there seems to be, although there's much debate about this, a significant minority of people who experience, you know, Something like that. And we know with a parallel bariatric surgery, which is the best form of medical assisted weight loss we've had up to now, after you have bariatric surgery, in fact, your suicide risk almost quadruples.

And 17 percent of people who have that surgery have to have inpatient psychiatric care afterwards. And I'll show you why that might be. So obviously one potential theory is the brain effects we've been talking about and other brain effects. I actually think for me, it was something different. Seven months into taking these drugs, I was in Las Vegas, I was researching for a different book I'm writing, and I went, really on autopilot, I went to a branch of KFC, I've been to a thousand times, the one on West Sahara, and I went in and I ordered a bucket of fried chicken, which is what I would have ordered a year before, and I ate a chicken drumstick, And I suddenly thought, shit, I can't eat the rest of [01:48:00] this.

And I really felt like an epiphany. Oh, I'm just going to have to feel bad. Right. And I realized, and there's a lot of evidence for this. What these drugs do is they interrupt your eating patterns. And one of the consequences of that for many people. Is they bring to the surface the deep underlying psychological factors that make us ovary in the first place.

So for me, I realize, you know, I had been using food to manage my emotions and calm myself down, going right back to when I was a very small child. I grew up in a family where there's a lot of addiction and mental illness. And one of the ways I dealt with that was just by numbing myself with food. And you can't do that Ozempic.

For a lot of people, that transition is very bumpy and some people never make that transition. They just remain feeling really bad. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: Are you scared to stop using it? 

JOHANN HARI: I'm not going to stop using it. And for me, um, it's for a very simple reason. So I actually think some of the best evidence for what these drugs will do to us, we can get from looking at this parallel.

Because up to now, it's been extremely hard to lose huge amounts of weight and keep it off. I mean, some people can do [01:49:00] it purely by calorie restriction and exercise, but that's actually surprisingly rare. So we've got good evidence from bariatric surgery. And as we know, bariatric surgery is a horrible, horrifying thing.

Grizzly operation. One in a thousand people die in the operation. It's no joke. But if you have bariatric surgery and reverse your obesity, the benefits are absolutely staggering. In the years that follow, you are 56 percent less likely to die of a heart attack. 60 percent less likely to die of cancer, 92 percent less likely to die of diabetes related causes.

In fact, it's so good for you, you're 40 percent less likely to die of any cause at all. And we now know the drugs are moving us in a similar direction alongside some risks. And for me, that just decided it, right? So many men in my family have heart problems. I've been worried about that all my life. So I'm not going to stop taking it.

If. We ran out of supply, which I really worry about, not only that I would regain the weight and regain the heart risk, but I actually may gain more weight than I had [01:50:00] before. So yeah, I worry about that. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: Are there any other potential downsides that researchers are thinking about? 

JOHANN HARI: When you talk about the risks, a lot of the scientists say, absolutely, rightly, actually, we've got quite a lot of evidence here on these drugs.

Diabetics have been taking them for 18 years. So they say, look, If they cause some horrific short to medium term effect, it would have shown up in the diabetics by now. If it made you grow horns, the diabetics would have horns, right? And that's a good point, and it should give us some sense of security.

But equally, some other scientists said, Okay, if we're going to base our confidence that these drugs are safe on the diabetics, let's really dig into the data around the diabetics. So, for example, there's a brilliant French scientist called Jean Luc Failly, and what he looked at was a very large group of diabetics who use these drugs, and then he looked at a comparable group of diabetics who were very similar in every other way but didn't use these drugs.

And what him and his colleagues calculated is these drugs, if they're right, [01:51:00] Increase your risk of thyroid cancer by between 50 to 75 percent. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: That's significant. 

JOHANN HARI: Yeah, as he said to me, it's important to understand what that doesn't mean. That doesn't mean if you take the drug, you have a 50 to 75 percent chance of getting thyroid cancer.

If that was the case, we'd be having bonfires of Ozempic all over the world. What it means is, if you take the drug, whatever, if he's right, and this is highly disputed, If you take the drug, whatever your thyroid cancer risk was at the start, that risk will increase by between 50 to 75 percent. Now, other people say thyroid cancer is relatively rare, 1.

2 percent of people get it in their life, 82 percent of people survive. Nonetheless, I was extremely alarmed by that. Against that, lots of other scientists said to me, well look, even if that's right, you've got to compare it to what would happen to your cancer risk if you just remain obese, right? And actually.

I was stunned by the evidence about the cancer risk just from being obese. One of the biggest [01:52:00] preventable causes of cancer in the United States and Britain is obesity. So, the thing I think we have to do, you have to look at two competing sets of risks here. The risks of obesity and the risks of these drugs.

And there isn't a pat answer to that. It's a weird thing to start the book so divided and then go on this huge journey and read, you know, hundreds and hundreds of studies and interview so many experts. And here I am at the end of it. I know much more about the benefits and risks and what it's going to do to the culture.

But to be honest with you, Sean, and this hasn't happened to me with my books before, I'm still really, really conflicted. I don't really know. 

Closing Credits

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: That's going to be it for today. As always, keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about today's topic or anything else. You can leave us a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. The additional sections of the show included clips from The Majority Report, Today, Explained, The Gray Area, [01:53:00] and What the Actual Fork. Further details are in the show notes. 

Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Quartet, Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny weekly bonus episodes, in addition to there being no ads and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with the link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the [01:54:00] Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from

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#1630 Unrivaled Global Arms Dealer: Officially and Illegally Exporting the US Gun Culture Around the World (Transcript)

Air Date 5/21/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left Podcast in which we explore whether by the U.S. Government playing matchmaker for the domestic weapons industry or through the illegal trade of the "Iron River," the facts of the U.S. being the leading seller of weapons around the world, fueling violence and conflict, oppression, and rights abuses. Sources on our front page today include American Prestige, Big Take, The Take, Facepalm America (great name by the way), Democracy Now, The Inquiry, Jacobin and Johnny Harris. 

Then, in the additional sections half of the show, we'll dive deeper into the U.S. as a global arms dealer, guns flowing into Mexico and our domestic gun policy.

News - Biden's "Red Lines" for Gaza, Ukraine Hits Oil Facilities, US Leads Global Arms Sales - American Prestige - Air Date 3-15-24

DANNY BESSNER - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: Let's end with some great news, and that is the United States has expanded its lead in terms of global arms. So Derek, can you update us? 

DEREK DAVISON - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: So the newest report from the Stockholm [00:01:00] International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, which looks at arms sales around the world and does them in five-year chunks, so every new report is about the five-year period leading up to when that report comes out. And their latest report was --they released it on Sunday --found that the US has increased its share of global arms sales to more than 40%, I think somewhere around 42% in this new report. The expansion, --they were already the global leader, but they were in this sort of mid thirties, I think, so it's a significant increase. It comes mostly at the expense of Russia. Since the war in Ukraine, the Russian military is retooled to primarily focus on fighting the war and also, I think, there's squeamishness about maybe purchasing Russian weapons these days. So their share of global arms sales fell by over half in this report, and they've now slipped behind France, which is another beneficiary, it has risen to second place. 

But really I think that the main focus [00:02:00] here is that the US is cornering the market on selling things to kill people, which is the thing that we do best. So congratulations to everybody involved. 

DANNY BESSNER - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: Congratulations, everyone! 

DEREK DAVISON - HOST, AMERICAN PRESTIGE: We're always so proud to to be successful in these sorts of things.

How Washington Plays Matchmaker For The US Gun Industry Part 1 - Big Take - Air Date 10-30-23 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: Jessica, your story starts with a scene of the SHOT Show, this big convention in Las Vegas. Can you tell us about the SHOT Show? 

JESSICA BRICE: It's the world's biggest firearms industry event. It officially stands for the shooting, hunting, outdoor trade show. It happens every January in Las Vegas and some 50,000 to 60,000 gun makers, dealers, enthusiasts flood into this convention center to learn about what's happening in the industry, to make deals, to close deals.

The buyers are there to find the weapons that they're then going to bring back to their stores and sell on. And that includes international buyers who want to meet up with the big gun makers and they want to get access to those products. 

And really it's a [00:03:00] networking event that's inside the industry. It's not open to the public. You have to be involved in the firearms industry in order to get a ticket. 

MICHAEL SMITH: And there's a whole ecosystem, sort of, of events that go along with this. For example, one day where all the sellers take buyers out to the middle of the desert to this giant shooting range where they can just try all the cool guns that they want to see how they fire.

And there are also lots of dinners between clients and their suppliers. And then there's this whole ecosystem of influencing, people networking for social media, trying to promote brands that will hopefully sell more. But the main point is for the gun industry to sell more guns. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: And Jessica, you're right about how a little bit out of the way in a less glamorous part of the event is one of the most important groups there, and it's the US government. 

JESSICA BRICE: Yes. The Department of Commerce works with a number of trade shows. It's not just the SHOT Show that it works with. It works with something like 30 trade shows every year, and it brings international buyers [00:04:00] to meet up with American companies that want to do business abroad. It does that for electronics, it does that for concrete, it does that for dental equipment. But one of the more controversial products it does that for is guns. 

So in that corner of the SHOT Show, you have the International Trade Center. It's in one of the ballrooms that has the partition walls and the burgundy chairs. And there's a lot of bureaucrats basically standing around and what they're doing is they're meeting up with the people that they invited from abroad, whether that's Brazil or Peru or Mexico or Asia somewhere or from all over the world, they bring these buyers into Las Vegas and then they help them set up these meetings with American gun makers and for a fee, they'll even sit in on these meetings and help close those deals.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: Mike, how does the Commerce Department find all of these people to bring to the US to [00:05:00] go to the gun show?

MICHAEL SMITH: So the Commerce Department has what it calls specialists. They post in embassies around the world, and their main job is to match buyers of US good with sellers of US goods. 

Some of these specialists specialize in guns. That's one of the turfs that they have to drum up business for. They basically talk to entities that are interested in buying guns. And then they just go out and make contacts with these buyers, and then they open up a whole world of services that the US government through Commerce provides to essentially get buyers together with sellers in the United States.

JESSICA BRICE: These specialists, they're foreign commercial service specialists around the world. They typically tend to be foreign-born specialists. So they're foreign-born hires. And the reason for that is because the American officers will rotate in and out of embassies and consulates on two- or three-year stints, but you need the foreign, the locals who are there, they're working there for decades and they're maintaining [00:06:00] those business relationships.

So when the American officers come in, they're ultimately the ones who are always calling the shots. But they're tapping into this network that has been built for 20, 30 years. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: So Mike, the Commerce Department is trying to find buyers. The people they're bringing to Las Vegas, what are some of the countries they're bringing them from?

MICHAEL SMITH: So these specialists really work in embassies around the world. You have some posts in Asia, in Europe, and some posts in Latin America. In our story, we really focused on Latin America, and we found examples of a commerce specialist bringing gun buyers up from Brazil, from Peru, and from different countries in Central America.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: So all told, how many different buyers coming to the SHOT Show are there as essentially guests of the Commerce Department? 

MICHAEL SMITH: This goes back to an agreement that the SHOT Show made with the Commerce Department in 2013 to make a concerted effort to [00:07:00] bring more gun buyers up from around the world, basically.

In the first year, 2013, they brought around 370 buyers to SHOT Show. But by January 2023, of this year, that number had surged to more than 3,200 buyers. So that gives you a sense of the scope and the growth we've seen in international buyers being basically brought up by these specialists around the world.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: Is it working? Are exports of US guns rising as a result of the Commerce Department's efforts? 

JESSICA BRICE: One of the frustrating things about how the Department of Commerce operates is that there's no transparency because it involves corporate trade secrets. So there's no real transparency around this program and how it works.

We don't know how much in sales the Commerce Department officials are helping to broker. We don't have a real clear insight into how much exports have climbed because of this program. But we do know that between [00:08:00] 2018 and 2022, we saw a 300 percent increase in semiautomatic rifles and handguns coming into Brazil.

MICHAEL SMITH: After President Trump came into office, he basically put the approval process for gun exports into the hands of the Commerce Department, the same department that has these specialists around the world. After that happened a couple of years ago, gun exports from the United States jumped to $16 billion, and that's almost 30 percent above historical averages.

So there you can see how things have changed for the better for gun makers. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: And Jessica, does the Commerce Department work with gun advocacy groups or trade associations for the industry? 

JESSICA BRICE: It's not working directly with the gun advocacy groups, but it works with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is the industry group, the trade group that runs SHOT Show.

The NSSF, which is how they're known, they're actually more influential in terms of lobbying money being spent in Washington than the NRA [00:09:00] is these days. A lot of people know the NRA. The NRA has traditionally said that they represent the gun owner. The NSSF represents the gun manufacturers, right? And so who's paying those membership dues? It's the Glocks and the Rugers and the Smith and Wessons. All the companies are part of the NSSF. And they're spending almost twice as much money every year to push through laws that are more favorable to gun makers. They advocated for this shift to put Commerce Department more in control and have more oversight over the gun exports.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: One of the concerns that the US government has had in the past with gun exports is making sure that they don't go to countries where there are unstable governments, where there are reasons to believe that guns could be used for violence. Is that still something that the US government monitors very closely before they make deals for foreign gun sales?

MICHAEL SMITH: It's [00:10:00] unclear how closely they monitor it. The Commerce Department has taken over processing and essentially approving gun exports--licenses, they're called. But the State Department, they have the right to look over an export license and stop it if they want. That has happened sporadically from what we can tell, but it's difficult to know how steadfast their policy considerations are and exactly what criteria they use to come up with those decisions.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: And what has the Commerce Department said about this when you asked them about the program? 

JESSICA BRICE: This topic spans the State Department, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Commerce. And of all of those departments, and not to mention all the embassies, many of which we tried to reach out to, the Commerce Department is the least transparent. They don't offer any information regarding how many people they send to SHOT Show every year, what sort of resources are dedicated towards the effort, how many folks [00:11:00] are out in the world recruiting and building these lists and these group trips to Las Vegas every January. 

Bloomberg entered in with a Freedom Of Information request, so-called FOIA, trying to get even the most basic of numbers. We actually have started up a lawsuit trying to get this information, but they really, really are closed lipped about the entire process. 

Can a lawsuit stop Mexico’s ‘iron river’ of guns? - The Take - Air Date 8-13-21

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Tell me about this lawsuit that the Mexican government has recently filed. Why did the government take this step? 

JOHN HOLMAN: They're filing a lawsuit against 11 gun manufacturers and some quite famous ones as well amongst them. They've got Colt, they've got Smith & Wesson, they've got quite a lot of big names. Basically what they're saying is that those companies have been negligent in the fact that there's guns that they're selling that are ending up in Mexico.

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: The lawsuit alleges that the companies knew they were contributing to illegal arms trafficking. 

Mexican officials hope the lawsuit will put a dent in crimes committed [00:12:00] by illegal firearms. 

JOHN HOLMAN: Actually, the Mexican foreign minister went even further than negligence. This is actually a lucrative market the Mexican government seems to be saying that these manufacturers are going after. That's what they want to stop. They're asking for compensation. They're hoping about $10 billion that will go into the Mexican Treasury. But they said that apart from the money, primarily, they want these companies to start self-regulating so it's not this sort of sea of weapons heading towards Mexico with everyone washing their hands of it. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: How likely is it that it's going to succeed? 

JOHN HOLMAN: That's the big question, and it was asked actually—we were in the briefing with one of the government's top lawyers from the foreign ministry and he said that he wasn't certain that it was going to succeed, but basically they were going to give it their best shot.

Now running against it is the fact that in 2005 in the United States there was a statute that introduced widespread protection against gun companies from lawsuits and [00:13:00] legal action from victims of gun violence. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: California Congressman Adam Schiff calls the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or "PLACA," a deeply destructive bill that protects gun manufacturers from any responsibility for how their products are used, even when they're used to commit a crime.

But groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation say this is just another attempt by democratic lawmakers to demonize constitutionally protected products. 

JOHN HOLMAN: Now, what the Mexican government's hoping is that because they're outside of the United States, they can still be able to do this because they're not within the United States and that statute won't protect the gun companies against their legal action.

That's their hope, and we have to see how that plays out. This isn't going to happen overnight. This is going to be quite a long drawn out process. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Mexico's gun laws are strict. In fact, there is only one place in the entire country where you can legally purchase a gun, and that's in [00:14:00] the capital—on a base.

So, you mentioned a "sea of weapons," are there any estimates about how many weapons are being trafficked from the U. S. into Mexico? 

JOHN HOLMAN: The foreign ministry said that the government estimates that half a million weapons are coming across from the United States to Mexico every year. And they said that they're causing at least 17, 000 homicides—those weapons.

They call it an "Iron River," that's what they call it, that's coming across the border, from the United States into Mexico. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: That Iron River has been the subject of a lot of research and reporting on both sides about where the guns come from and how they get across. This is Eugenio Weigend Vargas. 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: I'm the research director for gun violence prevention at the Center for American Progress.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: That's a think tank based in Washington, D. C. 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: Throughout my life I've been living in the United States and Mexico back and forth, but for the last 10 years I've been living in the United States. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: And like many people with ties to [00:15:00] both countries, Eugenio is used to driving back and forth—he was just in Mexico last week—but he's also observing with the eyes of a researcher. 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: I've done that many times in my life, you know, where I've driven from the United States to Mexico and the checkpoints are pretty weak. They randomly maybe check a vehicle every 20, 25 vehicles. Usually when I drive across the border, I'm never stopped, which makes it very easy to hide maybe 10 or 15 rifles in the back of your car and never get stopped.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: He's hypothetically speaking, of course. And in Eugenio's line of research, that's tough to watch. 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: It's a bit, frustrating not to see that, you know, that the problem exists and there's nothing really going on, except there's a big sign that says "Trafficking guns to Mexico is illegal. Don't do it!" But, you know, I'm not sure that that sign has any impact or has incentivized anybody from not trafficking guns to [00:16:00] Mexico. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: So it's pretty well known now that the border controls are weak, but that's not where the story begins. It starts with how the guns get to the border in the first place, and that's part of Eugenio's research.

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: There's a high level of guns within the United States, but there's also a lot of ways in which those guns can easily get diverted. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: One of them is called "straw purchasing." 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: Straw purchasing basically is a person who is legally able to purchase a gun without a problem, but does so on behalf of a third person—usually an individual that is prohibited by law to purchase a gun. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Straw purchasers are sometimes caught by police or federal agents, but in the U. S., there's no law making gun trafficking a federal crime. It's usually considered a paperwork violation, not a felony, and rarely means prison time. And this has been a problem for years.

This federal agent spoke to Al [00:17:00] Jazeera about it back in 2018. 

US FEDERAL AGENT: What we could really use is a firearms trafficking statute, because that would allow us to go after not only the straw purchaser, but the entire network of people that are getting these guns to arm the cartel. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: But straw purchasing isn't actually the easiest way to get a gun.

Buying from a dealer requires a background check and a record of a sale, among other things, but for traffickers, there's a way to get around that—and that's private sales. Including at gun shows. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: What's called the "gun show loophole." Gun shows have been going on for as long as I can remember. Uh, and I don't think there's anything wrong with them.

Uh, it's a good place to get a good deal. 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: Gun shows are gatherings at convention centers, parking lots, even parks—where people just gather around to sell guns and other gun related accessories like holsters, stickers, but you also see the AR 15 rifles, the AK 47 displayed on [00:18:00] tables. You see some gun dealers there.

Federal firearm license dealers must conduct a background check before any gun sale. Those are required by law. Gun dealers at gun shows are required to run background checks on any sales, but in this case private sellers are not required to run background checks meaning that anybody that is prohibited by law from purchasing a gun can go to a gun show and get a gun with no questions asked.

Even a person that intends to traffic that gun or a person that is prohibited by law because it has, for example, a history of domestic violence. As of now, 22 states require some form of background check during private sales. However, in 28 states, this requirement simply does not exist. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: And that includes two border states, Texas and Arizona.

These private sales are a well known issue in the U. S. gun control debate, but some of Eugenio's visits to gun shows were also focused close to the [00:19:00] border. 

EUGENIO WEIGEND VARGAS: You see all these rifles on display on tables, keeping in mind that they're only about two, three miles from the Mexican border—meaning that anybody can drive to a gun show,

approach a private seller and get any type of weapon that they're selling, including an AR 15 rifle. Gun shows happen every weekend across America, so it's very easy on any given weekend to acquire a gun. 

How America’s Guns Fuel Violence across the Border: With Guest Ieva Jusionyte - Facepalm America - Air Date 2-27-24 


BEOWULF ROCHLEN - HOST, FACEPALM AMERICA: So the far right in America is always talking about, and the language they use is obviously pretty offensive, but an influx of illegal aliens—but there's also a huge influx of guns that goes from the U. S. Into Mexico, isn't there?

IEVA JUSIONYTE: That's correct. Influx, or you could say the "Iron River" of guns flowing southbound. 

BEOWULF ROCHLEN - HOST, FACEPALM AMERICA: So, the dynamic here, I mean, these aren't [00:20:00] isolated things. They don't just happen to be like seeking asylum. There are really terrible conditions in parts of Mexico, and that has to do with the guns that create, in part, the violence. That— I mean, it's all connected together, isn't it? 

IEVA JUSIONYTE: That, yeah, that's like putting two and two together. When I was doing research on the border, primarily for my past book—that is, looking, helping refugees and asylum seekers and migrants who get injured trying to get into the United States—only then I started noticing these signs on all the southbound lanes on the border crossings to Mexico that says guns and munition are prohibited in Mexico.

And I thought, huh. How interesting. So, these people are fleeing something that is clearly the result of our obsession with guns, our very powerful gun industry and gun dealers [00:21:00] that sell the guns that create those conditions of violence that then people are trying to run away from. Obviously, it's not the same for all refugees, but for Mexicans particularly.

Mexicans remain the largest group—the national group of people who are encountered in the U. S. Mexico border. 

BEOWULF ROCHLEN - HOST, FACEPALM AMERICA: It also certainly ties in, I would think, with the massive demand for drugs just to the north of Mexico in our country. So we're demanding that drugs come our way, and we're insisting that essentially that massive amounts of guns be exported.

It sounds like a ready made situation for horrors, doesn't it? 

IEVA JUSIONYTE: The drugs? Yes. We want the drugs and the drugs are supplied by various groups of organized. Criminal organizations in Mexico that compete for these routes to supply us the drugs. In order to compete they need firepower. They need weapons that they [00:22:00] cannot get in Mexico, but it's very easy for them to get them in the United States.

In Arizona, Texas, southbound inspections are almost non existent on the border. There are about 10, 000 gun dealerships in states bordering Mexico. So it's definitely connected to the drugs that we want. And we send the guns that enable the supply of drugs. 

BEOWULF ROCHLEN - HOST, FACEPALM AMERICA: Now, it's interesting that you say that the inspections are "virtually non existent."

I mean, I watch sometimes—there's a program on National Geographic that is focused on how agents at various ports of entry are, seemingly, meticulously checking through everything and finding stuff all the time. But you're saying from your observation, your studies and what you found, that's not really the case.

IEVA JUSIONYTE: Well, there are plenty of border patrol agents and [00:23:00] officers that work for Customs and Border Protection, but they are focused on what is getting into the country. So they are focused on confiscated drugs. They're focused on finding people who don't have authorization to enter the country and they are much, much less interested in catching guns going in the opposite direction in terms of allocating how many people are staffing, which lanes, mostly they care about northbound and not southbound flows of goods. 

BEOWULF ROCHLEN - HOST, FACEPALM AMERICA: Right. So, "you can check out, but you can't check in," in a manner of speaking. You once worked as an EMT along the U. S. Mexico border. What was the impact that you saw that these weapons have? 

IEVA JUSIONYTE: Well, I actually before I started working as an EMT on the U. S./Mexico border, I was also an EMT and paramedic right here in the United States. I started in Massachusetts and Florida, so I have seen the impact of gun violence [00:24:00] in our communities in the United States.

When I moved to the border, the injuries that we saw were not necessarily, immediately visible because the people who are running away—they were not running away because they got shot. They were running away because a family member was kidnapped or another person in the family was shot or they were threatened through extortion rackets.

So very few of them actually showed gunshot wounds by the time they presented at the border, but they had various other injuries associated with a travel to, to cross the border. So, like, fractures and if they fell off the wall or dehydration, if they travel through the desert. So these are also the consequences of guns, but they are not immediate. And that's why the very title of the book is Exit Wounds. It's not so narrowly physical wounds where the bullet [00:25:00] leaves the body, but it's what are the broader social effects that make the entire community or society, injured, wounded, impacted by our gun laws and guns themselves.

BEOWULF ROCHLEN - HOST, FACEPALM AMERICA: It's the wounds that cause people to leave the country as opposed to the wounds that they receive specifically, literally and physically. 

U.S. Eases Rules on Exporting Military Technology to Secure Role as World's Leading Arms Dealer - Democracy Now! - Air Date 10-16-13

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: In a boon for military contractors, the United States is relaxing controls on military exports, allowing some U.S.-made military parts to flow to nearly any country in the world with little oversight. ProPublica reports, beginning this week, thousands of parts for military aircraft can be sent freely around the world, even to some countries currently under U.N. arms embargoes. Previously, military firms had to register with the State Department and obtain a license for each export deal. That allowed U.S. officials to screen for issues including possible human rights violations. But now, tens of thousands of items are shifting to the Commerce Department, where they fall under looser controls. The changes were heavily lobbied [00:26:00] for by military firms including Lockheed Martin, Textron and Honeywell. The U.S. already heavily dominates arms exports market: In 2011, the U.S. concluded $66 billion in arms sales agreements, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of the global market.

To talk more about this, we’re joined by Bill Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

Bill, we thank you very much for being with us. You’ve just completed a report on the Obama administration’s loosening of controls over U.S. arms exports. Your latest book, Prophets—that’s P-R-O-P-H-E-T-S— Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. Talk about what this Obama administration relaxing of the sending of weapons and parts means.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Sure. I think the amazing thing, which you mentioned, is that the United States already dominates the trade. It’s not clear they can make a lot more money here, but they’re trying. And one of the things that will happen is, if you’re a [00:27:00] smuggler and you want to do a circuitous path through a third-party country, those countries are now getting license-free spare parts, surveillance equipment and so forth, that can then go on to a human rights abuser, to a terrorist group. And detecting this is going to be much more difficult without the State Department licensing process.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: How did this happen?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, the industry has been pushing for this for two decades, and they have a couple points of leverage. Of course, they have campaign contributions. They’ve got people on the advisory committees that help develop these regulations. They’ve done studies making bogus claims about the economic impacts. And the Obama administration, more than even the Bush administration, bought into industry’s arguments—argued, “Well, we’re going to streamline this. It’s going to make things more efficient. We’re going to get the economic benefits.” And I think they took a great risk in taking those industry suggestions, not looking hard enough at the human rights proliferation and anti-terrorist implications of that. So, I think they may have had good intentions, but I think [00:28:00] they tilted way too far towards the industry.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Several trade groups have been calling for this easing of restrictions on arms exports. Lauren Airey of the National Association of Manufacturers said in an interview with ProPublica that foreign competitors are, “Taking advantage of perceived and real issues in U.S. export controls to promote foreign parts and components—advertising themselves as State-Department-free.” Can you comment on that?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Sure. This is an anecdote that comes up frequently, but there’s never been any documentation of how common this is. The Commerce Department was asked in a congressional hearing, “What’s the economic downside of the current system or the upside of your reforms?” He said, “We haven’t looked at that.” So they really haven’t looked at the economic effects. In fact, if it’s easier to export production technology to build U.S. parts overseas, this reform could actually make it worse for U.S. jobs, even as it helps the big companies, like Lockheed Martin, outsource their components globally.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: So, talk about, Bill Hartung, the countries that can get these weapons and these [00:29:00] parts.

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, the first round is NATO allies, but includes countries like Bulgaria, countries like Turkey, which have had bad records of keeping those parts within their countries, keeping them from being transhipped to destinations that the U.S. would not want to see them in—places like Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia during its most repressive periods—basically, almost anywhere in the world it’s now going to be much easier to do this kind of roundabout sale. But also, many parts are going to be license-free altogether, so they can go almost anywhere in the world, other than perhaps Venezuela, Iran, China, in certain circumstances. The whole globe, basically, is going to get an easier deal in terms of getting access to U.S. military technology, without very many questions asked.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Can you explain, as even the Obama administration is pushing for more gun control at home, how this happens now?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I think they [00:30:00] promised this to industry. They see it as a big achievement that they’ve undertaken since Obama’s first term. They have taken a look at the firearms issue. They’re going slow on rolling out those regulations, because they know it’s a very sensitive item. People, like the gun lobby, want no new restrictions, and in fact to roll back restrictions on gun exports. So I think there may still be room for leverage here over the administration, because they have been kind of shy about putting forward what they’re going to do about guns, ammunition, small arms or light weapons—which are among the biggest problems in terms of getting into conflict zones. I think there might still be some hope there to turn them around, but it will take some pressure, which so far we haven’t seen a great deal of pressure from the Congress on this.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Countries like Bahrain, that’s cracking down on its own people protesting human rights abuses there?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Exactly. Bahrain will probably have an easier time getting U.S. weapons. Saudi Arabia has just gotten a $60 billion deal, the biggest in history, for attack helicopters, fighter planes, guns and ammunition, armored [00:31:00] vehicles. And they’ve been helping Bahrain put down the democracy movement there, also obviously repressing their own people. So, not only are the sales at record levels, but they’re going to some of the most undemocratic countries in the world at a time when they’re supposed to be—our policy should be to support democracy in the Persian Gulf and Middle East, not help the oppressors, as some of these sales will do.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: What should President Obama be doing differently, Bill Hartung?

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I think, for starters, there should be a moratorium on any new changes in these regulations. Let them see what the first round—what the impacts are, which I think they’re going to see are going to be quite negative. Second of all, for things that have gone over to the Commerce Department, are not—unvetted by State, there should be new laws to say, well, Commerce has to use the same criteria as State, in terms of vetting for human rights. I think also they should look at what the economic impacts are really going to be. Instead of making these claims about how it’s going to be wonderful for U.S. jobs, really dig in and see how many jobs are going to be exported as a result of letting this technology flow more freely. I think if we can get him to do those three [00:32:00] things, we could probably blunt the most negative consequences of these so-called reforms.

Can Mexico win its battle with US gun companies? Part 1 - The Inquiry - Air Date 3-7-24

ADAM WINKLER: In the U. S. Constitution there's an individual right to bear arms, and the courts have interpreted that provision to mean that people have a right to keep firearms in their home for personal protection and carry guns on the public streets in case of confrontation with criminals or others who might pose a threat to them.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: And that's all needs regulating. So let's start with the industry. 

ADAM WINKLER: In the early 2000s, Congress passed a law providing immunity for gun makers and gun dealers when their guns are used to commit a crime. That law, known as the Protection for Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, has basically made it very difficult to sue gun makers when their firearms are used to commit crimes and other harms.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: So does it also work to protect the gun industry from being accountable, then? 

ADAM WINKLER: Yes, it does. While the gun industry remains accountable for things like producing a defective [00:33:00] product. If you buy a firearm and it explodes in your hands you can sue the gun makers the way you can sue the maker of your toaster if it explodes when you use it.

However, when it comes to gun violence, when the firearm is used as it's intended—to fire at another person—then the gunmakers are off the hook and are not accountable when their firearms are diverted into the black market. 

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: Legal protection was a top priority for the powerful gun rights group the National Rifle Association. It lobbied hard to make it happen. 

ADAM WINKLER: The gun makers pushed for that immunity, along with gun rights activists, out of concern that lawsuits would put the gun makers out of business. That immunity was adopted shortly after the tobacco companies reached a record settlement that involved billions and billions of dollars, and the gun makers were worried that they would face similar kinds of lawsuits and face daunting liability claims if they didn't have this federal [00:34:00] immunity.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: Mexico also has the right to bear arms in its constitution, so its lawsuit against U. S. gun companies isn't challenging that. As well as federal legislation, there are also U. S. state gun laws, and some are more liberal than others. The route used to smuggle firearms from states with more relaxed laws to ones with stricter rules is known as the "Iron Pipeline."

ADAM WINKLER: These are ordinary highways that people drive cars on and obviously have millions of cars on them every day. So the fact that a car might be driving by and in its trunk have several hundred firearms—it'd be very difficult for the police to know about and to stop. So the Iron Pipeline is incredibly difficult to police and to supervise.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: The main U. S. agency for enforcing federal gun laws and cracking down on trafficking is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or the ATF. 

ADAM WINKLER: The ATF is moderately effective. It's generally an [00:35:00] underfunded agency with 400 million firearms in America and really no difficulty getting firearms from one state to another because of the lack of internal borders within the United States.

The ATF faces a daunting challenge in trying to enforce our gun laws. 

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: But when it comes to the border, Mexico needs to play its part. 

ADAM WINKLER: If you were to drive a car from Mexico into, say, California, that car is definitely going to be stopped, its occupants checked, and very possibly its trunk or other aspects of the vehicle searched and inspected.

However, that same vehicle going from California to Mexico will not be stopped and inspected by American Border Patrol. And Mexican Border Patrol is not nearly as aggressive as American Border Control in keeping things out. 

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: Mexico originally filed its lawsuit in 2021 in Massachusetts. A year later, a court there threw it out because of the immunity law.[00:36:00] 

Mexico successfully appealed, arguing it is exempt from that law as a sovereign nation. It also claims that the flood of illegal guns across the border is a result of deliberate business practices by U. S. gun companies. 

ADAM WINKLER: Mexico definitely has a daunting case to prove that the gun makers are liable—even if they can bring their case in courts—that they have knowledge and that they intentionally did or negligently manufactured or marketed these firearms in a way that made it almost certain that they were going to Mexico.

How the US privatized WAR - Jacobin - Air Date 5-14-24

RANIA KHALEK - HOST, JACOBIN: When the U. S. launched its war of aggression against Iraq in 2003, Eric Prince's new venture, then called Blackwater, was quick to take advantage of the U. S. 's radical new privatization agenda. Blackwater soon won its first $27 million no-bid contract to provide security for Ambassador Paul Bremer, who headed the so called Coalition Provision Authority, the U. S. 's colonial administration in Iraq. [00:37:00] 

By 2007, it had won $1 billion in contracts from the State Department alone. More than half of these contracts were awarded without competition or tender. In just a few years, the secretive institution emerged from its swamp to become one of the most important players in the so-called War on Terror.

This was a marriage of convenience. Private companies are not required to report deaths and injuries among their mercenary forces. And they even enjoy greater impunity than the lawless U. S. military itself. 

On September 16th, 2007, the world witnessed that impunity. At around noon, a Blackwater convoy of four armed vehicles arrived at Baghdad's Nisour Square. Soon, the mercenaries opened fire on unarmed civilians passing through the square in their cars. Panicked, the Iraqi drivers began to flee the scene, but the mercenaries shot at the fleeing cars. [00:38:00] In all, 17 civilians were murdered, and more than 20 were injured in what some have called Baghdad's Bloody Sunday.

The Iraqi government called the attack an act of deliberate murder, but Blackwater insisted that it acted in self defense. The State Department backed them up. Not long after the massacre, Eric Prince testified to Congress. Remarkably, not a single question was asked about Nisour Square. But the question of civilian fatalities, which were well documented, did come up.

Prince's strategy? Denial. 

ERIC PRINCE: The people we employ are former U. S. military law enforcement people. People that have sworn the oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. 


ERIC PRINCE: They, they bleed red, white, and blue. 

RANIA KHALEK - HOST, JACOBIN: After the Nisour massacre, Prince's ambitions grew further still.

He announced that Blackwater would now become a full spectrum [00:39:00] initiative and began to bid for new Pentagon contracts. In the years that followed, Blackwater established a new mercenary operation staffed by soldiers from all around the world, an intelligence agency staffed by former CIA operatives, an aviation division with dozens of aircraft, and even a line of armored personnel carriers.

When the U. S. flew suspected terrorists around the world to so-called black sites, Blackwater's flight records match those of known torture camps, suggesting that it played a role in the kidnap and torture program. Blackwater came to recruit mercenaries throughout Latin America, often recruiting former fascist foot soldiers, who themselves took part in campaigns of torture and massacre.

But it didn't stop there. Blackwater came to recruit mercenaries from around the world at a scale that may never be known. In [00:40:00] 2016, some 200 Sudanese mercenaries working for Blackwater were killed in a single strike in Yemen. All along, Blackwater moved further and further into the shadows.

During the U. S. 's wars in West Asia, private equity firms began to invest in private military companies. War is a safe bet. Endless war means endless profit. So these investment firms went on a buying spree that's not only continued to this day, it has accelerated.

According to research by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, private equity firms were responsible for 42% of all takeovers in the U. S. private defense sector in 2019. These funds face no requirement to disclose the financial status of their purchases. Through them, entire armies disappear into black holes where their size or activities can no longer be traced.[00:41:00] 

Meanwhile, the profits continue to pile up. In 2023, Joe Biden requested $842 billion for the U. S. military budget, which is roughly three times more than China's military budget and 10 times higher than Russia's. Based on figures in previous years, over half of that money is likely to have gone to private contractors.

Blackwater, which is now rebranded as Constellus Holdings, is among them. The new company brings together a range of private mercenary companies with other dull names like Triple Canopy, Tidewater Global Services, National Strategic Protective Solutions, and International Development Solutions. All are owned by Apollo Global Management Inc., a private equity giant based in New York City, which bought Constellus in 2012. 

From the tunnels of Gaza to [00:42:00] the streets of Raqqa, we often hear whispers of mercenaries fighting on behalf of the U. S. But how many wars are these private armies really involved in? How large will these corporations become in the future?

What's their political reach? Who decides where they fight? And when? And against whom? Blackwater's legacy means that the answers to these questions may long remain. hidden. War has been pushed into the shadows. Accountability has been eroded so deeply that the US can deny its active involvement in several wars of its own making.

In many ways, we knew where we were headed. In 1961, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued an ominous warning in his farewell address about the grave implications of the untrammeled growth of the military industrial complex. 

PRESIDENT DWIGHT EISENHOWER: The potential for the disastrous [00:43:00] rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic process. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

RANIA KHALEK - HOST, JACOBIN: This misplaced power has now grown beyond all reasonable proportions. It won't rein itself in. The question is, who will?

How Washington Plays Matchmaker For The US Gun Industry Part 2- Big Take - Air Date 10-30-23

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: Jessica, one thing you write is that part of this story isn't just exporting US guns, but also exporting US gun culture to the places where US gun makers are looking to sell their product. 

JESSICA BRICE: Exporting guns--you know, most countries in the world don't have the tolerance for weapons or the demand for weapons that the United States has. And so it's not as easy as just reaching some deals and shipping [00:44:00] these guns abroad. You really need that gun culture to rise up in these places, to change the politics, to allow those guns to come in and to allow that market to bloom. And that's part of this effort. It's not just about signing contracts. It's also about getting advocates and politicians on board with the pro-gun agenda. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: And Mike, who is pressing in these other countries to change their culture to make them more receptive to US guns? 

MICHAEL SMITH: We looked at a couple of countries that basically have adopted American-style gun culture to a certain degree: Brazil and Peru. In Peru, it was very interesting. You have to go back almost 15 years when a member of the NRA advocacy family--they don't have formal ties, but they like each other--it's called Safari Club International. It's a hunting rights advocacy organization. They found a man named Tomas Saldias, a Peruvian hunter, who was getting a graduate degree in Texas. And [00:45:00] he really wanted to learn how to lobby for gun rights like they do in the United States. And they basically took him under their wing. 

When we spoke to Tomas Saldías, he explained to us how Safari Club International worked very closely with him over years, not only teaching him how to lobby, they took him to Washington and showed him how you go visit your congressman. They also gave him a little bit of money to cover his travel expenses. It was a volunteer job, but he got paid to go back to Peru, first organizing a regional gun rights advocacy organization to try to push for liberalized gun laws across Latin America, but he also lobbied the Peruvian Congress to stop an attempt to basically ban almost all guns in civilian hands in Peru. And he was quite successful. Congress blocked it. You can basically own as many semiautomatic assault rifles as you want, if you're a licensed gun owner, or pistols. It's quite a dramatic change that came about largely because of the influence, financing and sort of inspiration of the [00:46:00] US gun lobby. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: It seems hard to believe that one man's lobbying could be so effective. What was the argument that persuaded so many lawmakers in Peru to change their minds? 

MICHAEL SMITH: Well, Saldías was very clever in how he went about this. You have to understand that in Peru, lobbying is not part of the culture, especially not grassroots movements to get stuff changed. People don't have the culture of just going to visit their congressman saying, hey, I'm your constituent, you got to do what I want. But that's exactly what he did, because he learned in the United States.

And he also took advantage of the fact that the president was under fire. The opposition in Congress wanted just to get anything they could to take him down, so to speak. And so they really embraced this idea of this president cracking down on the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns. And he really used that quite effectively and convinced Congress almost single-handedly to block this effort to restrict gun ownership in Peru.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: And what did Safari International have to say about this? 

MICHAEL SMITH: Well, they were very proud of the work he did. [00:47:00] They put out press releases about his work. They brought him up to SHOT Show in 2014 after he organized this regional gun rights organization. And they had a news conference that they basically sponsored for him. They helped write his remarks that he gave at that news conference. And then they went on to follow his career and publicly call him out in the good way for the work he was doing on behalf of gun rights in a place like Peru. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: Jessica, you're in Brazil. And that was another country where the gun culture changed quite a bit.

JESSICA BRICE: Brazil has always had pretty restrictive gun laws. Bolsonaro came in and that was one of the platforms that he campaigned on was this idea that law-abiding citizens have a right to protect themselves, because Brazil is a very violent nation and there are a lot of illegal guns on the streets. It's not like there's no guns here. There's lots of gun violence. He came in on this promise to start allowing everybody to have guns so that they can defend themselves. And within two weeks of taking office, he blew that [00:48:00] market open. He just allowed basically anyone who had the will, they were able to get access, they were able to get a license. And they were able to own types of firearms that no one had ever seen before. His son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, who's also a lawmaker and also pushing the pro-gun agenda, he'd been to SHOT Show several times, and they had a real tight relationship with the former ambassador in the United States and with the Department of Commerce and the Foreign Commercial Service. 

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: But now, Bolsonaro's successor is pushing back a bit on this. 

JESSICA BRICE: Yeah. Bolsonaro's successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, he's actually a returning president. He was in office at the start of the century and he was the one who had pushed through many of the really tight gun laws that Brazil had. When Bolsonaro lost the election and Lula took over, on his first day of office, he reversed that. He required anyone who had purchased guns to re-register in a national registry. He blocked all these [00:49:00] shipments of guns that had been purchased, and they were stuck at ports and in Georgia and Florida. He's since shut down the market. 

But what you're seeing is that culture, that gun culture is still very alive and well. Lula's bans are based on decrees. They're not based on laws. That's the real important change that we've had in Brazilian culture recently in that Bolsonaro used to be the only pro-gun lawmaker, and now we have more than a hundred in Congress. And that's rising. Every year, you're seeing that rise, and it's probably not long before we actually get some laws on the books that open this market up.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: Mike, just to be clear, in places like Peru in Brazil where there are these efforts to make the culture more receptive to guns. That's not the US Commerce Department doing that work. Is that right? 

MICHAEL SMITH: No, it's more the gun advocacy groups in the United States. 

JESSICA BRICE: I think we want to be really clear that it's not the Department of Commerce that's [00:50:00] pushing this cultural change. They're pushing business opportunities for American gun makers. 

The lines are really blurred between the folks who are acting as activists and advocates for the changing culture and the people who are the business representatives for those organizations. And sort of the center of gun culture, it's SHOT Show.

If you're a gun lover, there's no cooler place on earth than to be than SHOT Show in Las Vegas every January. That's where a lot of this is happening. They're all mingling. You have US government officials, you have advocates, you have lobbyists, you have the business folks. They're all mingling in that same universe.

WES KOSOVA- HOST, BIG TAKE: The Biden administration has come out for greater gun control measures. The president signed an executive order to try to crack down on so-called ghost guns that don't have serial numbers. Is there any effort [00:51:00] inside the Biden administration about whether they want the Commerce Department doing this kind of work?

JESSICA BRICE: There's no indication that's the case. No matter who we reach out to within the government about this program, no one wants to talk about it. It's happening on foreign soil. It's not something that's really, really, really front and center to an American audience. It's something that they just declined to comment.

MICHAEL SMITH: Yeah, it really is a mystery, just because we don't have much insight into what's going on and the administration hasn't really spoken about it. 

The one thing we have been able to discover is that there have been instances where the State Department has decided, okay, we really shouldn't be exporting guns to this particular country or they should be restricted. Like the example of Peru, where there were some really violent protests at the beginning of this year and 50 people were killed by police mainly in these protests. And so the State Department started raising concerns about the human rights situation in Peru, and [00:52:00] putting a freeze on issuing new export licenses.

But that's a temporary freeze and Commerce officials have told gun importers in Peru that this will probably be worked out at some point. It's unclear how enduring that will be and whether that will be applied in other places with similar issues. 

Why the US Sells Weapons to 103 Countries - Johnny Harris - Air Date 3-6-24


JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: If weapons are a currency for influence, and the US is using that currency to buy stuff, to buy influence or stability around the world, does that actually work the way that the Pentagon and the United States government think it does? The short answer is, sometimes, but not really. Where weapons really do work is in keeping alliances strong.

BILL HARTUNG: There's no question some countries welcome it, allies like Korea and Japan and so forth, Australia. And it probably does cement those relationships, make it more likely they'll support the US in a crunch. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: But when it comes to trying to use weapons [00:53:00] as an incentive to get countries to behave the way you want them to, that's where it kind of starts to break down.

And the best case for this is Saudi Arabia. You can see on this map, we give a lot of weapons to Saudi Arabia. The Obama administration approved loads of weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia, and in doing so, we had some strings attached: a big one being that those weapons could not be used to violate human rights. Or from the horse's mouth, genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, serious violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, attacks directed against civilians who are legally protected from attacks or other war crimes as defined by 18 U. S. C. 2441. Translation, Saudi Arabia is not to use these weapons against civilians in any of their conflicts.

And yet, as Saudi Arabia has been waging this war against Yemen, they've done exactly that, using American weapons. They've bombed hospitals, weddings, and even a school bus. And we know that this is [00:54:00] American weapons because investigators and journalists have looked at the wreckage of these attacks and looked at the actual serial numbers, concluding that these are American weapons, but they flow through these lines.

BILL HARTUNG: Although Saudi Arabia used the bombs, most people in Yemen viewed it as an American war. Sent arms to Saudi Arabia that would slaughter people. In Yemen, but it was sort of this notion of, well, they're an oil supplier, they're bulwark against Iran, and those so-called larger strategic interests overrode the human rights imperatives.

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: Shout out to Bellingcat, the open source investigative journalism project that helped uncover a lot of this stuff. 

So Saudi Arabia isn't obeying the conditions that we put on these weapons. And Congress tried to pass a resolution that said that they were going to cut off some of this military aid that we were giving to Saudi Arabia. The problem is, a lot of the power to approve these weapon sales rests with the executive, the president. So President Trump actually vetoed this resolution. And even under the Biden administration, even though there was [00:55:00] like a brief pause, the weapons have kept flowing, making it very clear that this leverage that the US thinks it has, because it's the provider of all of these weapons, is actually kind of reversed. Turns out Saudi Arabia has a lot more leverage than we thought. 

JEFF ABRAMSON: You know, the ideas of the United States has kind of captured Saudi Arabia by having this weapons and defense arrangement that the Saudis need to rely on us, they will do things that we ask them to do, or I think the opposite is now happening. Saudi Arabia has been able to turn the tides and say, Hey, if you don't provide this, we'll find an alternate partner. The relationship has been perverted. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: Okay, but Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. Maybe we have better luck influencing fellow democracies. So let's look at Israel, who receives more military aid from the United States than any other country.

JEFF ABRAMSON: I think Israel is the prime example of the lack of leverage that you would think a well-developed, long-term weapons relationship would have. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: The US government has come out and [00:56:00] said that they are not happy with the way that Israel is conducting its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. And yet what we see here is an effort to push more military aid to Israel without any pause or withdraw of these weapons transfers.

JEFF ABRAMSON: And that's the reality of the arms trade is that we can hope countries will take things into mind. We can tell them we want to do things, but ultimately they end up making local decisions for their local needs. 

JOHNNY HARRIS - HOST, JOHNNY HARRIS: There's a lot more cases just like this. Like the Philippines, where the Duterte regime has used American weapons to carry out a brutal war on drugs, murdering and jailing civilians in the process.

What's confusing about this is that, in some sense, the weapons are working for US interests. We sell them these weapons. We give them these weapons. We buy their support in deterring our enemy. But in the process, these weapons that we use as our currency are used for other things that have nothing to do with deterring our enemy.

And sometimes it gets really out of control. Like, we give a lot of weapons to Turkey, a [00:57:00] NATO ally. Turkey will then transfer that to its proxies in Syria who will use them to fight against American-backed rebels that are also using US weapons. So American weapons are being used on both sides of a conflict.

It just feels a little bit like deja vu from the book that was written a hundred years ago, stating that this was a problem. And it still kind of is. 

The other big issue with using weapons as your main currency for influence around the world is that weapons don't just go away. Back in the 80s, the CIA transferred a bunch of weapons to rebel fighters in Afghanistan who were fighting against the Soviets. Decades later, those same weapons were being used by those fighters and their descendants to fight against Americans who were then invading Afghanistan.

Same thing happened in Libya. We gave a bunch of weapons there and they leaked out and ended up in the hands of militants and insurgents in Syria and South Sudan. 

So if weapons are this currency that don't actually give us [00:58:00] leverage and that can create more danger than stability, why do we keep making them and sending to over 100 countries? 

There's a lot of answers to that question, but one of them has to do with money. There's a lot of money in making weapons. There always has been since the Industrial Revolution. Lots of these weapons are made all over our country, intentionally creating a network of jobs that no congressman ever wants to vote down. If a congressman votes to make fewer weapons, they could be voting against a factory or production facility in their district. Add to that, that some of our lawmakers own shares in these companies. If these companies make money, they make money. And yet they're the ones approving the money that goes to these corporations--a massive conflict of interest that we've reported on before in a previous video on insider trading. 

What you get is this military industrial complex, a permanent economic [00:59:00] business machine, that is incentivized to make more and more weapons, both to prepare for war and provide national security, but also to keep people rich, and to keep the constituents of lawmakers happy.

So, in short, one of the reasons the map looks like this is to keep a bunch of private corporations nice and rich.

Note from the Editor on the problems with looking for good or bad intentions

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with American Prestige reporting on the U S increasing its lead in arm sales. Big Take described how the U.S. plays matchmaker for domestic arms dealers. 

The Take explained the lawsuit trying to stop Mexico's Iron River. Facepalm America described more of the impact of gun smuggling into Mexico. Democracy Now, from back during the Obama administration, explained how the U.S. eased rules on exporting military technology. The Inquiry continued discussing the lawsuit attempting to stop gun smuggling. 

Jacobin looked at the practice of privatizing war with military [01:00:00] contractors. Big Take, explain to that gun culture must also be exported along with guns to the rest of the world. And Johnny Harris looked at the impact of arm sales on international leverage and corporate ledgers. And that's just the front page. 

There's more to dive into in the additional sections of this audio newspaper, but first a reminder that this show is supported by members who get access to bonus episodes, featuring the production crew here, discussing all manner of important and interesting topics, often trying to make each other laugh in the process. To support all our work and have those bonus episodes delivered seamlessly to the new "members only" podcast feed that you'll receive sign up to support the show at (link in the show notes), through our Patreon page if you prefer, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. 

If regular membership isn't in the cards for you, shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

And now, just before we [01:01:00] continue onto the sections-half of the show, I have a few thoughts. I feel like this is one of those topics that can so easily slide into the preconceived notions of whoever is hearing it. All of the same facts will be presented, but one person who, for instance, believes in the U.S. being a beacon of goodness will argue that either the weapons are doing good in the world or, at the very least, our intention was to do good in the world so we should be thanked at best or held the blameless at worst. 

But another person who sees the same facts, but has a perspective of the U.S. as an entity that can do almost no good, and has in fact been ultimately, you know, behind basically every bad thing that's happened around the world due to our imperialistic proclivities, will see the arm sales through that lens with the country—or at least the power brokers running the country—having an almost malevolent intent to mess up the world as much as [01:02:00] possible in order to profit from the chaos. 

 To be clear, that's not just a perspective from foreign adversaries or anything like that. Increasingly we've been hearing from people who consider themselves to be on the far left, who hold these kinds of reflexively anti-U.S. opinions. Now, unsurprisingly, there are problems with both of these extremes. For those with rose-tinted glasses, it hardly needs explaining that insisting on assuming the positive in the U.S. makes it much harder to find problems that may actually be able to be solved. The first step is so often just admitting that there's a problem. 

But the other view is similarly wrong-headed, not because it's wrong to be critical of the U.S., or even to look at any new issue with a skeptical eye. It's that reflexively always assuming the worst and ill intent just means that you're going to end up being wrong too often. Thinking of the country or the people who run it, particularly when it comes to issues of international [01:03:00] conflict, military aid and arm sales, as operating with either benevolent or malevolent intent just means you're starting off walking down the wrong path of logic right from the start. That doesn't mean you're always going to be wrong about your conclusions. But we all know it's possible to come to the right answer for the wrong reasons. 

Much more accurately and much less likely to lead to conspiratorial thinking is to understand systems thinking—understanding that people need not have ill intent to be part of a system that, for instance, sells weapons that end up having negative consequences. But that individual good intentions aren't enough to excuse the system. The more the politics of the right has slid into the conspiratorial abyss the more we all began to hear about "they" —the omnipresent, all powerful, "they" at the heart of every system, be it governmental, corporate, media, and it's the inner desires and [01:04:00] intentions of "they" that are responsible for how everything is playing out. 

This is the heart of conspiracism—the belief that rather than the world being a complicated place with lots of interlocking moving parts, being driven by old entrenched patterns and systems with global capitalism, always being in the mix, that it's actually just the will of powerful people pulling hidden strings that's making things happen. 

And to my dismay in the years, since the beginning of Russia's war in Ukraine, I've been hearing that framing of "they" more and more from some on the left or maybe who were previously on the left and don't really know where they are now. "What they're doing," "what they don't want you to know," et cetera. What I wish people would understand is that this framing, as an argument, is just as silly and facile as those who dismiss real problems by saying, "It's okay, they meant well." 

So go easy on [01:05:00] individuals, they're likely not as evil as some would have you believe, but don't let perceived intentions of individuals cloud deserved criticism of the systems in place that need to be overhauled because they're the source of the problem. Go easy on people, hard on systems. That's not just the answer to our real problems. It's also how to get to those answers without getting wrapped up in conspiracy or delusion in the process. 

And now, we'll continue with the rest of the show. Next up, section A "Global Arms Dealer," section B "Guns to Mexico," and section C "Domestic Gun Policy."

SECTION A: Global ArmsInside Biden’s Secret Arms Deal - Deconstructed - Air Date 9-22-23

MURTAZA HUSSIAN: For the past year and a half, Pakistan has been talking about this secret document that no one had seen until recently, but which showed — allegedly, according to former Prime Minister Imran Khan — that the U.S. had privately pushed for his removal from power. Since Khan’s removal last year, Pakistan has been embroiled in a huge political, economic, and [01:06:00] security crisis, effectively, but no one had seen this document until we published it last month, and it did show that the substance of Khan’s claims, that U.S. diplomats from the State Department had encouraged his removal and, even, you could say, threatened or incentivized the Pakistani military to make his removal happen, was true.

And it did, actually shed some light on this issue, which in Pakistan is still ongoing, and which, still, is really at the core of the crisis in that country of 200-million-plus people, which is: who controls the country, who should control it, and who gets to make the calls behind the scenes? And, really, Khan’s claims of how his own dismissal took place had a lot more substance than his critics had said for a long time beforehand.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: Yeah. And the crux of the dispute — if you want to call it that — between the United States and Khan was Ukraine, and was what they called Khan’s, quote-unquote, “aggressively neutral position,” vis-à-vis the war between Ukraine and Russia. And, you [01:07:00] know, we’ve kind of made fun of that phrasing, “aggressively neutral,” because it is kind of absurd.

On the other hand, he was, actually, kind of aggressive about it the day before meeting with Don Lu in this critical moment, where Lu tells the ambassador that they basically want Khan gone. He was responding to EU complaints about his neutrality by saying, “we are not your slaves.”

So, yeah, I understand. As absurd as the claim is, I understand what he means by aggressive neutrality.

MURTAZA HUSSIAN: Yeah. Khan is a very famously bombastic, you can say, populist figure, in politics, and he does not dress up his statements in the diplomatic niceties that someone may expect. He’s quite blunt about it and, certainly, this seemed to provoke the United States or antagonize them. And the degree to which they were upset about it maybe wasn’t clear in public statements but, behind the scenes, what the State Department was saying, clearly they were quite, quite angry about Khan’s position.

And that’s another thing that no one knew [01:08:00] about the cipher, is what exactly was the core and substance of the dispute? It turns out that it really was about Ukraine and Pakistan’s stance on it which, while neutral was not that different from, say, India’s stance or Bangladesh’s stance on the conflict, they’re trying to take a nonaligned position in a conflict which really wasn’t in their region, and that seemed to step on the prerogatives of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, particularly as it relates to the Pakistani military.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: And you also have to have a little bit more power than Pakistan had in order to hold that neutral position, it seems. India and even some of the Gulf countries who are somewhat aligned with the United States have taken somewhat of a nonaligned position, but they can stand on their own two feet. And it seems like what the United States said here is that you can’t. Like, we can push you over, and we now have more context for what happened since then.

So, Khan is removed from power in April of 2022. At this point, the war is two months old. You’re already starting to see [01:09:00] the Ukrainians running low on munitions, because they were not expecting a long drawn-out war. The U.S. industrial base is also not in a place where it can produce these low grade weapons at scale. We can produce a hundred-million-dollar F-35 that falls out of the sky and gets lost and builds around it an entire orbit of executives and lobbyists, but we don’t make a lot of bullets and artillery shells. And so, for that we needed Pakistan.

Talk a little bit about the new reporting, and what we’ve uncovered about what Pakistan’s role was, vis-à-vis this war, after Khan was ousted.

MURTAZA HUSSIAN: Well, a very good point you made was that Pakistan was kind of vulnerable to this kind of external pressure from the United States, because its economic situation is so dysfunctional. And one thing we’ve learned now is that the IMF bailout that Pakistan received earlier this year, and which it’s really banking on to extricate itself from this significant economic crisis which it’s experiencing, was [01:10:00] encouraged or came to fruition with the great help of the United States, for Pakistani cooperation and support in the war in Ukraine, provision of these weapons, sales of which, the capital generated thereof, was used to facilitate the financing of this loan. And, certainly, also to curry the political favor necessary to make the loan happen.

So you have a situation where the U.S. has very great disproportionate influence in the IMF. Pakistan’s dependent on the IMF for financial support, financing loans and so forth. And the U.S. can say, well, implicitly or explicitly, we won’t open the taps for your economic well being if you don’t give us what we want politically in this sense. 

So we kind of see very, very great detail in the story how things really work behind the scenes, the dealmaking that takes place at elite levels beyond what is said publicly, which is much more anodyne and sterile, you could say, or more diplomatic, you could say, in the public positioning. It was a lot of horse-trading [01:11:00] taking place behind the scenes.

And, unfortunately, I think that the ugly part of this deal is that there’s a crackdown taking place in Pakistan right now — it’s being led by the Pakistani military — to dismantle Khan’s party and suppress pretty much all dissent. And this loan has effectively helped finance that crackdown. It’s allowed them to postpone elections, it’s allowed them to solidify their own hold on power, which should be temporary in anticipation of elections, but seems like it’s much more long-lasting than that.

And it’s all going back to an arms deal. It’s an arms deal for … Bombs for billions, you could say, that’s what’s holding the current Pakistani regime in place.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: And so, to help us walk through and unpack this, we’re also joined by Arif Rafiq, who is a nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute. A lot of his focus area is on Pakistan and South Asia. He’s also a political risk analyst that focuses on that region.

 Can you talk a little bit about the role of the IMF here? As somebody who was observing this unfold beginning in early [01:12:00] 2022, what was the role of the IMF here, and what are the implications of what we’ve uncovered here?

ARIF RAFIQ: The IMF effectively serves as life support for the Pakistan economy. Pakistan is a habitual patient of the IMF. So, this is currently the 22nd or 23rd IMF program for Pakistan in its history. And so, every, I would say, three to five years, the country enters some kind of new IMF program, and that’s because the country goes through what are called boom-bust cycles. It grows at above average rates for a couple of years and its economy heats up, and it begins to run out of money to finance its own budget as well as its external liabilities.

So, Pakistan is a net importer. It imports energy — as well as some food items and other things — to fuel its economy as well as feed its [01:13:00] people. And its export base is quite weak. And so, it constantly needs the influx of funds from the IMF, as well as IMF partners, to help enable it to finance its imports, and then also address its budgetary needs.

And so, the IMF routinely comes in, and Pakistan is a sort of a longtime patient of the IMF. And, basically, the IMF plays the role of preventing Pakistan’s economic collapse. It doesn’t help the country in terms of its broader economic transformation and developing economy, an economy that meets the needs of its people, but it is there to prevent an all-out collapse.

MURTAZA HUSSIAN: You described the situation of the boom-bust cycle in Pakistani politics. I believe there’s something with Pakistan’s political economy which contributes to that. And you mentioned civil-military relations earlier. The Pakistani military obviously has a very disproportionate share in Pakistan’s economy [01:14:00] itself. It’s a big real estate holder, it controls other industries.

How does this military control of the economy lead to this chronically dysfunctional economic situation?

ARIF RAFIQ: Yeah. There is an imbalance in Pakistan’s economy, and its economic policies are largely aimed at or disproportionately aimed at privileging the few in the country, and that includes its political and economic elites, as well as the military. The military is a major economic player in the country. It owns a significant amount of land as commercial property. It also manufactures corn flakes, meat, and other goods. And so, it’s very analogous to what we have in Egypt and other countries, where the military is just a big player in the economy.

So it receives these undue benefits, in terms of privileges, in terms of market access and things like that. And, ultimately, what that does is it creates a kind of a domestic economy where the rules of the game are served to privilege the [01:15:00] few. And then, Pakistan’s elite doesn’t invest in competing in the broader global market, and that’s why the military and other major economic actors can benefit from the sheer demand in a country with a population of 240 million. But that is not a pathway toward creating a sustained economic growth that can last over a decade or two, as we’ve seen in countries like Bangladesh — which was formerly part of Pakistan — India, Vietnam, and many of the Southeast Asian countries that have seen some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

So, the rules of the game are aimed at privileging the few, and that produces this imbalanced economy. And then the IMF comes in, and this is a very tortuous exercise that repeats itself every few years.

RYAN GRIM - HOST, DECONSTRUCTED: And so, what we reported in this most recent article is that the weapons production began roughly in August by Pakistan [01:16:00] for the United States, for the benefit of the Ukrainian military. And then, by the spring of 2023 — so, that’s this year — the IMF publicly tells Reuters and Bloomberg and other news outlets that claims made by Pakistan about its progress toward the next round of IMF financing are not quite accurate. You know, that Pakistan was saying “We’re good, everything’s on cruise control. It expires the end of June 30th, but we should be good. The next round is coming in.”

IMF says, not so much. You need — I think, correct me if I’m wrong — roughly $6 billion, you need to come up with collateral from these other countries in order for us to put forward our financing. And, all of a sudden, at the end of June, the money uncorks.

So, we can add to this now through our reporting, that Pakistan went to the United States and said, we want this weapons program and the financing that’s coming through it to count toward filling this gap. 

Josh Paul Reveals The Truth Behind US Arms Supply to Israel - Laura Flanders and Friends - Air Date 11-7-23

JOSH PAUL: Many of these laws. [01:17:00] require the department to come to some sort of a determination, uh, before any sanctions or withholding of assistance occurs. Uh, if you never come to the determination, you've never broken the law. Uh, that said, I believe that the legal standards are rather lapsed, lacked, and lacking.

Uh, and I believe that we should be holding ourselves to a stronger standard. Uh, part of this also comes down to questions of interpretation of law. 

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: You also said that it is in the hands of higher ups. Who would that be? The final determination?

JOSH PAUL: I think the, the, the, the main policy decisions on Israel right now are being made, uh, from the top down, uh, which again is atypical for most arms sales.

They sort of bubble their way up, uh, from the bottom. You get an application from a partner or from a U S company. seeking a certain military capability. Uh, and that's a debate that, you know, gradually bubbles up to the decision makers. Uh, in this instance, the decision was made, uh, and therefore there was no space for that, that bubbling for that debate.

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: At [01:18:00] the top is the president. Is he ultimately responsible? Of 

JOSH PAUL: course, these are his authorities. 

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: So what can be done, I'm sure there are people in our audience who, whatever, wherever they stand on culpability for this particular round of violence, want to see an end to it, and want to see peace. What Can they do right now to perhaps to support civil service like the ones you're hearing from who are saying, we're still deciding to be inside trying to do good.

Are there things civil society outside can do to support people like that? 

JOSH PAUL: Yeah, there are three things I will point to. The first is a bit of a cliche, but it really does matter. Contact your member of Congress, contact your senator. I worked in a congressional office. And I know how we used to sit down with the member of Congress on a weekly basis.

Review the call logs and go through them and say, okay, we've had five calls on this side. We've had seven calls on that side and that really does inform how members of congress think about their votes Uh, so that that really is an important thing to do the second thing is [01:19:00] I would say reach out to your local media Uh, there are reporters for what's left anyway of local media, uh who cover?

Um local communities and how they are reacting to world events Make sure they're getting your side of the story And the third thing of course is is organized and there are some good organizations already out there uh, so that the So for example, there is the alliance for peace building Uh, is, is one organization, uh, who does a lot of good work bringing communities together around both local conflict resolution and global conflict issues.

So I think those are the three things I would recommend. 

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: Do we have a moment now with President Biden coming out right after you resigned, actually, um, urging Congress to approve, I think more than a hundred billion dollars in aid for Israel, Ukraine, and I think Taiwan. Um, is there a moment now?

Especially to stop any of that, or is it gonna go no matter what? 

JOSH PAUL: I think it's an important moment to talk about it because it [01:20:00] highlights it, right? And the debate inevitably will go away in several months. This won't be something that is on the top of everyone's minds. And while it is, I think this is the opportunity to make an impression.

Is it going to change anything in the short term that I can't say. I think we've have seen a slight shift over the last few days in the administration's approach. I think we've seen a change in tone, a greater focus on Palestinian civilian casualties and the harm that could be done. But in terms of the actions that underlie that, uh, when we look at a supplemental request that has billions of dollars for arms and a hundred million dollars, uh, for humanitarian relief in Gaza, for example, uh, I, I think I'm skeptical that the short term will make any difference, but I think the long term is much more promising.

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: You talked about the harm that could be done and even as we speak, people are being killed. Um, as we record this, um, Raji Sarani, the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in [01:21:00] Gaza, spoke on Democracy Now and basically said, Palestinian civilians are in the eyes of the storm. They are the targets.

PALESTIAN: They, they destroyed Gaza. I mean, it's unbelievable. This army, Targeting only civilians and civilian targets. Towers, houses, hospitals, churches, mosques, schools, sheltered places, ambulances, nurses, Doctors, journalists, this is the most ethical army, this is the most ethical army in the world. This is the mighty Israel, it's might and power, targeting civilians.

They are doing war crimes, crimes against humanity, persecution for 2. [01:22:00] 4 million people. For the last 18 days. How are you 


JOSH PAUL: this? That's right. And if I may, I mean, I saw a report today about a Palestinian family from the north of Gaza, uh, who moved, uh, following the Israeli direction to do so, uh, only for a large number of the family members to be killed in the South of Gaza, uh, when the Israelis struck there.

There is no escape within Gaza. Uh, and for those of us who have experienced war, we know that. Uh, the trauma, the screech of a no flying F 16 followed by explosions day after day after day. Even if you are not physically harmed is an irreparable trauma. 

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: We've seen this past week in October 20th, Israeli aircraft dropping flyers on northern Gaza saying that anybody who refuses to abide by the, what amounts to a forced evacuation or forced, um, relocation order from the north to the south will be considered, um, in league with the terrorists or a terrorist and subject to being killed.

How do [01:23:00] you, what's your sense of that? Is that legal? 

JOSH PAUL: So, let me first say that Israel does have a right to respond to Hamas's brutal, violent attack, no question. The Geneva Conventions prohibit the forced relocation of civilians within an occupied area. And so, I think there is a good legal question to be raised there.

I am not a lawyer. Uh, but I think one can only look at what is, at this point, 1. 3 million Palestinians within Gaza who are reported to have been dislocated from their homes, uh, many of those homes of course now destroyed and they won't be able to go back to them, um, to, to raise these sorts of questions and to ask that question I think is very legitimate.

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: Yeah. Please take a moment to subscribe to our newsletter and you'll get information on all of our programming including the weekly premiere on YouTube and our upcoming shows. Please subscribe at lauraflanders. org. I mean, my hair is on fire. You don't see it, but I feel it. Um, partly I've been. I would say that mine 

JOSH PAUL: is too.

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: Yours [01:24:00] obviously burnt up. Um, you lived in Ramallah. As you say, you served in Iraq. Uh, you, I mean, you, you worked in Iraq. Um, for those of us who have seen this up close, uh, this is a moment of despair and fury. And I wonder, Um, holding all of the civilian victims in our hearts at the same time. I certainly, um, feel and weep for those whose families have been torn apart by the attacks of Hamas, whose relatives are held hostage still.

But with all of that in your heart right now, how do you make sense of your effort and those of your colleagues to try to insert human rights? kind of rules on war, because it's almost seems inevitable that in the name of right to defense right to reprisal, um, governments do whatever the heck they like.

JOSH PAUL: So, I mean, there are [01:25:00] laws of war. They're not always necessarily enforceable. And of course, the U. S. has prevented the Palestinians from seeking restorative justice or justice of any kind through the International Criminal Court. Um, so I think it's important to note that there are laws that apply, there are rules of conduct, and there are basic standards of human decency that apply.

I think at the end of the day, as you said, what we're talking about here is not, does not boil down, should not boil down to Israel right or wrong. What we're ultimately talking about is the right of civilians, whether they be Palestinian or Israeli, to live in peace, to feel secure in their homes. very much.

secure from rocket attacks and secure from F 16 drop precision guided munitions. And I hope that this administration, uh, can take a look at our own historic policies, uh, both, uh, in Israel and drawing from our experience in the region, not all of which is positive by any means, [01:26:00] um, and, and push Israel and push all the parties, uh, towards a solution that is more just and that provides the peace.

people who just want to live their everyday lives and raise their families deserve. 

LAURA FLANDERS - HOST, LAURA FLANDERS & FRIENDS: Like what? What would that solution look like? What would you propose right now if you still had your job inside the State Department? 

JOSH PAUL: So I think there are two streams there. One is with regards to the transfer of arms to Israel right now, which is of course what I was most directly involved in and what I retired over or resigned over.

Um, and with regards to that, again, I would, I would ask the Biden administration to follow its own laws, uh, its own policies that it has set and just to simply apply the same standard. In the same space for debate to Israel as it has permitted, uh, or encouraged, uh, for, for conflicts and for partners, uh, elsewhere in the world. 


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Now entering section B guns to Mexico.

Can Mexico win its battle with US gun companies? Part 2 - The Inquiry - Air Date 3-7-24

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: The Mexican case is now changing the assumptions in the sense that it is no longer straightforward or thought that the responsibility of the arms industry [01:27:00] stops at the store.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: Mexico is the only country bringing the lawsuit against U. S. gun companies, but other nations are watching very closely. 

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: In Latin America, between 70 and 90 percent of gun deaths occur with firearms that come illegally trafficked from the United States. We see the same trends in Central America, in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador.

And also in the Caribbean and countries such as Jamaica.

Now Belize and Antigua and Barbuda have supported Mexico's claims in the U. S. courts by filing briefs directed to the judges who are looking into these cases and telling them that they have similar claims. Issues and similar concerns regarding the weapons that get to their jurisdictions to their territories from the United States.

Some of these countries might be interested in filing lawsuits against the same companies [01:28:00] in the U. S. courts if Mexico's bid for more accountability is successful. 

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: And lack success, if it happens, could be transformative. 

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: A win from Mexico in this case would fundamentally change the way in which gun manufacturers behave in three important ways.

Manufacture, marketing, and distribution. When it comes to manufacture, Mexico alleges that the way in which these products are made involves configurations that are easily modifiable to increase their lethality. Now Mexico would like these companies to produce these weapons in ways that makes it Very, very hard to convert them into higher caliber or repeat fire weapons.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: And just like the Sandy Hook lawsuit, the tone of gun company marketing is also in Mexico's sights. 

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: As for distribution Mexico has shown, through forensic evidence, that most of the firearms that are found in Mexican crime scenes are coming from a [01:29:00] cluster of gun stores that are situated along the border with Mexico in Arizona and Texas, mostly in the state of Arizona in Maricopa County.

Mexico has brought separate proceedings against the gun stores in Arizona for complicity in arms trafficking. And so the way in which Mexico is bringing this lawsuit By using both sides of the supply chain from, first of all, addressing the manufacturers in the federal courts in Boston, but also the gun stores in Arizona, is a strategy that might bring many actors across the supply chain into compliance.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: Mexico's gun company civil lawsuit hasn't been tried in court yet, so there's still a way to go before we find out how it ends. 

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: The companies will have to present evidence, and so will Mexico, and that means that the case will go into a discovery phase, where the practices of the gun companies in terms of marketing, [01:30:00] production, and distribution will have to be disclosed.

This information will be able to be used by potential buyers. Victims and plaintiffs in other cases as well. 

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: If the lawsuit was settled, that would mean no trial and no public disclosure of confidential gun company documents. But the expectation is that won't happen here. 

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: And so Mexico, one of its main objectives with this litigation, is to bring out into the open the business practices which, according to Mexico, are negligent and which are affecting its citizens and causing loss of life within the United States and across the border.

For And without that disclosure of evidence, Mexico would not be interested in an out of court settlement. 

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: The Mexican government says the cost of the law enforcement response to the cartels is going up, while opportunities to boost income from tourism and foreign investment are being lost. It's suing the gun companies for 10 billion U.

S. dollars in damages. 

DR. LEON CASTELLANOS-JANKIEWICZ: It is highly [01:31:00] unlikely that the judge in any phase of this case would order the gun companies to pay that exorbitant sum. Of course, there will probably be some kind of figure that a judge will try to put on The reparations that are awarded to Mexico should they find in favor of that country.

CHARMAINE COZIER - HOST, THE INQUIRY: So can Mexico win its battle with U. S. gun companies?

It's managed to clear the immunity law that's blocked other legal actions. So that's definitely a win. But there's still a long way to go. The trial hasn't started, so we don't know what either side will produce. But the Mexican government needs compelling evidence to prove its claims against the U. S.

gun companies and what they know about trafficking. Mexico may have tough firearm laws, but as our expert witnesses have noted, its own border controls are far from robust. It's going to be a long and expensive process with no guarantee of success. Whatever the outcome, the lawsuit is [01:32:00] already making a mark.

Other countries are watching and waiting.

Ieva Jusionyte, "Exit Wounds: How America's Guns Fuel Violence Across the Border" (U California Press, 2024) - New Books Network - Air Date 4-15-24 

IEVA JUSIONYTE: Most journalists get into covering crime, uh, Almost involuntarily, or they, they fall into it because they are working on a different issue, maybe reporting on, on just community affairs or local politics, or in Juan's case, it was local business, um, in, in, in Nuevo Leon. And then when, uh, Violence erupted because there was this, um, more competition between organized crime groups that traffic drugs to the United States.

And this violence became more apparent in the communities that journalists were covering. They, that, that was just their new story that a lot of them began to pursue. Um, and, uh, it, it was, um, it's also one that once they started this work. It is [01:33:00] difficult to get out of it, despite the threats. So, um, one, they become invested in the story or committed to this issue, uh, that makes it difficult to kind of abandon because the story doesn't end.

They're the organized crime groups continue competing. The government continues. Being implicated in, in extrajudicial killing. So the story has been continuing for many years. It's, it doesn't end. And the journalists who began that beat also feel almost some of them, I would say, trapped in it. Uh, On the one hand, they do have the sources.

It's something they are already familiar with, but also, um, there was, by talking to them and talking to Juan in particular, there is something more to it. So Juan was telling me that he. He just got submerged into this world of the narco. So it's a, it's a dark, kind of dark, dark [01:34:00] beat that has a big, uh, impact on your, on your, um, mental health, on your family life.

But once you get into it, leaving it is, it's, it's hard. There is, there is something to say about leaving the adrenaline behind and the adrenaline of the beat. Yes. But it is also, um, something that. Although it haunts you, uh, you kind of, um, you're resigned to this that this is your life. This is what you are good at.

So I think maybe in a way it can, in some cases, be maybe similar to, to ethnography too. We just get, get used to and, um. It's hard to get out. 

REIGHAN GILLAM - HOST, NEW BOOKS NETWORK: And so in the book, um, another group of people that you feature are gun smugglers and the U. S. federal agents who investigate them and, um, who. Uh, track [01:35:00] them and hope to, to catch the smugglers.

Um, yet the border, it seems to present this problem for U. S. agents and that they don't have jurisdiction in Mexico. And so how much are these, you know, U. S. agents, um, how much can they accomplish, uh, around the flow of guns, you know, with, with their invests and arrests and with these investigations that they're undertaking?

IEVA JUSIONYTE: That's such a good question. So in, in the U. S., the main agency that's responsible for all federal gun crimes, sort of tracking guns, uh, investigating gun crimes, punishing, uh, gun dealers or gun traffickers that, uh, violate laws, it is the ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. And it is one of the, least powerful agencies, very understaffed, uh, very, um, afraid of [01:36:00] politically, of political repercussions if they speak up and if they ask for more resources.

So in, um, I, I have one chapter in the book that, um, looks back at this operation, Fast and Furious, that became very politicized. Uh, and, uh, it was about ATF agents letting guns be trafficked to Mexico in order for them to figure out who are the ultimate buyers, where are these guns going to. Well, the fact is that they lost track of a lot of them and they lost track because Their jurisdiction, as you said, ended at the border.

Now they are much more careful. So they changed. Um, and I, when I tell the stories of these other agents that, that I got to, um, spend a lot of time with recently doing this research. So they don't let any guns cross the border. They try to intercept them at any cost before they get into [01:37:00] Mexico. But there is this mistrust between U.

S. and Mexico, between. authorities, um, the institutions. So it was in, in Mexico, there was very bad, um, um, memories of this operation. How could the U. S. government authorize sending guns to organized crime groups in Mexico? And there was no, nobody was really made responsible for that. And those guns are still in Mexico, but there were also other, other instances when the.

DEA agents, uh, Drug Enforcement Administration, they were working on some cases related to organized crime group members that were the Zetas, and they shared the information with their counterparts in Mexico. That information leaked, and this organized crime group executed a lot of people in, in Allende, Coahuila, which is another place I do write about in the book.

So there is both, um, There is this mistrust [01:38:00] both because of what U. S. agents did in the past and both also of how difficult it is to trust personnel in Mexican institutions that have these relations with organized crime. So it is, um, it is very difficult. Uh, at the same time, it is the only way, because gun guns, um, uh, kind of, they.

It's very difficult to solve an international trafficking crime only working in one country. Um, so I don't know, I, as an anthropologist, I don't know whether I can have, I can, uh, offer solutions for how they can, uh, increase cooperation, but that's definitely a, the only way forward. 


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: You have reached section C domestic gun policy.

Why America's police look like soldiers - Vox - Air Date 6-25-20 

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: In the 1980s, police in America looked more like this. The U. S. 's crime rate had been [01:39:00] doing this. And President Reagan called for the military to work more directly with the police for the war on drugs. 

PREIDENT RONALD REAGAN: Drugs are menacing our society. We must move to strengthen law enforcement activities.

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: Congress agreed, and over the next few years passed a series of bills to give police access to military bases and equipment, for the National Guard to assist police with drug operations, for the military and police to train together, and eventually to have the military loan police departments their excess leftover equipment for free.

This would become known as the 1033 program. Police departments got assault rifles like M 16s, armored trucks, and even grenade launchers. This And before long, it started to have an effect on how police police. We can see that in the number of times SWAT teams were used. Departments that had deployed them about once a month in the 80s were using them more than 80 times a year by 1995.

Almost all of these appointments were for drug related search warrants, [01:40:00] usually forced entry searches called no knock warrants. The police were becoming militarized, and people noticed. This 1997 article said it made police look like an occupying army.

In February of 1997, two men robbed a bank in North Hollywood, Los Angeles. They had automatic rifles and body armor. The police didn't. 


the time it ended, a dozen police officers were injured. In the aftermath of the shootout, California police demanded they be equipped with assault rifles, like the AR 15.

But so did police in places from Florida to Connecticut. And that same year, the 1033 program was expanded, dropping the requirement that police departments use the equipment for drug related enforcement. Now any law enforcement, even university police, could access leftover military weapons for any reason.[01:41:00] 

A retired police chief in Connecticut told the New York Times, I was offered tanks, bazookas, anything I wanted. Because complete records on these loans weren't kept until 2015, we don't know exactly how much equipment was given out in those early years. But we do have data on how much of it police departments still have, from each year it was given out.

And you can see a steady growth in the program for most of the 90s and 2000s. And then something happens around here. 

PRESIDENT BARAK OBAMA: The rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. 

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: In 2011, the U. S. military formally withdrew its troops from Iraq. That meant the military had a lot of equipment, and one less war to use it on.

So it became available to the police. This is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, or MRAP. It's among the most controversial equipment given out under the 1033 program. And we know from the data that police departments still have several hundred of them that they got in [01:42:00] 2013 and 2014, but none from 2015.

That's because in August of 2014, the 1033 program became national news. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: We just said hands up, don't shoot! And they just started shooting! 

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: A police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, had shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. Afterwards, the community's protests were met by heavily militarized police, who pointed sniper rifles at them as they marched.

Tear gas in armored tanks became a familiar sight in Ferguson, Missouri. The 

PRESIDENT BARAK OBAMA: police departments around the country have been getting a lot of this type of equipment. 

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: President Obama responded with an executive order curbing the 1033 program. 

PRESIDENT BARAK OBAMA: We've seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like There's an occupying force as opposed to a force that's part of the community that's protecting them and serving them.

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: Two years later, President Trump's administration reversed it. 

JEFF SESSIONS: We will not put superficial concerns about public safety. 

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: But by that point, the 1033 [01:43:00] program had become a lot less important anyway. This chart shows that by 2016, most MRAPs loaned out their funds. went to smaller police departments. That means when larger cities today have MRAPs and other military gear, it's often because they've bought it themselves.

And that's because police having military gear and weapons no longer depends on any one government program. It's now a part of how police see themselves. 

ARTHUR RIZER: But the thing that I think is really important is with that equipment comes a certain mentality. 

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: This is Arthur Reiser. He's a former military police officer, former civilian police officer, and now studies police militarization.

A big part of his research is about that mentality. And he shared a poll he did of police officers with us. 

ARTHUR RIZER: I asked officers, you know, do you have any problem with police officers routinely on patrol carrying military grade equipment or dressing in military type of uniforms? And the vast majority of those officers told me, no, I [01:44:00] have no problem with that.

And then the second question I asked is, do you think it changes the way that officers feel about themselves and their role in policing? And the vast majority of officers again said, Yes, and what they said was it makes them more aggressive, more assertive, and it can make them more violent. And then finally, I asked them, How do you think the public perceives you?

And the vast majority said it scares them. They know that it scares the public. They know that it makes them more aggressive or more assertive. And that can be dangerous. But they don't seem to care.

MADELINE MARSHALL - HOST, VOX: There are definitely times when it's been more clearly beneficial for the police to have this equipment. For example, during the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, Orlando police used an armored military vehicle to stop the shooter. But those moments tend to be the exception. Today, this equipment is still mostly used by SWAT teams for executing drug related search warrants.

And more than [01:45:00] half of those are still no knock warrants. The kind that Louisville police were executing when they killed Breonna Taylor. And in the case of the Ferguson protests, the Department of Justice found that the heavily militarized presence served to escalate rather than de escalate the overall situation.

The military and the police are supposed to serve different purposes. A military protects an us from a them. A police officer is supposed to be a part of the us. But when police think of themselves as soldiers, that can change. 

ARTHUR RIZER: What is the police officer gonna do with an assault rifle when he's facing a protest?

You know, seriously, when you give someone a hammer, why are you surprised that everything looks like a nail to them?

Why US gun laws get looser after mass shootings - Vox - Air Date 7-28-22

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: In 2020, a study tried to determine the impact of mass shootings on gun policy. They looked at 25 years of high profile mass shootings. Then they looked at gun legislation passed during that time. Over 3, 000 laws [01:46:00] across all 50 states. When they took a closer look at those laws, a pattern emerged that, at first, seemed unsurprising.

State legislatures controlled by Democrats were more likely to pass tighter gun laws. Republican controlled states typically loosened gun laws. But they found a key difference. Mass shootings didn't have any statistically significant effect on the number of laws passed by Democrats. While for Republican legislatures, a mass shooting roughly doubles the number of laws enacted that loosen gun restrictions in the next year.

JAMES BARRAGAN: To arm more teachers, for example, or arm more school staff. 

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: That's James Varagan, a politics reporter at the Texas Tribune. 

JAMES BARRAGAN: There is more access to guns afterwards. A state like Texas would go more towards pro gun policies in the aftermath of a gun shooting. 

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: Texas has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation, and that matters for people all over the country.

JAMES BARRAGAN: People probably don't know about the importance of, [01:47:00] uh, state gun laws and really state laws in general. Our gun laws at the federal level had been frozen in time since basically the 1990s, which allowed the states to have a much bigger role and a much bigger influence in how gun culture played out in their jurisdictions.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: Let's look at Texas. In 1991, a gunman killed 23 people at a Luby's restaurant in Killian, Texas. A woman there named Susanna Hub lost both her parents in the shooting. She believed she could have stopped the massacre and turned her experience into a crusade for loosening gun laws. 

SUZANNE GRATIA: I'm mad at my legislators for legislating me out of the right to protect myself and my family.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: It worked. In 1994, Texas elected a new governor, George W. Bush, who made it legal to carry a concealed gun his first year in office, and set off a trend in the state that's continued for decades. For example, in 2012, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting drew [01:48:00] attention to gun laws across the country, Texas responded a few months later by creating a program allowing some school employees to carry guns in school.

In 2017, a gunman killed 26 people at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Within two years, Texas made it legal to carry weapons in places of worship. But after the Santa Fe High School shooting, Governor Greg Abbott did something unusual. He asked lawmakers to consider a red flag law, which would allow authorities to take firearms away from a person courts deemed dangerous.

JAMES BARRAGAN: Uh, that is not something that Republicans in this state often do. 

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: Flo and Scott were also pushing for legislation in response to Santa Fe, like laws that would hold parents accountable if their guns were used by their children to harm people. They also pushed to make it harder to buy ammunition online.

FLO RICE: Our shooter, he just checked a box and said, yes, I'm 18, and they delivered it to his [01:49:00] doorstep. You can't get alcohol delivered without showing proof of ID or something, but he ordered ammunition. 

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: Their hope for stricter laws was in line with Texas public opinion. Polling showed only a small minority of Texans supported loosening gun laws, and just over half supported tightening them.

FLO RICE: We thought it was common sense that this would be done. 

SCOT RICE: They came to Flo's hospital room the week of the shooting. And we had the governor, lieutenant governor, we had congressmen, we had senators, their wives, there's chief of staff all in her room at one time, at least 20 people and said, we're going to take care of you.

We promise we'll be there for you. We'll fix this. 

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: But in the end, these proposals, along with Abbott's openness to red flag laws, went nowhere. 

JAMES BARRAGAN: After gun rights supporters went after him, the gun culture is strong. But the gun lobby itself also exerts a lot of pressure on Texas politicians. 

FLO RICE: There were bills that were put out there, but they [01:50:00] never made it out of committee.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: Later in 2019, two shootings in West Texas just weeks apart prompted Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick to suggest another tighter gun policy, closing background check loopholes. 

JAMES BARRAGAN: That is a very strong comment from a lieutenant governor who is very pro guns, who is very friendly with the NRA. But Republican leaders were saying, we may have problems here.

Democrats are pushing to take over the state house. That For the first time since 2003. 

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: After elections were over, with Republicans still in control, in 2021, Texas passed constitutional carry. There would no longer be a requirement for Texans to have a license or receive any training to openly carry handguns.

FLO RICE: For me, it's very scary because if I see someone in public with a gun, I will panic. Um, that's going to send me into an anxiety attack. 

JAMES BARRAGAN: That constitutional carry law that, uh, the state legislature passed in 2021 had been rejected by [01:51:00] Republican leaders. But as, uh, the Republican party has gone further and further to the right on issues, you get a fringe of the party that is much more vocal about, uh, all kinds of issues, including gun rights.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: In recent years, a better organized gun control movement has seen more success with tightening laws in some states. But the movement to expand gun access isn't stopping. In 2002, fewer than half of the 50 states had one party in control of both the state legislature and the governor's office. Today, three quarters of the states do.

That means in the places where Republicans or Democrats have full control, they can push through new gun laws with little chance of a veto. 

JAMES BARRAGAN: So what happens, um, and you see it in state house to state house, is one state passes a law that is very successful for one side of the aisle. And then, um, Another state house adopts a very, very similar law.

RANJANI CHAKRABORTY - HOST, VOX: Remember that constitutional carry [01:52:00] law in Texas? Today, 24 states have similar laws on the books for that, too. And more than 400 local governments across 20 states have adopted variations on a Second Amendment sanctuary law, meaning a city, town, or county refuses to recognize any state or federal gun laws.

that they believe violate the Second Amendment. 

JAMES BARRAGAN: These things get replicated, they get cloned, they go from state to state, and they essentially make up this patchwork of laws throughout the country.

Closing credits 5-21-24

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: That's going to be it for today. As always, keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about today's topic or anything else you like. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at (202) 999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. The additional sections of the show included clips from Deconstructed, Laura Flanders and Friends, The Inquiry, New Books Network, and VOX. Further details are in the show notes. 

Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin [01:53:00] Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our transcriptionist quartet Ken, Brian, Ben, and Andrew for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work behind the scenes and her bonus show co-hosting. 

And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast App. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny weekly bonus episodes in addition to there being no ads and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community. Where you can continue the discussion. 

So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC. 

My name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left Podcast coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from [01:54:00]

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#1629 Hitting Where it Hurts in Our Era of Negative Partisanship: Messaging left-wing politics amid cultish politics (Transcript)

Air Date 5/15/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left Podcast in which we, in a cultish era of in-group out-group politics and media, seek to find messaging for progressive partisans to achieve electoral success. 

Sources on our front page today include The Gray Area, the PBS NewsHour, Amanpour and Company, Deep State Radio, and Future Hindsight. Then in the additional sections half of the show, we'll dive deeper into identity, political rhetoric, messaging, and those pesky independents.

Everything's a cult now - The Gray Area with Sean Illing - Air Date 4-27-24

DEREK THOMPSON: I'm not sure that I've ever been able to go deep on it. I'm very interested in, and I've always been very interested in, culture, which I suppose is worth defining. Culture is the way that we think about the world and the way that we influence each other's thoughts about the world. And that can be through entertainment, it can be through religion, it can be through fashion and [00:01:00] clothes. But it's the memes and ideas and ideologies that not only influence our own sense of reality, but other people's sense of reality.

And I've always been interested in how people's sense of reality comes to be. So you can start with the late 19th century when the concept of a national reality was first possible, at least in America. You had technologies like the telephone and the telegraph that allowed newspapers to share information and report on information that truly was national. It allowed information to travel much faster than it had ever traveled before. And so suddenly in the late 19th century, we had the possibility of a national, and even international, somewhat real time shared reality. 

And that shared reality might have come to its fullest expression maybe in the middle of the 20th century with the rise of television technology. You had just a handful of channels that were reaching tens of millions of people. And at the same time, you also had the [00:02:00] rise of national newspapers and maybe the apogee of national newspapers in terms of their ability to monopolize local advertising revenue and become just enormous machines for getting tens of millions of Americans to read about a shared reality.

And so you move from the 19th century with sort of the birth of this possibility of a shared reality into the 20th century where you really have the rise of a kind of monoculture, which was never really possible for the vast majority of human history. And what I'm interested in is the possibility that the Internet has forever shattered that reality; that we are, in a way, going back to the pre-20th century, where culture is actually just a bunch of cults stacked on top of each other, a bunch of mini local realities stacked on top of each other. And that we maybe will never have anything like monoculture ever again, because the Internet in a weird way thrusts us back into the 19th century. [00:03:00] And there's all sorts of fascinating things that can unspool from the fact that monoculture and shared reality, as we briefly came to understand it, is dead.

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: Yeah, I think basically all of that is right. And I'm going to try to resist the temptation to start chewing on too much of it because I don't want to get ahead of ourselves here. I think it would be helpful first to also define another term that we're going to throw in a lot here. And it deserves to be defined clearly so that people know what we're talking about.

And that term is "cult." How do you define a cult? 

DEREK THOMPSON: I think of a cult as a nascent movement outside the mainstream that often criticizes the mainstream and organizes itself around the idea that the mainstream is bad or broken in some way. 

So I suppose when I think about a cult, I'm not just thinking about a [00:04:00] small movement with a lot of people who believe something fiercely. I'm also interested, especially in the modern idea of cults being oriented against the mainstream. That is, when they form, they form as a criticism of what the people in that cult understand to be the mainstream. And cults, especially when we talk about them in religion, tend to be extreme, tend to be radical, tend to have really high social cost to belonging to them.

You, today, especially in the media and entertainment space, have this really interesting popularity of new influencers or new media makers adapting as their core personality the idea that the mainstream is broken, that news is broken, that mass institutions are broken, that the elite are in [00:05:00] some way broken and elite institutions are broken.

The fragmentation of media that we're seeing, and the rise of this anti-institutional, somewhat paranoid style of understanding reality, I see these things as rising together in a way that I find very interesting. 

SEAN ILLING - HOST, THE GRAY AREA: That whole message, the "They don't want you to know the real truth," "They, the mainstream, aren't covering the real news or the real stories." What is the seductive power of that? What is the psychological reward of defining yourself against the normies in that way? 

DEREK THOMPSON: There's a lot of possible answers here, but I guess I'll start with a favorite philosophical touchstone of yours. Speaking of the 19th century, let's go to Nietzsche.


DEREK THOMPSON: I think it's about power. I think that cults, speaking of will to power, give people who feel like they don't have status or don't have power or don't have a clear understanding of or theory of the case of the world, [00:06:00] it gives them all of that. It gives them power. It gives them a kind of weapon of status, and it gives them a theory of how the world works.

If you're frustrated, for example, about COVID policies in 2020, 2021, it's not very empowering to say that nobody really understands what's going on and everyone's just doing their best in the fog of pandemic. That's not a very empowering message. It might be true. It actually is quite close to the truth, I believe, of our often failing elite institutions. But for many people, I think it is more empowering and more attractive to identify a clear nemesis. Maybe it's Fauci. Maybe it's Trump. Maybe it's someone else in the CDC or the FDA. It's much more empowering to say, I know this person is the enemy and everything that goes wrong with [00:07:00] COVID policy, I can blame it on them.

When we think about why is anti-institutional or anti-elite messaging so popular these days, I think it's hard to separate the fact that a lot of people are searching for status, searching for a sense of power and understanding and identity. And here you have the possibility of finding and settling on a message that says, I know who the good guys and the bad guys are. And once you have that clear division of who is good or who is bad, well, that goes so deeply, I think, to what makes cults so powerful. Here is your in group, and here is your in group defined by the out group. And that kind of out-group animosity not only goes aerodynamic on social media for a variety of reasons, I also think it sits very well with us when we're confused about the world and how it works. 

Examining how U.S. politics became intertwined with personal identity - PBS NewsHour - Air Date 3-8-23

CLAIRE JERRY: Every president has encountered division of some type, much of it partisan, protests, civil unrest, much of it rooted in those very things Washington was concerned about. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: [00:08:00] Inside the exhibit on the presidency at the National Museum of American History in Washington, curator Claire Jerry hears echoes of the divisions today in our country's past, starting with our very first president, George Washington.

CLAIRE JERRY: In his farewell address, he said he was really worried about three things for the country. He was worried about regionalism, partisanship and foreign entanglements, and especially the partisanship issue. He was not a believer in parties that would take the lead over ideas. And one of the things he says in the address is that the unity of government made us a people, and we should be justifiably proud and committed to that.

CARROLL DOHERTY: The country is more divided, certainly along partisan lines, than we've seen it. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: In our first story, we heard from the Pew Research Center's Carol Dougherty and Jocelyn Kiley about how divided the country has become, and how hostile members of both parties now are to the other side. 

JOCELYN KILEY: I think one way to think about this is, is that [00:09:00] people have internalized partisan identity maybe in a way that we didn't really see, say, three decades ago.

MICHELLE VITALI: I do think that things have broken down. I have neighbors that we wave to each other, and that's the extent of our relationship now. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: That's a feeling we've heard from our viewers too. The conversations about current events and politics have become far more divisive and personal. 

FABIAN GONZALEZ: Those items that are in the news today--COVID, immigration, politics, abortion, and the list goes on--I'm not free to speak about any of those things because I fear the consequence of a conversation I don't feel like I can have. 

KARA ELLIS: It's really hard because these are people I care about. These are people I'm close to that I've grown up with, I've lived in the same house with. The underlying current between all of us is very tense. 

SUDHANSHU MISRA: I would like to talk about politics, discuss [00:10:00] politics with my friends. I would like to share ideas, exchange notes with them. But unfortunately we are at a dead end, where there is a wall. 

LILLIANA MASON: Decades ago, we disagreed over things like the role of government or the size of government or what we wanted the government to be doing. And with those types of divisions, we can find a compromise. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: Lilliana Mason is a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University who draws on social psychology to try to better understand our political divisions. 

LILLIANA MASON: What we're seeing today is, is the divide is much more about our feelings about each other. We are angry at one another. Democrats and Republicans don't trust one another. We are more likely to dehumanize people in the other party. We think that they're a threat to the country. And these types of feelings are not the kind of thing we can compromise with. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: Mason opened her first book, Uncivil Agreement, with the story of Robber's Cave, a famous social science experiment from the [00:11:00] 1950s when researchers brought 5th grade boys to a summer camp outside Oklahoma City. The boys, all white, were separated into two teams: one calling itself the Rattlers, the other the Eagles. They were allowed to bond. And then, after a week, the groups were introduced to each other.

LILLIANA MASON: And they immediately wanted to start competing. So they wanted to have baseball games, all kinds of different kinds of competitions to prove that they were the best. So they started calling each other names. They accused each other of cheating. They tried to sabotage each other. The competition got so intense that ultimately they had to stop the experiment because they were throwing rocks and they were becoming violent.

And that experiment was used to talk about the sort of innate nature of humans to form groups, to become proud of the groups that we're in, to want our groups to be better than the people that are not in our group, and ultimately, to compete against another group if we [00:12:00] feel like they are threatening the status of our team.

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: Jumping ahead from George Washington's warning at our founding about the danger of political teams. 

FABIAN GONZALEZ: It is with pride that I face before this convention. For President of the United States, the name of Dwight David Eisenhower. 

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: To the 1950s, when our political parties were far more ideological mix than today, with conservative and liberal wings in both camps, and when someone like General Dwight Eisenhower was courted by both parties to run as their standard bearer. 

CLAIRE JERRY: Eventually, he chose a party, but yet was still elected with overwhelming support from the American people. And that would have been true, I think, regardless of which direction he had gone. 

LILLIANA MASON: In 1950, the American Political Science Association actually put out a report saying we need the parties to be more different, because people don't know which party to vote for because they can't tell the difference between them and so they can't make a responsible decision. [00:13:00] And ultimately, what they suggested was that the two parties should really stand for some very different policy ideas. 

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON: We must not fail. Let us close the springs of racial poison.

JUDY WOODRUFF - REPORTER, PBS NEWSHOUR: In the 1960s, the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act by Democrats helped usher in a major realignment of the parties, with many Black Americans becoming Democrats, as many White Americans opposed to integration left that party. Layered on top of that broad reorganization along racial lines, the 1980s witnessed the mobilization of the socially conservative Christian Right, as well as business interests aligned with Republicans.

And eventually came the rise of partisan talk radio, cable TV news, the Internet and social media, exacerbating the divide along partisan lines. 

LILLIANA MASON: Ultimately, what ended up happening is that our [00:14:00] society changed in such a way that our parties started becoming different on their own. Not based on the policy preferences, or not only based on policy preferences, but based on what Democrats and Republicans looked like, what kind of religious services they attended, what kind of cultural television shows they watched, where they live. And so they started really becoming different from each other in a social way, not just in a sort of policy way. 

Trump’s Speech to Israel-Gaza w. Jason Stanley on the Politics of Language - Amanpour and Company - Air Date 11-16-23

HARI SREENIVASAN - REPORTER, AMANPOUR AND COMPANY: You have a new book out called The Politics of Language, and it is happening and dropping at a time when there is so much language to be discussed. My first example that I want to pull up is former president Donald Trump at a speech on Veterans Day. He said, "We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country, [00:15:00] that lie and steel and cheat on elections". But, tell me, when you see that, when you heard that, what went through your mind? 

JASON STANLEY: Okay, there's a bunch of stuff to unpack in that statement. Let's begin with "vermin" and move to the claim that Joe Biden is a Marxist and a communist, essentially. 

So, when you speak, you attune people to certain things. So you attune people to things in the world, in this case, rats, and you attune people to practices, in this case, things you do with rats. But this kind of hate speech, because that's what it is, it attunes its audience to a practice of dealing with vermin. 

The concept of genocide is complicated in this case because it's being applied to political opponents and not an ethnic group. But we have to remember that the Soviet Union [00:16:00] intervened in the definition of genocide to make sure it didn't apply to political opponents, or else Stalin would have been accused of genocide. So this is politicide, politicidal speech, and we can't forget that. 

So, now the second aspect of this is the overbroad use of Marxist and communist. That one is familiar from the well-known writings of say, Hitler , where Hitler said, essentially, any pro-democratic. person, the Social Democrats, any political opponent was a Marxist. So, this overbroad use of Marxist was used in the 1930s by the Nazi party to incarcerate anyone accused of this charge, which meant Social Democrats, the political opponents of the conservatives. And we have to remember that in the 1930s, until Kristallnacht in [00:17:00] November 1938, the people who occupied the concentration camps were Hitler's political opponents, the pro-democracy forces who he falsely labeled as Marxists. And you know, it's absurd to say that there's any kind of dramatic Marxist or communist movement in the United States today.

HARI SREENIVASAN - REPORTER, AMANPOUR AND COMPANY: What do you mean by "politicidal"? 

JASON STANLEY: "Politicidal" is targeting a class of political opponents for extermination. So, for example, in Indonesia in 1965-66, Between 500,000 and 1. 2 million communist party members were murdered by the government. That was a politicide. Stalin committed politicides against many of millions of his political, what he perceived as his political opponents. So, it's targeting political opponents rather than. ethnic or religious groups. 

HARI SREENIVASAN - REPORTER, AMANPOUR AND COMPANY: I do want to point out something else that he said later in the same speech. He said, [00:18:00] "The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave than the threat from within. Our threat is from within". What sort of actions do you think, you know, when you talk about attuning an audience, what does it do to an audience when they hear their leader say things like that? 

JASON STANLEY: So, it cleaves the audience into his supporters and the opponents. And the opponents are being said to be so destructive, such an existential threat, that nothing they say can be taken at face value. That you can't trust anything they say, because, you know, in war you can't trust your opponent, if your opponent is telling the truth in war, saying something in war, they're just doing it in order to deceive you. So, the idea here is to create a friend-enemy distinction. And, as we say in our book, the friend enemy distinction has a communicative consequence. [00:19:00] And that communicative consequence is you shut out the voices of your political opponents. So, he is trying to create a wall between Democrats and him and saying to his supporters, Look, this is not about discourse. This is about us versus them. They are an existential threat to the nation. Don't talk to them, incarcerate them. 

HARI SREENIVASAN - REPORTER, AMANPOUR AND COMPANY: So in this context, your book, your new book, The Politics of Language, you're really saying that so much of the conflicts that we are seeing around the world today have a pretty significant component, where the language used to describe them, the opponents, and the framing, either—what, is an accelerant? Or entrenches people onto one side? How would you describe it? 

JASON STANLEY: Well, as the philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine said, you know, "Everything is mixed between world and language". Separating out what language does and what [00:20:00] "world", what factuality is, is very difficult. And there's like a feedback loop, if you will, between the speech and the actions. And it's certainly the talking strengthens the background ideology, you know, you talk about vermin, you link it to say, in this case, a stolen election, and then you do a feedback loop. So, you repeat it, you link it to the background ideology. Germany in 1931, according to Claudia Kuntz, the scholar of Nazism, was the least antisemitic country in Europe. If you expected a genocide, you would have expected it, say, in France, in Western Europe that is. So, but by 1939, it's the most antisemitic country. And that's because of this kind of feedback loop, this kind of repetitive linkages between vermin and the targeted people. And then you have to link it back, as the Nazis did, they linked [00:21:00] this back to the Jews, German Jews, or the world Jewish conspiracy, supposedly betraying the Germans in World War I, which, as Timothy Snyder has pointed out, is like the current situation. They're saying that these hidden Marxist forces betrayed the country by stealing the election and we need revenge.

Hit 'Em Where It Hurts A Conversation About How Dems Can Win in November with Rachel Bitecofer - Deep State Radio - Air Date 2-8-24

DAVID ROTHKOPF - HOST, DEEP STATE RADIO: Well, you know, I say this as a compliment although it may not sound that way at first, but you've become kind of the anti-Michelle Obama because Michelle Obama is like, 'when they go low, we go high'. And you're, you know, I think your message, and I don't want to put words in your mouth, is kind of like, Well, sure, you know, own your accomplishments, but going low actually works in this environment. And by going low, I mean going negative, you know? And you explain that better than I can. So , maybe this is a time to explain. 

RACHEL BITECOFER: Yeah. [00:22:00] I mean, not to pick on Michelle Obama, because there's nothing, frankly, I mean there's a lot of things that are special about Michelle Obama, but her thought that, you know, no matter how nasty these people get, we should maintain our integrity and dignity, I would say is very reflective of the average Democrat, especially working in the industry, okay? But what I'm here to say is that when Republicans go low, we have to hit them where it hurts. Okay? And that front half of the book where I described the heuristic of partisanship, how much it matters and all the stuff that Republicans have done, and also that most voters don't pay attention. I mean, 40% of people who could have voted in 2020 didn't even bother to vote when the rest of us felt we were in this moment of existential crisis. 

So, getting people to understand, like, people don't know anything, right? So, we have to be the ones to tell them that if the Republicans are running campaigns that are... the way Republicans do persuasion is very distinct and I lay this out in the book. In 2004, they dabble in it. By 2010, they institutionalize it. They don't [00:23:00] do median voter theorem persuasion: Oh, David, you're here and here and here on policy. I am too. Vote for me. And I have a great qualification background. You can trust me. 

Republicans don't do that anymore at all. What they do in persuasion messaging is tell people the Democrats are crazy socialist and they're going to turn your boys into girls, right? Like, it's very much not selling them. It's pushing that swing bucket away from voting for us. And so that's the transition that we have to learn how to make. So, it's not just about negativity because Democrats have always run negative ads. They just never run any effective negative ads. Th