Challenging Opinions is the podcast to test all ideas,left and right, liberal and conservative, progressive and libertarian.
CO147 Otaviano Canuto on the Post-Covid Economy
Otaviano Canuto was a vice president of the World Bank Group. He previously served as Executive Director at the Board of the International Monetary Fund, the IMF, and he’s held other roles at the World Bank and, as well as the position of State Secretary for International Affairs at the Ministry of Finance of Brazil.
About two years ago on the podcast I had an interview with Natalie Wynn, then called Natalie Parrott, and also known as the youtuber ContraPoints. Despite the fact that I’m a huge fan of her YouTube channel it was a pretty tense interview. If you don’t know the ContraPoints channel on YouTube, you should look it up now, she puts a huge investment into the writing and shooting of the videos, not least to the hugely in-depth analysis of the topics covered.
Because I’m a big fan of her videos, particularly the rigorous intellectual questioning in them, I was a bit disappointed that the interview was, as I say, tense, and that Natalie came across as defensive. That was my perception and quite a few listeners commented in the same vein; Natalie is a transwoman, a lot of her videos are centered on that topic and I thought that it would be interesting to talk to her about the issues that surround that and of course that would mean putting to her the views of people who disagree with her.
If you listen to that interview, I think you will hear that she didn’t see it that way.
One of the topics that we disagreed over was the way in which some trans people and their supporters can be perceived to be intolerant of any expression of views that they don’t agree with. They are certainly not alone in that, I’m not suggesting that’s true of all trans people, but there seems little point in denying that the effect exists.
To illustrate this point, I played a clip of a woman who describes herself a sex-educator, Laci Green. If you know anything at all about her, you will know that she is a strong supporter of the LGBT community in general and trans people in par...
CO146 Rashawn Ray on the Numbers of Policing
Dr. Rashawn Ray is Associate Professor of Sociology and Executive Director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research (LASSR) at the University of Maryland, College Park.
He’s a coauthor of the book How Families Matter: Simply Complicated Intersections of Race, Gender, and Work.
I’ve talked about Venezuela before, it’s a country that has one of the largest oil reserves in the world, but still suffers from huge poverty and inequality because of a series of terrible governments.
Up to a decade ago the right were embarrassed to talk about Venezuela because, because it was governed by a democratically-elected left-wing government that had take power from hugely corrupt predecessors who had kept the oil wealth for a tiny elite, leaving most of the country impoverished.
Venezuela became a socialist country where the media was free enough to not be called censored, the corruption was modest enough to be ignored, and the oil was flowing fast enough not to notice the economic incompetence. But the oil business and the largesse that it allowed the government to dole out basically wiped out the rest of the economy.
When the oil prices fell, more and more blatant election-fixing, and the closing down of more opposition-supporting TV stations was required to keep the government in power, and it began to be the left that was embarrassed about Venezuela. And there are plenty of reasons to be embarrassed.
The left wing government, led first by the charismatic Hugo Chávez, later the decidedly uncharismatic Nicolás Maduro have handled the economic difficulties with a spectacular level of incompetence, making things far worse with idiotic policies.
When the price of sugar shot up because of shortages, the government introduced a law mandating a maximum price at which sugar could be sold. Predictably, people just stopped producing and selling sugar, to such an extent that Coca-Cola had to pull...
CO145 Steven Koltai on the Business of Peace
Steven Koltai is an entrepreneur, long time business executive, and foreign policy expert with a focus on entrepreneurship. He’ s also the author of ‘Peace through Entrepreneurship: Investing in a Startup Culture for Security and Development‘ published by Brookings Institution Press in 2016.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the idiots are getting more numerous, or just louder. Whichever it is, there certainly seems to be a cacophony of stupid out there. I won’t even bother discussing whether it’s a good idea to tell people to drink disinfectant, or to actually drink disinfectant, or to tell people who’ve seen the recording of you talking about drinking disinfectant that you didn’t say that at all, that’s been done to death.
You might laugh at that, and laugh at the possibility of anyone taking it seriously, and then move on to laughing at the people who did take it seriously, but you might not be aware that there exists a whole subculture out there of people who convince each other that forcing their kids to drink chlorine, that’s the highly toxic stuff that you disinfect swimming pools with, they force their kids to drink it, and when they can’t drink any more because they have vomited too much, they force it into their anuses with an enema.
Many children have suffered serious poisonings as a result, and wouldn’t you know it, there is a hugely profitable cult religion that specializes in selling the chemical and convincing people that it’s God’s one true medicine.
But as soon as anything hits the news, conspiracy theorists seem to be able to build it into their crackpot ideas. The Corona virus is no exception. One of the theories, entirely unburdened with evidence, is that 5G cellphone antennas are the cause of Corona virus. This is totally contradictory of the previous anti-5G conspiracy theories, but if you’re looking for consistency, you’re in the wrong place.
CO144 Tom Rosenstiel on Political Fact and Fiction
Tom Rosenstiel founded and for 16 years directed the Project for Excellence in Journalism. He was also a reporter and editor, and he recently published his third novel, Oppo.
If you are looking for reading suggestions to fill up the lock down hours, I’d suggest anything by Dave Eggars. He’s a great and inventive writer. He started out with a huge hit about 20 years ago with ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’. That was the actual title, in case you aren’t familiar with it, and it suits the book. It was a memoir, an autobiography basically, and he wrote it while he was still in his twenties, which is a bit unusual, mostly it’s at the end of people’s careers that they write memoirs, but if you read the book, you’ll see it was worth it.
He’s written novels and other works, but the one I’m reminded of is called ‘What is the What?’, it’s the true story of a guy called Valentino Achak Deng. Valentino comes from Sudan, and he eventually settled in the United States, but that was after some truly amazing and often horrifying ordeals in his childhood.
Most of the people in his village were murdered, he went on epic treks as an unaccompanied child across several countries in East Africa, from one refugee camp to another, and he was very lucky to survive hunger, war, disease and every other biblical misfortune; many of the people he encountered did not survive. He didn’t know it at the time, he was a child caught up in a civil war, but the author of much of his misfortune was a man called Omar al-Bashir. He was the president of Sudan, and started a civil war to get access to the oil under the lands where Valentino and his family lived.
That’s hugely simplified, Sudan suffered a decades-long and very complex conflict based on resources, ethnic and religious differences, and outside interference, but al-Bashir is undoubtedly someone who has the blood of thousands on his hands. He was overthrown a year ago following intense protests from his own population against poverty and bad government.
CO143 William Burke-White on Electoral Interference
William Burke-White is Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. He’s got a long string of other academic distinctions, and he has written extensively on international criminal law, international economic law, and human rights.
He’s also the author of forthcoming book How International Law got Lost, due to be published next year.
It’s not so long since wind and solar power were seen as the Cinderella of the of the energy world. The didn’t have the heft of their two big, ugly polluting sisters, coal and oil. That might not be the case for so much longer.
The first article I saw on this was about UK electricity production. Remember that Britain was the first country in the world to have an industrial revolution, which was fired by its coal production, the world’s first real electricity generation plant was built in London in 1882, and of course coal fuelled the British Navy for much of the time it was conquering half the world.
That’s why it’s startling to read that coal, along with all other fossil fuels combined have been overtaken by renewables – mostly wind power – as the main source of electricity in the UK. In the first quarter of 2020,
In that period, 45 per cent of all the electricity was generated by renewables, while only 33 per cent was generated by burning fossil fuels. That’s a gigantic modal shift in quite a short time. Most of the balance came from nuclear power, by the way.
But the really striking thing is not the speed with which renewables are taking off, it’s the speed at which their price is dropping. Renewable energy in all the main world markets, including the U.S., Europe, China and Russia, renewables are now cheaper than coal.
Bill St Clair talks about Anarchy and Liberty
Bill St. Clair is a blogger, programmer and libertarian.
You might not have heard of Benford’s law. It’s not so much a law, it’s really just an observation that when you get a large enough set of natural numbers, let’s say a list of all the countries in the world by population, in sets of numbers like that, the first digit is 1 much more often than you would expect. And where the numbers don’t begin with 1, the next most likely starting digit is 2, and it goes on down like that, and the least likely starting digit is 9.
So, if you look at the list of countries by population, there’s China and India in the one-point-something billion range, and there’s loads in there’s Russia, Mexico, Japan, Philippines, Bangladesh and Egypt in the one-hundred-and-something million range, but there’s only four countries in the two-hundred-and-something million range, one with three-hundred-and-something million, the United States, and that’s it.
Go lower down in the scale, and at every order of magnitude, countries whose population figure starts with a 1 are far more common, countries whose population figure starts with a 9 are much rarer. There are mathematical reasons why this is the case but they don’t matter to the point that I’m making.
Benford’s law is just one of a series of mathematical tools often used by people like forensic accountants who are trying to examine sets of figures to determine if they are true or not, because it’s surprisingly difficult for people fake a set of naturally-occurring.
This is something to bear in mind when looking at the figures from countries around the world regarding the corona virus outbreak, particularly because there could be a lot of people in the chain between figures being collected and published who are motivated to push them up or down.
A lot of other people have commented on this,
A unique and interesting concept for a podcast! I like how William manages to create intelligent discussions with experts despite admittedly not always being an expert in the topic himself.
Very One Sided Podcast (Don't Let Him Fool You)
I almost never leave any reviews. I have to be extremely motivated to do so. His obvious left-leaning slant prompted me to leave this review.
Don't let his podcast title and description fool you. The host is very much on the left side of politics. I just listened to him interviewing on two different podcasts a person on the left and another on the right and both had the same tone of putting down/negativity towards conservative politics and promoting/speaking well of left/liberal politics.
Genuine in its premise...
Only two episodes are in, but the host seems to truly want hear from all possible sides. Honest, passionate, respectful exchange is so rare.