Interviews with fascinating people on science, ethics, and politics, with a focus on guests from Effective Altruism and Left-wing communities.
31 - Alexander Zaitchik on How Bill Gates Impeded Global Access to Covid Vaccines
Alexander Zaitchik is a freelance journalist and author with work in The New Republic, The Nation, The Guardian, and elsewhere. Zaitchik has written two books, one about Glenn Beck and another exploring Trump’s America. He’s working on a third, out in January 2022, called Owning the Sun: A People’s History of Monopoly Medicine, from Aspirin to Covid-19.
This episode is about one of the most important stories in the world right now: global vaccine production and distribution. Alex wrote a long-form investigation in the New Republic called “How Bill Gates Impeded Global Access to Covid Vaccines”, which goes deep into the global intellectual property paradigm that is limiting vaccine production and the people who defend it.
We recorded this episode before the US announced support for some kind of waiver on vaccine patents. It’s important to note that the US did not back the TRIPS waiver proposed by South Africa and India in October 2020. The US is also reportedly concerned that sharing information would undermine American competitiveness with China and Russia in biopharmaceuticals. The idea that it would be bad if more countries developed the ability to make advanced vaccines is emblematic of the harms of prioritizing profit-making in an industry so essential to human wellbeing. A source in the Biden administration also said the negotiations are expected to take months.
Last Thursday, the Gates Foundation reversed course and supported a temporary suspension of IP rights on Covid vaccines. The Foundation’s statement cites the number of cases in Brazil and India as a reason to support the suspension. But Bill Gates was pushing against any efforts to suspend IP protections right until the US supported some kind of waiver. Gates’ firm position for over a year has been that IP protections play zero role in limiting vaccine supply, but now his foundation supports suspending those protections because we need to increase vaccine supply so badly. Either Gates recently came across some really persuasive evidence, or public opinion actually can still matter.
As I record this, India is being ravaged by Covid. Yesterday, nearly 400,000 new cases were reported, a number which almost certainly represents a small fraction of true cases. Less than 10 percent of the country has received even one dose of vaccine. Hospitals and crematoria alike are overwhelmed and there is an acute shortage of wood due to the sheer number of deaths. Domestic policy failures of the Modi government play a big role in this story, but so too do the choices of pharmaceutical firms and their client governments like the United States and other rich countries.
We cover a lot of ground and dispel a lot of myths propagated by the pharmaceutical industry.
We specifically discuss:
Gates’ heavily managed perception as a do-gooder
His approach to public health and what opportunities it forecloses
How Gates' ideological investments run deeper than his financial ones
The affirmative case for IP protections in drug development
The problems with that case
Alternative models of incentivizing drug development
The incentives the current system creates
A brief history of drug development in the US
How the US military developed a majority of successful vaccines made in the 20th century
The story of South Africa and AIDS drugs
The TRIPS waiver proposal
Whether it's true that IP is the reason we aren't maximizing vaccine production
Moderna’s empty promise to not enforce their patents
The argument that profit motives haven’t been strong enough
The PR boon vaccines have been for big pharma
What a fully public response could have looked like
A response to Gates’ argument that IP is necessary for quality control
How a tech billionaire became the de facto global public health czar
The role he really plays in the public health space
I think this is one of the most important episodes of the show so far. So much ri
30 - Tobias Leenaert on the Pragmatic Path to a Vegan World
Tobias Leenaert is the author of How to Create a Vegan World: a Pragmatic Approach, which has been translated into five languages. He is the cofounder of ProVeg International, which aims to reduce the consumption of animal products by 50% by 2040. Tobias also writes the Vegan Strategist blog, where he shares strategies for convincing people to reduce their animal product consumption.
the difference between pragmatism and idealism in animal advocacy
why intentions matter less than we think
“vegalomania” and whether a vegan diet is really the healthiest
when behavior change leads belief change
how vegetarians reduce almost as much harm as vegans
how reducetarian do more for animals than vegans
how much easier it's gotten to be vegan
veganism's bad brand and why so many people hate on vegans
a thought experiment for vegans
why strict veganism can be counterproductive
how you can help animals without being a vegan or vegetarian
where analogies between animal agriculture and other crimes break down
how to be an effective animal advocate
what he’s most looking forward to
I think this episode is useful for both vegetarians and vegan activists and people who are interested in consuming less animal products but aren’t sure how.
Vegetarians reducing almost as much suffering as vegans
60% of veggies ate meat in last 24 hrs
MOST AMERICANS DIDN'T APPROVE OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. BEFORE HIS DEATH, POLLS SHOW
Chomsky on the lack of early meaningful opposition to the Vietnam war
Rules for Radicals
29 - Conor Oberst on Bright Eyes, the Iraq War, protest music, and the music industry under socialism
Conor Oberst is one of the most prolific singer-songwriters of the last twenty years. Best known for his work with Bright Eyes, Oberst has also collaborated with Flea, Jim James, Alt-J, and Phoebe Bridgers. His most recent song, “Miracle of Life”, featuring Bridgers, raised money for Planned Parenthood and opposed Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Oberst sat for an interview with me this fall as the first in a series for Jacobin. An edited and condensed transcript can be found here. We talked a bit about politics (Oberst made public stances against the Iraq War and supported Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020) and a lot about music.
I’ve been a big fan of Bright Eyes and Conor’s solo work for years now, so it was a real treat to get to chat with him.
Be sure to check out Bright Eyes's first album in 9 years, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was.
As always, you can find me on Twitter @GarrisonLovely
28 - David Shor on Why Bernie Would Have Won in 2016- But Not in 2020
David Shor is a data scientist and the former head of political data science for Civis Analytics, a Democratic think tank. In 2012, he developed the Obama campaign’s in-house election forecasting system, which accurately predicted the outcome to within a point in every state. David was the subject of some controversy this summer when he was fired following his tweeting of an academic paper. The paper argued that violent protests decreased Democratic presidential vote share while nonviolent protests increased vote share. Unfortunately, David is not at liberty to discuss the details of this incident, which is an excellent example of what happens when employment protections don’t exist.
I want to state up front that the focus of this episode is on how to improve the electoral prospects of Democrats, which is David’s expertise. I have many disagreements with the Democratic party and its leaders, and there are many pathways to power beyond electoral politics. But America’s political institutions are extremely powerful, and ensuring that they are controlled by the non-death cult party is important.
What happened in the 2020 election
Why the electoral college is biased towards Republicans
Efforts to combat structural bias against the Democratic party
Why the polls were wrong again and why they’ll be very hard to fix
Why Bernie would have won in 2016 but may not have in 2020
How Democratic staffers and left wing activists are massively unrepresentative of the American public
The electoral obstacles to passing Medicare for All and how to make the policy more politically popular
Policies that combat inequality without raising taxes
Whether Democrats actually want to win
Why Democrats need the working class to win power
Why good politicians stay relentlessly on message
How we can move voters towards policy positions we think are just
Why Democrats should talk more about issues and less about values
What we can learn from the growth in support for same sex marriage
The importance of getting the media on your side
National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
Matt Grossman on Twitter
David Shor on Twitter
27 -Trevor Beaulieu on Champagne Sharks and Why Killmonger Was Right
Trevor Beaulieu is the host of the podcast Champagne Sharks, a “podcast about race, politics, and pop culture, through the lenses of humor and psychology.” The show has released over 300 episodes on a huge range of topics, from Afro-pessimism and social justice, to Marvel movies and Tumblr. I’ve only scratched the surface of the show, but have really enjoyed the episodes I’ve listened to so far. Check out the show notes for a few of my favorites. Trevor’s many appearances on Chapo Trap House are also well worth a listen.
You can find Trevor on Twitter: @rickyrawls and Champagne Sharks: @champagnesharks. I’m on Twitter @garrisonlovely.
You can check out Champagne Sharks wherever you find podcasts, and you can subscribe at https://www.patreon.com/champagnesharks
On today’s episode we discuss:
Our experience with the pandemic so far
The insanity that is the US stock market during covid
Why Trevor thinks black people can’t afford to be totally anti-capitalist
The distinctions between social democracy and socialism
Trevor’s firsthand experience with racism in scandinavia
How fragile any kind of liberal democracy is
How Trevor started Champagne Sharks
How Chapo Trap House is like the Daily Show for new left podcasts
The willingness to look into the political abyss
How the right prioritizes property over people’s lives
The recent uprisings over police violence against black people
Whether nonviolent protests are more effective
Why Killmonger from Black Panther was right
A few of my favorite Champagne Sharks episodes:
CS 238: Is The Whole Internet Becoming 4Chan? Pt. 1 feat. Dale Beran (01/23/2020)
CS 186: Tumblr Brain feat. Jaya Sundaresh (@shutupjaya) (06/20/2019)`
CS 272: Karens (Hard-R) With Attitude feat. Nashwa Khan pt. 1
CS 276: The Futureless Now feat. Matt Christman pt. 1
CS 274: After the Bern feat. Felix Biederman pt. 1
CS 282: Live, Love, Work and Catastrophe feat. Rob Delaney
CS 284: Clarence Thomas and The Reactionary Mind Pt. 1 feat. Corey Robin
CS 280: Afropessimism feat. Frank Wilderson III *DOUBLE EPISODE*
Why the stock market is divorced from the pain of a pandemic economy
What if ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Closer Than Scientists Thought?
Video showed police thank (Kyle Rittenhouse) & give him water prior to the killings
Wage Theft vs. Other Forms of Theft in the U.S.
The 1968 Kerner Commission Got It Right, But Nobody Listened
The Protesting of a Protest Paper
26 - Ross Barkan on Running for Office and the Return of Socialism to New York
Ross Barkan is an award-winning journalist and former political candidate. Ross ran for state senate in Brooklyn in 2018 (where he was endorsed by AOC). He is back to full-time journalism, with a column in the Guardian and frequent contributions to the Nation and Gothamist. He also has work in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, New York Magazine, and the Columbia Journalism Review. In both 2017 and 2019, he was the recipient of the New York Press Club’s award for distinguished newspaper commentary. He now teaches journalism at NYU and St. Joseph’s College. He also created a popular newsletter, Political Currents, on New York and national affairs.
As always, links to his work will be found in the show notes. Ross’s Substack newsletter, Political Currents, is an amazing font of information on New York City politics.
In today’s episode, we discuss:
His experience running for state senate, the curse of fundraising, and how running for office destroys your social life, how small dollar digital fundraising is fueling left wing candidates, what a DSA endorsement means and why Ross thinks he didn’t get it, why he thinks he didn't win, what you should consider when deciding whether to run for office, how De Blasio and Cuomo bungled New York’s COVID response, how Cuomo refuses to raise taxes on the wealthy, the lack of any meaningful action to reduce the power of the NYPD, why Ross doesn’t support police abolition and why we think the case for prison abolition is stronger, Bernie’s loss and the progress the left has made in recent years, and the very exciting election of five DSA-endorsed candidates to statewide political office in New York
More about Ross:
Political Currents newsletter
Seattle’s Leaders Let Scientists Take the Lead. New York’s Did Not
Was the NYPD Budget Cut by $1 Billion?
Reasonable Doubt: A New Look at Whether Prison Growth Cuts Crime
Ross’s piece on prosecutors in the Baffler: Exterminating Angels: The American myth of the progressive prosecutor
Tiffany Cabán Eyes City Council Run, Will Launch Campaign Thursday
When’s the next ep coming out
I originally found this podcast because one of my favorite magazine authors was interviewed here. Every episode I've listened to so far has been interesting - a good deal moreso than a lot of shows I've heard. Highly recommend!
Most indulgent podcast around
The author and his guests present almost impossible podcast to listen to for my tastes. It may be valuable for one of your guests to present a different view from your own. I’ve listened to 13 podcasts; they’ve become very predictable and boring. The left is good; the right is bad, gets tiresome. I’m a moderate ; I like to here more of a debate. I will not spend another minute in this podcast.