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 particular, but despite this, she was the subject of an online, and occasionally terrifyingly offline hate campaign.

This is how Laci Green herself spoke about the incident.

I wanted to get Natalie’s opinion of people who identified themselves as trans and their supporters making death threats to a young woman who hadn’t meant harm to anyone, so I played her that clip and asked her what she thought. This is what she said.

So not much sympathy there.  Natalie doesn’t want people to use the word Tranny even in the most friendly context, because she thinks it’s a slur. To be fair, it certainly has been used as a slur many times, but I also think that context matters, and  even if it doesn’t there isn’t any world where making death threats against a young woman who didn’t mean any harm to anyone is OK, and if anyone that could be even in the vaguest way associated with me did that, I would want to be first out of the traps in disassociating myself from that.

But Natalie didn’t. She clearly saw the word as so egregious that regardless of the context, using it drew more condemnation from her that making death threats.

So, anyway two years later I was watching her latest Contrapoints video. I cant even begin to summarise it here, it’s more than an hour and twenty minutes of dense argument, but I highly recommend it. The only thing that I can say is that it deals a lot with how we perceive in-group and out-group behavior. I was watching the video and I heard this.

So, using the word Tranny in context doesn’t seem to be offensive to Natalie any more, at least not offensive enough to trump death threats.

So is this some big gotcha to prove how Natalie is a hypocrite, or that everything she says can now be safely discarded? No. As is said, I’m still a big fan of her YouTube channel, I highly recommend it. And I think that if you can avoid causing offence and still be true to yourself, then I would avoid that. But I would also try to give people a break, assume the best intentions in others, and if everybody could in general cool it a bit in terms of taking offence, that would be nice.

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 out of the country because they couldn’t produce their product… so, not all bad then, but when the price of toilet paper shot up, the government tried a different trick, they seized factories producing it. This is verbatim what the BBC wrote about it at the time.

The Venezuelan government has taken over a toilet paper factory to avoid any scarcity of the product. The National Guard has taken control of the plant, and officers will monitor production and distribution.

Earlier this year officials ordered millions of toilet rolls to be imported to counter a chronic shortage. Last week President Nicolas Maduro created a special committee to tackle the problem, which the government blames on unscrupulous traders.

If your president has to set up a special committee just to make sure you can wipe your ass, you may be governed by an economic incompetent.

Things came to a head in 2018 when the Maduro was elected in a fixed election, and an opposition leader, Juan Guaidó declared himself president. Guaidó was recognized by the US and many Western and South American countries as the legitimate president, but the organs of state in Venezuelan don’t, and he’s been left looking a little silly. He tried to stage a coup about a year ago, which failed miserably with only a few dozen soldiers taking his side.

The latest installment in this sorry tale has gotten surprisingly little attention.

Unsatisfied with the ability of the Venezuelan military to install him in power, it seems that the presidential pretender, Guaidó, wanted to hire foreign mercenaries to do the job. In The Prince, a book of advice for aspiring leaders, Niccolò Machiavelli, who gave us the word Machiavellian, warns them not to use mercenaries. They’re just not reliable.

Guaidó obviously didn’t read his Machiavelli. He’s denying it now, but it’s clear that he was involved in hiring the mercenaries, even if he broke relations which them later, and these clowns went ahead, apparently motivated by the $15m bounty that the US has placed on Maduro, they were planning to kidnap him and deliver him to Florida. It turns out that knuckleheads who leverage a fantasy land about their modest military careers to live in a fantasy land about being private James Bonds don’t fare so well when they collide with reality, and they are now cooling their heels in what I guess is a not very cool un-airconditioned Venezuelan prison.

Knuckleheads are knuckleheads, tin-pod dictators are tin-pod dictators and failed aspiring tin-pod dictators are another rung lower, but what about the US State Department offering a $15m bounty for the head of a foreign country? It’s phrased as a ‘reward for information leading to the capture’ but it would take an idiot not to realize that this is basically a ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ poster.

And after the coup attempt, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US was not ‘directly’ involved, which is about as non-denial as a non-denial denial can get, although he said that if they had been ‘directly’ involved ‘it would have gone differently’. I bet. There are lots of reasons not to like Maduro, and his claim to democratic legitimacy is weak, to say the least. As President Trump himself said of another dictator, Maduro isn’t the only one with a dodgy record. If the US thinks that it’s a good idea to have a world where it’s normal for presidents offer prizes for each other’s heads, then they haven’t been studying Machiavelli much either.

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.

There are some vague claims that someone somewhere got Covid19, after 5G towers had been installed, but they totally ignore the fact that there is no correlation at all, between countries with serious outbreaks, like Iran, which have no 5G connections at all.

These people also prey on an uneasiness that most ordinary people have about radiation, without understanding it so well. I explained this in an episode last year, episode 116 if you want to look it up. 5G just means the fifth update to mobile phone technology. All technology is being updated all the time, but where, new cars for example, can have updated engine or tires any time, with mobile communications these updates must come in organized waves, because all the handsets have to talk to the base stations, and they must all have the same interoperable standards.

It’s still just data and voice traffic being transmitted over radio waves, as has been happening for more than a century. It’s true that higher frequency radiation has more energy, and can seriously harm people, but lower frequency radiation, such as light – light is just radiation that can be picked up by specialized organs in our body called eyes – lower frequency radiation just doesn’t have the energy to do us any harm. Radio waves are lower frequency again than light, and on top of that they are far, far less powerful, millions of times less powerful than normal daylight.

But that doesn’t stop the idiots and, you know, most of the time I’m happy to let the idiots have at it. If they amuse themselves by imagining conspiracies around every corner, then let them do that.

But when they start interfering with other people, it’s time put a stop to it. There are couple of reasons for this. One is that in the UK, dozens of cellphone towers have been seriously vandalized, apparently by people deluded into believing this 5G conspiracy theory. The fact that only a minority of the towers that the vandals set on fire actually have any 5G equipment is hardly important to such deluded people.

But if it’s cellphone towers today, it can be some other public utility tomorrow. And that’s not an accident. There are strong indications that these conspiracy theories are being stoked online by thousands of organized social media accounts that bears ‘hallmarks of a state-backed campaign’. Why should an enemy waste resources attacking you when they can get us to attack each other?

So some of that stupid you hear may seem to be getting louder for a reason. And it’s not all that stupid after all, it’s actually smart pretending to be stupid.

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.

Continue reading “CO144 Tom Rosenstiel on Political Fact and Fiction”

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.

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CO142 Bill St Clair on 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.

Continue reading “CO142 Bill St Clair on Anarchy and Liberty”

CO141 Fletcher Armstrong on the Underpinnings of the Case Against Abortion

Fletcher Armstrong is the south east director of the Center for Bioethical Reform.


Father abandoned child, wife husband, one brother another; for this illness seemed to strike through the breath and sight. And so they died. And none could be found to bury the dead for money or friendship. Members of a household brought their dead to a ditch as best they could, without priest, without divine offices … great pits were dug and piled deep with the multitude of dead. And they died by the hundreds both day and night … And as soon as those ditches were filled more were dug … And I, Agnolo di Tura … buried my five children with my own hands. And there were also those who were so sparsely covered with earth that the dogs dragged them forth and devoured many bodies throughout the city. There was no one who wept for any death, for all awaited death. And so many died that all believed it was the end of the world.

Continue reading “CO141 Fletcher Armstrong on the Underpinnings of the Case Against Abortion”

CO140 Amanda Starbuck on Protecting Necessities

Amanda Starbuck is a senior food researcher and policy analyst at Food & Water Watch.


I’ve talked about the other thing a couple of times already, but I’m sure you’ve heard enough about it by now, and there’s nothing extra that I can say that hasn’t already been said, so let’s talk about something else.

Let’s talk about the state of the world and its people. Bear in mind that life expectancy in the US in the year 1900 was about 48. Thinking of all the countries in the world, taking into account the huge populations of the poor countries in Africa and Asia, what would you guess is the average life expectancy of people today? 50 years? 60 Years? No, the average across the whole world is now 70.

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CO139 Demetrius Minor on Being a Black Conservative

Demetrius Minor is a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 Black Leadership Network.

He is also the associate producer of the nationally-syndicated “Stacy on the Right” talk radio show. In addition to writing that has been featured in The Washington Times, and  by FreedomWorks, Demetrius is the author of the book Preservation and Purpose: The Making of a Young Millennial and a Manifesto for Faith, Family and Politics.


I talked about the Corona virus a few weeks back, and I mentioned that it could turn out to be nothing significant, or a real problem, or a global pandemic. Clearly one of those three options is no longer on the table.

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CO138 Randy Sutton on the Life of a Cop

Randy Sutton is a retired police lieutenant Las Vegas Police Department and founder of the Wounded Blue national assistance and support organisation for injured and disabled law enforcement officers. He’s also the author of a number of books including The Power of Legacy, Personal Heroes of America’s Most Inspiring People.

I mentioned the previous episode of the podcast where I talked to Heather McDonald where I talked about her book the War on Cops.


You might remember that I interviewed Aaron Naparstek of the War on Cars podcast last year; he’s a big advocate of non-car based transport. I don’t know what he would make of a story from Luxembourg I saw this week, I suspect he’d be an enthusiast.

Continue reading “CO138 Randy Sutton on the Life of a Cop”

CO137 Roy Speckhardt on Freedom from Religion

Roy Speckhardt is the executive director of the American Humanist Association, and the author of Creating Change Through Humanism published by Humanist Press .


As of this podcast, something over 2,000 people have died from Corona virus infections, all but six of them in China. About 75 thousand people have been confirmed as infected, again, all but a handful in China. Of the 29 countries that have reported at least one infection, the majority have reported less than 10 infections, and as I say, the 28 countries other than China with reported cases have reported a combined total of six fatalities.

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CO136 Rosanna Weaver on Targeting Shareholders

Rosanna Weaver is programme manager for executive compensation As You Sow.


Her face looks at the camera in a way that is totally different to how teenagers take selfies now. There’s no elaborate expression, but there is, for some reason, a hint of a smile. Maybe the instinct to smile when a camera is pointed overcomes her in the moment.

But this is not a sharable moment. Her name is Czesława Kwoka, and her photograph has been colorized, but even in the black and white original the uniform of Auschwitz-Birkenau is unmistakable.

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CO135 Chris Bostic on the End of Smoking

Chris Bostic is Deputy Director for Policy of ASH, Action on Smoking and Health. Which, since 1967 has been campaigning against Big Tobacco to reduce the death toll from smoking.


So this is a famous clip of Ellen Degeneres on her TV show talking about some ridiculous products aimed at women.

Ellen is a pretty funny character, but she really doesn’t need to do much work to get a laugh at the idea of pens specially for women.

But this clip refers to one trope that was going around a while back, called the Pink Tax.

Continue reading “CO135 Chris Bostic on the End of Smoking”

CO134 Steve Garner on Whiteness

Steve Garner is a researcher at the department of Social Science at Cardiff University. The BBC Analysis programme that he appeared in is available here.


Back in August I talked here about the pro-democracy protests, anti-Putin protests in Moscow, and I noted that, compared to the similarly-motivated protests in Hong Kong, there were small. People might grumble, but there is no arguing that Putin has very widespread support in Russia, and the protesting was done by a particular well-educated cohort.

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CO133 Ivan Eland on Presidential Overreach

Ivan Eland is a senior fellow at the Independent Institute. He has a PhD in Public Policy from George Washington University and has been director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues.

Earlier this year he published War and the Rogue Presidency Restoring the Republic after Congressional Failure.

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CO132 Joan Esposito on Democratic Strategies

Joan Esposito is the afternoon host for WCPT AM 820, Chicago’s progressive talk radio. We talked about, among other things, Barack Obama’s call for progressive unity and condemnation of excessive expectations of purity.


You’re used to me spouting on here based on not much more than my own prejudice, but here’s a topic that I am actually qualified to talk about. I studied linguistics, and I have quite a bit of experience in language learning.

And anyone who has learnt a second language will know that the words and phrases in one language often don’t map exactly to the ones in another. A language is a complete speech convention, it’s not like Morse code where you transfer words directly. Things work differently from one language to another. Some languages have several non-interchangeable words where another language has just one or maybe none, and this can make problems for a language learner who hasn’t grown up with the experience of knowing when to use which word.

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CO131 Ira Mehlman on Debating Immigration

Ira Mehlman is the media director of Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). In our discussion we talked about the prominent stories on FAIR’s home page which suggest that undocumented immigrants in the US are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime, or are a disproportionate burden on the economy.

In fact, the weight of evidence indicates that undocumented immigrants commit proportionally fewer crimes than the rest of the population. There are a range of studies on the net cost/benefit of undocumented immigrants to the economy. Some studies indicate that the immigrants make a net contribution right across society, while others indicate that, while most US-born citizens benefit, very low skilled workers (highschool dropouts) suffer a wage drop, although this is offset by access to lower prices, and the effect diminishes with career progression.

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CO130 Thom Hartmann on the Purpose of SCOTUS

Thom Hartmann is one of America’s most prominent progressive talk show hosts. His latest book, The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America was publisher by Berrett-Koehler recently.


I know that some listeners are in the UK, but most aren’t, and for you in the majority, although you’ve probably heard of Brexit, you mightn’t really be sure why it is such a big and difficult issue. It is a big and difficult issue, but the fact that it is a big and difficult issue makes it difficult to explain.

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CO129 Randall Holcombe on Protecting Liberty

Randall Holcombe is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. In the past He has also served as President of the Public Choice Society, President of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics and as a member of the Florida Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors as well as a number of academic roles.

He’s written many books, the most recent of which is Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History, which was published last September.


I saw a little story from Chicago during the week. Not something that’s going to make headline news, but it’s interesting. It comes from a City Council budget hearing submission by Library Commissioner Andrea Telli. I told you, this isn’t headline news.

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CO128 Michael Tauberg on Questioning Biden

Michael Tauberg is a senior Columnist with We discussed his article Trump Administration Corruption Doesn’t Excuse the Bidens.


Air pollution in India is off the scale.

That sounds like a rhetorical flourish, but it isn’t. It’s literally the truth.

Most cities around the world, including in India, have sensors which monitor the levels of various pollutants, but one of the most important to monitor is called PM10s and PM2.5s. I won’t get into the technicalities but that’s basically a particle so small that our nasal hairs, the mucus on our airways and the other ways that our bodies have evolved to deal with impurities in the air, are unable to stop. We have no natural defenses against them.

And they’re bad.

Continue reading “CO128 Michael Tauberg on Questioning Biden”