It?s been nine months since the Capitol attack, and we still don?t have true accountability. Representative Adam Schiff and the rest of the Jan. 6 House select committee are issuing subpoenas to key witnesses, including Steve Bannon, Dan Scavino and two ?Stop the Steal? rally organizers. ?No one is off the table,? Schiff says.
But in a political ecosystem that is defined in part by the spread of misinformation and polarization on platforms like Facebook and the power of right-wing media outlets like Fox News and One America News Network, how much will a congressional investigation actually move the needle on a democracy at risk? Especially when the effort ? billed as bipartisan ? has only two Republican members?
In this conversation, Kara presses Schiff on the Jan. 6 committee?s ability to bring about change and its efforts to subpoena key witnesses. As Kara points out, ?Issuing subpoenas is one thing, but getting people to comply is another? ? and that is proving more difficult as Donald Trump advises allies to defy the committee. They also discuss the Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen, how Schiff wishes Mark Zuckerberg would have replied to questions about the platform?s role in amplifying polarization and whether Trump will run in 2024. And Schiff reflects on the former president?s nicknames for him.
The 45th president may have been ripe material for (dark) comedy, but Samantha Bee sure does not miss him. After covering Donald Trump for six seasons on her late night show ?Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,? she says, ?Comedy is better without him. Just the world in general, ? the globe ? is better without him.? She now has airtime to double down her coverage of other challenges like climate change and the affront to voting and abortion rights.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Bee about her role as a ?funny advocate.? They also discuss the challenges of pandemic socializing, the future of entertainment and Bee?s hopes that Vladimir Putin ?ride a bear into the woods.? And she gives her two cents, as a New Yorker, on the Texas gubernatorial race: ?I would vote for a pizza stained paper plate over Greg Abbott.?
This episode contains strong language.
When the actor Matthew McConaughey dropped his rom-com act to pursue hard-hitting dramas, Hollywood called it a ?McConaissance.? Now we may be on the cusp of the next one, as he mulls over a run for governor of Texas. McConaughey is the first to admit he?s not a conventional pick for Texans. ?I?m not a man who comes at politics from a political background,? he says. ?I?m a statesman-philosopher, folk-singing poet.? Even so, he has some thoughts about the current political climate, observing, ?It?s necessary to be aggressively centric, at least, to possibly salvage democracy in America right now.?
In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks McConaughey to unpack his thoughts on key issues like mask mandates, abortion and voting rights, and what he actually means when he says he?s ?measuring? a run for governor. They also discuss his recent memoir, ?Greenlights,? as he doles out some of his life philosophies and cackles in good humor at the critical reviews that Kara insists on reading him.
This episode contains strong language.
Truth and context may seem elusive today, but for Monica Lewinsky they both ?went out the door in 1998.? As the investigation into Bill Clinton unfolded, Lewinsky came under scrutiny as the most infamous intern in Washington, but kept largely silent due to an immunity deal with investigators. In this conversation with Kara Swisher, Lewinsky says she and the other women entangled in the president?s impeachment ?were all reduced in different ways to serve purposes for other people: for either political points or to make money.? She considers the toll of that experience on her own life, and contemplates how it might all have played out differently in the age of online accountability and the #MeToo Twittersphere.
Swisher also asks Lewinsky to reflect on the new FX series ?Impeachment: American Crime Story? ? on which she served as a producer, but did not have creative control ? and Lewinsky?s latest project, an HBO Max documentary entitled ?15 Minutes of Shame,? which explores the world of public humiliation. And they delve into cancel culture, Trump?s online trolling and how pitting women against one another ?is one of the playbooks in the patriarchy?
Andrew Yang failed in his campaigns for president of the United States and mayor of New York City, but that has not stopped him from trying to disrupt the political status quo with a new party, which he has named ?Forward.? This time, the candidate known for evangelizing universal basic income, or U.B.I., is championing ideas like open primaries and rank-choice voting (which, incidentally, was the voting system used in the mayoral race he lost). But critics are skeptical that he needs to work outside the two-party system to accomplish these goals.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Yang whether the new party is a gimmick to sell books or a real solution to political polarization. She presses him for some self-reflection on his mayoral campaign, and they unpack whether lack of government experience is an asset or a liability. Also, we get an update on the Yang Gang.
Beto O?Rourke came close to unseating Senator Ted Cruz in 2018 and fell far from winning the presidency in 2020. Now the former El Paso congressman has turned his attention back home. He?s been a key organizer and fund-raiser in the fight against Republicans? efforts to restrict voting rights in the state, including their recent passage of S.B.1. He?s also rumored to be considering a run for Texas governor in 2022 ? a race he describes as crucial given ?the deep damage and chaos and incompetence that is connected to Greg Abbott,? the incumbent.
But can O?Rourke pull a Stacey Abrams and help flip his state blue? And if he decides to run, can he do what she previously couldn?t: win a governor?s seat?
In this conversation, Kara Swisher presses O?Rourke on why he?s being so coy about a potential run and how dragging his feet may box out other Democratic contenders. They dig into some of those rumored contenders ? specifically, the actor Matthew McConaughey. They also speak about the connection between Republican legislative moves to curb voting rights with S.B.1 and to restrict abortion with S.B.8 ? and what it will take for Democrats to overcome these hurdles and actually win in Texas.
In a special Opinion Audio bonanza, Kara Swisher, Jane Coaston (The Argument) and Ezra Klein (The Ezra Klein Show) sit down to discuss what went wrong for the G.O.P. in the recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom of California. ?This was where the nationalization of politics really bit back for Republicans,? Jane says. The three hosts then debate whether the media industry?s criticism of itself does any good at all. ?The media tweets like nobody?s watching,? Ezra says. Then the hosts turn to The Wall Street Journal?s revelations in ?The Facebook Files? and discuss how to hold Facebook accountable. ?We?re saying your tools in the hands of malevolent players are super dangerous,? Kara says, ?but we have no power over them whatsoever.?
And last, Ezra, Jane and Kara offer recommendations to take you deep into history, fantasy and psychotropics.
Read more about the subjects in this episode:Jane Coaston, Vox: ?How California conservatives became the intellectual engine of Trumpism?Ezra Klein: ?Gavin Newsom Is Much More Than the Lesser of Two Evils? and ?A Different Way of Thinking About Cancel Culture?Kara Swisher: ?The Endless Facebook Apology,? ?The Medium of the Moment? ??They?re Killing People?? Biden Isn?t Quite Right, but He?s Not Wrong.? and ?The Terrible Cost of Mark Zuckerberg?s Naïveté?
Anne Wojcicki is sitting on a treasure trove of genetic data. The co-founder and chief executive of 23andMe has led the genetic testing company through 14 years in which it has collected data from millions of customers through their at-home DNA spit test kits. In 2018, the company announced a collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline to use this anonymized, aggregated data to develop new pharmaceutical drugs ? and attracted a $300 million investment from the pharmaceutical giant. And in June, when Wojcicki took the company public, it was valued at $3.5 billion. In some ways, it?s a standard Silicon Valley play: Lure customers in with the promise of democratizing information before quickly moving to monetize that information. But what are the implications when the information at stake is your DNA?
In this conversation, Kara Swisher presses Wojcicki on the ethical, privacy and security questions intertwined with the 23andMe business model. They discuss what the rise of genetic testing might mean for today?s 2-year-olds and how the United States is faring in a ?genetic information race? with China. And they dig into the ongoing Theranos trial ? specifically, whether the case against Elizabeth Holmes will rein in a Silicon Valley health tech sector that, in the past, has run a little wild.
The public failure of his start-up Quibi hasn?t stopped Jeffrey Katzenberg from doubling down on tech. A Hollywood power broker, he headed up Disney in the 1980s and ?90s and co-founded a rival studio, DreamWorks, before finding a puzzle he could not yet solve: getting people to pay for short-format content. Investors gave him and the former Hewlett-Packard C.E.O. and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman $1.75 billion to build a video platform, but not enough customers opened up their wallets, at $4.99 a month, and Quibi folded within a year of its launch. Katzenberg says the problems were product-market fit and the Covid pandemic, not competition from TikTok or YouTube.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher and Katzenberg delve into Quibi?s demise, the shifting power dynamics in Hollywood and his pivot to Silicon Valley. They also discuss his influence in another sphere: politics. And the former Hollywood executive, who co-chaired a fund-raiser to help fend off California?s recent recall effort, offers some advice to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Imagine a world in which Google and Amazon join together to form an all-knowing corporate juggernaut that could program our every movement. Author Dave Eggers has contemplated such a future in his latest dystopian novel ?The Every.? Eggers, who limits his own use of technology to the bare minimum, says he was inspired by the limitless choice of our digital world and the idea of a data-driven tech monopoly that would use ?your preferences and algorithmic-determined personality? to help you ?become the better version of yourself and the ultimate version of yourself.?
In this conversation, Swisher asks Eggers how close the real world is to this fictional dystopia. They dig into Eggers?s tech skepticism, his fears of an e-commerce ?apex predator? poised to destroy our retail biodiversity, and why he probably won?t be on Jeff Bezos? ?phallic? rocket ship. He and Kara also discuss his the challenges that Amazon?s rapidly-growing market share poses for smaller publishing houses like Eggers?s own company McSweeney?s, and why he?ll still be selling paperbacks of a book that is critical of Amazon ? on Amazon.
Since 9/11, and even before, Hollywood?s portrayal of Muslims has emboldened inaccurate stereotypes of dangerous villains or jihadist terrorists. In addition to misrepresenting Muslims, the industry has also arguably underrepresented this population ? one U.S.C. study found Muslims represented 1.6 percent of speaking roles in recent major films. Actor, musician and activist Riz Ahmed is challenging this status quo in a career that has included playing a guileless assistant struggling to make ends meet in ?Nightcrawler? and a drummer who loses his hearing in the film ?Sound of Metal.? In 2021, he became the first Muslim to be nominated for a best actor Oscar ? an accolade he found ?bittersweet.?
In this conversation, Kara Swisher and Ahmed discuss how far Hollywood has ? or hasn?t ? come in addressing the misrepresentation of Muslims and talk about the power of streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max to catalyze more authentic and diverse storytelling. They also dive into Ahmed?s latest project ? ?Mogul Mowgli,? which the artist describes as ?a personal exploration of home and identity and, really, where you?re from and what that means.?
Apple has long been a pioneer on privacy, and has made that a central part of its marketing. So it was surprising to see privacy groups complain last month when it announced new features meant to combat child sexual abuse.
The updates were intended to make a dent in the rapid proliferation of child sexual abuse material online ? the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children logged 21.7 million reports of such material in 2020 alone. But because one of these updates involves software that would allow Apple to scan images on a user?s device, privacy groups worry about setting a dangerous precedent that would open the door to surveillance and censorship.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher talks through the debate over balancing the protection of children and privacy with Julie Cordua, the chief executive of the child safety nonprofit Thorn, and Ashton Kutcher, a co-founder of the organization. They discuss the scale of child sexual exploitation online and the role that tech giants like Apple, Google and Facebook play in both the problem and the solution. Kutcher ? who was an early defender of Apple?s recent update ? also jumps in to note ?the one thing Facebook has been amazing at.?
Mattel went through three chief executives in four years before Ynon Kreiz took the job in 2018. He stood the test of time in part because of a big bet: taking Mattel's toys to Hollywood. The toy giant is partnering with Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie to bring Barbie to life on the big screen, and creating films based on everything from UNO to Magic 8 Ball. It?s a strategy that draws on Kreiz?s past experience at entertainment companies like Maker Studios and Endemol, and one that draws inspiration from franchises like Transformers and companies like Lego, which Kreiz says was able to make ?great movies out of bricks.?
In this conversation, Kara Swisher stress tests Kreiz?s strategy, asking whether these potential movie franchises are any more than glorified marketing and what a movie based on the Magic 8 Ball may look like. (Reply hazy, try again.) They also discuss the future of play in an age of video games and smartphones, and when Mattel might introduce a transgender Barbie. Oh, and Kara pitches her own media franchise mash-up: a Teletubbies movie directed by Martin Scorsese.
As the pandemic has pushed the country into a debate about when and how to reopen schools, Randi Weingarten has faced the ire of parents, teachers, school boards and ? of course ? Fox News. The president of the American Federation of Teachers leads a union of 1.7 million educators across the nation. She?s been on the hook for pressing to keep school closed last fall and supporting mask mandates in classrooms this year. And most recently, she drew criticism from her own members when she personally endorsed a vaccine mandate and promised to work with states and school boards that are seeking to enact vaccine mandates or vaccinate-or-test requirements for teachers.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher presses Weingarten on reopening procedures and the spectacle around mask mandates in states like Florida and Texas. They also discuss the wave of legislation prohibiting teachers from discussing critical race theory in classrooms, and why this former teacher has become a lightning rod for the right.
When Kara Swisher wrote a column declaring her love for Vin Diesel and predicting that we will not be returning to movie theaters, Tim League felt sorry for her. He?s the founder of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a luxury movie theater chain that opened in Austin over 20 years ago and has since expanded nationally. The pandemic has not been kind to the company, which he notes was in ?dire? condition by December and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year. But League still remains bullish about his industry and the value of the theater experience.
In this conversation, Swisher and League debate whether the rise of streaming giants means the end of cinemas, big and small. They also discuss the challenge of hiring and retaining workers, pushed release dates for movies like ?Venom: Let There Be Carnage? and whether a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon would buy a theater chain like Alamo. Mostly, though, they agree to disagree. Mostly, though, they agree to disagree.
Social media has felt quieter without the constant ALL CAPS fury of Donald Trump, but Jason Miller is trying to change that.
Miller, who was the former president?s longtime aide and spokesman, recently took a new gig running a social media platform called Gettr, which claims to be a haven from censorship and cancel culture. It may sound a little like Parler 2.0, but the game-changer for Gettr ? which has a little under two million users ? would be if Miller can get Trump to create an account and get back online.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Miller how he intends to get Trump to log on, challenges him on his claims that Twitter and Facebook are out to censor conservatives and presses him about how content moderation works on his platform. And they discuss the question on everyone?s mind: Is Trump likely to run again in 2024?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is deep in Silicon Valley these days. No, he?s not pitching a start-up (though he does have one of those): He is playing Uber?s former chief executive Travis Kalanick in an upcoming Showtime anthology series. And while Gordon-Levitt has some thoughts about society?s ?overblown deification of technology,? he is relatively bullish on Silicon Valley and the trend of tech companies taking over Hollywood.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher and Gordon-Levitt discuss what this shift means for the entertainment industry and how he thinks about social media. They also dive deep into ?Mr. Corman,? Gordon-Levitt?s latest project, which he created and produced for Apple TV.
This episode contains strong language.
Patrick Soon-Shiong, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, says we should ? and he?s one of those billionaires. In 2018, Soon-Shiong ? who minted his fortune by inventing a cancer drug in the 1990s ? scooped up the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune and a group of smaller newspapers for a cool $500 million. Since then, he?s been obsessed with two things: modernizing his media empire and continuing his medical pursuits, most recently with an experimental Covid-19 vaccine.
In this conversation, Soon-Shiong and Kara Swisher discuss why he bought the L.A. Times, his plans for it and why he didn?t do more to save other local papers from the jaws of a newsroom-slashing hedge fund. They also delve into his medical background, his take on how the Covid-19 pandemic will become endemic in unvaccinated communities and the job he says he passed up in the Trump administration.
Michael Pollan has brewed tea from opium poppies, quit caffeine cold turkey and tried mescaline, a psychedelic found in some kinds of cactus. While the author?s past works have taken on the Western diet and the cultural attitude toward psychedelics, in ?This Is Your Mind on Plants,? Pollan wages a war against ? well, the government?s war on drugs. He argues that the approach to regulation has been selective and self-serving, making him ?question whether the real rationale of the drug war was ever public health.?
His point? Caffeine was welcomed because it sustained workers and fueled the economy, but psychedelics were criminalized because they were seen as a threat to the social order. Pollan advocates a new drug policy that is driven by science, not politics.
In this conversation, he and Kara Swisher discuss how changing cultural norms around certain drugs may pave the way for better policy and when MDMA therapy might be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
As the pandemic locked down cities and would-be travelers stayed home, the airline industry begged the government for bailouts ? and got them, to the tune of $54 billion. The funds were supposed to help airlines avoid furloughs and ramp up more quickly once travel returned. But this summer, chaos hit anyway, with airlines like American, Southwest, and Spirit racking up cancellations in the face of crew shortages.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Doug Parker, the C.E.O. and chairman of American Airlines, why the industry is still struggling to provide decent service and whether taxpayer dollars were wasted in the bailouts. They also discuss why the company ?doesn?t deserve? Warren Buffett?s money, the in-flight rage over airline mask policies ? and why Kara would make a terrible flight attendant.
From ?deepfaking? Anthony Bourdain?s voice to reconstructing a re-education camp in Xinjiang ? technologies like A.I. voice generation and V.R. are warping the boundaries of documentary filmmaking. So how does a veteran like Ken Burns, who has spent over 40 years documenting American history, think about the ethical questions attached to these tools?
In this conversation, Kara Swisher learns why Burns was ?very troubled? by the use of A.I. voice generation in a recent documentary about the late chef and food journalist Anthony Bourdain. She also asks him to respond to a public letter in March questioning PBS?s commitment to diversity and criticizing the network as having an ?overreliance? on Burns and his films ? which include his latest series on the boxer Muhammad Ali. Burns also explains why he considers Mark Zuckerberg an ?enemy of the state.?
Call it a redemption narrative: After working to grow Google?s lucrative advertising business for 15 years, Sridhar Ramaswamy left the Silicon Valley Goliath to co-found Neeva, a subscription-based search engine that promises not to profit off its customers? search data. It sounds good in theory; many companies have exploited user data under the guise of their free services. But whether Neeva can get users to care enough about their data to pay for privacy is a whole other story.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Ramaswamy, Neeva?s chief executive, what makes his search engine any different from the litany of others that have tried to take on Google. (Remember Duck Duck Go, Bing and Yahoo?) She presses him on whether users, who have long been conditioned to expect search to be free, will be amenable to a subscription-based alternative. And they discuss Google?s antitrust suit, what incognito mode really does and why background location is ?truly evil.?
Mayors across the country are facing heat. Bill DeBlasio was New York?s default punching bag (perhaps deservedly) throughout the pandemic. Keisha Lance Bottoms decided to forgo seeking a second term as the mayor of Atlanta. And in Chicago, Lori Lightfoot faces critics at every turn. Lightfoot, who in describing herself says, ?Roll it all up ? I?m Black, I?m female, I?m a lesbian, and no one expected me to win,? is two years into a term that has been defined by a brutal pandemic, a deeply unequal economy and rising crime.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Lightfoot to respond to the criticism she?s received ? whether for her leadership style or for her recent move to grant one-on-one interviews marking her two years in office exclusively to journalists of color. They also discuss the challenges of rising crime in Chicago, why Lightfoot doesn?t support the defund-the-police movement and what would prompt her to consider reinstating a mask mandate.
Talk therapy has seen a boom during the pandemic. And with mental health chat bots like Woebot on the market and text therapy platforms like Talkspace going public, the possibility of humans outsourcing our behavioral health to algorithmic healers is only growing ? along with the ethical questions attached to it. So Kara Swisher turned to Oren Frank, a co-founder and the chief executive of Talkspace, to ask what the increasing technologization of therapy means for treatment efficacy and for privacy.
In this conversation, Kara asks Frank whether health care apps like Talkspace, which collect patient data, are offering meaningful insights or are privacy sieves waiting to be hacked. They also talk about how to measure treatment efficacy and who is accountable ? the platform or the provider ? when something goes wrong.
People love the Olympics. But this year?s Games, which open on Friday, are plagued with controversial suspensions and public pushback, not to mention the pandemic. How did we get here?
That?s a question for Dick Pound. He?s a member of the International Olympic Committee and was the founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency. In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Pound to break down the I.O.C.?s decision to move forward with the Games as the Delta variant of the coronavirus threatens to surge, vaccination rates trickle and citizens of the host country express concerns about the event. She presses him on who he thinks should take responsibility if an outbreak happens. (Hint: He doesn?t think it?s the I.O.C.)
They also discuss American track star Sha?Carri Richardson?s recent one-month suspension after testing positive for marijuana and whether WADA?s policies on weed need to change.
Kara's on vacation this week, so we're bringing you an episode of another great Times Opinion podcast, 'The Ezra Klein Show.'
?The technological progress we make in the next 100 years will be far larger than all we?ve made since we first controlled fire and invented the wheel,? writes Sam Altman in his essay ?Moore?s Law for Everything.? ?This revolution will generate enough wealth for everyone to have what they need, if we as a society manage it responsibly.?
Altman is the C.E.O. of OpenAI, one of the biggest, most important players in the artificial intelligence space. His argument is this: Since the 1970s, computers have gotten exponentially better even as they?re gotten cheaper, a phenomenon known as Moore?s Law. Altman believes that A.I. could get us closer to Moore?s Law for everything: it could make everything better even as it makes it cheaper. Housing, health care, education, you name it.
But what struck me about his essay is that last clause: ?if we as a society manage it responsibly.? Because, as Altman also admits, if he is right then A.I. will generate phenomenal wealth largely by destroying countless jobs ? that?s a big part of how everything gets cheaper ? and shifting huge amounts of wealth from labor to capital. And whether that world becomes a post-scarcity utopia or a feudal dystopia hinges on how wealth, power and dignity are then distributed ? it hinges, in other words, on politics.
This is a conversation, then, about the political economy of the next technological age. Some of it is speculative, of course, but some of it isn?t. That shift of power and wealth is already underway. Altman is proposing an answer: a move toward taxing land and wealth, and distributing it to all. We talk about that idea, but also the political economy behind it: Are the people gaining all this power and wealth really going to offer themselves up for more taxation? Or will they fight it tooth-and-nail?
We also discuss who is funding the A.I. revolution, the business models these systems will use (and the dangers of those business models), how A.I. would change the geopolitical balance of power, whether we should allow trillionaires, why the political debate over A.I. is stuck, why a pro-technology progressivism would also need to be committed to a radical politics of equality, what global governance of A.I. could look like, whether I?m just ?energy flowing through a neural network,? and much more.
Kara's on vacation this week, so we're bringing you an episode of another great Times Opinion podcast, The Argument.
U.S. birthrates have fallen by 4 percent, hitting a record low. And it?s not just America ? people around the world are having fewer children, from South Korea to South America.
In some ways, this seems inevitable. From an economic standpoint, there?s the expensive trio of child rearing, education and health care in America. From a cultural perspective, women have more financial and societal independence, delaying the age of childbirth. What might be troubling are the consequences on our future economy and what an older population might mean for Social Security.
This week, Jane Coaston talks to two demographers who have differing levels of worry about the news of our falling birthrate. Lyman Stone is the director of research at the consulting firm Demographic Intelligence, an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, a Robert Novak Journalism fellow and a Ph.D. student in population dynamics at McGill University. Caroline Hartnett is a demographer and an associate professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina.
Chelsea Handler says men are ?on probation? ? at least the ones who don?t seem to grasp how the country?s social justice movement is reshaping how we talk about, well, everything. The female comic has crossed the line in her own career, including posting racially insensitive tweets. But she claims the current political climate, therapy (and cannabis) have led to a ?kinder and gentler? persona that will be on the stage as she returns to the road this July in her new standup tour, titled ?Vaccinated and Horny.?
In this conversation with Kara Swisher, Handler discusses how the sensitivities of cancel culture square with edgy, boundary-pushing comedy; revisits how she thinks about apologies; and explains why she did her latest standup special for HBO after her Netflix deal. She also reveals how her crush on Andrew Cuomo flamed out.
This episode contains strong language.
Ron Klain tells Kara Swisher it?s ?everything? ? except, apparently, the midterms. As White House chief of staff, Klain helps determine how the president spends scarce resources like time and political capital.
He and Kara speak at a moment when the country is shy of President Biden?s July 4 vaccine target and the administration has just averted the unraveling of a bipartisan infrastructure deal that still has to crawl through a polarized Congress. Kara presses Klain on whether the president?s ambitious agenda and focus on bipartisanship will succeed ? or whether infrastructure will be ?Biden?s Obamacare,? costing Democrats their majority in the House and the Senate in 2022. Klain notes, ?There?ll be obviously more of a time and a place for the focus on the politics of 2022,? but ?the best way we can do well in 2022 is to get things done in 2021.?
The conversation also dives into the pandemic response, the Delta variant and how social media platforms are petri dishes of pandemic misinformation. And when Klain describes a recent conversation with Mark Zuckerberg and complains about Facebook and other platforms not doing more to combat misinformation, Kara is quick to press him on what the Biden administration plans to do to regulate tech giants. After all, she reminds him, ?you?re the government.?
Guy Fieri recently inked an $80 million deal with the Food Network, making him the highest-paid chef on cable TV. He did this on the heels of a brutal year for the restaurant industry, which, according to the National Restaurant Association, has lost approximately $290 billion since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and seen insufficient relief from the federal government. While the airline industry received a big bailout in March 2020, as well as additional payroll support through the pandemic, it took almost a full year for Congress to earmark a grant program for American restaurants. Fieri?s take on why they got so little so late: It?s about ?voice, power and money.?
In this conversation, Kara Swisher presses Fieri on how he?s using his own voice and power. They dig into how restaurants have adapted during the pandemic, why working conditions remain so bad in the industry and why he has gotten into ghost kitchens ? a trend that, alongside food delivery apps, is reshaping the restaurant industry. Plus, she gets him to spill on his plans to join FoodTok someday.
The fitness industry has exploded into a nearly $100 billion sector, and Alison Bechdel is among the exercise-obsessed. Bechdel, the cartoonist whose comic strip inspired the Bechdel Test for female representation in Hollywood, says she has found transcendence in everything from yoga and karate to weight lifting and biking. Her new book, ?The Secret to Superhuman Strength,? examines the exercise craze, and what it exposes about our attitudes around self-care, the booming fitness economy and even our mortality.
In this conversation, Kara and Bechdel discuss the evolution of workout culture (?yoga boom? included), the politics of art (especially during the Trump era) and how mainstream cultural norms have finally caught up to, as Bechdel puts it, ?where lesbians were back in the ?80s.?
Anthony Fauci doesn?t have a Twitter account. But he does have a lot to say about the recent scrutiny following the release of his emails from 2020 ? an especially busy time in his tenure as America?s chief immunologist. Republicans like Ron DeSantis have used the emails as fodder for criticism, accusing him of ?faucism? (yes, that?s a play on fascism). Fauci?s response: ?Here?s a guy whose entire life has been devoted to saving lives. And now you?re telling me he?s like Hitler? Come on, folks. Get real.?
In this conversation, Kara Swisher and Fauci parse the science from the politics. She presses him on the Wuhan lab leak theory, which critics claim Fauci and the media were too quick to dismiss. They discuss what went wrong with his early mask-wearing guidance and whether there is room for error or evolution of advice when it comes to public health in a social media age. And of course, they dig into some of the 4,000 or so pages of Fauci?s emails, including exchanges with Sylvia Burwell, the former Health and Human Services secretary, and Mark Zuckerberg. (No, he was not asking Zuck for help with his Instagram.)
Representative David Cicilline?s bipartisan package takes aim at tech companies and would be the biggest antitrust reform in decades. But is it too little, too fragmented and way too late? The tech-savvy Democrat is joining forces with Republicans like Ken Buck and Burgess Owens to push through a large suite of new antitrust legislation aimed at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. If the five bills are passed (without being watered down), they will empower regulators, raise the bar for mergers and acquisitions, and make it a whole lot easier for enforcers to break up businesses. The power of Big Tech is not news, so Kara starts by asking Representative Cicilline: Why did it take so long for Congress to try and catch up?
In this conversation, they break down the bills and discuss why the timing for sweeping tech regulation is particularly ripe in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol enabled by social media. Kara presses the lawmaker to respond to criticisms ? including the notion that the proposed legislation robs the tech robber barons of the proceeds of their innovation and allows government to pick and choose winners in a way that feels more fit for China than the United States. And she asks Cicilline why he thinks Big Tech is the common enemy that can unite Democrats and Republicans.
It?s an open secret that the uber-rich don?t pay their fair share in taxes. But Jesse Eisinger and his team at ProPublica have unearthed the numbers to back that up. In ?The Secret I.R.S. Files,? they combed through more than 15 years of federal income tax records, revealing that Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, George Soros and many more have paid as little as $0 in recent years. By amassing and borrowing off their wealth, while minimizing how much of it is treated as income, these billionaires live outside the tax system perfectly legally. It?s on top of that, Eisinger explains, that the rich have built ?their power, their purchasing power, their political power, their influence.?
In this conversation, Kara Swisher gets a play by play of the investigation into the ?secret IRS files.? Eisinger breaks down the investigative team?s decision to use an anonymous source and says whether he fears the Biden administration will loop ProPublica into an investigation into that source (in which case, he?d ?raise bloody hell?). They discuss why the Biden administration?s efforts to increase the marginal tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent is ?irrelevant? for the ultrawealthy (or as Kara puts it, ?using a fly swatter to kill a bear?). And they go through the billionaires? responses to the investigation, including a question mark from Elon Musk, privacy concerns from Michael Bloomberg and confusion from Carl Icahn, who was ?incredibly charming? but also ?totally perplexed by the concept of needing to pay taxes.?
Margrethe Vestager and Kara Swisher have something in common: They both have made it their job to keep watch on Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg and the other titans of tech. Vestager does this from her post as the head of the European Commission?s antitrust division. And while Swisher may regularly opine on what drives tech C.E.O.s, Vestager isn?t interested in ?soul-searching? their motives. She?s focused on catching them in the act ? whether it?s companies sliding from ?aggressive tax planning into tax avoidance? or moving from content moderation into censorship.
In this conversation, Swisher and Vestager trade notes on the power of tech. They discuss the G7?s recent agreement to work toward a global corporate tax rate. (Vestager thinks she?ll be 150 years old by the time there?s a global tax authority.) They discuss Facebook?s two-year ban of Donald Trump. (Vestager admits that she?s not an active Facebook user, but even she was surprised that ?one could express oneself as the former president did without any consequences until the very last minutes.?) And they talk about antitrust ? where Vestager is quick to clarify that her point is ?not to say that they should be smaller,? but instead that these companies ?should take the responsibility that comes with the kind of power you have when you are this size.?
From allegations that Bill Gates had been coming on to Microsoft employees to the $22.5 million settlement of a gender discrimination suit against Pinterest, women in Silicon Valley are speaking out against what is still a male-dominated culture.
Ellen Pao was one of the first to do that. In 2012, she sued the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for gender discrimination. Back then, she says, she was met with skepticism at the very idea that the industry suffered from sexism at all. Pao ultimately lost the case, but it raised a question that hangs almost a decade later: What will it take for Silicon Valley to become less sexist?
In this conversation, Kara Swisher talks to Pao about the ?thin skins? and ?giant egos? of powerful people in tech, how these attributes define the work culture of Silicon Valley and why it may take a ?perp walk? from a venture capitalist or a C.E.O. to see real change.
LeBron James and Steph Curry are household names and brand magnates, but Diana Taurasi and A?ja Wilson haven?t quite reached that level. That?s despite being, respectively, the W.N.B.A.?s career top scorer and reigning MVP. And it?s despite the average viewership for the 2020 women?s basketball finals shooting up 15 percent from the previous year ? while the men?s finals saw a 49 percent drop. In a sport that?s beloved and at a time when female athletes are raising their profiles (think Naomi Osaka and Megan Rapinoe), why isn?t the W.N.B.A. minting superstars?
That?s a question Cathy Engelbert, the league?s commissioner, is grappling with. Since joining the W.N.B.A. in 2019, she has settled a collective bargaining agreement to increase player compensation and has overseen the W.N.B.A.?s recent push into sports betting. In this conversation, Kara Swisher and Engelbert discuss why women?s sports are underwatched and undervalued, what that means for pay equity and whether the women?s league will ever be financially independent from their parent organization and male counterpart: the N.B.A.
AT&T owns CNN ? for now. But one day Netflix and Apple could be in a bidding war for the CNN anchor Jake Tapper. That?s Kara's take, anyway. It could be the next step in the streaming wars, and a natural evolution for an increasingly personality-driven cable news business that is under pressure to compete with the 24/7 engagement ? and enragement ? of social media.
In this conversation, Kara and Tapper discuss the potential spinoff of CNN?s parent company, WarnerMedia, from AT&T, what the post-Trump slump of cable news ratings means for the future of broadcast journalism and how Tapper intends to cover Kevin McCarthy and other Republican leaders who who are doubling down on Donald Trump?s big lie.
They also discuss Tapper?s new novel, a political thriller called ?The Devil May Dance? ? though the author is quick to clarify that the real world, especially in these past four years, has been stranger than fiction.
It turns out you can use a prank call to expose suspected poisoners, mole patterns to identify a violent demonstrator at a white nationalist rally and online videos to reveal a weapons-smuggling operation to Syrian rebels.
At least, Eliot Higgins and the online sleuths at the open source investigative operation Bellingcat can. Since Higgins founded the organization in 2014, his team has helped break major stories, from unearthing evidence that ties Russia to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to revealing the identities of Russian agents suspected of poisoning the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher asks Higgins about the perils of taking on Vladimir Putin and how Bellingcat?s work, which Kara calls ?gumshoe journalism,? differs from online vigilantism. She presses Higgins on the ethics of paying for data, partnering with political figures like Navalny and building a company that benefits from the shaky relationship Big Tech has with user privacy.
Snap Inc. lost nearly $40 million when it introduced its first pair of camera-laden Spectacles in 2016. But the company?s C.E.O., Evan Spiegel, is trying again. He announced on Thursday that Snap is launching a new version of its Spectacles with augmented-reality capabilities. While it will take years for the technology to be in the hands of most consumers, it will allow them to view their physical surroundings with visual overlays. It?s one of several innovations Spiegel announced ? alongside new revenue models for creators ? in a quest to win the social media wars.
In this conversation, Kara Swisher presses Spiegel on how he will compete with augmented-reality technology from Apple and Amazon, and whether glasses and creator gifting will help him win a war with TikTok or Instagram. They also discuss content moderation in a world where anyone can create their own reality.
A.C.L.U. attorney Chase Strangio on the coordinated strategy behind the more than 100 anti-transgender bills introduced this year.
Alan Rusbridger led The Guardian through the Snowden revelations and WikiLeaks. Now, he's on the Facebook Oversight Board. He explains how the decision went down.
And where does it get them? The agency?s top technologist Dawn Meyerriecks talks spy gear and why Hollywood and Silicon Valley play a critical role in national security.