Episode

10/4 Peter Thiel’s Cult Of Personality And The Introduction Of A Postal Banking Pilot Program w/ Max Chafkin & David Dayen

October 4, 2021

Sam and Emma host Max Chafkin, features editor and writer at Bloomberg BusinessWeek, to discuss his recent book The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power.

Sam and Emma start off by taking a look at Kyrsten Sinema’s interaction with organizers from LUCHA Arizona before she went to hide in a restroom, as opposed to engaging with them directly, as well as the disparity between the outraged reaction to the video and the video itself. Sam and Emma are then joined by Max to discuss Peter Thiel, the “contrarian posture” that’s animated his life and his investments, as well as how that informed his interactions with Gawker, Facebook, and PayPal. Max discusses whether Thiel should be considered a “good investor”, despite betting against the future, leaning in so far into his contrarian sensibilities that he accurately predicted the 2008 financial crash but botched his hedge fund investments afterwards, leading directly in to him transitioning the fund into a family office, as well as directly into his conflict and legal action with Hulk Hogan against Gawker. Max then details Thiel’s “small” nest egg of $1 million that served as the basis for his wealth acquisition, as well as his appetite for competition when it serves him, as well as his absolute distaste for it when it doesn’t. They then dive into Thiel’s relationship with former President Trump, as well as his pet project of railing against “PC culture”, a phenomena that he believes is the animating force of American politics. They then end on Thiel’s interactions and partnerships with Glenn Greenwald (who, in fact, Thiel’s company Palantir spied on years ago), JD Vance, and the new social media platform Rumble, and how Thiel’s investments in these people and companies are symbolic, and that one can draw real comparison to Thiel’s political project and that of the Koch brothers: transforming a section of the Republican Party through significant financial investment.

Sam and Emma are then joined by David Dayen, executive editor at The American Prospect, to discuss his recent scoop “USPS Begins Postal Banking Pilot Program” as well as his report from last Friday “The Progressive Caucus Wields Power”. David begins by outlining the parameters of this new postal banking pilot program through USPS, and how, if fully implemented, this program could significantly aid “unbanked” and “underbanked” people who fall prey to predatory banking schemes as a result of a lack of access to financial services. He goes on to explain the uneasy peace between Trump USPS holdover Louis DeJoy and the USPS union, who, on this one particular issue, are aligned on working toward implementation for its potential for revenue growth for the USPS (DeJoy’s interest), as well as for expanding the services of USPS to people who really need them (the union’s interest). David then explains whether further implementation will require additional Congressional approval (maybe so, maybe not), how Biden should prioritize a pro-postal banking advocate for a Board of Governors vacancy that remains, the Congressional support this policy already has, and what full implementation would really look in the long term. Sam, Emma, and David end on their discussion of the Progressive Caucus showing its might in blocking the bipartisan infrastructure bill from going to a vote away from the two track structure, the history of the CPC when it was a 6-person working group started by a young anonymous backbencher named Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Pramila Jayapal’s ascendance in the ranks of the CPC leading to its growing power, and whether more of these stands may result in the future as a result of this one’s success.

And in the Fun Half, Sam and Emma correct the record on Senator Blumenthal’s Finsta flub from Thursday, and propose that the next Big Tech “disruption” should be these companies being broken up by the government. They then check in on the Facebook whistleblower report from 60 Minutes last night, Nick Clegg being referred to as a “tobacco executive” on CNN by Brian Stelter (which he tries extremely hard to differentiate from, with middling results), Fox and Friends’s incredible concern about the labor shortage before Christmas (it’s October! Steve Doocy can’t get his favorite coffee! A fate worse than death!), and the MR crew ends the day by taking a time machine to 2010 to see what Kyrsten Sinema’s thoughts on reconciliation and the filibuster were then (Different!) Plus, your calls and IM’s!

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