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Hosted by Bloomberg Opinion senior executive editor Tim O'Brien, Crash Course will bring listeners directly into the arenas where epic business and social upheavals occur. Every week, Crash Course will explore the lessons to be learned when creativity and ambition collide with competition and power -- on Wall Street and Main Street, and in Hollywood and Washington.
Putin’s Russia vs. Ukraine
When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he intended to quickly subjugate the entire country. That, of course, didn’t happen. Ukraine – backed by a global alliance – fought back. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians have died and tens of millions of people have been displaced, energy markets have been disrupted, diplomatic relationships have been reordered, Western Europe has rearmed, and NATO has been revitalized. Punishing sanctions have been imposed on Russia, but strangling its economy has been difficult. Still, Putin’s war machine has been exposed as disastrously inept, and he’s threatened to use nuclear weapons if necessary. To take stock of all of this, Tim is joined by Stephen Kotkin, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on Russia – its history, culture, and economy. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Small Businesses vs. The Pandemic
Remember the early days of COVID-19 lockdowns when, practically overnight, it seemed that every shop closed its doors? Do you remember how all of those small businesses you might have taken for granted – the ones that gave life and an identity to your community – suddenly felt essential to you? Tim watched lots of small businesses in his small town in New Jersey struggle, including his favorite local bakery, Montclair Bread Company. Three years later, he tracks the trials and tribulations this unimaginable public health and economic crisis threw at the bakery and its owner, Rachel Wyman. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Artificial Intelligence vs. Humanity
Artificial intelligence, or “AI” – the foundation of decades of science fiction and movies – has gone mainstream. It’s here. ChatGPT, a chatbot launched in late 2022, is a free, ask-me-anything tool that can write seemingly perfect essays and accurately answer most questions users throw at it. Its AI is built atop a vast reservoir of digital information and languages. Sydney, a glitchy and trippy Microsoft chatbot, recently told a New York Times reporter that it loved him, wanted to be alive and harbored destructive impulses. It's cool. It’s disturbing. It’s empowering. It’s vaguely threatening. It challenges us to wonder whether we’ll stay in control of the bots or whether they’ll control us. For this episode, Tim spoke with both Parmy Olson, a Bloomberg Opinion technology columnist who is an AI guru, and Tyler Cowen, a genius economist and Bloomberg columnist, to help sort through all of this.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Cryptocurrencies vs. Reality
The Winklevoss twins are known for walking away from Facebook with tens of millions in stock and other payments. More recently, they’re known for a new project: An asset management firm and a digital currency exchange that made them marquee players in the recent cryptocurrency boom and meltdown. There are other, more significant crypto players (think Sam Bankman-Fried) but the twins fascinate Tim O’Brien because they embody the sort of collision Crash Course lives for: between innovation and possible hucksterism, and between authenticity and possible manipulation. Crypto is one of the most revolutionary and over-hyped inventions of the 21st century and how the Winklevii intersected with that market is a tale that sheds light on finance and on financial bubbles – and on what happens when everybody thinks they can get rich quickly. Joining Tim to discuss all of this is Lionel Laurent, a financial columnist for Bloomberg Opinion and someone who has spent a lot of time watching crypto evolve. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Oatly vs. Big Milk
It’s hard for little companies to take on huge competitors – especially an industry like Big Milk, which has a longstanding grip on consumers’ diets and lifestyles. It takes attitude to consider yourself a revolutionary force rather than just a carton of milk. It takes courage and vision to create a whole new food category. Oatly is one of those companies: It’s a pioneer, but it has struggled with growth and competition recently. Oatly’s story will make you think about what food you put in your body, how the milk industry markets its wares, and whether Oatly can live up to its promises.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Warrior Cops vs. Responsible Policing
U.S. police officers shoot and kill more than 1,000 people annually. According to a Washington Post study, half of those people are White, but Blacks are shot at more frequently, even though they represent just 14% of the population, and are killed at more than twice the rate of Whites. The same is true of Hispanic Americans and Latinos. This is a collision of the rawest and most brutal sort and it raises myriad questions about safe streets and public safety; crime, racism and institutional violence; police training and the increased militarization of US police forces. This week on Crash Course, Tim O’Brien interviews two guests: Radley Balko, a journalist and the author of “The Rise of the Warrior Cop,” and Laurence Ralph, an anthropology professor at Princeton University and the director of the Center on Transnational Policing.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Part 3: Tribal Casinos vs. Digital Sports Gambling
Native Americans now run about half of the national gambling market – or about $40 billion in casino revenue – but the threat the digital boom poses to Native American tribes is often overlooked. The Mashantucket Pequot tribe has overcome a daunting history: genocide, expropriation, financial crises, and public health threats to find themselves now contending with digital upheaval. Can they survive this latest threat? This is the third of three episodes about the past, present, and future of the multi-billion-dollar sports betting boom, and its impact on games, fans, and society. The series will take you from Chicago to London to the tribal lands of Connecticut to learn more about the rise of mobile betting and match fixing, and the future of tribal casinos.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Part 2: Sports Gambling vs. Match Fixing
Americans bet about $165 billion a year, but here’s something Tim O’Brien worries about: When there’s billions of dollars on the line, how likely is it that your favorite sport is going to get corrupted? Gamblers and criminals have been trying to rig games since the Olympics first began – it still goes on all the time if you look for it. Enter SportRadar, where former intelligence operatives, police detectives, journalists, and computer geeks track 500,000 sporting matches around the world every year, on the hunt for potential fixes. This is the second of three episodes about the past, present, and future of the multi-billion-dollar sports betting boom, and its impact on games, fans, and society. The series will take you from Chicago to London to the tribal lands of Connecticut to learn more about the rise of mobile betting and match fixing, and the future of tribal casinos.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Inside the Digital Sports Betting Boom: Part 1
If it hasn’t already, sports gambling is coming to your town, your living room, and your cell phone. Americans bet about $450 million on sports every day! That’s one of those numbers Tim O’Brien doesn’t even know how to comprehend – it’s so huge! – but, of course, gamblers lose a lot of that money. That’s how the industry pulled in $44 billion last year, and it looks like betting is going to keep on exploding. To better understand that boom, Tim spent time with somebody who’s really good at navigating all of the ups and downs of gambling: Blair Montgomery, one of the industry’s super users. He gambles every day, and he’s making more money betting than he does from his day job. This is the first of three episodes about the past, present, and future of the multi-billion-dollar sports betting boom, and its impact on games, fans, and society. The series will take you from Chicago to London to the tribal lands of Connecticut to learn more about the rise of mobile betting and match fixing, and the future of tribal casinos.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Donald Trump vs. the Republican Party
Crash Course is all about disruption and Tim O’Brien can’t imagine a more disruptive politician than Donald Trump. After rolling down a Trump Tower escalator in 2015 to declare what became his first successful presidential bid, Trump proceeded to upend and warp political, civil, and legal norms, and he forced Americans to examine myths they’ve told themselves about tolerance, progress, and shared values and goals. This has spawned an array of disruptions and learning moments – including Trump’s collision with the GOP, the Republican Party’s collision with itself, and the ongoing polarization of Republicans and Democrats. We are in a chaotic political era, and the fact pattern and clarity are our friends in moments like this. That’s why Tim is happy to welcome Maggie Haberman to today’s show. Maggie is a senior political correspondent with The New York Times, one of our savviest Trump-watchers, and the author of a new bestseller: “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America.”See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Disney vs. the Battle of the Bobs
Imagine you’re Bob Iger. You relinquish Disney’s CEO suite in 2020 with a sterling legacy intact. Smart, game-changing acquisitions. A good culture. Steady, imaginative leadership. Soaring profits and a jumbo stock price. And a sort of bet-the-ranch move into streaming that puts profit-making aside in favor of reinventing the entertainment platform your business rests upon. All is going swimmingly when you turn things over to your successor, Bob Chapek. You title your autobiography “The Ride of a Lifetime.” What a way to go. Then, boom. Covid lockdowns hit just weeks after you step down. Disney’s business sputters. Chapek alienates your team and the board. And that streaming bet unravels. What do you do? You roll back in as CEO less than three years after you left the company. Chapek is pushed out. How often does something like that happen? Like, never. Even Steve Jobs waited 11 years to make his roundtrip as Apple’s CEO. There are lots of collisions to sort out here. That’s why I rang up my pal at Bloomberg Opinion, Beth Kowitt. Beth’s a veteran business writer and she spends a lot of time thinking about the mysteries of corporate America. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Covid-19 Vaccines vs. The Bottom Line
Tim O’Brien is not a scientist. But he is a user of Covid-19 vaccines. He thinks they’re miracles, and the single biggest reason the pandemic wasn’t more devastating. But if that perspective makes you erupt, please relax: Crash Course is focusing today on the companies that make the vaccines, not the science. And Tim has a question: Have those amazing innovators – those life-savers – played fairly when it comes to sharing the financial spoils of their miracle drugs? And they were miracles. Just about nine months after the US went into lockdown in March 2020, the first vaccine jabs were available. There are a handful of marquee companies that won that race, Pfizer, BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca among them. But today, for purposes of a lively discussion about innovation and avarice, Crash Course will focus on Moderna, which is a useful proxy for examining how a groundbreaking vaccine was unearthed – and who got control of its uses. To do that, Crash Course has invited Dr. Monica Gandhi, a leading virologist and epidemiologist who also teaches at the University of California San Francisco, to join our podcast.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Elon Musk vs. the Twitterverse
Twitter was a pivotal force in debates about information, disinformation, the media, celebrity, politics, and all sorts of other issues. Then along came Elon Musk, Tesla and SpaceX’s innovative magician and chief loudmouth. He said he wanted to buy Twitter, then he said he didn’t, then the courts made him reconsider, and then he bought it. His brief three-month tenure as Twitter’s owner and new CEO has been chock full of calamity: tragicomic mismanagement, mass layoffs, censorship, and personal histrionics. To dive into all of this, Crash Course had to talk to Kurt Wagner, a Bloomberg News reporter who’s spent years covering social media, especially Twitter – he has boatloads of knowledge on how the platform handles what gets poured into our eyes and ears. He’s also working on a book about Twitter.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Introducing: Crash Course
Hosted by Bloomberg Opinion senior executive editor Tim O'Brien, Crash Course will bring listeners directly into the arenas where epic business and social upheavals occur. Every week, Crash Course will explore the lessons to be learned when creativity and ambition collide with competition and power -- on Wall Street and Main Street, and in Hollywood and Washington.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.