peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Last February, NPR's Planet Money examined a unique strategy by Ecuador's government to preserve its Yasuni National Park, an isolated and wild place reached best by hours in a canoe. This is one of those places with amazing biodiversity, with more tree species in a hectare than most more northern countries have within their borders.

The problem threatening the Yasuni? It has oil, and President Correa, seeing the destruction other Latin American countries have suffered for oil exploration/extraction, wanted to avoid a similar fate for his most wild of national places. His solution: ask for money to preserve the park as is.

Seriously. Planet Money interviews those seeking to preserve the park by asking for money:

As payment for preserving the wilderness and preventing an estimated 410 million metric tons of fossil fuel-generated carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, Correa has asked the world to ante up in the fight against global warming. He is seeking $3.6 billion in compensation, roughly half of what Ecuador would have realized in revenues from exploiting the resource at 2007 prices. The money would be used, he says, to finance alternative energy and community development projects.

So, how'd that all work out? )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Over two years ago, I read Thomas Geoghegan's Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?, a somewhat rambling collection of observations about the differences between the United States and Germany. In it, he noted that, quite unlike the American experience, German broadsheet newspapers were thriving. Yes, in a country that also has the intertubes, newspapers were being read. Of course, there were other differences in German life that led to that thriving newspaper business. The important question to ask is which differences should we in the States emulate?

Don't care about news? Don't click. )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Default)
I got another rude interruption to my podcast listening the other day, this time from The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, a podcast I've shoved in my ears now for over four years. The interruption came this time from two of the skeptics themselves schlepping wares for an online audio book purveyor. I'll cut the gory details of this particular campaign. )

For a fascinating perspective on new communications media and the patterns they historically follow as they developed, I cannot recommend Tim Wu's The Master Switch enough. It's a long excerpt, but a good one. )

So here we are, folks, at the dawn of yet another new technology, "bright with promise and possibility." And already the success of early podcasters has prompted them to embrace the very force that, in my opinion, if not destroyed at least hobbled the creativity of the internet's predecessors. And here I am, seemingly a lone voice trying to rein in the hobblers before everyone accepts that advertising must happen before a production can be considered legitimate.

I can't help shaking the realization that I may be very, very alone in my quixotic tilt at advertisement windmills. But tilt I will, my keyboard as my lance. You, dear reader, may be my Sancho or just entertained by a very public display of amusing delusion, I don't know. Me and my pygmy pony will ride all along the borderline either way.
peristaltor: (Default)
I went to lunch with The Wife the other day. We're both (kinda) still on vacation, and decided to burn a gift card to one of those national eatery chains. Food was good, but one thing nearly ruined the experience: the menu. It was a large spiral-bound number with laminated pages, but only two-thirds or so of those pages described the eating options and prices; the other third were full-page color ads.

I can't tell you how much this bugged me. I had to fold the offending pages over as I read the menu to just slightly overcome the feeling that someone had managed to sneak taking piss in my face.

The next day I heard a podcast that reinforced the feeling that people have completely surrendered a societal definition of common decency.

Back in January, I unveiled my plan to posit an alternative revenue/funding stream for audio entertainment. Since then I have been on-and-off typing letters to various podcasts suggesting they push for scheme adoption. My first letter went out to Kevin Smith. Did he listen?

Apparently not. On May 9 he launched his own internet radio station using his many podcasts and those of his friends for content. Since this launch he has super-saturated his regular SModcast with an amazing amount of commercial advertising. Though to date this has been only for limited product mention and for cross-promotion of his other podcast ventures, the volume of these ads when compared minute-by-minute to what I would consider "content" dwarfs any other podcast to which I currently subscribe. For example, on SModcast #166, one hour and forty-four minutes of podcast sausage contains 10:16 of advertising broken glass and cross-promo sawdust with an additional two-minute cross promo broom shaking jammed in the middle.

(I realize that a less than 8% filler-to-meat ratio would be considered manna from heaven to most who consume media today, with radio stations that blast 15 minutes of commercial crap every hour and telly that tries to match that along with the product placement stuffed directly into the shows. Remember, though, that I am a proud outlier. I don't tolerate such bullshit intrusion into my life, so what intrusions manage to penetrate my anti-ad filter seem more jarring, as the menu story above illustrates.)

What got me, though, was Smith describing the upcoming content. In his intro (which starts about 9 minutes in), he noted the Jay and Silent Bob middle promo broom shake with an admonition to people (like me) who are bothered by and fighting the creeping encroachment of commercialization. To those of us who don't like ads, he simply declared, "Fuck you. I have to make a living."

I went out to eat Thursday and had a quite delicious meal in an attractive setting, but will never set foot in that place again simply because of the ads in the menu. You, sir, have confused successful entertainment with whoredom. (Seriously, go to SModcast's home page and see how prominently advertising is blasted. Naked streetwalkers are less blatant.) So, no, Kevin Smith, fuck you. Despite the hours of hilarity the show has provided, SModcast is off my podcast list as of today. You may have to make a living, but I need a life.

I'll put those sentiments into a letter today.
peristaltor: (Default)

A bit from the very funny George Hrab. His Geologic Podcast is a worthy listen.
peristaltor: (Default)
I case you haven't noticed, I've been tearing along in the past few months on a rant against excessive advertising and the obvious effects it has been having on our nation's media. (Click on my Culture of Whores tag for a primer.) Things just reached a tipping point for me on the podcast front, so it's time to unveil my next cunning plan.

Behold! The Cunning Plan in all its glory! )
peristaltor: (Default)
Here's a video. You've probably seen it already.

I tripped across it some time ago and dismissed it as, well, wrong. When you base your criticisms on elements that are factually inaccurate, you fail. It's as simple as that. Sadly, last night I caught up a bit with my podcast list and heard [ profile] kmo chatting with Jim Kunstler about the current failings our economy is suffering, and heard once again that video, now spliced as audio into the middle of the podcast. I think Mr. Kunstler understands far better than most why that video is factually inaccurate, but he chose not to address the inconsistencies and instead shared a hearty chuckle.

But understanding the video's failings proves key, for me, to understanding our economy's failings well enough to even attempt thinking about ways to improve things for the future. To the failings! )
peristaltor: (Default)
Remember the recent drama I pointed out from NPR? Well, yesterday I got an email:

Thank you for contacting NPR.

We are sorry you have experienced an error. We have forwarded your email to the appropriate individuals who will look into this. Thank you for your patience. . . .

I just checked, and the "Tax Me, Please" Planet Money episode has been restored! Listen yourself to awesome Danes dropping knowledge on libertarian tool Adam Davidson.

That his attitude reflected biases even he probably didn't notice was noticed by a blogger at Baseline Scenario:

I feel bad picking on Davidson, because (a) he does great work, (b) he’s just speaking extemporaneously here, and (c) Planet Money did just put together two great episodes on Denmark, land of high taxes, low unemployment, and low income disparity. But my point is not that he’s wrong; it’s that mainstream, centrist, reasonable people have these beliefs internalized like this. This tradeoff between equality and growth is a theory of Davidson’s “more libertarian economists,” but by the end of the passage (from “Now I think”), he’s assuming it’s true, and that to get the increased prosperity of capitalism you have to have a high degree of inequality and instability. This is the kind of thing you ordinarily hear from bankers. . . .; that so many people take it for granted is the problem.

(I added emphasis.)

Exactly my point. Still, with the podcast's restoration my faith in public radio has been partially restored!
peristaltor: (Default)
Okay, flisties, time once again to review the audio podcast offerings being sucked out of the intertubes. I did this a few years ago and got some good recommendations. In interwebs time, though, a few years ago equals a few decades. I feel I've gotten horribly out of date.

So, if you're one to stuff your ears with free (or really, really cheap) audio content easily downloaded, do share your faves and hates with raves and pans. I'll put my own list, along with some commentary, below this cut. )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Dear Mr. Davidson,

Let me congratulate you for your role in producing the best financial news for laypeople, I think, available on the podcasting web. I've been listening to your Planet Money podcast now since pretty much its inception. Your award-winning This American Life collaboration "The Giant Pool of Money" explained more of the current financial crisis and housing bubble than most other financial reporting has yet to do, and managed to do so without reverting to overly technical vebiage. Planet Money has helped me more than any other outlet understand Credit Default Swaps, Collateralized Debt Obligations, regulatory arbitrage, and a vast number of important details kept usually opaque to the lay person. For that, I thank you.

That said, I have for years now been frustrated with what your reporting has thus far failed to do, to explain our macro-economy with the same precision given the arcane minutiae of finance and banking. I felt this frustration most intensely as I listened to you shout at Elizabeth Warren and try to badger Rep. Barney Frank. Both had important points to share with you -- both were, importantly, correct -- but you seemingly didn't want to learn from these experts and instead let your preconceptions about what should happen guide your behavior into that, frankly, unbecoming of a journalist.

The most recent example of your blindness to the realities of today's situation came when you spoke on our local KUOW show "The Conversation."* Asked reasonably by a caller named David, you almost arrogantly dismissed the importance the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act had on creating this latest crisis.

And just as the Warren and Frank episodes revealed, you yet again display a basic lack of understanding how money is created in our economy. Which is ironic, really. The first thought I had when I heard "The Giant Pool of Money" was how did so much money get created? Yet as I listened to the piece, the answer to that question was never presented. Oh, there was an explanation of sorts offered:

How did the world get twice as much money to invest? Lots of things happened, but the main headline is all sorts of poor countries became kind of rich making TVs and selling us oil: China, India, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia. Made a lot of money and banked it.

I thought to myself after hearing that piece again, what? Such countries have always made money with this trade. The piece absolutely did not explain how what happened happened. As you yourself asked in the piece, "So, it took several hundred years for the world to get to 36 trillion. Then, in six years, to get another 36 trillion."

That, Mr. Davidson, is far more important a story than the piece -- as good as it was, as groundbreaking as it was -- bothered to explain.

So I went looking for the answer to that question. I think I've found it, but I'd like others to look at the answers I've found and perhaps dig out more detail, find out if I am mistaken or not. I'm truly hoping people with expertise, communication skills, and an appropriate venue will behave like, you know, reporters. As long as you fail to appreciate the answer to the question "What doubled the size of that giant pool of money in six years?", I doubt you will be able to truly grasp some of the larger questions facing not only this economic situation, but our society as it stands today.


Let me say that I appreciate your position. Finance is difficult stuff to understand. From what I gathered listening to the podcast, you learned on the fly from bankers, brokers, dealers and wheelers. New York is the most active financial center in the country, if not the world. It's a perfect place to learn the ins and outs of the system from the very people earning a living in that sector.

I think, though, that in your zeal to cover the story, to educate yourself with what was happening, you have missed the fundamentals. Most specifically, I doubt you understand the process enabling banks to make money. Really. (Please note that I didn't say you misunderstand how banks earn money; there's a difference.) Don't feel badly. I doubt bankers want this process widely known, even bankers you might know by first name. Quite a bit of evidence suggests this information is deliberately obfuscated from the public at large.

I'm not going to tell you how this happens. That's not my job. I'm just a blogging bus driver from Seattle. As a financial reporter with a distinguished body of work, finding out how this happens -- and relating that story -- is your job.

I suggest you start by looking into the work of Ellen Brown, author of The Web of Debt. I first heard her interviewed by [ profile] kmo on his C-Realm Podcast. You can find both [ profile] kmo interviews here and here, just to get an introduction to Ms. Brown's work. Then, check out his interview with Nathan A. Martin for a really sobering look at what happens next, or what might be happening right now.

Don't have time in your busy schedule looking at this information? Hey, I understand. You've got reporters who could do the job. Put them on the story. [ profile] kmo got Ms. Brown on his show twice even though (unlike Chana and Alex with their Cadillac Escalades) he only drives a beat-up Ranger.

Think about this: The Glass-Steagall Act was repealed on November 12, 1999 by the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act. That giant pool of money started its spectacular, almost tumorous growth in 2000. If you follow my links and actually investigate them, you should hopefully see that the money supply started to grow as quickly and large as it did mainly because of the G-S repeal, just as caller David noted.

I firmly believe that our country cannot function without an informed electorate. I have maintained my memberships in and have listened to National Public Radio stations simply because I regard them as the best remaining source of widely-disseminated news and information. Your show is an especial favorite, one I feel can only benefit from you and your reporters becoming ever more informed about the topics on which you report, and then sharing that knowledge with us, the humble listeners.

Thank you for your time.

Addendum, June 2010: I only got around to listening to the podcast dated May, 25, "Is The Joyride on Wall Street Really Over?" recently. In it, Alex and Jacob seemed to imply (in Act II of your dramatizations) that proprietary traders directly use depositor money to trade (aka Alex's $100K). Specifically, Jacob said, "As you should have learned from the Planet Money podcast, I actually can use your money. I'm a prop trader at a bank. I can use the bank's deposits to make bets in the market."

This is incorrect. Prop traders do use bank assets, including those from depositors, to back their trades, but the money they use comes from a process you at the podcast have yet to learn, or even (dare I say) express a willingness to discover. Where it comes from specifically is exactly what you need to discover lest your podcast continues to confuse the issues it presents.

Addendum 8-4-2010: Link to Mr. Davidson's appearance on The Conversation added.

Addendum 5-3-2015: KUOW moved the archive to Mr. Davidson's appearance to a new address.
peristaltor: (Default)
I've just heard a pair of interviews on the Skepticality podcast that illustrate for me very clearly what might be happening here in the United States, something that seems to be all but absent elsewhere. We here in the States can't miss it without forgoing any and all media reporting. There's a frenzy of folks up in arms to resist the "socialization" of health care (like we did to fire and police protection generations ago) by (as they confusingly put it) a Nazi President, one who may or may not have been born in Kenya, one who many of those same protesters are sure is either an closet Muslim or (worse) an atheist. Just about all of the most vocal are convinced he is a racist.

I am convinced this is not happening in a vacuum. Phenomena this wide-spread never do. They are helped along by people who know what they are doing, who know exactly what buttons to push and how often. Don't be fooled: This is a power struggle backed by millions of dollars with many more billions of dollars at stake. On that most can agree.

What is less clear is how this is happening.

To illustrate what I feel is happening now, I'd like to mention a few facts about the Columbine High School incident ten years ago, facts I found startling and surprising. Did you know:

-- Bombs were supposed to be the main killing weapons, not guns.

-- Harris and Klebold were not members of the Trench Coat Mafia.

-- Harris and Klebold were not quiet "outcasts" picked on by "jocks."

-- The morning they and so many others died at their hands, the two did not go bowling.

Surprised at any of these revelations? I was. It's amazing to note what happened verses what everyone outside of Littleton thinks happened. )


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