Planet Joe

In a post on the Somalian piracy issue, the folks at NPR’s Planet Money point out how odd it is that some ships fly the flag of landlocked Mongolia (it comes down to tax/regulatory incentives), photo courtesy our own Joe Jones!

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He’s got a bunch of other great photos on his Flickr site.

Though it may be an online-only podcast, Planet Money is fast becoming my favorite NPR program after This American Life and On The Media. They slow everything down and give context to the news, avoid shorthand and jargon, and generally make the day’s developments imminently accessible and understandable. Too often the news seems out of context and complicated, and no doubt turns away a lot of people before they can really even try and get a handle on things. Their approach is refreshing and sorely needed in other areas of the news!

The show originated as a spinoff of the amazing work they did for TAL, which is a must-listen to get a decent idea of what’s happening with the financial crisis:

The Giant Pool of Money (step-by-step, player-by-player breakdown of the subprime crisis)

Bad Bank (A follow-up made in February that similarly explains the developments of the financial crisis and what should be done with the banks)

Scenes from a Recession (This is a more traditional This American Life episode that takes a man-on-the-street approach to see how the recession is affecting people)

I’ve said it before, but I really can’t recommend these enough for anyone who’s not a “finance expert” but still wants to know what the hell is going on. In essence this stuff is really simple but made intentionally complicated by industry insiders.

2 thoughts on “Planet Joe

  1. Giant Pool of Money was a great piece of work, but I have to say that Bad Bank and the recent spot on John Maynard Keynes were entertaining but not nearly as good.

    With the Lehman Shock no longer the news of choice, and the TED spread no longer at outrageous levels, the show seems a little less informative (or investigative: they were the ones who scooped the story about how the TARP bill could be used to inject equity into the failing banks.)

    They have really good guests, and I agree that the slow format of the show is great. (This is in stark contrast to podcasts like those from The Economist, which have the habit of cutting out lots of dead space, to the point that it sounds as if the speakers are cutting themselves off mid-sentence.)

  2. I didn’t even realize they had scooped that.

    I think that the past six months or so since the Lehman thing have been nothing short of harrowing, so coming off of that will definitely seem like kind of a letdown. Let’s just pray it doesn’t devolve into the dreadful Marketplace . They managed to oversimplify everything to the point of uselessness, which is quite different from making the news digestible.

    What I don’t get is why one of the guys seems so insistent on letting us know what a nice and serious guy Tim Geithner is. I think that is a classic case of “looking into the soul” of people you interview even though lifetime bureaucrats are known sociopaths, and I get the sense he buys into the Orwellian logic of the bank rescue that we need to be lied to for long enough until the banks figure out how to earn their way out of the crisis. We’re going to be like those played out Soviet Russia jokes – in America the money deposits YOU.

    Right now I listen to Planet Money as the discussion I wish I could have about this with people over lunch. The hosts know the issues relatively well but aren’t full-throttled experts – just as I would expect an informed friend to be. It lets me digest everything I am reading in the news and make sense of it, without feeling like I am getting jerked around by people trying to sound smart.

    I am sure the hosts themselves find it liberating to escape from the “savviness” religion that dominates in Washington even among low level functionaries. If you listen to someone like David Gregory or Thomas Friedman you can just sense the finely crafted house of cards that make up their verbal repertoire, and with average folks it is even worse. The reason Bernie Madoff was so successful in getting rich Jewish philanthropists to invest with him was ironically because they were successful people who never wanted to make themselves seem ignorant.

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