Learning while listening Part 1

I am a long-time NPR listener.  I’ve been listening since 1989, or thereabouts.  I was hooked in college.  I love Morning Edition (and I still miss Bob Edwards) and All Things Considered.  On the weekends I used to fret every time I missed Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.  I was annoyed that This American Life was always on after I went to bed or during church, as is the case with On The Media.  I have learned a lot from Marketplace and Car Talk.  I’ve had plenty of those “driveway moments” when I have to stay in the car and listen to the end of a compelling story.  One of those moments prompted me to purchase a cassette tape of the story: Remorse: the 14 Stories of Eric Morse.  It came on a tape paired with Ghetto Life 101 on the other side.  These two stories are from 1993 and 1994, so if you missed them I highly recommend them (click the links to get to the websites where you can listen).

In the past couple of years I discovered RadioLab, and my husband introduced me to Planet Money.  My favorite RadioLab so far has an interview with Brian Greene, famous from his books The Elegant Universe (available also as a NOVA DVD) and The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality.  My favorite Planet Money…well, I have several.

The thing is, I discovered RadioLab not on the radio, but as a podcast.  (Mom, you know what podcasts are, right?)  And Planet Money IS a podcast.  It is only occasionally actually on the radio, and when it is it is embedded in another show, either in This American Life which is where Planet Money originated, or in All Things Considered.  Through podcasts, I can also listen to This American Life and On the Media and Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me whenever I want to, and not just when they are broadcast on my local NPR station (which yes, I do still pledge to).

Anyway, the point of all this is actually so I can talk about Planet Money, which I think you should listen to.  Planet Money has two podcasts per week, available on iTunes or you can listen at their blog site.  They investigate all sorts of issues related to economics and finance, making a point of making the economic news clear and understandable for people who have never studied this stuff.  They translate the lingo and use simple examples to explain complex issues, such as using a $100 dollhouse to explain toxic assets.  Then the Planet Money team, all the people involved in making the show, put together $1000 of their own money to buy a real toxic asset, and you can follow it’s “death” on their blog site.

It helps, in my opinion, that they have really smart people on the Planet Money team.  One (the son of a college roommate of a friend of mine’s father), has a PhD in Physics from Harvard.  All are seasoned journalists who believe in delivering the truth to the public.  They explore a wide variety of economic topics, including copyright protection; the economy of Haiti; creating, marketing, and selling a great t-shirt; and how hedge funds such as Magnetar and Goldman-Sachs bet against their clients’ investments in mortgage-backed securities and profited hugely while their clients lost large sums of money.

That whole Goldman-Sachs thing was ridiculous.  It makes me wonder if any of these hedge-fund managers have a conscience.  I was glad to understand what was going on, but depressed by how horrible these people were to their own clients, fellow human beings.  I don’t consider myself a Christian, but there are a number of things Jesus said to do that I try to do in my life, like loving my neighbor.  I kindof think Jesus would have overturned the tables on Goldman-Sachs like he did to the moneylenders in the Temple, if only he had the opportunity.  And while Jesus said we should forgive, I find it very hard to forgive people who deliberately set out to screw the people who have hired them to manage their money well.

Anyway.  The point is, you should listen to Planet Money.  I like to download the podcast and listen while I am busy doing something else, like driving someplace, walking, cleaning up, washing dishes, etc.  Give it a listen, and tell me what you think!

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