Decode DC {new podcast}

Great new podcast from NPR veteran Andrea Seabrook: Decode DC.

Produced in a partnership with Mule Design (creators of Evening Edition), the new podcast aims to cut through the “he-said she-said bullshit” and cover what’s really going on in Congress—and, more importantly—what’s not going on or being talked about.

The production style of Decode DC owes a nod to This American Life; the first episode—”The House of (Mis)representatives”—features Ben Solee’s “A Few Honest Words” intertwined with the interviews and reporting, and old-timey music plays when the narrative turns into a history lesson. It looks like they have the technical crew, the funding, and the access to make this thing a really worthwhile endeavor. I’ll leave you with a quotation from a recent profile, Andrea Seabrook: From NPR to podcasting, hoping to invigorate congressional reporting {neiman journalism lab}.

In my wildest dreams, I would love to hear that some reporters and some listeners thought about politics and government in a different way. If listeners think to themselves, “I shouldn’t buy into that just because I agree with one party most of the time. It doesn’t mean they’re right about this one thing.” The parties have managed to channel that within their loyalists. They’re manipulating you. They are manipulating you. That is what they are doing. If I could get people to just pay attention to the issues, and forget the politics, I think we as Americans would gain power. We take power back by refusing to be brand loyal to one party or another.

Check out the podcast here.



I’m not shy about my love for the weekly radio show Left, Right & Center. It’s the Gilligan’s Island of talk radio — that is — there’s a token member of each level of society or in this case, each political persuasion (sort of). There’s the optimistic, if not denialistic (is that a word?) Tom Hanks-look-alike from the political center, Matt Miller. Then there’s your affable, conservative Brit — a combination that never fully sets in the first time you hear it. Then there’s the on-again off-again Arianna Huffington, from the “independent progressive blogosphere,” whatever that means.

Last but not least is Robert Scheer, the outspoken, banks-must-die advocate for the left. Despite the fact that three of those four could be considered on the left (it is California after all…), I appreciate the intellectual rigor present in their conversations.

Then again, maybe the real reason I like the show is the way the other three seem to set it up so perfectly for Scheer in almost every episode. His rant from last weeks’ show is a good example of any of what I’m talking about, and makes such an awesome point about the hypocrisy coming from the media/right/left about the Occupy movement.

Scheer, wrapping up a soliloquy about the police presence in L.A. as Occupiers set up camp near Bank of America, next to the headquarters of Wells Fargo:

I think that the Constitutional guarantee of the right of people to assemble and demand a redress of grievances — if you can’t do that over this kind of issue, it makes the Constitution hollow, it mocks it. And for our government to have celebrated demonstrations that are certainly more disorderly than these, more of an inconvenience to people, in places like Cairo, in China… we said “no, so what if they disrupt traffic in these places, they have the right to assemble,” and now here people are talking about keeping the sidewalks clean, let’s not inconvenience people, I think it’s nonsense.

Nonsense indeed. From last weeks’ episode, Occupied by Occupy {kcrw}.

Left, Right, Forward and Backward

Came across a massive infographic {information is beautiful} detailing the family, moral and philosophical viewpoints of the left and right political persuasions.

Here’s a visual excerpt:


My only gripe is their color choices; I thought red for the right and blue for the left was the more common correlation.

Somewhat related is an excellent edition of Left Right & Center about the now defunct debt ceiling debate.

How to get Unlimited Frequent Flier Miles

No, this blog has not been hacked by spammers.

As recently as July 1, 2011, an unknown number of travel hackers were ordering thousands of Presidential dollar coins from the U.S. Mint on their frequent flyer credit cards. When the coins arrived, with shipping paid for by the government, the clever travelers returned them to the bank, paid off their credit card, and took a free trip to Hawaii.

“We’ve used them to go on trips around the world,” says Jane Liaw, a 35-year-old public health researcher and science writer in San Francisco. Liaw says she and her husband, who use a variety of tricks for earning miles, are planning trips to Greece and Turkey, “all on miles and points.”

As Planet Money reports, it all started with a failed effort to get Americans to use dollar coins:

In 2005, Congress decided that a new series of dollar coins should be minted to engage the public. These coins would bear the likeness of every former president, starting with George Washington. There would be a new one every quarter. So, far, the Mint has produced coins through the 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant.

The Presidential coins will cost the U.S. Government 16 million dollars by the time it ends in 2016. There are already 1 billion dollar coins locked up in government vaults.

The dollar coin loophole has since been closed; the coins can still be ordered from the Mint website, but the only acceptable form of payment is a debit card or wire transfer.

When Countries Turn Into Banks

When the economy collapsed in 2008, I tried to figure out what happened as best I could. Although I couldn’t personally set up a CDO, I have a rough understanding of CDSs and how they were used to leverage funds in MBSs. Even though it totally screwed our economy, following along as it unraveled was addicting. It also served as a huge real-life example of the downside to groupthink and the incredible depth of psychopathic capacity in some individuals.

Looking back, I can’t help but wonder about the lack of attention on the banks before the financial crisis. Was anybody predicting the looming crash? Is anyone paying attention now? What’s the next big crash?

Enter the Dec. 3 episode of NPR’s Planet Money: Is Europe’s Bailout a Giant Shell Game? The segment sets up the present-day fiscal woes of Greece and Ireland, how the efforts to prop them up are eerily similar to circumstances in the U.S. before Lehman Brothers went under and the credit markets froze.

Europe is borrowing money to bail out countries that got in trouble by borrowing too much money.

Satyajit Das explains that European countries aren’t actually putting their own money into that trillion-dollar bailout fund. Instead, the fund will borrow from investors around the world — the same investors who are growing wary of lending to a bunch of countries in Europe.

If you want to learn more about the world’s next great financial crisis before it unfolds, check out the episode.