Friday, September 12, 2008

Wednesday Silliness

NPR seemed to be getting it’s sillies on last Wednesday, and it made for a great day of radio.

First of all, A pointed me to a fabulous story on Morning Edition about Russian leaders. This could have been a very serious or even depressing story, but instead Robert Krulwich chose to focus on the fact that Russian leaders have alternated through history as bald, then hairy, then bald, then hairy etc. And not only did he cover this very silly issue with aplomb, but he then created a song!! I couldn’t possibly do it justice by writing about it, so I suggest you check out the whole story and song here.

Then, on All Things Considered Robert Siegel decided to do some investigative reporting on the phrase “putting lipstick on a pig” after the most recent Obama/McCain contrived controversy. For those who haven’t been paying attention, especially to manufactured insults, the “controversy” went something like this:
  1. Obama said McCain was just like Bush and that his policies would not be real change, but just “putting lipstick on a pig”.
  2. The McCain campaign accused Obama of sexism because Palin had made a joke about lipstick last week saying that the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull was lipstick.
  3. Obama said that was foolish.
Because McCain’s accusation was so ridiculous I was frustrated to hear that Mr. Siegel was going to give it any credence at all by reporting on it, but he went beyond the normal “here’s what happened” to doing a classic investigation.

First, he did some research into how long the phrase has been around and played some classic examples – such as McCain himself calling Hillary Clinton’s healthcare plan (and note she’s a woman too!) “putting lipstick on a pig”. Not content with that, Mr. Siegel called up Joel Salatin, best known by foodies around the world for his role in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma as a sustainable-growth farmer. Salatin was out in his field with 50 pigs and some “ruby red” lipstick and proceeded to attempt to actually put lipstick on the pig. He complained that the pigs didn’t have much lip and it was more like putting lipstick on a hairbrush, and also that the pigs seemed to prefer to eat the lipstick rather than wearing it, but after a short struggle he was able to report back that the pig indeed did not look any better with the lipstick on. Excellent reporting, and very, very silly.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Really, Really Big M's

On All Things Considered last night, Adam Davidson talked about what would have happened if Fannie May and Freddie Mac had failed, and I was shocked to hear that the amount of debt that they’re in for is $5 trillion dollars, which puts them at a larger debt than any other country (aside from the credit-riding US of course). What that means is that if Japan or the UK went bankrupt, it would have a smaller financial impact on the world than the potential bankruptcy of Fannie and Freddie. This is pretty scary news and really gives a perspective on both how important and how crazy these two companies are. As someone who’s averse to any kind of debt, it seems to me to underscore a lot of what’s wrong with our American culture.
One thing to note is that I was surprised at how much debt Fanny and Freddie were carrying, but at least I know that they were private institutions. That’s more than I can say for Sarah Palin, who seems to think that they’re taxpayer funded but doesn’t see her complete ignorance of important issues (among many other things to be covered in an upcoming blog rant) as a problem.