Hannibal, Missouri, birthplace of Mark Twain; a day on a tugboat; St. Louis showboats; and changing the course of mighty rivers. We spend the whole hour on this 1984 downstream trip through the history and mystery of the Big Muddy, with Larry Massett and Scott Carrier.
A century ago, Troy, New York, was a thriving industrial capital. Today many of its residents live in poverty. Studio 360’s Lu Olkowski went to Troy with poet Susan B.A. Somers-Willet and photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally to document some of Troy’s stories. They spent a lot of time with a single mother, Billie Jean Hill.
The result is poetry as journalism w/ some staggeringly accurate and beautiful photos:
Grief and guts fill the work day of Aftermath,® Inc: Specialists in Crime Scene and Tragedy Cleanup, Trauma Cleanup, Accidental Death Cleanup. Interview with Tim Reifsteck by Laura Kwerel, produced by Nick van der Kolk; an excerpt from “Aftermath,” a Love and Radio podcast. (L & R’s slogan: “What Ira Glass might make if he showed up to work drunk.”) More…
[Brady Wiseman is a friend, programmer, state legislator for my hometown of Bozeman, and a Big Picture guy. We previously posted a couple clips from an intervu w/ him. I think people should hear what he has to say; so here’s the audio and transcript of the long vers…]
Audio: Montana State Representative Brady Wiseman (D- Bozeman) Jan 2009, Helena MT — over pints at the Blackfoot Brewery (15:13 mp3):
Transcript: My name is Brady Wiseman. I am a software engineer by profession. I live in Bozeman, Montana. I have a hobby which is serving as a citizen legislator in the Montana Legislature. So I’m spending the next four months in Helena, Montana acting as a public servant as a member of the Montana House of Representatives.
As people become less and less well off, as our standard of living continues to decline, people will self-organize into different modes of economic activity.
I believe that the economic catastrophe were in is a five act play and we’ve just come to the close here in early January, 2009, we’ve come to the close of Act One. We’ve got four more acts to go and it’s a tragedy. So, as it plays out, the ability of the National government to change itself will become apparent as being inoperative.
National politics is not subject to change because there are too many powerful forces behind it. So the change is gonna come from the grass roots. As people become less and less well off, as our standard of living continues to decline, people will self-organize into different modes of economic activity. And it won’t be directed from the top, it will simply happen from below.
And we still, at this point, have a wonderful advantage and that is the existence of the Internet to help transfer the knowledge of grass roots change, self-organized change happening in one place to another. And, so, we may be able to see a sweeping difference in how America operates, quite rapidly, but it will happen from the bottom, I believe, and not from the top.
Wall Street has their people in place in the new Obama Administration. It’s the same people who developed the system in the Clinton administration that is now collapsed.
The Obama Administration, right now, is committed to maintaining the status quo and they have proven themselves to be the servants of Wall Street, already, before even taking office, they had proven themselves to be the servants of Wall Street just like every Administration before them, going back to Franklin Roosevelt, who was the last President to buck the powers that be because they fell flat on their face and he was able to. He had to.
Well, if they fall flat on their face now , they still have control over events. They have their people in place in the new Obama Administration. And I don’t have to say the names, the names are well known. But it’s the same people who developed the system in the Clinton administration that is now collapsed.
So, I don’t expect them to do anything other than to take care of the people at the top, and nobody’s talking about taking care of the people at the bottom. And that’s what I’m here to do in my job as a Citizen Legislator is to look out for the people at the bottom.
How do we heat our homes? How do we turn on the lights? How do we put food on the table? These are the essential problems of life and they are becoming more and more apparent as the remaining four acts of the five act play play out.
There is no chart for the waters that we’re in now. There’s no map for the territory on the other side. That’s where the self organization come in. People will simply cope. When the Soviet Union collapsed, there was nobody there to tell the people how to take care of themselves but they did. They managed it, they figured it out and I believe as things continue to decline — and economically I’m convinced they will — then our people will figure out how to make things work for themselves. And my job is to help that along as well as best as I am able from the level of State government. More…
For a recent This American Life, “The Inauguration Show,” I was among several producers TAL asked “all over the country to go out and talk to people about what they’re thinking as Barack Obama gets ready to take office.” From the dozens of hours of interviews, they crafted another fine TAL hour.
I went to our state capital, Helena MT, to talk to citizens, and to the “citizen-legislators” now in session. (The Montana legislature meets only 90 days every two years, so our reps are real folk most of the time and only part-time pols.)
I’m posting a few of the more fascinating MT voices which couldn’t fit in the TAL episode. Each offers a singular vision of political history:
State Representative Brady Wiseman
(D– Bozeman MT)
“They have eaten out our essence…” (1:38 mp3):
Kert Dees is now 98. In October 1929 he was a Houston college student with a keen interest in finances. Producer Ben Trefny of KALW news (SF, CA) presented Dees’ recollections in a series of Crosscurrents features called “Witness To History.”
Listening to the two’s work on the new NPR Planet Moneypodcast and blog reminded me how damn good they are. AdamD‘s the econ extraordinaire guy for NPR. And AlexB of TAL and NPR, well, I gotta ask…
Is Alex Blumberg the best reporter on the planet?
His little asides make a story, like from this report on SEC Chair Chris Cox and the stock-trading practice of Naked Short-Selling:
“It gets confusing, as it often does, when you get to the naked part.”
“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, despite having names a child might give a puppy, are… well, were…”
Planet Money “Naked Short Selling, Meet Moral Hazard” (27:27 mp3):
And there’s this AlexB blockbuster: “What’s In A Number?” The TAL topic was a report on Iraq civilian casualties. Alex transformed it into an insightful portrait of both the science and humanity in statistics.
“One of the remarkable things about the report is the absence of evildoers…”
“Market appetites for anything that resembled a mortgage pushed loan standards down: ‘No income, no asset. You don’t have to state anything. Just have a credit score and a pulse.’ (Mr. Blumberg pointed out that the pulse thing was optional: 23 dead people in Ohio were also approved.)”
Alex/Adam also just offered this cheerily titled story:
Last week’s Bernake/Paulson/Cox C-Span Congressional Extravaganza left me impressed w/:
• SEC’s Cox’s extremely educational testimony on what his agency can/can’t regulate (according to current law).
• FedRez’s Bernake’s insight on foreign banks are intertwining w/ those in USA.
• Congressional questioning, whether from D or R, seeking some/any clarification on procedures for the “proposed purchase of troubled assets”.
• Was particularly proud of my own Junior Sen. Jon Testor’s (D-MT) understanding of the implications and history of this year’s gov bailouts, and his pointing out how in past, the Fed/TreasDept has said all $X-Billion of the loan appropriation might not be used (as they’re saying now), but in fact every penny was.
Sec. of $s Paulson, otoh, met every request for clarity w/ a variation of: “We want the money and we want it now.” Heard no evidence this guy has any clue what he’s doing, what he’s going to do, or even what he did.
I gave him the benefit of doubt, tho — maybe he was hiding details in hopes of expediency. So I looked elsewhere for some sign this guy’s even mildly competent.
Found none. But along the way did run into lotsa illuminating info. What follows is an audio and url annotated travelogue of my trip thru the web. More…
Who are these Undecideds, who absorb the media spotlight like a black whole, who can’t leave their house w/o participating in 3 surveys, 4 focus groups, and a sit-down w/ CNN? The Undecideds look like us, they talk like us. They live amongst us. But they are different, my friends, to the core.
Their choice it simple: it’s either Fresh Face or POW-guy. We all picked long ago. Yet the Undecideds waffle and flip-flop. They are guilty of, in a word, Indecisiveness.
And Indecisive is not something America can afford. Not in these perilous times, what with the overseas War on Anxiety and domestically The Greatest Economic Collapse Since The Last One.
These Undecideds threaten all we hold dear and purchasable by credit.
Why don’t we make them choose? Now. Maybe if they made their minds up, we could hold the elections early. This would save the US billions in attack ads alone, which we could reinvest in bribing Wall Street to quit killing our economy.
Indecision, not now, not ever, not here in the good ol’ USA.
Aired on NPR Day to Day, a very busy day with Amy Jo, a single mother of two toddlers. Everyday she strives to fulfill a promise for a better life, made to her daughter two years ago. By producer Erin Mishkin, “Surrounded by Lights” (6:50 mp3):
“Basketball is a wonderful thing for a community because it is a warm place where everyone can go and it isn’t a church or a bar.” – Phil Jackson
Apathy was thick as I approached the theater for a screening of Class C. Five minutes in, I was completely converted. Class C, a documentary film produced by Bozemanite Mark Zetler, follows 5 Montana Class C girls basketball teams as they make their way to the State tournament. Instantly engaging and entertaining, it’s a beautifully crafted story about Montana and basketball; an interview with coaching legend and Montana native Phil Jackson is deftly intertwined. Go out of your way to see it!
Free screening at the Alberta Bair Theater in Billings on February 23rd at 8pm.
Airs on MontanaPBS:
Wednesday February 27th at 8pm
Monday March 3rd at 7pm More on Class C
Robert Hormats, a vice chairman of Goldman Sachs, has a new book out – The Price of Liberty – on the history of America’s war financing. From the time of Alexander Hamilton, this country has always financed its wars when they occurred – until the current war in Iraq. “One central, constant theme emerges: sound national finances have proved to be indispensable to the country’s military strength” (and long-term national security). Obviously, our finances have never been more unsound. So where are we headed this time?