Blogs & Podcasts for the Financial Crisis

There’s no doubt about it. We’re living in interesting times, as the Chinese curse goes, and they won’t be going away any time soon. Most of us can’t afford to ignore what’s happening here. So, below, I have highlighted a number of blogs and podcasts that help make intelligent sense of this economic debacle. Here they go…

  • Planet Money: NPR is doing a great job of covering the unwinding global economy. The Planet Money blog is a good read, and it includes an essential reading list. But the accompanying podcast is one that I follow regularly. It’s a must. And it’s generally entertaining. You can access it here:  iTunes – Rss FeedWeb Site. (Note: the last episode is not the best example of what it’s usually about.)
  • EconoTalk: EconTalk was voted “Best Podcast” in the 2008 Weblog Awards. Hosted by Russ Roberts (out of George Mason University), the show “features one-on-one discussions with an eclectic mix of authors, professors, Nobel Laureates, entrepreneurs, leaders of charities and businesses, and people on the street.” You can access the show via the following channels: iTunesRSS FeedWeb Site.
  • The Baseline Scenario: Dedicated to “explaining some of the key issues in the global economy and developing concrete policy proposals,” The Baseline Scenario is written, among others, by Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, who is now a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Although relatively young, the blog has received a fair amount of acclaim as the financial crisis has unfolded. You may want to particularly check out their collection of content called Financial Crisis for Beginners.
  • Realtime Economic Issues Watch:  Here, senior fellows of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (a think tank based in Washington) “discuss and debate their responses to global economic and financial developments as they occur each day and offer insights that others might overlook.”  You will find some of the folks from the Peterson Institute also appearing on the podcasts and blogs mentioned elsewhere on this list. Find the RSS feed here.
  • Paul Krugman: A Princeton University economist, a Nobel Prize Winner, a New York Times op-ed writer, Paul Krugman is blogging the global financial and economic crisis daily. It’s an opinion that you can’t afford to take lightly. You’ll also want to see his newly released book, The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008.
  • Economists’ Forum: Run by the Financial Times (UK), this blog brings together a large number of economists who offer a running commentary on the state of the fragile economy. The Wall Street Journal has its own real time blog here.
  • NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: The PBS nightly news program almost always includes an informative segment dedicated to the financial news of the day. The coverage, which typically includes interviews with experts, is excellent. You can download the podcast here: iTunesFeedWeb Site
  • The Becker-Posner Blog: While not updated as frequently as Krugman’s blog, The Becker-Posner blog is a great place to read the thoughts of two Nobel prize winning economists (Gary Decker and Richard Posner) discuss the current economic crisis. Thanks Bryce for the tip.
  • This American Life: One of NPR’s beloved programs has offered some excellent coverage of the financial crisis. It started with a show called The Giant Pool of Money (May 2008), and it has since included a program called Another Frightening Show about the Economy (November 2008). Now there is a new one called Bad Bank, which explains what’s really happening in the trainwrecks that are banks. These programs were put together partly by members of the Planet Money podcast mentioned above.

Are we missing something good? Please let us know in the comments below…

The New Kindle and the Audio Book Threat

It took until February 26, but I finally got my backordered x-mas present – the Kindle 2 (check it out here). There’s a lot to like about it. It’s thin & light. The screen is very readable. It holds a ton of books (1500). It downloaded War & Peace in a matter of seconds. The battery life is long. And as for the other good stuff, you can read Walter Mossberg’s review in The Wall Street Journal.

But nothing is perfect, and I’m underwhelmed by the Kindle’s new text-to-audio functionality, which theoretically turns any book into an instant audio book. The computerized voice is rather painful to listen to. The rhythms and intonations are off. The subtleties of the human voice just aren’t there.  I doubt that this functionality will get much use. But it is not stopping the Authors Guild from complaining.

Earlier this week, Roy Blount Jr., the Guild’s president, wrote an op-ed in the NYTimes (“The Kindle Swindle”) questioning the legality of the new feature, and complaining that it deprives authors of revenue from audio book rights. Perhaps some day, when this technology dramatically improves, Blount may have a point. But, for now, the Kindle doesn’t plausibly pose much threat to commercially-sold audio books. Indeed, you only need to remember that Amazon bought Audible, the largest provider of commercial audio books in the US, and has already integrated Audible into the Kindle. (Thanks Gideon for pointing that out.) Is Amazon going to let text-to-voice undermine its Audible investment? Not a chance. In the meantime, I should note that you can test out Audible’s service and download two free audio books along the way. Not a bad deal.

Allan Bloom on YouTube

Allan Bloom, perhaps best remembered for his controversial bestseller The Closing of the American Mind, spent his career studying and lecturing on the great books, writing extensively on Plato, Shakespeare, Rousseau, Hegel and others. Perhaps not terribly surprisingly, some of his lectures have popped up on YouTube. (What doesn’t eventually pop up there?) The lectures are actually audio recordings with some photos mixed in, and above we’ve posted the first in a series of lectures on Plato’s Apology. The rest of the Plato lectures can be found here. The general collection is here. And remember, you can get hundreds of free university course here.

Via The Daily Dish

Public Radio on the iPhone

Here’s a quick fyi for iPhone users: The Public Radio Tuner, a free app available on iTunes, gives you (free) access to hundreds of public radio streams from across the US. Released in late January, the Tuner brings together feeds from NPR, American Public Media, and PRI, among others. This is a handy way to listen wirelessly to local news and cultural programming, plus many well-known shows (All Things Considered, Fresh Air, Car Talk, etc.) So far, the app works like a charm. You can download it here, or visit this web site to learn more about this new initiative.

Lastly, if you don’t have an iPhone, then this page does a good job of aggregating public radio feeds, and you can always listen to them as podcasts on your computer or mp3 player. Definitely worth a look…

Newspaper Front Pages from Across the World

What’s the main news story of the day? It depends on where you live.

Newseum has a handy web page that let’s you visually scan the front page of over 700 newspapers across 80 countries. Open this web page, click on a continent, then click on a dot within a particular geographic area, and you’ll see what an individual paper thinks matters most today, tomorrow and the next day. It’s a pretty handy tool.

Sadly, as I looked at these maps, I couldn’t help but wonder (given the state of newspaper business) how many of these dots will disappear over time. Or, as my colleague put it, how long is it before the newspaper, as we know it, becomes an actual relic of a museum. “Newseum” may really become a newseum.

If you want to track the grim demise of the print industry, you can follow The Media is Dying on Twitter. On an hour-to-hour basis, it records the grim unwinding of various newspapers and magazines. And, while you’re at it, you can follow our Twitter feed here, too. It’s a happier feed, I promise.

Thanks Denise for the heads up on this one. Got a cool piece of cultural media? Send it our way.

The American Future

Through his books and documentaries, Simon Schama, a British born historian, has covered a lot of fertile ground. The French Revolution, the slave trade, the power of art, Rembrandt, early modern Dutch culture, the history of Britain — Schama has covered it all. And now he has pulled a Tocqueville on us. He spent the better part of a year traveling across America, sizing it up, and producing a lengthy TV documentary (now available on DVD) and a related book (not available in the US yet) called The American Future: A History. His analysis of America, of its past and its future, takes into account several major themes: religion, immigration, land and resources, and war. In this recent conversation with Bill Moyers, Schama talks at length about America and where it finds itself today. The first 15 minutes focus on Obama and the challenges he faces. The remaining part gets into themes discussed in The American Future. You can access it here: iTunesFeedWeb Site.

P.S. I am really sorry about the frustrating downtime this morning. My hosting service — Dreamhost — had some “issues.” Hopefully this was an exception.

If Life Were Only Like This …

Somehow my mind turned back today to this classic scene from Annie Hall — Woody Allen’s 1977 Academy Awarding-winning film. The scene features Woody, Diane Keaton, and a cameo by Marshall McLuhan, who gave us media theory and the expression “the medium is the message.” The bit is always good for a laugh.

Stanford Online Writing Courses – The Spring Lineup

A quick fyi: This morning, Stanford Continuing Studies opened up registration for its spring lineup of online writing courses. Offered in partnership with the Stanford Creative Writing Program (one of the most distinguished writing programs in the country), these online courses give beginning and advanced writers, no matter where they live, the chance to refine their craft with gifted writing instructors.

As you will see, there are a couple of courses offered in conjunction with The New York Times. The idea here is that you’ll learn writing from a Stanford  writing instructor and then get your work reviewed by a Times book critic. Quite a perk, I must say.

For more information, click here, or separately check out the FAQ.

Caveat emptor: These classes are not free, and I helped set them up. So while I wholeheartedly believe in these courses, you can take my views with a grain of salt.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.