Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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8 October 2008

Even though I am a media junkie and have been following the financial crisis I have until now found it difficult to find trustworthy sources that would explain to me in simple terms:

1) Why is it all going pear-shaped?
2) To what extent will the US government’s plan fix the problem?
3) What will it cost (because the $700bn figure is not all going to just get spent without any return now or in future to the taxpayer)?
4) Is there a better way to try to solve the problem?
5) Who is to blame and what can we/should we do to them?

The This American Life radio programme helped once before with their excellent Giant Pool of Money episode on sub-prime mortgages. They have rushed out a new episode, Another Frightening Show about the Economy from the same reporting team (Alex Blumberg and some folks from NPR news). I have to say I found it less enlightening – probably because it had to fit a lot more in – but it still helped. If you don’t want to listen to the programme (though I think you should) here’s what I took away:

1) Greedy speculators found ways to gamble on the health of companies without facing government regulation that would have limited the amount of leverage they could use.
2) It’s not clear if the bailout will work, but hey we’ve got to try something!
3) We don’t know how much of the money we’re putting on the table we’re likely to lose.
4) We should be pushing Paulson to use the latitude built into the legislation to push for “stock injection” instead of just buying up bad debt. In other words don’t just give the banks money to bail them out for their crappy decisions, insist on some equity so if the bailout works the government has some assets for all that spending.
5) TAL doesn’t really tell us who to lynch – looks like the decision not to regulate was made in a bipartisan way.

PS the NPR team also has a daily weblog Planet Money and podcast to help you track developments. A good summary of their answers to questions 3 and 4 is here.

If anyone has alternative answers to my questions I would be interested to hear them – send me a comment!

Update: I see that the UK bailout looks like the stock injection option that NPR suggests most economists would favour…

22 July 2008

This advice from productivity guru Merlin Mann is about email that is mainly meant to serve a functional purpose rather than social email (though it may help with both). There are also links back in that post to some good advice on how to manage your email.

15 June 2008

The author – now in video! I’m not sure I’ll do this again though unless video editing tools become a lot more sophisticated and I become able to remove all the glitches…

18 January 2008
Filed under:Online media,Useful web resources at11:46 am

After 12 years, Yahoo’s “picks” feature has packed up. I have been following it off and on since its inception and especially in the early years when there wasn’t so much going on on the web it was for me an invaluable information source. I suppose Yahoo’s owners believe that there’s no point in hand-picking when the wisdom of crowds finds the ‘cool’ automatically. I’ll miss it, if only because of nostalgia…

8 December 2007

All over the Christian world on street corners, in homes and in churches, choirs are starting to sing carols – usually for free (I’ll be doing it myself on the 15th at Crouch End). So why is it so hard to find traditional christmas carols in the public domain? Most of the creative commons databases had just modern music, the public domain classical music archive I found didn’t have much and the Creative Commons Christmas Songs list on a blog didn’t have much in the way of traditional stuff sung traditionally, and had several broken links. Can anyone suggest a good source?

18 November 2007

Sesame Street doesn’t broadcast in the UK but they have a Sesame Street Podcast, it seems. I am a little concerned that according to iTunes, “listeners also subscribed to Abigail’s X Rated Teen Diary” (fortunately that programme isn’t what it sounds like).

I have to say that the sample I saw didn’t really impress me with the Sesame Street magic but I figure there must be some reason why it is the ‘gold standard’ for educational television in US studies.

5 October 2007

Borrowed from my friend nitouche:

These are the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing‘s users. (Did you know that Google Books now has a ‘display and rate your own library’ feature? And it’s free? Here’s my list of books I have written or contributed to). Anyway, on with the list!

Bold what you have read, italicize those you started but couldn’t finish, strikethrough asterisk for books you have no desire to read, a ? in front for books you never heard of and strike through what you couldn’t stand. Add an asterisk to those you’ve read more than once. Underline those on your to-read list.

? Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses *
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre

A Tale of Two Cities *
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife *
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin *
The Kite Runner *
Mrs. Dalloway *
Great Expectations
? American Gods
Atlas Shrugged
? Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex *
? Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
? The Historian: a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum

The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange

? Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible: a novel
1984 *
Angels & Demons *
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray *
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist *
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : A Memoir *
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States: 1492-present
? Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
? The Mists of Avalon
? Oryx and Crake: a novel
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
? Cloud Atlas
? The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye

On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: a Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
White Teeth *
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

4 September 2007

I just tidied up the links on the right and added one you might want to use yourselves – an RSS feed for the links I have publicly added to the shared bookmark service I use – Netvouz. They are probably the most frequently updated part of the site these days. There are also a few more podcasts listed (wish there was an easy way to output my iTunes podcast library as a list of links!) and I hope I managed to fix the RSS link for this weblog and for the (computer-read) podcast version.

PS Doesn’t anyone want to send me an audio message? I always thought that it would be nice to hear my readers rather than just reading your comments…

11 April 2007

Over at Media @ LSE I just posted about my experiences with Librivox – a free project to read public domain texts aloud turning them into audiobooks. I hate to criticize a bunch of people just trying to help spread the availability of classic works but… well… check out my posting…

18 December 2006
Filed under:Useful web resources,Weblogs at3:22 pm

It recently published a puff piece (sub required to read) about Vox – the new platform from Six Apart. I am happy with wordpress but this does look like the free personal weblogging service I have long hoped they would produce with a laundry list of good features like LJ-style privacy controls and integration with flickr and youtube. One blogger thought it was still too hard to use for ‘regular folks’ but it has to be easier to use than LJ. More blogging about Vox here

I do wonder why it is I haven’t heard more about Vox on the blogs I read. Is it because Vox is aimed at personal bloggers not professional ones?

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