Well over two years ago, long before the country chose Barack Obama...a company called Tigereye Design in Greenville, Ohio chose him. The owners liked Obama as a candidate and they approached him and asked if they could make buttons and posters and yard signs for the campaign and its online store.
Host Ira Glass talks with Andy Woolworth, an executive vice president in charge of new product development at the world's largest manufacturer of mousetraps, Woodstream Corporation, in Lititz, Pennsylvania. About once a month, Andy is contacted by someone who thinks he's invented a better mousetrap.
Looked at one way, the current flailing economy is a victim of invention—Wall Street invention. Investors and banks and brokers created all sorts of stuff the world would've been better off without.
Host Ira Glass goes to Union Square, a 15-minute subway ride from Wall Street, where it doesn't look like we're on the edge of an economic abyss.
Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson recount the 36-hour period, two weeks ago, when the credit markets froze. Plus, what it's like now for businesses to get short-term loans, and how the hardship is spreading to every sector of the economy.
One more confusing financial product that's bringing down the global economy. And one of way to think about this product is this: If bad mortgages got the financial system sick, this next thing you're about to hear about, helped spread the sickness into an epidemic.
Ira talks with Michael Greenberger, a former commodities regulator, who tells the story of when it was decided not to regulate credit default swaps. And how that decision was emblematic ofthe way we didn't regulate a lot of the toxic financial products we're hearing about now.
TAL producer Alex Blumberg reports on a peculiar Wall Street practice with a dirty-sounding name—naked short selling—and how one of Wall Street's main regulators, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, doesn't seem all that interested in regulating anything. (20 minutes) Alex's story is also going to be on NPR's new Planet Money podcast...which came about after our Giant Pool of Money show, the show Alex did on the mortgage;crisis with NPR's Adam Davidson.
Host Ira Glass talks with an NPR business and economics correspondent about two gatherings he attended—one at the Ritz Carlton and one at a community college in Brooklyn. The first was an awards dinner for finance professionals who created the mortgage-based financial instruments that nearly brought down the global economic system.
This American Life producer Alex Blumberg teams up with NPR's Adam Davidson for the entire hour to tell the story—the surprisingly entertaining story—of how the U.S. got itself into a housing crisis. They talk to people who were actually working in the housing, banking, finance and mortgage industries, about what they thought during the boom times, and why the bust happened.
Alex and Adam's story continues.
In the late 1960s, a California TV repairman named Bob Nelson joined a group of enthusiasts who believed they could cheat death with a new technology called cryonics. But freezing dead people so scientists can reanimate them in the future is a lot harder than it sounds.
A man who we're calling "Dennis" inherits his father's job as a landlord of a big apartment building. His dad had warned him that bad tenants could drive even a good man to become heartless, but Dennis vowed that would never happen to him. He's tested on this point when he tries to help a couple that falls behind in their rent.
The New York advertising agency where Shalom Auslander works got an assignment from the State Department back in 2001: Sell American values to the Muslim world. Now they just have to figure out exactly what to say to millions of people they know absolutely nothing about.
Reporter Brett Martin tries to use the tools of modern marketing to invent a new religion...one that would serve all the Americans who don't associate with any particular organized religion. It's a lot of people: Forty-three percent of the country says they don't consider themselves religious (according to a 2002 USA Today/Gallup poll).
Hemant Lakhani, an Indian-born British citizen, had been a salesman all his life. Clothing, rice, oil...it didn't matter to him what the product was, as long as he could spin a deal.
Our story about Hemant Lakhani's case continues, through the sting and the trial.
Hilary Hoffman wanted to give up his nine-to-five urban life. So he convinced his wife they could make it as organic farmers in rural Pennsylvania.
Mike is a Democrat, the yellow dog kind. The guys he works with—rich guys, like him—are mostly Republican.
This American Life host Ira Glass talks about one thing you probably haven't heard about the occupational hazards of working in Iraq: Since you work every single day, you never know what day of the week it actually is.
The private security guys (from a company called Custer Battles) who guard Baghdad International Airport usually get along fine with the U.S. military personnel stationed there—except when Nancy happened to be taping, and a huge fight broke out.
A former military man, Hank was hired by Custer Battles to clean up one of its other Iraq operations, guarding businessmen. He has a very clear idea of who he wants working for him: "flat-bellied, steely-eyed professionals." Instead, he's trying to tighten up a outfit whose workers once engaged in an extended firefight at a Baghdad hotel—against each other.
The Green Zone is where the Coalition Provisional Authority has set up its headquarters, and the former seat of Saddam Hussein's government. Nancy ends up at a hidden restaurant by a helipad, with workers for Fluor Corporation, who have just arrived in Iraq to fix power plants.
On their way out to a power plant, Nancy and Lee, a supervisor for Fluor in Iraq, get shot at by men in a BMW. When they finally get to the plant, Nancy learns why it's been so difficult to get power plants running again in the country.