Host Ira Glass tells the story of a report by the U.S. intelligence community back in October 2002 that declared that the likelihood of Saddam Hussein using weapons of massive destruction was very low for the "foreseeable future"...unless the U.S. were to launch a military attack on Iraq. In other words, the war to stop him from using weapons of mass destruction would probably cause the thing it was designed to prevent.
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Ira speaks with Gordon Jondroe of the newly-created Department of Homeland Security, trying to get answers to Senator Graham's questions. It doesn't go so well.
It's possible that the most compelling arguments against the war with Iraq, and the most compelling arguments for the war with Iraq, are arguments you've never heard. Ira talks with journalist Nicholas Lemann from The New Yorker magazine about two ways of seeing the war: The so-called Hawks' view, and the so-called Realists' view.
Host Ira Glass talks with filmmaker Alan Berliner, who for six years collected old home movies he found at thrift stores and garage sales. He says that almost all of them document either rites of passage, like birthdays and weddings, or moments of leisure—the beach is especially big.
From the time he was a little kid until the time he graduated high school, Darren Stein made movies with his father's video camera. The cast was composed of friends from his street, a suburban cul-de-sac in Encino, California.
The TV show America's Funniest Home Videos has an archive of over half-a-million video clips. Ira talks with Todd Thicke, the show's co-executive producer, and Trace Beaulieu and Mike Palleschi, two of the show's writers, about what all that footage tells them about Americans that the rest of us don't know.
Host Ira Glass talks with Chris, who worked for a company that helped deaf people talk over the phone with hearing people. The deaf person would type what they wanted Chris to say, and Chris would say it, then type back the response from the hearing person on the line.
Host Ira Glass talks with Marion Tanios, a classified section editor at the Chicago Sun-Times. She explains that if the news section of the newspaper gives you the public life of a city, the classified section gives you a sense of people's personal lives.
Host Ira Glass talks with Adam and Wendy, a couple whose world view was changed when they bought a house. Adam and Wendy were the kind of people who believed that most people by and large were good, and their motives by and large honest.
Jen's mom Sheila does things like this: She buys a brand name at a discount store, and then returns it to a fancy store for a full refund. She thinks you're a sucker if you don't take advantage of opportunities like that.
Host Ira Glass talks with Erin Einhorn, a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, who went to Poland to find the Catholic family that had sheltered and saved her mother from the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. She found that in Krakow where she was living, in a country where Jewish populations had been vilified and then exterminated by the Nazis, Judaism was suddenly trendy.
Ira's conversation with Erin Einhorn continues. She talks about the possible reasons that, 50 years after Auschwitz, 10,000 Polish hipsters will now show up to see a Klezmer music concert.
Producer Alex Blumberg explains that he wanted to do this show because of his conflicted relationship with his own testosterone. He tells host Ira Glass that the reasons go back to a girl in his eighth-grade homeroom and the 1970s seminal feminist novel The Women's Room. We also hear from a man who stopped producing testosterone due to a medical treatment and found that his entire personality was altered.
The interview with a man who lost his testosterone continues. He explains that life without testosterone is life without desire—desire for everything: food, conversation, even TV.
An interview with a transgender man, who started life as female and began taking testosterone injections several years ago. He explains how testosterone changed his views on nature vs. nurture for good.
The men and women on staff at This American Life decide to get their testosterone levels tested, to see who has the most and least, and to see if personality traits actually do match up with hormone levels. It turns out to be an exercise that in retrospect, we might not recommend to other close-knit groups of friends or co-workers.
Host Ira Glass talks to Cory Simmons and Dominique Mapp, who were driving home one night and were followed by a group of rowdy men in an SUV. The men tailed them for miles and then started firing a gun at them.
Host Ira Glass surveys various productions of Hamlet being staged around the country: At community colleges in Brooklyn and Honolulu, on a professional stage in Boston, and at a Shakespeare camp for kids in San Francisco—where all the scenes are death scenes.
Ira visits the border where Israel meets the West Bank and finds it's more like Scottsdale, Arizona, than he ever expected. We also hear from Tel Aviv advertising writer Erez Hadary, who created a bumper sticker that expresses Israeli confusion right now; from Rula Hamadani, a Palestinian who's feeling just as confused; and from journalist and historian Tom Segev (author of 1949: The First Israelis, Elvis in Jerusalem, and other books) about some very odd Israeli poll numbers.
Ira Glass travels through Israel with Adam Davidson, who speaks Hebrew and has countless Israeli cousins and other family members. They find that the entire country has moved to the right in reaction to Palestinian violence—so far right that at a cafe of leftists, they're no longer arguing about peace, but about whether the Palestinians are simply born animals or if they're taught to be animals.
Host Ira Glass goes to a fake wedding at a home for Alzheimer's patients in Davenport, Iowa. Two high school kids who've never even kissed are the bride and groom.
The story from the prologue continues, with the groom who refused to be a groom, and the one person who'll probably remember the fake wedding, namely, the fake bride.
Host Ira Glass talks with NPR's Car Talk hosts Tom and Ray Maggliozi and a former employee of theirs, Joe Richman. Ray once fixed Joe's beloved '72 Plymouth Valiant, a repair job which hastened it to its grave...but probably got Joe a girlfriend.
We hear two stories of everyday life which are more easily understood if one knows some of the laws of physics, specifically the Mediocrity Principle and the Casimir Effect.