Insufficient persuasion

There was an interesting story this morning on the radio:

[Beginning of transcript excerpts, NPR's Morning Edition, Sep. 21, 2010]

STEVE INSKEEP: ...We begin in the Senate, where a single provision is holding up a big Defense policy bill. Senate Republicans object to that provision, the one that would allow the Pentagon to end the policy called Don't Ask, Don't Tell. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA: Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried for the second time in two months to bring up the policy-setting Defense Authorization bill... It would take 60 votes today for the Senate to take up the Defense bill and that's why one person in particular has been urging people to call their senators.

LADY GAGA (Singer-songwriter): My name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, also known as Lady Gaga.

WELNA: Lady Gaga went to Maine yesterday in a bid to sway the votes of that states' two Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of whom remain uncommitted. Earlier, the pop singer recorded herself, calling her own senator, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer.

LADY GAGA: I'm calling to ask the senator to vote with Senators Harry Reid and Carl Levin to repeal Dont Ask, Dont Tell, and oppose John McCain's shameless filibuster.

WELNA: That kind of pressure has failed to sway South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham.

[End of transcript]

Let the record show that NPR's David Welna delivered that last line with a perfectly deadpan tone, and that the Republicans today resisted the political acumen of Ms. Gaga, even if it means they're lagging behind the increasingly tolerant minds of the American voting public.

It would have been a significant speech to witness if any Republican senator had faced his or her constituents to say that their vote on today's Defense bill had been influenced by someone of Ms. Gaga's notoriety.

Still, it brings to mind comparable instances in our history. Liberace and the Agricultural Act of 1954. Buddy Hackett and the Supplemental Defense Appropriations Act of 1967. Cyndi Lauper and the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

War of the Worlds panic explained

When I was a kid and learned about how many Americans panicked in 1938 because they heard a radio dramatization of War of the Worlds and thought Martians were truly invading, I always thought they were just stupid people.

It wasn't until I heard this episode of Radiolab that I began to understand what made that 1938 radio show seem so realistic. The Radiolab hosts convinced me that a combination of luck, timing, and audio techniques could've fooled me too, if I were alive back then and not listening carefully.

The episode from 2008, about 60 minutes long, is the single best podcast I've heard this year: (Link)