Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - March 1, 2015
Podcast: Updated weekly in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning. Subscribe on Stitcher, Spreaker, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or iHeartRadio
Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.
Understand the problem before regulating the "answer"
- The problem is that no amount of Federal legislation supplies the kind of civic engagement needed to start and support cooperative, public-benefit organizations like public utilities (or credit unions, or mutual insurance companies, and so on). Those institutions are harder than ever to support and sustain, and no amount of regulation is going to fix that. It usually does the opposite by entrenching the interests of whomever is already powerful.
- A government powerful enough to regulate also has the power to hand out dispensations, privileges, and special deals to those it favors? This is the first I've ever heard of such heresy.
- And why is that civic engagement so weak? This is nothing more than an anecdotal observation, but I fear that we have fetishized, professionalized, and corporatized community-service work under the giant banner of "non-profit" to the point where it has been squeezed out of the mainstream of everyday life.
- Fetishized: Look at all of the fresh-faced 20-somethings who talk about setting up their own foundations and starting non-profits. They get patted on the head for the idea, and it becomes a distinct, dichotomous thing to do -- "non-profit" good, for-profit bad.
- Professionalized: Many civic roles have become heavily institutionalized, and with that comes a professionalization of the work to be done. This is an extension of the fetishization. I quit a college program in public administration because economics made more sense -- I figured I could apply business sense equally in the public and private sectors. But that's not the way it's treated in most college tracks.
- Corporatized: The easier it becomes to cordon off our good work as some box we check (or a check we write), the more distinct that becomes from ordinary life. Certainly, we want and need a certain level of professionalism and institutional strength to our community charters, but the more remote we make them from ordinary life, the more we exacerbate the issue.
- One way or another, these goods have to be provided, and the more we take away from the voluntary fabric of how things are done and managed, the more it becomes a job for taxation and government, and nobody seems satisfied with government's overall performance of these goods.
Daylight Saving Time must dieI am a huge fan of Benjamin Franklin. I think he left behind an enormous body of knowledge and philosophy that are a huge contribution to Western Civilization. But I really wish he hadn't originated the idea of Daylight Saving Time. Of course, we would be wise to use our time differently according to the available sunlight -- but there's just no reason we can't make that happen by adjusting our own behavior. It doesn't have to be government fiat.
As a means of saving energy, it probably had a lot more effect back in WWI, when it first became a recognized thing. But today? With programmable thermostats, Thinsulate, and tankless water heaters, we don't have to crank the clocks to save the money.
There are so many reasons why it's stupid to keep following DST:
- It now occupies substantially more of the calendar year than "standard" time, making "standard" time a completely absurd name
- It disrupts sleep and Circadian rhythms for ordinary people, without paying any form of "interest" on the hour borrowed from one part of the year and distributed in another
- Babies and children don't have internal clocks that easily accommodate an hour shift
- The changeover just increases the amount of time many people spend driving in the dark and/or into the sun
- It's massively inconsistent with the rest of the world
- There's nothing fixed or immutable about the clocks anyway: Congress has screwed around with DST as recently as the last ten years
This weekHedge-fund manager is starting a unit to be run by artificial intelligence
Bloomberg says that Bridgewater Associates will use trading algorithms run by computers that are supposed to learn and evolve. It's smart to create and follow rational guidelines (or rules, or in a computing sense, codes) -- but it's also important to have human comprehension about why those rules are in place and when it makes sense to override them. There's a reason we say "the exception that proves the rule". Artificial intelligence may be helpful at identifying opportunity and could certainly be used as an enhancement for lots of decisions (including financial ones, just like it can enhance medical and engineering decisions), but this kind of gambit tends to get out of hand quickly in the financial world. LTCM collapsed while being run by some of the smartest people in money.
Good reason to hold your applause on the FCC's net-neutrality ruling
The Omaha World-Herald puts it well: "Few will know the real costs of net neutrality rules until the FCC makes public the more than 300-page regulation that it passed without releasing the document first to the public."
"NATO and Russia hold rival military exercises on Estonian border"
That's a headline that had better wake up the planet
Manipulations of power and privilege
At least on the surface, it appears that United Airlines may have put a route into place just to please the chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which has supervisory power over the three major airports in greater New York City. It may be a far lesser kind of extension of privilege to the politically powerful than the apparent plunder of Yemen by its former president for an estimated $60 billion, but both situations derive from the common thread that people will seek power and luxuries, and they'll do it whether the economic system involved is free-market, socialist, communist, or otherwise. It is purely naive to imagine that capitalism is somehow specially susceptible to abuse or that government power isn't always and everywhere at risk of abuse as a tool for enhancing the lifestyles of the politically powerful. In general, the more powerful the government and its ability to regulate, the more likely (and larger) the abuses will be.
The Guardian claims Chicago Police have a "black site" for detentions that exceed legal standards
Some students will get into the U of I law school without taking LSATs
From an outside perspective, it looks like a sensible evolution -- why impose a costly testing regime on people whose qualifications are obviously sound? Next step: Making law school (and other programs) more accessible for people who don't feel like dropping everything and enrolling in a residential program for multiple years. We have the technology to do it, just not the will.
90 Americans are killed on the road every day
In a rational world, we would be more eager to do something about that than we are to be frightened by word of a terrorist threat against shopping malls. One is a known fact, killing a known number of people, and something which we could be doing more to solve. The other is a threat -- a scary one, yes, but at this stage only a possibility. We need to be rational about the things that get us worked up, otherwise terrorists succeed in disrupting our lives and harming us by just saying wild things, without necessarily doing anything at all. That is the very definition of asymmetry in warfare.
China is not our buddy
The people are certainly as good and fine as they are anywhere else in the world, but the government is not
Robotic exoskeletons are already helping paralyzed people to walk