Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - July 30, 2016

Brian Gongol


The Brian Gongol Show can be heard on WHO Radio in Des Moines, Iowa on 1040 AM or streaming online at WHORadio.com. The show airs from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm Central Time on Saturday afternoons. Podcasts of show highlights are also available.


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.

Quote of the Week #1

"How do you see the process from where you are now to where you want to be? Because whatever you want to do, it's not only what you want to do, but how -- the practical way you see it coming about." - Margaret Thatcher

Segment 1: Make money

Hillary Clinton is a long way from the center-right economics of Bill Clinton. Donald Trump is possibly even further outside. (Tariffs, for instance, actually give lobbyists more power -- not less!). Gary Johnson is the only one talking rationally about the economy and the size of government.

Clinton's proposals at least have the merit of acknowledging the price tags involved -- though they inevitably will result in higher taxes. Trump doesn't even bother acknowledging realities like the utter unsustainability of the entitlement system. That's why Johnson has to be included in the debates. We're like an obese individual who goes to Pizza Ranch instead of the gym. Why did she even bother putting so much policy into the acceptance speech?

Business and Finance Federal Reserve sticks with rates

"[T]he Committee decided to maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 1/4 to 1/2 percent". The FOMC expects low inflation because of low energy prices, but also hopes for the job market to strengthen. This may be some wishful thinking -- and worse, it may overlook some of the political risks that ought to be considered. Ideally, we'd have a stable growth outlook and could start raising rates slowly but deliberately; this FOMC statement may actually betray the truth that they're more concerned about the situation than they're letting on.

Business and Finance The economy of every state in the Upper Midwest (except Kansas) contracted in the first quarter

State-by-state (or even region-by-region) analysis of GDP growth is valuable because the national economy isn't evenly distributed -- the Northeast, Pacific Coast, and South are all generally doing well -- but the Southwest, Great Lakes, and Mountain West are all far from comfortable. The first quarter is long over by now, but it's likely that conditions are regionally similar today.

The US economy only grew at 1.2% (annualized) in the second quarter. And the Bureau of Economic Analysis just revised its Q1 GDP growth estimate down from 1.1% to 0.8%.

Facebook could get a $5 billion tax bill for having moved assets to Ireland. This is why we need to give serious thought to a consumption tax: Our corporate tax rate is uncompetitive, and it's causing businesses to do things that are completely unproductive.

The United States of America Just get Johnson and Weld on the debate stage

In a year when the instability of both major-party coalitions is at least a couple of standard deviations outside the mean, letting in two expressly qualified former governors is hardly the strangest thing that could be done at the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates.

Business and Finance Census Bureau reports two straight months of meaningful declines in durable-goods orders

It's bad news across the board, especially after you take out defense orders.

Segment 2: Have fun

Humor and Good News The letter of the law

A woman told to obey a dress code that doesn't accommodate her decided to fight back -- by following the letter of the law in the most outlandish ways possible. Brilliant subversion. It's just not that hard to try to empathize with other people -- and to see that a one-size-fits-all policy for something like a dress code may not apply in a reasonable way to all people.

Segment 3A: Clean up after yourself

Business and Finance A lot of young men with nothing productive to do

Having a lot of young people (but especially young men) with nothing productive to do is a very hazardous condition. That's what makes the very low labor-force participation rate among young men (particularly those without a high school diploma, but also among some of their peers) a very hazardous situation. Some studies appear to show that many of them are happy to (literally) sit around playing video games all day, but that happiness isn't going to be durable as they age. Low satisfaction will couple with the opportunities that they will have sacrificed by dropping out of the economic and educational systems, and that's almost certain to be a combustible situation in the years to come.

Segment 3B: Mind your business

Computers and the Internet Security consultants say DNC ignored warnings about cybersecurity

One observer says: "It looks like they just did the review to check a box but didn't do anything with it". And by not doing anything about it, they appear to have left the door wide open to Russian attackers.

Threats and Hazards Specific Democratic Party employees have been targeted in cyberattacks

It's no accident what's been happening with this cyber-espionage -- it's not impossible to imagine some party other than a state-backed actor being behind the attacks, but it's close. And while China and Russia are the two likeliest states (in terms of means, motive, and opportunity) to try hacking into American political parties, right now it appears that Russia has the biggest motives.

Threats and Hazards Evidence strongly points to a Russian operation behind the DNC email leak

When nuclear powers turn to cyberwarfare like this to influence political outcomes, it's time to pay attention. The FBI has been enlisted to investigate.

Venezuela is turning to forced labor on farms to raise enough food. That's what happens when you fundamentally wreck the functioning of a market economy: Shortages result.

Powerball lottery hits almost half a billion dollars. A funny thing, though: People have moved their baseline expectations and anchored them to even higher jackpots. We fixate on familiar numbers, and it causes us to make strange decisions.

Segment 4: Quote of the Week #2

"[T]he one-sided fanatic, and still more the mob-leader, and the insincere man who to achieve power promises what by no possibility can be performed, are not merely useless but noxious." - Theodore Roosevelt

Segment 4: Hyperbole is going to kill us all

Threats and Hazards WWVPD?

What would Vladimir Putin do? Slate has an argument that he would do whatever he could to put someone like Donald Trump into power in the United States. Maybe that's a bit paranoid, but then again, maybe it's not. Trump is so far outside the norms that he thinks snapping "Be quiet!" at reporters is Presidential behavior. (It's not.) What's important to do here is divine the intent of Russian leadership -- what's the motive, and what are they seeking to gain? With Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev spinning the invasion of Crimea as Russia "cleaning up" after Ukrainian mismanagement, it's obvious they aren't above playing dirty. Is it simply a strategic win to have the United States run by a weak wannabe-autocrat? Or is the end game to weaken and diminish regional rivals for power in Asia?

Segment 5: The week in technology

Computers and the Internet Nebraska state senator accused of keeping his own sex tape on a state computer

There's stupid, and then there's stupid beyond words. It's just not that hard to separate the personal and the professional. And by now, people should realize the dangers in keeping self-incriminating digital media.

Computers and the Internet Iowa Department of Public Safety fires employee over social-media rants

You have the right to free speech. But you also have a right to the consequences of shooting off your mouth in a public forum.

Computers and the Internet Yahoo sale to Verizon probably doesn't mean any meaningful immediate changes for users

Any properties that have survived thus far are likely to stick around once Yahoo becomes part of Verizon, since that's why Verizon was interested in the first place. Yahoo's destiny as a subsidiary and vestige of its former self is a reminder that success on the Internet is never, never, never permanent. High-powered Internet-based businesses have to make a whole lot of right decisions to stay on top -- while upstart rivals still rarely face any overwhelming barriers to entry. Snapchat, Whatsapp, Instagram, and plenty of other examples illustrate how new rivals can emerge at any time.

Computers and the Internet Verizon is buying the websites of Yahoo for $4.8 billion

They aren't getting the intellectual property or the company's stock in Yahoo Japan or Alibaba

Segment 6: Contrary to popular opinion

Weather and Disasters We need more weather radar installations in America

At least in Tornado Alley. The National Weather Service points out that a tornado this week was only detectable at 7,700 feet above ground level, because that's all the closer the radar beam can get. There are lots of places (including meaningful population centers like Waterloo/Cedar Falls) that are much too far from any decent radar coverage anywhere close to the ground, and tornadoes are significant exactly because they are close to the ground. Filling in the national weather radar network wouldn't be that remarkable an investment cost on the grand scheme of things, and people might be shocked by just how much of America is invisible to radar below 10,000'. Iowa, for instance, could use fill-in coverage at Waterloo, Storm Lake, Ottumwa, and Clarinda. Or, for half the cost, we could at least put installations in Mason City and Lamoni and get some improvement. There are lots of holes in the national radar network, and basically by definition they tend to cover places that are less-populated and often poorer. That's no excuse. We as a nation spend billions on uncertain risks like countering terrorism -- but it's strictly a fact that tornadoes and other severe weather events are happening near people who don't have adequate radar coverage. Weak or not, these things are happening in places that are not sufficiently covered. It shouldn't come down to visual spotting alone.

Segment 7A: 21st Century conservatism

The United States of America The problem with insisting on more than tolerance

Senator Cory Booker made a speech to the Democratic National Convention in which he made some thoroughly laudable comments -- like "I believe we are an even greater nation, not because we started perfect, but because every generation has successfully labored to make us a more perfect union." Dead right. But he followed with another line that people may want in their hearts to be true -- but that may, in fact, be counter-productive. Senator Booker said, "We are not called to be a nation of tolerance. We are called to be a nation of love." This refrain isn't unique to the Senator from New Jersey; versions of it have been heard before and are echoed in the present. But as lofty as it sounds, insisting that tolerance isn't good enough...is a mistake. Tolerance has a very clear definition: It requires that the individual have an opinion, and be willing to peacefully accept and accommodate the fact that others have different opinions. And that peaceful accommodation is exactly what permits a pluralistic society to function as a civilization. We do not have to like each other -- even families don't always do that -- and we certainly don't have to love one another. But we do have to accommodate our differences peacefully. It is almost certain that when people echo a refrain of "love, not tolerance", they're doing it because it's a poetic rhetorical device. But it's also pernicious to say that tolerance isn't good enough. Tolerance is very, very hard to do well. And when people are told that they aren't permitted to disagree peacefully, but instead have to love their differences, that's simply asking the impossible. Tolerance is ambitious -- but it's also absolutely necessary to a self-governing civilization like ours. Insisting on love is far too much. And it begets overreaction from people who don't want to be told to love what they don't like -- too often causing them not only to reject love, but also to reject tolerance. Thomas Jefferson knew what he was writing when he composed the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: "[T]ruth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them." We are better when we are free to disagree peacefully than when we are told to lay down our disagreements. Senator Booker appears generally to be an honorable and decent person, and his speech certainly doesn't leave any trace of deliberate incitement. But he could do more good not by saying, "Tolerance is the wrong way. Tolerance says I'm just going to stomach your right to be different" -- but by insisting that tolerance is essential, even when love is out of reach.

Segment 7B: Curiosity, competence, and humility

Threats and Hazards The cable-news TV-watcher-in-chief

That's apparently the job that Donald Trump wants, but it's far from the right thing for leadership in the country. He is reported to watch virtually non-stop (a characterization reinforced by videos that show him obsessively watching television on his airplane), and that is a vastly different thing from educating one's self. There is very little novelty and very little original thinking taking place on cable news, and people who are in positions to face new and original problems (like, say, a President) need to be exposed to a lot of information, ideas, and original interpretations of fact so that they will be prepared for serendipitous moments. If the questions that landed on the Oval Office desk were easy, they would have been answered already.

Threats and Hazards Threats to abandon our allies are destabilizing and wrong

Donald Trump continues to say things like "We always have to be prepared to walk" on things like our defense agreements with Japan. That undermines national security and global security as well.

Segment 8A: Inbox zero

From James: My Mother-in-law has a computer that had windows 7. Then Windows 10 was installed. when the 4 window button is left clicked nothing happens. It should show the windows 10 info. any ideas? I have not found any solution.

A couple of things to suggest here:

From Chuck (or should I call him Chuckles?): I finally had to switch stations today at 3 o'clock today, very boring show.

Sorry, Chuck, but you'll have to tickle your own amygdala. I can't promise that the things that interest me will interest everybody, but if I'm sharing them, I hope you'll understand that I'm trying to tell you the same things that I'm sharing with my friends and family in person. As a weekly show -- rather than daily -- I'm not trying to stretch out one or two subjects to fill an hour. I'm taking everything that's interesting in a week (and what's especially important today) and trying to do my small part to make some sense of it all.

Segment 8B: Have a little empathy

News 63 seconds of the world seen through a child's eyes

(Video) The child is a 4-year-old Syrian girl whose home was bombed by her own government. You can spare the 63 seconds. It is a momentous experience in empathy.

Segment 8C: Kickers

Estonia's president knows English better than the trolls who come after him.

Study says Uber isn't having an effect on drunk-driving deaths. Perhaps that's because it isn't saturating markets enough yet. Perhaps it's something else. One would normally surmise that cheaper alternatives for transportation would help displace the choice to drive when impaired for some marginal drivers. But perhaps the kinds of people who think about those things aren't necessarily price-sensitive. (And maybe it does make sense that if you actually perceive drunk driving as a risk to your life that a matter of a few dollars' difference isn't enough to change your plans.)

Humor and Good News The tale of Chris P. Bacon

That's the name of a pig. And it cracked up a TV news anchor who didn't see the pun coming.

Also this week

The United States of America Rick Perry: "Republicans have much to do to earn the trust of African-Americans"

The former Texas governor may be redeeming himself on the national political stage by calling out the failures of his own party. He is quite right that the Republican Party needs to pay more attention to issues that disproportionately affect minorities -- and to criminal-justice reforms.

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