Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 20, 2016
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.
America's campaign season may look maddeningly long, but there's a method to it
People criticize the length of the American campaign cycle (jockeying for 2020 is already underway), but it's just a different manifestation of the same game that plays out in every electoral democracy. Anywhere people have the right to vote on their leadership, there is always some form of campaign going on, whether that is made explicit or not. British political parties form shadow cabinets so that the voters always have a picture of what the "other" government might look like. Canada's prime minister only appears to have burst suddenly on the scene -- he's also the son of a prime minister. And for as much as the perpetual campaign may annoy us, it's either that or no choice at all. The people of North Korea and Saudi Arabia and China and Syria would probably all willingly tolerate a few campaign ads. And for as long as the campaign may be for the voters, it's also an endurance test (and probably a necessary one) for the candidates, too.
The Economist tackles Warren Buffett's capitalism
The stalwart publication of classical liberalism argues that Buffett's investing style -- which depends heavily upon businesses that have some defense against competition, whether through natural monopoly or some other meaningful "moat" -- isn't especially good for making good things happen inside a dynamic capitalist economy. And, in a sense, The Economist is right: Buffett's style is about safety, not innovation. But on the other hand, Buffett's style is really suited more to the idea of cautious investment as preservation of capital than to economic dynamism, and if people choose to invest with Buffett as an alternative to other "safe" investments like government bonds, then it could be argued that even if the innovations emerging from Berkshire Hathaway are minimal, it's still better for the money to go to work within the private sector than to prop up additional government spending. A great deal of the good that comes from capitalism, though, does come from the willingness of entrepreneurs and daring proprietors to take risks with no certainty of returns.
Tough times for America's golf courses?
Some are trying to revive interest in the sport by making it faster-paced. Seems like the leisurely pace is the main selling point of the game, and changing that implicitly diminishes the aspect of golf as a luxury good. Anyone who fails to admit that golf is a game built on conspicuous consumption isn't being honest.
Clean up after yourself
States worry that deficits are coming
The economies of many states are actually contracting (into recession, even), even though the nation as a whole is not. That's going to put a pinch in government income from tax and other revenue sources, and it doesn't help at all that the Federal government continues to push unfunded mandates down to lower levels of government.
Losses can't go on forever in a private market
And the losses hitting health-insurance companies may permanently undermine Obamacare. Probably the biggest single shortcoming of Obamacare is that it did nothing to reduce the actual costs of health care -- it only sought to realign who paid for them. That didn't deal with the root problem, and in introducing more government oversight and interference may very well have made the situation worse.
Mind your business
- How to tuck your shirt the right way.
- The "knowledge economy" is a misleading name.
- We're in the "teach-yourself economy".
- No syllabus. No curriculum. No assurance that you're learning the right things. Lots of room for error.
- But unavoidable: Too many people untrained or poorly trained. Too many experienced people leaving jobs. Not enough continuing education.
- And, above all, endless growth in complexity
Quote of the Week
The week in technology
Uber is testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, starting -- now
Uber's CEO said to Bloomberg that self-driving cars will be "basically existential for us". And he's probably right -- and there's a very good reason why they're also getting into the development of self-driving trucks, as well, with the acquisition of a company called Otto. The cost of the driver in either case is a major component of the cost of transportation, and stripping out that cost will make a big difference to ride-hailing services and over-the-road trucking alike. These first self-driving Volvos will have drivers anyway (to take over when required and to take notes on why that human intervention was necessary), but they're going to be there as problem-solving engineers.
Ford promises fully autonomous cars within five years
It's really too ambitious -- not from a technical standpoint, but from a cultural one. Autonomous cars are absolutely coming...but people resist changes this dramatic if they don't get to see it happening incrementally. "Guardian angel" technologies have to take over first, and people need to adjust to seeing them in their own cars before they'll calmly accept them on the roads in the next lane. For that to happen, we have to put most drivers through a buying cycle with a lot of assistive technology already enabled. That said, autonomous vehicles are a major step forward for public health; human drivers are the most dangerous part of cars. Ford says it's targeting a mass market in ride-sharing.
Univision is buying the company, but the namesake website is going away. In general, it's unfortunate to see any media outlet slip away if it did anything useful on balance. And if an outlet is going to fail, then it's best if that happens because it fails naturally in the marketplace because it failed to serve the needs of its audience. But in the case of Gawker, it's shutting down because it can't afford to pay a $140 million legal judgment over a celebrity sex tape. Gawker too often found itself making news for really stupid reasons: Like hacking an algorithm to make a Coca-Cola-owned Twitter feed tweet "Mein Kampf" and targeting a media executive for allegedly texting an escort. The stunts undermined the institution's credibility (such as it was), so its departure from the scene probably isn't going to leave a void that necessarily must be filled. And in a true demographic sign of the times, Univision is moving in to pick up the pieces of the Gawker empire.
Twitter is releasing the "quality" feature to all users
They say the feature will help filter out posts from accounts that aren't "high-value"
Twitter suspends hundreds of thousands of extremist-related accounts
There's a lot of friction at the boundary between the open world and its tools (like the Internet and social media) and the groups who would see the world closed off (like ISIS/ISIL). The advocates of the closed world clearly aren't afraid to use the tools of the open world against openness, and those of us in the open world are generally unprepared for it. Nobody at the inception of Twitter would ever have imagined that terrorists would use it for propaganda someday -- it's just too far outside the boundaries of our imagination.
Contrary to popular opinion
Hyperbole is going to kill us all
21st Century conservatism
- Finished "Churchill on Leadership"
- Lessons for response to Louisiana
- More homes affected than in Floods of 1993
- Between 40,000 and 110,000 in Louisiana
- 23,000 homes damaged in Iowa in 1993
- Prioritize what's important
- Assign duties to people with authority to act
More than 20" of rain in two days
The amount of precipitation that fell on Louisiana is stunning
Curiosity, competence, and humility
Have a little empathy
A vast problem, and a photo of just one small child to prove it
The look in the eyes of a small Syrian boy, shell-shocked by having his home bombed by his own government, is utterly heartbreaking. And it puts a very personal scale on an enormous humanitarian disaster.
Abducted Nigerian schoolgirls have been missing for two years
The terrorist group that took them has posted a video in what appears to be a "proof of life" display. Remember that more than 200 girls were kidnapped, and most are still missing.
Stop the deliberate ignorance
Tin Foil Hat Award
Yay Capitalism Prize
A look inside the world's largest vertical farm
The arrival of high-efficiency LED lights may actually usher in a whole new kind of farming. Not everywhere, of course, but perhaps in some important places where the people are numerous and the food is far away.
Boston cheers news of ownership of iconic Citgo sign
What a funny thing about capitalism -- how advertising can become culture, and how under some circumstances people will actively rise to its defense
Capitalist solution of the week
- Podcast of this episode - segment 1 (Baton Rouge flooding vs. the Floods of 1993)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 2 (The teach-yourself economy)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 3 (Ford, Uber, and self-driving cars imminent)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 4 (Twitter suspends terrorist accounts)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 5 (An endless election cycle is good for democracy)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 6 (Gawker is going away)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 7 (Big debt and the worry for states)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 8 (North Korean Netflix)
- Official station page for this episode (forthcoming)