Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - January 28, 2017
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.
Segment 1: The Muslim ban
First, it shows no empathy [what if it was one of us?]
Second, it shows no regard for our own abilities to screen and vet
Third, it lets the executive branch decide what the legislative branch should
Separation of powers: It matters, no matter the party
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa tweets a series of messages to the President, advising that he intends to stand his ground regarding expectations of transparency and reporting as the Senate reviews nominees to serve in the new administration. Grassley has credibility as an advocate for good-government transparency, so this message ought to stick.
Pull back the Imperial Presidency. The President isn't the legislator-in-chief, nor given the powers to decide policy at will. This is a problem of the Constitutional mechanisms.
Segment 2: Make money
GDP growth: 1.9% in the fourth quarter
The future of unionized manufacturing jobs isn't rosy
Manufacturing productivity is rising. Non-union manufacturing employment is steady. But unionized manufacturing jobs are on a downward trajectory that hasn't reversed course in more than a generation. It's not because of labor laws. Meanwhile, the President can convene all the "manufacturing jobs councils" he wants, but if government policy is to be used to favor one kind of employment over others, that will require sound reasoning and justification. The bar should be set extremely high for favoritism to be justified.
Clean up after yourself
A bystander at a gym saved the life of a man in cardiac arrest when the staff fell short. Everyone should get trained in CPR because none of us knows in advance how well we'll respond in an emergency. Some people freeze; that's inescapable. So the more people who are trained, the better the chances of survival for anyone who falls in need.
Des Moines Water Works court decision
Mind your business
One-paragraph book review: "The Wright Brothers"
A vibrant portrait of one of the great technological successes that is far more engrossing in detail than in its usual abbreviated portrayal in the history books.
One-paragraph book review: "Good Profit", by Charles Koch
A bit dry, but definitely worthwhile reading for the conscientious student of business management
Quote of the Week
The week in technology
"Fake news" could be a whole lot worse by the next Presidential election cycle
Technology already exists that permits real-time manipulation of audio and video. Technology itself is neutral; whether it is used for good or bad purposes is in the hands of the users. But this technology could easily be used for a great deal of evil. Audiences shouldn't fall for it.
Facebook quizzes aren't innocent fun
Marketers are building detailed psychographic profiles of us all
Stumbles in the race to blanket the world with Internet-delivery drones
Turns out they don't always fly as well as hoped
Contrary to popular opinion
Mexican president cancels planned US visit
This is not the way to start relations between two countries sharing a large border, many common interests, and a great deal of economic interconnectivity. The United States has a giant vested interest in a politically stable, economically prosperous Mexico -- even if the President of the United States is willfully blind to that fact.
A wall, no matter how concrete, is nothing more than an empty symbol
Can physical barriers obstruct the passage of people and goods? Obviously, yes. But anywhere you look in the world, where there are two neighboring countries with different standards of living, there is always and everywhere pressure on that border by migrants seeking a better life. Indonesians die trying to get into Malaysia. The border between Belarus and Poland is stretched thin. And, yes, many Latin Americans try to enter the United States in search of work. Putting up walls isn't a durable answer. The real systemic solutions come from enhancing the economies of the poorer countries in these relationships, and from normalizing relationships so that migration issues can be handled in a sober way. An expensive, 2,000-mile long wall between the United States and Mexico has all the characteristics of a gigantic boondoggle that will waste taxpayer resources and disappoint its proponents.
He's taking on the worst behavior of the Trump Administration in a clever and public way, and that's a good thing. The Trumpian notion of imposing high tariffs on imported goods is ridiculous and punitive -- not a smart way to fund anything (including a wall on the border with Mexico). Tariffs are funny things -- they look like a way to target "foreigners", but the fact is that their incidence depends on the relative slopes of the supply and demand curves. Cutting the check isn't the same as paying the price. Tariffs offer concentrated benefits to the workers they "protect", with costs shared among all consumers. That kind of recipe is really good for turning badly-formed political wants into reality.
When policies are directed only at first-order effects (like building a wall), they miss all of the unintended consequences. Second- and third-order thinking is a bare minimum requirement.
These tactics aren't going to work in the long term, and that's only going to leave voters even mroe disappointed than before.
Hyperbole is going to kill us all
21st Century conservatism
If the left wing cultivates its own "Herbal Tea Party", they need to hold back
The Economist carries a column with a strong insight about the need for opponents of the Trump Administration to make sure that they don't attack the voters themselves who put him in office. There's going to be a lot of need for reconciliation and unusual alliances in the time to come. There are already a lot of strong voices on the center-right who are as opposed to the direction and misbehavior of this administration as anyone on the left -- because offenses against truth and basic civility have no party. But it does nothing good to scold people who are late converts.
Don't deify the Founding Fathers
David McCullough in 2001: "If they were marble gods, what they did wouldn't be so admirable. The more we see the founders as humans the more we can understand them."
What's going to make Russia stop?
To understand Russia's behavior, look at the price of oil
The Russian government depends heavily upon income from the oil business. With that income in retreat, it should come as no surprise that the government there is looking to asymmetric power plays (like trying to interfere with Western elections) and headline-grabbing displays of power. Economic strength speaks for itself; weakness begets the kind of behavior we see in wounded animals.
And we should be aware of China's vulnerabilities, too...
Cash flows in China tilt the world's property markets
As the Chinese government has sought to keep its subjects from taking their money overseas, it's going to starve some of the world's hot property markets of interested buyers (and their money)
Curiosity, competence, and humility
Have a little empathy
Trade is good for Iowa in the particular, and Americans in general
Dropping out of the TPP only shrinks the stature of the United States
Big multilateral trade deals are never perfect, but they're generally preferable. Think of the United States as a giant trading bloc among 50 independent countries: We have just one trade agreement that serves us all, rather than the 1,225 bilateral agreements that would be required if each state went its own way with each of the other 49 states. Remember: One person's "tariff" is another person's use of import taxation to force the entire public to play favorites and subsidize a small share of the population.
A world order must be led by somebody
If the world retreats from what we know as the "liberal order" (not left-wing, but liberty-driven), then something else will come next. Vacating the liberal order would only clear the way for lesser substitutes to emerge: If you clear a field and let nature take its course, weeds will take over, not roses. If the US quits the trade and defense deals that define the world order today, don't expect roses to take our place.
The new President is ordering a withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It wasn't perfect, but our departure is a sign of a nation that thinks itself small. Big, decent trade agreements make the world safer and more prosperous.
Stop the deliberate ignorance
What evidence of massive fraud at the polls does the President possess?
None has been revealed. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence -- but they do not require extraordinary refutation. If someone claims that the sky has turned teal with purple polka dots, the burden of proof is not on the rest of us to prove that it has not. Unfortunately, there have always been people who are submissive to the claims of those in positions of authority, no matter what the evidence. That is why the President's claims should be clearly denounced as deviant.
Tin Foil Hat Award
50 states, 50 election systems -- zero cause for undermining democracy
Statement from the National Association of Secretaries of State: "We are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump, but we are open to learning more about the Administration's concerns." The President ought to be ashamed of himself for making unsubstantiated allegations in an effort to undermine faith in the electoral process. He is behaving like a deviant. It is disgraceful.
Yay Capitalism Prize
Capitalist solution of the week
Germany's welcome of refugees may pay off substantially in the long run
Long-term, Germany is heading towards a worker shortage. Its humanitarian project to welcome refugees (many of them young) could end up paying off quite handsomely. A chance to do well by doing good, as some like to say.
Upward-mobility machines they can certainly be, even if they don't come with illustrious pedigrees
For those times when you're escorting a really classy load
Not every pilot car is a Cadillac
Why are American TV programs set in such drab workplaces?
Sample a few television programs from places like Britain or Australia, and it's hard not to notice that their workplace-themed shows are often set in places with lots and lots of windows. Not so for many American programs. What's the reason for that?
Marketing company sets up deal to put temporary advertising wraps on personal vehicles. Why not? Commercialism is the American way.
- Podcast of this episode - segment 1 (What's wrong with the immigration executive order? A lot.)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 2 (Debating immigration with a caller -- and forecasting the economy)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 3 (Manufacturing jobs aren't what they used to be)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 4 (Two capitalist reading recommendations)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 5 (Technology update)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 6 (Russia's behavior tracks the price of oil)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 7 (Backing out of trade deals makes us weak)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 8 (90 seconds on trade and tariffs)