Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - April 1, 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.
Quote of the Week
"We still live under the continuing and undoubted influence of the first industrial revolution. In negative terms concern with tradition has led to great efforts to preserve, regardless of cost, some of the industries created in the past." - Margaret Thatcher
Segment 1: Make money -- how to prevent economic sclerosis
The lure of government "protection" is strong, but in the long run it tends to cost a lot in visible and hidden tolls on an economy.
An interview with Noah Smith, a columnist for Bloomberg who wrote the piece
Segments 2/3: Higher floors and lower ceilings for occupations
Child-care workers in DC now need college degrees
That's per a mandate from the municipal government. Like many such regulations, it sounds noble on the surface -- like it will result in children getting better care. But it's important to see that this could equally be viewed as a barrier to entry that will keep competitors from entering the market to supply child care, and according to the Washington Post's story on the subject, the market is already extremely tight. Beware what's happening in the market for labor overall: When new barriers to entry are put up, they're rarely taken down. It's common (but foolish) practice to make it harder for people to compete on the merits of their work rather than on the licenses, degrees, and certifications they can earn -- because once people earn those things, they have an incentive to use them to keep other people out. ■ Beware a growing problem on the other end of the labor market -- where society long ago exchanged high living standards for the assurance that "professionals" would put their clients' interests ahead of their own. That is, after all, the central concept which defines professionalism: An adherence to a code of conduct that puts the client's interests first in exchange for a certain amount of financial security and social status. ■ Unfortunately, Americans have gotten sloppy with the word "professional" -- to the point where it carries no real meaning in ordinary use. People in all lines of work call themselves "professionals" as a means of claiming status without actually adhering to any ground rules or behavioral principles. ■ This cheapening of the word "professional" has, in turn, given cover to people who are employed in actual professions, but who put crass commercial interests of their own ahead of the clients' best interests. The doctor who "treated" Michael Jackson to death, the personal-injury and DUI lawyers with crass billboards and television ads, and the variety of health and wellness "practitioners" who endorse dubious (if not outright harmful) supplements and diet plans are no more "professionals" than any entry-level sales clerk at a sporting-goods store. (Don't even get started on the use of contradictions in terms like "sales professional".) ■ Some commercialism is probably inevitable as professional service providers (doctors, lawyers, accountants, dentists, architects, engineers, and others) merge operations with one another in order to administrative overhead costs. It's quite natural for some degree of consolidation to take place just through ordinary attrition and simple bookkeeping. But that consolidation can also be accelerated by the impact of government over-regulation: The greater the red tape, the more costly it becomes for a professional service provider to remain independent. More red tape should be expected to invariably lead to more consolidation. And thus we don't have solo practitioners making house calls -- we have doctors who work in groups that are attached to hospitals, which in turn have merged into large chains. The greater the rate of corporatization in a profession, the greater the pressure for other operators to start applying a more flexible yardstick to their own standards of professional behavior. The choices aren't always "consolidate, sell out, or die" -- but they can certainly start to look that way. ■ Can or should these trends be reversed? It's hard to say. They can certainly be accelerated by ham-fisted government intervention; the best way for the government to "do no harm" is to resist the urge to regulate everything under the sun. Professional organizations have a role to play as well, by self-policing their members and bringing the hammer down on those who make a mockery of their ethical codes. And consumers -- the clients of professional service providers -- have a duty to be informed and to insist on knowing when they're in a professional-client relationship and when it's "just business". There's nothing wrong with purely commercial transactions -- they happen all the time, and are the basis of most parts of the economy -- but if clients are letting down their guard because they expect professional treatment in a classical sense, and are getting unvarnished commercial treatment instead, then a clarification of roles is in order.
How talent is organized has a huge effect on a firm
If star employees are organized so that they can work together, they can get a whole lot more done than if they are spread out all over the company. The more a firm chooses to concentrate the efforts of its top employees on core missions of the company -- and the better it does at stripping out red tape so that people don't waste their time on unproductive activity -- the better the company can perform. At least, that's what consultant research says.
Caterpillar will shut down factory in Aurora, Illinois
And 800 jobs will depart with it. That's not a small number for a city like Aurora (population 200,000). The closure will take until the end of 2018 to complete. Municipal leaders: Put not your faith in any one company, and never count on manufacturing jobs to stay in one place -- even if there's a huge plant that cost lots of money to build.
Segment 3: The week in technology
Back to worrying about the EMP
Former CIA director James Woolsey suggests we're ignoring the EMP risk at our own peril
Twitter nixes the egg and raises the character ceiling
The default profile picture -- currently an egg -- is being jettisoned in favor of an icon that looks like a person. Twitter seems to have put a great deal of excess thought into this. Perhaps more interesting is that they're raising the ceiling on characters allowed in tweets, putting "@username" references and media links outside the 140-character limit count.
Segment 4: Clean up after yourself -- the Atlanta highway fire
Three people arrested for starting fire that caused I-85 to collapse in Atlanta
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says some of what burned was a pile of old HDPE (drainage pipe, perhaps?) that was being stored below the roadway and had been there for a decade. This would seem to point to a case of the broken-window effect: If you leave construction materials sitting outside for a decade, there's a good chance someone will get the impression that nobody's watching and nobody cares. And that's when bad things happen.
"It's just not going to be a 21st-Century Western country."
A dire way to forecast the future of the United States if we don't start acting seriously on our physical infrastructure (and it's a problem that goes way beyond just "roads and bridges").
Segment 5: This week -- It's still about Russia
When will Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd and @NBCNews start talking about the Obama SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL and stop with the Fake Trump/Russia story?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2017
It is the same Fake News Media that said there is "no path to victory for Trump" that is now pushing the phony Russia story. A total scam!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2017
Sen. Marco Rubio confirms that Russian hackers went after him
Back in the Presidential campaign, and, he says, just this week. It came out during Senate Intelligence Committee hearings. Testimony from one analyst identified an amplification system for Russian propaganda promoting Donald Trump and attacking his opponents. This is well beyond mischief. It's psyops -- warfare against the mind, saving the hassle of firing a gun. And what do we have to show for it? While it can't be proven conclusively what happened in an alternate reality where none of this took place, it's clear that the man elected President is failing in dramatic fashion to set a course for his administration, get a legislative agenda underway, or establish his own credibility. The Washington Post notes that hundreds of high-level Executive Branch jobs aren't just unfilled -- they're without nominees. The Post's appointee tracking database is a true public service.
"Russia is not unaware of our own distrust of each other...[or] our own increasing self-doubt"
US Senator Ben Sasse's comments on how an adversarial government in Russia is exploiting the soft underbelly of American political life.
"[H]e's gone off on a lark [...] an Inspector Clouseau investigation"
Senator Lindsey Graham, in his inimitable style, on the things the House Intelligence Committee chair claims to know but won't tell anybody -- including the members of his own committee
In an interview with The Atlantic, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who is chair of the House Oversight Committee, dismissed a question about whether the President might seek to take advantage of his position for monetary gain. His response is wrong -- or, at best, supremely naive -- for at least four reasons. ■ First, it assumes that the President actually is rich. We don't know that. We still haven't seen any meaningful tax returns. We don't know what he owes, or to whom, nor have we seen anything that constitutes an independent accounting of his net worth. ■ Second, it assumes the President is not trying to get richer. We don't know that. The only evidence we have right now says that he never really divested, and his son confirmed just the other day that he's still giving his father reports on the family business. ■ Third, it assumes the President's greed is limited. We don't know that. In fact, he openly campaigned on the notion that his greed was a virtue, not a vice. ■ Fourth, and most importantly, it defaults to the idea that Congress shouldn't assume an adversarial role with the other two branches of government. That's a faulty conclusion. The three branches of government should be jealous of their own powers and eager to keep the others in check -- and that should be the case, even if all three branches were occupied unanimously by people who shared the same ideology. It's a matter of process, not outcomes, that there should always be tension among the branches of government as they struggle with one another to maintain an appropriate separation of powers. If "oversight" is the very name of your Congressional committee, then nobody should get the benefit of the doubt -- whether they're "rich" or not.
Segment 6: Tin Foil Hat Award
Russia turns to diplomatic nihilism
The Russian Embassy to the UK tweeted, "Can a democracy be undermined from outside unless elite's resistance to change and broken social contract and trust have already done the job?" That is some sick nihilism.
Real independence requires study, self-discipline, and sacrifice for the future. It's true for individuals, for companies, and for countries. ■ Also: Part of maturity is in knowing that "trying to do what's right" is a process and "thinking I'm always right" is a character flaw.
Segment 7: Mind your business -- Was I really scolding?
I really got the Twitter universe in a tizzy this morning, quite by accident
Why are you trying to jinx brunch for them? https://t.co/EHZQPIZOS7— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) April 1, 2017
But let's be clear about this:
- It was 8:45 pm
- I didn't say anything to the parents; that would have been rude
- I made a joke on Twitter; I didn't scold anyone
- I was there doing exactly what I was suggesting the parents should do: Let a 2-year-old sleep at home and get carry-out instead
- And I am completely right about this: The American Academy of Pediatrics says "Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health."
- Why are people so quick to assume the worst about others? I didn't call out the parents by name, by photograph, or even by the restaurant. Not even the town it was in! I offered an anonymous generalization based on an observation and the facts. It's ironic that so many anonymous accounts chose this same comment as the basis for attacking me by name.
- Regardless, I think a lot of parents under-estimate how much sleep their kids really need. And I think that, in general, good parenting means sacrificing your own fun (like going out to dinner) in exchange for the good of your child.
Here are a few of the "greatest hits" among the hate mail
@briangongol you might stick a sock in your 142 characters— Flyguy (@flyguy953) April 1, 2017
@briangongol I'd suggest you be more compassionate & understanding.— Peter Dumon (@pgdumon) April 1, 2017
@briangongol maybe you should practice what's in your header. Your business. Is sales engineer code for grocery store checker?— John Gale (@JohnGale23) April 1, 2017
@briangongol Do you have kids???? You don't know what you're saying.— DEPLORABLE CLAUDIA (@claudiascompan1) April 1, 2017
@laurakfillault @JayCaruso Obviously @briangongol has never taken a 2yr old to eat. Sleeping 2yr olds are better, though short lived. Enjoy your meal!— Dutch Master (@BrikHausK9) April 1, 2017
Scold twitter is starting to become the worst. https://t.co/s5HYlByHBs— Colonel Potter (@laurakfillault) April 1, 2017
Segment 8: Contrary to popular opinion -- who owns what
Some Executive Branch financial disclosures are out
Two things to bear in mind: ■ Rule #1: It's not your assets that count, but your NET assets. Always subtract for debt. (The "sprawling real estate holdings" attributed to the Kushner family are a good case study in this: If you own a $250,000 house but you owe $225,000 on your mortgage, then you only really own $25,000 of house-related equity. Debt has a reasonable place in business -- especially real estate -- but it's not the same as owning something in cash equity. ■ Rule #2: When it comes to public officials, what you own is often much less important than who you owe.
And if there's time
Government should be a last resort for cushioning the economy
Not a first choice. Robert Samuelson's column probably gives too much credit to the White House for having a coherent vision of government, but he's definitely right when he says, "There's a bipartisan unwillingness to answer this question: What is government for?" -- and even more so when he notes, "We need limited government not in the sense of smaller government [...] but in the sense of government that is focused and reflects agreed-upon boundaries."
"Indyref2": Scotland goes for a divorce, again
"Indyref2" seems like a pretty casual way to describe splitting the United Kingdom, but what's interesting is that the mother country really doesn't want to let the fight happen until after "Brexit" is over and the UK is out of the EU. So: Scotland's leaders have voted for a new independence referendum in 2018 or 2019, and the ministers in London say not until 2020 at the earliest, by which point the European Union divorce ought to be complete -- which would obviously complicate matters for an independent Scotland seeking to get back in.
Why does this fortune cookie advocate insider trading?
"A confidential tip will clue you in to a great financial deal"?
We need to talk about a few things, America
When an ordinary Walgreens in an affluent area has a shelf dedicated to paternity tests, breathalyzers, and at-home drug tests for cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, and other drugs, then maybe those things are a bit too commonplace.
Painting the DC Metro stations
Once you start painting materials like concrete or brick, you have to keep going back for touch-up work. Bad idea.
- Podcast of this episode (forthcoming)
- Official station page for this episode (forthcoming)