Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - May 6, 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.
6:35pm: Iowa Barnstormers pregame
7:05pm-10pm: Barnstormers at Green Bay Blizzard
Segment 1: But first...
Break out the balloons and pop the champagne corks! It's the final day of National Small Business Week, and don't you feel like celebrating?
I jest, of course. Nobody celebrates small business week with ostentatious parties. In fact, nobody even brought it up to me this week in any form of conversation that didn't involve a large company trying to sell me something as a small business owner.
And that's OK. To be perfectly honest, I would prefer a benign indifference to my existence over most of the alternatives. I definitely get the sense of indifference -- but to be frank, it's not often that benign.
Last night, I was talking, socially, to some fellow small business owners. And if you had eavesdropped in, here's what you would have gathered:
None of us were wild about life in the Obama administration. In fact, it was in many ways the antithesis of what we wanted. For all of the decency that President Obama may have emanated as an individual and as a human being, it was also telegraphed to us on no small number of occasions that he was hostile to capital -- to free ownership of the means of production. It wasn't just in words, though who could forget being told "You didn't build that"?
It went farther than that. It went into a place where the objective of government was to achieve the goals desired by the people in power, and where the private sector served mainly as a vector for either assembling the resources to deliver those goals, or for implementing those goals themselves.
We should know better. The meaning of government, first and foremost, is to preserve the rights and liberties of the individual against the hostile world around. Everything else comes later.
But then, are things getting better now under President Trump?
- Grave uncertainty
- Still zero clarity about health-care costs
- Massive threats to trade
- Immigration could be a huge issue for many
So why should you care?
- If you're a small businessperson or a farmer, it's your livelihood
- If you work for a large employer, you may not think you care, but...
- ...do you sell to small businesses (insurance, cars, furniture)?
- ...do you rely on small vendors (often easier to work with than big ones)?
- ...do you like your salary (you need competition from upstarts to maintain your own market value)?
- If you're at the government, then it may not be obvious, other than the platitudes...
- ...but a market that forever chases only the big employers runs the "company town" risk. Just ask Pittsburgh or Cleveland (or anyplace in the Rust Belt). Just ask Seattle (big, but it depends on Boeing). Just ask Houston (oil boom came and went and came back and now what?).
- A market with a vibrant small business community is more robust by design and nature. May be harder to mobilize big investments, but it's much more resilient. Would Silicon Valley have been better off with one big employer, or with the many?
- And many of our biggest companies are only a generation old!
- Firm birth/firm death
- What gets in the way of small businesses?
- Tax climate, for sure -- consider the self-employment tax
- Paperwork burdens and regulatory compliance
- Health insurance has turned everything on its head
Segment 2: Mind your business
Northwestern's J-school decides special accreditation isn't worthwhile
The official reason for letting the accreditation lapse: It "doesn't lead us to a goal of significant improvement". Good for them, if that's the full story. Ultimately, those certifications, accreditations, trade groups, and regulations that fail to actually cultivate improvement are only relics.
Purdue just grew by 32,000 students
The public university is taking over a big chunk of the Kaplan University system, instantly expanding Purdue's reach as an online-education presence in about the biggest way possible. Purdue's president, Mitch Daniels, said he didn't think Purdue could make a big enough entry into online education on its own without making the jump to an acquisition of this scale.
- What regulations do you see that don't serve a purpose?
- What certifications are just busy work?
- What happens when an industry standard or common practice becomes ossified?
- Is it possible to be serious about "life-long learning" without it devolving into a catchphrase?
Segment 3: The week in technology
Bloomberg and Twitter enter a joint venture
Bloomberg will provide 24-hour-a-day news content, and Twitter will provide the distribution platform. With a move like this, one ought to put the odds that Bloomberg will ultimately buy Twitter outright at something around 50-50.
Twitter is also pushing hard on its live-streaming of MLB on Friday nights
Seeing storms like never before
The new GOES-16 weather satellite provides a much more real-time view of North America than meteorologists had before. And with that comes much smoother animation of storm activity. When viewed correctly, it becomes a whole lot more clear that the fluid atmosphere above us behaves like a liquid in slow motion. The frequent updates might also help observers to pinpoint sooner when clouds start to break through temperature caps.
UK regulators lean on the big websites to counteract hate speech
The problem with leaning on your user base to produce the content you need to make money? It's costly and difficult to weed out the bad content, of which there is a lot. And the producers of bad content have far more vested interest in producing it, getting it seen, and skirting the rules than the producers of good content have vested interest in tolerating it.
Segment 4: Make money
On the virtue of having multiple parallel careers
The column is a little on the flaky side for something from Harvard Business Review, but the main point is valuable: Pursuing more than one career interest gives a person more options and allows them to think deeply about how they can apply interdisciplinary thinking to problems.
Segment 5A: Quote of the Week
"There is always a temptation, not easily resisted, to identify our opponents with the Devil, to suggest that politics presents us with a series of clear and simple choices between good and evil, and to attribute base motives to all who disagree with us. These are dangerous and evil tendencies; they embitter politics, and they trivialise religion and morality."
- Margaret Thatcher
Segment 5B: The world around us
French election results
It's clear this is likely to become a new normal. Cybersecurity defense plans will be necessary but insufficient. https://t.co/a8VenQKhxD— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 6, 2017
The big question is how to harden voters' defense mechanisms (in all liberal democracies) without turning everyone into bitter cynics. https://t.co/RjZZbxnzVv— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 6, 2017
I want vengeance, but more urgently want to know how to "harden" voters against these attacks. The bear is coming back in 2018 and 2020. https://t.co/i2dtW5ijgX— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 6, 2017
No truer words have ever been published by a parody account: https://t.co/S53spOCxMG— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 6, 2017
Upskilling and the social-safety net
Germany is grappling with the question of just how much the government can do to insist that unemployed workers get new training -- how to do it, how much to pay, and whether it should affect their unemployment benefits. The time to make strong structural reforms is when unemployment is low (like it is now), and when pilot programs and other testing can be done with less impact and disruption to the public at large. But it's also worth noting that if there is an accelerated pace of technological change affecting workers, then maybe it's worth taking a bigger look at what should be done throughout the economy to help make the changes less dramatic. The Nordic Council's idea to make life-long education a compulsory requirement might just be the answer, despite how radically that may change how we think about education. It's hard to get people to take voluntary action to keep developing their skills -- Singapore, just for example, has miniscule participation in programs for continuing education (both at the individual level and at the company level). So it might just be necessary to make it a universal requirement in order to get the social commitment necessary to make it work. Work is a social thing, not just an economic one, so it makes sense to consider the social aspects of ongoing labor-force development as part of the big picture, both socially and economically.
Russian propaganda seeks to influence the German elections
There are lots of people with Russian ties (including language) living in Germany, and they're getting messages that seek to undermine the incumbent government of Angela Merkel. Watch this closely! For Americans, it may be easier to see this interference from the outside than on the inside...but it's clear that Russia has turned to asymmetric psychological-warfare efforts to interfere with outcomes in democratic countries.
Escalating worry in Finland
Finland sees propaganda attack from former master Russia https://t.co/YHSurNHqDi via @Reuters— toomas hendrik ilves (@IlvesToomas) May 4, 2017
You don't have to be a Russophobe -- but if we ignore what's happening because we're too lazy or don't care, that's a mistake with generational consequences
- Means, motive, and opportunity
- Why would Russia interfere with other countries?
- What circumstances would make it stop?
Segment 6: 21st Century conservatism, or why you should care about prisoner treatment
Apparent torture at the Milwaukee County Jail
Seven jail officials could face charges over the death of an inmate who was deprived of water. We explicitly prohibit cruel and unusual punishment for a reason. Deprivation of liberty should be punishment enough. It is un-American to take pride in the abuse of the imprisoned. Heed the words of Dwight Eisenhower: "Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations."
Segment 7: We should put civics class on infinite loop right now
If only we had 535 members of Congress and 50 governors who *all* thought deeply, wrote well, and spoke often about civics beyond politics. https://t.co/qxmRnCWNmy— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 5, 2017
"Protectionism" is the helicopter parenting of economics. https://t.co/xuVQalfT8u— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 6, 2017
Real libraries: A cornerstone of a healthy free society.— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 5, 2017
Little kiosks for book-sharing: Cute and well-intentioned, but no substitute. https://t.co/pl3979kcSA
Every time you use public-works infrastructure that's more than 50 years old, pause to consider that a previous generation paid it forward.— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 5, 2017
The crime here is that the Venezuelan government could fix this almost instantly, but that would require admitting the error of their ways. https://t.co/Z2D0yNLZdS— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 5, 2017
From the Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge: pic.twitter.com/ONaNFiTB8V— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 5, 2017
Segment 8: Have fun
If people really are spending less time in one career, are they receiving "lifetime achievement" awards at earlier ages? #econometrics— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 4, 2017
The @nokia E62 w/tactile keyboard. Still my favorite form factor by a mile. You hear me, @SamsungMobile? @LGUSAMobile? #sausagefingers pic.twitter.com/ST1zD2cIhN— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 5, 2017
Nobody really wants to talk to Alexa. But give it a little time, and AI will be able to render real personalities. https://t.co/hxC7REciry— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 3, 2017
Especially for people with a lot of writing on record, AI should be able to convincingly depict what they might say in conversation.— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 3, 2017
Have a little empathy
People all over the world have reasons to be refugees. No one should ever have to flee from home just to stay alive.https://t.co/4dAbF19seP— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 4, 2017
The American public likely has little idea just what kind of violence many are fleeing in Central America. https://t.co/jJvIXu5SKz— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 3, 2017
Proud to see another @WDMCS student at Valley HS has been named a US Presidential Scholar. Congratulations, Gabriel Mintzer!— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 4, 2017
I can usually trust my Spanish, but I'll admit that I had to click the "translate" button to be sure I'd read this tweet correctly: pic.twitter.com/5CxCdfE1Yr— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 4, 2017
"And with your spirit" actually sounds more natural here than it does at Mass. https://t.co/c1tJk0XjRr— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 4, 2017
Clean up after yourself
Contrary to popular opinion
Hyperbole is going to kill us all
Curiosity, competence, and humility
Stop the deliberate ignorance
Tin Foil Hat Award
Yay Capitalism Prize
Capitalist solution of the week
- Podcast of this episode (forthcoming)
- Official station page for this episode (forthcoming)