Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - May 13, 2017

Brian Gongol

Podcast: Updated weekly in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning. Subscribe on Stitcher, Spreaker, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or iHeartRadio

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.

Programming notes

Home game tonight against Cedar Rapids
Pregame at 6:35, kickoff at 7:05

"Make Your Wallet Great Again" continues next week

iHeartRadio app live read

Segment 1:

BUT FIRST: The opening essay

Trump, loyalty, and the Constitution

I pledge allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America. And to the republic which it establishes...

The United States of America Public officials must be loyal to the Constitution

The New York Times reports that the President asked now-fired FBI director James Comey for a statement of loyalty, and further reports that Comey declined. If so, it is to his credit. This would be a sensible time to point out that we should reconsider our national Pledge of Allegiance. We swear that allegiance "to the flag [...] and to the Republic for which it stands". It would be more patriotic if we swore that allegiance not to the flag, but to the Constitution. It is to the law -- and the Republic which it establishes, not just "for which it stands" -- that we owe our loyalty above all. Most certainly, above loyalty to any person.

Threats and Hazards President threatens former FBI director

Empty threats of intimidation are conduct unbecoming a Constitutional officer of the United States. A reasonable argument could be made that the President is trying to intimidate people currently in the White House, more than the ex-director of the FBI.

News The public deserves answers about the Comey firing

If institutions matter, then processes must be held as important as outcomes. The rule of law depends on it.

Threats and Hazards A ham-handed firing of the FBI director reveals incompetence alongside a craving for power

Megan McArdle writes: "There are a lot of sources of political power in the American system, and those civic institutions will fiercely resist any attempt to remake them into hand-crafted tools of Dear Leader's whims." The President's desire to preserve himself (and promote himself) appears unbounded by any self-control, and the unrelenting urge to appear decisive actively undermines any case he might make on behalf of the legitimacy of his decision. He manages, somehow, to be defiant, defensive, and desperate for approval -- all at the same time.

Quote of the Week

"The Greeks, during the golden age, knew perfectly well that what distinguished them from the barbarians of that day was their respect, and the respect of their leaders, for the Law. John Locke put the matter plainly when he said, 'Where Law disappears, tyranny begins'." - Margaret Thatcher

Segment 2:

Tin Foil Hat Award

Business and Finance Australia's treasurer wants banks to pay a new tax but not pass it along to customers

He says, "Don't do it -- they already don't like you very much," reports the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Nobody should rise to a position of real power without understanding that tax incidence has nothing to do with who likes whom. It's simple: Cutting the check isn't the same as paying the price. Taxes are always -- always -- shared between buyers and sellers in some proportion, depending largely upon who "wants" the transaction more.

Make money

Business and Finance Trade needs its defenders to speak up

Protectionism is the helicopter parenting of economics -- if we plunder the consumer in order to "protect" industries that cannot (or will not) compete, then we're only conducting a transfer of wealth from people who earned it to those who have politicians on their side. Trade agreements are not zero-sum. It is possible to benefit by exporting more -- and by importing more. Importing cheaply that which we can only produce at great expense (or not at all) isn't a loss. Nor is importing something of lower value and converting it (by assembly, refinement, or other upgrade) into something more valuable.

Clean up after yourself

Health Aetna says it's quitting the ACA exchanges

There's just not going to be any individual insurance left. Iowa has already reached the zero hour, and soon so will plenty of other states. We may find ourselves forced without consent into a single-payer system.

Mind your business

Broadcasting Tribune Media sells out to Sinclair

The purchase price is $3.9 billion plus outstanding debt. Sinclair has quietly covered a huge portion of the country with its owned-and-operated broadcast outlets. A prominent Chicago media columnist reports the story with a dark headline, seeing it as an ominous political move. It might better be portrayed as another step in the demise of proprietor capitalism -- a process which has its own drawbacks.

Hyperbole is going to kill us all

Threats and Hazards Attorney General wants to look tough

Federal prosecutors are told to "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense". The problem with this approach is that discretion in the direction of mercy is a cornerstone of justice in a society like ours. That's why the President retains the Constitutional authority to pardon.

Segment 3: Qualcomm Tricorder X-Prize (interview, part 1)

Yay Capitalism Prize

Interview with Grant Campany

Segment 4: Qualcomm Tricorder X-Prize (interview, part 2)

Yay Capitalism Prize

Interview with Grant Campany

Segment 5:

Your role in cyberwar

Computers and the Internet A global ransomware crisis

Literally tens of thousands of computers have been infected and some people are paying the $300 ransom. It appears to have crippled the British National Health Service. It's so bad that Microsoft has issued patches for Windows XP and Windows 8, both of which are "no longer supported". That's a big concession and an indication of just how significant the attack really is. As is so often the case, the best preventive measure is to make sure that your operating systems are fully up to date. Reputable sources say the NSA used the same vulnerability in the past to spy on computers.

Incidentally: Microsoft issuing a patch for Windows XP is roughly like Ford issuing an emergency safety recall on the That's just how bad the situation is.

News "Lateral entry" into the Marine Corps

They're looking seriously at letting people enter the Marines without going through conventional boot camp training, as long as they bring necessary technology-related skills. It really may be time to open up a distinct branch of the military devoted to cyberwarfare.

Our biggest problems (cyberwar, entitlement obligations, workforce adaptation...) are well beyond reach of today's narrow partisan mindsets.

For instance, I'm becoming increasingly convinced that we need an independent branch of the armed forces, just for cyberwarfare. What we have now is too messy, asks for too many compromises (see above), and keeps us from properly holding anyone accountable. That doesn't mean the existing armed forces shouldn't retain their own capabilities (just like the Navy still flies airplanes, even though we have an Air Force), but I really think we need our own cyberwar branch -- with its own service academy. We need to give cyberdefense both status and accountability.

Don't think it's something that happens "over there" -- the ISU Police just had their Facebook page hacked TODAY. Cyberwar is real and pretty much perpetual:

Even some problems right in front of us are being misinterpreted because too many of us take a narrow view of how the world works. For instance:

News All lives matter: Refugee stillbirth

A 22-year-old Syrian woman passing through Switzerland as a refugee had a stillborn child, and her treatment by authorities may be to blame. The Swiss authorities have opened a case against one of the border guards involved, as they rightly should. Anyone who vocally countered protests in the United States with the phrase "all lives matter" should examine whether they believe the lives of the refugee and her baby mattered...enough.

The week in technology

Computers and the Internet Let's put drones in the sky during tornadoes

Much better to fill the air with drones (potentially providing useful live video) than to fill the roads with storm-chasers

Computers and the Internet Facebook imposes "sound on automatically"

As people scroll past videos in their "news" feeds, videos will play their audio automatically (until the user deliberately switches the setting). Auto-playing audio was a stupid feature of the Internet 20 years ago. It's mind-bogglingly stupid to impose it in 2017.

Segment 6:

Stop the deliberate ignorance

A lot of young people are graduating from high school and college right now

Graduating class sizes:
Iowa - 4,800 degrees, mostly this weekend
ISU - 4,300 bachelors and 700 graduate degrees last weekend
UNI - 1,500 last weekend

The conventional wisdom has it that a bunch of them are graduating with useless majors.

Conventional wisdom is probably wrong. A lot of useful majors. But probably a lot of useless individual classes.

Exposure (usually via the news) to the most ridiculous of classes (and studies and sabbaticals) give us the wrong idea. America still has the world's crown jewel for higher education.

But we won't forever. Only takes about five or ten years for any one world leader to be displaced in anything they're great at doing.

If you wanted to topple the US from global higher-education dominance, what would you do?

I'd re-think distribution, first and foremost. Make it accessible everywhere. Make it insanely affordable.

I'd re-think who goes. Ideally, wouldn't we all go to a year or two of technical training right out of high school and get established with a vocation or trade? Then, send off as many as you like to complete bachelor's degrees. The cross-training will never hurt them.

I'd re-think when we stop. Shouldn't all adults be on a path to continuing education? Shouldn't we give serious thought to compulsory education for everyone in the workforce? Normalize it and universalize it -- will force us to work out the flaws in our current delivery system so we stop leaving huge populations isolated and falling perpetually behind.

I'd re-think advanced degrees. Why not establish a path to a master's degree or Ph.D. that takes ten or fifteen years of part-time work?

I'd re-think how to make higher education and libraries and continuing education central to our communities. Carnegie libraries didn't just come out of nowhere -- there was a purpose. Land-grant colleges were meant to achieve a goal. There's no reason we shouldn't have a similar devotion to a big mission today.

And the more we put education back in the middle of our civic life, the more we can weed out the ridiculous classes. And the more knowledge transfer there should be back and forth between the "real world" and academia. That would be good for us all.

Segment 7: I'm not a Mormon, but I want them in the Boy Scouts

21st Century conservatism

I was visiting with an associate on business just this week and he asked, out of the blue, "Were you an Eagle Scout?" I confirmed his suspicion: Yes, I earned my Eagle Scout Award in 1993 (though I didn't pin on the badge until Super Bowl Sunday of 1994).

The Eagle Scout Award is one of the few honors you can earn while in your youth that people continue to recognize decades later. Nobody asks me if I was on the academic honor roll or if I was first chair in the percussion section of the school band. But once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout.

That's why it's a sad day, as we hear that the LDS Church is withdrawing its significant institutional support for the Boy Scouts of America for its members over the age of 14. The Mormon community has offered a lot of valuable support to the Boy Scouts, both in terms of promoting membership and in chartering Scout troops nationwide. For the time being, this withdrawal applies specifically to the Venture and Varsity programs, which only cover a limited and interest-specific branch of the Scouting program. But it looks more like the first step toward a broader split than an isolated change.

The Boy Scouts have made some important institutional changes in recent years -- most recently, permitting transgender children who identify as boys to take part in their programs. Some religious institutions are less willing to go along with such changes in policy than others. Those changes in policy may or may not be the ultimate reason why the LDS Church is moving away.

But it's a loss nonetheless. While the Boy Scouts have always promoted "reverence" as one of their core values (it's one of the twelve points of the Scout Law), my own Scouting experience was enhanced by the presence of young people from many faiths. It was formative to see that we could all be "reverent" in different ways.

That kind of sensibility is important to our civic well-being as a country. If religious traditions that have been closely tied to the Boy Scouts withdraw from their past support, that deprives other Scouts of the opportunity to see how they can be cooperatively different -- each fulfilling an obligation to be reverent, but each in his own way.

It's hard to imagine a time when it was more important to teach the fundamentals of good civics to our young citizens. We need more people to enter adulthood with an ingrained sense of the importance of being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and -- yes -- reverent. And part of that can come from experience in troop meetings, campouts, and service projects side-by-side with Scouts of all religious traditions.

If any one faith withdraws its active support from Scouting, that isn't going to end the program. The LDS Church has every right to decide what is best for itself and its members. But the departure is unfortunate -- especially if it means that the Scouts who remain from other traditions miss out on the exposure they would otherwise have to peers from other traditions.

Like America, the Boy Scouts are stronger because they consist of many who can differ about they ways they will live their private lives, yet still share an essential belief in some common principles of civic life and engagement. The less we retreat into our own silos of self-similarity and the more time we spend achieving common good alongside people who are different from us, the better.

Iowa news

Segment 8: I saw Barenaked Ladies with my wife

Have fun

Barenaked Ladies concert on Wednesday

Lots of friends there and I only bumped into one

The show was a good example of what to do in a live performance -- it's not just about the music. They actually sought to entertain.

Hoyt Sherman is a great example of knowing your best fit -- sell out 1,250 seats every time instead of trying to pack 17,000 seats in Wells Fargo arena. Worlds apart from the place it was 20 years ago.

Don't try to be something you're not -- be the best at what fits your natural advantages


This week

Broadcasting Why carry live White House briefings anymore?

The apparently deliberate misinformation campaign conducted by the present administration suggests that it may be journalistic malpractice to give their press briefings a raw feed to the public. One simple technique could be implemented if broadcasting networks decide to start fact-checking the administration: If the speaker is lying, fabricating, or misleading, switch the video to black and white. That would offer a simple but unavoidable visual cue that could have a real impact.

Contrary to popular opinion

Curiosity, competence, and humility

Inbox zero

Capitalist solution of the week


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