Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - May 27, 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.
Monday (Memorial Day): 4:59am-9am: V&B Live from Iowa Gold Star Museum at Camp Dodge
iHeartRadio app: Gen X Radio
"December" by Collective Soul, then "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams
Young MC's "Bust a Move", then REM's "Losing My Religion"
Rod Stewart's "Young Turks", then Lit doing "My Own Worst Enemy"
BUT FIRST: The opening essay
A candidate for the US House of Representatives just physically attacked a newspaper reporter for asking questions. When you go after a reporter, you (symbolically) go after the First Amendment. And there is no room for that in our Constitutional order. The news media ought to resist the temptation to overstate what happened...but the candidate ought to be instantly disqualified in the minds of the voters.
I'm pretty disappointed in Montana.
Granted, I haven't paid a lot of attention to Montana politics, and I'm guessing you haven't either. But they had a special election for Congress this past week -- for the single seat in the House that covers the entire state -- and Montana picked the guy who attacked a reporter.
There really isn't a great deal more to be said about that. He attacked a reporter. There's audio evidence, and there's corroboration from witnesses who saw it happen. A Fox News crew, of all things.
And there is, of course, the tape itself, in which the now Congressman-elect is accused of violence and instead of responding to it, denying the charge, or apologizing for an overheated temper…no, instead of doing any one of those things, he berates the reporter further still.
I know there are people out there who cheered it. People who think that somehow the reporter "deserved it" or that he was a wimp for getting beaten up.
But let's picture it differently.
What if the exact same thing had happened, but the candidate had been a woman? I'm guessing that a female candidate who went after a reporter like that would have been excoriated for being something that rhymes with "witch".
What if it had been a female candidate and a female reporter? Then we would have had something straight out of a Jerry Springer show. It doesn't take much imagination to think that it would have become the "Catfight Heard Round the World", complete with all of the salacious coverage that would have inevitably ensued.
Now, what if it had been the same male candidate but an attack on a female reporter? We wouldn't be talking about whether it was a manly thing for the candidate to have done, now would we? He (and everyone who had ever endorsed him) would have been left running for the nearest Fallout Shelter to escape the barrage of incoming shame.
But, no, it wasn't any of those three. It was a male candidate who attacked a male reporter, and the result is a bunch of hypocrisy from people who think it's OK -- under any circumstances -- to defend violence between a candidate and a reporter because it happened "between men."
I'll tell you what's wrong with that, beyond the obvious.
When I was in college, I had a way of shooting off my mouth -- like 20-year-olds do. I was a bozo for doing it, especially the one time I popped off at a friend of mine who was a walk-on player on the football team. We were the same height -- 6' 2" -- but he had a good 40 lbs. on me, all muscle. And when I took a cheap shot at his brother, he flew off the handle -- again, as 20-year-olds sometimes do -- and came after me with fists cocked and ready to pummel me. A couple of buddies intervened and pulled him back, but it stuck with me. I realized that we live in a world where people can fly off the handle, where I might sometimes say stupid things, and where other people might come better-armed than me to a fistfight.
It wasn't long afterward that I joined the campus Tae Kwon-Do program. I realized I was tall and skinny, highly visible, and a really good target for a belligerent drunk looking to show off just how strong he was. And it was a great decision -- not just because it was great exercise, nor just because it's a lifelong skill, nor just because after almost 20 years of practice, I have a fairly decent level of self-confidence when I enter an unfamiliar situation.
No, what has probably been most important of all has been learning that we call them the "martial arts" because they involve constraints. Every good art is found in the constraints -- in what you cannot or will not do. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about painting watercolors or composing symphonies or writing poetry…or exercising an art of self-defense. What makes it something impressive is in what you choose to deny yourself.
There is an art to showing restraint. To backing down, even when you have the capacity to win. To being "armed and ready", as Theodore Roosevelt put it, but in choosing instead to use your wits and your words to back away from trouble. I'm not impressed by the person who wants to show off just how ready he is for violence. I've met them out in the world. I've even seen them at martial-arts tournaments. And I am vastly more impressed by the person who can keep an angry, riled-up opponent at bay by choosing strategic restraint -- by holding back on the full force of what he or she can do because, frankly, it lacks a certain kind of art.
There's nothing impressive, nothing artful, nothing even mature about resorting to physical intimidation because you lack self-restraint. That goes double for anyone who aspires to serve in high elected office, like Congress. And shame on anyone who applauds it, who endorses it, or who falls for the "manly man" myth that would encourage it. Even tolerating it is an act of weakness and cowardice.
Teach your children: A great idea whispered quietly is more powerful than a bad one promoted by thuggery. Resort to ideas, not fists. Prepare yourself for the worst, of course -- the best offense often is a great defense -- and when no other choice remains, be ready to escalate to the full extent of your abilities. But recognize that individuals -- and nations -- that are quick to turn to violence usually don't really understand, appreciate, or adequately fear the consequences. Look at our nation's signature military victories, like World War II: We weren't fighting just to fight. We fought in service of ideas when there was no alternative but to fight. The strength was in the ideas we fought to defend as a course of last resort against a determined opponent.
There's nothing manly about assaulting a reporter. It's the worst kind of weakness. And shame on anyone who applauds it. Civilized life -- indeed, everything that has made America a great nation -- depends on us resorting first to ideas and last to brute force. In the martial arts, the most disciplined and senior practitioners are recognizable because they usually need to make the fewest moves to win.
We're strong because we don't need to show off how strong we are. That's a privilege reserved for the truly powerful. The guarantees to peaceful expression of free speech, press, and assembly -- not to mention religion and petition of grievances -- are what make us more than just apes with opposable thumbs and nuclear-strike capability.
Clean up after yourself
Budget watchdog group Fix the Debt: "The President is right to focus on job creation and tax reform. But he should not rely on unrealistic and rosy economic growth projections to pay for his proposals or fix our debt. It is not a good idea to spend as if you won the lottery in hopes that you actually do."
(Video) He is gravely concerned that we're right about at the tipping point where a reversion to historical interest rates are going to destroy anything left in the budget. He notes that leaving entitlements untouched in the budget leaves no room for any of the discretionary spending that people expect to get from their government.
Mind your business
It's a ridiculous stunt in her bid to become Speaker of the House again. It's not really a feasible solution to poverty...and worse (from an electoral standpoint), it's not going to attract middle-class voters who aren't now voting Democratic.
And a heavy debt burden threatens the prospects for growth, which in turn could destabilize the country if it doesn't liberalize its politics. It's a whole basket full of alarms.
Shameful if nations have to make a rational calculation to spend much more money and time on defense because we abandoned the liberal order. It's an inefficient use of resources to spend them on warcraft if we could have peace through strength (and mutual defense) instead.
The President declined to reaffirm that US policy backs the Article 5 commitment to mutual defense in his hectoring and uninspired speech at NATO headquarters. (He also shoved another NATO leader like a toddler.)
A magnificent insight from Graham Allison: "We really need to rethink our vital interests and the way we cling to the Pax Americana established after World War II. That status quo can no longer be sustained when the economic reality has tilted so dramatically in China’s favour. America’s real strategy, truth be told, is hope. At the same time, Chinese authoritarianism is no longer sustainable."
The TSA is going to increase the amount of screening applied to electronics with "new procedures" at ten airports this summer. The official announcement makes it sound like they're just going to require people to take things like cables and devices out of bags and put them in to separate bins for screening. But at this stage, who knows?
The week in technology
By peppering her text messages to a prospective landlord with a bunch of happy emojis, a judge concluded that she intended to show positive intent to rent, and now she has to pay a few thousand dollars in damages. There's a reason the written word beat out the pictogram millennia ago.
One team of futurists estimates that households will save thousands of dollars a year if they start using self-driving cars that are part of fleet services. What's perhaps more interesting is to consider what happens if people continue to own vehicles but (a) simply have a lot more time at their disposal because we waste so much human energy behind the wheel, and (b) save a ton of money because electric cars turn out to be much more reliable than combustion-engine vehicles. Some of the projections in the forecast are far-fetched (recovering "vast tracts of land" seems unlikely), but others could unsettle some of the biggest industries in the economy, including the oil companies.
The technology holds enormous promise -- but the developers need to follow the rules while they're still testing things
From an economic perspective, it's almost as essential as other basic utilities like power, water, and sewer service. If that's the case, then there may be a case to be made on behalf of ensuring universal access -- and that, in turn, may influence whether people consider it worth subsidizing for those who live in places where it's not economical to deliver under conventional assumptions.
What the company did to remodel the taxi business, now it wants to do to over-the-road trucking. In the short run, it could be good news for independent drivers who are looking for a better way to fill their time carrying loads. In the long run, don't forget that Uber wants to go way beyond paying human drivers; they already own a project devoted to putting self-driving freight trucks on the road. In a sense, drivers who work for Uber Freight will be training their own replacements.
Tin Foil Hat Award
A big range of countries have become disturbingly more open to strong-man politics in the last couple of decades. That's a problem, because the appeal of the "strong leader" is an artifact in our brains leftover from the past, when power did more to define groups of people than principles. That doesn't fit with a modern world that broadly depends on peace and trade rather than bloody fights.
"Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate". Those with loyalties to the institutions of good self-government are the true heroes of this era.
Interesting question: Why not the Judiciary Committee?
McClatchy cites members of Congress: "Investigators into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential elections are now authorized to probe whether White House officials have engaged in a cover-up."
If officials within the White House are under criminal investigation, then the investigation must be permitted to proceed without obstruction or interference, and the public ought to be on very serious alert.
Stop the deliberate ignorance
The Carrier plant in Indiana -- for which the President took such gleeful credit for "saving" hundreds of jobs through negotiation -- is laying off most of those "saved" employees before Christmas. The President shouldn't have interfered in the first place, shouldn't have taken credit for the jobs, and now deserves as much blame as the undeserved credit he took.
Writes Noah Smith: "[W]e need to increase the chances of whole new fields of technology being created", and one way to raise the odds of that happening is to encourage lots of migration by smart people to places that want them
Trade is less about "We sell, you buy" and more about how complex things come together. The President's abject failure to understand how this works is his own deliberate fault, and it is inexcusable. A world that trades voluntarily is a world that delivers material well-being to its people and peace among its nations.
Note the substantial benefits that accrue to states with substantial ag sectors. There's no good to be gained from producing surplus crops, meat, and other products if there's no place to use or sell the excess output. Anyone who bears even a rudimentary understanding of specialization and comparative advantage ought to grasp that without liberalized trade policies, the states with surplus to sell will find themselves losing out.
China is undertaking a big concept: Essentially, that its interests are best served by heavy investment in the infrastructure that will permit it access to markets abroad so it can export more. But the concept isn't just about what China wants to build, but what the nations on the receiving end of the investment decide to do.
A Chinese student speaking at her commencement from the University of Maryland found herself on the receiving end of heavy criticism from home for revealing that her experience in America overturned the notion in her mind "that only authorities owned the narrative". This is exactly why a strong American effort on behalf of public diplomacy everywhere is a worthwhile investment. People shouldn't have to come here to get the message.
21st Century conservatism
Too many Americans who knew that a free press was a key to winning the Cold War are now quick to share propaganda on their Facebook pages. We need to get smarter, not more entrenched in preconceived notions. Perhaps social media apps shouldn't open until you've been forced to read two pages in a book.
"Above all, reporters are representatives of the public." Yes.
Your role in cyberwar
What better way to take advantage of the "leaks" resulting from their hacks than to deliberately falsify or modify some of the leaked materials in order to do even more damage?
Manchester: There are no words
At least 19 people were killed in a bombing at a pop concert
Commentator James Palmer (the Asia editor at Foreign Policy), who grew up in the city says the terrorist attack shouldn't elevate the city into a symbol: "Of course Mancunians opened their homes and brought out free sandwiches and hurried into emergency rooms to save lives, and God bless every one of them. But they did that because they're people, not because they were Mancunians."
I don't think we're supposed to have words for a time like this.
Scroll through social media for a few minutes today, and you'll find countless examples of people expressing that they "have no words" for what happened in Manchester on Monday night. They don't, and none of us should. It appears to have been a loathsome attack on a concert audience full of young people, conducted by someone bent on terrorizing the civilized world.
If we had words for a time like this -- if we had rituals for reacting -- then we would be acknowledging this kind of attack as something normal. We should resist that normalization.
We have prayers, songs, and poetry to address death, because we know that it is inevitable. Those rituals give us an order for expressing grief, and we need them for that purpose.
We have protocols, exercises, and organizations to help us come to the aid of the injured and the grieving, because we know that misfortune is a part of life. They help us to channel our efforts so that we can do unto others as we would have the do unto us, and they permit us to act with compassion and humanity.
But we should reject the instinct to try to bring some similar kind of order to our understanding of acts meant to inflict terror on us all. It should never seem normal, never seem routine, never seem like something we accommodate as if it is inevitable.
Innocent people, many of them mere children, were attacked while they were gathered peacefully to enjoy music. Many of them will never go home.
There are no words. There shouldn't be.
Unsorted and leftovers:
The report makes it clear: Officials of the Turkish government brought violence to Washington, DC
There's no reason for preventable child deaths
By the numbers
Quote of the Week
Ankeny even makes it into the very top tier for fastest-growing cities in the country
Contrary to popular opinion
Hyperbole is going to kill us all
Curiosity, competence, and humility
Yay Capitalism Prize
Capitalist solution of the week
- Podcast of this episode - segment 1 -- Disappointed in Montana: There's no excuse for a politician's physical assault on a journalist
- Podcast of this episode - segment 2 -- How long until we admit to our debt problem? The President's proposed budget doesn't solve the big problem
- Podcast of this episode - segment 3 -- A $15 an hour minimum wage isn't a solution: Over-reaching promises just paper over the more serious problem of getting people onto a path of upward mobility early on
- Podcast of this episode - segment 4 -- No world government needed: It's much better if the nations of the world are cooperative but different
- Podcast of this episode - segment 5 -- Uber is coming for truck drivers' jobs: In the short run, Uber wants to help. In the long run, they want to replace.
- Podcast of this episode - segment 6 -- A "strong leader" is a bad idea: People all over the planet are falling for the myth of the strong leader. Time to get with the 21st Century: We need smart, prudent, curious leaders far more.
- Podcast of this episode - segment 7 -- Trade is about what we build together: The President is wrong to attack Germany for being a productive powerhouse
- Podcast of this episode - segment 8 -- There are no words for what happened in Manchester: What happened at that concert should never be normal