Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio
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 (6/5): 11:30am-1pm: The Big Show at Coalition To Support Iowa Farmers (location TBD)
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BUT FIRST: The opening essay
I opened the office door earlier this week, and discovered a cat stalking a tiny baby bunny.
Now, I don't start out liking cats, but this situation didn't please me at all. It was going to be a kill for fun, not for food. I know where the cat lives, and it gets plenty of food at home. The bunny probably weighed less than a single can of cat food.
So I gave chase. And the cat wasn't happy about it. It wanted to kill the bunny, and the bunny was small and slow and squeaked a tiny baby-bunny shriek of fear. The cat kept chasing the bunny, and I kept chasing the cat -- until finally, I got the bunny and the cat separated by a stretch of chain-link fence on someone else's property.
By that time, I had to call off the chase -- I wasn't about to go trespassing over this. But I also wasn't just going to stand by while the cat killed just for fun. Not on my watch.
There's nothing heroic about saving a baby bunny from a housecat. But it *was* the right thing to do.
Like no other time in my memory, it seems like this is a time when an unusual number of situations are testing what it takes to get any of us to say "Not on my watch". The horrible killings of two men on a Portland train last Friday stand out as a particularly relevant example.
What the two victims did was, by the account of the witnesses, both heroic and simple: They said "not on my watch". And it cost them their lives.
It shouldn't cost anyone their life to say "not on my watch" when they stand between good and evil. The two men should be honored far and wide for having done the right thing.
The incident should also challenge the rest of us: How often do we practice standing up for what's right? Not punching a reporter, not sharing someone's propaganda on Facebook, not screaming at another driver at a stoplight. Instead, doing something that requires some form of self-sacrifice in order to uphold something good.
Human beings need practice in not only choosing the right thing to do, but in taking a risk in order to stand up for it, too. It's a skill, in a lot of ways like any other. If I want to be prepared to act in case someone goes into cardiac arrest, I need to get training in CPR. And if it's been a long time since I last got trained, I should probably go back and renew my certification. It's not there by instinct; someone who's never been trained won't magically get the skill just because they hope for it. And not everyone who's been trained in it will know what to do when the moment arrives -- I've been around in two instances when CPR was required, and in both cases, I saw perfectly capable adults freeze and forget how to do the simplest tasks (I had to tell one person how to dial 9-1-1). I'm glad to see that CPR training is mandatory for high-school graduation in Iowa, because a whole lot of people are going to forget how to do it, and a whole lot might freeze up in the moment -- so the more people who are trained, the better.
So it is with taking a risk to stand up, risk something, and say "not on my watch". Some people will forget, some will freeze up. Others will lack the basic courage. So it's up to all of us to train ourselves to do it, and to practice it, and to model that behavior for the young people around us. This nation is only going to keep going if we deliberately pass along American values to the next generation.
I didn't risk much in chasing the cat in order to save the baby bunny. Maybe a scratch, but hardly more than that. But it was the best practice I could get in the moment, so I did it.
I hope none of us ever have to face the kind of situation that happened in Portland. But I hope that enough of us are practicing on the little things -- and teaching our young -- that we have the backbone and the courage of character to say, when necessary, "Not on my watch".
Mind your business: Amazon hits $1,000 a share
- Stock in Amazon.com hit $1,000 a share this week.
- It's a big number, but it's merely a number -- if they split 10-for-1, it would be another round number, but the company is in the same financial situation it would be in if the share were split 42-for-1 or 14-for-1.
- The share price doesn't matter so much as the difference between the price and the value
- I'm not going to tell you how to value Amazon.com
- But take note: Amazon lost $567 million in 2014, made $384 million in 2015, and then made $2.1 billion (that is, $2,109 million) in 2016. That's a pretty lumpy performance.
- With something like 477 million shares outstanding, that's only about $4 in earnings per share -- total -- over the last three years
- Amazon is a massive, powerful machine of commerce, but I'm just not sure how you justify paying something like 200 times what the company earns per share in order to buy a share of that company. That has to assume an incomprehensibly huge growth rate.
- Just for comparison, a widely-accepted range for the price you pay for a dollar of earnings is around $15 to $20. Some of us try to find bargains even lower than that.
- Maybe you think Amazon is going to swallow up the entire world, but that's basically the assumption you need in order to justify buying it at that kind of price
- But remember: Amazon's advantage isn't just that it's everywhere, but that it sells things at a competitive price. So what they don't make in markup, they have to make up in volume. It's really hard to dramatically raise your profits when part of your advantage is being a low-cost competitor.
- Just bear that all in mind before you go sinking your life savings in the company, just because you heard in the news that the stock price hit an arbitrary round number
Make money: The good, bad, and interesting of a guaranteed/universal basic income
Segment 4: Kickers (literally)
There's a company in Illinois that used to manufacture spanking machines. It's now America's largest maker of band uniforms. pic.twitter.com/uvy9Uij6Sf— Timothy Aeppel (@TimAeppel) May 30, 2017
We just don't make anything in this country anymore. I blame all those knockoff Chinese-made spanking machines. https://t.co/q7QWh0g9OA— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 30, 2017
It's all giggles, of course, that there used to be such a thing as a spanking machine, but it does go to show that tastes change, standards change, and yes, technology changes too.
Flexibility is needed in a market economy -- the ability to move around people and investment dollars to where they are needed most.
Some serious thought needs to go into the real obstacles to a dynamic market of change and adaptation. For instance:
We shld be debating how to get to a system where Americans can keep coverage across job & geogr. change (b/c we're headed toward more job Δ) https://t.co/HDh3SCzYrU— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) May 30, 2017
Small biz gets kneecapped by the existing system. If you want a dynamic economy with more new businesses, health-ins portability is a key. https://t.co/w8qfOMbKzZ— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 30, 2017
It's not enough to say that we want changes -- or to express what ends we'd like to see. It's important that we commit to putting some real thought into how we're structuring our systems of all sorts so that the right process begets the right result. If you want people to be free to move from job to job, then one thing you need to examine is what in the current system locks people into their jobs. One of those things is health insurance -- people are afraid to quit because they're afraid to lose their coverage. That's not a good use of human potential, when you really get down to it.
- Podcast of this episode - segment : Not on my watch -- Practicing honor in little ways so we're ready when it's needed in big ones
- Podcast of this episode - segment : Amazon at $1,000 -- A completely meaningless number on its own
- Podcast of this episode - segment : The good and bad of a guaranteed basic income -- A semi-crazy idea well worth debating