Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - July 29, 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.
Segment 1: (11 min)
BUT FIRST: The opening essay
After President Trump abruptly announced his intention to kick transgendered people out of the military, Mark Cuban posed a question on Twitter:
Serious Question. Is a tweet from the commander in chief an order,or just a tweet ?— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) July 27, 2017
In jest, I submit "Don't ask, don't tell". Because we don't want to know the answer to that question.
The fact is that by airing all of his grievances and dirty laundry in real time on the Internet without so much as a filter, he's putting us in danger.
I've long said that I think any President should spend a few minutes a day sharing his or her personal assessment of the day. In my mind, that means a quick hundred words or so -- just enough to engage the public with Presidential thinking.
What we've gotten instead is a never-ending stream of half-baked ideas and un-redeeming feuds.
We are lucky that these have (so far) been directed mostly inward. We will not be so lucky if the President starts flailing in the direction of another head of state with national honor to defend.
Policies are established by protocols for a reason. Major policies cannot be created or struck down in 140 characters.
And yet, the only true communications director in this particular White House is the one who can press the button to send a tweet. Anything issued officially by the communications office -- including a major statement on policy -- is as worthless as the paper upon which it is printed when the same policies can be announced, reversed, overturned, or reinterpreted at will by the President.
Are the President's tweets official statements of policy? Yes. Are they to be taken seriously? Yes. Do they have the force of law? Er -- probably not.
But the ambiguity itself is the rub: The fact that we do not know what constitutes an official statement and what does not fundamentally undermines any statement they choose to make. We are woefully close to the point at which nothing -- even a POTUS tweet -- can be taken seriously.
And that is why we don't want to ask if those statements are official policies. We don't want to ask, because we don't want them to tell.
Segment 2: (8 min)
Health care reform?
It sems quite likely that the Chief of Staff has been fired because the President's agenda isn't "getting done". Expect continued turmoil.
A three-branch system of government makes it hard to get things done. That's a feature, not a bug. Checks and balances are necessary.
Whether you like the structure of Congress or not, there's no doubt that by filtering ideas first past a population-based lower house, then past a geography-based upper house, ideas go through a tougher strainer than they would in a pure democracy.
The President shouldn't be the legislator-in-chief. But let's not pretend like the President did the slightest thing to lift a finger to achieve a policy goal. He wanted all of the credit with none of the heavy lifting.
How many days this year was the megaphone of the presidency used to move public opinion in a direction that would help pass legislation?— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) July 28, 2017
The fundamental problem for some of us hasn't gone away: The individual marketplace is still a disaster. That's killer for farmers, self-employed people, and small businesses.
Without a resolution, you can expect a lid on economic growth. Without the right conditions, we can't expect small businesses to grow.
Segment 3: (14 min)
Musical chairs in the cabinet
With the Chief of Staff out, don't imagine that the musical chairs are over. The new communications director is already shaping up to be a complete incompetent, and the President is at open war with the Attorney General.
The administration's erratic behavior means there may be no road ahead. Al Hunt suggests that "...it's not crazy conjecture that a president who doesn't think the rules and laws apply to him would try to replace the attorney general with somebody not recused from the Russia probe."
A friend asked my best guess at the over/under for how long Jeff Sessions remains at the Justice Department. Honestly, I find the whole thing so tawdry -- and capricious! -- that it's hard to guess anything at this stage, and I don't know that I even want to be right about it.
Considering only the first four Cabinet posts in the order of succession:
- Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson is rumored to be considering a departure
- Secretary of the Treasury: Steve Mnuchin is getting teed up for failure with a half-baked plan for tax reform that will encounter blowback when it stumbles (almost inevitably)
- Secretary of Defense: James Mattis can't be happy that the transgender-ban tweet came out without his consultation and while he was on vacation
- Attorney General: Jeff Sessions was attacked by name in the President's tweetstorm on Wednesday
The recipe is in place for a serious crisis, especially when the unforeseen happens. Remember: By this point in the George W. Bush administration, 9/11 hadn't happened yet. What if a similar event happened today? The President is in conflict with at least three of his most important Cabinet officials. This isn't how management is done.
I realize that most people want to take the Ron Popeil method to government: Set it and forget it. But the high-magnitude worry we should all share right now is that it isn't "set" yet. Six months in, and it couldn't be much more apparent that the machinery of government under this administration lacks any sort of grease in the wheels.
And let us ponder a further risk: The kind of hectoring to which the Attorney General has been subjected has mostly been aimed at domestic targets, but what if he turns this kind of derision on a foreign head of state? What happens when someone else's national honor is on the line?
When things are so bad that Senators from the President's own party are giving speeches on the floor of the Senate to warn him to back off his own Attorney General, it's gotten bad:
A word of humble advice to our President: if you’re thinking of making a recess appointment to push out the Atty General, forget about it. pic.twitter.com/7P896qJJzX— Senator Ben Sasse (@SenSasse) July 27, 2017
John McCain: “Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president’s subordinates. We are his equal.”— Steve Peoples (@sppeoples) July 25, 2017
James Madison wrote in Federalist 51: "[E]ssential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own." It's a very, very good thing that the other branches of government are alert to the situation of the moment. Standing up -- even out of jealousy for power -- is a vital check and balance. One of the tools of genius in the Constitution is that the self-interest of the members of the different branches is used to keep the others in line. It's not out of goodwill that they check each other; it's because they have selfish reasons not to want to be bossed around.
The Constitution:— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) July 25, 2017
Article 1- Congress
Article 2- President
Article 3- Supreme Court
Congress isn't subordinate -- literally nor figuratively https://t.co/w4PNPh4G00
One thing that could gain unanimous bipartisan approval in the Senate is a resolution telling the Executive Branch to mind its own business. https://t.co/wWBEgmvo5v— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) July 29, 2017
Segment 4: (5 min)
Higher interest rates are likely if not inevitable, and with productivity growing only very slowly, there's a serious collision course ahead between Federal borrowing and private-sector growth
Protectionism is the helicopter parenting of economics: A false sense of security, inflated promises of control, & ultimately disappointment https://t.co/FJgl2p6E1q— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) July 29, 2017
Segment 5: (11 min)
Calendar events to highlight
Stop the deliberate ignorance
The President stepped over a line yesterday:
Here's the president of the United States encouraging police officers to be rough with people they arrest pic.twitter.com/iLzoUEY89e— David Mack (@davidmackau) July 28, 2017
In remarks made in New York, he said:
And when you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon -- you just see them thrown in, rough -- I said, please don’t be too nice. (Laughter.) Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they've just killed somebody -- don't hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay? (Laughter and applause.)
Recall that the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights all *specifically* address excesses on police-type powers.
Police brutality shouldn't be a cheap applause line.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police responded in a similar way:
Managing use of force is one of the most difficult challenges faced by law enforcement agencies. The ability of law enforcement officers to enforce the law, protect the public, and guard their own safety, the safety of innocent bystanders, and even those suspected or apprehended for criminal activity is very challenging. For these reasons, law enforcement agencies develop policies and procedures, as well as conduct extensive training, to ensure that any use of force is carefully applied and objectively reasonable considering the situation confronted by the officers. Law enforcement officers are trained to treat all individuals, whether they are a complainant, suspect, or defendant, with dignity and respect. This is the bedrock principle behind the concepts of procedural justice and police legitimacy.
"Tough guy" behavior appeals to people who have watched too many crime shows. "Legitimacy" speaks to a vastly more important matter, but it's sophisticated. It's not an applause line, but it definitely is central to effective police/community relations.
The President's shameful cheapening of important civic institutions just this week -- from these police officers to the military to even the Boy Scouts -- is harmful to our way of life. There's nothing "great" about any of it.
As an Eagle Scout, I am deeply disappointed in Presidential conduct that cheapens civic engagement and uses the Boy Scouts as a prop. https://t.co/pRRH0Spgll— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) July 25, 2017
"The orderly and just conduct of human affairs depends on strong institutions." - Margaret Thatcher
Civil institutions (like police) derive their legitimacy from popular consent and the rule of law. The President's comments undermined both.
Clean up after yourself
The latest attacks on CBO threaten to destroy its ability to provide policymakers & public w/ nonpartisan analysis: https://t.co/U3OpiyftM1— TheConcord Coalition (@ConcordC) July 26, 2017
"You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts." - Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Legislators need expert, unbiased advice.
Cleaning up after Iowa
Group Sounds Warning About Iowa’s Underfunded Retirement System https://t.co/Ae0FEg8CCJ— WHO-HD Ch. 13 News (@WHOhd) July 26, 2017
Deathly boring, but of massive long-run consequence: The problem of underfunded defined-benefit public-sector pension programs.
Segment 6: (8 min)
By the numbers
The July 4 test in comparison:— Shea Cotton (@Shea_Cotton) July 28, 2017
Range: 933 km
Apogee: 2802 km
Flight time: 43 minute
This test is a whole lot bigger. https://t.co/5hUVGHIjRv
It seems we have enough *real* adversaries on the outside that we don't need to invent fake ones -- especially not on the inside.
Segment 7: (14 min)
21st Century conservatism
The New Deal passed in 1933. Almost a century later, Democrats propose a 'Better Deal'... https://t.co/ONrmWC0UhU— Pedro da Costa (@pdacosta) July 26, 2017
An economic agenda that headlines "high cable bills" as a priority lacks a certain...gravitas?...that should come from a national party.
Good news: there are 30 million "good jobs" for workers without college degrees.— John W Lettieri (@LettieriDC) July 26, 2017
Bad news: there are 75 million workers without degrees. pic.twitter.com/2SSyuppNVQ
The gap between those "available good jobs" and the number of people who might want them is evidence we need to break the mindset that a 4-year residential experience is the only way to get a degree.
We need more life-cycle education -- opportunities, access, affordability all matter.
Your role in cyberwar - part 1
Russia, the last bastion of Christianity, is undergoing a DIY child pornography boom. There are no penalties for it. https://t.co/R6ECyPFKww— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) July 28, 2017
"Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions..." - JS Mill
Your role in cyberwar - part 2
We've already seen what the agents of cyberwarfare can do to a political system. What about their impact on economic ones?
Agreed. In fact, it's a very good time for us to debate whether we need a dedicated Cyber Corps as an independent branch of the military. https://t.co/t3KMJjOQXY— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) July 24, 2017
Mind your business
Key: "As bearers of state as well as commercial interests, SOEs may place their emphasis on strategic acquisitions, such as advanced technologies for example, on non-market terms." This means state-owned enterprises looking to invest in other countries might behave in ways that would wildly distort market outcomes. Suppose, for instance, that it's considered in the national interest to gain some form of security or military technology by any means necessary; in that case, a supplier company (like Lockheed Martin or Northrup Grumman, in theory -- or even Microsoft or Kaspersky) might find itself the subject of a takeover attempt that may not reflect market realities. This distortion may be one of the strongest cases for domestic political intervention in the case of foreign asset purchases.
Segment 8: (5 min)
Iowa news - part 1
Discouraging the practice of distracted driving is a fine idea in theory -- but it's also worth asking just how comfortable we are with sting-type operations that are specifically intended to surprise ordinary people with police enforcement
Iowa news - part 2
Hearts going out to drought stricken southern Iowa. https://t.co/piMeNoiDZ0— Ed Wilson (@EdWilsonWX13HD) July 27, 2017
Unsorted and leftovers:
Quote of the Week
The week in technology
Contrary to popular opinion
Hyperbole is going to kill us all
Curiosity, competence, and humility
Have a little empathy
Tin Foil Hat Award
Yay Capitalism Prize
Capitalist solution of the week
There's got to be potential for a Walgreens/Jimmy John's tie-up, right?— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) July 28, 2017
Pregnant? Flu? Too many things to do? Drugs & subs, freaky fast. https://t.co/Dva7a0DMQD
Just had my sixth ear of sweet corn in 24 hours, and I'm not sure that actually counts as living up to my full potential as an Iowan.— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) July 27, 2017
Yet another example of Germany's exceptionally productive export market.
Peter Cetera's "Glory of Love" just came on the radio. Excuse me while I flashback to every wedding reception I attended in the late 1980s.— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) July 24, 2017
- Podcast of this episode - segment 1:
- Podcast of this episode - segment 2:
- Podcast of this episode - segment 3: Reince Priebus got fired because of James Madison -- The President is clearly unhappy with the lack of progress on his agenda. He fired Reince Priebus, but it's really James Madison who's standing in the way. (And I'm on Madison's side.)
- Podcast of this episode - segment 4:
- Podcast of this episode - segment 5:
- Podcast of this episode - segment 6:
- Podcast of this episode - segment 7A: Technology is neutral...but bad users aren't -- Technology itself is neutral -- neither inherently good nor bad. What's good or bad is in how people use it, and we have lots of reason to beware the way that Russia's government is trying to use it against us (and our allies). We need to get smarter about how we defend ourselves.
- Podcast of this episode - segment 8: It's 2017, and Mitt Romney can go waterskiing anytime he wants -- The Boston Globe published a truly bizarre story about Mitt Romney going waterskiing while the Republicans debated health care. So what? He had as much responsibility for ACA repeal as Michael Dukakis had to push the "Contract With America" in 1994.