Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 5, 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
One of the most compelling metaphors from the last 18 months is that the guardrails of democracy have been broken. Credit for launching the metaphor goes to David Frum and a piece he published in The Atlantic last year.
Supposing for a moment that there are people who are concerned beyond the politics of 2017, what would it take to put the guardrails back? Outside of party labels and apart from ideological definitions, don't many Americans want to self-identify as being "pro-guardrail"?
For short, we could call the pro-guardrail people "guardrailers". Something totally different from left, right, moderate, etc.
By design, a "guardrailer's creed" would have to be short and simple. Hardly any more than a commitment to abide by some basic civic rules. I propose a "guardrailer's creed" in three simple parts -- even though I think a lot more would be worth debating.
Guardrailer's creed 1: I will consider ideas based on the merits and facts, not based upon who suggests them -- whether my ally or opponent. (The sooner we acknowledge that ideas are more important that blind allegiance to a "team", the better.)
Guardrailer's creed 2: I will debate the issue in front of me, without resorting to yesterday's arguments, excuses, or whataboutism. (We have too many problems to waste time relitigating the past or engaging in a competition of who's demonstrated the worst behavior.)
Guardrailer's creed 3: I will choose tools of persuasion before tools of compulsion and will abide disagreement with civility. (Just about everyone could stand to de-escalate a little and respect the marketplace of ideas. Enough with the arms race of outrage.)
Virtually nothing that can be done in politics is worth getting via lasting damage to the whole concept of the civic space. But the harder we make it for people to disagree (or change their minds) without running for shelter, the worse our future is going to be.
Disagreement itself is a cornerstone of republican democracy. Ideas have to compete. But civic disagreement is a skill we have to practice. I'd rather be forever in the minority in a country of people who agree and hold to a civil process than "win" through outrageous means.
"Many of the people who share our deepest convictions about life are on the other side in political controversy." - Margaret Thatcher
So, for what little it may be worth, if I refer to myself in the future as a "guardrailer", this is what I mean.
There's something perverse and un-American to thinking that we need to restore a mythical past greatness. Our real identity is to improve. But we can't do that without vigorous debate and testing of new ideas and intelligent defense of the old.
Segment 2: (8 min)
A social-media President? Not so fast.
Mark Zuckerberg hires a pollster
Naturally, this stokes the fires of speculation that he's thinking about running for office -- perhaps even President. Does one have to assume he wants to be the front man? Might he be investigating in the interest of finding a prospective winner to back?
Segment 3: (14 min)
The week in technology
We took Tesla's Model 3 for a spin. Nothing will ever be the same https://t.co/JVlPGfrcrv pic.twitter.com/E9YNkbQlHE— Bloomberg (@business) August 5, 2017
Silicon Valley workers cost too much for Japanese automakers
Toyota and Honda are looking for Japanese talent to bridge the gap between the world of automaking and the world of high technology. There's too much competition for the hot employees in Silicon Valley. Take note: What made Toyota and Honda successful as they emerged from obscurity was operating under serious constraints in their early years. Adapting to adversity is in the corporate DNA of both companies, and it makes them tougher when they develop skills on the inside. Meantime, Toyota and Mazda are cross-investing and building a joint plant in the US.
Industrial espionage only works in the beginning
Research based on what happened when East Germany stole West German ideas suggests that it works in the short run to steal ideas -- but in the long run the cost of stealing starves the flow of money to organic research and development.
Red hat, white hat, blue hat, black hat
- Red team: Defend the status quo, with what you have and where you are.
- White team: What would you do if you were starting from scratch?
- Blue team: What would you do if you were your chief competitor?
- Black team: What would you do if you were trying to take down the institution?
- Red team: Budget = 100%
- White team: Budget = 75%
- Blue team: Budget = 125%
- Black team: Budget = 50%
- Red team: What would you change to get twice as much from your current customer base?
- White team: What would you do if you had no customers at all?
- Blue team: What would you do if you wanted to capture 30% of your competitors' customers?
- Black team: What would you do if 30% of your customers left overnight?
Segment 4: (5 min)
Fly me to the Moon
Boeing and SpaceX both plan manned spaceflight in 2018
NASA hasn't done manned spaceflight since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011.
Aboard the last United Airlines 747 flight
Not a whole lot of aircraft have ever had a kind of mystic hold on people -- the 747 and the DC-3 are probably the two at the top of the list.
Segment 5: (11 min)
Segment 6: (8 min)
Have a little empathy
Is immigration justified only by the expected work value of the immigrants?
It's not particularly true to our national character to think of immigrants purely as factors of production -- nor is it particularly consistent with the long-term good of the country. Many of us here today are the descendants of low-skilled immigrants like fur trappers, subsistence farmers, and woodsmen. The administration's proposed rules for skills-based immigration are more of a ploy than a thoughtful approach to reforming the system.
Segment 7: (14 min)
What's going to replace the old Des Moines YMCA?
The prime riverfront property has been empty for months now, and the Federal government is threatening to build a new Federal courthouse there. The city is not amused; for predictable reasons, the city government would rather see the property become a high-tax-revenue private space instead of an untaxable Federal property. Similarly, one can see why the why Federal employees might be interested in erecting a courthouse on what's one of the most attractive properties in the entire city. If you can't control much about how much people get paid (and Federal pay scales are what they are), then you can offer "compensation" in the form of a great view out the window in a beautiful new building.
Deliberate mixed-use developments "in-a-box"
"Urby" developments appear to deliver what some would denigrate as a sanitized version of urban living. Others would argue that it's a way to radically increase the value of an otherwise low-rent property. In truth, it's probably somewhere in between. There's not an especially great history of the long-term outcomes of heavily-planned development projects, especially not when tied to things that seem trendy (like millennial-themed urban living).
Segment 8: (5 min)
Your role in cyberwar
Starting November 1st. That's the kind of intrusion on individual privacy rights that most people probably don't understand, but it's a huge encroachment.
Unsorted and leftovers:
"Our commanders-in-chief, not our commanders in the field, are responsible for this failure"
Senator John McCain fires a shot across the bow at the Trump Administration over Afghanistan policy
CNN reports Mueller investigation into Trump money ties
"Sources described an investigation that has widened to focus on possible financial crimes, some unconnected to the 2016 elections..."
Don't start a trade war: It hurts here at home
Nebraska could get hit hard by tariffs imposed by Japan on beef they get from us
When the boss becomes an obstacle...
...work may simply flow around the blockade. That's what some people think is happening in the White House now, with the President acting as the obstacle.
By the numbers
The Chicago Cubs gave Steve Bartman a World Series ring. Closure.
What keeps young people from working?
One important factor to measure and consider is the minimum wage. The higher the barriers to entry for the young to enter the labor force, the harder it is to get on the great American prosperity escalator. Ideally, we'd look at entry-level jobs as the equivalent of classrooms for the soft skills needed to "graduate" into more sophisticated jobs.
Russia has more tanks invading Ukraine than all of Europe has tanks at all
That's an epic imbalance. Russia has invaded Ukraine in a big way, and that's not a settled condition.
Some people still look at public service with humility
A thoughtful brief essay on the dignity of serving in the Executive Branch.
"[L]eft-wing economic populists are enjoying a resurgence [...] This is a scandal." Venezuela is a grave example. In the words of the Associated Press reporter who has at last decided it's time to leave the country: "There was no war or natural disaster. Just ruinous mismanagement..." Venezuela's catastrophe is man-made, and its only way out will be man-made, too. Unfortunately, they're in the violent score-settling phase of a civil collapse, where opposition leaders are hauled off in the dark of night by shadowy forces.
Parts of Iowa are 16" above normal precip for the year
Others are 8" below. And they're not really that far apart.
A novel and interesting angle on the universal basic income
Consider: A complex welfare system rewards those who have the skills required to navigate it successfully. Those are skills that could be put to better use in the working world. While that's not a definitive case for the UBI, it's well worth taking into account. In a similar vein, there are people who doubt the value of revenue-neutral tax reform. They shouldn't be such skeptics: It's the same logic that rewards using an EZ-Pass on a toll road or a touchless card on a subway: Same cost, but with lower "friction" loss. If you pay the same amount but with less transactional friction, you're still better off.
NTSB report on narrowly-avoided disaster at San Francisco airport
An Air Canada jet almost landed on a crowded taxiway. The pilots got confused, and the radar system that's supposed to prevent this kind of thing didn't because the plane was in a blind spot. It could have been a calamity of huge proportions, and the pilots involved weren't rookies -- 30,000 flight hours between them.
One in 50 US deaths are drug-related
It's a problem that has at least doubled in magnitude in the last 15 years. Any condition like this ought to be treated as an urgent public-health problem, which is how we should have been addressing drugs all along.
European Council president: "There is a question mark over Poland's European future today"
Wouldn't pushing them away reward the people who want to take their country backwards and isolate the liberalizers?
Too many generals in the civilian government?
It's possible that we can have several good individuals serving as former military leaders in civil office right now, and still be engaging in a hazardous concept.
The White House isn't a "dump"
An expensive suit can look like a wreck if it doesn't fit the man. Maybe it's the same with a house that doesn't suit the occupant.
Retired pennies in the floor
Someone wants to experiment with the Dunkin' Donuts name
Taking the "Donuts" out of Dunkin' Donuts is like taking the "Burger" out of Burger King.
Exports are up and imports are down. Among those who will seek undeserved credit for this, who will acknowledge the impact of a weak US dollar in making our exports cheaper and imports from other places more expensive? The dollar is much-weakened (down 8% in value since November), and whether that is a direct result of politics or not, it's entirely unfair for anyone to take credit for "doing" anything politically to level out the balance of trade. Note, too, that the weak dollar has an inflationary effect on the stock market, so when the President tries taking credit for the stock market, he's doing so absent the offsetting impact of what's happened to the dollar.
34 million immigrants are in the US legally
Including 19.8 million who are naturalized citizens, which is a population equal to the State of New York -- the 4th largest state. A true credit to our nation.
Clean up after yourself
Mind your business
"Re-skilling": A phrase to get to know
It's an inevitable byproduct of economic and technological progress that most people aren't going to be able to stick with a static set of skills throughout their working lives. It's time to get our policy priorities straight so we can accommodate.
Quote of the Week
"If we have the moral courage to say what we believe to be true, right and good, the people will be with us." - Keith Joseph
Contrary to popular opinion
Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Olympics
May they break the usual patterns and have a profitable, successful, and durably positive outcome -- but don't count on it. We'll hear a lot of claims that "This time will be different" -- but it rarely is.
If freedom is the ultimate value, shouldn't a lack of freedom be the real punishment for most criminals? Shouldn't we do whatever is best to actually reform (or "correct") inmates so they don't re-enter the system after release?
Hyperbole is going to kill us all
21st Century conservatism
Let us ask less of the Executive Branch
George Will, a prominent conservative critic of President Trump, argues that some good may come of the damage Trump does to the country if it gets us to move away from our national infatuation with a strong Presidency. The commander-in-chief isn't (and shouldn't be) the legislator-in-chief.
Sen. Jeff Flake: Trump won on "oversimplified answers to infinitely complex questions"
Not a small thing for a seated United States Senator to say about a President (nominally) of his own party
Does international democracy promotion matter to our national interests?
First and foremost, America's allegiance ought to be to supporting self-determination around the world. But it's pretty hard to extract self-determination from democratic processes. This is a very important question, because the way we frame our values and priorities in diplomacy shapes how we act.
An excellent commentary from David French on remaining true to a virtuous system of values in politics in a time that doesn't seem to reward those much
Curiosity, competence, and humility
Stop the deliberate ignorance
Tin Foil Hat Award
Yay Capitalism Prize
Capitalist solution of the week
New business idea: Blue Apron but with expert cooks at fixed locations with easy pickup or free wash and clean utensils with dine-in option.— Alex Tabarrok (@ATabarrok) August 4, 2017
Only if at said places, I can be forced to wear a funny hat against my will as strange people sing "Happy birthday" to me, just like home. https://t.co/LQ1GcGKfik— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) August 4, 2017
Look, I'll eat a basket of chicken strips just like any other red-blooded American. But why on Earth do we call them "fingers"? #creepy https://t.co/4srHHol5RR— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) August 3, 2017
All I want to know about Lionel Richie's house is whether the doorbell plays "Hello". Everything else is secondary. https://t.co/wjWWIGF9Qh— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) August 3, 2017
Probably it's the GenXer in me, but I'd rather see a revival of "Pop-Up Video". Maybe a tie-in with CNN to do a live fact-check of the news? https://t.co/gFPJI56HGv— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) July 31, 2017
Calendar events to highlight
- Podcast of this episode (forthcoming)
- Official station page for this episode (forthcoming)