Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 12, 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


I-Heart-Radio App Studios

Live reads

iHeartRadio app

Jim Zabel CD

Calendar events to highlight

Iowa State Fair through next Sunday

Iowa Hawkeye football starts September 2nd, hosting Wyoming with an 11 am kickoff.

Segment 1: (11 min)

BUT FIRST: The opening essay

Railroad display at the State Fairgrounds

Lots of old proprietor-capitalist ads

Maybe that's what we're notstalgic for

Given the choice, how much would people give up to work for a company owned by a proud but competent proprietor-capitalist, versus a public company?

That is, how much do people value the notion that the owner cares about something "big" beyond the next quarterly report?

People seem to inherently prefer the benevolent proprietor model of capitalism, and probably for good reasons tied to social capital

Consider the huge excitement over the possibility of getting a big Toyota plant in Iowa: Toyota still has a great deal of founder-family influence. I don't think the company's reputation is purely accidental.

The motivation to put your own name on a company (and then, on a civic auditorium or a wing of the hospital) is to preserve your legacy. You have a long-term social-capital investment in the goodwill being shown to you.

Publicly traded (or otherwise arm's-length) ownership means that naming rights are transactional -- usually rented for the value of the expected return on marketing dollars. Not exclusively -- there are benevolent managers of public firms and selfish proprietor-capitalists, but it's a different set of frameworks.

Social capital (family bonds, friendship ties, civic pride, etc.) is hard to study b/c it's hard to measure -- but has huge bearing on today

Mobility, ease of entry into a market both come down to market dynamism

We have to be as reluctant to "protect" the incumbents as we are quick to pay lip service to "entrepreneurs"

Factors to consider:

Segment 2: (8 min)

Curiosity, competence, and humility

News Visitors from Chicago tour landmarks in Cedar Rapids

Gives one cause to wonder: Which of today's architects are leaving behind work that people will still tour with interest in 100 years?

Showcasing the state

Saw competitors in the Solheim Cup posing with the Butter Cow yesterday

Every place has its icons -- Sears Tower (Chicago), Gateway Arch (St. Louis). Some are much better or more ambitious than others.

Tying back to the last segment, we have lots of nice-looking buildings here, but we're pretty short on iconic structures (maybe other than the State Capitol). Would that be different if we had more of the proprietor-capitalist types?

Segment 3: (14 min)


Humor and Good News Editor chases a manuscript 30 years overdue

If you're this far behind on a writing project, it's probably time to find a good ghostwriter. Or even a bad one.

Review of "Dunkirk"

The script makes a complex effort to weave together independent story lines in the course of one of the epic displays of military (and, at its most basic, human) effort in history. While there is much to appreciate about it, the script at large is undermined at least a bit by the dialogue. The dialogue tends to be spare -- almost to a fault. Due the variety of British accents and the high-intensity nature of the scenes, there are expository items that are too easy to miss for an American viewer who might be stumbling to perform an accent translation. The sparing quality of the dialogue also makes it possible for the viewer to miss clever connections embedded within the storyline.

To the credit of the actors, most of the acting is understated and serves to underscore the projection of a stiff upper lip that fits well with the story arc. Certain characters deserved more screen time (foremost among them, the pier-master played by Kenneth Branagh), and it becomes difficult at times to appreciate the individual actors' performances since the scenes have a way of making many of them look quite a bit alike -- especially when their faces are covered in oil.

The lighting and cinematography have a strong periodic effect, making everything seem gritty and metallic without being excessively harsh. The opening of the film introduces three different stories via the use of screen titles -- and, frankly, the film likely would benefit from a few more of them along the way in order to help the viewer see where these parallel tracks are heading. One quibble worth noting: The title introducing the evacuation experience from the pier uses the word "mole", which to an American viewer means that one of the characters involved is a double-agent. That turns out not to be the case, as the word "mole" refers to the pier itself. But the confusion could easily cause a complete misinterpretation of a big portion of the plot if the viewer is looking out for a character to become a turncoat.

The film is mercifully gentle with its use of special effects and is sparse with the blood and gore of an ordinary war movie. Many scenes take on a naturally epic scale that occasionally doesn't do complete justice to the truth. "Dunkirk" tells a necessary story -- it's a tale of honor and heroism, and though it shouldn't sit right next to classics like "Patton" or "The Right Stuff" or "Twelve O'Clock High", it probably merits a place on the shelf immediately below. It isn't a documentary, nor even all that close to it -- an entire movie could and should be made about the pier-master -- but it does poetic justice generally to the cause.

One-sentence summary

Occasionally confusing (by design), "Dunkirk" tells a necessary story of honor

Hyperbole is going to kill us all -- part 1 is Korea

Threats and Hazards North Korea might now have a miniaturized nuclear warhead

Tie that to one of the missiles they've been showing off, and there's a real problem

Threats and Hazards "Fire and fury like the world has never seen"

The President makes threats to North Korea. Strength is one thing, and bluster is another. Remember the words of Dwight Eisenhower: "[O]ur basic national objective in international affairs remains peace -- a world peace based on justice." Also Eisenhower: "We seek not violence, but peace. To this purpose we must now devote our energies, our determination, ourselves."

Threats and Hazards De-escalation isn't dishonorable

Anyone who's eager for war in Korea is thinking of it as an abstraction. The reality would be tens of thousands of individual tragedies -- all the tragedy of a single death, thousands and thousands and thousands of times over.

News "Fire and fury" meaning nothing?

Some want to discount what the President meant when he threatened North Korea. Note what Calvin Coolidge said: "The words of the President have an enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately."

President Obama failed our diplomatic credibility when he talked about "red lines" in Syria and Ukraine. President Trump fails it when he says (or tweets) too much. These are parallel failures.

It's far better to remain silent and let everyone know you have the "big stick" than to go around making threats. This is Teddy Roosevelt 101.

Hyperbole is going to kill us all -- part 2 is Venezuela

Threats and Hazards Venezuela has an "all-powerful" new assembly

Don't let anyone sugarcoat the fact that bad government ruins good lives. The people of Venezuela deserve better.

But then when the President again can't restrain his tongue and suggests he might send us to war in Venezuela, then once again he undermines our credibility. Senators shouldn't have to dismiss these things so quickly to keep them from getting out of hand.

Segment 4: (5 min)


News Cruise ship blackout

Passengers on an around-the-world cruise were told to help turn it into a ghost ship at night when traveling around the pirate-infested waters of the western Indian Ocean.

Stop the deliberate ignorance

Threats and Hazards President Trump cracks jokes to "thank" Putin for diplomatic expulsions

As stand-up comedy, this isn't clever. As fiscal statement, it's immaterial. As geopolitical strategy, it's nonsensical.

Segment 5: (11 min)

It's time for a little pro-capitalist radio...


Make money

Business and Finance Productivity is rising, but not by very much

If output per hours worked is only rising by a hair over 1% a year, it's going to be basically impossible for the economy to grow faster unless a whole lot of people start working or a whole lot more hours start getting worked

Clean up after yourself

Threats and Hazards It's hard to see the debt-to-GDP ratio not reaching 100% in the next ten years

Things look distressing if low interest rates remain. But if they revert at all towards historical norms, things could look downright awful.

Business and Finance Every wasted day without a responsible Federal budget is going to cost us real money

That old line about compounding interest being the most powerful force in the world? It wasn't just personal financial advice.

Iowa news

Iowa Iowa's drought is growing worse

Much of the state is now in a drought condition. That's bad news especially for a farm economy that's already weak.

Agriculture A recession only some people are feeling

It's hitting the Midwestern ag economy hard. Important: "A full repeat of the 1980s is unlikely[...] But it doesn’t remove the fact that the current downturn is severe[...]"

Iowa United Technologies reportedly wants Rockwell Collins

Rockwell is a huge employer in Cedar Rapids (#1 in the private sector and #3 overall), where it's a homegrown institution

Segment 6: (8 min)


The right time to put a screen protector on my phone is when it's three years old and has a giant crack down the middle, right?

The week in technology

Computers and the Internet Password absurdity

Complex requirements are counterproductive if they mean people just write down their passwords on sticky notes

Your role in cyberwar

Computers and the Internet Iowa Homeland Security office issues notice about Kaspersky Labs

Kaspersky makes one of the most highly-regarded computer security suites on the market, but there are a whole lot of suspicions that have emerged lately that the outfit may have troubling ties to the Russian government.

Segment 7: (14 min)


News City thinks man stole 21.5 million gallons of water

Criminal mastermind risks actual prison time for a product that costs less than 1 cent per gallon

21st Century conservatism

The United States of America A President has no Constitutional claim to an agenda

If you expect your President to "drive the agenda", then you're doing the Constitution wrong. A timely reminder in light of the President's open heckling of the Senate Majority Leader. Let it not escape our memory that the President's authority even to veto legislation is embedded as a subordinate item within Article I, Section 7. The President is given no Constitutional authority to tell Congress when to do so much as open a window curtain, and that's how it's supposed to be.

The United States of America Democratic centrists in the fight of a generation

For the good of the country, both parties need strong centrist wings. "Politics as it is, and not as ideologues wish it to be" is an apt description of the overarching problem for both major parties. American politics could use a lot less Santa Claus ("Here's what I'll give you in exchange for nothing!") and a lot more James Madison.

Have a little empathy - opioids

Health 2 million opioid addicts

If they gathered in a single place, they would outnumber the entire population of Nebraska

Much of our approach to drug abuse has been a failure -- we have lots of non-violent offenders in prison, and with long sentences instead of treatment. That erodes the social fabric of their families and their communities and turns them into long-term liabilities of the state.

Your life belongs to no one but yourself -- but in our necessary relationships with the government, people need to be treated as productive assets to be gently and non-coercively enhanced whenever possible.

Have a little empathy - Minnesota

Threats and Hazards IED at Bloomington (Minnesota) house of worship

An offense to all reasonable, Constitution-adhering people

Segment 8: (5 min)

Unsorted and leftovers:

This week

News FBI raided Paul Manafort's house

The FBI search suggests that the special counsel investigation under Robert Mueller is stopping for nothing and no one

News Grassley accelerates investigation of Trump campaign through Senate Judiciary Committee

Most of the interesting stuff thus far has been happening at the Senate Intelligence Committee. Judiciary has been largely sidelined for a while.

Threats and Hazards Lots of Russian flights in the Baltic with the transponders off

Radio Poland says "Most of the Russian aircraft did not respond to air traffic control."

By the numbers

Have fun

Mind your business

Quote of the Week

Contrary to popular opinion

Inbox zero

Tin Foil Hat Award

Yay Capitalism Prize

Capitalist solution of the week

Special edition of the Big Show

Iowa ag quick facts

Listen on-demand