Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - December 30, 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.
Happening Right Now
Iowa State and Memphis in the Liberty Bowl
Segment 1: (11 min)
By the numbers
Americans give around $390 billion a year to charity...or about $1,200 per person per year.
BUT FIRST: What's happening in Iran and what we should be prepared to do
Protests in Iran have flared up in a big way, and quickly
We may feel exhausted with Iraq and Syria, but someone has to rebuild
If we withdraw from a world leadership role, we shouldn't expect peace and order to fill the void. It's perfectly fine to be reluctant about hegemony, but it's not OK to abdicate it. The United States ought to consider a quasi-diplomatic agency to focus real resources, expertise, and accountability on addressing reconstruction efforts in troubled parts of the world. The job too often falls to the military, and that's really not a very sensible use of their tools.
The US ought to consider a quasi-diplomatic agency to focus real resources, expertise, and accountability on addressing reconstruction efforts around the world. The job too often falls to the military, and that's really not a very sensible use of their tools. Assigning tasks to the wrong agency or department avoids accountability, since they can't be blamed for the outcome of a task for which they are not properly equipped. We need just such a department of government -- fully accountable for outcomes.
It's a mistake to think that only military force can shape the world. Think about the influence of the Jesuits, the Hudson's Bay Company, and the Red Cross.
Segment 2: (8 min)
Clean up after yourself
Pulling the leg, diplomatically
A gag article in El Nuevo Dia suggests that the United States is trying to return Puerto Rico to Spain. It's only a gag.
Have a little empathy
Disasters in 2017 stretch FEMA to its limits
Almost 26 million Americans were affected by major hurricanes. Puerto Rico's power is still only 65% restored. Things are at least as bad in the Virgin Islands. A quarter of a million Puerto Ricans may have already moved to Florida. It's most likely time for the United States to invest in a true national emergency-response agency with the resources (in equipment, funding, and most importantly, manpower) to act decisively when natural disasters overwhelm local governments' capacities to respond. We evidently don't have that yet.
Segment 3: (14 min)
Watch these trends in 2018
China's state-coordinated efforts to influence universities worldwide
A warning from Jonathan Sullivan about soft power and hegemony: "Western academic institutions are prone to Chinese attempts to generate influence because they strike at our weakest point: finances." Other countries are going to use what tools they can to try to influence world affairs in their own favor; that means all nations ought to be wary of the ways in which they might be manipulated. This unquestionably includes the use of cyberwarfare, influence campaigns, and even hacking to try to affect the outcomes of elections. But it's also incomplete. Free nations must anticipate attempts at influence by a wide variety of means, by many countries, and by non-state actors, too. Too many Americans have become habituated to close their ears at the word "Russian", and miss the bigger picture. We have huge leverage in the world, so we're an irresistible target for influence campaigns, of many types and from many sources. Naivete is neither a viable strategy nor a productive tactic.
Russian warships cruising close to the British shore
The Washington Post reports: "British and NATO leaders have warned of Russian naval activity at levels unseen since the Cold War."
Segment 4: (5 min)
By the numbers
A warning: "Prepayments on 2018 state and local taxes before January 1st may be deductible, but only if the municipalities have actually assessed the taxes..."
Iowa celebrates 171 years of statehood
Let's skip the candles on the cake, though.
Segment 5: Giving before the year ends
Gordon Fischer, of the Gordon Fischer Law Firm
- Is there a "best" way to give?
- Do you expect tax rules to change giving patterns?
- When does a family have enough that is time to bring in professional advice?
- How can people be sure they're giving to charities that will use the money well?
- What would surprise people to learn about charitable giving that they probably don't know?
Segment 6: Giving continued
2018 goal: Be more like these people
A few ladies from Omaha who, when they find bargains on necessities (like clothing and blankets), stock up so they can give them away.
The week in technology
Library of Congress will stop archiving all public tweets
The library says it will shift to a "selective" model on January 1, noting that the volume of activity on the site is huge, they will have archived the entire first twelve years of public content for future research, and -- perhaps most tellingly -- "The Library only receives text. It does not receive images, videos or linked content. Tweets now are often more visual than textual, limiting the value of text-only collecting."
Your role in cyberwar
Facebook's tool to test whether you follow Russian propaganda content
It's good information, but incomplete. Users ought to know how often they were exposed to "Internet Research Agency" propaganda content via their friends. That's the whole point of viral content -- that you don't have to find it; it comes to you.
Segment 8: (5 min)
Stop the deliberate ignorance
A shameful op-ed from a sitting member of Congress
Rep. Andy Biggs wants to undermine the unfettered process of fair justice because he thinks it might turn out badly for someone he likes. That isn't how the law works. A rigorous investigation is the right way to reveal bad behavior in high office, and real leaders should welcome the opportunity to expel crooked people from the President's orbit.
Tin Foil Hat Award
Profoundly stupid ideas still exist
The Socialist Party of Great Britain promotes a stupefyingly inexcusable interpretation of the facts that would have one howling with derisive laughter -- if it weren't for the dominating fact that millions of human beings have died from their abject stupidity. Do not fall for the idiotic platitude that "perfect socialism hasn't failed because it's never been tried": The fact is that in a world where scarcity inexorably exists, there will always be some form of pricing that determines who gets what. That will either come in the form of rationing and shortages, or it will come in the form of explicit market pricing. The natural world is constrained, which is why plant and animal populations rise and fall. They don't have pricing, so they resolve the allocation of limited resources through the cruel, cold reality of what we tend to call the law of the jungle. If there aren't enough rabbits to eat, the foxes die out. If there aren't many foxes, the rabbits proliferate. That the exchange is made in blood and death doesn't change the fact that the resources themselves are limited. As humans, we have the intelligence to use pricing to make those allocations. It's vastly more humane than pretending like those limitations don't exist...even if "true" socialists are too obtuse to understand that.
21st Century conservatism
A bunch of people have really debased themselves lately in their fealty to the President. Like him, hate him, or hold him at a safe skeptical distance, there are just some statements that can't be reconciled with reality. For instance, Mike Huckabee saying "in Donald Trump, we have a Churchill. That's just boneheadedly dumb, and not just because Churchill wrote 43 book-length works totaling millions of original words, while President Trump is golfing now for his fifth straight day.
This kind of personal debasement would be reckless and dumb, no matter who is the object of the individual's affections. Slobbering devotion to President Obama was a bad idea. The same for President Bush. And President Clinton. And the prior President Bush. And President Reagan. And so on.
Stop looking for politicians to be saviors
Believe in principles, fight for systems, and treat politicians like employees. They should be hired for good reasons, held accountable for their work, and let go if they don't earn their pay.
We ran out of time for these, but read them anyway
Cargill pipes up for free trade
The White House's hostility to trade is dangerous to the US farm economy. American farmers have some huge competitive advantages on the world market, but if we don't have free access to global trading opportunities, that cuts into the ability of the ag sector to turn a profit on its surplus outputs. People don't always understand that it's often at marginal places on the supply and demand curves where big things happen -- and it's really hard to tell farmers to cut back on the supply, since the individual incentives are always to produce as much as possible of a commodity. Thus, marginal differences in demand can make a huge difference. And with the ag sector in really weak condition in the Upper Midwest, for instance, any further threats to those marginal markets are potentially very harmful. Is Cargill acting out of self-interest? Yes. That doesn't mean they're wrong. (It should also be noted that the national economic statistics often mask what's happening in local economies -- like the pressure being felt in rural areas due to low commodity prices.)
"They thought it was all over and that we'd won the propaganda war"
The United States radically down-scaled its public diplomacy efforts in the 1990s, and President Obama dismissed too readily the warning signs that Russia was adopting a whole slew of tactics to try to influence the West (especially the United States). Many tools having been used already, President Trump refuses to believe that it's a problem (almost certainly because he thinks any acknowledgment of the efforts would undermine the credibility of his election). It's madness, incompetence, and short-sightedness all around. Disinformation is alive and well, and without a strategic approach to countering the bad and promoting the good, we're going to face lots more trouble in the future.
A suggestion: Let "atomic centrist" become the name for those people who share a core belief in pluralism, individual liberties, and the rule of law (this core of central ideas being like the nucleus of an atom) -- even if they might have far-flung ideas on individual issues (like electrons). The far-flung ideas on individual policies may make us different from one another and may at times be far apart from one another, so long as we share in common the preeminence of those central values.
Resolution for 2018: Avoid using empty euphemisms
Words matter, as do ideas. Anne Applebaum makes a good case for working out the words to accurately describe the big ideas moving politics today, since lots of old labels seem no longer to apply.
Multiple-truck collision on I-80 kills a driver
Human beings can't control circumstances like the bad weather conditions that swept into Iowa today. The sooner we can take advantage of technological tools for enhancing our safety on the roadways, the better.
Mind your business
Nine ways to make a better to-do list
They're different and not necessarily compatible with one another, but they're also pretty decent ideas
The daily routines of Bill Gates
The details don't matter -- what does matter is that he's intentional about what he does with his time, sticks to pretty ordinary human routines (like doing the dishes and eating cheeseburgers), and manages his informational diet by reading books and well-edited news sources.
The best "Key and Peele" sketch might have been one of the darkest
The show's director thought the spoof of the 80s aerobics competition was his favorite "of the season, and possibly ever". And for good reason: It's executed so brilliantly that it's a real television masterpiece. The plot is super-dark, but yet the whole thing is completely hilarious.
A faulty arrest could obstruct a Marine's career
A Marine from Clive, Iowa, got arrested on a completely faulty charge. That sloppy work could get in the way of her future career.
He's not ruling it out, and reasonable people shouldn't either
City council refuses mayor the keys to his office
In a small town in Georgia
Things to say if you're a national politician showing your face in Iowa
It's inevitable that high-profile politicians bouncing around Iowa will be asked if they're running for President. A bit of advice: If you're here and someone asks if you're running, you're always free to deflect with one of the following: (1.) "I couldn't live another day without trying Tasty Tacos." (2.) "I thought the Butter Cow was on display all year." (3.) "I wanted to see the Bridges of Madison County."
If I keep pressing "shuffle", maybe I'll come up with a play. pic.twitter.com/t1FrhGUTzF— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 28, 2017
Update: Two rounds later. Do Yoko Ono lyrics count in the Scrabble dictionary? pic.twitter.com/8gvFDqqOVW— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 28, 2017
Best friends find out they're actually brothers
Personal DNA kits deliver a surprise
Calendar events to highlight
Brenton Skating Plaza will be closed through Monday, Jan. 1 due to the temps, reopening on Tuesday.
- Podcast of this episode (forthcoming)
- Official station page for this episode (forthcoming)