Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - January 27, 2018

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.

Segments 1 and 2:

BUT FIRST: The opening essay

Wool socks

For the longest time, I avoided wearing them. I was sold on the notion that they were itchy.

I resisted and resisted, despite decades of Iowa winters.

Finally, I got some as a gift. A true game-changer.

It's one thing to stick to your principles. It's another to ignore the obvious evidence, especially when there may be changes in circumstances.

Maybe old wool socks were itchy. But the current generation of products like "Smartwool" are entirely not. They're downright amazing.

There's a huge difference between being principled and being obstinate. And all of us ought to learn the difference.

The old divisions of "left" and "right" are crusty and dessicated. What's emerged is a big fight between "open" and "closed".

ICE agents just arrested a doctor in Kalamazoo, Michigan, who's been here for 40 years. His family fled Poland in 1979. It all appears to be over a couple of misdemeanors from when he was 17 years old.

What part of "with liberty and justice for all" is so hard for those Federal agents to understand? This story is obscene.

It's closedness without thought. It's objection to the "outsider" who's been an "insider" as long as I've been alive. It's a long reach for the letter of the law that has nothing whatsoever to do with justice or what's right.

"Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

The trouble that has been brewing is that some Americans expect politics to be their entertainment, too. That rewards a bloodsport mentality and corrupts the process.

Politics (and civics generally) are supposed to be boring but unshirkable duties, not altogether different from brushing teeth or changing a baby's diapers. You don't have to enjoy it, but you dare not avoid doing it.

What worries me is that the fragmentation of news and the isolation a lot of people voluntarily (or involuntarily) subscribe to in their personal lives is making it harder for us to see the difference between the real threats and problems and the fake ones.

Quotes of the Week

"Societies that will succeed are those which easily assimilate foreigners." - Lee Kuan Yew

"Genius can only breathe freely in an atmosphere of freedom." - John Stuart Mill

Segment 3:

21st Century conservatism - Real respect for women

Threats and Hazards The UN Ambassador shouldn't be subject to crude innuendo

Nikki Haley is shooting down crude rumors that she's having an affair with the President. There's no reason she should have to spend time or energy rebutting the rumors. We ought to have a world where we can all agree that issues of personal character do matter in politics -- without weaponizing rumors almost invariably at the expense of women. Women's reputations are indisputably put under attack far more by these kinds of allegations than men's, and there's no question that tends to have an effect that depresses the participation of literally half of the population in our civic affairs. It's not just scurrilous, it's degrading to our public welfare.

Have a little empathy

Threats and Hazards Abusive gymnastics team doctor gets sentence of 40 to 175 years in prison

The sentence for Larry Nassar is deserved, but the judge was speaking to the rest of us when she said, "Justice requires more than what I can do on this bench." What stops the next abuser? Who protects the next victim? Those are systemic duties for all of us. Nassar used powers of manipulation and persuasion to get away with a massive crime spree over many years. One doesn't have to believe there was a broader conspiracy beyond him alone to believe that he was enabled and empowered by systemic and individual failures by others.

Segment 4:

By the numbers

Threats and Hazards Two killed in Kentucky school shooting

It truly is a shame on our national character that violence takes so many young lives. It's a real public-health crisis: Homicide is in the top four causes of death in America for each of the age groups 1-4, 5-9, 10-14, 15-24, and 25-34, and suicide is the #2 or #3 cause of death in age groups 10-14, 15-24, and 25-34. These should be solvable problems, and we should have a sense of urgency about them.

Segments 5 and 6:

Yay Capitalism Prize

And here I thought the closest thing to immortality on Earth was supposed to be a temporary government program.

Honestly, I don't think we should be surprised that networks are reviving the old hits. New original programming has flourished on cable channels and streaming (often for highly targeted auds). It's risky and expensive for the big networks to compete.

Revivals are a midway step between new shows and syndication. Cheaper to develop, a built-in audience, and it breathes new value into old properties for rerun.

Brian Dean points out that it's not very original

Oh, it's totally unoriginal. But with Fox and NBC going full- tilt with live shows and super-cheap contest programming, it doesn't surprise me. Still some great original scripted network shows out there (The Good Place, Blackish), but they're a big gamble.

Streaming has amazing original programming (The Crown, Kimmy Schmidt) and can relay great foreign programming, too (Dreamland, Occupied). Narrowcasting lives large on streaming. Plus, they get incredible feedback from the user data.

Plus, the ability to binge-watch or to stream on-demand means people can either pick up a series well after it's begun or catch on to something at a different time from everyone else.

No doubt this detracts a bit from the old role that television used to play in creating a common mass culture -- I still remember "Must See TV" Thursday nights on NBC. But with declining production costs (brought about by technology) and vastly improved distribution methods (again, thanks to technology), it's inevitable that audience fragmentation is going to occur and even accelerate. It means we each get more of something much closer to what we want to watch, even if we're watching a lot less in common.

That's what capitalism tends to do: Drive closer and closer to the specific demands of ever-shrinking groups of consumers. As production costs decline and product refinement improves, we inevitably move from the Model T towards the bespoke.

On a related note, why do people even watch "This Is Us" and take it so seriously?

Segment 7: (14 min)

Your role in cyberwar

Facing the threat of new rules in Europe, Facebook is trying to defend itself. They're sending emissaries all over Europe to try to stave off new rules that would regulate what they permit.

There is a fundamental naivete to the idea that merely connecting the people of the world is itself a good thing. Facebook needs to grapple with this on the deepest level.

Connecting people for what purpose? For mutual learning and self-improvement? Great! For exchanging propaganda and hate? No, no, a thousand times no.

Stop the deliberate ignorance

Business and Finance What we imagine to be important isn't always what's truly important

In a new Pew survey, Americans rank terrorism, education, and the economy as the "top priorities" for the President and Congress, while ranking the military, climate change, and global trade at the bottom of the list. As Scott Lincicome notes, the fact that an issue like trade falls at the bottom of the public priority list may contribute to why public opinion swings so much on the subject -- and why it remains an area subject to hijacking by protectionists with a vested interest in imposing higher costs on the public at large by shutting down trade. What the public values most isn't always what's most important: In fairness, eating vegetables and flossing are also low on voters' preferences -- but, just like trade, they're almost entirely in voters' best interests.

Make money

Business and Finance An America-free Trans-Pacific Partnership moves ahead

Canada, Japan, and nine other countries are marching ahead with a trade agreement despite the dropout of the United States. As Senator Jeff Flake notes, "We're being left behind." All other things being equal: Better a multilateral trade deal than a bilateral one; better low barriers to trade than high ones; better to be inside these agreements than outside of them.

Kickers: Flamin' Hot Cheeto Doughnuts

I am an enthusiast for innovation -- new technologies, new products, and new ways of doing things. But I'm only a proponent of technology when it's in the hands of people who intend to use it to do good.

But not every innovation is a good thing. To wit: I bring you the "Flamin' Hot Cheeto doughnut", the product of an overactive imagination at a place called The Donut Conspiracy in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The monsters! You can't put Velveeta on a doughnut without angering the gods! When the Earth splits open and the horsemen come, we'll know who to blame for initiating the Apocalypse.

All kidding aside, there's no flamin' way you could ever persuade me to try this thing. I have a very high tolerance for trying new things (psychologists say this openness to experience is one of the "Big Five" factors that define a personality), but a cheese-based doughnut is a step too far even for me.

Cheese belongs on blintzes, bagels, and certain Danishes served on Easter Sunday. But I will forever stand my ground that the One True Doughnut is a vanilla creme-filled, and the farther any "doughnut" strays from that model, the greater the penance its creator should be forced to do.

Segment 8:

It's like they're trying to lose

The United States of America Democrats pick legacy-name member of the House to deliver response to State of the Union

Rep. Joe Kennedy III, grandson of Robert Kennedy, represents a Massachussetts district in Congress. Picking a Congressman from a legacy political family to deliver the response to the ultimate anti-legacy, pro-disruption President in generations is a really dumb idea. The State of the Union address (and its response) is the flagship mass-market political moment of the year. Why they aren't putting the spotlight on a current governor or a recent Cabinet member makes it look rather like they're not taking this seriously. At all.

Unsorted and leftovers:

21st Century conservatism - An energetic but limited Federal government?

News Mayors ditch meeting with the President

The mayors of New York City, Los Angeles, and New Orleans were among those who dropped out of a meeting with the President after the Department of Justice threatened to subpoena a bunch of cities, counties, and states over "sanctuary" status issues. The President took shots at Democrats and others in the meeting with those mayors who showed up at the White House despite the boycott by some. Federalism is taking on some pretty unusual forms these days; the notion of a limited but energetic Federal government is being beaten senseless by a variety of opponents.

It's not really the job of local governments to enforce Federal policies

The Federal government shouldn't really be in the business of imposing laws to be enforced at others' expense

The Federal government is at its best when it's ensuring universal rights when local and state governments fail

The Ninth and Tenth Amendments are pretty clear about the relationship we ought to have with Washington

What the Federal government does, it ought to do well. But it ought always to do within limits.

This week

Threats and Hazards "[I]f anyone else had this much contact with Russians [...] they'd be considered a Grade-A security threat"

Tom Nichols gets directly to the heart of the problem: You don't have to believe there's some explicit quid pro quo between the President and the Kremlin to reasonably insist on a thorough investigation of the links. And the Senate had better agree.

Iowa news

This is not the time for a Constitutional convention.

Kickers: Up in here

Kickers: Davos

I think my mail carrier has been stealing my invitations to Davos.

Kickers: Conspiracy theories

Humor and Good News The one justified conspiracy theory

Individual sheets of select-a-size paper towels are scientifically designed to be 25% too small for any purpose under the Sun.

One year ago

The new President was claiming massive voter fraud

Five years ago

"More nuclear threats from North Korea"

Ten years ago

Predicting that Blu-Ray would beat HD-DVD

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