Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - February 24, 2018
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.
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Segment 1: (11 min)
BUT FIRST: The opening essay
It's way too easy to break up Americans into neatly-defined generational groups -- Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and so forth. It's convenient, to be sure, but what it offers in tidiness it generally lacks in usefulness. There's a pretty good argument to be made that we often have much more in common with other people who share other characteristics of our own (things like geography, occupation, education, or even religion) regardless of their age than what we share with other people who happen to be approximately the same age as ourselves.
But there are cases for which generational definitions really do make a difference. And one of those has made itself known in a big way over the last two weeks or so.
As a Gen Xer, I can tell you about all kinds of things I remember from growing up. My parents' giant Zenith console TV. The click of the buttons on the old Heritage Cablevision set-top box (the one with the three channel layers). What it was like to watch the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster unfold while sitting in a classroom. Learning about the Civil Defense sirens and how they could either mean "tornado" or "nuclear attack" -- and then, the fall of the Berlin Wall. The arrival of the first computers in school.
But what I don't remember at all are school shootings. That's because there weren't any. (Not of the high-impact mass shooting events, at least.) The shootings at Columbine High School happened in 1999, which, it is worth noting, was about the time that the very last Gen Xers were graduating from K-12 education.
We can quibble about exactly where one of these "generations" leads into the next, but mass shootings simply weren't on the list of personal, first-hand concerns for anyone really until the Millennials were the only ones left in the classroom.
That doesn't mean a generation is to blame for these events. It means that there are generations like mine that don't have the same perspective on these as the generations for whom these man-made disasters are an identifiable reality.
I have no doubt that this is starting to shape, more than ever, how the issue is debated in public. There might be five Millennials in Congress right now, depending on how you choose to count them -- the youngest is Elise Stefanik of New York (who, by the way, strikes me as an especially thoughtful member of the House). Stefanik was born in 1984, which means the Columbine killings coincided roughly with her entry into high school.
What I anticipate is that the more people born after her begin to populate Congress -- and they will -- and the more they emerge as leaders in statehouses across the country, the more the tone of the debate over school violence will evolve to match what will be, for them, a personal narrative rather than something they've only known remotely through the news.
It's like noting that my own experience in school was entirely post-Civil Rights Era. Busing and court-mandated integration were things that appeared in my history textbooks as things that had already happened (even if they were, in fact, still underway in some places). That means my experience of school, and consequently much of my perspective on racial integration, was shaped by a different environment than was the perspective of a Baby Boomer. It doesn't confer carte blanche to make my own judgments better or worse than anyone else's -- but it means the experience shaped some of my conclusions.
We are crossing the threshold into a time when people whose experience includes being in school when school shootings were a real thing are entering roles of power and who measure in substantial enough numbers to register as a bloc in the voting booth. And they're also old enough to have children of their own, which converts school shootings into a multi-generational aspect of the American experience.
If something already feels different to you about the debate after the violence in Parkland, Florida, you're probably right. And you would be well-advised to get used to the change, because the generations for whom this issue is personal are on the rise. This isn't a ripple. It's likely to be a sea-change.
Segment 2: (8 min)
The school-shooting panic epidemic reached Iowa, too:
There will be no classes at Dubuque Senior High School today because of a school shooting threat. The district said last night that social media reports are behind the reason to cancel classes.
The district says the threat is not considered credible, but classes have been cancelled while police investigate.
In Council Bluffs, a parent told school officials about a message on Snapchat that talked about guns and killing people at a middle school.
The school district worked with police and tracked down the student now accused of making the threat, a 12-year old girl. She is being held at a juvenile detention center.
Segment 3: (14 min)
Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day
A friend shares that he's looking at a new car that features -- among other things -- 19 cupholders apportioned to just seven seats.
At first, that seems absurdly excessive. But I have six cupholders in the front row of my car, plus two that pull out of the console in the middle. So it's about the same ratio.
The thing is, I only use one or two of them for holding cups. The rest are used to hold things so they don't rattle around while I'm on the road.
How many of the cupholders in your car are actually holding cups?
There's little worse than lots of young people with nothing useful to do:
Teens arrested after more than 100 kids get rowdy downtown. Again.
Three teenagers face charges for refusing to obey police after a crowd of more than a hundred teens showed up at the downtown Des Moines bus station Wednesday. A police report says one girl was pepper sprayed when she refused to obey instructions and resisted arrest.
A :15 second video shows an officer pushing the screaming girl to the ground.
"If it goes too far, and we decide we need to make an arrest, we expect compliance." Police Sergeant Paul Parizek tells WHO TV Channel 13.
He says the :15 second cell phone video of the arrest doesn't show the :45 minutes of dozens of rowdy teens at the downtown bus station.
Police say they were trying to prevent a fight, like the one a month ago at the same downtown bus station, when more than 100 high school kids showed up.
Jobs. Extra-curriculars. Family life. Activities. Organized sports. Clubs. Churches.
A Federal Reserve research paper says lots of men in the prime of working age are out of work and may never go back because they're trapped by "job polarization": They have mid-range skills, and the job growth is in the low-skill and high-skill ends of the labor market.
This makes a compelling case for reassessing our lifelong education programs, such as they are.
I'm typically loath to make anything compulsory, but that may be the only answer.
At the very least, we need to rescue ongoing education from the clutches of those who would make it expensive.
Should the public subsidize? It basically has to.
Does government have to deliver? No.
What fixes the cost/delivery problem? Making it compulsory might be the only way to force innovation into the system.
Segment 4: (5 min)
Tin Foil Hat Award
The Chicago Tribune says the road work required to build the planned Obama Presidential Library will cost $175 million.
Chicago doesn't have that kind of spare change sitting around. Neither does the state of Illinois.
I'm a proponent of Presidential libraries. I am an opponent of extravagant monuments to politicians.
I want to see more libraries everywhere. But at a cost for roads alone of that much? It could build entire schools. The overall cost of the Obama library is estimated at $500 million, says the Tribune.
Segment 5: (11 min)
The week in technology
When the disgusting video of "YouTube celebrity" Logan Paul mocking a corpse about two months ago, there was understandable outrage.
He was suspended from YouTube, but he's back. And while he has an on-again, off-again relationship going with YouTube advertising, he still has more than 16 million subscribers.
Logan Paul isn't going anywhere, at least not in the short run. And that's because he and YouTube are tied by advertising.
Meanwhile, other people with YouTube channels received this message the other day:
As of today, your channel will no longer have access to monetization tools associated with YPP because it doesn't meet the new threshold of 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers. If you meet the new threshold at some point in the future, you'll be automatically re-evaluated for YPP. The reviews typically take 1-2 weeks.
Couched inside a bunch of weaselly language about "community" and "bad actors" and "original creators", YouTube's announcement about the change misses the fundamental problem: What they have incentivized is more of Logan Paul (and knockoff antics) and less of people posting milder, less-provocative stuff.
Every system is perfectly designed to produce the results that come from it.
Perverse incentives: The stuff that will rise to the top will reflect the most outlandish, most extreme, most shocking. Tamer content will be ignored and won't be rewarded.
YouTube took a big gamble when it started making distinctions among content -- calling some things safe for kids, offering advertising options to some and not others, and policing some (but not all) content for policy violations.
The problem now is that they throw up their hands (metaphorically) at the volume of content being posted, even while claiming to have 10,000 people "across Google working to address content that might violate our policies". That's a lot of employees, but YouTube is also a really big operation. Google doesn't break it out specifically, but it's easily a multi-billion-dollar operation.
They can't control everything that's posted, but they can control the rules of the game. And that begins with setting the right incentives. The incentives they are putting into place now will be bad good for dedicated "creators" and bad for amateurs and recreational enthusiasts. It will amplify the extremes to which some people will go to get viewers, and it will also further pry open the ethical issues that go with transparency, endorsements, and opaque sources of funding.
Technology is only as good or as bad as the choices of the people who use it.
Related: YouTube TV is "expanding to all top 100 U.S. markets" -- to compete directly with cable and satellite TV.
Segment 6: (8 min)
By the numbers
The Washington Post ran some data and concluded that the statistical "middle of nowhere" is in Montana.
This probably should come as no surprise.
There are parts of Iowa that feel like the middle of nowhere, but they have nothing on Montana
There no doubt are solitary souls who prefer the isolation, but there's something to be said for having a few people around.
Segment 7: (14 min)
Your role in cyberwar
Making something out of nothing: Freaking out over the Twitter "lockout".
The only thing that disappoints me about losing any followers to the #TwitterLockOut is that there apparently were four bots following me that I hadn't blocked already.
One year ago
Today: $63,500 per person and rising fast
Five years ago
∎ Facebook's Timeline is probably going to become mandatory for all Facebook users, sooner or later. I've seen it reported elsewhere that the switch will be mandatory and imminent right away, but I don't think any of the official announcements from the company have said it's mandatory...yet. But it will probably happen over the next six months, because that's how Facebook usually does things. It's probably better to set aside some time when you'll be able to use the 7-day grace period when you can keep the Timeline private to sift through your past postings -- to make sure nothing hugely embarrassing appears when your Timeline goes live.
Ten years ago
It's great news to hear the Fidel Castro's quitting his post as dictator of Cuba. Not such great news that his brother's taking over, but if nothing else, it's a change. And as we know, any kind of instability in the leadership of a totalitarian country tends to lead to other changes -- like a snowball rolling down a hill. What's sad is how communism has so outrageously and needlessly impoverished the Cuban people. According to an economic database from Oxford University, Cuba's economy is only three times larger than it was when Castro took over in 1959. That might superficially sound like good performance, but the economy in the US grew by four times over that period -- and started off many times larger. South Korea, by comparison, has grown ten-fold over the same period. And keep in mind all the advantages Cuba could have had as a free-market economy that South Korea doesn't have: Cuba has gorgeous beaches in a fantastic climate, immediate access to US markets, and all of the capital (intellectual, fiscal, moral, etc.) that has escaped to Miami over the years. The Cuban people are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, far worse off for having lived under Fidel Castro than they would have been with a free market and the rule of law.
China and Cuba are now exchanging television broadcasts. Why? Because they understand the importance of "soft power" -- the use of subtle influence via services like radio and television broadcasts. Now, if the Communists understand the value of marketing, why are we as free people in a market economy constantly fighting battles over whether to spend a comparatively miniscule amount on services like the Voice of America?
Segment 8: (5 min)
Stop the deliberate ignorance
You're known by the company you keep
At what point is the President to account for the fact his one-time campaign chairman was apparently defrauding the tax collector and his banks?
Unsorted and leftovers:
Clean up after yourself
Mind your business
Quote of the Week
Contrary to popular opinion
Hyperbole is going to kill us all
21st Century conservatism
Curiosity, competence, and humility
Have a little empathy
Yay Capitalism Prize
Capitalist solution of the week
The US men's curling team won the gold medal. Do we need to care about curling now?