Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - March 10, 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.

Segment 1: (11 min)

BUT FIRST: The opening essay

Reading some family history thanks to archives of the Fort Dodge public library

Great-great grandfather was almost killed in a wall collapse at his store in 1896

That was more than a decade before my grandmother was born -- a real Marty McFly moment for me

Got me to thinking: If I had a time machine and one shot at using it, what would I go back to have one of my ancestors do differently?

"How the Irish Saved Civilization"

Probably overstates the case by quite a lot, but we're never really as far away from a Dark Age as we'd like to think

Visited Italy last fall -- the home of the great Republic, the cradle of Renaissance thought, the center of Catholicism.

Also, an Axis power in WWII and a present-day political basket case.

What are we doing for ourselves as we live longer? What are we doing for our kids, our grandkids?

That wall collapse more than 120 years ago is only separated from me by three generations. Grover Cleveland was in his second term as President.

Useful exercise to ask about one's own family history to see what might have been different. What appear to be small choices can have huge and lasting effects.

Read the Federalist Papers -- they talk about things they did to build the system "for posterity"

But there's always ongoing maintenance required. Too much short-term thinking; not new, but certainly encouraged by the dopamine rush you get from electronics.

Friend posted about a parent asking to be let into a locked school classroom to retrieve a child's smartwatch.

Who tethers their children like that?

If we're not propelling the next generation forward, we're putting an anchor on them.

Federal debt just about to hit $21 trillion -- that's more than $64,000 a person. Last February, that figure was $61,282.

It's not just economic -- it's culture, it's ethics, it's education, it's conservation, it's health, it's social capital.

I'm not satisfied, not by a long shot, that we're doing enough.

If Italy can have created so much, and turn out today to be such a wreck, then we can't take anything for granted.

Segment 2: (8 min)

Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day

Bugs Bunny is the quintessential American pop culture icon of all time. There is no equal.

He's clever. He doesn't provoke fights, but he'll outsmart his opponent when provoked. He stands up for the little guy. He's cultured. He travels. He reads. He uses his brain before his fists.

Segment 3: (14 min)

Segment 4: (5 min)

Segment 5: (11 min)

Tin Foil Hat Award

Florida wants year-round Daylight Saving Time. It got through both houses of the state legislature.

"[H]e got the idea after walking into his local barbershop last fall".

Hey, Florida Man: If you're getting your legislative ideas the same way Tom Friedman comes up with his NYT column, maybe you should pump the brakes.

Contrary to popular opinion

This is a hard truth: Most of the suffering that comes from natural disasters is caused or magnified by policies that are either badly flawed or actively malicious.

If we can be honest about those cases when human choices make things worse, we can take responsibility for making choices that would make them better.

Contrary to popular opinion

Threats and Hazards Holocaust Museum rescinds award to Aung San Suu Kyi

It's for her failure as a civil leader to stop the murders of the Rohingya. Sometimes the only thing we can do is remind people that the judgment of history will be passed on us all, and hope that maybe the desire to be remembered favorably is enough to get someone to do the right thing. It's one of the most important reasons why we have to study history and treat it as important.

Segment 6: (8 min)

This week

Threats and Hazards Whose South China Sea?

China's foreign minister drops passive-aggressive commentary about "external powers" and complaining that "there are certain external powers who are unwilling to accept the stability in the South China Sea and always want to stir up trouble". He is, of course, talking about the United States. And he's talking about a place where his own country is building artificial islands to create artificial claims to territory. Singapore's long-time leader Lee Kuan Yew said it pretty clearly: "As China's development nears the point when it will have enough weight to elbow its way into the region, it will make a fateful decision -- whether to be a hegemon, using its economic and military weight to create a sphere of influence...or to continue as a good international citizen...It is in everyone's interest that before that moment of choice arrives, China should be given every incentive to choose international cooperation which will absorb its energies constructively for another 50 to 100 years."

Segment 7: (14 min)

21st Century conservatism

Threats and Hazards An obscenely wrongheaded idea

The President takes a potshot at Gary Cohn, his departing director of the National Economic Council: "He may be a globalist but I still like him. He is seriously a globalist, no question. But in some ways he's a nationalist because he loves our country." ■ Straight to the dustbin of history with the idea that a person couldn't love his or her own country and also believe in participating in the global community. Shameful. Ignorant, wrong, and shameful. ■ "No free people can for long cling to any privilege or enjoy any safety in economic solitude. For all our own material might, even we need markets in the world for the surpluses of our farms and our factories." - Dwight D. Eisenhower ■ "If we want [...] a vital, dynamic, innovative economic system, we must accept the need for mobility and adjustment. It may be desirable to ease these adjustments [...] but we should try to achieve that objective without destroying the flexibility of the system." - Milton and Rose Friedman ■ "No nation was ever ruined by trade." - Benjamin Franklin ■ "To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations having correspondent dispositions" - James Madison ■ "The freedom to buy, sell, and trade is one of the oldest freedoms known to man." - Margaret Thatcher ■ The idea that someone can't be both a good American and also a good citizen of the world is as preposterous as the idea one cannot be both a good Iowan and a good American, or a good Chicagoan and a good American. Most of the virtues to being a good citizen are non-rivalrous -- from the local to the regional to the national to the global. Anyone who can't think of themselves as belonging to more than one community of human beings simply lacks imagination.

Business and Finance What good will tariffs do?

It is possible to do things that put many Americans on pathways to better economic futures that don't involve starting trade wars. Tariffs usually end up as false promises that make lots of things worse while failing to fix what they're supposed to help. "Trade war" sounds a lot more decisive than "updated and reinvigorated trade and technology adjustment assistance", but the latter is really where we ought to be putting a sustained focus. Either we're developing our human capital or we're not. But if we aren't, then we shouldn't expect a rising standard of living. And if we're trying but failing, then we need to urgently reconsider how we're doing it.

Threats and Hazards "We can also do stupid"

The President's utterly preposterous claim that tariffs can be applied "lovingly" is answered by the European counterargument that they, too, can do stupid policy.

Threats and Hazards An impossibly stupid interpretation of the job

Peter Navarro to Bloomberg: "My function, really, as an economist is to try to provide the underlying analytics that confirm his [the President's] intuition. And his intuition is always right in these matters." Trying to backfill evidence to rationalize instincts is a far cry from encouraging one's best intuitions. Intuition is the product of experience, study, and self-criticism. President Trump doesn't celebrate any of those; he has instincts. And any animal can have instincts. To have people in such influential positions that do nothing but encourage instinctive behavior is a complete dereliction of duty.

Segment 8: (5 min)

Unsorted and leftovers:

Business and Finance Amazon uses lobbying more than ever

One of the reasons why the DC metro area is almost certainly one of the top two contenders for the Amazon HQ2 project: Government matters more than ever to Amazon's future. Proximity to your target matters.

Business and Finance Lego has too many bricks

They had a pretty big sales drop in 2017

Iowa Democracy belongs to those who show up, indeed

The number of voters who cast ballots in one Des Moines suburb on the sales-tax vote could have fit in a single Suburban

Business and Finance What would Louis Rukeyser say?

What we wouldn't give to hear one of his opening monologues to "Wall Street Week" today

By the numbers

Make money

Have fun

Clean up after yourself

Mind your business

Business and Finance What men ought to do to promote women in the workplace

Worth consideration: "Integrity is not only knowing and acting on what is right but also, as Yale Law's Stephen Carterimplores, publicly explaining why you are doing so."

Quote of the Week

The week in technology

Your role in cyberwar

Iowa news

Hyperbole is going to kill us all

Curiosity, competence, and humility

Have a little empathy

Inbox zero

Stop the deliberate ignorance

Business and Finance The choice to impose tariffs is a terrible one

A 25% tax on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminum. Arbitrary, capricious, untargeted tariffs on basic raw materials used disproportionately in heavy construction? That's a pretty stupid way to address the need for infrastructure investment (that we badly need). It's also a terrible way to behave when we have a massive Federal budget deficit. It's a very simple fact that net imports don't actually hurt GDP -- we produce the same amount with or without the imports, we just don't want to count them as things we create.

Yay Capitalism Prize

Capitalist solution of the week


Humor and Good News Is it too soon for an Irish potato famine joke?

One might wonder


Computers and the Internet What if everyone had to complete an exit interview to unfollow someone on social media?

Would any of us learn?


Humor and Good News A hot take on hot takes

Very, very funny: "I'm an incredibly verbose piece of journalism that your boss, your coworkers, and your most Twitter-annoying friend have already spread all over social media with the comment 'This.'"


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