Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - May 26, 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.
Segment 1: (11 min)
BUT FIRST: The opening essay
Disappointment in public institutions: Without a doubt, we have lots of public (and private) institutions that have disappointed us, but self-government is a learning process. Disappointment should lead to reform, not cynicism.
For example: I am beside myself with rage over this story...
They were separated from their parents by our draconian policy on border-crossing, and now it's unclear where 1,500 of them have gone. That's truly appalling. If this isn't a firing offense for people up and down the chain of command, what is? These are children we're talking about. Like the video of children being gassed in Syria, or like pictures of children being starved in Yemen, this story is a massive transgression that feels even worse to any reasonable person with little people at home whom they would defend with their very lives. A century ago, Herbert Hoover was known as the Great Humanitarian. Put aside anything you think about his Presidency -- as a private citizen, he had done more to rescue refugees and save young lives from starvation than anyone alive today. Where is our Hoover in 2018? Who is empowered to step up to solve these problems? Who is being invited to do so? Does anyone know where even to start?
If we succumb to cynicism, we figure nothing can be done. But, if we're skeptics of power, then we have a reason to hold people accountable and to demand better be done in our name.
We're in the midst of some rotten circumstances. A lot of people looked at the political landscape and found it so vacant of honesty and results that they took a flier on Donald Trump.
I disagreed, but I get it: At some point, people might simply ask what point there is in staying the course.
But, now that we're well over a year into his Presidency, it's time to stop cutting him slack.
He has a mighty platform from which to undercut faith in our institutions, and he's doing it -- from blasting the FBI to spitting at the free press to blaming everyone but himself when things go wrong. Public cynicism was too high already, and it's getting a beat-down from above.
All of this seems amplified by the weird new rules of "engagement". We don't talk around the water cooler so much as we rant at each other on Facebook. And the really pernicious thing about Facebook in particular is how it can normalize really dumb opinions -- as though the nuance of a Constitutional republic can be summed up in a Burma-Shave sign.
But there's a cottage industry already well into its adolescence that seeks to make those Burma-Shave arguments and turn them into votes.
The more we govern ourselves locally (at the state level and below), the more robust the country is against manias, tantrums, and, yes, foreign meddling. A comment from Federalist 40 is in order here:
For perspective, the population of the entire United States in 1790 was 3.9 million -- almost exactly the same as the population of Oklahoma today, or enough to get you a fat FIVE seats in today's House of Representatives. And they worried about Federal overreach THEN!
We won't perfect our world by reclaiming responsibilities at the local level, but I think we can learn to contain and minimize the damage done by mistakes, errors, and incompetence -- as well as by the occasional bout of ill will.
And I honestly believe that the clock is ticking on the need to make that shift. We need to turn away from the cynicism bred by big-government, ham-fisted, top-down authority (and all of the failings that will come with it) and get back to a level of accountability and control where choices, results, and (yes) personal character matter.
- Heads need to roll at the Federal level over this catastrophe involving 1,500 innocent children. It's entirely unacceptable.
- The President needs to quit taking cheap shots at necessary institutions -- from law enforcement to the news media.
- States and local governments need to wrest authority back from the Federal government wherever they can, not in the name of "states' rights", but rather in the interest of greater accountability
- Voters need to start asking harder questions about who is accountable for what, and how to enforce accountability in ways that won't result in cynicism -- but instead revive our faith in our ability to do important things well through our representative government
Segment 2: (8 min)
Live read: iHeartRadio app
iHeartRadio app: GraduationPlaylist.com
Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day
I think things started to go wrong when male rock stars stopped recording music videos on the beach while wearing white tuxedos.
Clean up after yourself
There are certain opportunities available only in certain very large cities. But there are also hidden costs that go along with megalopolitan living that people too often overlook when evaluating whether to live there. For example: Getting out of New York City by road on a holiday weekend is a complete nightmare. Same for most other really large cities. The time spent in traffic in the biggest cities -- as compared with somewhat smaller cities that offer, say, 75% of the same amenities -- is an enormous toll to place on one's existence without some kind of compensation.
Segment 3: (14 min)
Hyperbole is going to kill us all: North Korea, nukes, and the summit that wasn't
Interview with Dr. Megan Reiss of the R Street Institute
The President has abruptly cancelled his much-vaunted summit with Kim Jong-Un
- In my opinion: The President's mental framework seems never to have escaped his real-estate model of purely transactional, zero-sum exchanges.
- Game theory will tell you that model doesn't work in a dynamic, multiparty "game" played many times -- like diplomacy.
- Sure, previous administrations have failed to deliver, too.
- There's a difference, though, between decisions that may have been reached badly (or that turned out unexpectedly) and a complete loss of paradigm. The President's paradigm is totally unsuited to the nature of diplomacy itself, and he doesn't want to change.
Segment 4: (5 min)
Live read: Smart speakers (hour 1)
Segment 5: (11 min)
The Bernie Bros sent out an email yesterday, urging Iowans on their list to vote early. Talk about dumb timing.
A gubernatorial candidate dropped out this week over bad personal behavior. And Harvey Weinstein did a perp walk over charges of sexual assault.
"Pardoning the bad, is injuring the good." - Benjamin Franklin
I regret that we, as a society, have pardoned bad behavior against women for so long -- whether it was technically legal or not. I hope that tide has permanently turned.
Sometimes, the only guarantee of good behavior is the view of history -- the warning that bad behavior may come back to haunt you.
There's nothing weak or flabby or snowflaky in being tuned-in to good versus bad behavior, or calling it out, or in acknowledging that people might suffer grievances for a long time before speaking up.
There's great strength in looking for those places where we might be doing wrong, even if we're not aware of it, and making corrections before history catches up to us.
21st Century conservatism
But let's ask some serious questions: Will the NFL do anything to actively address the problems that players sought to highlight with their gestures during the anthem? Will the league do anything to counter the false narrative that players were protesting the flag or the anthem, rather than conducting a protest during the anthem but not directed at it? Will the league require players, coaches, and referees to salute the flag with hands over their hearts, as proscribed by Flag Code? Will the NFL cease the use of giant, field-covering flags as prop, which is behavior expressly in violation of Flag Code, which prohibits the flag from touching the ground or from being "carried flat or horizontally"? Will the NFL put its money where its mouth is and put a halt to all sales of food and beverages during the playing of the anthem (the 49ers are hinting they'll suspend sales in just such a manner)?
A thoughtful -- and conservative -- rebuttal to the NFL's plans to crack down on expression during the National Anthem
If we don't stand for principles, then it doesn't mean much if we stand for the flag.
The President is completely wrong when he says "Maybe they shouldn't be in the country" if NFL players won't stand for the National Anthem.
This kind of talk is an obscenity when it comes from the President. The Fourteenth Amendment isn't a punchline.
A reminder: "Conservative government means rule by consent; Socialist government means control by compulsion." - Margaret Thatcher
Segment 6: (8 min)
Live read: Smart speakers (hour 2)
Your role in cyberwar
You can drive him in The Beast, fly him on Air Force One, and put layers of explosion-proof glass around the Oval Office, but you can't save a wayward principal from himself.
If the President won't turn over his cell phone for a security review, he's responsible for what happens when it's hacked. And it WILL be hacked.
The week in technology
The transformative power of putting a video camera in every pocket really shows up in a huge way with this powerful report (with abundant video evidence) on the shootdown of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 by a Russian missile.
The week in technology
How an Amazon Echo recorded a household conversation and sent the clip to a family acquaintance
The week in technology
(Video) Making it out of concrete is pretty cool, and permits a one-day production cycle. But it's worth asking whether the constraint on building high-quality homes in poor places is a shortage of labor, the cost of materials, or something else. Is a 3D printer really removing an important constraint?
Segment 7: (14 min)
Quote of the Week
Senator Jeff Flake offers a pointed set of remarks at the Harvard Law School commencement ceremony
"It is now your responsibility to ensure our adversaries know they should always prefer to talk to our Department of State, rather than face the US Air Force."
The one big mystery of Ankeny's boom: Why isn't the city growing to the east of I-35?
The Census Bureau also reports that In every region except the West, the bigger the city, the faster the growth. Urbanization isn't new, and it's not reversing course, either.
By the numbers
In a time of big numbers, this one is huge
Only one alderman voted "no" -- because he objected to the $175 million the city is supposed to spend on infrastructure directly related to the center (with no plans for where the money will be found). And that's not a bad objection to muster. The tradition of building Presidential libraries is a neat one -- if they're sustainable projects with true educational and historic merit, and not just giant monuments to ego.
Curiosity, competence, and humility
You can't be well-rounded in the 21st Century without a mix of the technical *and* the humanities.
A complaint from Britain that describes a problem often encountered in the US, too: Not enough nerds in the rooms where big decisions are made. Not everyone needs to be a technician...but at least a couple should be in the room, most of the time.
Segment 8: (5 min)
By the numbers
Why are there so many home runs in baseball right now? Something about the baseballs has changed, and they're experiencing less drag in-flight than before. This is a change that is noticeable just between 2015 and 2017.
I'm celebrating #WorldGothDay by wearing a pair of khakis and a polo shirt.
Unsorted and leftovers:
The Communist government on the mainland is engaged in a pressure and isolation campaign to put the screws to the Republic of China. And it's happening at a time of edgier relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China.
Unless those workers have some kind of bizarrely low marginal propensity to consume, then letting them into the country to work has, broadly, an economy-expanding effect. The United States is the world's most powerful magnet for talent, and the more of it we attract, the stronger a country we are.
Mind your business
A man reports that Pope Francis expressed compassion for him when he revealed that he was gay, saying "God made you like this and loves you like this and it doesn't matter to me. The pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are." That might be the kind of statement that aggravates the doctrinal purists, but regardless of its conformance with dogma, the Pope's reported statement sounds everything like one of pastoral care and concern. The Pope is, after all, a priest. And one would hope that any priest faced with another human being's anguish would choose to demonstrate concern, respect, and love rather than beating that person about the head with a strict interpretation of doctrine.
When the EF-5 is classed as total devastation, it's not an exaggeration
Contrary to popular opinion
Stop the deliberate ignorance
Victory comes from knowing your adversary better than he knows himself, not from mischaracterizing him.
The President makes a big mistake in continuing to use the "animal" language to categorize MS-13. They're terrible -- but doubling down on ineffective language doesn't make us better able to stop them.
Tin Foil Hat Award
China is bullying other countries for even acknowledging Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong: "China's aviation regulator last month sent letters to 36 airlines asking them to remove references on their websites or in other material that suggests Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau are part of countries independent from China"
Sentences that ought to be well-understood by American voters: "Taiwan and the United States must prepare for greater hostility in the coming years, almost certainly lasting out to the next Taiwan presidential election in 2020".
Yay Capitalism Prize
Capitalist solution of the week
One year ago
Five years ago
Ten years ago
Calendar events to highlight
CelebrAsian 2018 -- Western Gateway Park until 10:00 tonight