Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - June 9, 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

I try to avoid rank-ordering my friends. It's hard for me to pick and choose people, because I really do enjoy the company of anyone I consider a friend. I make lists so I don't forget to visit with people -- especially if I happen to visit their towns -- just because I haven't heard from them lately. When I chose the groomsmen and ushers for my wedding, I tried to pick friends from a cross-section of experiences, just to be sure I wasn't packing the wedding party with a bunch of people from one phase of life. Such are the challenges of being a hardened extrovert.

But I'm close to demoting someone who used to be a friend down to something like "light acquaintance". It pains me to do it, but we all make choices. His choices this week have been to tie two celebrity suicides -- those of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain -- to a conspiracy theory so absurd that it violates both logic and common decency.

I don't want to give the conspiracy theory any credibility, so I'll only give the nonsense a glance here -- it's a product of the "Qanon" subculture found online -- "Qanon" being the username of an account on a website called 4chan, which has long been a home for bad stuff on the web. (When I've said that you should keep your computer out of bad neighborhoods on the web, I've been talking about sites like 4chan, which I name only for the sake of the record here.)

But this friend of mine thinks he's getting insider news from this so-called "Qanon" figure, and the pied piper of conspiracy theorizing is telling my friend that a bunch of celebrities are going to prison soon in some kind of massive bust for all kinds of heinous crimes. It's truly a bonkers theory.

And that's why my friend is now popping off on Facebook saying that Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade killed themselves to avoid prosecution.

No. And if you have friends or family who are plugging into this utter garbage, please do as I've done and tell them why they need to stop.

Suicide is too real and too important a subject to let us dismiss it as fodder for conspiracy theories. It's the #10 cause of death in the United States overall. The rate is rising at a statistically-significant pace. And from ages 10 to 54, it's one of the top 5 killers in America.

That's not something to spin into conspiracy theory. It's something to take seriously as a very real threat to the lives of our loved ones.

I can't tell you what happened inside the minds of Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain. But there's often a connection between great artistic or other sensory talent and clinical depression. And there is too often a connection between clinical depression and suicide.

Everyone knows someone with clinical depression, whether we know it or not. It's just that prevalent. And it's a medical condition that's hard for those of us without it to understand. But we should try. (In fact, you can start by reading the brilliant, extremely well-written, and amusingly illustrated piece by Allie Brosh, found on her website "Hyperbole and a Half".)

We should try to understand that when someone's chemistry in the brain works in a certain way, it has to be treated carefully, thoughtfully, and professionally. When I had a bout with cancer ten years ago, nobody told me it was my fault or that it was only in my head or that I just needed to think different thoughts. Everyone recognized that it was a medical condition, that it was outside my control, and that I needed modern medicine to help me.

All of us need to show the same concern and respect for people with conditions of the brain -- whether it's depression or anxiety or any of a long list of other conditions -- and recognize that we have a part to play. You don't have to become an oncologist to show compassion and care to a patient with cancer, and you don't have to be a psychologist to show the same compassion and care to someone with a condition affecting the brain. We all should.

And part of that includes not cheapening the circumstances of loss by turning celebrity suicides into scripts for conspiracy theories. You don't have to know or be a fan of Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade to know that their work in food and fashion made lots of people happy, and that whatever led them to take their own lives is a tragedy for them and for their loved ones.

Maybe instead of spinning conspiracy theories, we should take some time to check in with our friends and family to see how they're doing. To remind them that we're around to help. To tell them that we take seriously whatever battles they face. To educate ourselves about what they face. And to care about what happens to their brains, just like we would care if something happened to their hearts.

Iowa is making institutional progress at how we're treating mental health care. We need to make cultural progress with it, too. Lives depend on it.

Segment 2: (8 min)

Segment 3: (14 min)

Segment 4: (5 min)

Segment 5: (11 min)

CityLab interview - Nicole Flatow

Segment 6: (8 min)

CityLab interview - Nicole Flatow

Segment 7: (14 min)

CityLab interview - Nicole Flatow

Segment 8: (5 min)

Stop the deliberate ignorance

I beg your pardon?

When President Trump tweeted the other day that "I have the absolute right to PARDON myself", it started the engine on a furious debate.

Since so much of the 2016 Presidential election reflected interest in the Supreme Court and who would replace Justice Antonin Scalia, let's try an originalist interpretation of the type Scalia championed: Pardon, by the original definition of the word, is a thing to be given ("donare" -- "to give" -- being the root of the latter part of the word). According to an originalist interpretation, then, the word as used by the Founders represented something to be given.

It's not difficult to understand that you cannot give something to yourself; you can only take it. Consequently, a pardon could not be taken by a President for him- or herself. Pardon must be given by someone who was offended by the action. In the case of the Presidential pardon, the President stands in as the offended party on behalf of the American people -- so it would be again impossible by that definition to be both the party offended by the crime and the party who committed the crime.

Pardons must be seen as part of a three-legged stool, along with the prohibitions on ex post facto laws (Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution) and the prohibition on double jeopardy (the Fifth Amendment).

Taken together, those three components make it clear that in the United States, what is legal is what the law says at the time of the act. We don't go back and retroactively punish people for things we decide later to make illegal, nor do we punish people for acts for which they have already been forgiven.

If a President could self-pardon, then no remedy would exist to ensure their prosecution for illegal acts -- unless we were to suspend the limits on ex post facto or on double jeopardy. And, not just from an originalist standpoint but from a practical one, it would be a titanic mistake to allow the rules to shift according to the occupant of the Oval Office at the time: We want neither lawlessness now, nor arbitrary persecution (and prosecution) of people after they've left office.

The judgment of history matters, and it should weigh heavily on all of our minds. Whether Congress does its duty to restrain a lawbreaking President via the impeachment process is largely dependent upon whether those members of Congress are concerned with their standing in the history books. But in an immediate sense, far from the reach of impeachment, it would be a mistake to give any citizen a blanket amnesty to break the law -- even (perhaps especially) the President -- and self-pardoning can be seen as nothing else.

The entirety of Presidential power is derived from an office that exists only to ensure that the law is executed faithfully. There can be no logical leap that gets us to a place where the power to execute the law is simultaneously a power to break the law without consequences.

In other words: Pardon me, but you cannot seriously believe that Presidents are allowed to pardon themselves.

Unsorted and leftovers:

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By the numbers

Make money

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Clean up after yourself

Mind your business

Quote of the Week

The week in technology

Your role in cyberwar

Iowa news

Contrary to popular opinion

Hyperbole is going to kill us all

21st Century conservatism

Curiosity, competence, and humility

Have a little empathy

Inbox zero

Tin Foil Hat Award

Yay Capitalism Prize

Capitalist solution of the week

Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day


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