Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - December 29, 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.
Breaking news to watch
- Did anyone bid for Sears?
- Government shutdown continues
- Des Moines Airport departures for people headed to Tampa for the Outback Bowl
Segment 1: (11 min)
BUT FIRST: The opening essay
Along Ashworth Road, a series of churches all built in the same general era
Episcopal, Presbyterian, and LDS
Brick-exterior of a particular style
Compare to Valley High School just slightly down the block, which has basically been completely torn down and rebuilt from scratch
Is it better to build the thing that looks like it'll stay for 100 years, or is it better to tear down and rebuild after 40 years?
It's hard to anticipate what's coming next -- if you had to rewire an entire school for corded Internet, that's one thing. If you're just plugging in some WiFi routers, then there's not so much required.
But most of us went through corded Internet networks first, before migrating to WiFi.
Segment 2: (8 min)
By the numbers/Totally unnecessary debate of the day
What is it with Black Velvet drinkers in Iowa?
The whiskey is the #1 liquor brand sold in Iowa -- by a big margin over #2 (Fireball) and by a giant margin over #3 (Captain Morgan). It is nearly eight times as popular as a fine Irish whiskey like Jameson.
The Alamo Bowl ran out of Busch Light, too. Our state's revealed preferences for alcohol types really trouble me. It burns a hole in my soul that my beloved Jameson ranks only #25 in sales here. Hawkeye Vodka (and fuel-injector cleanser) is #4.
Segment 3: (14 min)
Eddie Lampert submits last-minute bid for Sears
He's already the chair of the board, but it looks like an affiliate of his hedge fund has offered $4.4 billion for the company, which is pretty much its only alternative to a complete shutdown and liquidation. Regardless, the company is closing another 80 Sears and Kmart stores, in addition to the many it's already closed. One problem for the company is that it hasn't turned a profit since 2010.
Wells Fargo to pay more than half a billion dollars to settle fake accounts
In a settlement with all 50 states (and DC), the company will pay out $575 million to the states (Iowa will get about $6.2 million, to be allocated to the Consumer Education and Litigation Fund). Another $1.6 billion is going to restitution and Federal penalties in other resolutions.
Manufacturing may come back to the States. Manufacturing jobs may not.
Automation is changing the economic prospects for domestic production, but automation won't create a lot of old-style factory jobs. Paradigm shifts are the hardest to sell. We have so many people emotionally invested in a smokestack-economy vision of manufacturing that even progress like this will instigate blowback.
What's an "affordable" college education, really?
Our meta-problem is that we continue to treat the college degree as a destination. It may be a well-worn commencement-speaker cliche to say "This is just a beginning", but the 21st Century really does demand that we think about everyone having a path through a non-stop, life-long education. And "everyone" means everyone, without exception.
Tin Foil Hat Award
Sen. Bernie Sanders remains a one-way ticket to disaster
In a fundraising email, his people volley a tirade against Third Way Democrats. But the simple fact is that Sanders is toxic and would be a two-time disaster for the Democrats.
Segment 4: (5 min)
Florida Man moves north. https://t.co/pEyeNjPCez— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 28, 2018
Power plant explosion in New York City causes unnaturally blue sky at night
And when something like this happens somewhere else, it ought to be a good reminder for the rest of us to check our own preparations for power outages (that might last a good long time...). A cell phone flashlight isn't good enough. And travel with extra batteries, because there isn't always an outlet to save you.
Segment 5: (11 min)
Mind your business
Another swing at the local option sales tax?
On January 2nd, the West Des Moines City Council will consider a resolution to send the local-option sales and services tax proposal to Polk County. So will Des Moines. The vote would tentatively be scheduled for March 5th. Both councils are considering proposals to put 50% of the revenues into property-tax relief.
Sales taxes are naturally regressive, but they also tend to be very good for the incentives they reinforce
Property taxes are a tough way to fund things, especially for Des Moines, where so much land is untaxed
Des Moines hiked property taxes last year.
Determine what you want first, limit those wants as much as possible, then pay for it
Segment 6: (8 min)
If "milk" must apply only to stuff from dairy cows, what about baby oil?
While there's definitely something to be said for truth in advertising, is anyone left more confused (rather than less) by the notion of "almond milk" or "soy milk"? Those names generally serve to make things more clear to the consumer, rather than less.
Segment 7: (14 min)
Stop the deliberate ignorance
It's not just soybean farmers who are suffering from trade nonsense
The Trump Administration's decision to keep the US out of the TPP means Australian farmers are going to have a strategic advantage in selling wheat and beef to markets like Japan, where the US is going to face tariffs that the Aussies won't. Multilateral trade deals are the best trade deals.
China didn't import American soybeans last month
File under: Trade wars are stupid
Segment 8: (5 min)
21st Century conservatism
The most important thing Jonah Goldberg gets right in this piece is that "What [the President's] defenders overlook is that his insults are not simply an act". His shortage (nay, absence?) of personal character is a choice. And it is a choice, too, when others defend it.
Clean up after yourself
Two years in, the President is growing more isolated by the day
Ever been around when a family has to take away a driver's license from a senior family member? Nobody wants to do it, and everyone sidesteps the issue, usually until something truly dangerous happens. It's like that, except this particular senior has the nuclear launch codes. Some are asking whether the Mattis resignation truly signals such a terrible warning, and whether he would leave the job if he thought it left the country in real peril. Think of Secretary Mattis like a fighter pilot in a plane that has been hit: If he thinks it's recoverable, he'll struggle to make it to a landing strip. But if so much additional fire comes in that the wings are lost, he has no choice but to punch out. The danger exists either way.
The Federal government shutdown -- coinciding with the Mattis resignation and the seating of the new Congress -- has me concerned.
Unsorted and leftovers:
Hospital price transparency comes January 1st
They'll have to post list prices online. It's not a perfect fix, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.
How Facebook moderates more content than you think
"The [New York] Times was provided with more than 1,400 pages from the rulebooks by an employee who said he feared that the company was exercising too much power"
Iowa has a new state epidemiologist
We're social animals, so it's impossible to have health care without spending time, attention, and money on public health
Aircraft window shades up or down?
Cabin crews sometimes ask passengers to put the window shades down shortly after landing in order to keep the cabin cool -- which is a pretty radical departure from the old days, when that was a signal of a hijacking. Here's another reason why it's a bad idea: Eyes take time to adjust to outdoor brightness, and if something goes wrong (even on the ground), then passengers need to be oriented to the hazards around them in an instant.
A $17 million home with just four bedrooms. But it's gorgeous.
May we continue expanding our sensibilities about mental wellness
Our country will be much better off when we bring the same prevention-oriented, everyone-does-it attitude to mental wellness that we give to dental care. Nobody gets judged for having a filling. Just as there is a compelling public-health case for dental care (including the use of fluoride in public water systems), there is also a compelling public-health case for widespread access to preventative mental wellness care.
They'll learn far more words from children's books than they will from television
Six things to love about Des Moines for the holidays
The lights on Terrace Hill are a good place to start
A Christmas list attached to a red balloon
Launched in Mexico, it made its way to a rancher in Arizona -- who tracked down the youthful sender and delivered her wishes
The Secretary of Defense sends a message to the troops
His holiday greeting includes one line worthy of extra attention: "Storm clouds loom, yet because of you your fellow citizens live safe at home." One wonders which particular storm clouds loom largest in his mind.
The world needs to speak up for the Uighurs in China
It seems a million people or more have been detained without trial over their ethnic and religious identity. That's appalling -- especially if one legitimately believes that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
From "Christmas Catholics" to regular churchgoers
A worthwhile perspective from America Magazine: "That is what being a stranger means: Not being known is part of it, but not knowing is the rest."
There are better things to say than "You're so cute!"
Ask girls about themselves instead of passing judgment (no matter how seemingly innocuous) on their looks.
"I see how few monsters there are among us"
A counterterrorism-expert-turned-local-cop says he thinks most people are decent. What a great sentiment, and true. Most people -- really, most people, and that means everywhere -- are trying their best to be good. All fall short, some more often than others. But the real monsters are few.
UNHCR seeks donations for refugees
There are a lot of them in the world right now -- too many. And it's turning cold in much of the Northern Hemisphere.
In the words of Bret Stephens: "Mattis also resigned because he has concluded that the problem with Trump isnít that he's an empty vessel. Itís that he's a malignant one." Mattis's resignation is a powerful sign and a significant gauntlet to be thrown down. It does nothing to counter the narrative that the President is thin-skinned and incapable of managing people well that he has decided to force Mattis out early.
The President is taking Turkish advice above his own Defense Secretary
It's truly incredible. The President already has a problem with keeping civil-military relations on the right track domestically. But now he's revealing a preference for foreign authoritarians over his own professional warriors. Maybe it's time to stock up on canned goods.
What is the Secretary of the Treasury doing with urgent Sunday phone calls?
The calls -- seeking to offer reassurance to major banks about the liquidity of the financial system -- wouldn't be necessary if not for a totally unnecessary Federal government shutdown and Presidential threats to try to fire the Fed chair. The administration has no one to blame but the guy who wasted his Sunday afternoon taunting Bob Corker.
Nine last-minute gift ideas that could save Christmas
Especially for that person who has everything
Volcano causes tsunami in Indonesia
Dozens of people have been killed; possibly more
Quote of the Week
The week in technology
If you count on Facebook as your lone marketing strategy...don't
It's a useful tool, but the fickleness with which it is managed makes it fundamentally unreliable
Your role in cyberwar
Contrary to popular opinion
Hyperbole is going to kill us all
Curiosity, competence, and humility
Have a little empathy
20 million people are starving right now
A number of people roughly equal to the combined populations of Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. That they live in faraway Yemen shouldn't discount anyone's sense of the tragedy. And it is particularly galling because the starvation is truly economic in nature, rather than something more unavoidable.
Sudden US withdrawal from Syria has Kurds looking for new allies in a hurry
There's no love lost between them and the Turkish government just over the border
Yay Capitalism Prize
Capitalist solution of the week
One year ago
Five years ago
Ten years ago
6pm-7pm: Hawkeye pregame
7pm-10pm: Iowa MBB vs. Bryant
11:45am: Hawkeye pregame
12pm-2:30pm: Iowa WBB at Michigan State
4pm-5pm: Retirement Ready with Eric Peterson
5pm-6pm: Compute This
6:30pm-7:30pm: FIGHT FOR IOWA! Outback Bowl Preview Show
9:00 am: Pregame
11:00 am: Outback Bowl - Iowa vs. Mississippi State (in Tampa, Florida, at Raymond James Stadium)
SoundOff to follow
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Live read: Smart speakers (hour 1)
Live read: Smart speakers (hour 2)
Calendar events to highlight
- Podcast of this specific episode (forthcoming)
- Official station page for this episode (forthcoming)