Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - February 2, 2019

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.

Breaking news to watch


Segment 1: (11 min)

BUT FIRST: The opening essay

Dignity of the individual

Have a little empathy

Health Twins born at 22 weeks and one day of gestation

That's an incredible 18 weeks early, and their survival is a testament to the absolutely superhuman work of the people working at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Abortion fight in Virginia

Being consistent with the refugee problem on the border and the Syria death toll

Threats and Hazards 1,437 children

The number killed in Syria's civil war last year. Fewer than in 2017 (2,109) or in 2016 (2,372). Yet still 1,437 too many.

Senate rebuke of the hasty Syria announcement was overdue

See individuals as people, even though our problems often fall into groups

Why do we care about the giant fentanyl bust? Because of its impact on individuals. So we should fight it in smart ways.

But we have to start -- and finish -- by seeing the plight of individuals, valuing their dignity one at a time, and reasoning with their problems apart from what we think of them

Quote of the Week

Federalist Paper No. 51: "If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure."

The moral of the story: We're all minorities of some sort, and we'd better be utterly committed to that fact

Segment 2: (8 min)

Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day

Best kids' programs -- am I missing the best ones?

Broadcasting Children's television programs, ranked

(1) Sesame Street; (2) Super Why; (3) Curious George; (4) Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood; (5) Little Baby Bum. And basically everything else is just miserable garbage designed to sell junk or induce vomiting in adults.


News The floodgates have opened on 2020

A squadron of candidates have suddenly announced real intentions of running for President -- Sen. Cory Booker (announced Feb. 1), Sen. Kamala Harris (Jan. 27), Pete Buttigieg (Jan. 23), and...maybe...Sen. Sherrod Brown. But Brown may need to work on his elevator pitch: The Des Moines Register captures him telling an Iowa audience "I don't know yet" when asked what makes him different as a candidate. You, too, may be a candidate for President and perhaps you just don't know it yet. Of note: Among the prominent names we've heard in (or near) the crowded Democratic field, only Hickenlooper and Bullock have experience as governors. Only Bloomberg and Castro have experience as big-city mayors. This could make a real difference in the end: Elected-executive experience matters, as routinely demonstrated by the shortcomings of POTUS 45 (and POTUS 44).

The moral of the story: Sane people want both parties to put forward the most palatable candidates possible, since odds are usually somewhere close to 50-50 that one of them will get elected

Segment 3: (14 min)

Your role in cyberwar

Computers and the Internet Facebook is a main cyberwarfare battleground

The company says it "removed 783 pages, groups, and accounts that were being used in a coordinated disinformation campaign "directed from Iran". And here's why Iran would do such a thing: Asymmetry of results. The Facebook report says they found "Less than $30,000 in spending for ads", but the pages reached more than 2 million users.

The week in technology

Computers and the Internet Apple and Facebook go to digital war

Apple is seeking to punish Facebook in a visible way for violating Apple's terms for applications. Facebook was using the "Facebook Research" app (according to impressive reporting by TechCrunch) to gather data on everything users did with their phones. It paid those users to give up their privacy -- apparently to the tune of $20 a month -- which is an interesting market price signal. (The number seems terribly low, given the amount of intrusion. But in reality, users routinely give up a lot of privacy for free without even acknowledging or realizing it.) But the PR nightmare here is that the users Facebook solicited were ages 13 to 35, and that means the headline becomes "Facebook paid teens $20 a month to give up their privacy". It's worth repeating: Facebook isn't your friend.

Google+ sends out final warning

The moral of the story: Trust nobody online. There are plenty of liars and they're proliferating. If they want your info, that's twice the reason to keep it private. If it's worth saving, save it for yourself.

Segment 4: (5 min)

By the numbers

Health Overdosed ibuprofen recalled from Walmart, CVS, and Family Dollar stores

The company says the doses may be about 10% higher than listed.

The moral of the story:

Segment 5: (11 min)

Iowa news

Iowa Winter calculus

Winter in Iowa is just one long calculus equation, in which you try to decide which coat to wear based on the number of minutes you'll spend outside, how many of those minutes will be in the sun, and how quickly you'll overheat once you get indoors.

Weather and Disasters -40° -- where metric meets standard

If this is what it takes to get America on the metric system, then it's a bridge too far. On the bright side, though, cold winters are a pretty significant deterrent to scorpions, deadly spiders, and rattlesnakes.

The United States of America Chicago has a team of Good Samaritans

After a propane tank exploded at a homeless encampment near downtown, first responders confiscated a whole bunch of the tanks (out of concern for safety), but that would have left dozens of people literally out in the cold. Their other option was to go to a shelter, but a group of South Side business owners stepped up and provided a few days of hotel lodging for about 100 people.

Water News Still on the job in the cold

Low-temperature records are falling. Schools are closed. Even US Mail delivery has been suspended. But public utilities are still open. Never a day off.

Weather and Disasters Super-cold temperatures could kill a lot of emerald ash borer larvae

At least some good might come of the cold snap

Have fun

Iowa Des Moines needs a good winter festival

The metro needs some kind of mid-winter event so we can look forward to something fun when it's apocalyptically cold outside. Like, when it's gas-station-wiper-fluid-still-frozen degrees out. And you can't count the Iowa caucuses, because that's just a once-every-four-years open-mic night.

Weather and Disasters Better on someone's shoulders than on your coat hanger

As Midwesterners rifle through their closets for winter gear, we ought to consider giving under-used garments to our local shelters, where they might do some good.

The moral of the story: Unless you have a plan to get rid of winter, we ought to have a plan to make it worth looking forward to

Segment 6: (8 min)

Iowa news

Weather and Disasters Ice quakes go boom in the night

Subsurface moisture is freezing in the extraordinary cold, causing the ground to "boom". Though you could be forgiven for thinking a pterodactyl had crashed into your house.

21st Century conservatism

The United States of America True conservatives aren't reactionary

A thoughtful column by Avi Woolf: "Conservatives are supposed to be the immovable rock in the storm, the adult in the room, the stubborn, obstinate but level-headed individuals who stand for the things that matter long after fads and fashions have passed..."

The moral of the story:

Segment 7: (14 min)

Municipal minute

Humor and Good News What city would your hero build?

Benjamin Franklin's charter city: Libraries everywhere, walkable access to science museums, and cutting-edge fire protection. Also, probably a lot of pubs. Maybe that's something for us to think about today.

Computers and the Internet Free technology repair may be the next big library mission

Despair, if you must, about the condition of national politics. But know that the really interesting stuff is happening at the state and municipal levels, where people's problems are visible up-close.

The moral of the story:

Segment 8: (5 min)

Tin Foil Hat Award

Threats and Hazards The worst is yet to come

In testimony to Congress, the Director of National Intelligence offers this decidedly uncheery report: "We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 US elections as an opportunity to advance their interests. We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other's experiences and efforts in previous elections."

Threats and Hazards The President dismisses his entire intelligence community

If a foreign head of state insulted American intelligence agencies like this, we would them a likely adversary. The President's temperament and lack of even a shred of humility makes him profoundly ill-suited to his job. As Calvin Coolidge suggested, "Any man who has been placed in the White House cannot feel that it is the result of his own exertions or his own merit. Some power outside and beyond him becomes manifest through him."

The moral of the story:

Unsorted and leftovers:

This week

Aviation News Gamble of the century for Boeing

Should they build a 797 that could cannibalize parts of their lucrative 737 and 787 ranges? If they don't, will Airbus eat their lunch?

Aviation News The Airbus A380 may be among the walking dead

Emirates Airline may be reconsidering an order for the super-jumbo jets, which could mean the whole program is doomed

Iowa Cable median barriers prevent head-on crash

(Video) Iowa DOT footage shows a car skidding out on icy I-380, crashing into police cars in the median, and being stopped by a cable barrier in the median -- almost certainly preventing an even more serious head-on crash with oncoming traffic.

News What we read when everyone is watching

It's interesting to watch answers to questions like "What are seven books you love?" from high-profile people who are supposed to be highly knowledgeable about current events, but scrupulously non-partisan -- like Jeff Glor, anchor of the CBS Evening News. His picks include a classic on Theodore Roosevelt and a David Halberstam work. But it's almost predictable that he chose a Lincoln-centric piece first. Picks like Glor's really tell us which are the safest parts of the American consensus. Lincoln? Extremely safe.

Health Cold-weather safety tip: Check your CO monitors

Carbon-monoxide detection is a must wherever anything is combusted indoors (or near indoors) -- natural gas, LP, wood, gasoline, diesel, or otherwise

Make money

Business and Finance Federal Reserve sticks with stable interest rates

They're still targeting 2.25% to 2.5% for the federal funds rate, with perceptions that inflation is at 2%. By historical standards, that remains an insanely low real rate of inflation. The Fed says the flat interest rate choice is made "In light of global economic and financial developments and muted inflation pressures" -- which is the kind of thing you usually hear with someone audibly clearing their throat. What could possibly go wrong right now...other than Brexit, another government shutdown, trade wars, or a bad POTUS tweet?

Clean up after yourself

Business and Finance New CBO outlook has Federal debt on dreadful path

With no changes to current policies, we're looking at a debt as big as the entire GDP in a decade. And that's just debt held by the public. Add in the intragovernmental holdings in trust funds, and we're pretty well at the 100% ratio already. The mass delusion that we can ignore this problem without consequences is astonishing. This isn't an imaginary monster hiding under the bed. In accounting, debt is usually the one thing that is always very, very real.

Mind your business

Business and Finance Principal Financial warns of likely layoffs ahead

The financial-services sector isn't hot right now, and that meant net income for 2018 was a lot lower than in 2017.

Contrary to popular opinion

Computers and the Internet Why it's so hard for the Defense Department to get into cyber

It's hard not to become convinced that the Defense Department ought to stand up a full-fledged branch dedicated to cyber, complete with its own laws of combat, mission accountability, and a service academy.

Hyperbole is going to kill us all

Curiosity, competence, and humility

News There's no excuse for only using half our brains

Women and men (and boys and girls) need to spend time doing constructive, merit-based work together.

Inbox zero

Stop the deliberate ignorance

Yay Capitalism Prize

Capitalist solution of the week


Humor and Good News Some kind of wacky recursive art thing has emerged on Reddit

Harmlessly silly fun like this ought to come with reasonably high confidence that artificial intelligence will never see the humor, which may be what keeps us human after all.

One year ago

Five years ago

Ten years ago

Programming notes

The Iowa Hawkeyes had their biggest win of the winter by beating the (#5) Michigan Wolverines 74-59 last night.

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Live read: Smart speakers (hour 1)

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Live read: Smart speakers (hour 2)

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Calendar events to highlight


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