Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio

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

That rumble of thunder you heard this week might have been a round of thundersleet -- we did seem to get one of those the other day -- but it might also have been the "Green New Deal" being launched by the left wing in Congress.

Now, I think it's important not just to know when we disagree about things in politics, but why -- what things divide us. In general, I think you can break down disagreements into cases where you disagree about the facts, the goals, and/or the solutions. It's quite possible to agree on one or two of the three and still have a difference of opinion.

The "Green New Deal", we are told, is an agenda to create a healthier environment. And there is evidence that we have some work to do on that front. NASA released a fairly unambiguous report this week saying that global surface temperatures across the planet were "the fourth warmest since 1880", and drawing a clear connection to a climate trend rather than a one-off aberration.

I have a hard time disagreeing on those facts.

* * *

Weather and Disasters NASA offers a pretty unambiguous take on climate change

When they say "Since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit", it's pretty hard to dispute that something is going on. But agreeing on the facts and agreeing on the diagnosis don't guarantee that we'll agree on the prescription.

* * *

But what about the goals and what about the solutions?

To the extent that the goal is to behave in a manner that is literally conservative about the planet's resources, I'm on board. If we can reduce waste, conserve energy, pollute less, and collect more power from renewable sources, I think those are, broadly, favorable goals. I think government works best when it avoids waste. I think that businesses in the private sector benefit from eliminating waste. And I think that in our households, we're wise to conserve where we reasonably can.

Where I take the off-ramp is where people think that the right goal is to radically alter the economic order or the political system by slashing our choices and tossing out our way of life.


I will say one good thing for the "Green New Deal": We should expect Congress -- particularly the House -- to come up with wacky ideas. If we're not hearing crazy things from the House, they're not trying hard enough to come up with new answers to our problems. Remember, they're supposed to be the nuts, the Senate is supposed to put the brakes on their bad ideas, and the President's veto is supposed to be a backstop against the worst of their ideas turning into law. But as voters, we have a right to expect the House to be volatile, a little nutty, and most of all, highly responsive to what local voters in specific places want. And there are specific places where a "Green New Deal" is wanted -- just like there are specific places where we want something radically different.

Socialism Doesn't Work Decide what you want, limit those wants, then pay for them in full

The proponents of "Modern Monetary Theory" make convoluted arguments that boil down to "deficits don't matter, because the government can just print more money". The fundamental problem with this is that the bill always comes due -- even if you try to bury it with inflation.

Business and Finance You can't fight global warming with inflationary hot air

The "Green New Deal" package being floated by left-wingers in Congress includes a massive amount of new government management of the economy, and the supposed promises are all supposed to be payable via a cockamamie scheme that falsely purports to pay for itself. "Green New Deal" promises have to be viewed in the same way as promised "multiplier effects" from publicly-funded sports facilities. It's easy to offer rosy payback forecasts -- but when public dollars are at stake, debts are real even when hopes aren't. Decide what you want, limit those wants as much as possible, then pay for it all.

The moral of the story: Congress ought to discuss really stupid ideas once in a while. They should also stop them from becoming law.

Segment 2: (8 min)

Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day

Computers and the Internet Is email superior to an in-person meeting?

It is if the other person is going to blow off the meeting -- that's for sure. Email still seems in many ways like the "fast" way to do things -- especially if there's any follow-up required. Unless the other person is guaranteed to have the information you need right now, the beautiful asynchronicity of email seems much more time-efficient than other choices. But maybe that's a Generation X bias talking.

The moral of the story:

Segment 3: (14 min)

The week in technology

Computers and the Internet Microsoft officially begs you to stop using Internet Explorer

From their "Windows IT Pro Blog", a request that IT people stop letting their users surf the Internet with MSIE, because it's not being kept up to date

Broadcasting Channel-surfing mode

Netflix and Hulu are great, but they really need a channel-surfing mode. The joy of stumbling across "Ferris Bueller" or "The Big Lebowski" somewhere in the second act just can't be fully replicated on-demand. Serendipity still counts for something.

Computers and the Internet Google pulls the plug on Fiber in Louisville

One of their test markets will lose Google's super-high-speed Internet service in just over two months, on April 15th. Google says the entire Louisville network would have to be rebuilt to fix a persistent problem with the physical cables. It's not uncharacteristic of Google to simply pull the plug on a project, and the company's ever-growing legacy of leaving projects high and dry surely must give prospective paying customers (of things like its business services) some serious second thoughts about trusting the company with any mission-critical services. This falls hot on the heels of them killing Google Plus.

The moral of the story:

Segment 4: (5 min)


News National Pizza Day

There's a holiday for everything -- at least everything with a marketing person and a hashtag behind it

The moral of the story:

Segment 5: (11 min)

This week

News A tabloid war with one of the wealthiest people in the world

Jeff Bezos (of Amazon fame) has declared war on the National Enquirer

The moral of the story:

Segment 6: (8 min)

Make money

Business and Finance Is Amazon really reconsidering putting HQ2 in New York?

It could be true. It could also just be a negotiating tactic.

Segment 7: (14 min)

Have fun

Broadcasting The greatest Cold War movie is "Dr. Strangelove"

There were countless great Cold War movies -- "Hunt for Red October" was certainly one of them, as are "Fail Safe" and "Seven Days in May", among many others. But "Dr Strangelove" was not only brilliant in its own right, its exploration of game theory and deterrence remains 100% relevant even today. Peter Sellers is brilliant (playing three parts), and George C. Scott is positively inspired as General Buck Turgidson.

Clean up after yourself

News Woman gives birth, unassisted, on a Chicago CTA bus

No medical professionals on board -- just mom and her husband

Mind your business

News Sen. Elizabeth Warren announces Presidential run

It's certainly not unexpected -- and she's made every sign she's going to push for the left-hand side of the economic spectrum. It was just this past August when she proposed her "Accountable Capitalism Act", which contained a handful of interesting ideas and a whole slew of terrible ones that ignore the fundamentals of how an economy works.

The moral of the story:


Humor and Good News "Ignatian yoga"

The name suggests that you get into a Sphinx pose, then a Jesuit walks across your back.

Tin Foil Hat Award

News The stupidest of arguments

A man is suing his parents for giving birth to him without his consent. This peculiar philosophy -- "anti-natalism" -- seems to be one of the stupidest forms of nihilism.

Threats and Hazards Stop "nutpicking"

The phrase, in the words of Sen. Ben Sasse, describes what happens when "people scour the news to find a random person saying or doing something really dumb, and then use that nutjob to disparage an entire group of people, as if the nut is representative." This behavior is a mainstay of lazy broadcast and online opinion-making, and it's rewarded when audiences fail to demand better. When people feed their brains nothing but their own confirmation bias, it's the mental equivalent of taking up a diet based on potato chips.

The moral of the story:

Segment 8: (5 min)

Stop the deliberate ignorance

News Maybe we need a partisan press again

Newspapers used to be nakedly and unabashedly partisan, which is why Iowa has newspapers with names like "Marshalltown Times-Republican" and "Bloomfield Democrat". It's historically illiterate to suggest otherwise. What we see today are partisans who object to the framing of stories they do or don't like, and that is more a reflection of the "receiver" than the "sender" (in the widely-accepted model of communications). But it's also inescapable that editorial choices (forced by various forms of scarcity -- like the scarcity of room on the front page, or of letters in a headline, or of time to cover the news in a 30-minute broadcast) will reflect judgment calls, and those judgment calls are informed by the sender's understanding of the world. So when people who want the world framed in ways that are favorable to them encounter framing choices that they don't like, it could reflect bias (on the part of either the sender or the receiver), or it could simply reflect incongruity in how different people see the same world.

The moral of the story:

Unsorted and leftovers:

This week

Threats and Hazards The White House is answerable to Congress, even when it tries not to answer

The Senate sent the Executive Branch a request for a report on the Saudi Arabian government's responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. He was killed on October 2nd, and the Senate requested the report (with a 120-day deadline) on October 10th. It's now overdue. And it should be a reminder than the President is accountable to Congress, not the other way around. The Executive Branch doesn't get to say "No" just because it doesn't like what it's been told to do.

News It's hard to debate without the right language

We need a shorthand way to discuss the differences we have with others, depending on the source of disagreement: Is it a difference of facts? A difference of goals? A difference of solutions? It would be really helpful at breaking us out of the "I'm right/You're stupid" binary to which so many people seem to be addicted.

News Who wants to be governor of Virginia?

The political avalanche of the last few days exposes a cultural problem: We might not be structuring our political incentives and systems to send the most desirable people to office. As Bill Gates said in 2016 about running for President: "I wouldn't be good at doing what you need to do to get elected." There should be little to no doubt that someone of Gates's ability would be up to the task -- especially if he were to spend time in elected-executive office at the state level (as a governor, preferably). But the way we treat politics may be a significant disincentive to getting the best people into office, and that has social costs. It's a problem not easily solved.

By the numbers

News Millions of cars added to Takata airbag recall

Subaru, Volkswagen, and others are now involved

Quote of the Week

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

Yay Capitalism Prize

Capitalist solution of the week

One year ago

Five years ago

Ten years ago

Programming notes

3pm-5:30pm: Iowa WBB at Ohio State (no pregame)
5:30pm-8:30pm: Iowa MBB vs. Northwestern (no pregame)

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