Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - March 9, 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

Wife went out of town on a business trip for the better part of a week and I held down the fort with the house and kids in her absence.

I reject any silly descriptions of this as being "Mr. Mom" or "babysitting" or "daddy day care" -- it's just being a parent.

But it's hard, just because two sets of hands are better than one. There's more to worry about when you're on your own, and there's no time truly off.

Gives me enormous empathy for people who are single parents all the time.

Also gives me empathy for those who are solo-parents for weeks or months at a time when their spouses deploy on military service. For instance, my sister-in-law.

That kind of experience is taxing in multiple ways. The administrative work of keeping house without them, of course, but also the emotional tax.

When our servicemembers are deployed, it's a big deal to their families and communities. And it's a big deal when a whole family is moved to a new duty station, especially overseas.

But we are served as a country by the finest armed forces in the world. A professional corps across branches and all over the world, acting in many cases as the world's sheriff -- not a lone beat cop, but a sheriff rounding up a posse to serve the greater good.

So imagine the dismay of the scoop from Bloomberg:

News A protection racket?

The President has his people "drawing up demands that Germany, Japan and eventually any other country hosting U.S. troops pay the full price of American soldiers deployed on their soil -- plus 50 percent or more for the privilege of hosting them", per a truly insane report from Bloomberg. ■ Even just floating a trial balloon on an idea this stupid is enough to undermine decades of mutual trust and embolden rival powers. That is just Game Theory 101, but yet it's clearly too sophisticated for him to grasp. We are trapped in the President's broken framework for the world -- everything, to him, is literally a one-off transaction. He has shown not a shred of evidence that he thinks any two parties remember what happened in their last interaction. ■ Our military servicemembers are professionals in service of a just and free world, not mercenaries. Our allies are friends, not clients. How he frames this issue is just so very wrong. Anyone who doubts the multiplier effects of alliances among friends ought to read Dwight Eisenhower's memoir of WWII. He makes it plain that accommodating friends was a means of saving resources. If we can't carry over some lessons learned from WWII, we're in huge trouble.

Threats and Hazards Why those artificial islands China is building are such a point of contention

Claiming territory in heavily-trafficked international waters makes for a big issue

The moral of the story:

Segment 2: (8 min)

Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day

The moral of the story:

Segment 3: (14 min)

Technology Three

Broadcasting Steven Spielberg wants Netflix movies out of Oscar contention

He wants them to compete for Emmy awards instead. There's not a single thing that's principled about pushing them out -- it's just a way to protect one's industry. Guilds are gonna guild, it would seem.

Computers and the Internet Facebook's leadership still doesn't get what they really are

Mark Zuckerberg is trying vastly too hard with his metaphors. Facebook isn't a town square, and it's not a living room. It's a busy and long-neglected subway stop full of buskers and confused old people, where nobody can hear the announcements but the walls are covered in posters.

Weather and Disasters Forecasting is really good -- now, to figure out public messaging

Marshall Shepherd: "A good forecast is not good if it is not received and acted upon. Even as meteorologists point out how good the forecast was, the sad reality is that people still died. We are in the business of saving lives and property; not self-affirmation." ■ Atmospheric science has made giant strides -- permitting forecasters to see severe storm outbreaks days in advance, and to issue high-quality warnings when the storms arrive. Now, it's time for social science to make similar strides. This is actually an area where economists can have a surprising impact: Behavioral econ is all about questions of risk and expectations. If people are irrational in their personal risk-reward calculations, then there's probably room for economists to hold hands with meteorologists and start figuring out ways to help people make smarter decisions.

The moral of the story:

Segment 4: (5 min)

"Simpsons" nukes old Michael Jackson episode

The moral of the story:

Segment 5: (11 min)

Tin Foil Hat Award

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's plan to break up Google, Facebook, and Amazon

21st Century conservatism

The United States of America Moderation doesn't mean an absence of principles

Public intellectual Brad Delong has recently offered an indigestion-inducing argument that the center-right should be abandoned by its correspondents on the center-left. Among the many problems with that analysis is the conflation of party registrations with identity. Twitter addicts notwithstanding, most Americans are largely disinterested in politics. It's the disinterest in politics that leads generally moderate people to register as independents or abstain from voting, giving much greater leverage to the radicals in the primaries and (consequently) in general elections. ■ Tall buildings in seismic zones need oscillation dampers to keep them from tipping over. Both the left and right need vibrant idea centers with a moderate inclination to keep them from tipping over -- especially in populist earthquakes. The ordinary, mostly-disengaged voter needs to hear sound ideas that generally comport with their basic worldview. Most people aren't really tuned-in most of the time! A moderate, non-radical revival on either side of center is a good thing. ■ As John Stuart Mill once wrote, "The fatal tendency of mankind to leave off thinking about a thing when it is no longer doubtful, is the cause of half their errors. A contemporary author has well spoken of 'the deep slumber of a decided opinion.'" The sane members of the center-right need to make the case for their principles as though nobody has ever heard them before. And to make them over and over and over again, without tiring. The colossal level of stupidity is on full display by members of Congress who think they're in the old game played in 3rd grade -- the one when kids discover a forbidden word and compete to see who can whisper it loudest before the substitute teacher flips out. It's not going to get better if those within a reasonable radius of the center decide to give up the fight and let others run wild. Civilization depends on a surprising amount of persuasion.

The United States of America Which type of liberalism shall we have?

Classical? Neo? Something else? Any at all? Whenever one's Hayekian or Chicago School impulses really take hold, it's worth remembering that certain redistributive policies that bother me in theory are the price we pay to secure self-government in a deliberative democratic republic. A social-cohesion tax, if you will.

The moral of the story:

Segment 6: (8 min)

It's the most terrible time of the year

DST changeover is the worst time of the year

Two kinds of people: Those who think it's nuts to change clocks twice a year, and people who are wrong.

It's the worst kind of government transfer: From ourselves, to ourselves, with no interest paid

If you want to get up an hour earlier, change your own clocks

This is terrible if you have small children or pets

It's also terrible if you're a normal human being -- people actually die because of the switch.

So, check your smoke detector batteries. Check your carbon-monoxide detector, too. Then reprogram the clock on your microwave and your stove before bed tonight. And ask yourself why we go through this stupid exercise twice a year.

The moral of the story:

Segment 7: (14 min)

The moral of the story:

Segment 8: (5 min)

The moral of the story:

Unsorted and leftovers:

This week

News Just one day

Chicago sportswriter Julie DiCaro says for International Women's Day, "All I want is to have a single day where a man doesn't try to explain something blatantly obvious to me." That seems like it shouldn't be much to ask, and yet it is.

Threats and Hazards Bombs in London

Deutsche Welle: "Three suspicious packages were found on Tuesday at Heathrow Airport, London City Airport and Waterloo railway station in the British capital."

The United States of America March Madness: When Madisonian Federalism gets its biggest stage?

James Madison: "Many considerations, besides those suggested on a former occasion, seem to place it beyond doubt that the first and most natural attachment of the people will be to the governments of their respective States." ■ But do we see that outside of the NCAA tournament season? Despite the silly framing, it's a serious question.

Computers and the Internet Point: "Twitter is no damn good for anyone"

Counterpoint: Twitter is like any agora. The freedom to interact and exchange acts as an invitation for people of bad faith to act badly. But when decent people gather in the right places (like #econtwitter, for instance), it really can facilitate some great results.

Threats and Hazards Fort Dodge police officer gets sick from likely drug exposure

From the Fort Dodge Messenger: "While at the scene of the traffic stop, the officer handled an unknown substance [...] the officer began feeling dizzy, and asked the dispatcher to send medical help. At the Law Enforcement Center, another officer found him lethargic and unresponsive in his patrol vehicle."

By the numbers

Health Giant study from Denmark shows no sign of link between autism and MMR vaccine

The risks associated with vaccines are minimal. The risks associated without vaccines are huge. Snake oil salesmen have been around forever. We don't have to give them room in the public conversation.

Make money

Business and Finance Good intentions do not excuse bad economics

A writer argues in a Chicago Tribune op-ed that "Rent control can increase supply". This is utterly untrue: Effective price ceilings cause shortages, by their very definition. If the price ceiling isn't below the market rate, then it isn't "rent control". If the price ceiling is below the market rate, then by definition there will be a shortage of supply.

Have fun

Humor and Good News There's cheap, and then there's Midwestern Cheap

Regarding a promotion that pegs the price of a Runza sandwich to the temperature in winter: "[Y]ou would be shocked at what we sell if it is 20 cents or 5 cents. There's a huge difference in the quantity that we move."

Clean up after yourself

Mind your business

Business and Finance "Modern monetary theory" is just another economic fraud

Larry Summers: "As with any tax, there is a limit to the amount of revenue that can be raised via such an inflation tax." ■ Inflation is a tax. It is always a tax. And modest, predictable inflation is a necessary tax. But as with medication, the dose matters.

Broadcasting Fact: James Burke is an under-appreciated genius of mass education

There's nothing a broadcaster can really admire more than someone who can script and deliver their own work with effortless grace. Louis Rukeyser used to do for finance what Burke did for science. To give credit where it is due, Scott Pelley and Margaret Brennan are both in this tradition, though they're straight-news types rather than commentators. And Robert Krulwich and Lillian Cunningham both do it for scripted audio reporting.

Quote of the Week

"Nothing is more dangerous to good government than great power in improper hands." - Calvin Coolidge

Business and Finance Trust matters if you're going to do business more than once

Sam Zell: "I like doing deals with the same people. You get to know each other and build a mutual sense of trust."

Your role in cyberwar

Iowa news

Contrary to popular opinion

Hyperbole is going to kill us all

Curiosity, competence, and humility

Have a little empathy

Humor and Good News Every kid deserves a loving home

Indiana nurse adopts abandoned baby with serious health problems, and the adoption almost certainly saved his life: "[L]iterally no one had ever asked to foster a child [...] with such serious conditions as Marcus"

Inbox zero

Stop the deliberate ignorance

Yay Capitalism Prize

Capitalist solution of the week


One year ago

Five years ago

Ten years ago

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