Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - March 23, 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

Quote of the Week

The United States of America Let reason be the guide

James Madison: "But it is the reason, alone, of the public, that ought to control and regulate the government. The passions ought to be controlled and regulated by the government."

News "Four principles for reading the Mueller report"

Now that it's been turned over to the Attorney General, some preparation is in order before we get to read it. In other words, here's what to know before you know what we'll all know soon enough.

The moral of the story: Lying to Congress is lying to the American people. Conspiring against justice is conspiring against the very rule of law. Defrauding the IRS is robbing one's fellow American taxpayer.

Segment 2: (8 min)

Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day

By the numbers

Segment 3: (14 min)

Technology Three | The week in technology

Computers and the Internet Change your passwords. Again. Facebook's at fault this time.

The company confirms a report that "some user passwords were being stored in a readable format within our internal data storage systems." But what do they mean by "some"? In the next paragraph, they admit: "We estimate that we will notify hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users, tens of millions of other Facebook users, and tens of thousands of Instagram users." So, once again, change your passwords. Change any passwords that are the same as your Facebook password. And activate two-step authentication. The insecurity dates back to 2012, so it's quite a revelation.

Your role in cyberwar

Threats and Hazards Why bad people use weaselly language to evade the rules

Ambiguity usually accrues to the benefit of the party that introduces it. If someone's introducing coded language, they're doing it to put good people on the defensive. The rest of us need to build our intellectual immunity against the terrorists and the supremacists who use coded language to get around terms of use on public websites and propagate hate.

The moral of the story:

Segment 4: (5 min)

Iowa news

Weather and Disasters The Missouri River is usually 1000' wide between Iowa and Nebraska

Or often narrower. But the photos of current flood conditions show water as far as the eye can see. Normally, it's narrow enough to fit easily within a normal photo, with trees lining the riverbanks. Not so right now.

Weather and Disasters Staggering views of the flooding along the Missouri River

Instead of staying in its usual narrowly-defined riverbed, the Missouri stretches for miles in width.

The moral of the story:

Segment 5: (11 min)

Clean up after yourself: Some thoughts on a good name

Humor and Good News Just ask, "How do I pronounce your name?"

Lots of people have names whose pronunciation is non-intuitive. Nothing is more pleasant to a listener than the sound of their own name -- but there aren't a whole lot of things more grating than someone making a train wreck out of it.

Threats and Hazards Any politician afraid to speak up for John McCain should be ashamed

Dear United States Senators: If you can't speak up to defend the name of John McCain now (in the face of a deluge of malign comments from the President), please don't expect the rest of us to put a whole lot of effort into naming a bridge after you when you're gone. In the words of John Weaver, "Had you @realDonaldTrump called the FBI upon first contact, instead of embracing Putin, you might be in a different situation." Sen. Lindsey Graham, long a friend of McCain's, seems able only to offer a peep of objection to the attacks, and that's truly pathetic. If the best you can say after a bully besmirches the good name of your honorable deceased friend is "The best thing for all of us is just to move forward," then you have chosen the side of the bully. There is no satisfying rational explanation for why anyone would sacrifice even an iota of credibility on behalf of the President when he shows daily that he lives exclusively in a transactional, day-by-day mode of operation, and will jettison any "friend" in a heartbeat should it prove even momentarily expedient.

News "You won't hear me speak his name"

New Zealand's prime minister sets a proper standard for dealing with the terrorist attack on her country's soil

The United States of America Rename the Russell office building

Name it after John McCain. It's what the Senate should do to rebuke the President -- and correct the error of naming the building after the wrong person in the first place.

The moral of the story:

Segment 6: (8 min)

Mind your business

Socialism Doesn't Work Auto tariffs aren't about security

Tariffs (import taxes) on cars have nothing to do with national security and are strictly intended as a stick in the eye to Europe. American consumer freedom be damned. So says the President. He is beholden to an incoherent, incomplete, and counterproductive thread of a national industrial policy that has more in common with the autarkic approach of the Soviet Union than with any prosperous modern economy.

Make money

News A "university-centric development policy"

From Noah Smith: "By increasing research funding for second-tier universities in depressed areas, and by making it easier for high-paying foreign students to attend rural schools, the government can create a scattering of small thriving places throughout declining regions [...] The destiny of the U.S. heartland may be to go from farming and manufacturing towns of 5,000 people to college towns of 50,000." It's a bold proposal, and it's hard to know how replicable it could be at any sort of scale (considering, for instance, the plight of small-town colleges like Iowa Wesleyan). But it is already plain to see that heavily-rural states like Iowa are rapidly urbanizing (or, perhaps, de-ruralizing) regardless of any efforts to the contrary, and there is also tremendous evidence that research-oriented universities have a very favorable impact on their local economies. In the end, how many universities could be plausibly spun-up? One per state? Ten? Fifty? It's worth considering bold possibilities.

Tin Foil Hat Award

Agriculture Legislation to crack down on labeling veggie burgers is dumb protectionism

The normal consumers of these products are sensitive to their origins -- it's the whole point of making them in the first place. And you know what? The "Impossible Burger" is pretty good. Liking it doesn't make a normal person suddenly not want a New York strip. They can be complements, not rivals. It's risible to use the blunt hammer of the law to relabel something like a Morningstar Farms "Chik'n Nugget", when a chicken nugget is plainly the item to which it is most similar.

The moral of the story:

Segment 7: (14 min)

Contrary to popular opinion

Broadcasting Some government spending cuts cost more than they save

The Trump Administration wants to cut funding for RFE/RL, the international broadcasting service that we use to reach out to the countries in Russia's near orbit. As a general rule of thumb, cutting any of America's public-diplomacy efforts -- including, right at the top of the list, the Voice of America, RFE/RL, Radio Free Asia, or anything else under the umbrella of the US Agency for Global Media -- is bonkers. They cost about $2.50 per year per American citizen.

News Post-Soviet leaders, charted

You'd be amazed at just how long some of the ex-Soviet states have remained under the rule of strongmen. It's too bad: As Calvin Coolidge said, "The chances of having wise and faithful public service are increased by a change in the Presidential office after a moderate length of time."

Broadcasting And that's the way it is?

Dave Price asks, "When did NBC Nightly News change format so that much of top stories now labeled 'breaking news?'" We are, no doubt, about 10 million miles away from the editorial voice that had the confidence (hubris?) to say "And that's the way it is" and then shut up for the next 23.5 hours.

Broadcasting Lazy broadcasting creates nasty hate

John Oliver: "I'm not saying those television personalities are all terrible people. They just want to fill time more than they want to say things that are true."

21st Century conservatism

The United States of America A National Popular Vote is still a terrible alternative to what we have

Ships have bulkheads and big buildings have firewalls so that a disaster in one part can be isolated before it spreads and damages everything else. The Electoral College is a systemic firewall against a contaminated election. Don't throw it away. If you want to talk about changes to make Washington better, debate ideas like enlarging the House of Representatives or encouraging states to shift to at-large representation. But don't junk the Electoral College in a fit of pique.

Have a little empathy

Humor and Good News Recycling old hotel soaps in the name of global hygiene

Marketwatch headlined the story "Why Hilton wants to get its hands on your used soap" (Spoiler alert: It's not because your natural musk is an aphrodisiac that they want to capture).

News A warning to voters who want to turn away from the world

Dr. Kori Schake: "When we step back, our allies step back even further, and the countries that step forward are our adversaries." This isn't a call to be pushy and mindlessly interventionist, but rather a reminder that allies need to know that we'll be there when they call for us.

The moral of the story:

Segment 8: (5 min)

Threats and Hazards Loyalty tests to a deeply disloyal man

The President demands public demonstrations of loyalty that careen into the absurd -- like engaging into a public fight with Kellyanne Conway's husband. That anyone believes he would show them reciprocal loyalty is completely astonishing. They make a choice nobody can reasonably excuse. As Margaret Thatcher put it, "Choice is the essence of ethics: if there were no choice, there would be no ethics, no good, no evil; good and evil have meaning only insofar as man is free to choose."

The moral of the story:

Unsorted and leftovers:

This week

The United States of America A 2019 Republican Serenity Prayer

Grant us the serenity...

Business and Finance How to ruin a perfectly good organization

Sabotage has never been so simple

Humor and Good News You didn't know you knew these rules

There's an order to adjectives in English, and every native speaker knows them without knowing

The United States of America "Love Your Enemies"

An interview with Arthur C. Brooks about his new book

News Pedantic complaint of the day

When people use the word "strategic" when what they're doing is barely tactical, at best, it's an annoyance. Language like "strategic" exists for a reason, to describe a particular purpose. Abusing the language, even out of carelessness, does a disservice to our ability to understand each other.

Have fun

Hyperbole is going to kill us all

Curiosity, competence, and humility

Inbox zero

Stop the deliberate ignorance

Yay Capitalism Prize

Capitalist solution of the week


Humor and Good News Anything with a tempo slower than 120 bpm is a sad song

A clever rendition of music-sharing, as though aliens were discovering it for the first time

News Minnesota parents told not to let kids walk to school because of bear sightings

And don't let them eat your homework, either.

Humor and Good News Spoiler alert: The denouement of 2019

It will happen when Eddie Vedder appears at an O'Rourke rally to sing "Beto Man" and POTUS responds with a tweetstorm asking why the FCC won't take away Pearl Jam's license.

News The "former" Hancock building

Its dynamism has always been one of the best things about Chicago, but the name changes on its landmark buildings are bonkers. Sears Tower is now Willis Tower. John Hancock Center is now 875 North Michigan (after the insurance company behind the original name asked that it be removed). The Amoco Building is now the Aon Center. The name changes all have good reasons behind them, but it still seems like they happen unusually often to Chicago landmarks.

One year ago

Five years ago

Ten years ago

Programming notes

Live read: iHeartRadio app

iHeartRadio app

Live read: Contests

Live read: Smart speakers (hour 1)

Smart speakers

Live read: Smart speakers (hour 2)

Smart speakers

Calendar events to highlight



Listen to the full episode from March 23, 2019 here

Segment 1: While we're still under the veil of ignorance about the Mueller Report, let's think about how to think about what we'll read soon

Listen to segment 1

Segment 2: How would you want to be remembered, if given the choice? Should we name a bridge, a building, a species, or a park for you?

Listen to segment 2

Segment 3: MySpace and Facebook both let us down on security this week. Also, why people use weaselly language when they're trying to hurt others.

Listen to segment 3

Segment 4: People need to get a sense for just how big the floods in western Iowa really are. The pictures are incredible, but they need locals to offer perspective.

Listen to segment 4

Segment 5: John McCain wasn't perfect, but his memory deserves better than the way the President speaks about him

Listen to segment 5

Segment 6: An intriguing argument for starting up a new generation of research universities to revive rural America. Would it work for Iowa?

Listen to segment 6

Segment 7: Feedback time: Listeners call in with comments on colleges, lab-grown beef, and John McCain

Listen to segment 7

Segment 8: Don't sink the Electoral College -- A National Popular Vote would bypass a great and proven system for protecting the vote

Listen to segment 8