Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - May 11, 2019
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
- Studying ASL through adult ed
- DMPS quietly shutting down adult ed
- Ohio reconsiders recognizing WGU as a way to "protect" state universities
- Two most under-discussed things we need to address for the future of the country (and not just the economy)
- 1. The well-being of mutualism (co-ops, mutual orgs, fraternal orgs, etc.)
- 2. How we teach and train adults after they graduate from school
- The whole country of Singapore learned English in a generation
- China has heft it can put behind a national plan to do big things on a fixed timeline
- I happen to think the China model is fundamentally flawed, but that doesn't mean they won't make gains in the short term
- We can't control the pace of technological change. We're very good at shooting ourselves in the foot on changes related to trade. But at its heart, progress (both material and otherwise) comes from teamwork and getting better at what we do.
- Teamwork is the "mutualism" part. Getting better is the education part.
- The most frustrating experiences I've had have involved people in positions to make things happen (or stop them from happening) who not only don't understand that things have changed, but show no appetite for figuring out how to catch up.
- That's an economic thing, sure, but it's much more deeply a cultural thing.
A peek at Charlie Munger's bookshelf
A truly happy place would be one where the people entrusted to make decisions in Washington are as dedicated to reading as Charlie Munger. Or, really, where they're dedicated to any of Munger's other tools for reducing errors and misjudgments. He's a modern-day acolyte of Ben Franklin: Dedicated not so much to an ideology, philosophy, or theology, as to a relentless pursuit of better ways to do things, think about the world, and live life.
- We're not all going to be driven by an insatiable curiosity, well into our 90s
- But we have to shift the expectation that you can just stop learning once you get a piece of paper
Canada to exonerate Cree chief, 130 years after wrongful treason conviction
Many of us history grew up with the idea that history was fixed in place, like something carved in granite. What happened may be unchanging, but how it was documented, reported, and interpreted does change -- and often should.
The moral of the story:
Segment 2: (8 min)
Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day
Casey's breakfast pizza isn't just pizza eaten at breakfast time
So learned Beto O'Rourke this week. We're all (mostly) joking about this, but confusing the two is roughly the Iowa equivalent of strolling onto the campus of Auburn and cheering "Roll Tide!"
Our Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day™ focuses on #DrinkingWaterWeek, which concludes this weekend. How much water do you drink in a day?— Brian Gongol Show (@briangongolshow) May 10, 2019
Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day™:— Brian Gongol Show (@briangongolshow) May 4, 2019
How many times in your life have you been romantically rejected?
Segment 3: (14 min)
Hot (social) topics
Woman tried drowning newborn in a fast-food toilet
And yet she will serve no prison time. There is not a word of this story that won't simultaneously baffle and dismay you. That an "ordinary" person would make such a choice -- or react in such a way, even to the shock of a surprise delivery -- is symptomatic of some kind of moral rot that she didn't just develop on her own.
The moral of the story:
Segment 4: (5 min)
What does the Uber IPO really say?
Economist Jodi Beggs suggests it's "basically a bet that they can figure out driverless cars before drivers figure out depreciation". She's probably right. And that's why you study economics. It won't magically teach you how to become rich. But it will definitely teach you how to frame human behavior in a useful way no other field of study will -- at least not within the framework of a comprehensive social science.
Toyota and Panasonic to merge housing companies
And if you previously had no idea that both companies were in the housing business, you're not the only one. Something to muse about: What other businesses in seemingly unrelated fields might make for good housing providers?
The moral of the story:
Segment 5: (11 min)
Technology Three | The week in technology
Ridiculous numbers of Americans would seek to prevent the automation of jobs
The Pew Research Center finds that 85% of American adults would favor policies to block automation from taking any jobs from humans unless those jobs were "dangerous or unhealthy". Perhaps a few of those adults ought to ask whether they've consulted Siri instead of dialing "Information" or calling a library research desk. We could "create" millions of jobs by taking automation out of the picture everywhere we have it -- but it's quite doubtful that the average person has considered what it might be like to sit in a chair at a sewage pump station and manually start and stop the pumps. A job like that was "automated" decades ago, and for very good reason. Technology can and should be used to enhance the usefulness of activities human beings do, but it's colossally silly to think that automation should only come to bear on "dangerous or unhealthy" tasks alone. Shall we do away with coin machines, too? Put another way: "Siri, what is 'entirely missing the point of technology'?"
Writer recounts a hazardous ordeal in a ride-share
An incident like this should be investigated swiftly, and the reporting customer ought to be told transparently what conclusions were reached and what resulted. If they can't do that, the ride-hailing service involved shouldn't be in business. Period.
Op/ed on breaking up Facebook
The moral of the story:
Segment 6: (8 min)
Stop the deliberate ignorance
Kim Jong-Un wanted access to American basketball stars
As part of any deal to normalize diplomatic relations. Truly. The first instinct is to mock the demand for the stunning case of stupidity that it is. But it raises a few serious points: (1) America's cultural exports have enormous value. That value shouldn't be overlooked, nor should we take it for granted. (2) Even dictators have bizarre fixations and get starstruck. To the extent that reveals their human fallibility, it's worth further attention and study. (3) North Korea's failure to produce its own basketball stars is telling. If the dictator loves the game so much, why can't they produce their own stars? (The answer, of course, is found in the utter train wreck of a political and economic system they use.)
What's our real relationship with South Korea?
The President wildly mischaracterized the nature of the alliance in a campaign rally. The facts are different from what the President recites onstage, and the very nature of the relationship is more nuanced (and valuable) than he gives credit. Ultimately, his cellophane-thin understanding of and appreciation for the South Korean alliance is a de-facto statement of alignment with North Korea. In past times, that might have been understood as un-American, if not actually treasonous.
The moral of the story:
Segment 7: (14 min)
Artist to watch: Christone "Kingfish" Ingram
Seeing him perform alongside Buddy Guy is like watching a religious investiture
Clean up after yourself
The plant is to be closed and replaced with power generated by fossil fuels. It seems that the most logical things we can do are (a) migrate as much energy consumption from combustion to electricity as possible, and (b) migrate as much electricity generation from carbon to non-carbon as possible. If those assumptions are correct, then this decision is a terrible failure of (b). The plant's owner says it was losing money and couldn't keep the plant open without subsidies.
Mind your business
Would the Founders have behaved differently if they'd anticipated Twitter?
Benjamin Franklin, to be sure, would have been all over Twitter. The others? Perhaps not.
What hope is there for sparsely-populated rural counties in Iowa and elsewhere? The thought of their inevitable decline is a bitter pill to swallow, but the data seems quite solid that something is systemically wrong and cannot be categorically reversed on a time horizon short of decades or even generations. Economist Dave Swenson probably isn't exaggerating when he writes: "Academics are good at isolating the causes and the consequences of rural decline, but we have yet to figure out what to do about it."
The moral of the story:
Segment 8: (5 min)
Iowa news - tariffs for the loss
Presidential tweets threatening trade-war escalation hurt farmers
Prices on commodity crops are already painfully low, and the threat of new trade restrictions and taxes makes the situation worse. These are thoroughly avoidable self-inflicted injuries. Trade wars aren't easy to win -- they are stupid exercises in damaging those portions of the economy most dependent upon exercising competitive advantage. And yet here we are, about to impose tariffs (that is, import taxes) on $200 billion in goods from China.
Iowa is the biggest egg state in the US
Iowa's position as the dominant egg producer in the country is probably the least-known major factoid about our state -- to Iowans and non-Iowans alike.
The moral of the story:
Unsorted and leftovers:
If I lost a billion dollars...
Doesn't quite have the same ring as the Barenaked Ladies tune
US deploys B-52 bombers to CentCom region
Of important note: We have not had a Senate-confirmed Secretary of Defense for more than 125 days.
More Missouri River crests coming
Secondary crests are just insult heaped upon injury.
These rainfall totals are stunning, and the impact is magnified dramatically when they fall on urban surfaces. Believe in climate change or not (or believe that it has anthropogenic origins or not), but it seems pretty clear that extreme weather events are happening in excess of the statistics of the past, and urbanization compounds the effects.
By the numbers
Quote of the Week
Your role in cyberwar
Iowa news - roads and bridges
Higher traffic loads follow I-235 expansion
It seems to be a classic case of induced demand
Iowa DOT reopens I-29 far ahead of schedule
Flooding wiped out dozens of miles of roadway. The workers involved deserve enormous credit for fixing a giant problem so swiftly.
Contrary to popular opinion
Hyperbole is going to kill us all
21st Century conservatism
Curiosity, competence, and humility
Have a little empathy
Why can't America help more refugees?
We can, but we're choosing not to do it. If you have strength but use it to oppress, you're practicing evil. If you have strength but refuse to use it out of fear, you're demonstrating cowardice. If you have the strength to help those in need and do so, you're showing mercy. Mercy is a privilege of the strong. Nothing would show greater strength than to help the oppressed.
Some important words on the new British royal baby
Ebony Renee Baker writes: "I'm still worried about how this biracial babe will navigate their identity while under such intense public scrutiny, because even though this baby has not even been born yet, it's still facing one of the most frustrating burdens faced by mixed race people: fetishization."
Tin Foil Hat Award
"Americans would be wrong to believe they are unaffected" by the censorship China imposes
For the time being, China's government doesn't want the rest of the world to talk about its extraordinary oppression of the Uighurs. But that's far from the only thing they wish to keep off the world's screens and out of the world's newspapers. And, critically, the censorship imposed directly has a spillover effect on companies that self-censor in the interest of pleasing China's bosses. What happens "over there" gets exported "over here" much more than we probably think. The oceans used to define our separation from the rest of the world -- but the operative part of that sentence is "used to". Not anymore.
What Chinese police are surveilling is astonishing
Human beings have an inherent right to be left alone. Some governments choose to infringe on that right. And they're not satisfied to keep to themselves: Note the data point that the People's Daily is broadly targeting American users of Twitter with ads. When a state propaganda arm pays money to reach out to you, that's not innocuous.
Yay Capitalism Prize
Capitalist solution of the week
And here I thought the royals were honoring @archerfxx.— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 8, 2019
"Friends" was a crime against the medium of television. https://t.co/cew8YapjZk— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 7, 2019
The opening credits to the latest "Brady Bunch" reboot take half an hour. https://t.co/iGQzwfngwf— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) May 6, 2019
Make it whiskey and we might have a deal.
"Dude"? You meant "Dood", as in "Yankee Doodle".
The strange origins of the vernacular
Sometimes the passive voice is necessary, but the whole "unto this woman was born a child" thing used to announce the birth of the new royal baby sure makes it sound like someone else did all the work.
How specific must you be about where you live?
Only as specific as your audience can handle, really.
One year ago
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Calendar events to highlight
♫ Listen to the full episode from May 11, 2019 here
① If Americans don't figure out that we need to learn more, better, and for longer than we used to, then we're sunk. It's not just an economic problem -- it threatens the very nature of society.
② What's the hardest Iowa food to explain to outsiders: Casey's breakfast pizza, ranch on everything, pork chops on a stick, or steak de Burgo?
③ Continued conversation about Iowa's strangest foods, then a couple of stories about abandoned babies who survived extraordinary odds.
④ Uber's IPO stalls
⑤ Technology Three: Are people completely missing the point of technology? They must be, if 85% of us think robots and computers should be prohibited from automating most jobs. Also: A writer shares her frightening ordeal in a ride-share, and a co-founder of Facebook says to break it up.
⑥ A man in a clown suit managed to spread panic across a Tennessee town. Turns out, he was celebrating his birthday.
⑦ What is with Kim Jong-Un's thing for NBA players? It's weird.
⑧ Tariffs aren't going to protect the American economy -- they're only going to "protect" the wrong people at the expense of American consumers -- and really good producers, like Iowa farmers.