Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - June 15, 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

Hong Kong protests

News Take note of what's happening in Hong Kong

"Huge" isn't enough to describe the scale of the protests -- perhaps half a million people -- and they are self-organizing, too.

News The triumph of spontaneous order

Hong Kongers leave water for one another during mass protests. Most people are good by nature, and are trying their best for themselves and their families. Sometimes we just need to be nudged or led in the right direction.

News Massive protests emerge in Hong Kong

In case you had any doubts about the universality of certain "unalienable rights", let this be Exhibit A

News 500,000 people marching in Hong Kong

It's what organizers hope to achieve. If half a million people assemble in Hong Kong, that surely would be worthy of news coverage.

News Hong Kong's protests succeeded -- for now

The government will suspend debate on a bill that would have opened the door to extradition to mainland China for people who are supposed to be under the umbrella of Hong Kong's freedoms

Threats and Hazards What happens when China finally awakens?

Discontent may be widespread, but a true awakening against the authoritarian regime also requires political organization -- and that's tough to achieve. Consider the absolutely epic amount of work required to conduct the recent elections in India. Organization on that kind of scale -- civic or political -- isn't something that spins up overnight.

Have a little empathy

Agriculture "The worst hunger crises are driven by things human beings do to each other"

Food is perhaps the cruelest conventional weapon of war, since it disproportionately punishes the sick, the young, and the old for fighting in which they're almost certainly not the belligerents.

Threats and Hazards Leaders need to find some imagination

America has a long and checkered history with those seeking asylum or refuge from violence and war. But our shining moment came in the shadow of WWI, when Herbert Hoover coordinated the effort to avert famine in Europe. Who is our Herbert Hoover in these circumstances today, as family separation remains a consequence of government policy under the Trump Administration and as the world's refugee/displaced population is larger than ever?

Curiosity, competence, and humility

The United States of America Live and let live: America's founding goal

James Madison: "Indulging no passions which trespass on the rights or the repose of other nations, it has been the true glory of the United States to cultivate peace by observing justice..."

The moral of the story: A strong economy keeps people from tossing out a good system of government. Personal freedom to choose what to buy and sell is one of the most foundational freedoms of all. But even more foundational are the rights of individual dignity: Personal conscience, freedom of protest, the right to self-determination. And those are the rights that the people of Hong Kong are showing matter more than just the right to make money.

Segment 2: (8 min)

Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day

Segment 3: (14 min)

Make money

Business and Finance Three of the biggest time-wasters in America today

Conference calls, bad PowerPoint decks, and meetings where nobody distributes agendas or reports in advance.

Health Blame carbon dioxide

Why do meetings make people sleepy? The buildup of carbon dioxide in meeting rooms and seminar halls may actually provide a useful physiological explanation that doesn't seem to have really occurred to most of us before.

Have fun

Humor and Good News An unlikely story

A "how we met" story so unlikely that it would be more satisfying as fiction than as fact, since it would be deserving of tremendous applause as a creative story.

Humor and Good News La Sagrada Familia Basilica gets a building permit -- after 137 years of construction

The construction work significantly predates the constitution of Spain itself, so they really ought to have been grandfathered in.

Clean up after yourself

Science and Technology What would it take to really revolutionize non-automotive transportation?

A thought experiment: What would it take to truly revolutionize pedestrian and cyclist transportation, especially in suburban areas? Shelters over sidewalks to make them useful 365 days a year? Electric bicycles? Moving walkways? Bridges or elevated lanes to bypass roads? Ski lifts mounted down the middle of highways? What novel applications of existing technologies would make moving at a human-powered pace competitive with getting stuck in traffic? The car isn't going to disappear, but even if we convert the entire automotive fleet to electric power and eliminate most air pollution, there would still be consequences from choosing autombiles as our primary tool for getting from Point A to Point B.

Business and Finance Cause for alarm

There are those who would say it's alarmist to take too seriously the rise in US Treasury securities outstanding. Those people would be wrong.

Business and Finance Norway's legendary sovereign-wealth fund divests from most coal mining

A socialized market economy can work...if you have strong social cohesion, ample rewards for private-sector investment, a big natural-resource endowment (like Norway's oil), and prudent managers of the profits from that resource endowment. It also doesn't hurt to have some form of work requirement and supplemental form of gainful employment -- lest you encounter the often grave risk of creating a large class of young men with nothing productive to do. These conditions are not met in all of the places where "democratic socialism" gains traction, and that's a real problem -- because in those places where the preconditions are not met, the system is extremely unlikely to succeed. And that's not a statement of criticism about the people who are lured by the appeal of what such a system promises; it's simply a recognition of certain immutable facts of human nature.

Business and Finance What makes your mistakes different, sir?

Peter Navarro has no serious answer why today's tariffs on items like steel are supposed to be any more effective than past failures. Recall Federalist Paper No. 35: "Exorbitant duties on imported articles [...] tend to render other classes of the community tributary, in an improper degree, to the manufacturing classes, to whom they give a premature monopoly of the markets..."

The moral of the story:

Segment 4: (5 min)

Website reminder Links to the work Stanford researchers have done to edit video as easily as typing new words into a script

Mind your business

Business and Finance You are not a "guru" or a "ninja"

A piece you ought to read about a real pet peeve: Fluffing corporate language like job listings to create a false sense of importance -- and obscuring everything that really matters along the way. A very important criticism of fluffy job listings: They suggest that only fervent applicants with nothing to sacrifice are welcome, and that people with personal commitments (like parents) ought not apply.

Business and Finance A bank is no place for a sloppy, made-up name

SunTrust, merging with BB&T, will call itself "Truist". Not "Truest", "Trust", or "Tryst".

Business and Finance Why are there so many utterly uncommunicative company names?

Maybe a silly lamentation, but really: Why so many three-letter abbreviations that mean nothing? Pilita Clark proposes a simple test: Is it easier to find out what your company does from your homepage or from Wikipedia?

The moral of the story:

Segment 5: (11 min)

Hot (social) topics

By the numbers

Weather and Disasters Lake Erie is 2.5' above normal

And that could have caused some light earthquakes

The moral of the story:

Segment 6: (8 min)

Iowa news

Iowa Civic Center turns 40

Funds for the Des Moines venue were raised privately, at a time when such things were done

Iowa Iowa needs a new state flag. Here's an idea.

Stealing a few ideas from the "Good Flag, Bad Flag" pamphlet by the American Vexillological Association, a symbolic substitute for our present-day overcomplicated mess.

The moral of the story:

Segment 7: (14 min)

Technology Three | The week in technology

Business and Finance Vertical integration is wild

First it was Amazon Prime-branded trucks rolling up and down I-35 and I-80. Now, it's delivery in Amazon-branded vans in top-100 markets, like Omaha.

Computers and the Internet Instagram will keep "deepfake" videos of Mark Zuckerberg

Consistent? Maybe. Wise? Probably not.

Weather and Disasters California may have power outages to stem wildfire threat

It's beginning to sound a lot like California needs an all-out, aggressive migration to microgrids. Or, at least parts of California.

The moral of the story:

Segment 8: (5 min)

Hot (social) topics

By the numbers

Threats and Hazards China-watchers debate the number of Uighurs being held in China

Reliable sources differ -- but their estimates range from 1 million to 3 million. And any one of those would be a giant number: A population of one million would be more than all but the top ten largest cities in the United States. It isn't just a number; it's at least a million lives, plus those left behind who are affected by their detention. And if an understanding of human nature is any guide, then we may very well see far worse before China's government gets better. The more threatened an authoritarian regime feels, the more driven they are likely to become in using fear and repression to intimidate their opposition. Everyone saw what happened to Gorbachev when glasnost and perestroika moved people's souls before the structure of government was prepared to adapt.

Stop the deliberate ignorance

Threats and Hazards Inexcusable, and deserving of wrathful judgment

The President, on camera with ABC News in the Oval Office, declares that he wouldn't alert the FBI if approached again by a foreign government demonstrating intent to influence an election. This was not unforeseen: Federalist 75 includes the comment, "An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth. An ambitious man might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents." They weren't fortune-tellers; they just knew enough to recognize the frailties of human nature.

The moral of the story: We need government to restrain people from harming others -- especially the strong against the weak. In a state of nature, a physically strong person might get away with murdering others -- and the people with guns may get away with herding people without them into concentration camps. The "rule of law" means we can't be OK with outbursts like a Chief Executive saying, from the Oval Office, that he doesn't want to follow the law.

Unsorted and leftovers:

This week

News Just half a century past Loving v. Virginia

The Supreme Court case that squashed bans on interracial marriage isn't that far in the rear-view mirror. If you're looking at a Baby Boomer, you're looking at someone who is older than this Supreme Court case. Sometimes it's hard to put into perspective just how long the law has permitted injustices to go on.

Weather and Disasters Changes in routine shouldn't put babies at risk

Summer changes in patterns can put children at risk of being left behind in hot cars. Don't let it happen.

Business and Finance May the Warren and Charlie Show reign for a thousand years

Warren Buffett says he wants to keep up the extravaganza that surrounds the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha

Threats and Hazards More than five months without a SecDef

The vacancy at Secretary of Defense has now gone on longer than the Battle of Anzio. It is inexcusable.

News Tribune Tower -- now for "luxury living"

Chicago Tribune employees -- the former occupants -- have a hard time believing it's quite so luxurious. Of course, in the words of Le Corbusier, "A house is a machine for living in."

Hot (social) topics

Quote of the Week

"He has blessed the United States with a political Constitution rounded on the will and authority of the whole people and guaranteeing to each individual security, not only of his person and his property, but of those sacred rights of conscience so essential..." - James Madison

Iowa news

Agriculture Iowa's farm situation looks troublesome

For crops like corn and soybeans to reach full potential takes time, and the planting season has been wrecked by wet weather. We run a very serious risk of crops failing to reach full maturity by the time the frost arrives. There's going to be a lot of nervous staring at the skies come October, when planting delays will start to show up as harvest delays; the earliest 1" snowfall recorded in Des Moines was Oct. 10 (in 2009). Is it the fault of climate change? Maybe, or maybe not. But (a) we've seen ample evidence of meteorological extremes, and (b) anthropogenic causes are plausible, so (c) a pragmatic combination of conservation/mitigation techniques and meaningful investments in resilience are probably prudent. For certain, the most imprudent course of action is to do nothing environmentally-focused, but to wreck the world trading order out of spite.

Health Seat belts save lives

Headline: "Four crashes in Iowa Sunday kill five people". Key sentence: "The Iowa State Patrol says the lone survivor in these four crashes, was wearing a seat belt, but those who died were not."

Threats and Hazards Weaponizing funding for veterans is political malpractice

It is insulting and fundamentally un-American to make funding for veterans' programs the subject of an unrelated issue -- as Rep. Steve King is trying to do by making a play to de-fund "sanctuary cities". After careful study and debate, we should spend what ought to be spent on veterans, period. And do it without tying that funding to other issues. The seriousness with which America has addressed its debts (literal and otherwise) to veterans is a subject as old as the Republic itself. It's hard enough to do right, even without the distraction of tying that issue to other ones.

Hyperbole is going to kill us all

News Guardrails in a time of tribalism

Jacob Levy wisely observes: "You'd think that might mean that a moment of close partisan balance and considerable uncertainty about effective coalitional power in the medium term would favor some kinds of moderation of institutional vision: planning for a world in which you don't know whether you're 51 or 49. Instead, I see a polity full of people planning for their next supermajority." It may well be that we are watching people play out a prisoner's dilemma in which all faith in the other party has broken down (on both sides). Same effect: Behaving like there's no tomorrow. Jonah Goldberg has advanced a plausible theory that the major parties are very weak, which perversely has made partisanship more extreme at the margins as interest groups try to run the table whenever they get close to power.

Have a little empathy

Threats and Hazards Qatari workers held in conditions that shock the conscience

A German sports-news outlet covers their treatment as part of work related to the 2022 World Cup. And it will be enormously interesting to see whether FIFA takes the appropriate steps here to show that (a) they take the reporting seriously and (b) they are a credible institution with real regard for what takes place, in essence, in their name. Guest workers or native-born, they are people. Human beings, endowed with a right to dignity by their very existence.

Stop the deliberate ignorance

Threats and Hazards Cutting the check isn't the same as paying the price

The President wants to believe that Americans pay "very little" for his tariffs on Chinese goods. But when high taxes are imposed on anything, consumers end up sharing in that cost, period. You can quibble about their share of that cost vis-a-vis the relative slopes of the supply and demand curves, but they absolutely do pay.

News A delusion: "Some people said it was the best speech ever made by a president in Europe"

A Presidential claim on par with "My girlfriend is hot and she lives in Canada". There is an unfathomable degree of ahistorical hubris involved in his thinking that an unremarkable speech is somehow comparable with "Tear down this wall" or "Ich bin ein Berliner".

News Cowardice and the press

The President turns to his favorite medium to pick another of his endless fights with the news media. He ought to heed the words of Calvin Coolidge: "Perhaps one of the reasons I have been a target for so little abuse is because I have tried to refrain from abusing other people. The words of the President have an enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately." Self-awareness plus historical literacy make for a powerful combination.



Listen to the first hour of the episode from June 15, 2019 here

Listen to the second hour of the episode from June 15, 2019 here

Hong Kong is fighting back against China's latest attempts to revoke their rights, and Americans need to pay serious attention.

Do you fly a flag in front of your home?

Why meetings put you to sleep (blame carbon dioxide!) and why Iowans don't walk to work.

A bank is no place for a sloppy, made-up name

A creative kid finds a better way to treat young hospital patients, and is raising funds.

Severe weather interruptions

Instagram preserves a deepfake, behaving consistently but probably unwisely.

Severe weather interruptions