Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - December 7, 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
A Saudi national was the perpetrator
Segment 1: (11 min)
BUT FIRST: The opening essay
Mind your business
From the New York Times: "Just over half of men in the New America survey -- and a slightly higher share of women -- said a reason men didn't take leave was that caregiving wasn't manly." It's way past time to have put this attitude out with the trash. If you're a man who takes on less than your half of the caregiving, then you're less than half of a man for it.
Have a little empathy
Some corrective framing to the original headline ("More than 600 Pakistani girls and women were sold as brides in China, but diplomatic ties threaten investigation") is in order. Make the headline about something esoteric like diplomacy and readers probably won't care. Make it about people and perhaps they will. What is taking place is an abomination, but it's an abomination because of the slavery -- not because of the diplomacy. And "sold as brides" is unfair: If a person was "sold", that person is a slave, not a "bride".
Sen. Bernie Sanders says that's how he would treat it if elected President. The problem with the mindset that claims certain positive rights around material things a person can have (health care, Internet access, housing, employment) is that those claims muddy the waters around the negative rights (things government or others cannot do to you) that are even more important, even if they are literally without substance. This is a real problem, because there is a hierarchy to these things: The right not to be thrown into prison for expressing one's peaceful religious faith is, in fact, more important than a "right" to have someone deliver a DSL line to your house. Reducing the world to a laundry list of material concerns means that you might sacrifice the very building blocks of personal liberty and individual dignity in exchange for your "rights" to have other people pay for your stuff. It is precisely because those negative rights encompass things that don't take a physical form, and that represent what others may not do to you rather than what they might withhold from you, that the negative rights have to come before the positive ones. And in fact, the positive "rights" ought instead to be framed as what they are: Scarcity problems that almost always have answers found in the material world. The difference between wanting to maximize the amount of health care available and saying that everyone has an enforceable right to health care is that one sees a material problem with material constraints, and the other describes the world as one might want it to be. And a positive material right quickly becomes an entitlement, and entitlements must be funded by either voluntary or (more likely) involuntary means. An oppressive government can withhold those positive goods and claim that scarcity made them do it. The same cannot be true for negative rights.
Two million people is the equivalent of the entire state of Nebraska. Imagine a government that puts a population large enough to fill entire American states into prison camps. We could rest far more assured if we heard senior American leaders, starting with the President, making a moral case for how to deal with China's government. Regrettably, what we hear instead is empty bluster about "winning" and "making deals"...which is to miss the point.
Quote of the Week
"[Human rights] cannot be rescinded by one government any more than they can be granted by another." - John McCain and Mark Salter
The moral of the story:
Segment 2: (8 min)
Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day
Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day™:— Brian Gongol Show (@briangongolshow) November 30, 2019
Black Friday shopping is...
Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day™:— Brian Gongol Show (@briangongolshow) December 7, 2019
If temperatures are going to be in the single digits anyway, do you want it to snow, too?
Segment 3: (14 min)
Which of the following housing types would you support in your neighborhood so that West Des Moines residents could age in place? pic.twitter.com/iZ3MBJpYu1— WDM Development Services (@ConnectWDM1) November 18, 2019
An Omaha neighborhood is having a dispute that may sound familiar to a whole lot of places -- a developer wants to put condominiums in a neighborhood that has a lot of single-family homes. Residents object that "It's still way oversized for the block". But doesn't it also add considerable value? And doesn't it add density, which is a favorable direction to go if people are truly worried about issues like "sprawl" and high housing costs? In general, we should applaud steps to move most things from lower levels of value to higher ones, real estate included. There are always exceptions, of course, but the general standard ought to default in favor of creating additional value.
- If we're going to get serious about economic issues, then we need to take a look at the biggest rocks in the jar first
- For most people, those are housing (33% of average household spending), transportation (16%), food (13%), insurance (12%), and health care (8%)
- For reference, the health-spending number is lower than it is in the overall economy (health care is 17.7% of GDP, but individual households don't spend all of it directly
- Housing is the biggest "rock in the jar" by a long stretch -- it's double that of transportation and food
- 30% of household income is the standard for "affordability", partly because of tradition and aphorisms, and now so widely used it's found in the law
- Housing is also almost impossible to manage at anything other than the local level
- It's also bound at the hip to transportation, which is the second-biggest share of most household spending; plenty of places are cheap to live in, but you'll spend a ton getting to and from those locations
- One of the points I often make when teaching utility employees is that every dollar they can save is like saving the average person $1.20 or $1.25 in pre-tax income. Same goes for when we can make housing more affordable -- a dollar you're not spending on rent is $1.20 or $1.25 in pre-tax income.
- There is an imperative to making sure we have an ample supply of appropriate housing for the needs of each community
- It's a little backwards that we have for so long treated housing as "the biggest asset for most families" -- that's prioritized growth in housing costs (through restrictions and scarcity) over a broader emphasis on making it affordable
- If you spent 23% of household income on housing instead of 33%, then you could commit the difference to savings and investment
- When asked, keep an open mind about what kind of housing types might "fit" into your community
Segment 4: (5 min)
Segment 5: (11 min)
This is just not at all what we want to see -- Boulder is in the upper reaches of the Platte River basin. What lands and melts there eventually makes its way downstream...to places along the Missouri River that have basically been flooded for 9 straight months.
I only get 18 minutes? That's barely enough time to do the introduction. https://t.co/Y2qSV9iOzq— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 4, 2019
True story: I once had to talk on the air for 40 minutes straight to cover a catastrophic equipment failure. The control board crashed and had to be replaced on the fly. No breaks. No phone calls. No guests. So I performed an unplanned 40-minute monologue.
Another true story: I once sat down to open a 20-minute filler segment, only to be told that, due to a totally innocent mix-up, I actually needed to do two full hours on the air. It's sort of the radio equivalent of the "Showing up for a final in a class you didn't take" dream.
The key for a talk-radio host is to continuously cultivate a diverse set of hobby horses you can ride any time the need should arise. For example: The House of Representatives should be ten times larger. Everyone should know a form of self-defense. Cutting the check isn't the same as paying the price. Congress should ban interstate economic-development incentives. Every environmental cause should be reframed as a public-health issue if it wishes to be taken seriously.
Segment 6: (8 min)
Clean up after yourself
Warning: This one might be a little heavier than usual
There's really quite a lot that doesn't sit right about the incident in Miami that killed an innocent UPS driver and a motorist in a nearby car. ■ This kind of incident -- with all the questions it raises about the use of force -- is exactly why we need an NTSB-style Federal agency to investigate all police-involved shooting deaths. Every last one of them. It's imperative that we know fairly and impartially what happened in these circumstances, and that lessons be learned from them. ■ The public should demand answers to questions like: Why were occupied civilian vehicles used as shields? Why were so many rounds fired when innocent people were located in the line of fire, in the full 360° around the vehicle being chased? If the carjacked UPS truck was traveling in rush-hour traffic in Miami, how come measures weren't used to halt the traffic ahead of the vehicle, as police in the same area did in a similar situation in 2003? Why weren't spike strips or a PIT maneuver put to use? Why did police continue to draw fire towards civilian vehicles clearly trying to escape the situation? What are reasonable people supposed to do with gunfire being exchanged around them, especially if they can't "get down" or "take cover" -- or, God forbid, if they have a child in a booster seat or carseat in the back of an exposed vehicle? In the live video coverage from a TV news helicopter, at least 30 or 40 officers can be counted on-scene, and at least 20 or 30 police vehicles can be counted; exactly what kind of command-and-control authority was being exercised to prevent crossfire or to perhaps preemptively cut off escape routes for the carjackers? ■ These are questions that ought to be answered, and if it cannot be assured that they will be comprehensively and transparently investigated by the authorities in what ought to be an accountable process of oversight, then such an investigation ought at least to be conducted by a neutral and independent agency whose conclusions do not have to carry the weight of enforcement -- for the very same reasons that the NTSB is separate and independent from the DOT. The NTSB's mandate forms a useful template for what should be used in cases of police shootings: "The NTSB determines the probable cause of the accidents and issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. In addition, the NTSB carries out special studies concerning transportation safety and coordinates the resources of the Federal Government and other organizations to provide assistance to victims and their family members impacted by major transportation disasters."
The moral of the story: In the words of one police officer, "You can't kill people to save people." We take things like aircrashes seriously enough that we devote a small but professional agency to the task of finding out what happened, what went wrong, and how to keep it from happening again. We should be equally willing to invest the same kind of resources into learning lessons in the same way from incidents where peace officers end up taking lives.
Segment 7: (14 min)
Technology Three | The week in technology
The company is doing right by reporting on passenger safety. But they have serious work to do: The company's chief legal officer said "99.9 percent of those rides end with absolutely no safety incident whatsoever", which is true, but then the next step is to commit to deliberate, measurable improvement. To take 99.9% to 99.99%, then to 99.999%, then to 99.9999%, and then again to 99.99999%. While zero incidents is, of course, the ideal outcome, the action plan needs to take measurable steps towards achievable improvements.
Google's founders are stepping back from company operations, which may give them time to think about some of the consequences of the work they've done. Google does a whole lot of good for people, but it also does some serious harm that ought to be mitigated by conscientious management.
Your role in cyberwar
This report confirms with a fair amount of rigor what your gut has probably told you quite often: Social-media environments are bubbling over with fake accounts and manipulation, and the platforms are doing next to nothing to fix the problem, either proactively or reactively. For about $300, they bought thousands of followers and tens of thousands of engagements across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. And even when they reported fraudulent activity taking place, the platform companies did almost nothing to stop it or to correct the damage done. The scale of the fraud conducted by "Manipulation Service Providers" (MSPs) -- particularly originating in Russia -- is the kind of thing people ought to understand better. Social proof is important, and it has effects on people's commercial and political decisions. The scale by which that social proof can be fabricated or manipulated is vast within social media, and the costs are trivially low. That's a toxic brew.
Segment 8: (5 min)
Farewell, TommyFromDesMoines. The longtime fixture of sports-talk radio in Des Moines has passed away.
- I took countless calls from Tommy over the years
- He was both utterly predictable -- an atomic clock of regularity in placing his calls to "Two Guys Named Jim" back in the day -- but simultaneously utterly unpredictable about how he'd express whatever was on his mind
- But he's a great example of the inimitable thing about radio: When done right, it's personal
- Tommy must have asked me 200 times what I was going to talk about on my show. I'll bet he only ever listened five times. But part of the fun was that he kept on asking, and that always forced me to think about what kind of conversation I was trying to strike up with him -- with you -- while on the air.
- We don't get a chance that often to tell you as listeners that we appreciate you, or that we'll miss you when you're gone. But we do. And let us say it by raising a toast to Tommy.
10% of the people will love you no matter what you do, 10% of the people are going to hate your guts and may not even know why, and the other 80% are up to you and how you deal with them.
Unsorted and leftovers:
Curiosity, competence, and humility
Calvin Coolidge: "What we need in appointive positions is men of knowledge and experience who have sufficient character to resist temptations."
Plenty of linguistic evolution is necessary and unavoidable, but only one word a year deserves to be endorsed. This year, it's "criming". Rudy Giuliani has left us no other choice.
Stop the deliberate ignorance
If a person doesn't have the good judgment to decline to participate in a photo like this, then it's hard to believe they would have reliable judgment about how and when to use deadly force.
How are you feeling?
With a population of about 200,000, they've vaccinated about 20,000 against measles in the last two days. The island has low vaccination rates, and they have an active measles outbreak that has killed more than 5 dozen people.
A clever retort to those who object to the use of the term "anti-vaxxer": "Do you think they'd prefer 'pro-polio' or 'infant mortality rate enthusiasts'?" People who are anti-vaccine are not more "aware"; they're just anti-vaccine. Be "aware" instead that widespread vaccination creates herd immunity that protects everyone -- but most critically protects those who *cannot* be vaccinated.
Charts and statistics are wonderful, but sometimes a good picture tells far more of the story.
The Speaker of the House says the President "abused his power for his own personal political benefit". This is a historic event, though not for good reasons.
The odds against that kind of dual coincidental match are pretty high
Needless to say, Mr. McFeely's time trials came to a disappointing conclusion.
The next head of Nebraska's state university system starts with a base pay of $934,000 a year, plus a slew of perks, substantial bonus opportunities, free housing and country-club membership, and a big salary deferral that pays off if he stays in the job.
An excellent observation from Christian Vanderbrouk, regarding the all-too-frequent disdain for expertise as displayed by populists: "If there's a broad consensus about something, there's probably a good reason for it. Doesn't mean the consensus is automatically correct, but like enduring institutions, it deserves a provisional respect." So much of the argument expressed by the new anti-liberalist wing of American politics boils down to clamoring for chaos on Earth and a vengeful God above. Which is really no way to run a civilization.
The "elf on a shelf" can be cute, sure, but what about the message it sends to kids about always being watched?
Fundraiser treats guests either to a gourmet meal or a sack lunch, depending on the luck of the draw. A fine way to bring attention to the issues of food insecurity and hunger.
Cities and the people
A historic photo of power and telephone lines in 19th Century Manhattan really brings to life just how much people will tolerate when they're eager to benefit from new infrastructure investment
Credit where credit is due: Cold weather isn't fun, but cold-weather clothing works a lot harder than warm-weather clothing. ❄️— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 5, 2019
When are we getting a skywalk between downtown and Valley West Mall? #thinkbig— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 5, 2019
Nothing says "Christmas sale" quite like spam for a "mini GPS tracker that's ideal for spying without being found". pic.twitter.com/nH8uju3M6L— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 4, 2019
Lucky for us, we're in a workplace environment where quirks are mandatory. #WKRPwasadocumentary— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 4, 2019
Plot twist: His Bichon Frise will eat only grass-fed beef and avocado toast, but she keeps her home totally gluten-free!— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 4, 2019
I blame my underperformance as a mathlete on the timing of my participation in the games, right around the nadir of America's global performance. I coulda been a contender, I tell you! https://t.co/nabE5t0x1E— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 4, 2019
I saw it once, but you'd never believe me. https://t.co/y5m5O74NGW— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 3, 2019
We need a word for the sensation of "they're all very used to me by this point and either find my quirks charming or are sufficiently polite to tolerate them quietly". I would have considerable use for such a word. I have but one operating mode, and it is best described as "cheerfully intense".
Segment 1 | Internet access isn't a fundamental human right, even if Sen. Bernie Sanders says he wants it to be so. Freedom of religion and freedom from slavery? Those are. We need more American leaders willing to speak up for those more fundamental rights and spend less time bloviating about being "tough" on trade. As Americans, we should be rallying behind the cause of what's right -- even if it costs us a little.
Segment 2 | Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day: If it's going to be really cold, do you want it to snow as well?
Segment 3 | Fathers ought to make sure they're carrying half of the caregiver burden at home. And when we're speaking about caregiving, what do you think about adjusting zoning rules to allow more multi-generational housing and ways for people to "age in place" in their homes?
Segment 4 | Don't miss WHO Radio's 2020 Iowa Caucus podcast
Segment 6 | Innocent people were killed in the crossfire of a police-involved shooting in the Miami area. We just had a police-involved shooting in Des Moines this weekend, though it appears no one was killed in our local incident. It's past time for an NTSB-style agency to investigate every police-involved shooting death.
Segment 7 | Technology Three: Uber reports its safety data, and there are several spins you could put on the results. A NATO-related team says black-market social-media manipulation is cheap, rampant, and absolutely wide-open for political dirty tricks. And Google's founders are stepping down as active managers at the company they created; maybe it's time for them to weigh in on some of that manipulation.
Segment 8 | Farewell to a long-time WHO Radio listener known best as "TommyFromDesMoines". We don't often get to tell you listeners how much you're appreciated, but you are.