Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - December 21, 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
- I try to teach my kids the difference between "bad person" and "person who did bad things"
- Maybe that makes me sound a bit like a hippie, but it comes from the classical-liberal tradition
- Human nature is one thing -- in many ways, inalterable and unchanging
- Human nature favors what's easiest, what's closest, what's most familiar, what appears to be best for a person's family
- Human nature can be greedy, short-sighted, and selfish
- That's why human nature has to be trained into making us something better
- And that's where the idea of choices comes in
- Children's tales often make it look like a question of nature: The witch is "wicked", the wolf is "big and bad", the queen is "evil"
- I don't mind reading those stories for the kids, but they're missing the element of choice
- The plain reality is that only about 1 in 100 people is truly anti-social by nature -- 99% of us aren't wired to be "bad"
- And even the 1% who have some kind of antisocial personality can make choices about doing good or bad things
- But for the rest of us, it's not so useful to classify "bad people" and "bad choices" together
- Good people can do bad things and bad people can do good things
- The lesson to pass along to children is in how and why they should make good choices rather than bad ones
- A woman was charged on Thursday with attempted murder
- On December 9th, it is alleged that she drove right off the road to hit a 14-year-old girl who was walking to Indian Hills Junior High
- Why? Because the woman wanted to target a Hispanic person
- I went to Indian Hills. I take this attack personally.
- I also take it personally because I have cousins -- not distant ones -- with names like Lopez and Rodriguez and Godinez
- These are blood relatives of mine. People who share the same family history, people who talk and laugh like me, and even who look a little like me
- They shouldn't ever have to face an extra danger in just walking down the street because someone has decided to target people who look Hispanic
- Someone made a choice to try to kill a 14-year-old girl
- I won't give the accused any infamy -- just like I wouldn't repeat the name of a school shooter
- My gut wants to say that person is a "bad person"
- But that would take away the accountability for the rest of us to ask: Why did she make that decision? What made her think that way? What could have been done to prevent it? Who contributed to the decision?
The moral of the story: Everyone's accountable for their own choices. But decisions aren't made in a vacuum, either. The world is more complicated than "good people" and "bad people" -- the world we live in is the result of innumerable choices. We need to put more emphasis on how choices are made and why. And we need to condemn the awful ones while making sure we're not contributing to them ourselves.
Segment 2: (8 min)
Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day
Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day™:— Brian Gongol Show (@briangongolshow) December 21, 2019
Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day™:— Brian Gongol Show (@briangongolshow) December 20, 2019
Is your entire workplace closed for a week or more over the Christmas/New Year's holiday period?
The moral of the story:
Segment 3: (14 min)
The big four
- Create more value than you consume
- Do what creates the biggest gap between what value you create and what you must give up to do it
- "[I]f you are to help those who need help -- the weaker or older members of the community -- you must encourage those who are able to make money to do so. Otherwise, where is the money coming from to help those who, through no fault of their own, are unable to help themselves?" - Margaret Thatcher
- "True liberalism seeks all legitimate freedom first in the confident belief that without such freedom the pursuit of all other blessings and benefits is vain." - Herbert Hoover
Clean up after yourself
Mind your business
- "What can be done, with Care perform today, Dangers unthought-of will attend Delay" - Benjamin Franklin
- "Write down the 10 steps from where you are now to where you want to be." - Margaret Thatcher
Worthwhile reading. N. Gregory Mankiw is credible and his analysis is fair. MMT doesn't seem to lend any credence to real constraints in the economy. Playing games with the money supply doesn't erase those constraints.
Here's a hypothesis that probably can't be tested: Maybe the median American voter would be less approving of the Imperial Presidency if children's animated films weren't so relentlessly pro-monarchist. The trope of the wise king (or, now, the wise queen) gets such a workout in films aimed at children that it's sometimes hard to imagine where anyone ever finally gets a taste for small-r republicanism. And thank goodness we do, because the trope is such a bad lesson to teach young people. ■ Missing from the sequel to the original "Frozen" is a full-throated argument for accountability. The main characters set out to right a wrong, but they do so through a number of other uncomfortable tropes -- not least of which is a long diversion into noble savage/white savior territory. ■ The film itself calls "Fantasia" to mind on several occasions -- the animation is absorbing and quite satisfying. And the script does get credit for introducing a good lesson for children: When you don't have a full plan ahead of you, "do the next right thing". That's good advice. But there are bigger lessons to be shared with children, too -- and maybe "trust the wisdom of hereditary monarchs" shouldn't be on that list.
Clean up after yourself
That basic principle -- exercised not as a legal or regulatory requirement, but instead as the kind of thing enforced by social pressure and accepted mores -- would be really valuable for knocking down some of the dreadful and exploitative practices found in industries like money management. Customers get talked into management fees that are patently obscene: 1% or 1.5% on assets sounds small...but it's really a 10% to 20% cut of your returns in most years -- or even more. And for what?
Mind your business
Twitter needs a button to indicate a post made in good faith vs. "bad faith". It ought to be possible to use the crowd knowledge of people whose motivations one already respects to sort out arguments that are not worth seeing because they are made in bad faith. To work, the system would have to let users preselect the people whose judgment they trust. And that's what probably makes it most unworkable, at least for now.
Segment 4: (5 min)
Much like expressions of gratitude tend to make us feel good (and even more grateful), so do expressions of pride in our spouses.
The moral of the story:
Segment 5: (11 min)
Technology Three | The week in technology
Hackers are dumping Ring camera credentials online "for giggles". Use two-factor authentication to protect yourself.
Recode notes that "213 public companies have mentioned Amazon in the 'risk factors' section of their annual 10K financial filings". Data journalism sometimes gets (and occasionally deserves) a bad rap for substituting spreadsheets for source development. But sometimes it's really quite effective, and this is one of those cases. Forms filed with the SEC aren't the kinds of documents that it's wise to take lightly or treat unscrupulously. If companies are documenting Amazon as a known "risk factor", that's quite telling.
Whatever gets us fastest to a state where human error can no longer kill 30,000 Americans a year, please. Since safer alternatives to highway driving (like passenger rail) are still non-viable, we should take what we can get.
Exhibit #63,438,202 on the list of examples why technology is only as good or bad as the people using it. We humans can use computers to do terrible things like messing with other people's democracies...or we can use them to anticipate severe-weather outbreaks days in advance, save lives, and give people options to protect themselves. It's up to us which we choose.
Segment 6: (8 min)
The moral of the story:
Segment 7: (14 min)
The moral of the story:
Segment 8: (5 min)
It's doubtful most of us could name Abraham Lincoln's first Vice President in a thousand guesses. (It was Hannibal Hamlin.) He was called up for militia duty while Vice President -- and showed up. Then, four years after getting bounced from the ticket in favor of Andrew Johnson as VP, Hamlin was back in the United States Senate.
The impeachment of President Trump has passed the United States House of Representatives. There is a distinct cost to not taking action on the President's misdeeds. The compressed, streamlined case is clear: "(1) abuse of power by soliciting the interference of Ukraine in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and (2) obstruction of Congress by directing defiance of certain subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives." ■ On Article I, the vote was 230 to 197, with one abstention. On Article II, it was 229 to 198, with one abstention. The polarized response to Article I is one thing, but the institutional resistance to standing up for Congress's prerogatives as the first branch of the Federal government is quite another. ■ As former Republican (and now independent) Rep. Justin Amash puts it, "Conservatives will someday face the horrible truth that the Republican Party fought so hard to justify and excuse an amoral and self-serving president", and the sad truth is that there will have been so much complicity in neutering their own branch of government. Like Congress or hate it, the House of Representatives is supposed to be the closest thing we get to direct democracy on the national scale. When a President defies Congress by defying lawful subpoenas and ordering subordinates not to testify, they're expressly insulting and undercutting the Congress, and by extension, the American people. Members of Congress may or may not ask the right questions, but their right to do the asking ought to be universally affirmed, regardless of partisan stripe. ■ Some people have looked the other way from the President's behavior because they feel compelled to partisan solidarity and think the impeachment process can be cast in terms that make it a tribal battle. What if, wholly apart from the impeachment process, we just automatically held a recall election for the President two years into each term?
The moral of the story:
Unsorted and leftovers:
One heck of a camera angle to have on a collision like this. https://t.co/g8gxTHRTXy— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 20, 2019
You don't need to know this story about a little kid from New Jersey who called for help when her mom collapsed, but you'll be glad you read it anyway.
Hot (social) topics
By the numbers
Quote of the Week
Your role in cyberwar
Two observations on the BEA's latest data release: 1. It's pretty unusual for any county to be able to log 71.2% annual GDP growth, as Harlan County, Nebraska, did last year. That's...quite something. 2. The number of counties in the zero-to-negative-growth range is distressing.
Contrary to popular opinion
Hyperbole is going to kill us all
You may think this is overstatement. But there's actually a fair case to make that RSS had critical mass that could have been maintained if Google Reader hadn't been slaughtered. And the twist from user control of RSS feeds to algorithmic control of "news feeds" was a bad one.
What's the big idea?
21st Century conservatism
There's a strange breed of political commentators who have lately been promoting a weird view of Catholicism -- trying to design it to be some kind of powerful anti-(classical-)liberal force in the world. Just curious: Have any of these people ever even met a Jesuit? Whether it's called integralism or Catholic dominionism, it's strange and runs directly counter to much of the teaching of the order that produced the current Pope -- who, it seems safe to wager, would probably confess to greater struggles with his own faith than a lot of people who want to blend their orthodoxy with their political science.
Cities and the people
Curiosity, competence, and humility
How, exactly, was the head of Chicago's city law department claiming a homestead tax credit on two residences at once?
Have a little empathy
A story told both in a family obituary and a follow-up newspaper piece with care and empathy
How are you feeling?
Stop the deliberate ignorance
Tin Foil Hat Award
Yay Capitalism Prize
Capitalist solution of the week
From the official Blair House website: "Franklin Roosevelt, Jr., recalls the morning his mother found the prime minister wandering towards the family's private quarters at 3 a.m., trademark cigar in hand, to rouse the sleeping president for more conversation. He met Eleanor first, however, who firmly persuaded him to wait until breakfast." And it was soon after that Churchill and others were to be put up at Blair House instead of the Presidential residence.
Eww, eww, eww all the way home. https://t.co/BkArpnrbVh— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) December 21, 2019
Netflix needs a "folding laundry/drying dishes/assembling toys" mode, where it randomly picks episodes from a preselected list of your favorite series and plays them haphazardly, like a low-wattage UHF station.
Someone needs to take another look at the Joe Biden campaign bus
Considering the charges, what are the odds anyone will be willing to post bail for this miscreant?
The "Cosmic Crisp" is slightly tart and very juicy -- a fine upgrade over most other varieties, and a hundred times better than Red Delicious
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Live read: Smart speakers (hour 1)
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Calendar events to highlight
Segment 1 | Good vs. evil in Clive: The attempted murder of a kid on her way to school isn't something we should look away from. What caused the perpetrator to make the choices they did? Did any of the rest of us in this community make it easier for them to make evil choices?
Segment 2 | Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day: Pick your holiday candy
Segment 3 | Modern Monetary Theory isn't much of a theory, says the person who wrote my college economics textbooks. It still turns out that you have to pay for what you consume -- even when it's $1.4 trillion in government spending. We have to pay for that, too!
Segment 4 | A heartbreaking letter to Santa is a great reminder that the holidays aren't always easy for everyone, so it's up to those of us who can to try to listen to those in need and lend help where we're able.
Segment 5 | Technology Three: Hackers are putting the usernames and passwords for thousands of Ring camera systems online (you can protect yourself with two-step verification, on your camera networks, email, social media, and online banking). Amazon is a major threat to at least 200 large companies. And Toyota says it's going to put self-driving technologies into commercial vehicles before selling you a self-driving car of your own.
Segment 6 | The US Government bought a house partly because Winston Churchill had loony sleeping habits. True story.
Segment 7 | Call me old-fashioned, but I'm not crazy about the idea of kids becoming "stars" for making commercials on YouTube.
Segment 8 | Some people have looked the other way from the President's behavior because they feel compelled to partisan solidarity and think the impeachment process can be cast in terms that make it a tribal battle. We should ask more of our Presidents, all the time.