Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - December 21, 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

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

The moral of the story:

Segment 3: (14 min)

The big four

Make money

Have fun

Clean up after yourself

Mind your business

Make money

Economist | Fast Co | WSJ | CB

Business and Finance "A skeptic's guide to Modern Monetary Theory"

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.

Have fun

News "Frozen 2" could have been much more

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

Business and Finance Create more value than you consume

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?

$1.4 trillion spending bill signed into law

Mind your business

Computers and the Internet Arguments in good faith

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)

Website reminder

Read a 7-year-old boy's letter to Santa

Humor and Good News Worthwhile marital advice: Champion your spouse's efforts

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

Wired | Slashdot | CNet | ZD | Engad | Digg | TechRepublic | ArsTech | Tw/sci list | Tw/designandtech list

Hackers are dumping Ring camera credentials online "for giggles". Use two-factor authentication to protect yourself.

Business and Finance Amazon as a reportable threat

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.

Science and Technology Toyota will prioritize self-driving tech on commercial vehicles

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.

Computers and the Internet Tomorrow's severe weather, today

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)

The United States of America Lincoln's Veep

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.

News Presidential impeachment

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:

This week

BBC | VOA | Times | CNN | CSM

Humor and Good News 4-year-olds can summon help from 911

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

Google Trends | Yahoo | Y-today | Yahoo Buzz | MSN | MSN UK | Alexa | Delicio | Lycos | Technorati | AOL | Google | Dogpile | Ask (wkly) | CBS | Bloglines | NYTLede | Twitter

By the numbers

Quote of the Week

Your role in cyberwar


Iowa news

DSM | RadI | CID | DVN | ALO | SUX | DBQ | BUR | FOD | MCW | IC | DI | ISU | UNI

Business and Finance Midwest's fastest-growing county had 71.2% GDP growth in 2018

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

Computers and the Internet Did the end of Google Reader undermine democracy?

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

Threats and Hazards Where did these people come from?

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

Tw/cities | CityLab | StrongTowns

Curiosity, competence, and humility

News Careless? Dishonest? Something else?

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

News An obit that tells a story history books cannot

A story told both in a family obituary and a follow-up newspaper piece with care and empathy

How are you feeling?

NIH | CDC | BBC | CNN | WebMD | Harvard

Inbox zero

Stop the deliberate ignorance

Tin Foil Hat Award

Yay Capitalism Prize

Capitalist solution of the week


The United States of America The government owns Blair House because Winston Churchill had bonkers sleeping habits

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.

Broadcasting Streaming better

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.

News Send the spray paint

Someone needs to take another look at the Joe Biden campaign bus

News Skimmers, fake IDs, and drugs

Considering the charges, what are the odds anyone will be willing to post bail for this miscreant?

Agriculture The first new apple variety in a long time is a good one

The "Cosmic Crisp" is slightly tart and very juicy -- a fine upgrade over most other varieties, and a hundred times better than Red Delicious

This day in history

HistCh | Infoplease | LoC | HistNet | NYT | Yahoo

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



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.