Gongol.com Archives: January 2007
Brian Gongol


January 25, 2007

Business and Finance Ford had a really awful year
Lost more money in 2006 ($12.75 billion) than the State of Iowa collected in taxes in 2005 ($10.39 billion)

Computers and the Internet New vulnerabilities in MS Word
Bottom line: Don't open files unless you know and trust the source. And even then, scan them like crazy and delay opening them if possible (in order to give antivirus programs time to catch up with new vulnerabilities)

Computers and the Internet Google Video to morph into search engine only
They're going to move all video hosting to Google subsidiary YouTube. Meanwhile, in St. Paul, they're passing laws to shut off video billboards until they can figure out whether they're distracting to drivers. Clear Channel Outdoor is putting them up in seven markets: Twin Cities, Cleveland, Las Vegas (home of the original digital billboard), Albuquerque, Milwaukee, Tampa, and London (UK).

Computers and the Internet The online logo creator

Humor and Good News Subtlety is a fine skill
Entries in a Photoshop contest reveal that some people get the fine art of understatement

Broadcasting Cranking up the transmitters at Radio Marti
The US government is increasing the scope of its broadcasting efforts aimed at Cuba, presumably in an effort to take advantage of uncertainty surrounding Castro's illness. And that's a smart thing to do. The Radio Marti broadcasts have been ramped up before, and whether or not there are some machinations involving the Cuban expatriate community involved (and it's quite possible that there are), the use of broadcasting as a means to influence opposition groups as well as the man in the street in countries living under dictatorial rule is very efficient foreign policy. Related: Some clear-channel AM stations in the US (including WHO-AM) once flirted with testing 500,000-Watt broadcasts. Those never really got very far: Only one station ever really tried it.

The American Way China's leaders say they're on a mission to "purify" the Internet
Whenever anyone uses a phrase like, "We must promote civilised running and use of the Internet," it's time to think of running for the hills. And while that's going on, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expressing his vision for a Russia that is ascendant in world affairs. Perhaps both Russian and Chinese politicians could start elbowing North Korea about backing off its nuclear program.

Humor and Good News "Tickle Me Elmo" gets exxxtreme

Weather and Disasters Bizarre ice formation contains stunning colors
All of the inbound links call it a "frozen tidal wave." That seems unlikely, because flash-freezing of water would require a huge transfer of energy that seems impossible under tidal-wave conditions. But the ice formations are intriguing and the colors involved are brilliant. Not to say it's impossible, though; nothing should be written off without investigation -- even the idea of dinosaurs built like biplanes.

Threats and Hazards Kids getting into the drug business exceedingly young
More reason not to use the minimum wage as a means to help poor adults; high minimum wages keep kids from getting jobs as teenagers, so there's more chance they'll be drawn to crime. Help poor families with solutions like the Earned Income Tax Credit, not minimum-wage laws.

Business and Finance Baby Boomers may inherit a lot, but not enough for retirement security
For those ages 45 to 54, about a third have more than $100,000 in retirement savings, and another third had less than $10,000. That's terrifying. By age 45, one needs to have at least two years' worth of salary in retirement savings, and a 55-year-old ought to have a minimum of four or five years' worth put away. Ben Stein says so.

Iowa A moratorium on gambling licenses?
Iowa HF 106 would impose a moratorium on new gambling licenses. Here's the rub: The biggest problem we have is that an appointed commission gets to pick and choose which places get gambling licenses and which don't. There are real social costs from gambling abuse -- there's no doubt about that. And those costs may or may not exceed the benefit people get from the entertainment they take away from gambling. But if the state is allowed to openly sponsor and endorse gambling, then it seems disingenuous of the state to prohibit private groups from doing the same. Control the social costs by establishing clear regulations on what social services have to be put in place in order before a new casino or horse track can open up in an area, then let it go. Regulation via commission, especially in a case like gambling, doesn't make a lot of sense -- since there's too much risk of abuse in the process of determining who the regulators are. And a moratorium, more than anything else, benefits those who already have gambling licenses, since a moratorium would prevent any new competitors from showing up. Related: Illinois may be about to sell its state lottery.

Socialism Doesn't Work Free speech includes the right to say nasty things about candidates
No one really loves dirty campaigning, but it has a long and storied history in America -- going back to the election of 1800 in which Thomas Jefferson was wrongly accused of ridiculous things, like favoring the teaching of incest. But Iowa HF 99 would prohibit anyone from distributing campaign material without the consent of the candidate involved. Sorry, folks, but that's the price we pay for free speech. And it's pretty small...unlike the $2,000 fines the bill would impose on violators.

Iowa Iowa House considers setting up a regulatory-efficiency committee
While it would really be nice if the Legislature would start imposing sunset provisions on every new law, HF 115 is at least an effort to identify which regulations are worst, and that ought to be commended

Humor and Good News "Bears inspire a city still reeling from Great Chicago Fire of 1871"
When satire needs to be carried out, the Onion is as reliable as anyone. Even funnier than the video of Star Wars performed only with hands, though not quite as inscrutable.

The American Way Irish Prime Minister to tell Davos about cutting taxes and regulations
By increasing economic freedom, Ireland managed to grow at a remarkable rate.

Water News Urgency of water shortages becomes serious in Nebraska

Graphics Graphic of the day: Icy Reception

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