Gongol.com Archives: December 2008
Brian Gongol

December 16, 2008

The United States of America Monroe Doctrine? What Monroe Doctrine?
The US has been left out of a Latin American summit, and it's no surprise: The United States has (diplomatically) ignored Latin America for years, and doing so has left a vacuum for influence which China and Russia have been delighted to fill. Proximity matters, no matter how "flat" the planet has become, and ignoring the leftward shift of the countries to our south is not only foolish, it's downright damaging from a long-term perspective. We want a happy and prosperous Western Hemisphere, from Nunavut to the Falklands, but if we don't take action to make it happen, it's our own fault when distant countries become more influential there than we do.

Weather and Disasters It's cold all the way from Iowa north into Manitoba

Futurism Why don't we ever talk about death as a problem to be solved?
(Video) Say something like that out loud, and you'll probably be accused of spending too much time reading science-fiction novels. But here's the rub: Some trees live for hundreds and even thousands of years. Over such a length of time, an individual could probably become inordinately wise -- after all, what a person learns in school usually pales by comparison with what a person learns in adult life. We build skyscrapers as testaments to human ingenuity and ego, yet we seem indifferent to the notion of building human lives to great lengths. Yet we'd be far better off had the fruitful minds of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, or Thomas Edison lived for 200 years than we are today because the Great Pyramid of Giza lasted for a few thousand. In fact, one might even argue that much of the time devoted to studying the trivia of the past wastes precious genius that could be used to solve contemporary problems. Moreover, one might argue that if we expected to live longer, we might invest more in making good long-term decisions -- which, in turn, would be very good for the generations to follow.

Computers and the Internet Internet Explorer vulnerability leads to millions of infected computers
Microsoft is issuing an "out of band" security update -- meaning that it falls outside the regular Patch Tuesday schedule. They only do that when it's a serious security flaw they're trying to fix.

Business and Finance They're effectively giving money away
The Federal Reserve has lowered the Fed funds rate to 0.25%, meaning money will not only be almost free to borrow, but borrowing might actually become a way to make money. If you're paying 1% interest on a loan, and the rate of inflation is 2%, then you're paying back the loan with money that's worth less than what you borrowed, even after interest. It's strange circumstances like this and the falling prices of many important goods, especially energy, that make the economy so difficult to comprehend right now. Some even think we're entering a deflationary cycle, even though the Federal Reserve is pumping huge amounts of money into the economy.

Science and Technology Practicing heroism
(Video) The researcher behind the legendary Stanford Prison Experiment says that it's possible to train ordinary people to be ready to act heroically when the need arrives. Moreover, he says it's essential that we do so.

Water News Agriprocessors bankruptcy could cost Postville millions

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