Gongol.com Archives: January 2009
Brian Gongol

January 27, 2009

Business and Finance Robert Barro says stop making up economic "multipliers"
And he's absolutely right.

The United States of America A blueprint for fixing American public diplomacy

Computers and the Internet Can editorial rules bring order to Wikipedia?
Not entirely likely -- but it would be far easier to trust the site if there were some set of brakes on the most ridiculous of editing jobs

Humor and Good News Evidence we don't have to worry about the robots taking over yet
Microsoft has a program called Songsmith, which matches melodies to your a-capella vocal tracks. But it can also turn "Hotel California" into a disco track, make Rick Astley into a metalhead, and evolve "Eye of the Tiger" into something close to a funeral dirge. The outcomes are musically correct, but culturally disastrous. Until we get a program that tells a budding musician to stop the horror, then we probably aren't quite yet in a place where we need to fear the rise of intelligent machines.

The United States of America We should've used war bonds for the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan
It's a lesson we should have learned from the Vietnam conflict: Lyndon Johnson partially privatized Fannie Mae because the Vietnam war was costing too much and the Federal budget couldn't hold up. But the partial privatization made the organization unstable from the outset, which in turn led to the massive disaster in its finances this past summer. Wars themselves are expensive, but that expense gets compounded many times over when those who are eager to do other spending can point to the cost of the war and say, "Well, if the government can afford this war, it can surely afford other things, too." And thus politicians end up buying support for war spending with lots of other spending, too. As expenses swell, questionable financing like the sale of government assets start taking place. We're in a far tougher fiscal position today, and there's no sign of it letting up. Had we as a nation instead started with war bonds to fund the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, then perhaps -- maybe only perhaps -- the explosive growth in Federal spending (and debt) that has taken place since 2001 would've seemed far more inexcusable at the time than it obviously did. Funding the conflicts through the sale of war bonds would have had another advantage: It would have forced the government to define the terms and scope of the conflict, rather than calling it a "War on Terrorism", which is not only nebulous, but also ultimately unwinnable, since terrorism is a tactic rather than an adversary. Naming things creates consequences. And setting the terms for a conflict in Afghanistan in 2001 or 2002 would have been much better than trying to figure out in 2009 how many troops to send there.

The United States of America All politics are now transatlantic
A company that helped the Obama campaign use the Internet to do its marketing is now being hired to work on a campaign to stop a far-right party in Britain. Anyone who doesn't think that politicians in Washington and London and Brussels are constantly taking cues from one another is missing the big picture.

Humor and Good News One incredible car collection
Some photos are circulating as an e-mail forward, featuring dozens of classic cars in a dusty old building. The forward claims it was a lucky find by a couple from New York who moved to Portugal. The real story appears to be that the collection belongs to a retired car dealer who doesn't want to be found. But the collection is still amazing.

Water News Most of Macy, Nebraska, is released from its boil order

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