Gongol.com Archives: December 2009
Brian Gongol

December 2, 2009

Iowa More than 40 programs on the chopping block at UNI
The state of Iowa has cut a lot of funding for the three Regents universities, and they're cutting programs as a means of handling that reduced funding. The universities may illustrate a case where across-the-board budget cuts are an especially bad idea. When the economy contracts or stagnates, people who go out of work often have greater need than they did before for additional education and training. Education spending ought to be counter-cyclical to the economy, at least to some degree -- delivering more opportunities for low-cost education when the rest of the economy turns sour, rather than less. It takes no special powers of observation to see that university-level education is a major contributor to national and economic well-being; if it weren't, then how could the Saudis possibly justify opening a university where the notorious religious police aren't allowed to roam and women permitted a degree of freedom? That doesn't mean universities should be operated with bulletproof budgets, but it does indicate that counter-cyclical spending on education may be worthwhile.

Computers and the Internet Some very good (security) reasons to stay out of Facebook applications
The problem with many of them is that they offer direct access to your personal information to the people and companies creating the apps. Facebook counts on people to give away their valuable personal information -- and they're getting what they've been hoping for. And what's unfortunate is that all of this is being figured out as the company makes decisions on the fly -- like killing off regional networks and changing the way that people have to establish their personal privacy settings. The cumulative effect is that people shouldn't trust anything for "privacy" online. The people in charge can be capricious, malicious, or just plain stupid -- but the people who pay the consequences are the users. And that's before we even consider the impact of what it means when people share too much about themselves online, even without provocation. It's important to have a private life that remains private.

News When tech rumors spread faster than the truth
A poorly-documented complaint became a firestorm of rumors, all defended under the cover of "The company couldn't be reached for comment". But when people are inclined to spread juicy rumors anyway, and can do so with immediacy thanks to the Internet, at what point does sensibility kick in and start demanding that we get valid news from verifiable sources?

Business and Finance Dubai after the bubble
Fascinating photos from the New York Times. It was little over a year ago that people still insisted that there wasn't a bubble. There was. The lesson: Always suspect a bubble, and whenever you find one, assume it will burst.

Business and Finance GM CEO fired
And vice chair Bob Lutz says it was a badly-timed move. The US government still owns a majority of the company -- unless there have been other secret machinations taking place, itself an entirely possible situation -- and that makes every move of this sort a highly political situation. That tension needs to be ended quickly -- the whole concept of a state-owned GM is still pretty noxious.

Broadcasting Podcast: The hidden costs of corruption in Chicago

Water News EPA nixes some of Iowa's proposed water-quality revisions

@briangongol on Twitter