Gongol.com Archives: January 2010
Brian Gongol

January 27, 2010

The United States of America A good court system is the conscience of a great nation
The President's State of the Union address included a shot at the Supreme Court for its recent decision to overturn campaign-finance limits. Though he used the classic dodge "With all due deference", it was clear he wanted to say something that was popular, even if it wasn't right. And that's simply not the "due respect" that separation of powers requires. The court handed down a decision in Citizens United vs. FEC that's right, even if it isn't popular. It can be summarized in a single sentence from the decision: "No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations." And it's right that we should have an independent judiciary that can serve as a conscientious arbiter of important matters, like a national conscience. It's not altogether different from what happened when the Iowa Supreme Court decided in April 2009 that restrictions on civil marriage based solely upon gender violated rights enumerated in the state constitution. These are matters of upholding a social conscience even when the society itself may tend to object. An independent judiciary is a thing worth defending in its own right, even if some politicians try to score cheap populist points by claiming that they can overturn judicial review. The truth is that we should celebrate judicial independence, both when it results in decisions we favor and when it results in those we don't, because it's better to have courts with unpopular justice than mob rule with popular injustice.

Futurism Planning 'til the end of the week isn't enough
A look at some whiskey ads from the 1940s (predicated on a celebration of the "men who plan beyond tomorrow") reveals a few things: First, we seem to have given up too quickly on a sense of style in all things -- even the ordinary things, like grocery stores -- and making some aesthetic improvements commensurate with our technological ones wouldn't hurt. Second, we may not know for certain which of our predictions are going to come true (like cell phones) and which ones won't (like moving sidewalks in major cities), but we do know that the future will probably arrive before we think it will. General Motors executives in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s probably couldn't even conceive of a time when their company would be bankrupt. After all, GM topped the 1955 Fortune 500 list. And the ones from 1960, 1965, and 1970. Yet a lack of strategic foresight brought the once-mightiest company in the world to disaster. Every company should have a 100-year business plan, not because it'll ever be executed flawlessly, but for the same reason that a pilot files a flight plan: To get a sense of where he or she is going, and what trouble might be encountered along the way. A long-term plan, plus some consistent execution of good technique can make a system last.

Computers and the Internet Your browser may be telling websites who you are
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is doing research that seems to suggest that your computer can be uniquely identified just by its browser configuration data -- even if you're blocking cookies. Truly eye-opening stuff.

Business and Finance Australia escaped recession, but how badly does it need China?
Australia's reliance on exports to China could be dangerous in the future, when China's economy has a day of reckoning between its rapid growth and its underinvestment in the social infrastructure necessary to support its pending very-high ratio of retirees to workers

Business and Finance Is on-demand custom production what will light the economy on fire?
The only way for the United States to conquer its mounting national debt and overcome the titanic unfunded liabilities in the Social Security and Medicare systems will be through radical new innovations leading to vastly greater economic productivity. Maybe on-demand production will be just the thing to make that happen.

Humor and Good News Howlin' Mad Murphy: "I...will...be...heard!"
(Video) One of the classic segments from the hilarious "Sealab 2021". Related: Someone might've been a little howlin' mad in their own right when they programmed in some of the movie descriptions at Comcast.

Broadcasting Radio on demand: How should Google respond to Chinese espionage?

Broadcasting Radio on demand: Why you need to establish a digital footprint long before you think you'll need it

Water News Iowa DNR to host meetings over new stream standards

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