Gongol.com Archives: February 2010
Brian Gongol

February 4, 2010

Socialism Doesn't Work It might be impossible to overstate how much economic malfeasance is being done by North Korea's government
A nearly-overnight devaluation of the currency -- by a factor of 100. The closing of private markets for food. Draconian restrictions on the use of foreign currency and imported goods. It's probably the most gut-wrenching display of economic evil on display in the world today.

Health MRI scans allow some presumptive-vegetative patients to communicate
A hospital in London used a sort of backdoor method to give people the ability to answer "yes" or "no" to basic questions. They found that almost half of the people they thought were in a vegetative state were capable of communicating those "yes" and "no" answers, just like people with normally-functioning brains. A binary means of communication might not seem like much, but "yes" and "no" can mean quite a lot when one needs to tell doctors whether to do things like increasing pain medication or end life support. And, of course, it signals that we might be able to figure out a lot more about brain function that could overcome traumatic brain injury altogether.

The United States of America Federal debt ceiling will rise by $1.9 trillion
The debt ceiling isn't the problem; it's the debt itself. Raising the ceiling is a necessary consequence to prevent default, but the spending is what really has to be reined in. And even though it looks like pay-as-you-go budgeting may be reinstated along with the higher debt ceiling, the real Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads is that our unfunded future liabilities are going to escalate without any sense of control or proportion, thanks to the "promises" made by Social Security and Medicare. We keep putting off real reform, and the consequences keep getting more expensive. Sovereign-debt problems around the world are starting to earn some real (and deserved) attention. Something has to be done before it's too late. The only thing that's likely to work (considering how hostile the American public is going to be towards either benefit cuts or tax hikes) is a massive, prolonged rise in productivity. The latest figures (showing a 6.2% annualized rate of increase in the fourth quarter of 2009) might be enough -- though, unfortunately, it's quite unlikely that we'll be able to sustain that rate of increase for any serious length of time.

Science and Technology "Shoot first and ask questions later" fails scientific scrutiny
It turns out that humans respond more rapidly to the appearance of a threat than we are capable of creating the same threat -- that is, we're faster at being the "white hat" cowboy than at being the "black hat" who shoots first. It probably has to do with the wiring of the brain that likely evolved to favor rapid reactions more than the creation of trouble.

Computers and the Internet How teenagers are using the Internet as we start 2010
Lots of texting. Lots of Facebook. Not a lot of blogging.

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