Gongol.com Archives: April 2010
Brian Gongol

April 23, 2010

The American Way Putting the right minds to work on the important subjects
Bill Gates says he wants to "get more of the world’s brightest people to focus on the world’s biggest challenges, like poverty, global health, education, energy and climate change." That would be a worthy goal. The incentive structures that have grown up around nonsense like technical analysis in stocks have drawn lots of good minds into what are basically meaningless, low-societal-value pursuits. In America, this has happened largely due to the lack of knowledge among investors (who are unwittingly complicit in the mis-assignment of value that happens when executives aren't paid according to the value they create but by their ability to extort, bribe, and steal from their shareholders through lap-dog boards of directors, and the stealthy death-by-a-thousand-mosquito-bites that happens when financial managers like mutual fund companies get paid handsomely to do anything but mind the store. Pay should reflect value, and it's not government action that will fix the problem: It's capitalists -- the stock and mutual-fund shareholders of America demanding real value for what they are charged -- that will set things straight. Gates, himself one of the most successful capitalists of all time, knows this, which is why he pushes for market-based solutions to problems like the brain drain away from socially-valuable work.

The United States of America A "Daily Show" editorial we can all agree upon
(Video) What anyone who threatens death in the name of religion can do to themselves. Hint: It's not pretty.

Computers and the Internet Facebook believes its own hype -- the first step towards disaster
The company is trying to capitalize on the fad of the "social Internet" by claiming that it can provide better resources for discovering what a user will and will not like through the aggregation of data from that user's friends. But there are several flaws in the logic: First, people like serendipity, and it's hardly serendipitous that you'll discover anything meaningful from your friends' Internet behavior that you don't get from just interacting with them anyway (for instance, if they start popularizing a new restaurant, then you'll probably hear about it anyway if it's worthwhile). Second, Facebook has over and over been a serious violator of privacy expectations -- not necessarily rules, but social expectations. They've eroded too much trust already to expect that people will be comfortable just giving them more data all the time. Third, their ambition is getting to be a little over-the-top: Teaming up with Microsoft to deliver document-sharing via docs.com may be a novelty, but it's hardly a breakthrough. We already have e-mail and Google Docs for these purposes -- and once again, there's only so much information that many people are going to be willing to hand over to services like Facebook. The sharing has to end somewhere.

Business and Finance A really good visual depiction of the world's debtor nations

Socialism Doesn't Work British drivers are being watched by GPS and speed cameras
And a system to determine who's speeding over long-distance trips is being tested. This is Big Brother behavior, and it should be rejected by free people wherever they have the choice. A free society depends upon the right to live one's life without the constant surveillance of the state. As the saying goes, if a cop follows you for 500 miles, you're going to get a ticket.

Humor and Good News Some people are good enough sports to laugh along with jokes about their names
Like the family that owns Butt Drugs. Watch their television commercial.

Humor and Good News Good life advice: Don't run over the cop car

Water News At least one war the 21st Century will be fought over water

Recent radio podcasts