Gongol.com Archives: July 2010
Brian Gongol

July 14, 2010

News Just because you carry a passport doesn't mean it's accepted everywhere
The Iroquois Nation issues its own passports, but they're not being accepted for travel between the United States and the United Kingdom. It might help if their national website weren't broken right now. The concept of nationhood is a funny thing: China, for instance, seems to be taking rather bold steps to protect its "national" economic interests -- to the point where multinational companies like GE are questioning whether it's worth doing any business there at all. But China as a monolithic entity is only a myth. And the multinational corporation itself is a concept which some people think will merge, to an extent, with real nation-states as the nation-states weaken and the corporations grow more powerful. Related: See a brand-new, modern ghost city.

News The best way to lose an argument is to overstate your case
A "tea party" group apparently paid for a billboard in Mason City, Iowa, whose message appears to draw parallels between President Obama and both Hitler and Lenin. It's so over-the-top that whatever point they likely intended to make is drowned out by the ridicule the sign rightly attracts. Has the President done things that are, literally, socialistic? Yes. The government bailout (and buyout) of General Motors, for instance, was socialistic. But socialism comes in many flavors, and there's certainly been a socialistic element to the government's approach to economics at least since the New Deal. George W. Bush's expansion of the Medicare prescription-drug benefit was just as socialistic as the government takeover of GM, but the Medicare benefit will be far more costly. That could, arguably, make former President Bush more of a socialist than President Obama. But to infer that either is comparable to Hitler or Lenin is unreasonable. It overstates (by an egregious margin) the magnitude of American leaders' behavior, and ultimately detracts from the very legitimate discussion that should be taking place about the proper role of government and the limitations of government spending. Our government spends far more than it takes in, and most people probably don't want to pay higher taxes. Thus, we need a serious discussion about what it is upon which we should be spending less -- not a cartoonish and offensive shouting match that ends up bringing Godwin's Law into effect.

Weather and Disasters The relative power of hurricanes turns out to be predictable

Computers and the Internet OpenOffice releases an updated edition
It's mostly built around a "refreshed" brand, which may or may not serve to bring the free, open-source office productivity suite to the attention of new users. But it's a good set of tools, and one cannot beat the price.

Weather and Disasters Tropical weather in Iowa
The dewpoint in Des Moines today reached 80, which is a figure the city hadn't seen since 2004. At that level, it's muggier outside than in a tropical rainforest. Or, put another way, a lot like a foggy day in London...but about 40 degrees hotter. It was brutal. But it also inspires some curiosity about those other rainforests -- not the tropical ones, but the temperate rainforests, where it's always wet but cool. It would have made a nice trade-off.