Gongol.com Archives: November 2011
Brian Gongol

November 8, 2011

The United States of America Election Day 2011
It's too easy to take the right to vote for granted. Many Americans who are skipping out on their obligation to show up at the polls today are the descendants of people who lived under monarchs, emperors, and others who told them what to do from on high. The revolutions that begat republics in places like France, Ireland, and Spain are all examples of the lengths to which people have gone to assert their right to self-government. We shouldn't take too lightly the obligation to visit the ballot box every chance we get.

Science and Technology The need for modern innovation
Far too many brains are being put to work trying to come up with the next smartphone application or social-media network. We need lots of innovation in lots of areas -- including those that may otherwise seem low-tech. We can't let the "Ooh! Shiny!" effect of gadgets obscure the fact that innovation is a necessary process all around us. It should also be noted that there are a lot of highly-privileged people who think they should be rewarded just for being artsy. The liberal arts are a necessary element of a well-rounded education; that said, they likely do not equip most people with the tools they need to earn a satisfying income. Even well-rounded, college-educated people have to learn how to do something -- probably something somewhat technical -- in order to earn a satisfying amount of take-home pay. "Technical" work can take on a lot of different uniforms (teaching people to write clearly is a technical process, as is programming a robot), but like it or not, there must be some kind of commercial application for most work in order for that work to be profitable.

Business and Finance The law of unintended consequences is impossible to escape
A well-meaning proposal to ensure that disabled adults are paid at least the standard minimum wage could mean that programs intended to keep them active and productive would have to shut down. There's no escaping the fact that there are some people who are sufficiently disabled that they simply cannot produce more than, say, $5.00 per hour of useful output. That should not prohibit them from producing that work, nor for being paid for it. There is an inherent dignity to doing useful work, and it would be shameful if charitable programs were no longer able to provide some kind of outlet for the disabled to participate in that sense of self-dignity.

Computers and the Internet The $150 personal computer of 30 years ago
In early 1982, $150 bought a computer with a 32x24 display and 1K of memory. Today, $150 could just about buy a netbook with a high-resolution display and 250 Gb of storage. Times change. Nobody ought to look at the past and think that times were better then...whenever "then" was.

Broadcasting A diplomatic tug-of-war over reporters
A member of Congress from California wants to see parity between the number of reporters from Chinese state-run news agencies sent to the US and the number of reporters from American state-run news outlets sent to China. Considering almost all of China's media are state-owned, and virtually none of America's are, this could turn out to be well nigh impossible to achieve. There are legitimate concerns to be had about the number of reporters from China who may in fact be espionage operatives under cover. But it seems unlikely that flooding the Chinese market with VOA journalists would make any difference.

Business and Finance A little chat about Berkshire Hathaway
Hosted by the Omaha World-Herald on a weekly basis. This week: A speedy calculation that the company made $1.2 million by repurchasing under-priced shares. But that's just a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly $24 billion the company invested last quarter.

Broadcasting Why radio stations need to transition from "program directors" to "content directors"

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