Gongol.com Archives: February 2012
Brian Gongol

February 7, 2012

Business and Finance About that Chrysler Super Bowl ad...
The Chrysler ad voiced by Clint Eastwood was good television, no doubt. It's a powerful and emotional spot. But something about it still doesn't sit well, even after a few days of consideration. Yes, the bailouts of GM and Chrysler have turned out pretty well for those two companies. More than $60 billion in government cash infusions will do that sort of thing.

But what about everybody else? What about the erosion of the wall between the government and private industry that lingered with the government's continued ownership of minority stakes in both GM and Chrysler? What about the bondholders who were sent straight to third-class treatment behind the government and the UAW when the government and GM agreed to restructure ownership of the company in bankruptcy? What about the shareholders and workers of Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and other companies that also build their cars in America, but without bailout funds? Why should Ford have to compete with massive subsidies backing the other two of the Big Detroit Three? What makes Toyota's plant in Indiana, Honda's plant in Ohio, or Hyundai's plant in Alabama any less "American" than similar facilities in Detroit?

Subsidizing the poor choices that built up at GM and Chrysler only served to punish the companies that had gotten by on their own. And, to take it a step beyond, why should people in any other American industry have to subsidize just a handful of participants in the automotive industry -- just because it's well-known and politically important? It's not as though a non-bailout world would have meant the end of the automotive industry in Michigan: Had a more natural process taken place, the valuable assets of the companies would have been acquired by others. One thing about what that would have meant: The acquiring companies would, most likely, have been better-managed than the bankrupt companies, and would have been better at putting those resources to work than the management of the bankrupt companies.

Don't misinterpret this, of course: Nobody should revel in bankruptices. They hurt a lot of people, and they should be avoided whenever possible. But if they're inevitable -- as they apparently were at GM and Chrysler -- an intervention like the one the Federal government undertook on our behalf can create very visible results, but it hid the damage done to others. It's easy to wave a flag and say "Look at how well Chrysler and GM have done since the bailouts!" It's harder (but no less important) to ask what sacrifices were made by others to make it happen.

Computers and the Internet This is why you always register your electronics with the manufacturer
A series of security cameras from Trendnet contain a firmware bug that could allow anyone to see live streams from those cameras (including ones inside bedrooms and other parts of private homes) over the Internet without any kind of password protection. The company says that 95% of users haven't ever registered their cameras, which means they aren't getting contacted by the company with instructions on how to fix the problem. Always register your software and hardware alike.

Business and Finance We need to stop handcuffing ourselves to temporary tax breaks
Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke is worried that uncertainty over tax rates is a threat to the economy -- and that increases in tax rates, if they occur as scheduled now, could be enough to stifle economic growth at a very precarious time. We've been using tax policy as a means of stimulating the economy for too long, and now that behavior is really coming home to roost.

News Should journalists be certified, accredited, or even licensed?
A newspaper editor in the UK is arguing for a system to accredit journalists there, so as to prevent the un-accredited from attending newsworthy events in a reporting capacity. On the surface, it might sound like he's calling for journalists to be more professional. But what he's really calling for is a means of limiting his competition. That's almost always what certifications, licenses, and other accreditations are all about -- keeping competition out, and protecting the guild within.

Science and Technology Soldiers of the future might use mind controls
That is to say, they might both control their weapons using their minds, and use weapons against their adversaries' minds

Computers and the Internet A cleaner Facebook user interface would be nice, but...
...sometimes the site goes through a hiccup and nothing appears at all

Computers and the Internet Pen and paper still have a place in the digital world

Threats and Hazards Why everyone should know self-defense: Case study #10
A man in Chicago punched a woman repeatedly on a street in broad daylight because she looked at him in a way he didn't like. It's unfortunate that she wasn't equipped with the tools to lay out a punk like that and teach him a life lesson.

News Everyone should know how to stop a runaway car
One person survived a ride in which a Chicago driver chased a death wish by going the wrong way down the Interstate. Three other people inside the car (including the driver), and a driver in another vehicle died. It's a low-probability thing that anyone's going to be caught in such an extraordinary situation (or any other, like a kidnapping or carjacking), but it takes about ten seconds to learn how to stop a moving car when it's out of control.

Water News A picture from pump school

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