Gongol.com Archives: April 2012
Brian Gongol


April 18, 2012

Business and Finance Shareholders give big rejection notice to Citigroup executive-pay plan
It was only an advisory vote, but when 55% of shares cast say "no" to the CEO's pay plan, it's hard not to notice

News New York Times cuts free-article access to ten per month
Stupid, stupid, stupid. The problem here is that they offer no digital-only option for subscriptions. Anyone who wants more than ten articles a month will have to pay for a print subscription. Lunacy. The print product is the costly part of the affair -- production and distribution cost money. But once an article has been written -- for print or for the Internet -- distributing it to every additional reader via the Internet is practically free. So if they were smart, they'd offer a low-cost digital-only subscription option and get thousands of users to sign up for $5 a month. But instead, they're just telling folks that it's either $4 to $7 a week or nothing at all. Totally dinosaur-like thinking. The New York Times is good reading...but it's not essential to most people's lives. If your cost of distribution to the next marginal customer is practically zero, then for the love of Milton Friedman, charge a low but reasonable price for it and maximize the potential revenues! Netflix charges $8 a month for unlimited access to television and movies. The price point for "all-you-can-eat" content on the New York Times -- for most users -- is going to be something less than that. But if they're too caught up in their own sense of self-importance to realize that, then they're not going to last very long.

Aviation News Delta considers buying a refinery
They say that jet fuel is a little over a third of their operating costs, so perhaps some vertical integration will help ease that pain. If true, it's an interesting move.

News Once I was the King of Spain...
The Moxy Fruvous song may have been an absurdity, but so is the real King of Spain. First of all, it's bizarre that Spain still has a king. The point of having any kind of monarchy in any advanced nation in this day and age is utterly beyond reasonable comprehension. But even further, this genius has gone off and hurt himself while hunting on an African safari. This is particularly embarrassing, considering that Spain's economy is a lot weaker than it really ought to be. And for an institution that gets an 8.4 billion Euro subsidy from the country, one would think that his time would be better spent doing things like conferring patronage on private businesses, instead of going around shooting elephants in Africa.

Business and Finance Will natural-gas prices stay artificially low?
One analyst thinks that natural gas prices are absurdly low -- perhaps just 1/6th or 1/7th of what they ought to be. That's going to reduce the incentive (in the short term) for anyone to invest either in efficiency projects (like improved insulation, where natural gas is used for winter heating), or in alternative-energy projects (where natural gas is used to fire up electrical generators to meet peak demand). But while the news is bad in the short term, it may be an signal that those investments that are presently depressed by very low natural-gas prices could be available at discount prices. After all, it's most attractive to buy things when nobody wants them -- if it's highly likely that they'll want them at much higher prices in the future.

The United States of America US DOT secretary: "America's one big pothole right now"
That's a bit of an overstatement. But there is something to be said for putting some investment to work in the nation's civil infrastructure. The problem is that quick-fix items -- like repaving a bunch of roads -- isn't necessarily the investment we need most right now. The nation's water and wastewater infrastructure is in dire need of upgrades, just as badly as the roads need help. But sewers are a lot less sexy than superhighways, so politicians can be counted upon to divert funding to those projects that offer the best opportunities for ribbon-cutting and immediate gratification, rather than where the money really ought to be spent for the maximum public good. On a related note: The New York Times tells of new developments in rapid bridge replacement using prefabricated structures that can simply be lowered into place.

Threats and Hazards Chicago will add speed cameras
This kind of automated enforcement of traffic laws is easy to sell as a "for the children" kind of proposition -- but the insidious part of it is that it conditions people to expect to be watched by Big Brother. And when people tire of being watched all the time, they start to get subversive. It's a natural thing to want to rebel against an overzealous authority figure. Automated traffic-enforcement cameras are, rather by definition, that kind of overzealous figure.

Business and Finance How the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska turned gambling profits into a non-casino company


Health Caffeine is a drug, after all
College students in Sioux City were sent to the hospital after overdosing on caffeine during a physiology experiment. Caffeine is a funny drug -- it's legal and available virtually anywhere. It's also (for most consumers) a performance-enhancing drug, whether it makes it possible to wake up more easily or to get more done -- or, in some cases, to improve the ability to focus. But it's still a drug that can have hazardous side effects in excessive doses.

Threats and Hazards Heartbreaking story of Iowa teen suicide
A 14-year-old appears to have been harassed -- literally to death -- after coming out of the closet. Kids shouldn't be driven to that kind of despair by their peers or by anyone else.

News Stadium plan falls apart, so the Vikings could leave Minnesota
Not that it would be a good idea for taxpayers to have to ante up $550 million to fund half of a new stadium

Agriculture Chokecherry tree blossoms up-close

Recent radio shows on demand