Gongol.com Archives: June 2012
Brian Gongol

June 14, 2012

Socialism Doesn't Work Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nudges North Korea towards change
Her statement was clearly a nod to South Korea, a free ally of the United States, but it's also a point well-taken: North Korea simply can't go on being an authoritarian Communist state. As Stein's Law rules, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." Authoritarian Communism simply cannot go on forever. It leaves people literally starving -- and that's untenable when neighboring nations have plenty. So the question is: How long will it take the North Korean leadership to see that there's a bigger payoff to ending the madness than to keeping themselves barricaded away from the reality of the destruction and poverty they cause? They need to see, somehow, that peaceful reunification with South Korea is the only viable strategy. Here's the question: Does it take some kind of direct payoff? That may be the only option -- somehow literally buying-off the elite to get them to step aside. Perhaps if you play civilization as a video game for long enough, totalitarianism becomes the rule. But there's no reason that we, as human beings conscious of what's happening to us and around us, cannot deliberately fight back against the tide of chaos and build a better way of life for ourselves and our offspring.

Weather and Disasters A big leap forward for safety comes on Monday
The National Weather Service is about to start pushing the highest-severity warnings (tornado, tsunami, flash flood, and the like) to cell phones starting Monday. It's obviously only going to be available on newer devices, but it's a great step forward. People need those alerts most when they're away from home, and most especially when they're out of town and may not recognize the early warning signs of danger. Iowans probably don't know much about tsunamis, and Hawaiians aren't well-versed in tornadoes. It's a very sensible collaboration between the authorities tasked with keeping people safe and the wireless telephone companies.

Business and Finance Bank of England and UK Treasury plan to drop mountains of cash into banks for lending
They're talking about adding £5 billion a month to the banks so they can lend out to businesses. That's $7.7 billion a month at current exchange rates. It's a huge amount of money -- on top of additional huge piles that have been shoveled into the economic system already. Here's something worth consideration: With lending rates at impossibly low levels (seriously -- some 15-year mortgage rates are being offered at 2.75% -- that's bonkers low), financial institutions are lending long at very low rates. That's going to hurt them a lot -- a whole lot -- when rates eventually come back up. There's no question that the cost of money will be higher than 2.75% at some point in the next 15 years. But if the banks are locked into lending at those ultra-low rates for very long stretches of time, they're going to find themselves in a world of hurt when their depositors are expecting far more. All this cheap money being dumped into the economic system is going to put severe downward pressure on the returns that people are going to be able to earn from "safe" investments like CDs for quite some time to come. That, in turn, is going to cause huge problems for retirement funding, since people tend to move their money into those "safe" instruments (like bonds and CDs) as they approach retirement -- which is something that people will be doing in very large numbers as the Baby Boomers retire. The next 15 or even 30 years look like terrible times to be in banking.

The United States of America How the mayor of London -- yes, that London -- could be come President of the United States
Boris Johnson was born in New York City and holds an American passport. Interesting.

Science and Technology Can we place a numerical value on art?
Of course we can. It might be difficult to do so, but a price tag can most definitely be put on the value of the aesthetic. It may actually be surprisingly low, on balance. We've spent far too long permitting the uglification of America. Maybe a little more style and class are worth it.

Iowa Group forms to say "no" to special tax breaks for Iowa City tower

News Who could say no to this cute little face?
It may belong to a baby gorilla, but it sure looks innocent and worthy of protection. The African Wildlife Foundation is a great charity working to protect mountain gorillas, among other African species.

News Vatican report turns against American nuns
The Vatican conducted a review of a group called the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which claims to represent 80% of American nuns. The resulting report concludes that there are "three major areas of concern" about American Catholic religious communities, one of which was termed "radical feminism". Now, the group says it's going to hold regional meetings and a full-scale assembly in August to decide what to do about the accusations. The news raises an interesting question for the Catholic Church: Is it better off with greater doctrinal uniformity or with a big tent?

Socialism Doesn't Work What happens to Communist Party leaders who go astray in China
It's not pretty

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