Gongol.com Archives: June 2012
Brian Gongol

June 18, 2012

News Socialist Party wins big in France
They have a majority in the national assembly and in the senate, plus the presidency. Are they full-blooded red Communists? No. But it's strange to see a party that's socialist-in-name take over a Western nation's politics. The Green Party did well, too. ■ Party politics are a funny thing. They involve lots of horse-jockeying and realpolitik, but there's still an element of philosophy behind it all. For instance, for what the world's Green Parties get right about thinking for the long term environmentally, they usually get things completely wrong about economics and incentives and private property. France's socialist party may be completely backwards in philosophy, but they seem to understand that government spending has to be reduced. ■ In an ideal world, we'd have something like a Century Party: One that's dedicated to a philosophy of making the best decision not just for today, but for the next hundred years. A Century Party would have to consider ethical, environmental, economic, and other consequences of every decision with a longer time horizon than what's just around the corner. On the surface, it sounds like a totally pie-in-the-sky idea. But short-term thinking has been just killing us in recent years: Short-term thinking about housing and banking gave us the mortgage crisis. Short-term thinking about government spending has given us a $15.7 trillion Federal debt. Short-term thinking about energy gave us the 1970s oil crisis. Short-term thinking about foreign policy gave us Al Qaeda. ■ And it's not as if people never looked to the long term in the past. Much of the infrastructure we use today was built or at least started 50 or 100 years ago. Airport terminals like Reagan National and structures like the Brooklyn Bridge have been around for many decades -- and what would the Golden Gate Bridge be without its Art Deco look? We need to think not just about the immediate, but also about the future.

News Monarchies are ridiculous
The next-in-line to become king of Saudi Arabia just died unexpectedly. But he was 78 and the king is 89. It's not like this system is designed to deliver thoughtful, progressive leadership to the country. Monarchies -- especially ones that retain any kind of political power whatsoever -- are patently ridiculous. David Mitchell put it quite well when he called the idea of monarchy a "confidence trick". They're nothing more than people telling other people that because some long-ago ancestor whipped everyone else into order, then God must will it that the offspring of the long-dead victor should still tell everyone else what to do. Ludicrous. Republics all around.

Business and Finance China says it won't re-stimulate like it did in 2008
They're going to continue putting government spending out there to stimulate the Chinese economy, but supposedly at a much lower rate than what was going on before. Premier Wen Jiabao essentially told the G20 that the rest of the world is on its own if the global economy re-slows. Apparently, American officials have been pressing them to apply more stimulus spending. Officials from India seem worried that a slowdown could really cramp their style.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft plans to have a tablet computer for Christmas
They're calling it "Surface", and it's going to run on Windows 8, which by many accounts is a pretty decent operating system for phones and tablets. They're being coy about the price point, only suggesting vaguely that it'll probably be in the $400 to $600 range. That's really still too high for tablets -- the real breakthrough price point for those is the $200 range, where one finds the Amazon Kindle Fire. But if Microsoft can make the case that their tablet -- with a keyboard built into the cover, but not apparently necessary for the operation of the tablet strictly as a tablet -- can be easily integrated with existing business IT infrastructures, then they might have something good going. Tablets remain good for getting low-concentration work done -- scanning emails, checking the Internet, and the like. These are things that many companies would be happy to have their employees doing at home and off the clock, or while traveling on airplanes and trains. And if they're (understandably) skittish about trying to integrate Apple's iPad products into a Windows-heavy IT world, then a Microsoft-built alternative just might work. It's probably going to be a much tougher sell for ordinary consumers. Wisely, they're including tools like SD and USB ports. Apple makes data transfer a premium option, which just adds a slight but noticeable nuisance factor.

News China's grown notorious for selling fake stuff, but this is ridiculous
One fraudster in China is in trouble now for making up an entire bank in the United States, then telling everyone he bought it. He apparently lied in order to gain social status.

Iowa We're really starting to miss the rain
About 60% of Iowa's cropland is short or very short on moisture. That's bad news going into the warmest part of the summer.

Computers and the Internet It's this kind of language that's going to kill Twitter
The Twitter enthusiasts who use hash tags, jargon, and other shorthand are rendering much of what's shared on the site to be totally meaningless to outsiders. Once the "in group" language becomes more prevalent than, say, just plain language, a website or service is clearly on the decline.

Humor and Good News Who wants a body massage?

Health Take two minutes for a self-exam today
Take a minute or two and conduct some basic self-screenings for cancer. Early detection saves lives. There's lots of misinformation about cancer that finds its way around the Internet, largely because we've been trained to wait expectantly for some sort of magic-bullet solution to cancer. But cancer risks can be significantly reduced through a balanced diet, exercise, and early detection and treatment. Meanwhile, science is making great progress towards improving genetic detection, which holds great promise for some types of cancer. Instead of forwarding hoax-ridden e-mails about "cancer cures" and false threats, people should instead remind their friends and family to assess their health once a month.

Recent radio podcasts