Gongol.com Archives: August 2012
Brian Gongol

August 2, 2012

Aviation News Is it worth $30 not to stand at the luggage claim in the airport?
For some people, definitely. American Airlines is going to offer a bag-delivery service starting Monday at 200 airports in the US.

Broadcasting One set of stupid television ads won't break a company, but...
Apple's new advertising campaign is about as lifeless and colorless as seems possible. Not a good way to define a company that built its entire brand upon "Think Different".

Computers and the Internet Windows 8 has been released to production
The upgrade price will be $40 for current users. Upgrades and fresh installations (right out of the box) will be released on October 26th.

Computers and the Internet If even three idiots are using a hand-sign for "hashtag", that's too many

Computers and the Internet Smartphones keep getting better
So what is Apple to do with the next iPhone? If every other manufacturer is going large, should Apple break the old mold (literally) and go with an iPhone 5 that's bigger than the iPhone 4? If they don't, is that going to leave them at a serious competitive disadvantage? On a related note, it's being reported that 2/3rds of applications in Apple's App Store never get downloaded.

Computers and the Internet Clock's ticking for those still using the old Facebook profile
They're going to force everyone onto their "timeline" design by the end of the year

News Is women's beach volleyball a feminist success?

Business and Finance Concentrated costs and diffuse benefits
One of the most challenging aspects to public budgeting of any sort is that there two different ways to split the bill for expenses -- concentrate them or spread them out -- and the things government spends money on can have benefits that are again either concentrated or diffused throughout the population. Things like the Air Force have both diffuse benefits and diffuse costs -- everyone benefits relatively equally, and everyone pitches in via income taxes. There isn't a lot of debate about those issues. Then there are things with concentrated benefits, which cause a huge number of our problems, especially when they have diffuse costs: There's always a good reason for the people who benefit to lobby heavily for everyone else to pay for the things they want, and that's why we get earmarks. (It's also why we get things like the National Endowment for the Arts -- the people who want it most are the artists it supports [a really concentrated benefit], and they argue that by spreading out the cost among everyone, the per-capita cost is next to nothing. Sure, there are lots of talking points about why the spending benefits everyone, but the reality is that the benefits are extremely concentrated among the actual recipients.) But things get really challenging when a situation arises like the one going on in Omaha right now, where the city faces a huge bill ($3 billion, perhaps) to separate its stormwater sewers from its sanitary sewers. It's a project with no real lobby -- the benefits are about as diffuse as they could possibly be, and nobody really notices their sewers unless they're fighting backups. The project has been mandated by the Federal government, so Omaha doesn't have a choice whether or when to do it. They have to spend money, starting now. But there are certain industries that use more water (and thus produce more sewage) than others, and a group of 19 of those companies is fighting a plan to make them pay 5% of the overall bill. Their argument in response is that there's no way to absorb those costs without cuts elsewhere -- or even, possibly, closures. There's no way to escape the fact that the project is going to be expensive and that someone will have to foot the bill. And, unfortuantely, it's not the kind of project that counts as "sexy" in any way, shape, or form, so there's really not even a way for anyone to find a political solution that will look good when re-election time comes around.

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