Gongol.com Archives: 2012 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

Business and Finance Household net worth rises in America
That's good -- it's up to $64.8 trillion. But if the national GDP is $13.6 trillion a year, then we only have a national price-to-earnings ratio of 4.8. On Wall Street, that would be abominably low. Something here suggests that we're not pricing our work correctly, not pricing our net worth correctly, or doing an absolutely abysmal job of managing our household balance sheets. Or perhaps there's some other explanation to be found.

Computers and the Internet Why you should check monthly for computer-program updates

Iowa Iowa DOT starts implementing a process for deciding where to put traffic-enforcement cameras
Some kind of rulemaking process is better than none. There are too many of the cameras and they don't really appear to be in place to make the public actually safer. In an odd coincidence, Cedar Rapids doesn't have working cameras in all of its police cars.

News Rising above
A story that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming about how a couple of strangers helped a girl overcome childhood sexual assault

Computers and the Internet CNN anchor says "The tenor of Twitter has become so un-American"

Health Comes now the Tricorder
The tool monitors vital signs, but it's part of a movement towards handheld diagnostic tools that could make the practice of medicine vastly more effective. Personalized data can make a real difference.

The United States of America Paul Krugman has gone too far
He seems to have made the leap into believing his own hype. And that's the worst thing that can happen to a public thinker.

The United States of America Unionized government employees protest cuts...by going on strike

The United States of America Press goes ape over the threat of a private Oath of Office ceremony
That absolutely, positively cannot be accepted. The Obama Administration's promises of transparency haven't been met by acts.

News Vikings will break ground on $1 billion stadium in October 2013
The state of Minnesota is on the hook for $348 million, at a time when the state has a projected $1.1 billion (that is, $1,100 million) deficit. The city of Minneapolis appears to be on the hook for another $150 million of the project. Is public funding of stadiums such a good idea?

The United States of America And so begins the 2016 Presidential campaign...
If the Politico analysis of the race is right, we should expect to hear some good things from Rep. Paul Ryan -- who seems to "get it" that the traditional center-right understanding of economic freedom actually benefits everyone, but is actually most useful to the poor and the middle class. And in four years, the situation is going to be even worse than it is today, if the Treasury Secretary's "fuzzy math" holds out. On a related note, campaign law still hasn't gotten in touch with technological reality, meaning that Paul Ryan's Twitter account for the Romney Presidential campaign is in limbo.

Socialism Doesn't Work "If you do better in school, you threaten the income of the parents. It's a terrible incentive."
People respond to incentives. It's a fundamental rule of economics. On a related note: We're having trouble paying for Medicaid, too. And then there are the parents who willfully expose their children and others to communicable diseases by skipping immunization shots.

The United States of America US will be "first among equals" by 2030...no longer a sole superpower
That's the conclusion of a report on intelligence policy for the coming years. And don't imagine that 2030 is so far away...it's when today's newborns will become voting adults.

The United States of America Outgoing Rep. Barney Frank: "[L]iberals should say, 'We think government's a good thing, done right, and we're for expanding it"

Aviation News Delta buys 49% of Virgin Atlantic
It was only four years ago that Delta bought Northwest, which made Delta the world's largest airline.

Business and Finance Vigorous protests outside Michigan state capitol as legislature votes for "right to work"
Michigan's workforce is 17.5% unionized (higher than most states, but lower than Hawaii and New York), and the decision covers both public- and private-sector workers. The national average is 11.8% union membership among current workers. An op-ed by a pro-right-to-work union member argues that unions are chasing jobs out of the state rather than protecting them. Whatever the opinions, it's important to remember that the First Amendment right is "to peaceably assemble" -- not to riot. It's disheartening to see violent protests in Northern Ireland -- not over union membership, but over membership in the United Kingdom.

Business and Finance Federal government will sell off most of remaining stake in AIG
Total profit so far: $22.7 billion, after this sale is completed. It should make us all very, very uncomfortable that the government took the action it did, and we shouldn't be too pleased about the profits, either. Obviously, it's better than losing money, but we run the risk of learning the wrong lesson from the whole affair -- government shouldn't be an owner of private-sector businesses, either for profit or for loss.

Computers and the Internet Is it too soon for 1Gbps Internet?
While physically available in some places, it's more than a lot of networks are capable of delivering -- and more than much content actually requires

Computers and the Internet Microsoft issues Patch Tuesday updates: 10 critical

Science and Technology Startup wants to make cups that would warn of date-rape drugs

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Iowa Shrinking wild deer population crimps donated meat supply
Iowa food banks have taken venison donations from hunters for years, but as the wild-deer population has declined, so have the donations

News Where have all the men gone?
The entire senior class of magazine-journalism majors at Drake University is made up of women. So they made a men's magazine. It's all-digital.

Iowa Is it ever OK to give yourself a nickname?
A Des Moines-area economic-development group has hired ad agency Flynn Wright to come up with a name for the Des Moines metro area, similar to something like the Research Triangle of North Carolina. But don't the really great nicknames emerge organically? Isn't it nearly impossible not to sound a little contrived when giving yourself a nickname, whether you're a person or a business or a community?

Computers and the Internet Minnesota's trying to get 100% broadband access by 2015
But the goal, set in 2010, doesn't look like it's going to be met at the current pace

Business and Finance Think about the long-term
A research paper from the Chicago Federal Reserve says that countries that didn't respect property rights in the late 1800s are poorer today than the ones that did. Makes that whole short-termism thing about the "fiscal cliff" seem a little more real, doesn't it? Kick the can down the road today and your grandkids may curse you for it.

Business and Finance Low mortgage rates now could mean low mobility later
It's possible that today's extremely low mortgage-interest rates might mean that people will find themselves severely dis-incentivized to move in the future when rates rise again. The argument makes at least some intuitive sense.

Broadcasting Radio show notes from December 11, 2012
Afternoon drive on WHO Radio in Des Moines

Threats and Hazards North Korea launches rocket -- says it carried a satellite
The problem is that a rocket that can launch a satellite is the same kind of tool that can be used to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile

News Police in Cheyenne dress up like The Grinch to conduct speed trap

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Business and Finance Falling prices: Fun for now, but not for long
Gas prices fell by a lot from October to November, as did prices for several other components of the inflation indices -- so the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the Consumer Price Index fell nationally. In the short run, everyone likes falling prices -- they're the equivalent of getting a bonus in the paycheck. But if falling prices persist and turn into deflation, some bad things can happen. ■ If employers expect price pressure to be persistently downward, they're going to be reluctant to offer raises to employees or to issue bigger dividends to shareholders. We like deflation when we're consumers...but not when we're producers. ■ Persistent deflation discourages people from spending (why spend a dollar today when it'll be worth $1.10 later?), and since consumer spending is a huge component of the national economic ledger (specifically, 70% of GDP), if consumers hold off on spending in the enduring hope of getting more for their money later, they can depress the lion's share of economic activity. ■ And while it would seem that a currency that buys more over time would be a good way to encourage savings, it's not a very good way to encourage useful investment.

News On today's school shooting

Computers and the Internet Nostalgic geeks find ways to recreate the Start button in Windows 8

Computers and the Internet Apple and Google resolve mapping spat...for now
Google Maps is back for the iPhone. But nobody should mistake it for love between the two firms.

Business and Finance A lot of firms want a piece of Hostess
The bankruptcy sale has attracted two dozen bidders, reports Bloomberg News

News Surprising: 2012 turns out to be a great year for the movie industry