Gongol.com Archives: April 2013
Brian Gongol

April 1, 2013

News Will a private developer revitalize downtown Detroit?
The founder of Quicken Loans wants to get some streamlined government approval for a massive redevelopment of the downtown area in America's 14th-largest metro. At some point, as long as the infrastructure for a city remains at least mainly in functional condition, a real-estate market from which the bottom drops out will eventually attract someone who thinks the future return on the investment is worth the risk. And there's no evading the fact that Detroit is on sale. It's possible -- not certain, but possible -- that a model that suspends most government regulation might be the swiftest way to attract the investment needed to get Detroit on the rebound. The city needs it: They're under emergency financial management. And Detroit isn't alone...quite sadly, we need to be aware of the risk that as cities find themselves unwilling or unable to make good on promises made over the years (especially to pension programs), more may find themselves in grave financial trouble. Stockton, California, has 300,000 people...and a $900 million debt to Calpers. That's $3,000 in pension debt for every resident. It's going to get ugly when pension obligations in other cities come due and nobody's prepared to pay. The problem at the municipal level is a reflection of the problem at the national level, too: Too many promises have been made by a government that hasn't been funding those promises adequately. (This tension, by the way, must be kept in mind when the same government makes additional promises to pay for more things in the future.)

Business and Finance T-Mobile goes after competitors in a big way
The CEO, using some salty but direct language, says mobile phone contracts are unreasonable and argues that T-Mobile's no-contract plan means customers will pay less over time, even if they lose the carrier subsidy for their phones

News Obituary for the first rabbi at the liberation of Buchenwald

Computers and the Internet The risk of the great honeypot
A huge online database run by the General Services Administration was found to have a big security vulnerability, which the government is now scrambling to fix. And thus we have a great case study in "Why you don't want the Federal government to centralize too many things". Massive national databases are a very attractive target for digital criminals.

Threats and Hazards What happens if North Korea's regime fails ungracefully?
The US military has been planning for the possibility, which isn't outside the realm of imagination. The greater the number of threats, the more likely it is that North Korea will do something to prove at least some of those threats to be credible. But the Communist system there is untenable in the long term, and long-term untenability risks short-term instability, and that could happen without a great deal of provocation. South Korea is standing its ground on the provocations, which it must.

The United States of America 40% of undocumented immigrants in the US didn't sneak across the border
They've just overstayed their visas. And the visa process is anything but clear and direct. It's well past time for reform.

Computers and the Internet Lowering barriers to entry
An iPhone with Instagram is now all a person needs to take pictures good enough for the front page of the New York Times

The United States of America Congress needs to reclaim the power to declare war

Science and Technology A good look around the changing energy landscape

Humor and Good News The great Peeps Diorama Contest

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