Gongol.com Archives: 2013 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol

Business and Finance It's not what you know so much as who...
And you might not believe some of the things HR people say about job candidates and applicants

News The problem with music today...
...is not what they're playing (tastes and trends will always come and go, and today's "noise" will be tomorrow's "classic hits"). It's how the industry works. There's far more money in live performance than in creating and recording new material. What artists produce more than about one album a year? Very few. And who can blame them, if they'll make more money performing live? But in the long term, wouldn't the world really benefit more from getting a larger pure volume of music recorded by talented artists while they're in their creative primes?

Business and Finance Who are America's minimum-wage workers?
In yesterday's State of the Union address, the President proposed raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. It's a no-lose political gamble for him: He can talk endlessly about how it will help working families, and parade examples of those low-wage families out in front of the cameras. It makes it look like his administration is "doing something" to help the poor. ■ While there is no doubt that there are families living on the minimum wage, the reality is that 50% of minimum-wage workers are under age 24. One in five minimum-wage workers is, literally, a teenager. Of the people working for minimum wage (or less), 51.3% work in leisure and hospitality (including restaurants), and about 17% are working in retail. ■ In other words, raising the minimum wage will largely affect the prospects of young people working in restaurants and retail. While a wage increase for adults in those jobs would undoubtedly make their lives somewhat better-off, a wage hike would also have the hidden consequences of making a night out at the restaurant more expensive for everyone else. It would also tend to shrink the opportunity set of low-wage, first-time jobs for young people in high school and college (or at least, for those of college age). That means higher youth unemployment, and if you want to see how that works out, ask France, where rigid employment laws keep huge numbers of young people from entering the labor market -- so they riot instead. ■ So even though it's an easy political move for the President, the consequences aren't necessarily quite so easy as "Raise the minimum wage, and working-class families will do better". If you really want to help working-class families, raise the Earned Income Tax Credit and increase the opportunities for job training and non-traditional routes to post-secondary education. But raising the minimum wage? Well, it looks nice, but it steals opportunities from the next generation by stealth. ■ Young people who can't get low-wage, low-skill jobs early in life don't develop a track record from which to get better jobs later. Nobody starts out as CEO of a Fortune 500 company; virtually everyone starts at the bottom. But if the "bottom" evaporates because good intentions (and easy politics) are allowed to ride roughshod over sensible long-term economics, then fewer people get a chance to start "at the bottom". Instead, the risk becoming part of a class of permanently unemployed non-workers. This concern is no small matter: It's a pressing worry already in Britain, and the dangers should be obvious: It's much, much better for young people to have legitimate opportunities to gain work experience, even when that work is low-skilled and for low pay, than to have no entry-level opportunities. ■ The President wrote in 1985 (when he was still a community organizer) about the frustrations of trying to help people get started finding jobs. It is as though he doesn't see the continuum between opportunities for young people and the success those people enjoy later after getting some skills and experience under their belts. And that, regrettably, is a lesson that doesn't translate well into a winning sound bite...but it's the right approach to lasting success.

Computers and the Internet Five technology myths that need to go away

Aviation News Why has it taken until 2013 to start addressing the legal consequences of drone aircraft?
The law is at least five years behind where it should be. Unmanned aircraft have been a huge development for the US Air Force, and it's an indictment of our lawmakers that they've ignored the consequences for civilians for so long. And on a related note, Raytheon can mine your digital presence (including photos and social-media connections) to form predictions about where you are and where you're likely to be found.

Computers and the Internet The ICN is up for sale
Iowa's statewide, state-owned fiber-optic network is on the market

News New medal for cyber-warfare and UAV pilots would outrank the Bronze Star

News Would the St. Valentine's Day Massacre still shock Americans if it happened today?
A sad case can be made that it would not

Business and Finance Coke's 70-20-10 approach to marketing

Computers and the Internet Know the Facebook class-action lawsuit
It's a low-effort, low-return affair for most people. You won't get much for applying to join the class, but it doesn't take much effort, either. But be sure to read the terms for yourself; it's a lawsuit, after all.

Science and Technology You want to stop crashes? Use engineering.
Roundabouts decimate the crash rate at dangerous intersections. Red-light cameras don't.

Science and Technology Plants can communicate with one another
And the more closely-related the plants, the better the communication. Selfish genes, indeed.

Socialism Doesn't Work North Korea may pose the biggest opportunity ever for a gun-buyback program
North Korea's nuclear-weapon test this week isn't happy news. The country is continuing to isolate itself from the rest of the world, and we should all be uncomfortable with the idea of a hard-core Stalinist regime toying with nuclear weaponry. It may be time to consider the world's biggest gun-buyback program. ■ American police departments conduct gun buybacks in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, because they apparently believe that the benefits of removing those guns from the streets outweighs the costs of buying them. We currently spend a non-trivial sum keeping about 25,000 American troops on the Korean peninsula. This is a cost that has lingered since the Korean War. ■ At some point, it may well be worth considering whether we could effectively "buy back" North Korea's weapons by buying-out the leadership of the Communist regime there. How much might it cost? Good question. But there is, without question, some price at which the regime would willingly leave power. A power play like that would undoubtedly be expensive and would have unintended consequences -- perhaps encouraging other regimes to pursue weapons programs in the hope of getting a similar sweetheart deal. And it would prevent the execution of the kind of justice applied to dictators like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. ■ But there are real, direct costs to the current state of affairs in Korea -- and the high-risk game being played by North Korea also introduces lots of unknown hazards to the peaceable nations of the world, not to mention the implicit suffering imposed upon millions of North Koreans who could be living as well as their bretheren to the south, if it weren't for the lousy Communist system.

Health FDA approves an artificial retina
More bionics! It's great news, and it's good that there is a market for people to make money coming up with products like these that will improve the quality of life for people living right now.

Humor and Good News You had ONE job to do...
Tragically hilarious documentation of good jobs done badly

Business and Finance Cisco says no more US-based acquisitions until the tax code changes
They'll have to pay 35% repatriation taxes if they bring foreign profits to the US from overseas

News Russia says it has trillions of carats of diamonds
They're beneath an asteroid impact crater. They've known about these for a long time, but kept the secret so as not to upset the world market. Now that Russia is on a natural-resources hot streak, the secret apparently doesn't need to be kept any longer. This is one of several reasons why a gold standard for a currency is a terrible idea: You never know when someone will arbitrarily discover (or reveal knowledge of) a huge amount of whatever hard asset you choose to back the currency.