Gongol.com Archives: June 2016

Brian Gongol


June 2016
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June 1, 2016

News Donald Trump's completely inadequate summer reading list

He claims (dubiously) to be planning to get through a book on Hillary Clinton, a book on Richard Nixon, and "All Quiet on the Western Front". Real leaders need to read widely and be able to talk and write about what they've been reading. Theodore Roosevelt was a voracious reader, reputedly speed-reading a full book a day. In Benjamin Franklin's words, "From a Child I was fond of Reading, and all the little Money that came into my Hands was ever laid out in Books." Our military leaders insist on sharing long and thoughtful reading lists for the professional development of the officers serving beneath them. A dignified occupant of the White House should be a reader-in-chief as well.

Computers and the Internet Australian government confuses "CC:" for "BCC:"

In telling thousands of women who had applied for consideration in government appointments that they would need to follow a different procedure to apply, someone in the government used the "CC:" field to address the list. The problem, obviously, is that the field is open to everyone on the list -- and while email addresses aren't strictly private things, revealing thousands of addresses tied to a specific program definitely isn't a savvy way to manage anyone's IT.

Computers and the Internet Twitter suspends parody account mocking Putin

Was there concern that "@darthputinkgb" would somehow be confused for the real person? Hardly. The parody tweets were original and unmistakably mocking. One of the highest roles to be played by free speech is in permitting people to mock their political leaders.

Computers and the Internet MySpace got hacked

And if you have a legacy account there, you should seriously consider resetting your password or pulling the plug on the account altogether

Science and Technology Elon Musk says Tesla 3 owners will have to pay for their own charges

The fancier, higher-end cars (Models S and X) come with free charging at the company's Supercharger sites, but Tesla wants people to charge their cars at the home and office. There's one Supercharger site in Iowa. The advantage to using the Tesla chargers is that they are so much faster than regular charging.


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June 2, 2016

Computers and the Internet Google Express launches -- aggressively -- all over and around Texas

Next-day delivery (or two-day delivery) for a lot of goods is promised all over the state, not just in densely-populated areas as one might expect.

Computers and the Internet Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter agree to a European code of conduct

They promise to take down hate speech within 24 hours. It's a complex issue: On one hand, sunlight is usually the best disinfectant -- so revealing the identities of people with awful things to say and subjecting them to public shame and scorn would likely be more productive than scrubbing their comments...but anonymity is so easy to achieve online that it's probably not plausible to do so. On the other hand, when hateful speech takes up space in the public square (as the Internet now serves), people may begin to see it as normal rather than deviant. It's not a conscious or deliberate act to accept anti-social behavior as normal; it's just a natural consequence of familiarity.

Science and Technology King Tut's dagger didn't rust because it was partially made of meteorite

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that something special like a space rock would have been used to make something for a king

Business and Finance Saudi Arabian government fund to invest $3.5 billion in Uber

Uber is supposedly pushing hard to expand in the Middle East, and the investment satisfies Uber's hunger for cash investment and the Saudi government's need to put oil profits to use in industries other than petroleum. Having a great endowment of any natural resource (like oil) can subject an economy to a perverse natural-resources curse. Whether investments like one in Uber are the right ticket out isn't a certainty, but it's likely a step in the right direction.


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June 4, 2016

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - June 4, 2016

Trends, tips, and technology


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June 5, 2016

Health Why our fingers wrinkle

It appears to be a physiological response to permit us to grasp things with wet hands

Business and Finance A potential case for demolition bonds

Small communities are having trouble paying to remove old buildings that have outlived their usefulness (and often contain perils like asbestos). It may make some sense to require every new building to come with a bond for its own demolition. The costs are real, even if we don't think about them.

Humor and Good News Denmark's kinda-creepy way of reversing population decline

If the young people aren't making enough babies, shame them into doing it for Grandma. And get Grandma to kick in for the cost of a romantic vacation.

Aviation News Delta says 90% of flights will come with free onboard entertainment by July

A few hundred movies and several hundred TV episodes will be available over the WiFi signals in Delta planes. That's a huge change from just a few years ago, when most electronic signals were forbidden in-flight.

Computers and the Internet Alphabet/Google subsidiary Nest moves CEO to "advisory" role

The transition from startup to subsidiary isn't always an easy or satisfying one

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - June 5, 2016

Live on WHO Radio (AM 1040) starting at 9:00 pm Central Time, or streamed on iHeartRadio


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June 6, 2016

The United States of America Senator Ben Sasse: No, I'm still not for Trump

He notes: "[T]he Libertarian Party is something I would certainly consider in the long term", while generally looking unfavorably at the future of the two major parties. Note, though, that the only things that would really run the two-party system off the rails would be proportional voting (not likely to happen inside our federalized system, in which states are independent of one another on Election Day), fusion voting (which is worthy of very serious consideration), or a fundamental breakdown in the value that the party structure brings to the electoral process (which it's too early to say has happened for certain, but isn't entirely outside the realm of plausibility). The stable outcome of a first-past-the-post electoral system like ours is going to be a two-party/two-coalition system. What we're experiencing right now is a deep disruption to both of the coalitions that form the two major parties.

The United States of America Book review: "Seven Principles of Good Government", by Gary Johnson

Johnson's book is actually even more mainstream in 2016 than it was in 2012 -- and well worth reading; the campaign is making a mistake by not printing and giving away millions of copies

Computers and the Internet Teaching survivors of human trafficking how to code

A laudable means of empowering those whose lives were disrupted by evil. The ability to support one's self -- particularly with a high-value skill -- is an important human condition.

Computers and the Internet The Federal Reserve is under almost-constant cyberattack

That doesn't make it any different from almost all big financial institutions, but it's a reminder that today's "wars" don't always take place on fields of physical battle

Science and Technology A robot to fold your laundry

Laugh about it if you want. Call it frivolous if you must. But recognize that labor-saving devices make our lives better all the time and they soon enough just become part of the background of daily life and we hardly ever acknowledge how much time and effort are being saved by everything from crock-pots to dishwashers.

The United States of America AP says Hillary Clinton has locked the Democratic nomination

And the November general-election matchup is now set, barring any bizarre circumstances (and it's been a bizarre campaign)


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June 7, 2016

News "I can change, I can chaaa-nge!"

Donald Trump's behavior as a Presidential candidate (and now presumptive Republican nominee) is a lot like the Saddam Hussein character in the South Park Movie: Lots of promises to change, and then no real change whatsoever. It's no wonder (though it is worthy of note) that one Iowa State Senator has quit the party in protest.

Computers and the Internet Marketing company claims research shows big drop in time spent on social-media sites

Whether that's correct analysis or suspicious data is worthy of further investigation. It doesn't particularly seem like people are spending less time with social media, but there's also the possibility that people are getting real about the huge amount of time that they're devoting to what is fundamentally non-productive activity. The advice remains: Less time with Facebook, more time with book-books.

Computers and the Internet Wall Street Journal says Verizon wants to buy Yahoo's operating business for $3 billion

Second-round bids were due on Monday

Computers and the Internet Facebook is making the Messenger app mandatory

Facebook knows best. Just ask them.

Humor and Good News Woman tracks down the person who saved her life a quarter-century ago

She was in a terrible car wreck as a minor. A nearby truck driver also happened to be a paramedic. He probably saved her life by acting until rescue services could arrive -- but he couldn't follow up because she was a minor. They got in touch briefly long ago, then lost touch, and have found each other again. There's still a great deal of good in most people.


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June 8, 2016

Weather and Disasters Paris floods of 2016 vs. Paris floods of 1910

Side-by-side photos tell the story brilliantly

Threats and Hazards Parentheses used as a symbol of hate

ADL highlights the use of the "echo" symbol as a tool of antisemitic thugs

Threats and Hazards ISIS murders women who refuse sex slavery

Unconscionable evil exists in this world. These are serious times.

News Self-awareness isn't for chumps

Metacognition isn't a strong suit for everyone. It's just unfortunate that some people who utterly lack self-awareness are this close to the seat of power.

News Former Secret Service agent publishes "tell-all"

And that should probably be strictly forbidden as a term of employment -- and future receipt of things like retirement benefits. How can a protectee trust their protectors if they have concerns about being "revealed" in a future publication?


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June 9, 2016

Computers and the Internet Can artificial intelligence make human art better?

Purists will probably reject the idea that computers can help human beings to create art. But if many sketch artists and cartoonists learn by tracing the work of others, and if young musicians practice their chops by playing covers of known favorites, then what's the loss in creativity if we use computers to generate starter ideas that human beings can build upon? Whether or not it leads to any "great" art, this kind of technology should lead to computers that do better at human-like tasks, which we need. But in the end, what harm could possibly come from introducing more good art in all its forms into the world? It shouldn't have to be rare to be valuable.

Threats and Hazards Good people, bad system

The North Korean people are trapped by a revolting, authoritarian state. The system is what's wrong. We should have deep sympathy for the people trapped under it.

The United States of America The consequences of a toxic ticket at the top of the ballot

People are highly disinclined to vote split tickets between the White House and their House and Senate races. So a bad Presidential ticket is potentially poisonous down-ticket. This election is so strange that it's possible we will see odd voting patterns -- like people who vote exclusively for the top of the ticket (and skipping downballot races as an act of protest because they reject "politicians" altogether) or the opposite, in which party regulars (especially Republicans) leave the top of the ticket blank because they can't force themselves to commit to either major-party choice.

Health What in the environment could trigger Type 1 diabetes

If you're genetically predisposed, everything from respiratory infections in infanthood to psychological trauma in adulthood could play a part in triggering diabetes

Science and Technology Tesla is going to sell a cheaper Model S

The Model S 60 will come with a base sticker price of $66,000 -- considerably less than the base price for the fancier version of the same, which runs to just shy of $90,000.


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June 10, 2016

Computers and the Internet Promise and perils of using the Amazon Mechanical Turk for social science

It's hard to get the right subjects in the right quantities to do real social-science research. The Mechanical Turk might help -- or it might only look like it's helping.

Business and Finance A fantastic visualization of yield curves

You could spend four years in college going to economics classes to understand yield curves, or you can watch a 9-point slideshow from the New York Times that captures the concept brilliantly. Or both, if you really want to.

Business and Finance The United States isn't supposed to export political risk to the world economy

When American business leaders are forced to explain the prospects of a nightmare candidate making it to the Oval Office, it has real costs to the world economy.

Computers and the Internet Gawker Media files for bankruptcy

Rather than try to pay $140 million to Hulk Hogan after losing a lawsuit to him over invasion of privacy, the company just hopes to sell itself to Ziff Davis after getting bankruptcy protection. Gawker has made serious errors in judgment before, so perhaps it isn't surprising that a bad call has landed the company in today's trouble.

News Georgia, Ukraine want into NATO as soon as possible

And with unpredictability the rule in neighboring Russia, who could blame them? Of course, it's also possible that Russia would take the very act of NATO enlargement as a sign of aggression (and quite likely would), so this is a complex problem.


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June 11, 2016

Computers and the Internet British intelligence exec: The "Internet of Things" is too attractive for terrorists to resist

And they'll try to exploit its inevitable security shortcomings to try to do massive harm to society

Broadcasting Stephen Colbert puts third party Presidential ticket in the spotlight

Some pop-culture exposure could go a long way


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June 13, 2016

News The leopard doesn't change his spots

Anyone who continues to hope that Donald Trump will start behaving like a civilized candidate for the Presidency of the United States is going to end up disappointed. Better to shift away allegiances now, rather than to wait for the inevitable disappointment.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft is buying LinkedIn for $26 billion

Of all the social networks, LinkedIn has the greatest staying power because it has a specific, business-oriented raison d'etre -- Facebook may be almost universal and Twitter may be ingrained deeply with certain power users and Instagram may be the platform for rebellious youth, but none of them serve an essential business purpose. LinkedIn manages to do that. If you're betting on which of these will still be around in 15 or 20 years, bet on LinkedIn. That doesn't mean that Microsoft is (or is not) paying a reasonable price for it; only that it is buying the most durable asset of its class.

Business and Finance Should smaller investors have access to choices like their wealthier counterparts?

"Accredited" investors have access to a lot of things that smaller investors do not -- but while that's intended as a measure of protection for the "little guy", it also keeps people who want to take venture risks (even with eyes wide open) from doing so. In practice, that means preserving some highly attractive opportunities for those who are already relatively wealthy. Good intentions do not always mean positive results.

Business and Finance A new stock exchange?

One is under development now

Threats and Hazards "Developed" doesn't always equal "civilized"

Qatar has a tremendous amount of prosperity going for it -- but the government there convicted a Dutch woman of adultery in a case involving her own rape. It may be a culture, but that is not the behavior of a civilization.


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June 14, 2016

The United States of America Consider the honorable alternative

A Bloomberg poll conducted by the highly reputable Ann Selzer firm shows Hillary Clinton well ahead of Donald Trump in national opinion polling. What matters in the end is not the national poll but the Electoral College split, but it's a big gap. And quite notably, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson shows up with 9% of the vote. Johnson appears to represent the most palatable third option that will appear on the ballot in November -- a two-term governor of New Mexico who held office as a Republican. Johnson right now appears to offer an honorable alternative for those voters who have spent 25 years digging in their heels against Hillary Clinton but who cannot stomach the specter of Donald Trump. Johnson is experienced and eligible in his own right, and while his party may act a little goofy, his principles and his track record both square well with the limited-government tradition that seems to be in exile from the Republican Party this year.

Threats and Hazards How the Russian government may meddle with the US election

It's not a purely abstract concern -- the Russian government hacked the Democratic National Committee's computer network and stole their research on the presumptive Republican nominee. They're not just casually disinterested in the outcome of this November.

Threats and Hazards "[A]ssaulting fundamental liberal democratic values"

The Washington Post editorial board responds to being banned from Donald Trump's campaign events. And they're right: It is fundamentally at odds with the values of openness and Western civilization for a candidate for President to banish a reputable, mainstream institution from covering his events because he doesn't like their coverage. It's petty and beneath the dignity of the office to which he aspires. One of the Post's staff humorists has responded with a tongue-in-cheek style guide to covering the candidate, which recommends against describing the candidate as "what results if you accidentally leave Guy Fieri in a microwave".

News Get the process right and the results will follow

A thoughtful critique of all those well-meaning but misguided commencement addresses that tell young people to follow their dreams

Computers and the Internet Apple is going to put Siri inside the Mac platform

Artificial intelligence and virtual assistants are both creeping their way more and more into the mainstream


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June 15, 2016

News The President should have a capacity for abstract thinking

Political analyst Nate Silver notes that Donald Trump "learns by rote rather than being an abstract thinker". He is quite likely right about that. When Trump speaks apart from unprepared remarks, his language is starkly concrete: That is, he almost never uses metaphors, similes, or other abstractions. When he says he wants a "big, beautiful wall", there is every reason to believe that he is speaking quite literally about a very large wall. Trump is, after all, known mostly for his real-estate ventures, and those are almost universally known for their emphasis on superficial ostentation: You don't move to Trump Tower because you appreciate subtleties, you move there because you want to show off every possible indication of glitz (no matter how gaudy or gauche). He participated in the construction of an otherwise attractive skyscraper in Chicago, then garishly slapped his name across it in giant letters, to the chagrin of the architect. He doesn't appeal to abstractions like a "shining city on a hill". This may not seem like a problem on first glance, but the fact is that the Presidency is not bounded by concrete problems -- most of the big issues require an exceptional capacity for complex, abstract thought. If it were all a matter of simple, concrete matters easily resolved in the physical world, the Presidency would be something much less than it is. But simplistic concretism is not what the Oval Office requires. The Presidency is usually defined not by what the elected individual thinks he or she is going to do, but rather by the unexpected events to which the administration must react: Events like 9/11 or the collapse of the Iron Curtain. To occupy the office requires an intuitive curiosity about the world and a high-level ability to see the abstractions of the world. Whether you like a candidate's policies or not, this ability is a functional requirement of the job, and a person who doesn't possess that ability is unsuited to the great responsibility.

News The Riviera in Las Vegas has been demolished

More than any comparable country, America knows when to blow up the old and replace with the new. Las Vegas does this better than anywhere else. Sentimentality has its place, but utility should win more often than not. Once something is no longer useful, it's time to replace it with something that is.

Computers and the Internet The disposition of everything Yahoo has bought under Marissa Mayer

An interesting mix of independent products, fold-ins, and acquisitions strictly used to obtain talent

Computers and the Internet Why IBM is now in the weather-forecasting business

Companies like IBM, Google, and Apple are well-advised to apply their technological advantages in markets where advanced computing can provide a competitive advantage. Weather forecasting is one of those areas -- pharmacological research and other subjects where sophisticated modeling would also be appropriate.

Computers and the Internet Facebook working on suicide-prevention tools

Technology is only good insofar as we use it to make people's lives better. So if social media is used as a tool for bullying, it must on balance also provide tools to offset the harm that may come about -- and to be "good", rather than neutral, then social-media sites need to help people who might have slipped through the cracks even in a world without social media.

News The AP has spoken: It's the Chicago L

It should be the "El", since the name comes from the original "elevated". But the AP has spoken.


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June 16, 2016

Computers and the Internet San Francisco municipal rules are strongly discouraging Airbnb hosts

Municipalities have every right to set reasonable regulations regarding the interests of health and safety. But it's extremely easy for those regulations to become a tool for limiting competition and protecting entrenched interests. San Francisco should beware that hazard. The temptation is great to protect the interests of the well-entrenched, but that behavior (called "rent-seeking" by economists) only serves to harm consumers and the prospective competitors who are squeezed out by the regulations.

News A cartographic look at the influx of refugees into Europe

It's a migration of truly historic proportions, and it will be noted in the history books decades from now. History, though, is often hard to see when it's happening right before our eyes. Europe's challenges are huge: To welcome the newcomers with grace and human dignity, and to quickly get those newcomers to embrace liberal Western values. One of the major threats to those two things is the risk of xenophobia and populist nativism: If people who are refugees feel like they are being rejected and isolated, they may have a harder time embracing local values. Some historical context is in order: Remember that the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church (two of the defining institutions of Western Civilization) made vast use of syncretism in order to spread their influence. At the margins of cultures, the key is to embrace and co-opt -- not reject.

News A Donald Trump TV network?

Vanity Fair says it's under serious discussion, and there's no reason to be surprised by this. Trump's Presidential campaign has been a publicity stunt since the beginning, and now it's gone totally off the rails. A rational person in his position should have walked away from the "campaign" months ago, before it was too late, and leaving on his own terms. But instead, now he faces nothing but unpleasant outcomes: A revolt at the national party convention, an electoral loss to Hillary Clinton, or the prospect of somehow obtaining an office he is unfit to hold. The idea of using the campaign as a base from which to launch a cable TV network may be the only way to lock in something resembling a victory at this stage.

Threats and Hazards A worthwhile examination of "marked" speech

When racists and anti-Semitic bigots use things like parentheses to "mark" names for online harassment, civilized people need to understand the symbols being used so that they can repel the implicit hate speech involved

Computers and the Internet Twitter invests in SoundCloud

Twitter already owns Periscope, so maybe a SoundCloud investment isn't such a big leap. And on a related note, Twitter has just tightened its integration with Periscope, so live video streaming is now a one- or two-click operation from within the Twitter app.


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June 17, 2016

Computers and the Internet You may be a social-media news consumer, but that doesn't mean you've quit traditional sources

Television and print newspapers seem to be moderately depressed by social-media usage; radio is untouched; news websites actually appear to gain considerably.

Computers and the Internet US Court of Appeals upholds FCC's net neutrality policy

Its treatment as a public utility has consequences -- "net neutrality" isn't a perfect paradigm. There are solid reasons to give some data preferential treatment from a practical standpoint -- even if it's not particularly attractive as a philosophy.

Computers and the Internet Chicago City Council moves ahead with tougher rules for ride-sharing

The least-surprising words in the Chicago Tribune report: "The ordinance, promoted by the taxicab industry..." Fingerprints, background checks, drug tests, chauffeur licenses, minimum fleetwide wheelchair accessibility, pricing, and response time rules are all included. Protections on health and safety can have their place, but the accumulation of proposed regulations looks a lot more like an effort to stifle competition than to serve the public. Restrict new market entrants too much and they might just quit your market altogether.

Business and Finance The enemy of my enemy...

Walmart has announced it will stop accepting Visa cards in mid-July because the card company charges too much on transaction fees. Small retailers are understandably excited to have a big dog joining them in the fight. The fees charged by the credit-card companies in North America are much higher than in other countries and it's high time they experienced pushback.

Computers and the Internet Facebook Live appears to have captured a man's murder

Don't forget who warned a month ago that Facebook Live would become a troublesome place in little or no time at all


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June 20, 2016

Business and Finance Book review: "The Ten Commandments for Business Failure", by Donald Keough

A book that ought to be used in business schools to offer a capstone perspective on leadership.

News Book review: "Between Worlds", by Bill Richardson

An interesting political time capsule left behind by a politician whose ideology has largely gone missing

The United States of America How would America look with a multi-party electoral system?

The Economist comes up with a model suggesting how we might look as a "parliamentary" democracy. It's only a hypothetical model, but it's a clever illustration.

Business and Finance St. Louis Federal Reserve rethinks macroeconomic forecasting

No more forecasts of some future long-run steady state. Just a guess at different periods that could emerge.

Computers and the Internet Toyota calls automotive artificial intelligence "guardian angel" technology

This is how the self-driving car becomes a permanent reality. It won't happen in one giant leap (like the Google model), but rather via incrementalism -- culminating in a broad public acceptance that the technology has eclipsed human capacities to drive safely. Autonomous-vehicle technology has to prove that it makes us safer in steps -- if it is measured by the lives it saves from human error, it will be seen as an advancement; if it is measured from an assumption that self-driving cars are perfectly safe, then it will be doomed in the court of public opinion because some accidents will be inevitable.


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June 21, 2016

Business and Finance How much does it cost to break even on drilling for oil in America?

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas finds that producers say anywhere from $9 a barrel to $60 a barrel, but averaging from $29 to $43, depending on location

Iowa Des Moines and Omaha trounce other cities at total livability

Affordability, family-friendliness, modest prosperity -- it's a full-package deal

Business and Finance Global Risk Institute worries that debt is reaching chokepoint levels

One executive says "There's debt being piled upon debt being piled upon debt." At some point, rates must rise.

Business and Finance One highly anxious economic analysis

There are too many uncertainties and lingering problems for it to be anything like a boom. The question is whether it's destined to become a bust -- and that's not clear.

News The Trump campaign isn't behaving like a campaign

Probably because it's just a perpetuation of what began as an exercise in shameless self-promotion and has never grown more serious than that. They're funneling 20% of their spending back into Trump interests and circling the wagons against any outside influence.


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June 22, 2016

News Three critical traits of a good elected official: Curiosity, competence, and humility

And if a candidate for office never leaves a bubble of self-reinforcing messages and ventures out to learn more (or even acknowledges that there is more to be learned), then that candidate is dangerously unqualified for just about any job in the public trust.

News Chicago passes new regulations on Airbnb

A local community has the right to a considerable amount of self-determination, but it should also be considered whether regulations are actually being used to preserve the health and safety of the public, or if they're just being used as a blunt instrument because some people don't like some things. The opponents of short-term home rentals in Chicago include some people who say that it's dragging down their neighborhoods by creating transient communities. Some supporters, though, come from among those who need to make income off their homes when not in use just in order to make the payments. In theory, home-sharing should be a social good -- if it's putting homes to use that otherwise would have been unoccupied for a day, a weekend, or even a month, then it's highly efficient to put those properties to use. That doesn't mean that abuses and other externalities couldn't become a factor; they could. But we have to be hesitant to use the blunt instruments of regulation.

Business and Finance More regulations and higher minimum wages appear to be reducing options for young workers

The less fluid the labor market becomes, the harder it is to enter. That may seem like a luxury to people who are already up the food chain, but when you keep young people out of the labor market at ages 16 through 25, you keep them from getting on a track to upward mobility. Soft skills matter!

News A single father -- in his 60s

His wife died suddenly just after giving birth to twins. A remarkable situation and story.

Science and Technology Drowsy driving summit

The Iowa Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau is holding a summit on drowsy driving on June 29. While often overlooked in the shadow of its nasty counterpart drunk driving, drowsy driving (and other forms of distracted or impaired driving) remains a major public-health problem. The sooner assistive technologies can be widely applied to vehicles, the better off we all will be.


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June 23, 2016

Business and Finance Tesla to buy SolarCity

One Elon Musk venture acquires another. It probably makes abstract sense without making practical sense: They may very well fit together, but they both struggle to make a profit.

Threats and Hazards Social Security Trustees issue annual report

The Social Security program is officially going to begin running deficits by the end of the decade. And "the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund will be depleted in 2028, two years earlier than projected in last year's report". We're in a world of trouble.

Business and Finance Airbnb confronts problems of discrimination

As more freedom and laissez-faire finds its way into some markets (like lodging), it reveals that discrimination persists -- and reiterates how hard it is to legislate decency and respect into people. On a related note, the New York state legislature has gone on the attack against home-sharing.

News Britain's clear ballots

Nobody voting on the EU referendum will be able to argue that they misunderstood how they were voting. No hanging chads there.

Computers and the Internet Pew survey: 71% of US adults think it would be a career disadvantage not to have broadband at home

The Internet has more or less reached the status of public utility -- like water or electricity. Those without it are missing a fundamental, core piece of infrastructure of modern life.


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June 24, 2016

Computers and the Internet Pebble promotes its new "Core" as an Amazon Alexa device

The Core is set to retail for $99, but the company is using a Kickstarter campaign to pre-fund, and will sell the miniature device to early backers for $79

News Is the British vote to depart the EU a signal of a less-open world?

Quite possibly. There are many reasons that may have led to people voting either way on the referendum -- thoughtful Euroskeptics who voted to leave probably don't share a lot in common with nativists, and the people who voted to stay because the EU subsidizes their incomes probably don't have a lot in common with those who want to welcome more immigrants. But on balance, even though the EU is a bureaucratic juggernaut with structural flaws that probably doom it in the long run anyway, its diminishment does tend to push in the direction of a less-open world, and that does not portend well for the future.

Computers and the Internet Digital publisher says that Twitter engagement rates continue to decline

The co-founder of widely-read site The Next Web says they're seeing less and less click-through from links shared on Twitter, even when people are re-sharing their articles more than ever. The conclusion: People breeze past a headline, share it because they think it's supposed to be interesting, and then move on without actually reading it. That could certainly be trouble for Twitter, but it also suggests that social media is becoming a monster that eats itself. If the purpose is to show that you're sharing things (rather than experiencing or learning from them), then it's not a productive utility. And Twitter isn't the only site where this is happening. There is clearly sharing-for-show taking place on other platforms, like Facebook. That only tends to exacerbate tribalism (in the sociological sense) and identity politics, rather than making us better off.


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June 25, 2016

Aviation News FAA issues new rules on commercial drones

Computers and the Internet The Chicago Tribune has been Tronc'ed

No longer the Tribune Company, it's now "tronc", for "Tribune Online Content". A ridiculous brand name. In the long run, what will be interesting to see is how much they depend upon algorithms to generate news stories for coverage, in the same style as Netflix comes up with new programming based upon known user interests.


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June 27, 2016

Computers and the Internet An app to help deter human trafficking (that is: sex slavery)

Taking photos of unoccupied hotel rooms can help with the prosecution of those who take advantage of their fellow human beings for exploitation

The United States of America George Will resigns membership in the GOP

He says Donald Trump has infected the party and it is no longer behaving in a way that reflects his principles. And he declined to enter a catfight over the story because Trump "has an advantage on me because he can say everything he knows about any subject in 140 characters and I can't".

Science and Technology A remarkable look at the deflation in solar-power production costs

Costs have supposedly fallen by 80% since 2008

Business and Finance S&P drops UK's credit rating over EU departure

One thing is certain: The buying power of the pound versus the dollar has declined considerably in the wake of the "Brexit", so it's a fine time to be an American buyer in the hunt for British stocks.

Aviation News The FAA's new commercial drone rules

Playing catch-up at this stage


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June 28, 2016

Threats and Hazards "Russia has been engaged in an increasingly aggressive gray war across Europe"

American diplomats report harassment ranging from nuisances to criminality, executed by Russian agents. It goes well beyond the level of fraternity pranks.

Agriculture Convenience stores, fresh food, and food stamps

The law of unintended consequences rears its ugly head

News Sen. Bernie Sanders: Condescending, ungrateful, and uncooperative

He lost the race for the Democratic nomination, and he's making every signal that he wants to burn down the ship

The United States of America A political typology of the United States in 2014

Probably not all that different from how it looks today -- and the fissures are showing. Our political parties are coalitions that form before the general election day...but they're not holding together very well in 2016.

News What the "Brexit" from the EU means to Northern Ireland

One person's Twitter rant about the effects on the one part of the UK that will still have a land border with the EU after the UK leaves. It's sad, angry, and in a couple of cases vulgar -- but well-worth reading.


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June 29, 2016

The United States of America 30-year-olds in 1975 versus that same cohort today

Today's 30-year-olds are better-educated, much less likely to have been married, vastly less likely to be living with a child, substantially less likely to be homeowners, and somewhat less likely to have achieved a middle-class income. Very interesting stuff.

Computers and the Internet Facebook changes news feed to favor people

The site is going to do whatever it takes to make sure that users visit as often as possible, for as long as possible. And if that means scaling back the amount of "publisher" content in favor of what individuals like and share, then that's what they're going to do. Woe unto any publisher that has built a business model off of social sharing, though -- which, anymore, is most of them.

Business and Finance A quick history of the $20 bill

Who belongs on the currency? Plenty of admirable people. There's room for Harriet Tubman there, too.

Computers and the Internet The robots are coming to take your jobs: The lawyerly edition

An "AI lawyer" is fighting tens of thousands of parking tickets and winning

News Five Thirty-Eight forecasts overwhelming odds in favor of Hillary Clinton election

The former Secretary of State and Senator from New York may not be very popular, but she's running against someone whose celebrity is mainly based upon being a celebrity, and who cashed-in on his name by selling it to crooked licensees. As Benjamin Franklin sought to remind his contemporaries: Mind your business.


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June 30, 2016

News Rational government sounds much better than it would actually be in practice

Ironically, perhaps, the best evidence against a purely "evidence-based" government is the terrible misuse and abuse of "rational" arguments for terrible government behavior. Principles and ideas still matter.

Humor and Good News Auctioneers with a beat

(Video) Close your eyes and try not to picture Busta Rhymes

Science and Technology Americans are all over the place when it comes to self-driving cars

An overwhelming majority say in one survey that they're OK with autonomous cars -- yet there's all kinds of blowback to the news of a fatal crash involving an auto-piloted Tesla. Some crashes are inevitable, but if guardian-angel technology can keep us from getting into quite so many bad situations, then we'll all be much better off.

Business and Finance The most American-made cars are from Toyota and Honda

Contrary to what the nameplates might suggest, Japanese cars are often very American

Computers and the Internet "Progress" towards a sale of Yahoo's assets

This long, drawn-out process can't be doing anything to help morale


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