Gongol.com Archives: 2016 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol


May 8, 2016

The United States of America Does socio-economic class mean what conventional wisdom suggests it does?

Possibly not, at least in the voting booth

Aviation News Economist booted from airplane for doing math

We're at war with innumeracy


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May 7, 2016

Computers and the Internet Beware self-promoting hacks on social media

There are plenty of people willing to sensationalize and exaggerate in the interest of getting more followers

Computers and the Internet Netflix mobile app to permit more user control over data use

A good step

News Counterfeit products get some Senate attention

Lots of copying disincentivizes innovation

Science and Technology Tesla factory is 14% complete

They're going to finish in sections so battery production can begin before the building is complete

Business and Finance Federal Reserve independence at risk

The chief of the Kansas City bank worries that the political climate is ripe for bad policy

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - May 7, 2016

Live on AM 1040 starting at 1:00 pm Central Time, or streamed via iHeartRadio



May 6, 2016

Weather and Disasters The USGS takes renewed interest in Mount St. Helens

"There is absolutely no sign that it will erupt anytime soon, but the data we collect tells us that the volcano is still very much alive [...] Over the last 8 weeks, there have been over 130 earthquakes formally located by the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and many more earthquakes too small to be located. Earthquake rates have been steadily increasing since March..."

The United States of America Speaker Paul Ryan steps up his defense of Republican principles

Withholding endorsement of Donald Trump

News A history of Chicago CTA train cars

Surprisingly engaging

Weather and Disasters Stunning videos from the Fort McMurray fires

People leaving the city in a panic and driving convoys right through the fires. The damage toll could be in the range of $10 billion.

Computers and the Internet Free Windows 10 upgrades to cease at end of July

The company says Windows 10 is now running on 300 million devices, and that the free upgrade offer for Windows 7 and 8 users will expire on July 29th -- after which, upgrades will cost $119. Still not a terribly high price, but why pay if you have the option to get it free?



May 5, 2016

The United States of America House Speaker Paul Ryan "not ready" to support Trump

An exceptional political moment. The prospective Republican nominee is no more a Republican than his expected Democratic opponent.

News Why California could be the place to start a non-Trump campaign for exiled GOP members

A state that really isn't going to be in play for anyone but the Democratic Party may be a very good place for someone to run up an alternative gambit

Science and Technology Americans seem not to really want the self-driving car

That's why it won't happen wholesale -- the self-driving car will arrive one piece at a time. But it will arrive eventually.

News Even newspaper-friendly UK can't sustain a new paper

A well-backed startup lasted just nine weeks

Humor and Good News What's wrong with the German sense of humor?

Such as it is



May 4, 2016

The United States of America A self-serving argument from California for abolishing the Electoral College

An academic suggests that it would mean fewer TV campaign ads. Equally self-serving is the argument on behalf of small states that the Electoral College should stay in order to keep us from being steamrolled by the bigger states. But then again, that's exactly why the college takes the form it does.

Iowa Johnson County (Iowa) raises its minimum wage

Iowa's most left-wing county will provide a small-scale experiment for the rest of the state to watch

Weather and Disasters Fort McMurray fires shock the eyes

Canadian wildfires truly stun the viewer

News If the endowment gets bigger, why don't tuition rates get smaller?

Warren Buffett obliquely criticizes Grinnell College for its endowment largesse (largely a result of his own work as a trustee) but its failure to make college more affordable with that wealth. The core problem in college costs isn't necessarily funding -- it's the management and administration of higher education. What other industry could behave with such disregard for efficiency?

Business and Finance When "helpers" aren't helping

A strong argument against funding the financial industry



May 3, 2016

Business and Finance Big hikes in the minimum wage are no sure thing for the working poor

Warren Buffett reiterates his argument that the minimum wage is a bad instrument by which to really improve the lives of the working poor. It's not a philosophical argument; it's a practical one. In practice, a higher minimum wage may make a marginal difference to the lives of some adult workers who earn it. But about half of people at minimum wage (48%) are under age 25. Raising the wage by too much will reduce the number of entry-level working opportunities available to them -- which reduces their ability to acquire things like the soft skills and job experience that put them on the ladder to future, higher-quality jobs. Raising the minimum wage to track inflation -- or even just a modest boost -- aren't bad ideas, necessarily, but they aren't real systemic fixes for the deeper issues. Targeted assistance like the Earned Income Tax Credit is probably more efficient at helping the true breadwinners who are at low wages, and ultimately the broader solution is a matter of job training and education. Of all people at or below minimum wage, only 16% have at least an associate's degree. In the long run, we need to fix the training and educational system so that workers have higher market value that places them well above the minimum wage as a market-clearing rate.

Business and Finance Productivity grew during the Great Recession

That doesn't usually happen, apparently

Humor and Good News How do you pronounce that food?

Is it "crayfish" or "crawfish"? Depends on where you live.

Threats and Hazards Doddering old man recycles unfounded conspiracy theories from supermarket tabloids

Regrettably, that crazy person is running for President

News Tampa becomes a one-paper town

The economics of the newspaper business have never favored anything other than natural monopoly, anyway -- but high production and distribution costs in a time of digital media are enough to topple almost any duopolies that remain

Iowa Iowa's spring scourge of 2016: Creeping charlie

The over-aggressive ground cover is spreading everywhere



May 2, 2016

News Canadian Supreme Court recognizes Metis as Indians

The Metis, historically identified as the offspring of native or "First Nations" peoples and the French fur traders who arrived later, have long had trouble obtaining legal recognition. Part of the problem, naturally, is that the mixed ancestry of the Metis meant they didn't form a well-defined group. The definition part of the process isn't going to be simple, but the legal recognition is long overdue.

Threats and Hazards Russia and China close the "weapons gap" with the United States

Their military weapons are improving, and it's hard not to suspect that cyber-espionage against the US defense sector has played a role

Computers and the Internet Mark Zuckerberg enlarges his domain over Facebook

Investors who care about voting control might need to pay attention

News Carnival-affiliated cruise ship docks in Cuba

At some point, Castro Communism has to fall. Will accelerating tourism and economic exposure help hasten that downfall? On a related note, the cruise is being conducted by a Carnival-owned startup cruise line promising that people can take a seven-day cruise and "transform lives". Seems like a stretch.

News Nebraska tourism commission paid speaker $44,000 for 90-minute talk

Some quick math: $44,000 for 90 minutes is a rate of $29,333 an hour. At 40 hours a week times 50 weeks per year, that's an annualized rate of just a little shy of $60 million a year. There aren't a lot of people whose time is legitimately valued at that rate, nor is it easy to stomach the idea that a mere speaker could deliver that rate of value to a tourism conference. Seems like a case of spending other people's money on yourself, which Milton Friedman warned usually doesn't result in restraint.


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