Gongol.com Archives: 2016 Weekly Archives
Brian Gongol


July 17, 2016

The United States of America The Presidential contest isn't a two-way race and it shouldn't be polled as such

Third parties are conventionally only a trivial share of the total vote, so for logistical reasons it can often be argued that they aren't worth polling. But in 2016, the Republican Party's nominee-apparent is himself running as though he is in a third party, and there is overwhelming evidence that a meaningful number of likely voters are planning to vote for an alternative to the two major parties. Any poll that only asks about a Trump-versus-Clinton race without at least adding an option for Gary Johnson (the Libertarian candidate, and an unusually serious one) should not be considered a legitimate survey. November's ballots will not be binary, and the state of the race isn't either.

News Will there be a post-Trump Republican Party?

Jeb Bush, writing in the Washington Post: "[A] few in the Republican Party responded by trying to out-polarize the president, making us seem anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker and anti-common-sense."

News Thousands detained over coup attempt in Turkey

Hundreds of military officers included

Humor and Good News Where the Libyan dictator's furniture went

Garish displays at Trump Tower

Business and Finance An excellent job-interview question

"If I was to hire you, how would I know if you were doing a good job?"



July 16, 2016

Science and Technology High-school students like science but hate science class

One problem is certainly the way that science classes end up being constructed, and that can benefit from better training for teachers. People who may be highly gifted or skilled at a particular subject may not be simultaneously skilled at explaining that subject or making it engaging for a curious but untrained audience. But another problem is certainly the modern textbook: An overweight, poorly organized, often painfully patronizing monstrosity. The format alone is intimidating (why should it be so much larger than a paperback novel?), and a dismaying number of textbooks are so littered with sidebars, "Questions to Answer", and chartjunk that they are thematically unreadable. Science is really a story, and it deserves to be taught like one.

News Letters of last resort

How the UK instructs its nuclear-armed submarines to act in case of Armageddon

News One vision of a post-2016 Republican Party

Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam make the case for a semi-Nixonian Republican Party -- one that doesn't care very much about entitlement reforms and that doesn't mind abandoning several important small-government/libertarian principles. It's not necessarily the right vision for 2017 and beyond, but it's probably a vision worth understanding.

Computers and the Internet 3G and 4G, make way for 5G

The FCC has voted to put some blocks of spectrum to work on behalf of 5G wireless, and there's enthusiastic guessing that it could become a commercial reality by 2020. Wireless data use continues to expand by such leaps and bounds that something has to be done to prevent crippling traffic overload.

Threats and Hazards Missing pages from Congressional 9/11 report released

While it doesn't seem to point the finger directly at the government of Saudi Arabia, it certainly doesn't exonerate the kingdom, either.

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - July 16, 2016

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July 15, 2016

News Sen. Bernie Sanders rips page from Obama campaign playbook

He's starting three political organizations, including one called "Our Revolution". This reads quite like the "Obama For America"/"Organizing For Action" approach -- and it represents another chip at the foundation of the conventional party system. Sanders never really identified as a Democrat, and now it appears he will continue to operate in a way that will try to position itself as better than the party system, much like OFA.

Iowa Polk County Attorney claims first texting-while-driving conviction

A distracted driver caused a crash that injured a passenger in October 2015, and now she's been convicted and sentenced to 140 hours of community service.

The United States of America "I believe he's going to endeavor, to try"

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, speaking to NPR about Donald Trump and his willingness to change the things that make Ryan unhappy. Paul Ryan isn't sloppy with his words; he's clearly wishing for something much better than what he's seen. Regrettably, emails from Trump's inner circle from the past week suggest otherwise.

Computers and the Internet Technology is only as good as the people using it

And, broadly speaking, most people are inherently good. An example of that emerges as it is reported that a Good Samaritan rescued a baby from the attack in Nice, and used social media to reunite him with his family.

Broadcasting "The Americans" gets five well-deserved Emmy nominations

The FX Network show is really quite excellent. Its real genius is that both the writing and acting are executed with artful restraint. It would be too easy for the show to go over the top, and they manage to instead take the right path. It's excellent television and deserves the five Emmy nominations it received.

Health Are medical professionals suffering from Burn-Out Syndrome?

An article in The Lancet observes that "severe BOS was seen in up to 33% of critical care nurses and 45% of critical care physicians". That's worrisome.


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July 14, 2016

News US Senator shares important personal reflections on police

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) addresses the Senate and points out that even as a high-status elected official, he encounters police at what he perceives as an unusually high rate -- for "driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood or some other reason just as trivial" -- because of the color of his skin. Many people can identify with being pulled over under weak pretenses -- rolling stops, tail lights out, failure to signal, or license tags that are out of date. But it is hard to argue that some people aren't getting additional scrutiny because of their race. That's a problem because it undermines the legitimacy of the policing profession generally, because that profession derives its legitimacy from the consent of the people.

Threats and Hazards On religious tests

Fox News quotes Newt Gingrich as suggesting a religious test leading to deportation for some. That betrays a fundamental belief that democracy and classical-liberal civilization are extremely fragile. While we do in fact need to pass along the values that keep civilization afloat, and while there are certain existential risks to that way of life, it seems that Gingrich is adopting a view that makes out civilization to be much more fragile than it is. Worse, he appears to embrace an intolerance that makes it inherently more fragile, rather than less. Civil law is undermined when it seeks to police the beliefs of individuals.

Broadcasting Twitter will live-stream the party conventions

The Internet and television continue to grow closer and closer

Business and Finance Competition among the states

A Nebraska think tank is looking at five states as chief economic competitors. This is exactly the kind of economic competition that should take place among the states. That competition shouldn't come in the form of special incentive packages.

Broadcasting NBC News returns to radio

It's back from the dead



July 13, 2016

Business and Finance LA Times says Viacom is about to sell 49% of Paramount Pictures to China's Wanda Group

The Great Asset Transfer continues. American ownership of assets will be exchanged for foreign ownership as a means of rebalancing long-standing trade deficits. Some will involve highly prominent, name-brand assets -- like half of Paramount Pictures. It's going to make some people angry, nostalgic, and/or nationalistic, but the asset transfer is inevitable given our long-standing behavior (and our revealed preferences -- people can pay all the lip service they want to "Buy American", but it's hard to find people willing to pay a true premium price to do it). And Rule #1 of private property may well be that ownership means control, so if you don't want to lose control, you can't give up ownership. Selling equity in a company may be a good way to come up with liquidity, but it's a lousy way to remain in the driver's seat.

News Decisions have lasting consequences

A New York Times map from 1956 shows traffic choke points that remain the choke points of today. This can be taken in two ways, both of which are valid: First, decisions have lasting consequences -- New Yorkers are fighting the same commuting battles today that they did 60 years ago, because of decisions that were made even before then. But, second, it's never too late to start working on correcting an error -- at any time in the last 60 years, someone could have changed the course of the traffic problems and the people of New York might be in a better situation than the one they've apparently suffered for more than half a century. Make decisions, seek to make them definitively and well -- and if they turn out to be bad, change course without delay. Inaction is a decision in its own right.

News No surprise: "Horse-race" coverage has dominated 2016

The horse race isn't the real news -- it's just a documentation of events. News is what happens when there is a material change in our understanding of the status quo. The horse race isn't information, either -- it's just a documentation of events. Those three things (information, events, and bona-fide news) are often packaged together as "the news", but the inability, failure, or dereliction of duty to deliver actual news and/or information tends to reward the pure hype of "events"...and that's how bad things happen at the ballot box. The Fourth Estate really does have a role to play in a democratic system.

Computers and the Internet China hacked the FDIC

Because that's how cyberwarfare works: Rivals and competitors want every possible angle on information that may give them insight into your decision-making. Knowing how the bank regulators are looking at the financial system probably gives the Chinese government some valuable insight into the function of the American economy as a whole. It would be very interesting indeed to find out whether China is selling some of the information it obtains through cyberespionage to private parties. One could imagine that there are firms and institutions that would be willing to pay for insider information, even if it was obtained through tactics that could be appropriately defined as war-like in nature.

News David Cameron's curtain call as Prime Minister

In comes Theresa May as the new PM



July 12, 2016

Business and Finance It's not that trade doesn't hurt some workers...

...it's just that a more efficient economy (resulting from trade) is capable of absorbing some of the impact and helping the affected workers to recover, while distributing the benefits of trade to the broader public in a significant way. To reduce trade to "us" versus "them" is not only reductionist, it gets things all wrong and harms people.

Computers and the Internet Is the Internet really helping kids from poor families?

Like any tool, it can be used well or poorly. And if it's not being used well, then its benefits may not be going to where they are needed most.

Health DEKA's prosthetic arm gets FDA approval

They plan to start selling late in the year

Business and Finance Did Ireland's economy really grow at a mid-20% range in 2015?

Seems unlikely -- but then again, it slipped by a huge margin when the financial markets cracked a few years ago

Computers and the Internet Beware the data collection of "Pokemon Go"

When something becomes super-popular in a very short time (like the overnight sensation that is Pokemon Go), there's a very good chance that the general public is missing something very serious behind the scenes. In this case, the app appears to gain a huge amount of access to individuals' Google accounts.



July 11, 2016

Business and Finance Compulsory education -- for adults?

Be skeptical of "compulsory" anything -- compulsion should be a rare choice. But this actually may be a very good idea. Just like it reflects some peculiar social priorities that the government spends lots of money on seniors' health care versus very little on that of innocent youth, it similarly reflects a warped set of priorities that we only seem to contribute to the education of the young. "Lifelong learning" is easily manipulated into a buzz-phrase, but a society with its priorities straight would actually set its political agenda to reflect its socio-economic goals, and those goals should include upward mobility throughout an individual's working life and beyond. Job retraining and skill enhancement shouldn't be an exception; they should be the norm.

Socialism Doesn't Work Venezuela's desperate government seizes American-owned factory

The economy is falling apart in Venezuela because the government's economic policies are nonsense. It is nothing more than wildly imaginary thinking to believe that the government is doing anything productive by confiscating the Kimberly-Clark factory and declaring that production will continue.

Computers and the Internet Facebook faces lawsuit for aiding terrorism

The problem for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others is that they're either purely neutral conduits for the content of others (in which case, anything goes), or they're making editorial judgments about what can and cannot be posted. And if they make even a few judgments, that makes it very hard to argue that they are not responsible for a failure to make others if there are lives at risk. It's not an enviable legal position to be in.

Health Sushi, hummus, quinoa, tofu all better for you than people think

At least, according to the gap between what nutritionists believe and what the general public does

Humor and Good News Everything isn't awful

A neat story on an adoption with what appears to be a happy ending