Gongol.com Archives: 2016 Weekly Archives

Brian Gongol

August 28, 2016

The United States of America Get the Libertarians on stage

In this extraordinary year, the top-of-ticket Libertarians are more mainstream than the top-of-ticket Republicans. And they're more economically and fiscally responsible than either the Republican or Democratic tickets. If they're not part of the debates, then the nation loses. The rest of this story? Either the Republican Party needs to start sounding a lot more like the top of the Libertarian ticket, or the Libertarian Party needs to start getting serious about winning down-ticket races, because the current status of the GOP confederation isn't stable.

Business and Finance Fiat Chrysler looks at Samsung as a "strategic partner"

Samsung, it should be remembered, is a sprawling conglomerate -- not just a maker of cell phones.

Computers and the Internet Facebook has laid off the editors on its "trending news" team

Some programmers will remain on the team to figure out how to tweak the algorithms, but don't imagine that the computers will make decisions that are free of human judgment. The algorithms used will still be imprinted with judgments made by the people who program them, and there's no doubt that publishers will take steps to try to hack the algorithms in their own favor.

News Kids these days...they all think they're going to be famous

A study from several years ago suggests that 31% of American teenagers actually think they're going to be famous. If that influences the way people behave, we should ask ourselves whether it's for good or for ill.

News Much progress on equality for women

But there's still work to be done

August 27, 2016

News This Presidential campaign is killing the GOP with Millennial voters

Not an insignificant matter for the future of the party, since Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers, 83 to 75 million. And 44% are racial or ethnic minorities, too. If the party can't escape the devastating label of the "old white people's party", it might as well close up shop and disband now. The Baby Boomers owe America a huge apology for getting our political climate into this condition in the first place.

Computers and the Internet Facebook to integrate WhatsApp

Anyone using both ought to think before permitting the full integration of the two accounts, on the basis of privacy concerns alone

Weather and Disasters Turkey River crests 10' above flood stage in Elkader

But that was good news, since it was expected to crest another four or five feet higher than that

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 27, 2016

Live on WHO Radio from 2:00 to 4:00 Central Time. Live-streamed on iHeartRadio.

August 26, 2016

Business and Finance China's real-estate bubble...in downtown Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Times notes that Chinese companies are developing at least half a dozen large real-estate projects in the city. By the time something like this makes it into the newspaper as a "trend" piece, it's almost always at the full-strength bubble stage. Capital is incredibly cheap, and that's the root cause of all this. But it's also highly speculative, as all real-estate development tends to be. Always contrast investment in categories like real estate with those made in directly productive things like heavy equipment or labor-force training and development. Those latter categories have been sluggish, and that's a bad sign.

Business and Finance Cigarette stores turning to fresh produce

A company executive at Kwik Trip/Kwik Star says "Tobacco products are not part of the future". And capitalism rolls on, evolving to meet changes in consumer demand. Kwik Star runs some excellent stores in northeastern Iowa, and their entry into the Des Moines market will make some already fierce convenience-store competition something to really behold.

Threats and Hazards Why conditions in Syria may get even worse

It's already a vast humanitarian crisis that will weigh on the conscience of civilization for decades to come

Business and Finance Wall Street Journal can't find any former White House economists that support Donald Trump

It's no surprise: He has embraced outrageously high barriers to trade, makes promises with no regard to their consequences, and has talked about making our entitlement programs even more insolvent than they are already. Plenty of economists may decline to endorse anyone, but they'd be mad to let their names get tied to an economic goulash like the one Trump (seemingly without any self-awareness) has proposed.

Business and Finance Uber loses $1.2 billion in the first half of the year

Wonder no more about why they're pushing so hard to get to the model of self-driving car service

August 25, 2016

Threats and Hazards Woman sentenced to prison for letting a 4-year-old starve and freeze to death

Is her sentence long enough? Probably not. It's a story of unconscionable individual depravity -- and of serious institutional failure. If we're truly a good civilization, we should be looking carefully into how this could have happened, and how we can make sure it doesn't happen again. Ever. If government isn't protecting the vulnerable children among us, then it must immediately correct its course with all the focus and energy that can be mustered. It's not enough to just punish those who neglect children after the harm has been done. There is an affirmative duty to protect.

Business and Finance Polk County (Iowa) task force endorses higher minimum wage

The Board of Supervisors will consider it next. If approved, it would hit the upper $10 range by 2019. The minimum wage probably should track inflation, but changing the numbers doesn't solve the underlying problem. It should trouble voters if people are stuck in low-wage occupations because they aren't developing more valuable skills on their own. It should bother people if employers don't value their employees enough to invest in helping them develop higher-value skills. It should bother all of us if there aren't pathways available to make education and skill development accessible and affordable to people who are willing to invest their own efforts in the process.

Business and Finance 700 years of inherited money in Europe

More important than sending money downstream to your heirs is sending some wisdom their way. Without that, they'll only keep the money through luck. With it, they don't necessarily need the money.

News University of Chicago takes a stand on free speech

And a rather firm one at that: It basically tells incoming freshmen that they're probably going to be offended by something along the way.

Computers and the Internet Facebook categorizes your politics

Your behavior tips off the site to what it thinks your political alignments might be, and its ads respond accordingly

August 24, 2016

Business and Finance Brokerage firm says passive investing is "worse than Marxism"

They are both right and wrong. Passive investing is far better than active investing for people who won't spend the time doing research as thoughtful investors. And that's the vast majority. But active, direct investing is much better for a healthy, functioning capitalist economy. So the problem starts with investor unwillingness to care or participate in the process.

The United States of America Is 2016 the breakthrough moment for libertarianism?

Gary Johnson and William Weld, running as ex-Republicans on the Libertarian Party ticket for the White House, are running on a centrist version of the philosophy -- probably not "libertarian enough" for a lot of true believers, but right in line with what a lot of Americans really believe. The party's opportunity is to emerge as the party of the new American center -- whether it strategically grasps that moment remains to be seen.

Aviation News Giant hybrid aircraft experiences "hard landing"

It's intended as a low-cost cargo carrier as an economical and environmentally-friendly alternative to ground- and sea-based shipping. The incident happened on its second test flight.

Business and Finance Just one Howard Johnson's restaurant left

Yet another example of a business that once was dominant and today is a rump of its former self

News White Sox to play at "Guaranteed Rate Field"

What was once known as Comiskey and later undertook the name "US Cellular Field" (which ceased to make sense after US Cellular left the Chicago market three years ago) will now have a truly clunky-sounding name. But naming rights don't change hands unless the buyer thinks it's getting value for the money.

August 23, 2016

Threats and Hazards Chinese chemical factory explosion left a giant crater

Bad things can happen under any economic system, of course, but in the long run, nothing affords better worker protection than a prosperous market economy with political freedom. Those two things together create a virtuous feedback loop for things like health and safety.

Business and Finance Important data: Where household incomes have been falling

Lots of states have seen meaningful, double-digit decreases in real median household income since 1999

Humor and Good News Olympic athlete honored with special sportsmanship medal

Human decency beats winning a race

Computers and the Internet A look at trolling

What makes otherwise perfectly-normal-seeming people turn into raging nutbags online?

News Christie's to auction off Reagan belongings

Furniture, art, knick-knacks, and more

August 22, 2016

Business and Finance The myth of the "return" of manufacturing jobs

Old-format manufacturing jobs are gone forever. The new ones are much more sophisticated than the simple wrench-turning gigs that a lot of people seem to think have been stolen by trade. ("Easy" manufacturing jobs have been rendered extinct more by technology than by trade, but the jobs are gone anyway.) Production methods have changed, and so must our process for preparing people for new jobs (inside and outside the manufacturing sector) and for helping people to adjust to new conditions. As Geoff Colvin puts it in his commentary: "[T]he leader's job is to embrace the new reality, explaining how it can bring a better future, not a worse one." We ought to give serious thought to making ongoing education compulsory for adults.

Iowa John Deere to lay off 115 employees in Waterloo

Plus 35 in Davenport. Low commodity prices are having a ripple effect in the rest of the Midwestern economy.

Health Family saved by CO detector that was installed two days before

Carbon monoxide is a terrible killer -- and carbon-monoxide detectors are relatively cheap. They are an indispensable tool for safety in any home that contains appliances running on natural gas.

News How did we get to this?

An editorial cartoon that nicely sums up some of the preconditions necessary to turning politics on its head

News High schools are ending the age of the gang shower

Individual stalls are becoming more commonplace, and that's a long-overdue change. Nobody expects people to use open toilet stalls, so why do we expect awkward teenagers (or adults, for that matter) to use wide-open showers? It's stupid.