Gongol.com Archives: 2016 Weekly Archives

Brian Gongol

October 30, 2016

News Life under ISIS/ISIL in Iraq

Understand: The people forced to live under the terrorist regime are the real victims, and they're the people we should be looking for ways to help.

News Justice Clarence Thomas worries that we're undermining our institutions

The notably conservative jurist seems to be suggesting that the Senate is doing meaningful harm by refusing to act on a SCOTUS nominee. Institutions have a value that transcends momentary politics.

Threats and Hazards Someone hung white-power posters at Iowa State


Aviation News Walk-through body scanners now being tested

Perhaps airport security in the future won't be the nightmare it often is today. Getting people screened swiftly isn't just a matter of convenience -- it's a security issue unto itself. Long lines of unscreened people queued up like cattle are themselves a serious target for attack.

News "A frustrating lack of intellectual ambition for children to match the sporting ambition"

Should American schools look a little more like American gyms? An interesting perspective from a semi-outsider.

October 28, 2016

Business and Finance Health-insurance premiums are set to jump by a quarter next year

Huge consequences follow a failure to address costs in the health-care sector. We've only re-shuffled who pays.

Business and Finance BEA says real GDP rose by 2.9% (annualized) in the third quarter

They've had a recent history of substantial revisions, so take the number with a grain of salt. But if it's true or close to true, then it's very good news. We need broad-based economic growth -- but we also need to be attentive to the likelihood that a lot of parts of the country are experiencing their own local economic slowdowns that aren't reflected in national figures.

The United States of America Why don't more Americans vote?

Is it a sign of complacency or something worse?

News France starts tearing down the "Jungle"

What's the real end game?

Computers and the Internet LinkedIn upgrades job-seeker and company pages

Some of the tools are still in development and roll-out, but it looks like the pending acquisition by Microsoft has put a little bit of new life into the company

October 27, 2016

The United States of America We could have had President Romney

While there are people who support Donald Trump because they're angry or racist or otherwise provoked by his dark messages, there are many others who actually perceive him to be a highly competent individual. While that perception is contradicted (strongly) by the facts, it's a powerful driving force. People are attracted to competence, even if we like to pair it with other shortcomings so that we don't have to feel intimidated by the highly-competent individual. (See, for instance, the personal demons that television writers have given to characters like Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Gregory House, and President Josiah Bartlet.) The huge problem ahead of us is that the American public rejected an indisputably competent candidate in 2012 when Mitt Romney lost the election. Romney's resume was impeccable, as was his personal character. In nominating Donald Trump in 2016, the GOP threw its backing to the illusion of competence. As it becomes virtually certain that Hillary Clinton will win the election and face a hostile Republican House of Representatives (with the Senate likely to be close to evenly split between the major parties), we are likely to see almost no opportunities for anyone to demonstrate real competence in Washington in the coming few years. That, in turn, is going to frustrate voters even more, and make them hunger even further for competence. The best thing for the country will be for multiple non-Washington figures (governors, most likely) to demonstrate great competence under duress (in the face of natural disasters, for instance) and to then gain a foothold in the race for the 2020 Presidential nomination. Perhaps the worst thing that could happen is for the illusion of competence to win again. We have to be on guard against that possibility.

News "But Barry Goldwater wrote a bestselling book outlining a coherent vision"

One of many reasons why 2016 shouldn't be compared with 1964

Health AIDS was probably in the United States in 1971

A truly scary thought, considering how much earlier that was than anyone's realization of the threat

Science and Technology A self-driving 18-wheeler has successfully worked on American roads

Have no doubt: Self-driving vehicles are going to have a huge impact on us in the years ahead

Business and Finance Don't ask the barber if you need a haircut

Harvard's endowment has been performing poorly. Maybe part of the problem is that its managers have had too much power to guarantee their own compensation, independent of performance. Oversight matters!

Computers and the Internet Twitter announces plan to shut down Vine

The short-video-looping service was a $30 million acquisition for Twitter in 2012, but Twitter continues to struggle with actually turning a profit. Since alternatives (like Snapchat) already exist, they're probably pulling back rather than reinvest in new development of the platform.

October 26, 2016

Socialism Doesn't Work A Clinton Presidency will be dogged by the left

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was never really a Democrat anyway, is going to make life miserable for the (virtually certain-to-be) Clinton administration. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be a nuisance from the hard-left, too. That's what's so awful about the current state of the parties: There's no business-friendly wing of the Democratic party anymore...just a whole lot of people on the left pushing ever-harder for really bad policy.

Computers and the Internet President Obama gets good marks for parenting in the digital age

He's aware of what his kids are doing online, which may or may not be easier to do with the help of the Secret Service. But he's providing a decent model for behavior for the rest of us.

Iowa Cedar Rapids police will start using bodycams -- with consent

They're going to alert members of the public of the presence of the cameras and ask for permission to film. This may not be the perfect solution, but it's at least one acceptable option for maintaining some privacy rights.

Computers and the Internet Amazon rolls out a bunch of "Dash" buttons

Press a button, order a restock of something you use around the house. It's either the height of laziness or the peak of consumer-economic genius. Maybe both.

News Massive increases in health-insurance premiums should be a bombshell for any Democratic nominee

But because Donald Trump is a wickedly unqualified, undisciplined, and unthinking Republican candidate, Hillary Clinton is getting a free pass on what should be massively damaging news. That's the problem with nominating an awful candidate. John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, or Marco Rubio all could have ridden the lousy insurance news to a bump in the polls...but the Republican Party is stuck with the Orange Menace instead.

October 25, 2016

Aviation News Airbus looks toward a future with flying taxis

Practical over short distances, within metropolitan areas? Let's not count on it. But the future of commercial aviation may very well look like this: Small, self-piloting aircraft ferrying perhaps six passengers at a time over distances of 100 to maybe 500 miles. Likely these would do best when paired with electric propulsion rather than combustion engines. There's a lot of traffic on the Interstate and primary highways across this country that involve people taking multi-hour car trips. An on-demand air service for this kind of travel, made economical by self-piloting aircraft, low-maintenance electrical propulsion, and the use of secondary airports, could certainly beget a whole lot of advantages.

Humor and Good News "Please re-elect Gerald"

(Video) One of the best-ever political spots, and it's for nothing more than a local office. But it does illustrate an important principle: People want their government officials to be competent, even if that makes them lovably goofy as individuals.

Computers and the Internet Own your domain names: The Trump edition

Domain names are cheap. Don't let them out of your sight.

Iowa Should Iowa raise and level the minimum wage?

As when the state tried to raise and flatten the statewide sales tax a few years ago, the appeal is not from those who want higher costs, but rather from those who want uniformity across jurisdictions. Of course, raising the minimum wage is only a symptomatic act if it fails to address the question of why people are only earning the minimum wage. We need to dig deeper and find out what obstacles are keeping people from raising their own level of human capital.

The United States of America Newspaper endorsements in the 2016 Presidential race

An overwhelming majority go for Clinton, even though many have grave reservations about her. Literally none of the major papers have endorsed Trump. Several have endorsed Johnson, including the Detroit News and the Chicago Tribune. Many, like the Cedar Rapids Gazette, are endorsing their first Democratic tickets in a very, very long time.

Humor and Good News One-paragraph book review: "Elements of Eloquence"

A hilariously brilliant but magically unpretentious guide to better writing and speaking

October 24, 2016

News The Pirate Party is polling well in Iceland

Dissatisfaction with conventional politics isn't just an American phenomenon. The question is whether the discontent expresses itself in ways that become fundamentally constructive towards something better. It's not enough to just emit a primal scream.

News Wolf Blitzer and a moment of clarity

Blitzer's usual television style -- a half-yelled, rapid-fire stream of new "urgencies" -- isn't all that useful in the grand scheme of things. But he shines in this clip where he repels an assault of stupidity from a Trump surrogate who doesn't grasp the consequences of attacking the concept of the free press. The means by which Trump has openly undermined freedom of the press on a grand stage are unforgivable.

Business and Finance What is China buying?

A thorough and eye-opening view of the businesses that Chinese companies are buying overseas

Health A third to a half of your personality is in your genes

Fortunately, we all have the free will to construct a lot of good characteristics, even if nature has sealed some parts of us in place from birth. It's not really an exaggeration to say that you are your habits -- and good habits are surprisingly easy to adopt.

News The Republican Party has a lot of reconstruction ahead

With the party chair admitting they may need to reevaluate the "consequences" promised against some of the 2016 candidates who refused to back Donald Trump, consider this: The reconstitution of the party as a functioning organism will specifically require the participation of people who saw what was happening this year and took a stand against it.