Gongol.com Archives: 2016 Weekly Archives

Brian Gongol

December 1, 2016

Computers and the Internet Netflix is going to let users download some titles

Could be a real game-changer for air travelers -- and parents who want to keep their kids quiet on long road trips

News The Chicago Tribune Credo

"The newspaper is an institution developed by modern civilization to present the news of the day, to foster commerce and industry, to inform and lead public opinion, and to furnish that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide."

Computers and the Internet A revival for the Nokia phone brand?

Foxconn will make the phones, and the company that got its hands on the brand name will be trying to sell feature phones and Android smartphones. On a related note, one might hope that the Gooligan incident that came to the world's attention this week will result in Google taking a more serious approach to insisting that handset makers comply with OS upgrades on a regular basis. The current regime is nonsense and it's dangerous to users everywhere.

November 30, 2016

Business and Finance Don't count on 4% economic growth

The incoming Trump Administration is exercising the same kind of belief in economic magic that too long possessed the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration long bet on 4% GDP growth as a way to fix the Federal budget. It was absurd of them to bet on that assumption; it wasn't going to happen, and any projections based on such a fanciful figure were bound to be wrong. Now, the presumptive Trump Administration Treasury Secretary is making the exact same fantastical promises. This is sheer madness. Utter and complete madness. Would we all like to see sustained 4% real GDP growth? Absolutely -- it would permit the economy to double in size every two decades or so. That would be (literally) awesome. But it isn't going to happen. The United States last had sustained 4% growth rates in the 1960s. Rates were in the low 3% range through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. And since then, they've been in the 2% range. Anyone promising 4% annual GDP growth is a huckster, a fraud, and a snake-oil salesman -- unless they can explain precisely what mechanisms they intend to put in place that will cause the economy to suddenly adopt a growth rate twice as fast as anything we've seen since before the Nixon era. Perhaps worst of all is that these people are promising to make the growth rate escalate in part by shutting down trade and getting the government more heavily involved in picking winners and losers. Make no mistake about it: If the only reason a manufacturer like Carrier chooses to build products in the United States is because they're getting sweetheart deals in the form of tax breaks and state-funded incentives, then the economy should be expected to grow at a slower rate than it presently does -- not faster. (And, by the way, if economic barriers are put up that implicitly punish Mexico, then expect the pressure on the border to get worse, not better.) The only way to sustainably raise economic growth rates (without some dramatic event like a war) is to improve the output of the workforce, which is entirely based upon the number of workers and the productivity we get from each one. The number of workers has been shrinking (in relative terms) since the turn of the century, so anyone who pretends to have an answer about economic growth that doesn't center on dramatically raising productivity is a person who is lying to you or is too stupid to be entrusted with any meaningful power. And that's awful, because a lot of people have gotten their hopes up...really, really high.

Threats and Hazards Anderson Cooper has a good question

The CNN anchor wants to know why the President-elect is watching CNN instead of reading briefing materials? People are starting to get careless with phrases like "post-literacy" (which is being used by some to describe Trump) -- and that's reckless. There is no such thing as "post-literacy". There is literacy...and there is illiteracy. If someone is not literate, that makes them illiterate. Don't muck up the language with a new phrase just because it seems catchy. And note, too, that there are several forms of literacy -- all of which it is wise for any functional adult to possess, but most especially a President of the United States. These include, but are not limited to: literacy in its most common sense; numeracy; technological literacy; economic literacy; and scientific literacy. An adult failing to possess (or at least attempting to acquire) functional literacy in all of those areas should be allowed nowhere near the levers of power if the voters have their own best interests in mind.

The United States of America The First Amendment comes first for a reason

Always: Our true allegiance and loyalty should be pledged to the Constitution above all.

Business and Finance Some recommended introductory reading in economics

A few books for the beginner

Threats and Hazards A woman who abandons a two-year-old child isn't a "mom"

Nor is she a "mother". At best, she is a womb-landlord.

November 29, 2016

Threats and Hazards Only a dunce would disregard the value of the White House press corps

The last eight years have been hard on the White House press corps, whether it's been adequately acknowledged or not, because the Obama Administration has been eager to bypass the media "gatekeepers" by using the Internet to promote its own agenda. This has been mildly propagandistic behavior, and it probably deserved more criticism than it got. There was some pushback in 2013 about the White House's habit of staging photographs and leaving credentialed photographers behind, and there have been several instances when the White House Correspondents' Association has protested strongly against unreasonable obstacles to coverage that have arisen during the Obama administration, including exclusion from official events and high expense charges for travel with the President. In a sense, the frustrating behavior of 44 has laid a foundation for potentially awful behavior by 45. As a candidate, Donald Trump routinely stirred up mob-like antipathy for the press, and as President-elect, he has gone so far as to ditch the protective pool. That's not acceptable -- no matter what your political allegiances, the President is a living military command center. It is imperative that his or her condition be independently verifiable by credentialed journalists at any hour of the day or night, and the same goes for the President-elect. As a country, we have made a big mistake in letting President Obama off the hook and not insisting on greater transparency with the independent press corps. Under no circumstances should further ground be permitted to erode as Donald Trump assumes the office -- and if bombasts like Sean Hannity want to stake their ground on absurdity (Hannity: "Why does Donald Trump need a White House press office? He doesn't."), then they are, in fact, enemies of freedom and of representative government.

Threats and Hazards This is no time to roll over and go silent

That the Russian government has clearly acted to try to manipulate our domestic elections should be cause for widespread alarm -- and Republicans who believe in a strong national defense should be among the loudest with the outcry

News Don't get nostalgic for the wrong things

Old photos of the Victorian era may contain some aesthetic beauty, but don't forget how awful life was in the past compared with today

Computers and the Internet After losing a whole lot of data, college tells people not to back up their own data

They lost a mountain of data at King's College London when a backup system flopped at the wrong moment. Now they're saying they don't want to risk people screwing up their new system by making independent backups of their data. That's lunacy.

Weather and Disasters A late-November tornado outbreak in Iowa

Four weak tornadoes after Thanksgiving? It's extremely odd.

November 28, 2016

Threats and Hazards Aleppo is just days from mass starvation

A massive disaster for our fellow human beings

Threats and Hazards Conflict of interest

The business of the nation must be the President's sole priority. It is a serious problem that the President-elect refuses to acknowledge the severity of his conflicts of interest or to make even the slightest hint of addressing them in a formal way.

Health Researchers find hundreds of new viruses

Viruses aren't just a problem for humans. Looking outside our own attackers, a scientific team found almost 1500 we hadn't known about.

News Associated Press says "alt-right" isn't enough

Without context, the phrase only serves to mask the reality -- and it's the job of journalism to remove that mask

News Russian president uses geography bee to crack imperialism jokes

Putin says Russia doesn't have borders. Then says it was just a joke. But is it?