Gongol.com Archives: December 2017

Brian Gongol


December 2017
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December 2, 2017

Broadcasting Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - December 2, 2017

Purging bad behavior, retail apocalypse, and what's needed beyond tax reform


Recent radio shows on demand


December 3, 2017

Threats and Hazards Running like prey

The more our foreign policy is driven by reaction to smaller countries misbehaving, rather than by a strategic view of the world as we want it to be, the weaker the United States becomes. To think only (and obsessively) about every possible threat around you is the instinctive behavior of the weakest prey in the food chain. We ought to be much more evolved than this.

Threats and Hazards China's state-controlled media loves President Trump's antipathy towards CNN and others

Words matter. Ideas have consequences. And the world isn't about to spontaneously order itself around the classical values of human liberty without some help and leadership. The President ought to show that leadership instead of playing right into the hands of authoritarians.


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December 4, 2017

The United States of America "No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor"

Mitt Romney, speaking out with clarity on the candidacy of Roy Moore and its corrosive effects on the Republican Party. No person so disgraceful in his personal conduct as Moore ought to be making grave decisions in the Senate.

The United States of America Will the vital center of conservatism hold?

The core of thoughtful American conservatism is a belief that we should be defined by what we think people (and a nation) should strive to be. That's different from defining ourselves by our grievances or by our wants. It's a belief structure under heavy assault, as populists define themselves by everything they resent (like immigration, trade, and change) and the left defines itself largely by what it wants government to give away.

News The age of hyperbole?

Words like "fundamentally", "extreme", and "most" are getting at least ten times the use they should.

Business and Finance CVS wants to buy Aetna

When the drugstore chain owns the insurance company, is that going to result in efficiencies from vertical integration -- or pricing abuse?

Business and Finance New life at old Sears warehouses

Relics of a previous retail transition (in the 1920s) are being put to new use in the 21st Century. As the article notes: "In the 1920s, Sears had its own formula for adapting to an urbanizing, upwardly mobile population. Robert Wood joined the company as chief executive in 1925, and immediately re-focused the mail-order behemoth on brick-and-mortar stores." Urbanization is nothing new, nor is retail turmoil.

News Iconic designer Ivan Chermayeff has died

One of the most influential graphic designers in modern American history


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December 5, 2017

The United States of America Of course a President may be guilty of obstructing justice

The preposterous argument advanced by President Trump's personal attorney, that a President "cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under and has every right to express his view of any case", is preposterous in that it elevates the President to the status of a sovereign, rather than a co-equal citizen. The Queen of England, for instance, doesn't have a passport because all British passports are issued in the name of the Queen (as sovereign). The President of the United States carries a diplomatic passport, like thousands of other people, because the President is a co-equal citizen. He does not rise above the law just because he is charged with enforcing it; if anything, he is unusually subject to the law, since many laws are applicable to the actions of the officeholder which are not applicable to those of a citizen not in office. That anyone on the President's legal team would suggest that he is less subject to legal scrutiny as a consequence of his office is abhorrent.

Threats and Hazards The situation in Yemen, somehow, is actually getting worse

The former president has been killed after switching sides in the war, and famine there is getting worse. This is a problem that starts with human failure.

Business and Finance Ontario is experimenting with a basic income

There are strong arguments both for and against the universal basic income (UBI) in theory, which makes it a good subject for practical testing and further study. It might prove to be a great tool for eliminating red tape and freeing people to make choices to enhance their long-term welfare, or it could just be a socialist catastrophe. Experiments like this are going to tell us a lot that is worth knowing.

Business and Finance GE's chief executive asks existential questions

He's literally found himself asking, "Why do we exist?" GE is prominent in this regard, but not unusual: We've had a shortage of pro-institutional thinking as a country for a while now, which has contributed to institutional weakness in all kinds of areas -- from our hollowed-out political parties to the decline of important businesses to the weakness of cultural and educational institutions. A lot more pro-institutional thinking is needed.

News 2018 Winter Olympics won't feature a Russian team

A dramatic move to ban an entire country (and ordinarily a major contender) from the games over "systematic manipulation" of rules against performance enhancements. It's imporant that the Olympics be conducted according to rules -- but it's also not a great thing for the world overall that these particular games will be so prominently fractured. In too many ways, forces are trying to pull the world apart instead of taking advantage of ever-greater connectedness. Vladimir Putin is, regrettably, a champion of pulling apart -- as is Donald Trump.

News Tough questions for sensible Republicans

Tom Nichols asks, "[D]o we finally just abandon the party to loons, or do we stay to try to anchor the party if there's any chance of recovery?" One answer: A political party is a machine for doing things, composed of many factions. The "sane" faction (the conventional center-right) ought to adopt a name, an identity, and a statement of principles -- and fight back, hard.

News How China and India are competing in an arms race of infrastructure

If you can read the story and still conclude that the US needs to radically cut back on the State Department and other forms of global engagement, then you ought to read more history.

The United States of America Happy 84th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition

A reminder that government sometimes does stupid things, and that when it does, the best thing we can do is act swiftly to fix our mistakes.


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December 6, 2017

Aviation News Cathay Pacific pilots think they saw North Korea's latest missile

This, naturally, could render the airspace in the region much too dangerous for passenger safety

News Attorney-client privilege is different from invoking the Fifth Amendment

The President's son won't talk freely to the House of Representatives because he claims a conversation with his father is protected by attorney-client privilege (because lawyers were in the room). That's not really how attorney-client privilege works, and it's not the same as invoking the Fifth Amendment...which is probably closer to the protection he's looking for.

Weather and Disasters Dramatic photos from the fires around Los Angeles

Massive fires in southern California -- including one that's almost as large as the Des Moines metro area

Science and Technology Lyft to pilot-test self-driving cars around Boston

PRO: Self-driving cars virtually eliminate human error, which causes 90% of accidents. ANTI: Americans in self-driving cars are likely to spend more time on the Internet, which causes 90% of stupid ideas.

Aviation News Electric-powered airplanes are happening

The Economist: "Dozens of firms are working on electrically powered planes of all shapes and sizes." Hybrid power systems will come first, but all-electric models aren't inconceivable. The advantages are substantial: Higher efficiency, fewer moving parts, reduced noise, and radically lessened air pollution.

Science and Technology Don't be surprised to see a lot more truck platoons in the future

Over-the-road trucking is almost certain to see closely-packed convoys in the future of two or more trucks that travel together (with the help of automation) in order to reduce wind drag. A 10% increase in fuel efficiency is a mighty reward.

News Isn't a "landscraper" just a long, low office building?

Google's new London offices will be more than 1,000 feet long, but only a few stories high. Why that qualifies it for a special name like "landscraper" is up to question.


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December 7, 2017

Business and Finance One-paragraph book review: "How to Win at the Sport of Business", by Mark Cuban

It's no Harvard Business School case study, but most readers will gain something from the text


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December 11, 2017

Computers and the Internet Facebook-related navel-gazing was big 12 months ago

And what real progress has been made since? Can one name anything concrete?

News Iraq says it's expelled ISIS

CNN: "The campaign to eradicate the Islamic State took more than three years and about 25,000 coalition airstrikes."

Business and Finance Taxed more than has been earned

The Senate tax bill might actually contain elements that could result in marginal rates higher than 100% for certain earners

Threats and Hazards Know your adversary

What does Vladimir Putin have in mind when he targets Western elections and instigates cyber-warfare?


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December 12, 2017

Threats and Hazards The rise of the know-nothing populists in Europe

Anti-immigrant, anti-modernist parties have gained worrisome degrees of strength in parts of Europe

Weather and Disasters Why the California wildfires are so bad

Enormous fires, scaling larger than entire major American cities

News Doug Jones wins race for Alabama seat in the US Senate

The Democrat is a rare winner for his party in that state, but his opponent took a loathsome route

Threats and Hazards Why the Mueller investigation could stir up some ugly reactions

It's quite likely on course to reveal deeply untoward behavior on the part of people closest to the President, and that's going to elicit really bad reactionary behavior

Agriculture The Baltic Dry Index is going up

And since that's a signal of higher export shipping costs, it's really bad news for American farmers who are already dealing with low commodity prices and a President who is too obstinate to see that his anti-trade rhetoric is awful for export-dependent sectors of the economy, like agriculture


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