Gongol.com Archives: 2018 First-Quarter Archives

Brian Gongol






January 4, 2018

Threats and Hazards Casual threats of nuclear war

If the President takes nuclear war so lightly as it appears, he has never read any history of war, never pondered the weight of his office, and never cared about any human life besides his own. Certain members of Congress are talking about restraining the power of the President to initiate a nuclear first strike. Policy thinker Megan Reiss quite wisely suggests sending every President-elect to Hiroshima and to a concentration camp, "to contemplate the impact of acting and not acting, and the weight of choosing." Even a war fought with conventional weapons guarantees the loss of thousands of innocent lives. A person who cannot take that seriously is not to be trusted with any weapons at all, no matter what their form.

News Instead of posing with the handbook of "Antifa", how about a Constitutional selfie?

If a member of Congress wants to strike fear into the heart of an abusive President, there's no need to take a selfie with "The Antifa Handbook". Just pose with one of the classics: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Federalist Papers. All three provide the necessary foundation for striking proper fear into the heart of anyone who would misuse the power of the Presidency.

Threats and Hazards The distressing softness of the President's self-confidence

The very thought that the President would threaten a private citizen by sending a "cease and desist" notice -- even to someone as unsavory as Steve Bannon -- is reprehensible. If there is one thing Americans are free to do, it is to criticize officials in high office. That the President has people around him (and likely including himself) who think that their ability to make commercial gains off the family name is of greater importance than the public's right to criticize is a symptom of an irredemable pathology.

Threats and Hazards Death isn't for clickbait

An adult man beclowning himself on film next to another man's corpse is appalling. To use the death of another human being as clickbait is surely an indicator that someone harbors sociopathic tendencies, and both this Logan Paul and anyone who shared his video ought to be not only ashamed but scrutinized for their apparent sociopathy.

Broadcasting When Must-See TV got philosophical

A frame from an early episode of "Night Court" captures a sitcom confronting one of the great philosophical issues of all time: The individual struggling against himself

Business and Finance Pondering geographic mobility

If urbanization is inexorable (and it's definitely nothing new), then it's worth asking whether government policies should seek to encourage particular kinds of mobility, so that it's easier to move labor around to where it's needed or to get it out of places where it's under-productive. A matter surely worthy of serious debate.

Science and Technology 52% of new cars sold in Norway last year were electrics or hybrids

Despite being a huge oil country, Norway is turning its back on fossil fuels. Electric-only cars are up to 21%.

News Small savings groups help people get on their own feet

A charity that converts donations into tools to help people help themselves is a great thing

News Let's move New Year's Day to April Fool's Day

Wins for those who intend to break their resolutions, and for those who intend to keep them




January 5, 2018

Computers and the Internet Mark Zuckerberg's 2018 personal challenge: Fix "important issues" about Facebook

It's a grand ambition to want to figure out how the platform is being used for bad purposes and causing harm either through malice or neglect. But -- while trying not to read too much into his declaration -- it's a curiously undirected project, in the sense that Zuckerberg really says only that "I'm looking forward to bringing groups of experts together to discuss and help work through these topics." ■ Experts can and should be consulted on issues like these. But the phrase "bringing groups of experts together" is really pretty empty. Lots of experts come together for lots of reasons in lots of places, and in many cases the only result is an empty box of doughnuts and a memo that nobody ever reads. There's no doubt that Zuckerberg himself is an intelligent person, but he's also fortunate to have lucked into being in the right place at the right time with a tool. That's all that Facebook is: A technological tool. And tools are almost always value-neutral; like Teddy Roosevelt once said, "A vote is like a rifle: Its usefulness depends upon the character of the user." A vote, too, is simply a tool. The question is really one of character. ■ And that is the part of the story with the greatest promise -- but also the greatest risk that Zuckerberg's endeavor will end up accomplishing nothing. Ultimately, given the extraordinary control he maintains over Facebook -- the tool and the company -- it is an extension of himself to a degree that has few rivals in history, save a few rare examples like that of William Paley and CBS. So Zuckerberg's plan really doesn't reach far enough: He mostly seems interested in preventing harm, which is necessary...but not sufficient. ■ Being against something bad is not enough; much harm has been done by missions against other bad things. Anti-Communism is an epic example: It was right to be against Communism, but the incompleteness of that mission allowed ills like McCarthyism and the John Birch Society to fill the void. Anti-fascism may have brought together the USSR, the UK, and the United States as allies in World War II, but Soviet anti-fascism was hollow in the sense that it sought to fill the void with its own totalitarianism. ■ Zuckerberg is, in many ways, a techno-utopian: His professed belief is in the goodness of the tools themselves. And that means that an effort to purge the bad from Facebook will be incomplete -- just like anti-Communism or anti-fascism. And it's quite unlikely that any meeting of "groups of experts" will provide the right thing to fill the void. Ultimately, it hinges on Zuckerberg's conscience to decide that Facebook is actually for something -- not the ultimate triumph of technology over bad things, because that has never been and never will be the case. Great technology in bad hands is an awful thing. ■ For himself and for the tool that is such a pure extension of himself, Zuckerberg needs to find a normative philosophy in 2018: Something to strive to be. It will never be enough to be anti-bad, and it will never be adequate to think that perfecting technology will perfect humanity. In choosing something for it to strive to be, Zuckerberg would ultimately narrow the appeal of his tool -- since some people would decide that they object to the goal or conscientiously object. But he would do well to consider the way in which Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, became the benefactor of the Nobel Peace Prize. Like Facebook, dynamite is a tool, used for purposes both good and evil. Nobel's legacy wasn't to convene experts to tell him how dynamite could be perfected. The tool itself wasn't the ultimate end: It was only a tool. But the goodness of humanity itself and the positive goal of peace? That was Nobel's choice. Whatever comes of Facebook in the years ahead, Mark Zuckerberg has to make a choice, too -- and it isn't about perfecting the "anti-bad" of his platform.

Business and Finance How much of GDP goes to Federal-debt holders living overseas?

A non-zero number, but less than 1%. Important, though: If/when interest rates rise, that figure could be at risk if we haven't also brought the Federal budget under control.

Computers and the Internet Double-spacing after a period

It's habitual for a lot of people over the age of 35, and sacrilege to many under that age. In fairness to members of Generation X (who are often caught in the middle -- applying the double-space out of habit, but knowing that people want it gone), the double-space emerged out of necessity in the typewriter age, and stuck around when computer printers still mainly generated output in fixed-width fonts. Moreover, there was something viscerally gratifying about the heavy mechanical "click" of the early PC keyboards, so the double-space lingered, if nothing else, because it was also an excuse to get extra mileage out of clicking the heavy keys.

Business and Finance Know what's unusual about the times in which you live

For anyone who wants to go beyond basic passive investing (which itself isn't a bad policy for most people), there are two essential things to do: Have a cogent investing philosophy, and know what's unusual about the times in which you're living. The era of the conglomerates, just for instance, rose and fell on tax policies and interest rates that were unique to their time. Warren Buffett's early defining move was to pull out of the stock market altogether when it was still boiling hot, since he understood that the times were about to change. And who wouldn't like to take a time machine back to early 2009 with a bag full of cash and a stock-trading account? ■ What's unusual about our times today? Extremely low interest rates (by historical standards), equity valuations that are untethered from conventional estimates of value, a monumental shift in the workforce, and -- not least of all -- a deeply arbitrary and capricious Federal executive branch. Where the Obama administration tended to be hostile toward capital in general, the Trump administration reflects the President's capricious attitudes and eagerness to capture whatever he thinks can be categorized as a personal "win". He (and, by extension, his administration) is quick to interfere with deals not on the basis of law, but on the basis of what appears to count for a short-term political victory. As Tara Lachapelle notes in a Bloomberg Businessweek column, this means that epic mega-mergers like Disney/Fox and CVS/Aetna could all be in danger of rude surprises.

Threats and Hazards "What Wolff is describing is an open secret"

Newly-published book or not, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the President lacks curiosity and knowledge about the world, making him a singularly dangerous Commander-in-Chief.







January 9, 2018

Threats and Hazards Deportation looms for more than 320,000 people

The US government has provided "Temporary Protected Status" to people from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan as a form of what is basically refugee relief. It's hard to imagine how returning more than a quarter of a million Salvadorans to a deeply troubled homeland. The State Department tells Americans to "reconsider travel" there -- the last level of advisory before "Do Not Travel". Putting substantial strain on Central American countries that can't handle the pressure certainly isn't a way to introduce stability there, which likely only makes conditions worse for Mexico.

Weather and Disasters More than a dozen people killed by California mudslides

With vegetation wiped out by wildfires, there's not a lot left to keep heavy rain from turning the ground into mud

Science and Technology How Americans really sleep

Fitbit data tells us a whole lot more than we've ever really known about how people actually sleep

Business and Finance Omaha developer wants to go back to the future

Or something like that, with old-style buildings in new construction. They would include buildings intended for mixed residential and commercial use -- but one big question looms: If developers are really going to push for new-build live/work spaces, what's going to sustain the relationship? Most business sectors are going to face consolidation and change, so merging living and working spaces with the old model of the "apartment over the shop" is really harder to justify than ever.

Business and Finance Alabama will get huge new Toyota/Mazda plant

Not a huge surprise, given Toyota's previous pattern of site selection

The United States of America Should we have a completely ceremonial head of state?

When times are good, perhaps we'd pick a happy figure -- an Oprah Winfrey or a Johnny Carson or a John Elway. And when people are angry, like many are now, we could handle putting a hothead in the spot to express the popular discontent.

Humor and Good News "Journalism"

Matt Novak: "It was admittedly an odd choice for The Post to just be 110 minutes of Tom Hanks staring at the camera and whispering 'journalism' while getting more and more drunk but honestly it works". Any reasonable person would totally watch this.




January 10, 2018

Threats and Hazards Politics corrupt religion

Self-appointed moral authority Jerry Falwell, Jr. says that the President's behavior "is no longer relevant". This is perhaps the best contemporary illustration why politics and religion should be kept apart: Not because religion would overwhelm politics, but because politics can corrupt religion.

Business and Finance The gig economy isn't bias-free

Women get treated differently not just in conventional workplaces, but in the gig economy, too -- even when they're the employers.

News While the United States dithers

The European Union is getting the signals: If the United States is going to hollow out its international presence under the Trump Administration, they're going to have to address a rearranged global power structure. French President Emmanuel Macron is in China, saying "I want us to define together the rules of a balanced relationship in which everyone will win." Europe naturally needs to maintain its own relations with China, but in the long term, we may be witnessing the slow erosion of American hegemony in the world.

News Five things to consider before putting Oprah in the Oval Office

Someone can be inspiring, decent, interesting, and popular. That doesn't mean we ought to hire them to be President. There really are different skills required to be President than what can gain a person commercial success.

Broadcasting Milt Rosenberg, a true radio icon, has died

Milt Rosenberg's show was consistently both intelligent and entertaining. He proved that truly smart talk could be must-listen radio.

Humor and Good News "Efforting a fix"

Why is this particular corruption of the English language so satisfying? Is it because it conveys urgency through its rule-breaking?

Business and Finance Honda's US footprint in a generation

Realizing that the company has only been in the United States for a generation, it's pretty remarkable just how far it reaches

News A beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright home sells in Chicagoland

What's truly impressive is just how good the home still looks at more than a century old. The Prairie Style is profoundly enduring.








January 15, 2018

Computers and the Internet Does Instagram withhold "likes" to play on the insecurities of users?

Really quite sick, if true. Ordinary people are at risk of doing evil things when they only look at what technology can do, rather than pausing to reflect on what it should do.

Weather and Disasters Cold weather sometimes rewards you with sundogs

A spectacular display in Iowa

Broadcasting On the passing of Dolores O'Riordan

A true genre, as I think of it, needs a foundational set of performers who set the definitions -- but it also needs artists who push out the boundaries, testing how far the genre can bend before it breaks.

Iowa Midway between the caucuses

An event Iowans mark by lighting corn-scented candles and preparing the guest room for politicians starting their "listening tours".








January 20, 2018

Socialism Doesn't Work Toll roads in North Korea

With nothing better to offer on the world market, North Korea is turning to what is literally one of the oldest stunts in economics to raise hard currency: Toll roads.

News A Presidency misexecuted

Tom Nichols assesses the first year of the Trump Administration, and finds that a lot of collateral damage is being left behind for POTUS 46 to clean up

Humor and Good News Early contender for 2018's "Person of the Year"

An Omaha nurse donates 8 gallons of her own breast milk to a new mother undergoing chemotherapy whose baby has a milk allergy






January 23, 2018

Computers and the Internet British cybersecurity chief: "When, not if" a major cyberattack will target his country

The Guardian notes that "As well as North Korea, intrusions have been blamed on Russia, China and Iran." Now would be a good time to heed the words of Sun Tzu: "[T]he skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field." Cyberwarfare is different from kinetic warfare (where the objective is to blow up things), but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have a dedicated sense of what it means, both in theory and in practice. The longer it takes for the United States and its allies to treat cyberwarfare with the gravity it deserves, the worse-off we will be. As one observer notes, "people significantly overestimate the effect of Russian influence, and vastly underestimate the potential effect of disinformation from other sources (including domestic ones)". Fortunately, the antidotes to disinformation are effective no matter where the disinfo originates. Unfortunately, a lot of people are either unaware or unwilling to "vaccinate" themselves against any of it.

Aviation News Oldest operational ship in the US Navy completes dry dock work

The USS Blue Ridge (commissioned in 1970) is now back in service after a huge refurbishment. Of note: The US Air Force still flies B-52s built between 1952 and 1962 and only three years ago retired a 52-year-old C-130. To have airplanes in flight that are older than the oldest ships in the Navy seems counterintuitive.

Threats and Hazards Michigan man arrested for threatening to kill CNN employees

Does it have anything to do with the President's non-stop feud with the news media? Maybe -- the possibility certainly can't be dismissed. As columnist Niall Stanage notes: "As I learned growing up in Belfast, when politicians throw lit matches onto gasoline, you'll tend to get fires." Even one person whose anger exceeds his or her self-control is too many, and that hostility shouldn't be stoked from high office.

Business and Finance An America-free Trans-Pacific Partnership moves ahead

Canada, Japan, and nine other countries are marching ahead with a trade agreement despite the dropout of the United States. As Senator Jeff Flake notes, "We're being left behind." All other things being equal: Better a multilateral trade deal than a bilateral one; better low barriers to trade than high ones; better to be inside these agreements than outside of them.

Humor and Good News The one justified conspiracy theory

Individual sheets of select-a-size paper towels are scientifically designed to be 25% too small for any purpose under the Sun.





January 25, 2018

Threats and Hazards Two killed in Kentucky school shooting

It truly is a shame on our national character that violence takes so many young lives. It's a real public-health crisis: Homicide is in the top four causes of death in America for each of the age groups 1-4, 5-9, 10-14, 15-24, and 25-34, and suicide is the #2 or #3 cause of death in age groups 10-14, 15-24, and 25-34. These should be solvable problems, and we should have a sense of urgency about them.

Threats and Hazards Abusive gymnastics team doctor gets sentence of 40 to 175 years in prison

The sentence for Larry Nassar is deserved, but the judge was speaking to the rest of us when she said, "Justice requires more than what I can do on this bench." What stops the next abuser? Who protects the next victim? Those are systemic duties for all of us. Nassar used powers of manipulation and persuasion to get away with a massive crime spree over many years. One doesn't have to believe there was a broader conspiracy beyond him alone to believe that he was enabled and empowered by systemic and individual failures by others.

News Mayors ditch meeting with the President

The mayors of New York City, Los Angeles, and New Orleans were among those who dropped out of a meeting with the President after the Department of Justice threatened to subpoena a bunch of cities, counties, and states over "sanctuary" status issues. The President took shots at Democrats and others in the meeting with those mayors who showed up at the White House despite the boycott by some. Federalism is taking on some pretty unusual forms these days; the notion of a limited but energetic Federal government is being beaten senseless by a variety of opponents.

Business and Finance What we imagine to be important isn't always what's truly important

In a new Pew survey, Americans rank terrorism, education, and the economy as the "top priorities" for the President and Congress, while ranking the military, climate change, and global trade at the bottom of the list. As Scott Lincicome notes, the fact that an issue like trade falls at the bottom of the public priority list may contribute to why public opinion swings so much on the subject -- and why it remains an area subject to hijacking by protectionists with a vested interest in imposing higher costs on the public at large by shutting down trade. What the public values most isn't always what's most important: In fairness, eating vegetables and flossing are also low on voters' preferences -- but, just like trade, they're almost entirely in voters' best interests.





January 27, 2018

Humor and Good News It's easier to dream of those possibilities we can see

Aesha Ash is an African-American ballerina who is making herself visible (in full dress) in places people might not expect because she wants "to help change the demoralized, objectified and caricatured images of African-American women by showing the world that beauty is not reserved for any particular race or socio-economic background."

Business and Finance Wall Street Journal ranks the semifinalists for Amazon's HQ2

They conclude that Dallas and metro Washington, DC, are in the lead. That's pretty sound analysis.

Threats and Hazards The UN Ambassador shouldn't be subject to crude innuendo

Nikki Haley is shooting down crude rumors that she's having an affair with the President. There's no reason she should have to spend time or energy rebutting the rumors. We ought to have a world where we can all agree that issues of personal character do matter in politics -- without weaponizing rumors almost invariably at the expense of women. Women's reputations are indisputably put under attack far more by these kinds of allegations than men's, and there's no question that tends to have an effect that depresses the participation of literally half of the population in our civic affairs. It's not just scurrilous, it's degrading to our public welfare.

Threats and Hazards "[I]f anyone else had this much contact with Russians [...] they'd be considered a Grade-A security threat"

Tom Nichols gets directly to the heart of the problem: You don't have to believe there's some explicit quid pro quo between the President and the Kremlin to reasonably insist on a thorough investigation of the links. And the Senate had better agree.

The United States of America Democrats pick legacy-name member of the House to deliver response to State of the Union

Rep. Joe Kennedy III, grandson of Robert Kennedy, represents a Massachussetts district in Congress. Picking a Congressman from a legacy political family to deliver the response to the ultimate anti-legacy, pro-disruption President in generations is a really dumb idea. The State of the Union address (and its response) is the flagship mass-market political moment of the year. Why they aren't putting the spotlight on a current governor or a recent Cabinet member makes it look rather like they're not taking this seriously. At all.

Broadcasting Radio show notes: Brian Gongol Show - January 27, 2018

Airing live on WHO Radio at 2:00 pm Central




January 28, 2018

Computers and the Internet Social media ought to mark the end of the vox pop

The "vox pop" (from "vox populi" -- basically, the "man on the corner" interview) has always been a weak spot in journalism. Tying it to easily-manipulated social media buzz only makes that worse. But that's what's happening -- news sources make stories out of the quantity of public reaction to items in social media. But in a time when it's become clear just how enormous and widespread the problem of bot contamination is, news organizations ought to put a stake in the heart of the vox pop altogether.




January 29, 2018

Iowa Single-family home in northeastern Iowa contained more than 725 animals

There's no way to make that make sense

Science and Technology Republicans on FCC slam trial balloon over nationalized 5G service

Axios reports that there have been internal debates within the Trump administration about the idea of nationalizing the 5G wireless infrastructure. It appears to be part of an internal discussion among national-security team members, who frame the need to get away from dependence on increasingly dominant Chinese suppliers of 5G technology as a matter of national security.

Business and Finance "Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful"

Warren Buffett's axiom applies today, when the World Economic Forum review of global risks rates virtually no concerns over economic conditions.

News Cleveland to retire Chief Wahoo from uniforms after this season

File under: It's about time. Everyone knows that tastes and mores change over time, and sometimes that requires adjusting our present-day reality to match the changes. Does it mean some cultural icons might get sacrificed along the way? Sure. But anyone who is more attached to the rendering of a mascot of a baseball team than to scrubbing pretty blatant racism from the present really ought to adjust their understanding of what's important. We should be happy to take a path toward getting better about how we treat one another.


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January 30, 2018

Science and Technology Someone claims to be offering "Human Uber"

A tool to provide virtual presence. The low-wage, low-skill, technology-enabled job of the future is...Larry Middleman from "Arrested Development"?

Threats and Hazards Russia names fighter plane regiment "Tallinn"

That's some very serious trolling, naming a military group after a national capital of a former satellite state

Aviation News United Airlines prohibits "emotional support peacock" from flight

Buried lead in this story: Someone has tried to bring an emotional-support spider on board an airplane somewhere.

News Omaha-area grocery store won't sell Tide Pods to under-21s

Isn't there some non-toxic, non-staining, extremely bitter flavor additive that could be added to the external gel of these laundry packs? Wouldn't that be the logical step for Tide and others to take? There were more than 10,000 incidents reported to poison-control centers last year involving children ages 5 and under. As a convenience, laundry packs have tremendous merit. But if there's a reasonable way the manufacturers could offset the hazard of ingestion (whether intentional or accidental), then it's worth asking what stands in the way. All of the buzz is about teenagers consuming them intentionally, but that's happened around 100 times this year -- whereas accidental ingestion by little people happens orders of magnitude more often.




January 31, 2018

News A $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan

Briefly hinted at the State of the Union, a giant proposal that ought to have some attention. $1.5 trillion is around $4,600 per American. We probably need to spend that much (or more) on a wide range of infrastructure projects, but the needs range widely and call for a lot of technocratic judgment. Saying you'll spend $1.5 trillion on infrastructure is like saying you're going to lose 100 lbs. The admission means you probably need to do it, but it matters a great deal whether you're really changing your lifestyle or just banking it all on a two-week juice cleanse. Low interest rates today are a stupendous incentive to borrow for the long term on work that would have lasting value, but whenever "infrastructure" projects are done as a means of putting people to work, the work that is done may not be an efficient use of the capital.

The United States of America Sen. Jeff Flake has twice been a first-responder in the span of one year

At the Congressional baseball game, and again at the train crash en route to the Republican retreat. It is tragic that one person should have encountered circumstances like that twice in such a short time, but good for him for being prepared to do good things.

News The changing American household

A Pew research piece says that 31.9% of American adults live in households containing an adult who isn't the head of household, a spouse or partner, or an adult child of roughly ordinary college age. Of note: "Today, 14% of adults living in someone else's household are a parent of the household head, up from 7% in 1995."

The United States of America Should you love your government?

Your country, perhaps. But your government, never.




February 1, 2018

Business and Finance Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta forecasts wildly optimistic economic growth rate

5.4% GDP growth would be fantastic, but there's no way to call it realistic. The fundamental underpinnings to support sustained growth at that rate aren't there.

Iowa Iowa drops from 2nd to 3rd in nation's wind-energy capacity

Iowa added lots in 2017, but Oklahoma added more. Now it's Texas in first, Oklahoma in second, and Iowa in third. Texas is way out in front.

Iowa Meredith completes acquisition of Time

In an interesting historical footnote, Des Moines was once the home to Look Magazine, which was intended to be a rival to Life Magazine. Life is long-gone, but its name lingers as part of the direct-mail media company.

Business and Finance 4th quarter economic productivity slipped by 0.1%

It's on an annualized rate, so the figure itself isn't big. But the stock market isn't the economy, and the economy isn't the stock market. Stagnant or declining productivity is not a good bellwether for economic strength, no matter what the S&P 500 is doing. The economy and the stock market have been on totally different paths since 2008 -- the economy fell by something around 5%, and has subsequently grown by a total of maybe 20%. The stock market, by contrast, plunged by 50%, and has since doubled.

Threats and Hazards Was the CIA director's meeting with Russian intelligence bosses "routine"?

That's what Mike Pompeo says. Any contact of that type taking place right now has to be executed with the highest sensitivity to even the appearance of impropriety.

Threats and Hazards Is "Redfish" a Russian-funded propaganda operation?

The Daily Beast says the "grassroots" media organization is an offshoot of RT. Programming ought to be accompanied by an NPR-style sponsorship liner: "Support for this program is provided by...parties who would rather remain nameless, but whose interests coincide with sowing the maximum possible division within Western societies."




February 2, 2018

Threats and Hazards We should play no part in our own division

Sen. John McCain's statement today is perfect: "The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests -- no party's, no president's, only Putin's. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia's ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller's investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation's elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin's job for him." Just because people don't understand the actions being taken against us doesn't mean they're not real. Just because we don't want to believe that we're susceptible to attack via means ranging from influence campaigns to cyberwarfare doesn't mean we're invincible. And just because it's easy to fall into a divisive and tribalistic culture of internal division doesn't mean we can sustain a republic that way. We need vigorous and intelligent debate, far-sighted approaches to big problems, and a sense that we can be of different opinions without being enemies of our fellow Americans. It's an offense against the republic that the President terrorizes law enforcement from his bully pulpit because of his own selfishness. And with members of Congress acting as accomplices through the release of a memo that the FBI asked them not to, we have a lot of people showing the moral backbone of jellyfish.

Socialism Doesn't Work China's "Belt and Road" includes a media component

The head of China's Xinhua news agency is shown meeting with the prime minister of Laos to discuss "media cooperation". As Ely Ratner of the Council on Foreign Relations notes, "China exporting illiberalism and censorship in Asia. Expect much more 'media cooperation' under Belt and Road." If we're not a part of what's happening in the Asia-Pacific region, we shouldn't expect liberty and freedom to fill the void -- not with China's present leadership and the incentive structures they face. As Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore used to say, "To achieve the modernization of China, her Communist leaders are prepared to try all and every method, except for democracy with one person and one vote in a multi-party system."

Business and Finance Stock market falls by 2%

It's a pretty dramatic decline, and a reminder that the stock market isn't the economy and the economy isn't the stock market. A one-day decline of 2% isn't sustainable and rarely reflects more than the animal spirits taking over the market. But in fairness, the stock market has been overpriced for a while, according to any conventional and rational sense of valuation.

Computers and the Internet Facebook resists judging news sources

Mark Zuckerberg, on a quarterly call with stock analysts: "We don't want to assess by ourselves which sources are trustworthy. I think that's not a situation that or a position that we're comfortable with ourselves." It's rather like Zuckerberg has never met anyone outside his immediate psychographic profile. This "wisdom of crowds"/techno-utopian mindset has to go.

Business and Finance Federal Reserve hits Wells Fargo hard

Bank must replace four directors and hold its assets at the same level as punishment for the unauthorized-accounts scandal


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February 3, 2018

Broadcasting Show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - February 3, 2018

Airing live on WHO Radio from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm Central -- AM 1040 on the terrestrial dial, or streamed live at WHORadio.com

Computers and the Internet Fallout from fake followers

Movie columnist Richard Roeper, exposed in a recent news report as one of the celebrities who purchased fake Twitter followers, has reached an agreement with the Chicago Sun-Times (his employer) to delete his old Twitter account and start over. Roeper's statement includes the line "On a number of occasions, in an effort to build my brand, I bought Twitter followers." The rules of the game are pretty fuzzy right now: Media outlets want "brand-name" presenters, hosts, columnists, and even journalists -- but the whole idea of "building a personal brand" is largely in conflict with the idea of institutional standards in journalism. Buying fake Twitter followers is a pretty sketchy thing to do, but when the reward structure inside conventional media puts a premium on digital reach, individual journalists are probably going to try it. There aren't a whole lot of clean hands in the commodity-clicks universe.





























March 1, 2018

News Chinese investment in Finnish infrastructure?

China Daily reports on a speculative project to build a giant tunnel under the Baltic, to link Helsinki with Tallinn, with the backing of "unnamed Chinese investors". And they're talking about building a railway between Helsinki and a northern Norwegian port city -- so China can have access through the (warming) Arctic Ocean to European markets, instead of traversing the Suez Canal. This is what happens when the United States dithers while China is flush with cash and ambition.

Threats and Hazards For whom are they working?

The FBI is investigating what went on behind the scenes of a licensing deal that slapped the Trump name on a building in Vancouver just after the President took office. It was a deal that apparently centered on Ivanka Trump's work -- and it is well past time that Americans know whether she's working for the family business or for the government. There's no room for one of the President's closest advisers to have one foot in the Oval Office and another in financial interests that are influenced by that work. There must be an arm's-length separation of the two -- without that separation, there must be an assumption of bad faith on the part of the people who choose not to separate the interests. If Ivanka Trump is not exclusively working for the people of the United States, then she has no business in the ambiguous roles she occupies.

Threats and Hazards Absurdism masquerading as economic policy: Steel and aluminum tariffs

The President appears to have sprung the idea of massive tariffs as a surprise on just about everyone. They're a terrible idea.

Computers and the Internet Facebook wants your kids

Facebook says it had to "nudge" kids in the 8-to-13 age range to use its Facebook Messenger Kids tool. One wonders: What's so good (for the kids) about trying so hard to get them to use their electronics? It's obvious what's in it for Facebook.

Threats and Hazards Run, do not walk, away from state-secession plans

There are vital interests of highly adversarial people that are served when Americans turn on one another

Business and Finance The Wrigley Building is up for sale

If you have a spare $200 million and an interest in prime Chicago real estate, it might be up your alley

Threats and Hazards Sweden has a problem with gangs using hand grenades

Thanks to certain loopholes in the law, they're a weapon of choice for some bad guys

Business and Finance Kearney Archway turns a profit -- at long last

The $60 million monument across Interstate 80 in Kearney, Nebraska, has gone a long, long time without turning a profit. It's actually quite a nice museum and well worth a visit for anyone in the area or passing through, but it's also a cautionary tale in the hazards of feasibility studies. It's easy to cook the numbers when they're purely speculative to come up with something that balances the books.




March 2, 2018

Threats and Hazards Punching down

The President fires off a rant against Alec Baldwin, for no sensible reason. He makes a choice, every day, to behave this way. To make these his priorities. To pick these fights. This is a choice.

Threats and Hazards A global trade war isn't "easy" to win

"Trade war" isn't even good nomenclature. "War" conveys an impression of an event with a winner and a loser. But, on net, everyone loses in a trade war. It's more like mutually-assured destruction. The President may rant and rave in capital letters about his outdated notions of what makes an economy, but trade protectionism is the helicopter parenting of economics. Moreover, with the economic damage being intentionally done via stupid tariff policies and trade restrictions, worse things may happen even faster. Federal deficits are soon to eclipse the annual GDP, and a hobbled economy produces smaller tax revenues.

Threats and Hazards The cyberwarfare threat is real. Our response isn't.

Asks Senator Ben Sasse: "Why should the American people have any confidence in their government right now in the area of cyberwar?" A good and urgent question, indeed.

Business and Finance "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"

In a computer simulation that closely resembles the distribution of wealth in the real world, "[T]he wealthiest individuals are not the most talented (although they must have a certain level of talent). They are the luckiest." If this is an accurate representation of how talent is rewarded in the real world, then it has really substantial implications for how we choose to remunerate talent (and otherwise compensate it without money, but with things like social esteem). It echoes a comment from Bill Gates: "I am always fascinated by the question of whether the most talented people end up in critical positions -- in politics, business, academia, or the military. It's amazing the way some people develop during their lives." Most likely, there is a great deal of the ultimate outcomes in wealth that is shaped by choices that people make early in their lives -- when pure talent and intelligence don't necessarily determine the quality of decision-making, since they're not informed by wisdom and experience. Getting set in the right direction early on -- often by luck of finding something like an industry on the rise -- might explain much of the outcome. And in that case, it certainly speaks volumes to the impact of family members and other trusted elders who may guide their younger counterparts to the right places at the right times, before they can make informed decisions for themselves.

Threats and Hazards The potential for abuse

According to NBC News: "Some top Qatari government officials believe the White House's position on the blockade may have been a form of retaliation driven by Kushner who was sour about the failed deal" to bail out one of his family's investment properties. If personal financial interests are influencing Federal government policy at the very top, that's an inexcusable threat to the idea of good government.

Computers and the Internet Facebook axes the "Explore Feed"

They had tried to separate institutional and personal news from one another, but users didn't like it or use it. So now everything is back together, but with the supposed emphasis on "family and friends"-type content.

Threats and Hazards No impulse control

The President's plans for massive tariffs on steel and aluminum imports appear to have been a completely impulsive declaration made without any serious forethought or planning. There is much to be disturbed by the fact that he, after more than a year in office, still does not understand the fact he needs to show more discipline than the average adult. That's just basic comprehension of the role.







March 6, 2018

News China's military ambitions grow

They're looking to build lots of naval bases all over the Indian and Pacific Oceans

Business and Finance Amazon uses lobbying more than ever

One of the reasons why the DC metro area is almost certainly one of the top two contenders for the Amazon HQ2 project: Government matters more than ever to Amazon's future. Proximity to your target matters.

Business and Finance Lego has too many bricks

They had a pretty big sales drop in 2017

Iowa Democracy belongs to those who show up, indeed

The number of voters who cast ballots in one Des Moines suburb on the sales-tax vote could have fit in a single Suburban

Business and Finance What would Louis Rukeyser say?

What we wouldn't give to hear one of his opening monologues to "Wall Street Week" today




March 7, 2018

Business and Finance What good will tariffs do?

It is possible to do things that put many Americans on pathways to better economic futures that don't involve starting trade wars. Tariffs usually end up as false promises that make lots of things worse while failing to fix what they're supposed to help. "Trade war" sounds a lot more decisive than "updated and reinvigorated trade and technology adjustment assistance", but the latter is really where we ought to be putting a sustained focus. Either we're developing our human capital or we're not. But if we aren't, then we shouldn't expect a rising standard of living. And if we're trying but failing, then we need to urgently reconsider how we're doing it.

Threats and Hazards "We can also do stupid"

The President's utterly preposterous claim that tariffs can be applied "lovingly" is answered by the European counterargument that they, too, can do stupid policy.

Threats and Hazards Holocaust Museum rescinds award to Aung San Suu Kyi

It's for her failure as a civil leader to stop the murders of the Rohingya. Sometimes the only thing we can do is remind people that the judgment of history will be passed on us all, and hope that maybe the desire to be remembered favorably is enough to get someone to do the right thing. It's one of the most important reasons why we have to study history and treat it as important.

Humor and Good News Beautiful art from the dawn of the 20th Century

Gorgeous art, really


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March 8, 2018

Threats and Hazards An obscenely wrongheaded idea

The President takes a potshot at Gary Cohn, his departing director of the National Economic Council: "He may be a globalist but I still like him. He is seriously a globalist, no question. But in some ways he's a nationalist because he loves our country." ■ Straight to the dustbin of history with the idea that a person couldn't love his or her own country and also believe in participating in the global community. Shameful. Ignorant, wrong, and shameful. ■ "No free people can for long cling to any privilege or enjoy any safety in economic solitude. For all our own material might, even we need markets in the world for the surpluses of our farms and our factories." - Dwight D. Eisenhower ■ "If we want [...] a vital, dynamic, innovative economic system, we must accept the need for mobility and adjustment. It may be desirable to ease these adjustments [...] but we should try to achieve that objective without destroying the flexibility of the system." - Milton and Rose Friedman ■ "No nation was ever ruined by trade." - Benjamin Franklin ■ "To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations having correspondent dispositions" - James Madison ■ "The freedom to buy, sell, and trade is one of the oldest freedoms known to man." - Margaret Thatcher ■ The idea that someone can't be both a good American and also a good citizen of the world is as preposterous as the idea one cannot be both a good Iowan and a good American, or a good Chicagoan and a good American. Most of the virtues to being a good citizen are non-rivalrous -- from the local to the regional to the national to the global. Anyone who can't think of themselves as belonging to more than one community of human beings simply lacks imagination.

Threats and Hazards Whose South China Sea?

China's foreign minister drops passive-aggressive commentary about "external powers" and complaining that "there are certain external powers who are unwilling to accept the stability in the South China Sea and always want to stir up trouble". He is, of course, talking about the United States. And he's talking about a place where his own country is building artificial islands to create artificial claims to territory. Singapore's long-time leader Lee Kuan Yew said it pretty clearly: "As China's development nears the point when it will have enough weight to elbow its way into the region, it will make a fateful decision -- whether to be a hegemon, using its economic and military weight to create a sphere of influence...or to continue as a good international citizen...It is in everyone's interest that before that moment of choice arrives, China should be given every incentive to choose international cooperation which will absorb its energies constructively for another 50 to 100 years."

Computers and the Internet What if everyone had to complete an exit interview to unfollow someone on social media?

Would any of us learn?

Humor and Good News Is it too soon for an Irish potato famine joke?

One might wonder

Business and Finance The choice to impose tariffs is a terrible one

A 25% tax on imported steel and 10% on imported aluminum. Arbitrary, capricious, untargeted tariffs on basic raw materials used disproportionately in heavy construction? That's a pretty stupid way to address the need for infrastructure investment (that we badly need). It's also a terrible way to behave when we have a massive Federal budget deficit. It's a very simple fact that net imports don't actually hurt GDP -- we produce the same amount with or without the imports, we just don't want to count them as things we create.

Humor and Good News A hot take on hot takes

Very, very funny: "I'm an incredibly verbose piece of journalism that your boss, your coworkers, and your most Twitter-annoying friend have already spread all over social media with the comment 'This.'"




March 9, 2018

Business and Finance What men ought to do to promote women in the workplace

Worth consideration: "Integrity is not only knowing and acting on what is right but also, as Yale Law's Stephen Carterimplores, publicly explaining why you are doing so."

News What creates a journalist? Sometimes the comics.

The cartoon pages are the gateway by which kids become newspaper readers. Every successful medium needs a route by which the next generation of audience members is recruited.

Threats and Hazards An impossibly stupid interpretation of the job

Peter Navarro to Bloomberg: "My function, really, as an economist is to try to provide the underlying analytics that confirm his [the President's] intuition. And his intuition is always right in these matters." Trying to backfill evidence to rationalize instincts is a far cry from encouraging one's best intuitions. Intuition is the product of experience, study, and self-criticism. President Trump doesn't celebrate any of those; he has instincts. And any animal can have instincts. To have people in such influential positions that do nothing but encourage instinctive behavior is a complete dereliction of duty.









March 15, 2018

Threats and Hazards Sounding the alarm

There is a tension in having the President act both as head of government and head of state. Senator Jeff Flake is right to sound the alarm that the part about being head of state isn't being taken seriously. Preserving the dignity of the office as a tool of moral suasion is one of the reasons why so many people were interested in punishing President Bill Clinton for his bad behavior in office -- it wasn't a matter of policy, it was a matter of behavior. President Barack Obama conducted himself generally quite well as a head of state, but made a lot of errors as head of government. Today, it's entirely incomplete for people to approve of President Donald Trump's policies in government when his words and behavior as head of state are reprehensible. It's time for a pro-civic wing of the Republican Party to speak up and demand accountability for the duties of a head of state.

Business and Finance The US only has a trade deficit with Canada if you exclude services

And excluding services is a ridiculous way to count economic output. Can we all just take a minute to reflect on the anachronism of thinking that goods are somehow better outputs than services? Any parent who has ever encouraged their kid to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer has revealed a preference for providing services. Goods and services need one another -- you can't build a bridge without designing it, too. Someone makes a pair of shoes, and someone else sells them. Boeing can build an airplane, but Delta has to fly it.

Business and Finance Where do traded dollars go when we are a net importer?

A hypothesis: Agglomerative network effects could neutralize the ordinarily negative effects of trade deficits. Suppose we run a trade deficit with country "B", buying things that help increase our growth rate. Country "B" returns some of the resulting cash surplus here, buying property or firms (maybe at inflated prices) that only exist because of the high growth rate in the first place. In a framework where certain imports of goods or services end up contributing to the creation of capital (of which some is sold to the exporting parties), the trade deficit might be more of a catalyst than a cost. In the short run, we show a current-accounts deficit; in the long term, the resulting capital creation (and thus future productive potential) is much greater than the proportion of the capital stock that is sold off to repatriate the dollars exchanged in trade early on. This would depend, though, on the US market having certain characteristics making it a uniquely high-return locaion for investment.

Threats and Hazards Russian cyberattacks compromise power and water plants in the US and Europe

A Symantec executive says "They have the ability to shut the power off. All that's missing is some political motivation". One particular piece of the New York Times report puts the problem in stark terms: "[A]t least three separate Russian cyberoperations were underway simultaneously. One focused on stealing documents from the Democratic National Committee and other political groups. Another, by a St. Petersburg 'troll farm' known as the Internet Research Agency, used social media to sow discord and division. A third effort sought to burrow into the infrastructure of American and European nations." That doesn't preclude the possibility of yet other operations, as well. That's what makes the use of cyberwarfare so unnerving: It involves asymmetries between the inputs required and the outputs it can create. Thus it is highly attractive to those parties that calculate a low cost (in terms of retaliation) for high potential gain. This might be a good time for private and public parties in places like the United States to consider having a backup plan, like secondary operating systems.

News Queen Elizabeth "consents" to her grandson's marriage

Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952. Imagine if we were talking today about Harry Truman (POTUS in 1952) "giving consent" to permit his grandson to marry an actress from the UK. The institution itself is such a peculiar artifact of past civilizational habits that it's interesting to superimpose their order on our facts and see how it would look. All monarchies (even parliamentary ones) are a bit silly -- but if their political gravity didn't matter, they would be republics by now. There's an implicit public consent to the status quo which itself is a form of political power.

News Putting "savings" into Daylight Saving Time

Give us back the hour -- with interest!




March 16, 2018

The United States of America Why you should read "Safe Passage"

The shape of our world today is no accident. Its shape tomorrow ought not to be an accident, either.

News Embedded diamonds instead of engagement rings?

Just because a reporter can find a half-dozen people who do something doesn't make that thing a trend. And while picking on Millennials for sport is a joy of being in Generation X, this really isn't a generational thing. It's just some isolated instances of people being dumb.

Business and Finance A US Senator who gets the big picture

Sen. Ben Sasse demonstrates again (this time in an address to the Heritage Foundation) that the economy isn't served by going back to the 1950s

Threats and Hazards So much stupidity concentrated into one interview

Everyone trying to remain in the public eye has a choice: Whether to be thought-provoking...or mindlessly provocative. The nonsense captured in the Spectator interview with Steve Bannon is definitively of the latter type.

News Justice Department fires former acting FBI director just before he retires with pension

Whether or not there was true merit to the dismissal of Andrew McCabe, openly taunting some of the nation's highest-ranking law-enforcement officers after you fire them probably isn't the most effective way to demonstrate innocence.


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March 17, 2018

Threats and Hazards "50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach"

The Guardian reveals a stunning whistleblower claim that Cambridge Analytica used data on 50 million Facebook users -- data that was obtained in contravention of Facebook policies, using "personality test" apps that collected data not only on the user, but on the user's friends as well. And then Facebook was slow to fix the problem: They claim to have acted in 2015, but didn't go on to suspend the parties involved until this week. The New York Times reports that "Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove." This is a huge warning on lots of levels: To resist the urge to share too much online; to hold Facebook and other social media tools at arm's length (they're not your friends); to resist the urge to fall for the lure of "personality tests" tied to tools like Facebook; to know that third parties might collect information on you even if you didn't engage with them; to suspect anyone who claims to be collecting information online for "academic research"; and for a hundred other reasons. Data is being weaponized, and regardless of this particular case, that is only bound to accelerate.

Weather and Disasters Parts of Des Moines metro got 8" of snow overnight

Other places, not 20 miles away, got less than half an inch

Threats and Hazards Former acting FBI director is fired just before retirement

And then the President turned to Twitter to openly taunt him. It doesn't seem wise for a President under investigation to mock people like Andrew McCabe and James Comey, but perhaps his lawyers have a creative defense strategy up their sleeves.

Humor and Good News A new album is out from Stone Temple Pilots

And Generation X rejoiced







March 21, 2018

Threats and Hazards Stop naming and celebritizing the killers

News outlets are naming the Austin package bomber -- a person who has been terrorizing his local community through murder. Would there be any real harm done if news outlets said "As a matter of civic responsibility, we are voluntarily withholding the name of the perpetrator"? A voluntary choice to consign people like this to the black hole of history might help discourage copycats.

Threats and Hazards Man shoots himself after falling asleep with new gun in his hands

This story ends with the public laughing at the expense of the individual who shot himself. But what if this carelessness had ended with him unintentionally shooting a family member who walked in and startled him awake?




March 22, 2018

Threats and Hazards Nero fiddles while Rome burns

The President of the United States is engaged in a juvenile taunting match with a former Vice President, while Congress is about to pile another $1.3 trillion onto the Federal debt. If the Federal government were sitting on a surplus of $64,000 per person, voters would be losing their minds demanding rebate checks. Instead, we owe $64,000 per person in Federal debt...and rising.

News National Security Adviser fired

General HR McMaster is out, and John Bolton is incoming

Humor and Good News The sisters rebuilding a university library in Mosul

With ISIS out, they have a chance to rebuild. We could digitize every book ever written and give every child a Kindle as their birthright, and yet we should still consider libraries to be sacred spaces worthy of support and protection. Only barbarians destroy libraries.

Humor and Good News The only thing missing is the exaggeration

Teenager puts a car through the front window on her driving test. The problem is that the story misses a kicker element -- something for the comedians to embellish in search of a life.




March 23, 2018

Threats and Hazards China plans a 25% tariff on US pork

Soybeans could be next. This is exactly the kind of reciprocal trade retaliation that Americans should worry about.

Threats and Hazards Denmark and Ireland might sanction Russia over attack on British soil

Can it be? Are the free countries of the world starting to get the picture that shows of unity are among our best tools to push back against adversarial efforts to sow discord here?

Business and Finance Where do your tax dollars go?

The Federal budget represented as a $100 restaurant bill

Health Nebraska doctors turn to state intervention to get 15-year-old into chemotherapy

Even that Original Libertarian, John Stuart Mill, would say that sometimes the state has to step in to protect kids: "Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as against external injury."

Iowa Snowstorm forecast comes with tight gradients

Parts of Minnesota and Iowa are going to get about a foot of snow, and neighbors 90 minutes away won't get anything









March 29, 2018

Threats and Hazards Reckless economic interventionism

The President has once again turned to Twitter to lash out at an American business; this time, Amazon. Says he: "I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!" This screed is so brimming with nonsense that it is almost impossible to parse reasonably: Amazon pays taxes. Amazon uses the US Postal Service (which is a net gain, not a loss, to the carrier). And Amazon is just an efficient conduit on the Internet, but it is by no means exclusive as an online retailer and the troubles inflicted on "thousands of retailers" would be real even if Amazon itself did not exist. Most Americans in any kind of retail or wholesale sector are likely to be both users of, and competitors with, Amazon. As many business leaders have noted (among them, Satya Nadella of Microsoft), increasingly complex business needs have lots of us operating outside of traditional business rivalries. Most of us now have reason sometimes to cooperate with our natural competitors. That's just the evolution of business and a natural result of specialization. All of us, though, should stridently object to the President continuing to call out individual American businesses for scorn like this, and we should object if he were to offer praise, too. It's bad behavior in principle, and it's reckless economic interventionism in practice. But there is a third layer in the case of this particular President, and it is the result of his near-complete unwillingness to follow the well-established norms of the office, like putting his assets into a true blind trust. As was worth notice even before he took office, we have no assurances that he and/or his inner circle aren't profiting from his social-media outbursts -- for instance, by shorting a stock before a rant. To assume the best (that he and his circle are refraining from such behavior) is inexcusably naive. The norms exist for a reason, and his conscious, willful rejection of those norms should not be taken at face value. In the absence of evidence of innocence, the person who deliberately tries to change the rules in such a way as would benefit himself at the expense of others should be assumed to be a cheater.

News "I don't know what that means, a community college"

The President seems to think it's better to call them vocational/technical schools than to call them community colleges. Which might be fine, if that were actually how they operated. But it's an inaccurate representation. Nobody should underestimate the power of community colleges to have a huge effect on adult education in lots of ways -- including, but not limited to, voc-tech.

Aviation News New York Times article actually suggests that men wear track suits in flight

"Thank you for flying Sopranos Airways. Have a cannoli."

Humor and Good News Omaha school administrator donates hair to Locks of Love and raises $6,000

A great example of someone choosing to create value in the world -- not only will someone benefit from the hair donation, but another $6,000 got raised in the process.

Humor and Good News Opening Day is here

In a world that routinely seems positively mad, welcome back to the relentless rationality of baseball.




March 30, 2018

Threats and Hazards Russia tests new ICBM

Video of the missile (NATO-codenamed "Satan Two") has been released. As Dwight Eisenhower said, "A nation's hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations." This test, in tandem with the Russian expulsion of 60 American diplomats in retaliation for Western retaliation in response to the attempted murder of two people on British soil, suggests that a reminder is in order: "Proportional response" does not include the aggressor retaliating in equal measure to retaliations. This is an entirely unsatisfactory way for the world to work in 2018.

Business and Finance Amazon rearranges lobbying efforts in Washington

The very large, very national impact of government on Amazon's future business remains one of the reasons the DC metro almost certainly must be in the lead to get Amazon's HQ2. Nothing like being located next to your biggest "customer".

Iowa Dutch painting from 1600 resurfaces in Des Moines

It's a bit of a cheeky image, so it probably got hidden away when it strained the sensibilities of the early 1920s

Computers and the Internet French President Macron proposes "IPCC for AI"

Similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he suggests a group to put real expertise into looking at the ethical consequences of artificial intelligence. It's part of an ambitious set of goals Macron suggests for turning France into a major center for AI, but the ethical component is well worth examining closely. The speed of technological change is ultimately a challenge to our ability to use it well.




March 31, 2018

Threats and Hazards Independent autopsy says Sacramento man was shot repeatedly in the back by police

They appear to have concluded that they were being threatened with a gun, when it was only a cell phone. Which leads to the savage satire from The Onion under the headline, "Police repeatedly shoot Tim Cook after mistaking iPhone for gun". America really does need an NTSB for police-involved killings.

Threats and Hazards The President, the interventionist

He cannot restrain himself against the impulse to create enemies, whether real or imagined. While it's only circumstantial evidence, the weight of the evidence is overwhelming that his antipathy towards the Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos) is translating into a reckless campaign against Amazon.com (which was started by Jeff Bezos, but exists as a publicly-traded company). Bezos owns about 79 million of Amazon's 484 million shares outstanding, for about 16% of the total. Thus the President's ire is not only un-American, anti-market, and factually dishonest, it is also poorly targeted. At this pace of pointless, patronizing interventionism, he is on track to make FDR look like Milton Friedman. The President's enthusiasm for government intervention in the economy produces lots of wicked outcomes and should be roundly denounced by anyone who considers themselves pro-markets and pro-freedom.

News Immigration, categorically, does not create net new crime

To the contrary, immigrants of all means of entry (legal or otherwise) tend to be less criminally inclined than the public at large. But there is an unfortunate tendency for confirmation bias to creep in, causing people who may have been inclined to have a dim view of immigrants to "see" immigrant crime more than other crime.

The United States of America The 19th Amendment is only two generations old

An indication of just how insufficient America's concept of rights was just 100 years ago, a reminder of just how much progress has been made since that time, and an instigation to remember that much good or much harm can be created in a very short time. It's always a choice.