Gongol.com Archives: 2018 Weekly Archives

Brian Gongol


July 15, 2018

Threats and Hazards "Quit messing with America"

Senator Ben Sasse's message for the President to deliver to Vladimir Putin. There's no point to being the world's superpower if we're not prepared to stand up for ourselves. Either we defend ourselves (and a just world order) against criminal malice, or we should prepare for chaos and darkness to fill the void. And we need to be aware that the problem is continuing and probably expanding: Whatever we've seen out of our adversaries thus far is likely just the beginning. This isn't ambiguous: Per the indictments issued on Friday, Russian military intelligence targeted US civilians, organizations, and state governments. This isn't over.

Threats and Hazards President Trump names EU as a "foe"

The European Union isn't our foe, and it is self-evidently stupid to say so.

Socialism Doesn't Work China wants to censor the trade war

The South China Morning Post reports: "Four separate sources working for Chinese media, who were briefed on these internal instructions, told the South China Morning Post that they were told not to 'over-report' the trade war with US".

Science and Technology French company wants to build trains with wings

Airplanes that could detach their passenger compartments for quick ground transportation on rails. A bit far-out, but maybe it makes sense in the highly population-dense European market.

Threats and Hazards Domestic terrorist thwarted by alert witnesses and attentive police

A person planning to blow up a building because he wanted to make a point about the people inside is, by definition, a terrorist



July 14, 2018

Threats and Hazards "[T]he hunt needs to continue, because the witches are very real."

This analysis from David French is lucid, alarming, and important. It takes less time to read than a commercial break on television. It is worth your time.

Science and Technology Some busybodies want a government-run alternative to Google

There's no end to the dumb ideas people are willing to try when they think they can have someone else subsidize their failures.

Computers and the Internet What could have thwarted the Russian spearphishing attacks

Two-factor authentication: Live it, love it, don't ever forget it. (It's the least you can do for your own security.)

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - July 14, 2018

Should you be mad about the crimes depicted in the indictments issued by Robert Mueller's team yesterday? Not just mad: You should be outraged.


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July 13, 2018

Threats and Hazards "We've said all along we know Russia meddled in our elections"

The Speaker of the House acknowledges the gravity of the indictments issued against 12 members of the Russian military intelligence service thanks to the Special Counsel's investigation. It's a very serious set of counts, and there are probably more to come. People are understandably anxious for the full truth to come out. The indictments have been hailed as "a powerful show of strength by federal law enforcement".

Humor and Good News Markets in everything, including naps

Mattress company Casper is offering a "napping store" in Lower Manhattan, where 45-minute nap sessions come with a bed and a pair of pajamas. Open most days from 11am to 8pm. Of course, a proper nap lasts 12 minutes and no longer, so the 45-minute session is probably too long.

News Trump-Putin summit to be held at Finnish presidential palace

How many Americans know that Finland only won its independence from Russia a hair over 100 years ago, in December 1917?

Agriculture The states under attack in this trade war

Bloomberg BusinessWeek: "The bulk of punitive tariffs from around the globe falls heavily on Farm Belt and Rust Belt states", and that's no exaggeration. And for the Farm Belt, it happens at a time when total net farm income is at a 12-year low. It's a self-inflicted wound at a time of serious chronic pain.



July 12, 2018

The United States of America "Americans and their Congress still believe in the transatlantic alliance"

Necessary words from Sen. John McCain, as the President engages in a pattern of behavior that (at best) confuses and frustrates our NATO allies. If this profoundly transactionalist behavior confuses you, that's good: It's bizarre to think relationships are like an Etch-A-Sketch that gets erased every day. As Sam Zell has said, "You succeed or you fail based on who your partners are." That's advice applicable not only in real estate, where Zell made his fortune, but in the world at large.

News Survival in a photograph

A 5-month-old baby was left buried face-down in the Montana woods for nine hours until he was rescued by a search team. He survived and has been released from the hospital. If there is but one thing civilization should stand for, it should be that innocent children ought never to be subjected to malicious cruelty or endangerment.

Business and Finance Is a corporate recession just around the corner?

The more fiddling around with accounting statements, the more people should worry that something is rotten in Denmark.

Business and Finance Interest payments on the Federal debt: 1.6% of GDP today -- 7% later

2030 used to seem like a long time away. But if you have a kid born this year, he or she will barely be in middle school by that time. That isn't the long term...it's now the medium-to-short run.

Science and Technology Replacing plastic bags with banana-based packaging

A fantastic example why the old moniker of "developing" countries is really misleading. The global middle class is growing fast -- and innovating -- and that's a very good development. More people capable of living lives with a little bit of room for comfort means not only a direct improvement to the human condition (which we should cheer!), but also spillover effects for the rest of the world. The United States was massively innovative at a time when it was still in many ways a "developing" country. Innovations have a way of finding their way to the rest of the world speedily, so the more people who have the capacity to experiment and try out new ideas, the better for everyone.

Iowa Better streetlights

The move towards LED streetlights (as opposed to yellow sodium lights) is a welcome upgrade

Socialism Doesn't Work Corporatism is just another form of socialism

Don't fall for any of the ugly cousins in this family

News Move to Australia, then move out of it

A new story about the "micronation" boom in Australia teases the claims some people make to having their own states-within-a-state. It's silly, and it's definitely not the wave of the future -- but we should take seriously the more realistic prospects for city-states to re-emerge in the 21st Century.

Science and Technology We welcome our robot (mower) overlords

But what if the first people to get them are also the ones who had the best suburban diagonals? We'll miss it when it's gone.


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July 11, 2018

News Why did the Thai boys in a cave get so much attention?

Especially when there are so many other problems in the world -- including other children in grave distress? People seem to be more interested when a problem seems well-defined than when it is abstract -- or so large that it becomes abstract in our minds. Not every problem lends itself to that kind of granularity, but even when we're talking about big, abstract problems, we may need to think of ways to make the steps in the process seem more concrete (if we want public support, that is).

News Your opponents aren't going away

And they're probably not evil, either. As Margaret Thatcher put it: "I think some of the bitterness of political strife is reduced when we remind ourselves that many of the people who share our deepest convictions about life are on the other side in political controversy." When prominent voices say that "Even CONSIDERING this [Supreme Court] nomination will cement the first American dictatorship", it's a colossal problem: Vladimir Putin and bad actors like him want the maximum division among Americans against one another. The more people conflate "things I don't like" with "things that are undemocratic", the harder it's going to be to resist the actual threats to democratic processes. And those are real.

News What happened to the windows?

Could someone please explain what happened from the mid-20th Century onward that made people board up windows everywhere in otherwise perfectly functional buildings? What did people find so objectionable about natural light? There's certainly a profound counterexample in certain modernist buildings with walls of glass, but there's a reason people find houses and buildings like that to be truly stunning.

News The world is better with friends

Let us toast to our friends: May they be strong and plentiful



July 10, 2018

Computers and the Internet Is Facebook trying to watch you in retail stores?

Seems like the kind of issue on which we ought to have a vigorous national debate.

News Elon Musk delivers a prototype miniature submarine to Thailand

He can come across in all kinds of bad ways, but Musk has a bias towards action that really is an outlier worthy of some attention (and probably some study).

Business and Finance Striking oil workers in Norway could push prices higher

Low oil prices have been a de facto economic subsidy for so long, a whole lot of people have probably forgotten that things could be any other way.

Iowa A wonderful tribute to Gov. Robert Ray

A great story, told well, about refugees as a success story in Iowa -- thanks to his leadership as governor

Science and Technology An ambitious bucket list

Futurist Ian Pearson wants to do some things you probably haven't thought about yet

Threats and Hazards US government misses deadline to reunite children separated from their families

To what degree the family-separation madness is the result of incompetence and to what degree malice, it's becoming hard to give anyone administratively involved the benefit of doubt.



July 9, 2018

Business and Finance Forget chasing Amazon's HQ2: Cities should focus on their startups

"[E]conomic big bangs can happen anywhere, not just on the coasts." An argument against trying to lure existing hot businesses from elsewhere and for investing in organic, endogenous growth.

News Brexit brings about UK cabinet resignations

Interesting to think what would happen if the US had a similar system, whereby a Cabinet resignation could trigger the downfall of a government. A less far-out version of this would occur if we had a national Presidential recall mechanism, in the style of states like California or Wisconsin. (In fact, more than half of the states have some kind of recall.)

Iowa A tremendous tribute

An exceptional tribute to the departed Governor Robert Ray. Doing the right thing -- like taking in refugees -- may or may not have political payoffs in the short run. But in the long term, character truly does count.

Broadcasting What it's like breaking news

It's hard to describe the excitement of covering true breaking news. It's an intellectual challenge, a social activity, and an adrenaline rush all at once -- a pop quiz, a senior recital, and being down one run in the bottom of the 9th, all wrapped into one.

The United States of America A nominee to the Supreme Court

On one hand, it is right to believe in the co-equality of the branches of government, so the SCOTUS pick ought to be a big deal. On the other hand, we place way too much emphasis on the chief executive and should rather see the Imperial Presidency dialed down than see the other two amplified. We should vigorously support a rebalancing of power among the three branches, in the spirit of Federalist Papers-era Madison. As Calvin Coolidge put it, "I would like it if the country could think as little as possible about the Government and give their time and attention more undividedly about the conduct of the private business of the country."

Iowa Tomorrow: 25 years since the Floods of 1993 hit Des Moines

An event of staggering proportions. We're a much more resilient community in many ways today, but we can't ever let down our guard. There's always more we can do to prepare.