Gongol.com Archives: 2018 Weekly Archives

Brian Gongol


September 28, 2018

Threats and Hazards Real lives of real value face real crisis

The World Food Program reports that 47,000 people in South Sudan are suffering from a catastrophic famine, with another 1.7 million in a state of "food emergency", plus another 4.3 million in a "food crisis". This is a devastating chart documenting an awful catastrophe that is destroying real lives, all of which are just as worthy of value and care as any of ours.

Business and Finance A nation of (economic) illiterates

A Pew study finds that self-identified Republicans and Democrats have -- in very large numbers -- changed their opinions on the security of the American economy since 2015, and whether it is in better shape than it was before 2008. This reflects a problem of knee-jerk partisanship, to be sure. But it also reflects the fact that Americans broadly know little to nothing about the real underpinnings of the economy -- taking cues from the condition of the stock market, or from the words babbled from a White House podium. That's not healthy when a Democrat is in charge, and it's not healthy when a Republican is in charge. And in no case should people substitute their understanding of the economy for a blind faith in any leader to "manage" or "grow" said economy. Politicians can make things marginally worse or marginally better through their policies, but most of the job consists in avoiding doing harm. Presidents don't create jobs.



September 27, 2018

News When a Supreme Court nomination process borders on farce

People have mounting reason for grievance on both sides of the conventional political aisle. This is, unfortunately, what happens when the undercurrent of anti-federalism becomes so pervasive that altogether too many people think that everything must be decided at the national level. If it can't be decided via legislation, they demand it be decided by executive order. And if it can't be decided by executive order, they demand it be taken to a Supreme Court case. Nationalizing every debate polarizes everyone...nationally. It's not good for the civic health of the country.

News Ireland is out to elect a president

Americans ought to be open to the idea of an elected, and mostly ceremonial, head of state, who is allowed to take all the "Executive Time" they might want. Then give us a capable and accountable Chief Executive to run the Presidency.

News Norway and Finland coordinate closer military cooperation

It's pretty easy to forget that Norway has a land border with Russia, which means that both countries have land borders with the same two countries (which surely is an unusual circumstance). Their invigorated spirit of military cooperation most certainly isn't because of plucky lil' Sweden.

Iowa When trans fats are outlawed, only outlaws will have trans fats

A potato-chip maker from Burlington, Iowa, has been struggling mightily to reformulate their recipe after the FDA effectively banned the cooking oils they had long used, because the oils contained trans fats. Good intentions abound, but government regulations can be a pretty blunt instrument.

Iowa Iowa could have frost before October

After an abysmally short spring, now we're headed straight for the cold season without a reasonable stretch of fall. A September 29th frost in Des Moines is supposed to be a 10% probability, according to the historical statistics.

Humor and Good News Pumpkin-spicing everything is a crime

Nobody needs Pumpkin Spice Frosted Flakes

Humor and Good News Baseball fandom as litmus test

An appreciation for baseball/softball is a pretty reliable precondition of good character, right? At least necessary, if not sufficient.


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September 26, 2018

The United States of America Are we learning anything?

Charlie Munger once advised that "Your competitors will keep learning, so you have to go to bed smarter than you woke up." Seeing America (and the ideas upon which it is founded) in the context of global competition -- for the obvious things, like military power and economic strength, but more importantly for the ultimate objective, which is the predominance of the idea of ordered liberty in the world -- a question is in order: Is America going to bed tonight smarter than it woke up?

Health If an overdose of Hot Cheetos sends you to the hospital, you're little more than a walking brain stem

We have a leading contender for "Stupidest Person of 2018", and it's a musician who not only went to the ER after overdosing on snack foods, he went on to tell the world about it on social media. This medical oddity deserves further study, because surely anyone this stupid lacks a functioning cerebral cortex.

Health CDC says flu killed 80,000 Americans last winter

That's an extremely high number -- the worst in 40 years, and likely twice as many as the number of Americans killed in car crashes (40,100 in 2017). Infectious diseases are still very much a threat to us all, and fighting them requires a spectrum of public-health responses that face a lot more resistance than they should. Social media in particular encourages people to share really stupid opinions -- particularly on the anti-vaccination front -- and those bad opinions, paradoxically, spread virally. Real leadership would ask the public-health sector "What resources do you need to drive this number of preventable deaths as close to zero as possible?", and would then seek to marshal public opinion behind making that happen.

Humor and Good News A question for the Show-Me State

Why does Missouri have a river named the "One Hundred and Two"?



September 25, 2018

Aviation News NTSB puts blame on pilots for near-disaster in San Francisco last year

It could have been a giant disaster and was only averted by a last-minute decision to abort the landing -- which would have occurred on a crowded taxiway instead of an active runway. The NTSB model isn't used nearly enough for investigating other causes of preventable harm. It's absolutely worth investigating thoroughly after an incident what happened and why. The NTSB model is quite specific, per its own website: "The National Transportation Safety Board was established in 1967 to conduct independent investigations of all civil aviation accidents in the United States and major accidents in the other modes of transportation. It is not part of the Department of Transportation, nor organizationally affiliated with any of DOT's modal agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration. The Safety Board has no regulatory or enforcement powers. To ensure that Safety Board investigations focus only on improving transportation safety, the Board's analysis of factual information and its determination of probable cause cannot be entered as evidence in a court of law." We really ought to apply the same scrutiny to all kinds of incidents, with the same objective of finding the root causes of what hurts or kills us.

News Puerto Rico shouldn't be held hostage to one man's attitude

The AP caught the President declaring his opposition to statehood for Puerto Rico "with people like that" in charge. "Like that" refers to the mayor of San Juan, who has been vocally critical of him and of the response to Hurricane Maria. The question of statehood has to be taken far more seriously than this. The citizens of that island, Americans all, deserve an honest hearing untethered to petty jealousy.

News BBC Africa delivers powerful report using "open-source intelligence"

Matching features from an online video to real-world information available from sources like Google Maps, the BBC was able to establish the identities of a group of murderers in Cameroon who were filmed in the act of killing women and children. It is a powerful act of reporting about a devastating case of human depravity.

News On what you say in your high school yearbook

Aren't most high-school seniors who leave behind yearbook quotes at least halfway cognizant that they're depositing a sort of time capsule that will be opened someday?

Humor and Good News Not every innovation is an improvement

The Independent is trying to make the peanut-butter-and-mayonnaise sandwich "a thing". It is not, nor should it be.