Gongol.com Archives: April 2019
That's the path laid out in the forecasts based on the House Budget Commitee's plan. Once again, the rules should be (1) Decide what you want from government; (2) Limit those wants, aggressively; and (3) Pay for it all. We seem to be stuck on step 1, with no intentions of ever reaching step 3.
4 is 8! 8 is 12! 2 is 5! 6 is 9!
Not an idea ready for prime time all on its own, but certainly a better choice than making DC (with the Capitol included) a brand-new state. The precedent? Parts of DC were returned to Virginia long ago. Let's not pretend like we're the only country with a special set of rules that apply to our capitol.
"Possible candidates must have O blood type, weigh less than 150 pounds, younger than 40, in good health, and not recently pregnant. Doctors only need 25 percent of the liver and said it will grow back within six months."
Radar detects lightning striking 50 miles away from the center of a thunderstorm in Oklahoma
Resisting tyranny everywhere? That could be it. Writes Hal Brands: "[T]hese efforts would have greater impact if the world's foremost democracy did not seem so ambivalent about leading the democratic world."
Good citizen-voters should have informed opinions on defense and diplomacy as a matter of civic duty, period. It shouldn't hinge on whether you spent any time in uniform, either by choice or by draft.
Certainly a way to pack more vehicles into the same space. But also a way to ruin a lot of transmissions.
If you meet a cuddly newsperson, odds are good that you've actually found a PR person instead. Most journalists are hard-working, decent people -- but they're not usually a soft and fuzzy crew.
When Margaret Thatcher said, "Each generation has to fight for its own liberties, in whatever way is appropriate," she should have warned us that the fight would routinely involve the stupidest, stubbornest possible counterparties.
A big-picture idea well worth considering here in Iowa. We're not losing net population on a state level, but increasing urbanization means we're depopulating rural areas, and it may be stoking a negative feedback loop. This might help.
That's a very, very big increase for a biennial adjustment
Officially, it was just a routine visit to Washington. But the university has an opening for president, and it would be professional malpractice if the regents didn't at least raise the prospect with him. And as someone with a well-publicized interest in the nature of how future generations are formed (beyond by the law, which is where he operates today), he'd be crazy not to at least consider it. If he's considered as a candidate, what he does will say a lot about whether his experience as a Federal elected official tells him that current politics are salvageable.
Affirm your sense of human decency with the help of this story. Every life has value. Every individual is worthy of dignity. And how we commit ourselves to those beliefs determines the course of civilization.
Jonathan Last ranks them: Sanders, Biden, O'Rourke, Harris, Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar, Booker, Gillibrand, and Yang. Nary a governor is found in Last's top ten, which (strictly from a functional standpoint) is unnerving, particularly if he's right. Governors and (very) big-city mayors should form America's #1 development league for Presidents.
Instead of the score-settling "tell-all" memoirs of the present, Americans ought to spend a little more time with the thoughtful reflections of Presidents on whom history has had some time to decide.
It could be negotiated by the ghost of Milton Friedman himself and it would still fall short, for one simple reason: Multilateral agreements are nearly always better than bilateral ones.
If we could re-converge the American political consensus around anything, it might just be Ike.
Vladimir Putin may remain in office past 2024 if the power brokers around him think it's the only way they'll survive. When security (whether financial, physical, or otherwise) becomes dependent upon who is in charge rather than what rules apply, then the corrupt have every incentive to perpetuate corruption. The rule of law matters.
An intriguing litmus test would be to ask people if "Country X" should be expected to reduce its emissions, even if doing so would be politically unpopular. Then let people take the Pepsi Challenge of Climate-Related Emissions.
Imagine your own home getting "red-tagged" as uninhabitable. Then multiply that by everyone on your entire Facebook friends list.
It's hard for an outsider to see how the Brexit debacle has done anything but make independence look more attractive to the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Every unsubstantiated, wildly speculative claim that "X causes cancer" is a real insult to those of us who have had cancer, who conduct research on cancer, or who have lost loved ones to cancer. We're not your punchline and not your prop.
It's unwise to be xenophobic. It's also unwise to turn a blind eye to projects that use "culture" as a thin veneer over an overtly hostile political endeavor.
Perhaps worse than anything, "impact" is utterly ambiguous as a (non-)verb. It suggests anything from crashing ("he was killed on impact") to leaving a hazy impression ("the lingering impact of her words...").
The correct answer is Benjamin Franklin, the original American master of pith. Of course, it's possible to offer an approximation of a Franklinesque account, by capturing Franklin's voluminous writings and programming them to run in a bot account. But obviously, there's something missing since it's not really him. In the future, though, personality engines will permit artificial intelligence to synthesize responses to new and novel questions with answers drawn from the past statements of great thinkers like Franklin.
Clearly not an act indicating support for the right to self-determination by the Venezuelan people
Not the final word on the future of cities, but definitely a contribution that shouldn't be left out of the conversation
One of the virtues of an all-volunteer force seems to be that you can select for adherence to a professional code of conduct. Officers and enlisted members alike are supposed to not only observe the Law of Armed Conflict, but they're also told to study professional reading lists. That's because we don't employ tribes of unfettered barbarians to do violence against others just for fun.
Hilarious material: "Watching him try to one-up Goodway is like watching Mr. Bean from the villainís perspective, except Mr. Bean is somehow the smartest person in his universe."
Offutt's runway may not be cursed, but God sure seems to be exacting a vendetta against it. This follows a 2017 tornado and colossal flooding earlier this year.
Perhaps Britain will get its act together on leaving the EU before the extended October deadline. Or maybe not: "The timetable facing [Theresa] May is tight, however. By May 22nd she must say if the UK will hold European Parliament elections. If not, it is out by June 1st, with no deal."
The SpaceX technology that permits their rockets to land themselves on a platform is really quite mind-boggling. It looks almost like reality, but it seems to violate all of the rules we know about nature and physics -- like a CGI character in the uncanny valley.
Cheap labor is disappearing as a competitive advantage (and as a driver of trade). Time to market has adjusted advantages considerably. China is consuming much more of what it produces than it used to. And services matter far more than they did in international trade not very many years ago. Among other things, this makes regional trade more important while making long-haul transoceanic trade less valuable.
Amazon, of course, assures users that the identifying information is being scrubbed before humans review the recordings. And furthermore, on one hand, it's pretty obvious that they have to do away least some human checking, just for quality control. Yet on the other hand, this still has a creepy Mechanical-Turk-meets-George-Orwell quality to it.
A native of Morocco wants to open a restaurant...in Marshalltown, Iowa. Don't fall for the false arguments that immigration makes American culture weaker.
Flood damage is significant and widespread, and the requisite inspections haven't been completed yet
The money Sen. Bernie Sanders got as an advance on a book deal reveals a certain hypocrisy to the old Socialist's words
CNN's report quotes "senior administration officials" as saying that "President Donald Trump told Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan he would grant McAleenan a pardon if he were sent to jail for having border agents block asylum seekers from entering the US in defiance of US law". If true, it's a remarkable violation of the notions of checks and balances. In Margaret Thatcher's words: "The rule of law is the basis of a civilized society. It must not be bent and twisted for political ends."
Benjamin Franklin's words seem to need repetition more than ever these days
Oh, so you say you don't want to talk about the Federal budget? Apparently, neither does Congress: "The deadline for Congress to complete action on a budget is April 15, and Congress has only hit that mark four times" Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away.
He will leave the office after seven terms. Sen. Chuck Grassley, a member of the opposing party within the same delegation, shared words of goodwill, living up to the standard that people who disagree with us aren't our enemies.
The White House publicizes the nominations of a Deputy Secretary of the VA and an Undersecretary of Commerce. But we have been without a Senate-confirmed Secretary of Defense for more than 100 days. That's a "key administration post", if ever there was one. One might think the UN Ambassador -- also a position that has remained unfilled since January 1st -- would also be considered a priority role for speedy replacement, whether or not it remains in the Cabinet.
Don't believe what people say; believe the revealed preferences of where they put their money. The framing of this issue has gone completely sideways: It has become less a debate and more a battleground between two warring cults. Meanwhile, there should be some easy consensus wins to be found around basic ideas of conservation and community- and state-level resilience. Too many people have invested too much identity in the topic for a wholesale conversion of a lot of hearts and minds. It's instead a case where change will come about through people making small commitments at the outset and reinforcing their commitment in escalating fashion over time.
In which a set of people who generally really aren't all that far apart from one another go around and around on a pretty high-impact question: Are improvements to the American standard of living enough to make up for highly tangible intergenerational economic rivalries? One can do much worse than to get competing perspectives from Megan McArdle, Will Wilkinson, Tom Nichols, and Michael Brendan Dougherty on a single topic.
Highly interesting: A student uses machine learning to examine Federal Reserve statements, figuring out what connection the language in the statements might have reflected or predicted in actual policy. It's like Alexa "learning" your buying preferences...if you're the Fed.
Words matter: Some would dismiss her case instantly as "illegal", but the sensible person reading her account would find good reason to see her as a refugee. From the Houston Chronicle: "Her home in a rural area of El Salvador's La Paz region became a death trap when a relative testified against a local gang member, Alvarado said. Uncles, nephews, classmates and others have been kidnapped or murdered in retaliation, she added."
The President threatens it on Twitter, but nobody ever knows when to take him seriously on such matters. There may quite well be places that wouldn't object to an influx of immigrants, regardless of status: Perhaps we should allocate state-based visas that could be exchanged among states, cap-and-trade style. It ought to be recalled that anyone who seeks to profit politically by turning Americans against one another needs to answer to Publius: "Had the Greeks [...] been as wise as they were courageous, they would have been admonished by experience of the necessity of a closer union [...]" (Federalist Paper 18).
It definitely improves the odds of answering tough questions if we commit to using all of our brainpower -- instead of neglecting or ignoring their contributors because of indefensible prejudices.
A Minnesota man has been charged with selling drugs that killed 11 people. Had the victims been targeted, it would have been a serial killing spree.
Three-quarters of a million Rohingya refugees are sheltering in Bangladesh, and the monsoon season is coming. So some of them are getting trained to help prepare people and their temporary shelters for the weather conditions. The worst thing we can do is to assume that refugees anywhere (in Bangladesh or at the southern border to the United States) are helpless or out to take away from others. They are no less than people, and basic human dignity calls for treating them as capable and self-determining.
The suspected perpetrator was arrested and charged with attempted homicide, but this is an extraordinarily disturbing story, and something still just doesn't seem complete about the narrative.
"The Paw Patrol is privatized power and profit and socialized funding, unaccountable to public oversight, ungoverned by elected officials and acting only when it consents to let its interests coincide with panicked public needs. They must be brought to heel."
For an Interstate highway to be closed for months really illustrates just how bad the flooding was in March. And it could get bad again before the road is repaired.
With a warning that more than 30 infants have died in their use. That estimate grew in just a couple of days with a new review of the data.
A few dozen truckers conducted a "slow roll" protest on Chicago freeways to put attention on their quarrels with driver-safety rules. Regardless of the merits of their complaints, the First Amendment secures the right "peaceably to assemble", but that's a far cry from creating a rolling barricade that could cause others to crash behind you.
Jonah Goldberg and Rich Lowry debate the virtues and vices of nationalism, particularly as it is distinguished from patriotism. The difference between nationalism and patriotism is that nationalism is usually a justification unto itself for doing things we want, while patriotism routinely acts as a sort of conscience for doing things we should. Something done in the name of nationalism may very well (and often does) come at the expense of others -- usually outsiders. Something done out of patriotism is more likely to involve self-sacrifice.
Japan has complete apartments that cover just 100 square feet of space. Art is in the constraints, so there is something deeply impressive about fitting an entire apartment into a 10' x 10' space. But still...it's crazy. Americans have backyard tool sheds that are bigger.
The governor is appearing at a news conference about beer
A Presidential campaign built around an attitude (told through stories) is far more the norm than one built around policy. "Keep Cool and Keep Coolidge". "I Like Ike". "A Time for Greatness". "It's Morning in America". In other words, Buttigieg has adopted a feature, not a bug.
An incredible recovery for a woman from the UAE. One must imagine the conversations taking place: "Welcome back, ma'am. First, the good news: We didn't have any new world wars while you were out. But I'm going to have to explain this thing called 'the Internet' before we let you out of here..."
"They who have nothing to trouble them, will be troubled at nothing." - Benjamin Franklin
According to Pew research into the American online public. Pareto would be so disappointed in us: Every business book in the world says it's the 80/20 Principle, not the 80/10.
A great feature story in the Cedar Rapids Gazette about a high-school track standout who can barely see at all. Parents everywhere should strive to raise our kids with the kind of resilience Erin Kerkhoff puts on display. A valuable role model.
Would you let a 3-year-old so much as cross a busy street on their own? The answer is "Of course not!" And that ought to give all of us some measure of the desperation that some parents and children face. These harrowing journeys must somehow, some way, appear less risky than staying where they are. And that is truly heartbreaking, and ought to serve as a call to action to do something to ease their plight.
The Defense Department's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says "If the economy collapses or if they are not paid, if we withdraw the funding, you have 500,000-some troops and police who are trained and have weapons...what are they going to do?" Afghanistan is a nation of 34 million people, just behind Canada in the population rankings and just a little ahead of Venezuela. It has more people than Texas. The reader ought to consider words like "collapse" with sufficient gravity.
CNN phrases the headline "Hackers could target the 2020 presidential election. How will newsrooms respond?" But one would have to be absolutely as high as a satellite in geosynchronous orbit to think it's merely a hypothetical. It's not even a question. It's a certainty. Now, what matters is what newsrooms are going to do about it when they are fed stolen items.
Ryne Sandberg cites the improved Cubs dugout facility as a tool for attracting talented players
Worth pondering: "Mandatory arbitration is a good idea only if people can be trusted to do the right thing when the consequences are minimal and don't include the threat of prison or public shame."
The Financial Times reports: Nicola Sturgeon "insisted the country must be ready to hold a second independence referendum by 2021 if Brexit goes ahead". Given the incompetence of the management of Brexit, a "yes" vote wouldn't be surprising at all.
Is someone ready to name the phenomenon where someone is the first to compare themselves to the Messiah, as Rep. Steve King just did?
In theory, computers ought to be helping us to make better decisions, and for the moment, the best sandbox to practice that is in retail. But the problem is that sometimes they do what they're supposed to do (but the assumptions are wrong), and other times they do everything they shouldn't. On the most innocent extreme, one of those silly recommendation algorithms might suggest the song "Blurred Lines" to a listener twice in the span of 30 minutes. Such foibles look positively charming by comparison with the dark side of algorithmic dependency, when bad actors hijack the algorithm or when antisocial (or even sociopathic) feedback loops are created.
The President had some insults to lob at Joe Biden after Biden's campaign announcement this morning. Repeating those insults as headlines is not productive journalism. It's lazy amplification of the voices most willing to say the most outrageous things. Journalism isn't stenography.
It's the 25th of the genre, and planned for release in April 2020. Sean Connery will always be the iconic Bond, but Daniel Craig turned 007 into a human character with real depth. That utterly transformed the franchise for the better. It makes the movies more interesting and less kitschy.
Glaring errors now make it past the "draft" stage and straight into subscriber inboxes
The evidence suggests that the kinds of people who are going to buy electric vehicles would have bought high-efficiency vehicles anyway, so the marginal difference may be limited. And that probably makes sense: Efficiency-sensitive drivers probably form a class unto themselves anyway.
Few things about 2019 are as amusing as the degree to which Jonathan Last takes his feelings about these candidate logos.
When a storm top overshoots, it may be funneling ozone-depleting conditions up into the stratosphere
The CDC says there have been more than 600 cases of measles in the United States since the start of the year. And it's the fault of people choosing not to vaccinate.
A logo that is distinctive from (literally) a mile away, polished by a legend like Bass, and yet still elegantly simple enough that kids will try to draw it from memory? Only a madman would discard it. And yet they did, and now United is already respawning the replacement livery. If you're sitting on the rights to an unused corporate identity designed by Saul Bass, Paul Rand, or Chermayeff and Geismar, kindly do get in touch. They're like the paintings of the Dutch masters and could be redeployed if the present owners are too dumb to use them still.
A legitimate breakdown of the laughs
A welcome update to a harrowing story. Architects need to rethink open atrium spaces where such falls are even possible. A world that grows ever more crowded -- and contains bad actors who are under the influence of psychoses, drugs, or pathological ideologies -- is a world that needs more built-in safeguards that prevent really bad things from happening.
Unusual, but far from unprecedented
We are awash in a sea of promises that aren't just empty -- they're beyond reasonable belief. And the compounding toxicity of those bad promises sweeps well beyond a problem of differences between left and right.
The President today offered an empty but loud defense of his pathetic response to the Charlottesville attack, saying not only that his own response was "perfect", but that "many generals" had told him that Robert E. Lee was their "favorite". It's overdue for journalists to ask follow-up questions to pierce the willing suspension of disbelief that is permitted by the President's reliance upon vague nonsense and empty superlatives. To wit: (1.) How many generals have told you Lee was their favorite? (2.) Name them. (3.) Name two specific strategies or tactics that made Lee "great".
The trust fund is going to be depleted by 2035 (along current projections). If that seems like a long time away, bear in mind that the high school graduating class of 2035 is now 2 years old. We're not really talking about the future here...we're talking about a time horizon now measurable by the lives of today's preschoolers. When facing any compounding problem, the time to take up serious action is as soon as possible. Reforms to Social Security could have both public and private benefits, but if no one in politics feels the pressure to do anything about it, then the status quo will prevail. The problem, as Milton and Rose Friedman put it, is that "Any assurance [of Social Security payments] derives solely from the willingness of future taxpayers to impose taxes on themselves to pay for benefits that present taxpayers are promising themselves." The system works only because everyone expects it to continue working. But the system itself contains structural flaws that aren't going to disappear on their own. And in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, "Americans learn only from catastrophes and not from experience."
Always believe in the process of trying to make things better. Never believe that there is a perfect end state to be achieved.
Data research finds that a person making $100,000 a year can't afford to live within an hour of San Francisco. And even an hour's drive doesn't afford many additional options. At this point, it's unclear why people aren't anchoring giant cruise ships off the coast, renting out the cabins, and offering shuttle service into the Bay Area.
When majorities of people in rich and powerful countries don't even understand the basic difference between a nuclear power plant and a coal-fired plant, it's really hard to have legitimate debates about risks and consequences. Facts are stubborn things. But even though we're in the age of "Just Google It" (or maybe exactly because we are), the utterly wrong preconceived notions held by voters may in fact be even more stubborn.
The rabbi who survived the terrorist attack near San Diego poses a thought-provoking sentiment. People should not have to fear terrorism in their peaceful houses of worship. Not here, and not anywhere.
The question -- posed on social media -- goes to show just how much architecture has a meaningful human effect. Buildings like the Sears Tower and Chrysler Building communicate impressions on young and old alike, but there are a million other, smaller, less-renowned buildings that still have an effect on the people who see them and use them.
Every air traveler from Iowa is familiar with the O'Hare Event Horizon, even if they don't know it. It's the point at which any flight delays would have made it better to have just gotten a rental car and just driven home. O'Hare is notorious for cascading delays that end up wrecking travel and turning an 8:30 pm connection into a 1:30 am drag.
The message boards at Grand Central Station are changing away from the classic look (though not the mechanical frailty) of the Solari board (a/k/a "split-flap display"). The "old-time look" of the split-flap style proves that less is more; there's far more visual clutter to the new look, and it serves no self-evident purpose.
...to capture a car taking a corner much too fast for conditions
Margaret Thatcher once said, "Choice is the essence of ethics: if there were no choice, there would be no ethics, no good, no evil; good and evil have meaning only insofar as man is free to choose." Maduro makes a choice. So do his backers. Violence denies the people of that choice.
After a whole lot of flooding in western Iowa, now the Mississippi is attacking eastern Iowa