Gongol.com Archives: June 2019

Brian Gongol


June 2019
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June 3, 2019

News A toast by Queen Elizabeth

One doesn't have to be a monarchist to appreciate that, since they've chosen to retain a monarch, Britain truly has been fortunate to have Elizabeth in that role. Her role may be officially nonpolitical, but she ascended to the throne when Winston Churchill himself was prime minister. There's no way she can be indifferent about the transatlantic alliance. And that comes through quite clearly in her toast to the relationship between the US and the UK on the occasion of the President's state visit. Perhaps someone stashed a copy of Kori Schake's excellent book "Safe Passage" on board Air Force One for the President to read en route to the UK. It's a great examination of the "special friendship" toasted by the Queen -- how it came into being, and why it benefits the parties involved. If not, someone please get him a copy for the ride home.

Agriculture Iowa crop planting is incredibly far behind schedule

Corn is only 80% planted, when by this point in the average year it is 99% planted and 91% emerged. Soybeans are just 41% planted, when they're normally 89% planted and 63% emerged. The ground is just plain saturated, and more rain doesn't help.

News Architectural works of Le Corbusier

It's easy to see the concrete and glass and steel in these, but equally interesting is the interaction between the modernist architecture and the natural world around. There's more to it than the contemporary stunt of showing a couple of trees on the 45th floor of a high-rise.

News Illinois doubles gas tax

Some of the funding, it is said, will go towards building a rail line from Chicago to the Quad Cities. Per WHBF-TV: "Instead of paying 19 cents per gallon, drivers in Illinois will have to pay 38 cents starting July 1. It will cost drivers about $100 extra a year, and generate about $1.2 billion for the state." That will certainly be of note to the many Iowa communities along the Illinois border

News Slavery, in the words of ex-slaves

The Montgomery Advertiser, in a bold and intelligent protest of Alabama's "Jefferson Davis Day", shares the words of nine former slaves. Words like, "Course they cry; you think they not cry when they was sold like cattle? I could tell you about it all day, but even then you couldn't guess the awfulness of it." Everyone of good conscience ought to read what they said.

News "Chernobyl" miniseries as reminder it's a good thing the West won

We become the stories we tell ourselves. "Chernobyl" presented the Soviet system as a grim antihero, and as Tom Nichols confirms, it's important that we remember why.

Agriculture Senators from farm states threaten to take back tariff authority

Congress has handed over a lot of responsibility for tariffs to the executive branch over the decades -- because it was thought that the executive would be more consistently pro-trade than the legislative. Now that the conventional wisdom has been turned on its head, it's well past time to reclaim that authority. It's not a new argument, either -- see Federalist Paper No. 35: "Exorbitant duties on imported articles [...] tend to render other classes of the community tributary, in an improper degree, to the manufacturing classes, to whom they give a premature monopoly of the markets..."


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June 4, 2019

Threats and Hazards "Bloody shirts are banners for students' movement"

A dispatch from Tiananmen Square in 1989, as it was reported in real time. And today? "I think there will be more [protests] in the future. There will be more in the future, and more conflict."

News Why have American values been taken out of American foreign policy?

Kori Schake: "...people have inherent rights and loan them in limited ways to governments for agreed purposes. We fail often to uphold this principle, but it is a genuine departure for an American administration not to even acknowledge it." Read the Declaration of Independence: "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." True in 1776. True in 1989. True in 2019. Consent is a prerequisite of legitimacy. And a government that will not tell the truth has no rightful claim to power.

Socialism Doesn't Work A theme for June 4th

A song lamenting what happened in 1989, and a reminder that a world of government exclusively by the consent of the governed, protective of the liberty and dignity of the individual, is the rightful human condition. These words are not ambiguous: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." The anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre is a very good day to reflect on these words.

Weather and Disasters "Climate change poses new threat to Panama Canal"

They're actually having to consider creating a whole additional lake just to accommodate volatile weather patterns that threaten the operation of the canal. Watch for revealed preferences: Where people spend their money, not just what they say. Spending the money to build a lake seems like enough commitment for one to believe they think something new and significant is happening.

Weather and Disasters It just doesn't end

Possibly a crest on the Missouri River? Still no relief from flooding -- just maybe a little less of it.

News President Jimmy Carter named a tenured professor at Emory

He's 94, and has been lecturing there since 1982. At last, he will be free to speak his mind with the security of tenure.

Humor and Good News Strike at the world's biggest Nutella factory

Forget Brexit. This strike is the real crisis gripping the European economy:


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June 5, 2019

The United States of America He fought right out of a body bag

Forget superhero comics. The true story of Medal of Honor recipient Roy Benavidez is amazing.

Threats and Hazards The USS John McCain incident is a shame on all of us

Jonah Goldberg, on what it says about the President and his audience: "[Apologists argued that] the chaos and crudeness were worth getting good judges, tax cuts, and less regulation. That doublespeak and lying used to vex me. But the newfound sincerity troubles me even more."

News Save your fury over metric

Tucker Carlson ranted against the metric system over a chyron reading "Is the metric system completely made up?". Of course it is -- and so is counting by tens.

Business and Finance McDonalds sells old corporate campus to founder of Paul Mitchell

The campus of Hamburger University is under new management.

News High heels aren't the root problem

19,000 people in Japan have signed a petition against dress codes that require women to wear high heels. The root problem isn't the footwear, but rather the cultural norms that permit such requirements to go into place. Sometimes it's the most idiosyncratic things that reveal deeper systemic troubles.


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June 6, 2019

The United States of America The American Declaration of Independence speaks to China, too

We coexist on a planet with the people of China. And if we are true to our own Declaration of Independence, we should see those people as being just as worthy of individual dignity as we are.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley to President: "Tariffs not the answer"

Congress needs to assert itself and the responsibilities explicitly described in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. The President isn't the tariff-maker, unless they abdicate the duty. And if they can't take those powers back when they are written right into the Constitution, then we ought to toss out any member of Congress who doesn't have the guts to do it.

Computers and the Internet Thoughtfully colorized photos from D-Day

Far more effective than the old Walter Cronkite series "You Are There", these photos really do erase the mental distance from the event usually afforded to us by black-and-white pictures.

Computers and the Internet Editing speech in videos as easily as typing

That's the promise made on the back of research at Stanford and some affiliated institutions. Considering the number of people who were taken in by the low-tech "slurred words" video, this sophisticated manipulation is going to wreak havoc on all kinds of evidence we have grown to trust.

News Giant billion-dollar meth bust in Australia

AUS$1.2 billion in drugs seized -- "hidden in stereo speakers from Bangkok" -- which comes out to $840 million in US dollars at current exchange rates.

The United States of America Breaking the cycle of resentment

Most Americans -- regardless of age, creed, origin, or geography -- are decent, honest, and hard-working. And we're mostly free to pick up and move, if we want. Starting from a sense of respect for those assumptions would sure do a lot to break the political cycle of resentment. Enhancing people's ability to move freely is one of the best welfare-type investments that we can make. And if people choose not to do so, the rest of us have a civic responsibility to respect that decision -- while expecting people to be accountable for what happens in those communities where they do choose to live.

Threats and Hazards Growing our way out of debt may not be an option

This might be aptly termed a fragile situation: "[W]ith low interest rates but relatively high debt, the budget is increasingly sensitive to interest rate risk -- just a 1 percentage point increase in projected interest rates would cost $1.9 trillion"

News Pedantry is the last refuge of the scoundrel

Company requests correction over news story that said their medication cost $40,000. It's really $38,892. Gizmodo doesn't really regret the error.


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June 7, 2019

Business and Finance Why haven't newspapers fixed the subscription model?

Venture capitalist Paul Graham speculates that newspapers can't remain "neutral" and survive. But that's a strange conclusion to draw when there's a simpler hypothesis: Newspapers need to offer low-friction, low-volume, low-cost subscription plans for readers outside their primary markets. Many readers have interest in secondary newspapers outside their natural subscription bases: Someone in Des Moines may have a lesser, but non-trivial, interest in the newspapers of Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha, St. Louis, Kansas City, and even Denver. It's unlikely any meaningful number of people were subscribing to that many print editions of out-of-state papers a generation ago, so it's equally unlikely that people would want to pay full price for all-access digital subscriptions to that many today. But there really must be a way to offer people in the "long tail" a way to pay modestly for their news without forcing them into a binary, all-or-nothing subscription choice. Where is the option for newspaper readers that acts like an EZPass? A person might live in Iowa, but travel the toll roads in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio from time to time -- all with the help of frictionless access to those roads from an I-Pass. They pay a fair share, but they pay a lot less than the residents of those states. In other words, how come newspapers haven't figured out an online subscription model that works as easily as the reciprocity passes people get when they become members of a zoo or an aquarium? It's not rocket science. The binary choice of full-price-or-nothing stands in the way of letting people who value journalism do something to pay for it.

Threats and Hazards Why so many shootings on Lake Shore Drive?

One of Chicago's busiest thoroughfares is also the site of far too many murders. But why?

Science and Technology The dwarf planet

The only thing to be said for demoting Pluto is that it's really hard to come up with a mnemonic device that adds the other four -- FOUR! -- dwarf planets (each smaller than the Moon). And if you drop Pluto, it can become "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nutella", because Nutella is everything.

The American Way Perkins: The pinnacle of capitalism?

354 restaurants all over America where, at almost any hour of day or night (often 24 hours a day), just about anyone can afford a consistent, made-to-order, sit-down meal that would put your great-grandfather's Thanksgiving dinner to shame.

Computers and the Internet Scammer offers baby for adoption via spam

What's the game here? Perhaps hoping someone falls for the heartstring-tugging and then gets drawn into sending money to facilitate the "adoption"?

News Governing competence: How do we demand more?

In the words of Bill Gates, "[G]overnment is a pretty blunt instrument and without the constant attention of highly qualified people with the right metrics, it will fall into not doing things very well."

Threats and Hazards President, abroad, calls Speaker of the House a "disgrace"

It used to be said that politics stops at the water's edge. But apparently nobody said anything about a Festivus-style airing of grievances.

Computers and the Internet Wherefore art the note-taking application of our dreams?

Comp sci people have developed artificial intelligence that can falsify video and write music, but there's still no such thing as a great calendar app or a full-featured note tool.

Health 25 cups a day, and your heart stays OK?

Study claims that as much as 25 cups of coffee per day won't stiffen the heart muscle fibers. Fine for your heart, maybe, but let's talk about what you'd need to spend on toothpaste and breath mints.

News Why it's "renowned" and not "reknew"

Renown has nothing to do with "knowing"


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June 8, 2019

Broadcasting Show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - June 8, 2019

Live on WHO Radio at 2:00 pm

Iowa Iowa City elementary school fined by OSHA

It's a fine over failure to train staff about attacks from students, which seems troubling


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June 9, 2019

Business and Finance Why are there so many utterly uncommunicative company names?

Maybe a silly lamentation, but really: Why so many three-letter abbreviations that mean nothing? Pilita Clark proposes a simple test: Is it easier to find out what your company does from your homepage or from Wikipedia?

News 500,000 people marching in Hong Kong

It's what organizers hope to achieve. If half a million people assemble in Hong Kong, that surely would be worthy of news coverage.

News Cowardice and the press

The President turns to his favorite medium to pick another of his endless fights with the news media. He ought to heed the words of Calvin Coolidge: "Perhaps one of the reasons I have been a target for so little abuse is because I have tried to refrain from abusing other people. The words of the President have an enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately." Self-awareness plus historical literacy make for a powerful combination.

Threats and Hazards What happens when China finally awakens?

Discontent may be widespread, but a true awakening against the authoritarian regime also requires political organization -- and that's tough to achieve. Consider the absolutely epic amount of work required to conduct the recent elections in India. Organization on that kind of scale -- civic or political -- isn't something that spins up overnight.

Weather and Disasters California may have power outages to stem wildfire threat

It's beginning to sound a lot like California needs an all-out, aggressive migration to microgrids. Or, at least parts of California.


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June 10, 2019

Business and Finance What makes your mistakes different, sir?

Peter Navarro has no serious answer why today's tariffs on items like steel are supposed to be any more effective than past failures. Recall Federalist Paper No. 35: "Exorbitant duties on imported articles [...] tend to render other classes of the community tributary, in an improper degree, to the manufacturing classes, to whom they give a premature monopoly of the markets..."

Humor and Good News La Sagrada Familia Basilica gets a building permit -- after 137 years of construction

The construction work significantly predates the constitution of Spain itself, so they really ought to have been grandfathered in.

Threats and Hazards Qatari workers held in conditions that shock the conscience

A German sports-news outlet covers their treatment as part of work related to the 2022 World Cup. And it will be enormously interesting to see whether FIFA takes the appropriate steps here to show that (a) they take the reporting seriously and (b) they are a credible institution with real regard for what takes place, in essence, in their name. Guest workers or native-born, they are people. Human beings, endowed with a right to dignity by their very existence.

Health Seat belts save lives

Headline: "Four crashes in Iowa Sunday kill five people". Key sentence: "The Iowa State Patrol says the lone survivor in these four crashes, was wearing a seat belt, but those who died were not."

News Tribune Tower -- now for "luxury living"

Chicago Tribune employees -- the former occupants -- have a hard time believing it's quite so luxurious. Of course, in the words of Le Corbusier, "A house is a machine for living in."

Humor and Good News An unlikely story

A "how we met" story so unlikely that it would be more satisfying as fiction than as fact, since it would be deserving of tremendous applause as a creative story.

Agriculture Iowa's farm situation looks troublesome

For crops like corn and soybeans to reach full potential takes time, and the planting season has been wrecked by wet weather. We run a very serious risk of crops failing to reach full maturity by the time the frost arrives. There's going to be a lot of nervous staring at the skies come October, when planting delays will start to show up as harvest delays; the earliest 1" snowfall recorded in Des Moines was Oct. 10 (in 2009). Is it the fault of climate change? Maybe, or maybe not. But (a) we've seen ample evidence of meteorological extremes, and (b) anthropogenic causes are plausible, so (c) a pragmatic combination of conservation/mitigation techniques and meaningful investments in resilience are probably prudent. For certain, the most imprudent course of action is to do nothing environmentally-focused, but to wreck the world trading order out of spite.

News Guardrails in a time of tribalism

Jacob Levy wisely observes: "You'd think that might mean that a moment of close partisan balance and considerable uncertainty about effective coalitional power in the medium term would favor some kinds of moderation of institutional vision: planning for a world in which you don't know whether you're 51 or 49. Instead, I see a polity full of people planning for their next supermajority." It may well be that we are watching people play out a prisoner's dilemma in which all faith in the other party has broken down (on both sides). Same effect: Behaving like there's no tomorrow. Jonah Goldberg has advanced a plausible theory that the major parties are very weak, which perversely has made partisanship more extreme at the margins as interest groups try to run the table whenever they get close to power.

Threats and Hazards Weaponizing funding for veterans is political malpractice

It is insulting and fundamentally un-American to make funding for veterans' programs the subject of an unrelated issue -- as Rep. Steve King is trying to do by making a play to de-fund "sanctuary cities". After careful study and debate, we should spend what ought to be spent on veterans, period. And do it without tying that funding to other issues. The seriousness with which America has addressed its debts (literal and otherwise) to veterans is a subject as old as the Republic itself. It's hard enough to do right, even without the distraction of tying that issue to other ones.


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June 11, 2019

Computers and the Internet Instagram will keep "deepfake" videos of Mark Zuckerberg

Consistent? Maybe. Wise? Probably not.

Business and Finance Three of the biggest time-wasters in America today

Conference calls, bad PowerPoint decks, and meetings where nobody distributes agendas or reports in advance.

Weather and Disasters Lake Erie is 2.5' above normal

And that could have caused some light earthquakes

Threats and Hazards More than five months without a SecDef

The vacancy at Secretary of Defense has now gone on longer than the Battle of Anzio. It is inexcusable.

News Massive protests emerge in Hong Kong

In case you had any doubts about the universality of certain "unalienable rights", let this be Exhibit A


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June 12, 2019

News Take note of what's happening in Hong Kong

"Huge" isn't enough to describe the scale of the protests -- perhaps half a million people -- and they are self-organizing, too.

Threats and Hazards Cutting the check isn't the same as paying the price

The President wants to believe that Americans pay "very little" for his tariffs on Chinese goods. But when high taxes are imposed on anything, consumers end up sharing in that cost, period. You can quibble about their share of that cost vis-a-vis the relative slopes of the supply and demand curves, but they absolutely do pay.

News Just half a century past Loving v. Virginia

The Supreme Court case that squashed bans on interracial marriage isn't that far in the rear-view mirror. If you're looking at a Baby Boomer, you're looking at someone who is older than this Supreme Court case. Sometimes it's hard to put into perspective just how long the law has permitted injustices to go on.

Business and Finance A bank is no place for a sloppy, made-up name

SunTrust, merging with BB&T, will call itself "Truist". Not "Truest", "Trust", or "Tryst".

Business and Finance Cause for alarm

There are those who would say it's alarmist to take too seriously the rise in US Treasury securities outstanding. Those people would be wrong.

Business and Finance Norway's legendary sovereign-wealth fund divests from most coal mining

A socialized market economy can work...if you have strong social cohesion, ample rewards for private-sector investment, a big natural-resource endowment (like Norway's oil), and prudent managers of the profits from that resource endowment. It also doesn't hurt to have some form of work requirement and supplemental form of gainful employment -- lest you encounter the often grave risk of creating a large class of young men with nothing productive to do. These conditions are not met in all of the places where "democratic socialism" gains traction, and that's a real problem -- because in those places where the preconditions are not met, the system is extremely unlikely to succeed. And that's not a statement of criticism about the people who are lured by the appeal of what such a system promises; it's simply a recognition of certain immutable facts of human nature.

Business and Finance Vertical integration is wild

First it was Amazon Prime-branded trucks rolling up and down I-35 and I-80. Now, it's delivery in Amazon-branded vans in top-100 markets, like Omaha.

Iowa Iowa needs a new state flag. Here's an idea.

Stealing a few ideas from the "Good Flag, Bad Flag" pamphlet by the American Vexillological Association, a symbolic substitute for our present-day overcomplicated mess.

News A delusion: "Some people said it was the best speech ever made by a president in Europe"

A Presidential claim on par with "My girlfriend is hot and she lives in Canada". There is an unfathomable degree of ahistorical hubris involved in his thinking that an unremarkable speech is somehow comparable with "Tear down this wall" or "Ich bin ein Berliner".

News The triumph of spontaneous order

Hong Kongers leave water for one another during mass protests. Most people are good by nature, and are trying their best for themselves and their families. Sometimes we just need to be nudged or led in the right direction.

Weather and Disasters Changes in routine shouldn't put babies at risk

Summer changes in patterns can put children at risk of being left behind in hot cars. Don't let it happen.

Business and Finance May the Warren and Charlie Show reign for a thousand years

Warren Buffett says he wants to keep up the extravaganza that surrounds the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha


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June 13, 2019

Threats and Hazards Inexcusable, and deserving of wrathful judgment

The President, on camera with ABC News in the Oval Office, declares that he wouldn't alert the FBI if approached again by a foreign government demonstrating intent to influence an election. This was not unforeseen: Federalist 75 includes the comment, "An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth. An ambitious man might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents." They weren't fortune-tellers; they just knew enough to recognize the frailties of human nature.

The United States of America Live and let live: America's founding goal

James Madison: "Indulging no passions which trespass on the rights or the repose of other nations, it has been the true glory of the United States to cultivate peace by observing justice..."

Broadcasting Mike Murphy and David Axelrod launch a podcast

A common occupation binds them, and their loyalties divide them. It's recommended listening, since the hosts are interesting in their own right, but have sufficient heft to attract heavy-hitter guests.

Science and Technology What would it take to really revolutionize non-automotive transportation?

A thought experiment: What would it take to truly revolutionize pedestrian and cyclist transportation, especially in suburban areas? Shelters over sidewalks to make them useful 365 days a year? Electric bicycles? Moving walkways? Bridges or elevated lanes to bypass roads? Ski lifts mounted down the middle of highways? What novel applications of existing technologies would make moving at a human-powered pace competitive with getting stuck in traffic? The car isn't going to disappear, but even if we convert the entire automotive fleet to electric power and eliminate most air pollution, there would still be consequences from choosing autombiles as our primary tool for getting from Point A to Point B.

Business and Finance You are not a "guru" or a "ninja"

A piece you ought to read about a real pet peeve: Fluffing corporate language like job listings to create a false sense of importance -- and obscuring everything that really matters along the way. A very important criticism of fluffy job listings: They suggest that only fervent applicants with nothing to sacrifice are welcome, and that people with personal commitments (like parents) ought not apply.


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June 14, 2019

Agriculture "The worst hunger crises are driven by things human beings do to each other"

Food is perhaps the cruelest conventional weapon of war, since it disproportionately punishes the sick, the young, and the old for fighting in which they're almost certainly not the belligerents.

Threats and Hazards Leaders need to find some imagination

America has a long and checkered history with those seeking asylum or refuge from violence and war. But our shining moment came in the shadow of WWI, when Herbert Hoover coordinated the effort to avert famine in Europe. Who is our Herbert Hoover in these circumstances today, as family separation remains a consequence of government policy under the Trump Administration and as the world's refugee/displaced population is larger than ever?

Health Blame carbon dioxide

Why do meetings make people sleepy? The buildup of carbon dioxide in meeting rooms and seminar halls may actually provide a useful physiological explanation that doesn't seem to have really occurred to most of us before.

Threats and Hazards China-watchers debate the number of Uighurs being held in China

Reliable sources differ -- but their estimates range from 1 million to 3 million. And any one of those would be a giant number: A population of one million would be more than all but the top ten largest cities in the United States. It isn't just a number; it's at least a million lives, plus those left behind who are affected by their detention. And if an understanding of human nature is any guide, then we may very well see far worse before China's government gets better. The more threatened an authoritarian regime feels, the more driven they are likely to become in using fear and repression to intimidate their opposition. Everyone saw what happened to Gorbachev when glasnost and perestroika moved people's souls before the structure of government was prepared to adapt.

Iowa Civic Center turns 40

Funds for the Des Moines venue were raised privately, at a time when such things were done

Humor and Good News The greatest natural acronym of all time?

It's "Dilligaf", which looks like a completely innocuous word all by itself. But it's definitely not.


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June 15, 2019

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show - June 15, 2019

Live on WHO Radio and streamed on the iHeartRadio app from 2pm until 4pm

News Hong Kong's protests succeeded -- for now

The government will suspend debate on a bill that would have opened the door to extradition to mainland China for people who are supposed to be under the umbrella of Hong Kong's freedoms

Health A legitimate, free personality test

FiveThirtyEight offers a 30-question test of the "big five" traits. It's good to know yourself.


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June 20, 2019

Threats and Hazards Illinois deploys state troopers to undercover semis

The good achieved by busting distracted drivers is at least partially offset by the bad in making the roads just a little bit more of an unaccountable, undercover, full-time surveillance state.

News Could Tampa Bay share its baseball team with Montreal?

Montreal and Tampa Bay are already the "Twin Cities" in the minds of most people, so this is hardly a stretch, right?

News The gender-reveal pseudo-industry is running out of ideas

First came the idiotic escalation of the "prom-posal". Then it turned to the nonsense of extravagant "gender-reveal parties". What happens when people start making public affairs of their colonoscopies? That may be the only greenfield left. Jokes notwithstanding, there are those who turn even the earliest stages of romance into a big display. We expect adolescence to be a time of learning and practice for all kinds of important things (e.g. internships, drivers' ed, student government), and we should. It ought to be that way for relationships, too -- a time for low-risk practice and failure.

Iowa Former AIB campus slated for housing redevelopment

Great news that something better will come of the site. But the failure to really get something off the ground (as was originally intended) with a serious, on-the-ground presence in Des Moines with one of the big three state universities is a giant missed opportunity. From a strategic perspective, the state of Iowa could use the economic boost from research universities, which need campuses.

Weather and Disasters Where Americans welcome refugees

The biggest mistake is to think of refugees as people without skills or agency. Just because you've been displaced from what was once your home doesn't mean you gave up your right to self-determination or somehow forgot your craft, trade, or profession.

Weather and Disasters South Dakota tornado takes a backwards spin

Tornado watchers should be anti-clockwise.

News A bold statement

Professor Qu Weiguo of Shanghai: "Freedom is not a handout, we need to earn it with our efforts." In his speech to a graduating class, he also, boldly, told them: "Today's civilization is a product of communication and fusion", and advocated against thinking in a "Western-vs-Eastern" binary. Heroic words.

Threats and Hazards Philadelphia police restrict six dozen officers over social-media posts

Some of the comments shared or endorsed by the individual officers were grossly bigoted. Does social media cause people to do and say things that aren't truly in their hearts and minds? Or do the tools just offer transparency into what's already there? Either way, this affair ought to make any reasonable person sick to their stomach.


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June 21, 2019

News On reports of "swing votes" among Administration staff

"While it is wise for the President to get all the competent advice possible, final judgments are necessarily his own. No one can share with him the responsibility for them. No one can make his decisions for him." - Calvin Coolidge

News The sacred making roommates with the secular

Most interesting: As religious orders look toward the future, one source of energy and encounter with the world may include welcoming the non-religious as temporary guests.

Weather and Disasters Storm complex explodes over southern Nebraska and northern Kansas

The satellite loop reveals an atmospheric eruption rivalling any volcano. The spectacular release of energy delivered 89-mph straight-line winds to a small town 10 miles south of the state line.


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June 25, 2019

Threats and Hazards Canada's battle with election-related disinformation and foreign interference

(Video) It's not just America. It's not just on Facebook. It's not just the Russians. For our purposes in America today, it's important to keep the Federal nature of our system intact -- since it turns out that a Federal system designed for thirteen states in a pre-telecommunications era is actually a fairly robust way to operate in an era when we're more dependent than ever on communications but don't really grasp how to deal with the resulting vulnerabilities. We want our mistakes confined to individual states (see: Florida 2000), not replicated by mandate everywhere.

News Georgia sheriff's office seeks mother of abandoned baby

The child was discovered, newborn, tied inside a plastic bag. Communities need safe-haven laws -- and they need to publicize them vigorously.

News Australian town shuts down banana festival parade

The cause? Covering the anti-terrorism expenses was going to be too much for Murwillumbah's budget to bear. George Bluth could not be reached for comment.

Humor and Good News National security dad jokes

David Larter: "With a Russian ship docked only 100 miles from Key West, does that make it a...near pier competitor?"

Business and Finance Treasonmobiles, and why Americans love to drive them

The President has a naive and utterly inadequate view of world trade -- and it manifests itself in stupid policies like his intended "national security" tariffs applied to "foreign" cars (including those made with "foreign" parts). And where are these "treasonmobiles" built? Places like Alabama, Ohio, and Texas -- all home to automotive plants owned by Toyota or Honda that actually build cars with relatively high "American-made" components. Spend any time reading Jeffrey Rothfeder's book "Driving Honda" or Matthew May's "The Elegant Solution", and you'll realize that Honda/Acura and Toyota/Lexus are exceptional case studies in American manufacturing success. Great vehicles made very well by American labor. They should be celebrated widely -- and certainly not punished.

Threats and Hazards How do you spell "emoluments"?

"There are men who could neither be distressed nor won into a sacrifice of their duty; but this stern virtue is the growth of few soils; and in the main it will be found that a power over a man's support is a power over his will." - Federalist Paper No. 73

The United States of America The case for a ceremonial head of state

It's stronger than one might think

Computers and the Internet Cowardice in the face of...Instagram?

How a United States Senator lends his name to feigned outrage over account suggestions from Instagram is beyond sane explanation. Conservatives, in particular, ought to think of themselves as strong enough to scroll past a non-conforming opinion or two without losing their minds. In the words of Calvin Coolidge, "The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them."

Health Licking one's wounds

A question for the evolutionary biologists out there: When did the instinct to lick a wound start to pay off in the evolutionary tree? Is that only a mammalian thing? Are we the only ones with clotting agents in our saliva?

News Time to speak up

This is an appropriate time for leaders of conscience -- both within faith communities and outside of them -- to speak up for humanity and humane treatment, especially for vulnerable children in the custody of our government. Those who have nothing but venom to spew ought to reconsider whether they want to be remembered well after they depart this life. Leaders like Russell Moore deserve credit for being among the former; Jerry Falwell, Jr. deserves scorn for being among the latter.

News Student-loan forgiveness for all?

Education has a cost-inflation problem, as well as a delivery problem. We need to have a long talk about where the "added value" is showing up in education, generally.


@briangongolbot on Twitter


June 26, 2019

News Smoke-filled rooms, now on Twitter

The election will be decided on the secret Slack channel reserved exclusively for Iowans. We're all on there every Tuesday and Thursday night.

News Have a policy, not a sound bite

Kevin Baron: "Americans want less war. And soft-power funding helped win the Cold War. But it remains woefully short, and forever will until a president puts forth a bold funding boost with a genuine plan to recruit, staff, organize around new bold policies to use that money wisely"

Aviation News Electric airplanes really are coming

Yes, please. Now on display at the Paris Air Show.

News A one-word answer to our biggest threat?

Chuck Todd's question at the Democratic Presidential debate was a profoundly unserious way to address an existential matter. Most of the problems alone take more than one word to describe, much less what it takes to tell why, or how they should be addressed, or what trade-offs are involved.

Humor and Good News I can see your Fahrvergnugen

Surely there's a German word for "distracting other drivers through naked scooter riding".

Aviation News Boeing uses employee parking lots for overflow 737 space

Wait...what kinds of vehicles do they expect their employees to be driving that the pavement would already be thick enough for this? Boeing says the zero-fuel weight of the smallest 737 Max is 128,600 lbs.

Health A no-brainer: Protect brains

Extended netting at baseball games shouldn't be a tough choice. Do it in all the ballparks.


@briangongolbot on Twitter