Gongol.com Archives: September 2019

Brian Gongol

September 2019
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September 9, 2019

News Sen. Kamala Harris talks sense on violence

She promises "independent investigations of police shootings" as a campaign plank. From a civil-libertarian point of view, an independent body for investigating shootings that involve law enforcement is a sound idea. Model it on the NTSB.

Science and Technology When the robots are helpful

You can vilify automation if you want, but there are places where the alternative means no service at all.

News What's happening with Brexit? Watch the Irish.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the most important issue is how the Irish border is going to be handled. And that means the Irish media may be best-positioned to report on what's really happening in the UK.

Weather and Disasters Hurricane-force winds hit Canadian Maritimes

Ex-Hurricane Dorian left 80,000 customers without power in New Brunswick and more than 112,000 in the dark in Nova Scotia.

The United States of America A majority of Americans are members of religious communities

But that's actually an unusual circumstance across American history. Whether we're "more religious" or "less religious" depends on which cohort of predecessors you choose to count.

Weather and Disasters Typhoon pounds Korean Peninsula

Yonhap News Agency: "About 3,600 properties have been confirmed to be damaged due to the fifth-strongest winds ever recorded among the typhoons that have hit the peninsula."

Agriculture Chinese state media discourage pork consumption

Surely an unwelcome development in the eyes of Iowa Pork.

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September 10, 2019

The United States of America Just because a message makes sense in many or even most cases doesn't mean it fits all

Above all, it's our job as good Americans to recognize that most of our fellow citizens are free to move about if they wish -- because that implies that most of us have, consciously or not, made a choice to live where we do.

Humor and Good News "I couldn't give a flying flamingo"

John Bercow goes out in style as the Speaker of the Commons. It still doesn't make sense how they squeeze 650 MPs into that room at Westminster, but the insults are par excellence.

The United States of America Copying a good idea from Parliament

Someone should ceremonially slam the door on the President when he or she shows up to deliver the State of the Union Address. The pathetic theater into which the SOTU has evolved makes it look like a regal declaration, when it should be an annual performance review with a highly critical audience.

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September 11, 2019

Business and Finance A reconciliation with reality

California's House and Senate need to reconcile two versions of a bill that would permit college athletes to benefit from endorsement deals

News Tentative OxyContin settlement unveiled

A settlement of $10 to $12 billion between 22 states and the makers of OxyContin, all for the apparently willful and reckless way in which the pharmaceutical company marketed the drugs that initiated the modern opioid crisis.

Threats and Hazards How often are cyberattacks hitting the power grid?

Columnist Joe Weiss says, "My database has identified more than 300 actual control system cyber incidents in the North American electric system including 6 major outages affecting at least 90,000 customers. Moreover, since 2010, the electric industry has reported 29 cyber-attacks in the mandatory DOE OE-417 reporting forms."

Computers and the Internet Google versus the state attorneys general

50 state attorneys general are investigating Google's "overarching control of online advertising markets and search traffic that may have led to anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers". It's an antitrust investigation, but the inquiry has demanded lots of records by October 9th. Only California and Alabama are out; the other 48 states, plus DC and Puerto Rico, are in.

Threats and Hazards Iran's 29-year-old "Blue Girl" dies

Sahar Khodayari costumed herself to blend in at a soccer match, where as a woman she was not allowed. She was caught and charged, and faced six months in prison. She self-immolated instead, and died of her injuries.

Science and Technology Hyundai prototypes a "last-mile" scooter

Instead of driving all the way to your destination, this option would let you drive, park someplace convenient, and then e-scoot at 12 mph to the final destination

News "Mismatches in the Marriage Market"

Cornell University researchers think they've uncovered a problem for eligible women in the dating pool: Their potential partners aren't especially "high-quality". The researchers looked at comparable women who were married, and then "synthesized" spouses for the unmarried women. The "synthesized" men were a whole lot higher-income, better-educated, and regularly-employed than the actual men found in the dating pool. Ouch.

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September 18, 2019

News What's the ideal age for a US President?

The instinct to ask these questions is strong, but the answers should always be context-dependent. A 65-year-old who keeps learning is probably more mentally agile than a 35-year-old who has a fixed worldview. Consider the wide age ranges of achievements by some of history's "greats": Thomas Jefferson started building Monticello around age 25, Warren Buffett took over Berkshire Hathaway around 35, Isaac Newton published Principia Mathematica around 45, and Winston Churchill became UK Prime Minister around age 65. Instead of measuring age, we ought to test candidates' mental agility, curiosity, openness to new ideas, and humility.

Humor and Good News Art that gives a flying flamingo

An interpretation of John Bercow worthy of mounting on a wall

Humor and Good News The doughnut-chicken sandwich is here

Yet another thing we didn't know that 2019 had in store

News Comedy: Let it be thought-provoking, not mindlessly provocative

Some of the best laughs come from an uncomfortable confrontation between something we find familiar and something incongruous or subversive that a comic manages to expose about that familiar thing.

Threats and Hazards "[G]auge the President's risk tolerance and operate just underneath that"

It's hard to dismiss this interpretation of the evidence on how adversaries around the world are operating. And that's worrisome.

Weather and Disasters The only test that matters on climate change

"What are the Dutch doing?"

Business and Finance How much could Warren Buffett charge for tuition?

Warren Buffett himself worked for Benjamin Graham and didn't even ask about salary before accepting the job, because he was so eager to learn from his mentor. Later on, Buffett went to work for himself. Which makes it interesting that one of Buffett's closest associates is leaving to start her own firm. Other people are willing to pay millions of dollars just to have lunch with Buffett. Yet here is someone who has worked closely with him as a paid employee who has decided to stake out on her own. How much could Buffett charge as "tuition" to get someone else to work for him? Undoubtedly it's worth an enormous amount.

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September 19, 2019

News What can a President promise?

Federalist Paper No. 75 was apprehensive about putting powers of negotiation solely into the hands of an executive: "The qualities elsewhere detailed as indispensable in the management of foreign negotiations, point out the Executive as the most fit agent in those transactions; while the vast importance of the trust, and the operation of treaties as laws, plead strongly for the participation of the whole or a portion of the legislative body in the office of making them." And further: "An ambitious man might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents. The history of human conduct does not warrant that exalted opinion of human virtue which would make it wise in a nation to commit interests of so delicate and momentous a kind as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would be a President of the United States." Perhaps we need the "Federalist 75 Act": A means by which any whistleblower within the executive branch (or within independent agencies of government) can bring a complaint or warning to the attention of two-thirds of the Senate. We need an Executive Branch to carry out diplomacy. But we cannot abide a neutered legislature that takes a back seat to that role. Foreign affairs must be conducted on a model of pilot-and-copilot in the cockpit with both sets of hands on the controls...not taxi driver in the front and passenger in the back.

Weather and Disasters Part of Houston get two feet of rain

One location may have reached an unbelievable 43". And all from a storm that blew up out of nowhere. It wasn't even a tropical storm until Tuesday at lunchtime. It's really just an amazing amount of rainfall in a very limited period of time.

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