Gongol.com Archives: December 2019

Brian Gongol

December 16, 2019

Threats and Hazards Either it's an existential threat or it's not

Tim Miller puts the state of politics quite well: "Actual emergencies require sacrifice. They require willingness to work with people that you have major differences with to achieve a solution. They require hard choices and reflection about what you are willing to part with to come out the other side. I believe Donald Trump is an actual emergency. I hope Democrats who agree will start acting like it." ■ Read Dwight Eisenhower's memoir of WWII ("Crusade in Europe"). It's a compelling argument for learning how to categorize threats, rank priorities, and engage allies. You don't have to be fighting WWII to learn Ike's lessons in keeping perspective.

News At semester's end, think of the first-generation college student

First-generation students have a whole extra set of rules to learn and navigate that their peers who come from multi-generational college families simply don't. The key is in forming social bonds with peers who can help fill in the gaps, especially where formal programs inevitably fall short.

Business and Finance Create more value than you consume

That basic principle -- exercised not as a legal or regulatory requirement, but instead as the kind of thing enforced by social pressure and accepted mores -- would be really valuable for knocking down some of the dreadful and exploitative practices found in industries like money management. Customers get talked into management fees that are patently obscene: 1% or 1.5% on assets sounds small...but it's really a 10% to 20% cut of your returns in most years -- or even more. And for what?

Weather and Disasters Australia ablaze

Reuters quotes a fire official: "People should be under no illusion, we won't contain the fires by the time the weather deteriorates later this week". One might wonder whether an increasing frequency of devastating wildfires will tend to accelerate the pace of urbanization. There are only so many firefighting resources to go around. If the choices look like (a) move or (b) risk being abandoned, won't that nudge people to move?

Business and Finance Midwest's fastest-growing county had 71.2% GDP growth in 2018

Two observations on the BEA's latest data release: 1. It's pretty unusual for any county to be able to log 71.2% annual GDP growth, as Harlan County, Nebraska, did last year. That's...quite something. 2. The number of counties in the zero-to-negative-growth range is distressing.

News Careless? Dishonest? Something else?

How, exactly, was the head of Chicago's city law department claiming a homestead tax credit on two residences at once?

Broadcasting We need a "half-watching" mode inside Netflix

Netflix needs a "folding laundry/drying dishes/assembling toys" mode, where it randomly picks episodes from a preselected list of your favorite series and plays them haphazardly, like a low-wattage UHF station.

News There are headlines, and then there are real headlines

Irish Times: "Inspector of Prisons 'refused entry' by drunk prison officer". Now that's really something.

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