Gongol.com Archives: 2020 Third-Quarter Archives

Brian Gongol





July 3, 2020

Threats and Hazards Draconian new laws from China put Hong Kong under house arrest

Ousted politician Nathan Law: "As a global-facing activist, the choices I have are stark: to stay silent from now on, or to keep engaging in private diplomacy so I can warn the world of the threat of Chinese authoritarian expansion. I made the decision when I agreed to testify before the US Congress." That's what "When in the Course of human events [...] a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation" sounds like in 2020.




July 4, 2020

The United States of America The Declaration of Independence

Worth re-reading every Independence Day. Recall always some of the transgressions the Founders declared among "a long train of abuses and usurpations" justifying their independence: "He has obstructed the Administration of Justice", "For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world", "For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury", "He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us".

The United States of America The wisest of words for the Fourth

Calvin Coolidge gave what is probably the definitive Fourth of July Presidential address in the 20th Century, but there are many other wise words worth remembering on this day. ■ Calvin Coolidge: "If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final." ■ Federalist Paper No. 76: "The institution of delegated power implies, that there is a portion of virtue and honor among mankind, which may be a reasonable foundation of confidence; and experience justifies the theory." ■ Margaret Thatcher: "The preservation of liberty depends not only on institutions, not only on the skill, determination and vision of statesmen. It also depends on the willingness of individuals to exert themselves, to risk their fortunes, and to give up time and money for their ideals." ■ James Madison: "[T]he character of the times particularly inculcates the lesson that, whether to prevent or repel danger, we ought not to be unprepared for it." ■ Ben Sasse: "America is a place for those who believe that fallen humanity -- including me and you -- is so often in error that we are reticent to use force. We would prefer to extend the debate, and try to argue and persuade another day." ■ John Stuart Mill: "The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection." ■ And, perhaps more relevant than any other, James Madison: "Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm."




July 5, 2020

News Good heavens, Los Angeles

(Video) Airborne views of the city on the Fourth of July reveal a whole lot of revelers getting feisty with the firecrackers




July 6, 2020

Threats and Hazards US government to punish international students if their colleges go online for the fall semester

Students will be kicked out of the country if they're on visas and instruction is made available online. There is no good reason for the government to do this; students from places like China and Iran shouldn't be tossed out just because of a pandemic beyond their control. ■ Look at what's happening in Hong Kong at this very instant. Free expression is under massive assault there as China thunders in with an oppressive "national security" law. Nobody can make a good-faith argument for involuntarily sending a student studying at an American university back to these conditions, just because Covid-19 has closed their university. Nobody.

News Brand-name universities go all-online for fall classes

Harvard is going all-online for the academic year. At Yale, "the bulk of instruction will be conducted remotely". Princeton says "we will need to do much of our teaching online and remotely". ■ Some observers note that tuition remains the same, even though the delivery method is going to be different. Should it? ■ Online instruction is different from classroom-based instruction. Whether it's better, worse, or just equal is entirely up to how it's executed. Make no mistake, though: This pandemic is forcing an epochal shift in higher education. ■ We owe it to ourselves and our children to decide two critical public questions: (1) Should housing be treated as an investment or as a universal need? (2) Does higher education exist merely for sorting or for maximizing the potential of as many people as possible? ■ These two questions represent enormous shares of domestic spending, and bear massively on the long-term economic prospects of many of our people. Decide well.

Health Face masks reduced growth in Covid-19 spread by 40% in Germany

That's a giant change, thanks to a low-cost, low-effort intervention. One wishes we could find similar tools to knock down the growth in other bad things by 40%. If we could easily and cheaply reduce heart attacks by 40% or automobile fatalities by the same, wouldn't we do it without making politics a part of it?

Threats and Hazards Three police officers mocked Elijah McClain in pictures

The officers, of the Aurora (Colorado) police department, engaged in appalling behavior. If someone can't show good judgment with a camera, how can they possibly be expected to show good judgment with lethal force?




























July 31, 2020

Threats and Hazards "China is now claiming the right to criminalize speech by foreigners on foreign soil"

Do we still hold certain truths to be self-evident? Do we still believe that everyone, everywhere, is endowed with certain inalienable rights? Do we count liberty and the pursuit of happiness among them? Do we?

Weather and Disasters The Isaias forecast track is going to be a problem

Surely someone in the insurance industry has a tool that can estimate the total value of real property that's within this forecast cone. And surely it's an absolutely jaw-dropping figure.

News When self-respect is a disqualifying condition

A job listing for a "personal assistant to influencer" is enough to induce a terminal eye roll

Iowa No Iowa town has a more ambitious slogan than Riverside

"Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk"

Science and Technology Nature is trippy

There are patterns everywhere




August 1, 2020

The United States of America "A quiet conscience sleeps in thunder."

Sage words from Benjamin Franklin

Computers and the Internet President Trump says he wants to ban TikTok

A sensible technology user wouldn't touch TikTok with a 10-foot pole. Anyone in charge of any sizable institution should probably try to prohibit its use on any company-supplied devices. There's far too much to worry about with its close relationship to China's ruling party. But to decree that an app will be banned from use in the United States smacks a bit of the divine right of kings.

Humor and Good News We have a Ratt problem

Any television show that calls itself a comedy had better deliver at least one laugh as solid as the GEICO "Ratt Problem" commercial. Just one joke, with impeccable setup and timing.

Humor and Good News Economist puts cupcakes on the barbecue

Creative destruction meets creative convection

Humor and Good News Totally Unnecessary Debate of the Day

On how many social-media platforms are you really active?


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August 2, 2020

News Lookin' good, Sears Tower

Photographer captures a giant rainbow behind the Sears Tower. (It will always be the Sears Tower, no matter who pays for the naming rights.)

Health Japanese data gives strong evidence: Stay out of bars during Covid-19

"We noted many COVID-19 clusters were associated with heavy breathing in close proximity, such as singing at karaoke parties, cheering at clubs, having conversations in bars, and exercising in gymnasiums". Shame the bar-goers, not the beach-goers.

Humor and Good News The best scene in the entire "Scrubs" canon

In which Colin Hay's guitars goes to the graveyard

Threats and Hazards Murder hornet captured in Washington

Reductionist or not, "murder hornet" is just really good branding -- and that matters if you want people to take the problem seriously.