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February 18, 2017

News Know your moral bearings

If your only standard for behavior is "The worst thing my opponent got away with", then you don't really have a functioning moral compass. Regrettably, a whole lot of people are trying to adjust to the 2017 political reality by using this line of excuse. It's repugnant and it's tiresome.

Humor and Good News Art is in the constraints

Building a cake with inedible fondant is like making a gingerbread house from cardboard.

Socialism Doesn't Work Three weekends in a row at his private resort

If Americans were bothered by President Obama's trips to Hawaii or his time spent campaigning for Hillary Clinton, then the same people should show concern over the fact the President of the United States has now spent three weekends in a row burning taxpayer dollars to shuttle him back and forth to Florida. That's not to mention the fact that we're now a month into the new administration and still short of massive numbers of key appointees. If it was wasteful spending under Obama, it's still wasteful spending under Trump.

February 17, 2017

Threats and Hazards Russia uses disinformation campaign to undermine German soldiers

The German soldiers are in the Baltic states as part of their NATO defense commitment. The disinformation campaign is a clever (though sinister) way for Russia to undermine the defense of those small countries by driving a wedge between the NATO alliance and the locals. Again, Russia is turning to asymmetric techniques of conflict -- they've gotten very good at it.

Business and Finance A great reminder for most investors

Take interest in your own investments, or take out index funds. (But take interest -- it's much better. Learning how capitalism works from the inside is simply a cost of living in an advanced market economy like ours -- just like we all have to learn a few things about computers and modern medicine, too.)

Computers and the Internet Facebook is trying to be too many things at once

Mission creep is probably inevitable for an outfit like Facebook, but it always seems to end in failure

Threats and Hazards 75% of high-level Defense Department appointed positions are still empty

The President needs to spend less time tweeting hate mail, gallavanting off to Florida, and planning campaign rallies -- and more time finding qualified people to run the Executive Branch. What he's doing isn't in the job description, and what he isn't doing...is. He's had a month in office, and that followed more than two months of transition.

Threats and Hazards Norwegians increasingly fear Russia

As they reasonably might. There's some evidence Swedes and Finns may be growing more nervous, too.

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February 16, 2017

News "Today we learned the length of the president's fuse: 28 days"

CBS News anchor Scott Pelley captures the essence of the President's press conference today with erudition and economy of words

Threats and Hazards What causes conflict?

Neil deGrasse Tyson writes, "Almost all armed conflict in the history of the world came about because opposing sides believed different things to be true." While the conditions he describes may be true, the difference in the way people see things isn't really the underlying cause of most conflict. Instead, we should always be alert to the circumstances where armed conflict can be seen as a more efficient way of capturing resources than honest alternatives like trade or development. Genghis Khan didn't grow a colossal empire on belief, he built it to take resources from others. The Mongol Empire is just one among many examples. The predictive power that comes from understanding armed conflict as a means of capturing resources is that we can start to assemble an understanding of the world that promotes trade and human development and the dignity and rights of the individual. Very little in the world could be more dangerous than a poor country with giant ambitions and low regard (among the ruling class) for the value of common people's lives.

Business and Finance The chaebol under new pressure

From a 2001 paper: "While South Koreans are probably better off than they would have been without the chaebol system, they were living atop an economic fault line that was destined to shift. South Korea should provide yet another warning sign to those who fail to believe that managed economies are bound to experience failure."

Computers and the Internet Problems with White House information security go right to the top

Is the President really still using an unsecured Android phone? A device that hasn't been properly secured could easily be hijacked and turned into a bug by skilled adversaries, among many other bad things that could happen.

News Would getting rid of singlets make wrestling more attractive to prospective athletes?

Maybe compression shorts and separate shirts will make the sport more appealing

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February 15, 2017

Business and Finance Why aren't there more good popularizers for economics?

What's with the shortage of public intellectuals, anyway? The shortage of good "explainers" on behalf of economics is a real loss to society. So much about conflict (of all types) traces back to resources and their creation, destruction, and distribution -- and that's economics. One causal factor, perhaps, is that the answers to economic questions tend toward ambiguities, gray areas, and conditionals. That makes it very hard for anyone credible to gain traction in the public eye.

Business and Finance Beware the perils of "factory fetishism"

Romanticizing a particular sector of the economy without thinking through the consequences of development is a path to waste, inefficiency, and trouble.

Threats and Hazards A Russian spy ship is hanging out just off the coast of Connecticut

30 miles out from a submarine base

News Singapore marks 75 years since the Japanese occupation

The story of Singapore is a complicated one, to be sure, but it is a definitive case study in the power of market economics, trade, and endogenous initiative ("bootstrapping", in a sense) to take a place with no substantial advantage in natural resource wealth and convert it into a tremendously wealthy place.

Humor and Good News A feel-good adoption story

What can and should happen when a person's birth family isn't ready or willing to give a child the care each one deserves.

February 14, 2017

The United States of America We need a "CONstitutional CONdition" index, similar to DEFCON

For bad behavior, ranging from bush-league to truly unconstitutional

Humor and Good News Why do coffee-flavored jelly beans exist?

Whoever invented the coffee-flavored jelly bean was a world-class sociopath.

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February 13, 2017

The United States of America On welcoming refugees

It takes a dim view of human nature to ignore the fact that most people try to be good, regardless of birthplace.

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February 10, 2017

Business and Finance We always expect the nerds to save us

We have to give them the opportunity to do so. The job may be tougher than ever under the current administration: President Trump has decided that the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (whomever that will be; the role hasn't been appointed yet) will not serve in his Cabinet. It's likely because he can't find an economist willing to play yes-man to his economic savagery. Have no doubt: Someone will need to be called in to clean up the economic mess created by this President (should he get any meaningful amount of the economic policy he campaigned upon). The only ones capable of fixing it will be the "nerd" class of sober, pragmatic, level-headed economists. We're in trouble if they're being shown the door already.

News Canadian town (across the border from Minnesota) experiences an influx of refugees

They're crossing from the United States, presumably because they are fearful of what a feckless US government policy on undocumented immigrants will do to them.

Iowa New president at the University of Northern Iowa

Iowa's comprehensive public university needs respect and a high profile

News "Progressive" Democrats want to shove out the centrists

The idea that centrists are rivals to be shunned from the Democratic Party (rather than coalition partners to be embraced) represents the triumph of ideological puritanism over math. The Democrats need a broader tent, not a more leftist one.

The United States of America Americans should resist the consolidation of power

(Video) US Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska is a thoughtful voice on Constitutional separation of power, transcendent of politics. He is a generationally significant voice for the Article I branch of government.

Business and Finance Sunk costs: An economic concept that's good for your mental health

Whatever has been done...is over. Don't make decisions based on the rear-view mirror.

Threats and Hazards The national debt is no less a crisis than it was 12 months ago

At just a hair below $20 trillion, the debt comes out to $61,282 in real, incurred money owed per person for every one of us in the United States. And that doesn't count the massive future liabilities imposed by expenses like our entitlement programs -- which will cost even more.

The United States of America Decency transcends politics

American decency isn't about the boxes we check on Election Day, but about the things we do in ordinary civic life. So when you think of what makes America "great", think about the plow drivers who clear the way for a heart-transplant patient to make it to the hospital in the middle of a snowstorm, or of the foster father who takes in terminally-ill children so they can feel familial love in their short time on Earth.

Business and Finance Don't misunderstand tariffs

If the government were to put a 20% tax on restaurant bills, consumers would eat out less, restauranteurs would find their revenues decreased, and everybody would be worse off. There is no reason to think that a 20% tariff would work in any other way. Remember: Cutting the check isn't the same as paying the price. Tariffs aren't a tax on "other people" or "other countries". A portion of their incidence falls on the consumer -- and quite often, a very large portion indeed. (And don't forget: The Midwest depends on trade.)

News Read "It Can't Happen Here"

A book that ought to be taught in schools, right alongside "1984" and "Brave New World". Written by Sinclair Lewis, it is both a powerful narrative and a novel full of gems, like "...a country that tolerates evil means -- eil manners, standards of ethics -- for a generation, will be so poisoned that it never will have any good end."

February 9, 2017

News SCOTUS nominee Gorsuch "demoralized" by President's attacks on the judiciary

Before we have left and right, we have three branches of government -- each of which should jealously guard its own role in checking the other two. It's troubling to have a Supreme Court nominee already have to face heat because of ridiculous and troubling things the President has said.

News China appears to be executing diplomacy better than the new US administration

It is perfectly fine for us to find ourselves in a world where the United States and China aren't enemies or rivals or opponents, but instead find ourselves "cooperatively different" (to coin a phrase). But even if that is to be our future, then the United States will need to be playing its diplomatic "A" game so as to ensure we cooperate on the right things in the right ways and avoid unnecessary escalation of conflict in others. No sensible person should expect China to adopt a liberal-Western system of government anytime soon (or perhaps for decades or even centuries to come), but we're all stuck on the same planet together. Negotiations over our differences, though, should be conducted at a level far better than what we've executed thus far.

Computers and the Internet Iowa Senate bill would make texting while driving a primary offense

The problem with a bill like this is that texting itself isn't unique in its capacity to create distraction. There are people who are equally distracted by eating a sandwich, arguing with children in the back seat, or checking out their appearance in the mirror. Why should texting be singled-out when the danger it creates isn't unique?

Computers and the Internet No more telecommuting at IBM marketing

The company is eliminating the telecommute and putting all of its marketing staff in six offices

The United States of America Former Senator Alan Simpson finds himself displaced

He used to hold the record for tallest member of the United States Senate. The new Senator from Alabama, Luther Strange, has knocked him from the top spot.

February 8, 2017

Computers and the Internet Don't wake up angry

A message to the President: Waking up and blasting off an angry tweet every morning is a bad way to set the agenda

Threats and Hazards A government going off the rails

"[President Trump's] attempts to run a renegade White House are not working out well". Does he have the opportunity to do better? Of course. Does he have the wherewithal? That's the big question, and it's hard to see any signs the answer will be "yes".

Computers and the Internet Restaurant owner escapes jail time for tweeting pictures of a sting operation

An Omaha restauranteur shared photos of minors who tried to buy alcohol at his establishment as part of a sting operation. A jury decided that didn't constitute obstruction of justice.

News A Kennedy runs for governor -- of Illinois

Yes, one of those Kennedys: Chris, the son of Robert F. Kennedy, and one of the (seemingly few) family members who hasn't ever run for office. He's in part been responsible for managing the extended family's gigantic fortune.

Humor and Good News "Secret Service Adds Emotional Protection Division"

Barbed satire from The Onion

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February 7, 2017

Threats and Hazards We are better than this. Let's act like it.

Max Boot, a conservative, criticizing the Republican Party: "By not doing more to distance itself from this morally obtuse president, the Republican Party is becoming, de facto, the party of moral relativism."

Weather and Disasters 3-day weather forecasts in 2017 are as good as 1-day forecasts in the 1980s

Improved granularity of forecasting is making things much more accurate.

Threats and Hazards Russia is literally trying to freeze out Ukraine

Without energy for heat, people literally suffer in the cold. It's not warfare, but it's the asymmetric application of pressure.

Broadcasting In selling CBS Radio, the parent also sells the heritage call letters

Even though CBS Radio stations won't have anything to do with CBS anymore, the KCBS and WCBS call letters will go with the sale, at least for 20 years. How the heritage networks have treated their radio assets is really extraordinary: NBC Radio was killed off, then brought back from the dead. ABC Radio was owned by Cumulus for several years until the deal folded in 2014, and then it was brought back from the dead at the start of 2015 not in its classic format but predominantly as a promotional arm of the parent. It's all quite odd.

The United States of America Watch the flows of immigration over the years

Watch where the people come from over the years

February 6, 2017

Business and Finance Want to become richer? Add more value.

That's the lesson from Germany's economy: Train workers, focus on areas of comparative advantage, and engage more with the world market (not less). This is emphatically not the course being charted by the Trump administration -- but it would be the right one to follow.

News The missing-syllabus problem

Author Tom Nichols: "Most people do not have the skills or background to know if what they're reading is any good." This could be called the "missing-syllabus" problem: While the Internet (especially) causes us to think we have the world's information at our fingertips, it doesn't come with a syllabus. Without knowing where to start or how to truly teach ourselves, it's quite easy for us to think we're auto-didacts when we're really just filling our brains with intellectual hash. It's an especially complex problem in the Teach-Yourself Economy, since more people need to learn more than they used to, and our formal educational and training systems are slow to adapt to the demand.

Business and Finance A visual guide to the largest employers by state

Walmart, universities, health systems, and the Federal government. That's about it. Enlightening.

News How long should injured pro athletes be eligible for workers' comp?

A fight comes to life in Illinois

Threats and Hazards "The President has no constitutional authority over border control"

Even enthusiasts for expansive executive powers are starting to regret putting too much power in the hands of the Article II branch of government

February 5, 2017

Threats and Hazards The President's instability creates real political risk to the economy

Says columnist Matt Levine: "Everything Trump literally said is coming literally true; everything the serious people heard remains an unserious hope. Businesses may eventually get the tax and regulatory reform they wanted, but it's not a priority."

Business and Finance Coming to the defense of the free market

Charles Koch plans to spend a lot of money defending the free market against Trumpism.

Iowa University of Iowa has lost money for two consecutive years on athletics

Athletic programs are a fine adjunct to the college experience, but they are neither essential nor guaranteed to be profitable. Schools should be prudent about them: They're fine to have, but they should never drive the agenda of the university or become centers of consolidated power -- nor should they be above careful scrutiny.

Threats and Hazards The President still doesn't have a blind trust

In fact, he's still the sole beneficiary of the trust set up for his assets. And there's nothing blind about them. We should have higher standards for him, and for his successors -- and it may be time to codify those standards, rather than relying upon convention.

News Ambitious immigrants bring fresh blood to a culture and an economy

Think of it like a compressed spring: If you've been held back by circumstances in the past, and then by good fortune find yourself freed from those oppressive circumstances, it's not hard to imagine wanting to strive just a little more than those who never felt those constraints in the first place.

February 4, 2017

Threats and Hazards Unintended consequences of "America first"

Other countries, if unable to count on America's support, are going to put themselves first

February 3, 2017

Threats and Hazards Norwegian authorities are most worried about Russia

The nation's top police officer says: "Russian intelligence services are targeting Norwegian individuals." It's unsettling when put in parallel with "Occupied", the phenomenal television drama about a soft Russian invasion of Norway.

Threats and Hazards Executive unilateralism could shut down tourism

Badly-written, hastily-drafted executive orders end up having unintended consequences.

Science and Technology Real progress compounds dramatically over time

You wouldn't believe how cheap light is today compared to when your ancestors walked the earth. Everything that durably improves the quality of life over time comes back to productivity -- we humans learning how to produce more with less waste.

News Calm down, America

Tom Nichols: "Unmodulated shock and outrage, however, not only burn precious credibility among the president's opponents, but eventually will exhaust the public and increase the already staggering amount of cynicism paralyzing our national political life."

News There's no such thing as a Presidential advisor in 2017

"For most of Trump's career he has only trusted a small group of longtime loyalists at the Trump Organization, and even then he has often tightened the circle further to family members." It's important to get the right perspective on things: The President isn't a skilled manager; he's a self-promoter. And it goes further: Where a lot of people see authoritarian instincts, others see deep-seated insecurities and thin knowledge. They may share some superficial symptoms in common, but it's hard to respond correctly without getting the diagnosis right. On a related note, it's a good thing we have Senator John McCain, who is a key player in the Republican resistance.

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February 2, 2017

The United States of America Burping would be safe under Associate Justice Gorsuch

The Supreme Court nominee dissented in a case where he thought a school police officer went too far in busting a kid who burped to disrupt class. But here's the key takeaway: "...for it is (or should be) emphatically our job to apply, not rewrite, the law enacted by the people's representatives. Indeed, a judge who likes every result he reaches is very likely a bad judge, reaching for results he prefers rather than those the law compels." Yes.

Business and Finance If people don't see their living standards rising...

...then they'll usually look for someone to be worse-off than themselves. And when that fails, we get an election like 2016.

Iowa Free rides home over Super Bowl weekend

Budweiser and AAA will cover the cost of a tow and transportation home for people in Iowa through Monday morning. An interesting way to combat drunk driving over Super Bowl weekend.

News UK parliament approves authority for Prime Minister to negotiate Brexit

The European Union as a political entity has a whole lot of problems -- but this feels like a bad time for such an important participant to get headed urgently towards the exit

News The Dissent Channel

Not a TV network; it's the way diplomats send urgent messages back up the chain of command within the US foreign service to warn that they think a policy is off-track. Probably a model that private businesses should adopt, too.

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February 1, 2017

Business and Finance Firm creation is at a long-time low

If new firms aren't being created, power is likely being concentrated in the old ones

News Everything you need to know about Donald Trump you get from his extemporaneous speaking

His Black History Month comments are a perfect example of his incapacity to consider anything abstract

Computers and the Internet New FCC boss wants to address the "digital divide"

It's a big deal -- being without reliable high-speed Internet access is in many ways like being without access to paved highways

Health How "Count the Kicks" came into being

And how it caught on

The United States of America A look into the soul of today's diplomacy

Some thoughtful reflection on the situation at the State Department

January 31, 2017

Business and Finance Warning: The President wants an inflationary currency

President Trump to the press corps today: "Other countries take advantage of us with their money and their money supply and devaluation. Our country has been run so badly, we know nothing about devaluation." This ought to put anyone who believes in a growing real economy and a sound dollar on full alert. The President doesn't set the money supply -- but he does nominate the Chair of the Federal Reserve, and although Janet Yellen has a term on the Board of Governors that lasts through 2024, her current term as Fed Chair expires in 2018. There are plenty of institutional safeguards in place to protect the Fed from political pressure, but there's also a lot of damage a President can do via appointments, from the bully pulpit, and via regulatory and tax tools. The mere fact that a sitting President of the United States would bark openly about "devaluation" of a currency as if it's a tool that we have under-utilized is a dangerous thing. Fiat currency depends upon the faith of the people who use it. The bigger problem may be that President Trump doesn't understand the actual state of the economy, and he's aggressively promoting the use of tools that are inappropriate to its current condition.

News There is only one Syrian orphan living with a US family

It's good and bad news: The good part is that observers seem to think the children who get separated from their families in the troubles plaguing Syria are able to be reunited quickly with extended family as necessary. But the bad news, more glaringly, is that there are lots of entire families who still need help -- and who won't get it from the United States, if the Trump Administration has its way.

Broadcasting One terrific television ad

(Video) Danish television system produces a 3-minute video that probably speaks more to the value of common humanity than we readily acknowledge

News Boy Scouts of America opens door to transgender Scouts

The BSA is a fine institution with a great deal of good it can do for young people. Getting rid of arbitrary obstacles to participation is a laudable step for the organization to take.

Business and Finance Someone just bought 19% of a Russian oil company

But who?

January 30, 2017

Business and Finance Why you should worry about inflation

When former Fed chair Ben Bernanke writes that, "to increase output without unduly increasing inflation the focus should be on improving productivity and aggregate supply", he's saying something totally different from what's coming out of the White House. In fact, it's almost 180 degrees the opposite. So if you don't expect them to satisfy the second part of the statement (focusing on productivity), then you'd better prepare for an inflationary situation.

Threats and Hazards Astute analysis of the new order of the world

A sobering thought: "Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him."

The United States of America Anyone who tells you the parties are OK is ignoring the data

The Republican and Democratic parties are separately, and together, in basically their worst condition ever. More Millennials and Gen Xers identify as independents than as either Republicans or Democrats. Our one-person, one-vote/first-past-the-post voting system makes a two-party duopoly basically inevitable, but the current arrangement isn't stable.

News On the sad, sad extinction of the Blue Dog

Democrats with conservative fiscal views and moderate social ones are a rare breed now -- when they're needed more than ever

Broadcasting An all-women's spin on "Ocean's Eleven" is coming

Anything with Sandra Bullock and Mindy Kaling has to be worth the price of a ticket

January 29, 2017

The United States of America A first-person refugee story

What it's like to come to the United States because you're unsafe in the land of your birth. We should be proud to be a refuge to the world's oppressed. That's the behavior of humane, civilized people.

News Compounding unpopularity

Gallup says that 50% of the country already disapproves of Donald Trump as President. He started at an even split (or a remarkably low net approval of zero), and is now almost incomprehensibly far behind his predecessors of recent memory. He is starting with the same approval rate as Richard Nixon in May 1973 -- which, for historical reference, was the the opening of the televised Senate Watergate hearings. Imagine.

News A long, long reading list on public infrastructure

It's not just about "roads and bridges". Infrastructure is much broader than that, and it's not a single thing at which we should blindly throw a lot of money and expect great returns.

Iowa Trends in Des Moines-area home values

Prices in some neighborhoods are declining -- and they're already the lower-valued neighborhoods. That keeps residents from building equity to get into higher-value neighborhoods, if they want. It should be considered a serious local socioeconomic problem, and one that local leaders have an interest in examining thoughtfully. Are there public goods that can be used to make those neighborhoods more valuable?

News France bans unlimited free refills of pop

Yeah, yeah: It's in the name of public health. But it still sounds a little nanny-state-ish.

January 28, 2017

Business and Finance One-paragraph book review: "Good Profit", by Charles Koch

A bit dry, but definitely worthwhile reading for the conscientious student of business management

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January 27, 2017

The United States of America If the left wing cultivates its own "Herbal Tea Party", they need to hold back

The Economist carries a column with a strong insight about the need for opponents of the Trump Administration to make sure that they don't attack the voters themselves who put him in office. There's going to be a lot of need for reconciliation and unusual alliances in the time to come. There are already a lot of strong voices on the center-right who are as opposed to the direction and misbehavior of this administration as anyone on the left -- because offenses against truth and basic civility have no party. But it does nothing good to scold people who are late converts.

Business and Finance The future of unionized manufacturing jobs isn't rosy

Manufacturing productivity is rising. Non-union manufacturing employment is steady. But unionized manufacturing jobs are on a downward trajectory that hasn't reversed course in more than a generation. It's not because of labor laws. Meanwhile, the President can convene all the "manufacturing jobs councils" he wants, but if government policy is to be used to favor one kind of employment over others, that will require sound reasoning and justification. The bar should be set extremely high for favoritism to be justified.

Computers and the Internet "Fake news" could be a whole lot worse by the next Presidential election cycle

Technology already exists that permits real-time manipulation of audio and video. Technology itself is neutral; whether it is used for good or bad purposes is in the hands of the users. But this technology could easily be used for a great deal of evil. Audiences shouldn't fall for it.

Health Get trained in CPR

A bystander at a gym saved the life of a man in cardiac arrest when the staff fell short. Everyone should get trained in CPR because none of us knows in advance how well we'll respond in an emergency. Some people freeze; that's inescapable. So the more people who are trained, the better the chances of survival for anyone who falls in need.

Aviation News One-paragraph book review: "The Wright Brothers"

A vibrant portrait of one of the great technological successes that is far more engrossing in detail than in its usual abbreviated portrayal in the history books.

The United States of America Don't deify the Founding Fathers

David McCullough in 2001: "If they were marble gods, what they did wouldn't be so admirable. The more we see the founders as humans the more we can understand them."

January 26, 2017

News Mexican president cancels planned US visit

This is not the way to start relations between two countries sharing a large border, many common interests, and a great deal of economic interconnectivity. The United States has a giant vested interest in a politically stable, economically prosperous Mexico -- even if the President of the United States is willfully blind to that fact.

The United States of America Sen. Lindsey Graham is a hero

He's taking on the worst behavior of the Trump Administration in a clever and public way, and that's a good thing. The Trumpian notion of imposing high tariffs on imported goods is ridiculous and punitive -- not a smart way to fund anything (including a wall on the border with Mexico). Tariffs are funny things -- they look like a way to target "foreigners", but the fact is that their incidence depends on the relative slopes of the supply and demand curves. Cutting the check isn't the same as paying the price. Tariffs offer concentrated benefits to the workers they "protect", with costs shared among all consumers. That kind of recipe is really good for turning badly-formed political wants into reality.

News To understand Russia's behavior, look at the price of oil

The Russian government depends heavily upon income from the oil business. With that income in retreat, it should come as no surprise that the government there is looking to asymmetric power plays (like trying to interfere with Western elections) and headline-grabbing displays of power. Economic strength speaks for itself; weakness begets the kind of behavior we see in wounded animals.

Business and Finance Uber for advertising

Marketing company sets up deal to put temporary advertising wraps on personal vehicles. Why not? Commercialism is the American way.

Business and Finance Cash flows in China tilt the world's property markets

As the Chinese government has sought to keep its subjects from taking their money overseas, it's going to starve some of the world's hot property markets of interested buyers (and their money)

January 25, 2017

Business and Finance Dropping out of the TPP only shrinks the stature of the United States

Big multilateral trade deals are never perfect, but they're generally preferable. Think of the United States as a giant trading bloc among 50 independent countries: We have just one trade agreement that serves us all, rather than the 1,225 bilateral agreements that would be required if each state went its own way with each of the other 49 states. Remember: One person's "tariff" is another person's use of import taxation to force the entire public to play favorites and subsidize a small share of the population.

News A wall, no matter how concrete, is nothing more than an empty symbol

Can physical barriers obstruct the passage of people and goods? Obviously, yes. But anywhere you look in the world, where there are two neighboring countries with different standards of living, there is always and everywhere pressure on that border by migrants seeking a better life. Indonesians die trying to get into Malaysia. The border between Belarus and Poland is stretched thin. And, yes, many Latin Americans try to enter the United States in search of work. Putting up walls isn't a durable answer. The real systemic solutions come from enhancing the economies of the poorer countries in these relationships, and from normalizing relationships so that migration issues can be handled in a sober way. An expensive, 2,000-mile long wall between the United States and Mexico has all the characteristics of a gigantic boondoggle that will waste taxpayer resources and disappoint its proponents.

Threats and Hazards What evidence of massive fraud at the polls does the President possess?

None has been revealed. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence -- but they do not require extraordinary refutation. If someone claims that the sky has turned teal with purple polka dots, the burden of proof is not on the rest of us to prove that it has not. Unfortunately, there have always been people who are submissive to the claims of those in positions of authority, no matter what the evidence. That is why the President's claims should be clearly denounced as deviant.

Iowa Separation of powers: It matters, no matter the party

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa tweets a series of messages to the President, advising that he intends to stand his ground regarding expectations of transparency and reporting as the Senate reviews nominees to serve in the new administration. Grassley has credibility as an advocate for good-government transparency, so this message ought to stick.

Broadcasting A modest proposal for television news

If the President or the press secretary is demonstrably lying or propagating false information, just switch the feed to black and white instead of color. This is a massively image-sensitive administration; diminishing that image when it is being tarnished by lies is a signal that would serve the public.

January 24, 2017

The United States of America A world order must be led by somebody

If the world retreats from what we know as the "liberal order" (not left-wing, but liberty-driven), then something else will come next. Vacating the liberal order would only clear the way for lesser substitutes to emerge: If you clear a field and let nature take its course, weeds will take over, not roses. If the US quits the trade and defense deals that define the world order today, don't expect roses to take our place.

Threats and Hazards 50 states, 50 election systems -- zero cause for undermining democracy

Statement from the National Association of Secretaries of State: "We are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump, but we are open to learning more about the Administration's concerns." The President ought to be ashamed of himself for making unsubstantiated allegations in an effort to undermine faith in the electoral process. He is behaving like a deviant. It is disgraceful.

The United States of America Nikki Haley confirmed as UN ambassador

She departs service as governor of South Carolina, and she enters a role once held by George H. W. Bush. Haley started as a fiery outsider but has shown herself to be a sober leader in office; if she executes this office well, it may augur well for higher ambitions in her future.

Threats and Hazards Chicago has major troubles. Big government isn't the solution.

The President's vague and unsubstantiated threat to "send in the Feds" is no solution. He absolutely must not try to declare martial law, nor should he flood the city with agents of the FBI or ATF. Chicago doesn't have a problem of toughness; its problems are much more systematic than that.

Humor and Good News For those times when you're escorting a really classy load

Not every pilot car is a Cadillac

January 23, 2017

Threats and Hazards America in retreat

The new President is ordering a withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It wasn't perfect, but our departure is a sign of a nation that thinks itself small. Big, decent trade agreements make the world safer and more prosperous.

Threats and Hazards An excellent analysis of the world right now

Anne Applebaum: "European security may now depend on Germany, France, Britain and one or two others, and it's better to start planning now for the possibility of European-only cyber-defense, counter-terrorism, and conventional defense too."

Computers and the Internet Facebook quizzes aren't innocent fun

Marketers are building detailed psychographic profiles of us all

Broadcasting Why are American TV programs set in such drab workplaces?

Sample a few television programs from places like Britain or Australia, and it's hard not to notice that their workplace-themed shows are often set in places with lots and lots of windows. Not so for many American programs. What's the reason for that?

News It's amazing the discount rate some people apply to the future value of their own reputations

In a time when practically everything is recordable and storable online, it's not advisable to make up excuses to defend the indefensible

January 22, 2017

News Germany's welcome of refugees may pay off substantially in the long run

Long-term, Germany is heading towards a worker shortage. Its humanitarian project to welcome refugees (many of them young) could end up paying off quite handsomely. A chance to do well by doing good, as some like to say.

Business and Finance "Working-class colleges"

Upward-mobility machines they can certainly be, even if they don't come with illustrious pedigrees

Aviation News Stumbles in the race to blanket the world with Internet-delivery drones

Turns out they don't always fly as well as hoped

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January 10, 2017

News One-paragraph book review: "Giants of Enterprise" by Richard Tedlow

The conclusion is supported well and the stories are worth reading, but it would have been better as seven short books in a series rather than one exhausting tome.

News One-paragraph book review: "The Imperial Cruise" by James Bradley

Strongly recommended reading for anyone who appreciates a historical context for foreign policy-making today.

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)

January 6, 2017

Business and Finance Of course people on food stamps should be able to order groceries online

If government can cut down on the high cost of being poor, it's making good use of taxpayer money. Proper custodianship should be applauded.

News "Show us what you have"

Vice President Joe Biden on the PEOTUS and his fight with the intelligence agencies: "Grow up Donald, grow up, time to be an adult"

Threats and Hazards Technology's massive impact on the labor market could lead to the rise of a real Luddite

And that ought to be cause for serious concern. It's been bad enough to see the political backlash against the straw-man of foreign trade and immigrant workers. What happens when people turn their hostility against technology at large?

Business and Finance Sears sells the Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker

Reasonable people might begin to wonder whether the "lifetime" warranty that went with the tools will remain in force

Health New rules! Now small children are supposed to eat peanut butter.

National Institutes of Health decides that the evidence favors exposure to peanuts early in order to resist allergies: "Clinical trial results reported in February 2015 showed that regular peanut consumption begun in infancy and continued until 5 years of age led to an 81 percent reduction in development of peanut allergy in infants deemed at high risk"

January 5, 2017

Business and Finance Assume the worst about Trump's business-related tweets

When he attacks companies like Toyota, it should be assumed that he is short-selling for himself or otherwise tipping off members of his inner circle to do so. Absent legitimate, authentic, and verifiable declarations of his finances or the adoption of a bona fide blind trust, it must be assumed that he is abusing his position. This is not a partisan issue: It is a matter of good government.

Computers and the Internet Medium struggles to find its sweet spot

Writes the CEO: "[I]t's clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn't serve people." And in the process of seeking a publishing model that will profit, the company is laying off dozens of staff members.

Business and Finance Meredith and Time talk merger

Strength in numbers for publishers?

News Romanizing Korean names

"Lee" isn't exactly the surname most Americans think it is

News A proxy fight for control of the Ohio Republican Party

One into which it would seem very odd indeed for the President-elect to be taking an active role. But that's what he's doing.

January 4, 2017

Threats and Hazards Markets are under-pricing the political risks to the economy ahead

So concludes Larry Summers, and he's quite likely right. The magnitude of political risk to the world economy today is extraordinary. The costs of a correction will be large and painful.

Business and Finance Many high-growth jobs are in occupations dominated by women

Which means that men who are looking for new jobs may need to re-think their attachment to sterotypes about what "women's" jobs are

Threats and Hazards Indonesia withdraws from military cooperation with Australia

The suspension of cooperation can't be taken as a good sign. Indonesia is the world's 4th-largest country (by population), and Australia is the essential anchor for the protection of values in its corner of the Pacific Rim. If the two countries aren't on the same page, it's a bad turn of events.

News Thoughtful column on the subtle sexism of expecting women to smile

Really, nobody goes around telling men how much prettier they would be if only they smiled

Business and Finance Today's asset-light business world means "your" building can go bankrupt without you

OfficeMax used to have a headquarters in suburban Chicago. After merging with Office Depot, OfficeMax no longer needed a headquarters of its own. Now, the building itself is likely to go into default. The choice many (if not most) businesses have made to reduce their direct ownership of real estate leads to some weird circumstances -- like the (former) Sears Tower no longer containing any Sears offices, and "OfficeMax headquarters" going bankrupt after OfficeMax ceased to exist as its own company.

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January 3, 2017

Business and Finance Political risk to the economy is at a high point not seen in a very long time

The President-elect is taking glee in bullying individual companies to suit his own agenda. That is one of the most corrupt forms of crony capitalism -- which is the kind of thing that the truly free market abhors. When companies like Ford then turn to giving credit to the bully-in-chief for their decisions, their flattery is a weak capitulation to the kind of environment that will eventually be their downfall. Good financial advisors tell their clients not to make decisions based on the tax consequences; decisions should be made on the basis of the soundness of the investment itself. It is cowardly and sniveling for a business leader to suck up to a politician in the hope of getting favorable treatment (in taxes or otherwise).

The United States of America "I want my party back"

Writer Patrick Tomlinson: "Instead of fighting for conservative solutions to our shared problems, I find myself arguing with 'conservatives' who, despite all the objective, verifiable evidence, can't even admit that our shared problems even exist in the first place."

Business and Finance Dignity over dependence

The Acumen model for putting donations to work in developing economies is a great one -- based on the idea that markets work, even in poor places. They just sometimes require patient investment.

Threats and Hazards A quick reminder of the trouble Russia has lately wrought

So let's not feign horror at the idea of imposing consequences. Should we seek friendly relations? Always. But friendship requires a foundation of fair play -- that is literally a concept we should learn in children's books.

News "The line between political righteousness and party self-righteousness is wavy and easy to cross"

America deserves good political parties involved in sensible contests of ideas with one another -- not self-righteous, inward-looking machines

January 2, 2017

Business and Finance Finland is testing a universal basic income

The UBI is worthy of examination -- it possesses novelties that appeal to both the left and the right, which makes it sound a lot like apocryphal $20 bill on the street -- bypassed by the rational economist who assumes that if it were real, someone else would have taken it already.

News It's time for big ideas

This is the wrong time for classical liberals (not leftists) to back down. Now is the time to step up.

Threats and Hazards Does populism have a chilling effect on Congress?

Now is not the time for the Legislative Branch to shrink.

News America needs lots of infrastructure investment, but...

Not if it's intended as a labor stimulus (the unemployment rate is already low). Not if it's just the visible stuff like highways and bridges (to the detriment of lots of critical work that is rarely visible to the public and doesn't make for good press coverage). Not if it's pure deficit spending (the Federal debt is already grotesque in size). Not if it's just for playing pork-barrel political games (the needs are independent of political connectedness).

Threats and Hazards President-elect again ditches his protective press pool

The location of the President and his/her well-being at all times is a matter of national security. The same substantially goes for the President-elect. Ditching the press pool isn't an option for anyone who intends to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.

January 1, 2017

Threats and Hazards Kremlin spokesperson underhandedly threatens the Baltic states

One of the most troublesome possible flashpoints to watch today

Science and Technology Technology lightens the load of rote work in hospitals

The less time that is spent by skilled people on low-skill work, the better off we all are. Skilled people should do skilled work.

News "[T]wo impromptu, largely fact-free press conferences"

In the brilliant words of a writer for Vanity Fair, the President-elect "offered up a series of misleading, disjointed responses, during which he falsely claimed to have created thousands of new jobs, dismissed alleged Russian interference in the presidential election, whitewashed his sprawling financial conflicts of interest, and offered up word salad in a rambling defense of Israel"

Broadcasting Now it's Hearst in a fight with DirecTV

The carriage disputes between local broadcast stations and the satellite and cable systems are a very strange vestige of the early days of cable television. And now? Now customers just find themselves annoyed by the anachronisms.

Humor and Good News Elegant flags of the Japanese prefectures

Compare these magnificent designs with the cluttered and amateurish flags used by so many American states and municipalities

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)

December 31, 2016

News "[T]hat's not something that you would see on the nightly news"

In a valedictory interview with his old advisor, David Axelrod, President Obama misses an important point. If he doesn't think his administration got the credit it deserved for its work, then perhaps he should cast more blame on the way that same administration treated the news media. There was a lot of avoidance and a lot of outright hostility that not only kept their intended message from getting out (such as it may or may not have been), but also that set the stage for an incoming administration to declare something close to open warfare against the First Amendment.

News What Democrats need to learn from Montana

Both major parties are in distressing condition. The path ahead for the Democrats, at least, needs to be less fixation on identity politics and more attention to economic solutions and pragmatism

Threats and Hazards Serious political risk is coming to the American economy

A poorly-titled Bloomberg story on the coming administration gives a misleading impression: It's not a "business-friendly" environment if the incoming President has already shown a proclivity to manipulate and interfere with the private sector to suit his political motivations.

News Big labor is headed in the wrong direction

Labor unions that approach the increasing complexity of the economy with a heels-dug-in approach are going to do their members more harm than good. Adaptation and growth need to come.

News The Nordic countries are working on a common brand

They're going to need to bind themselves together more than in the past, and a little bit of branding is a good step.

December 30, 2016

Threats and Hazards Examine your conscience

We can't say we haven't been told about some of the most awful violations of human rights taking place around the world. Aleppo is a devastating example, but far from the only one. So why are we submitting to paralysis?

News Violence, like a lot of human behaviors, has characteristics of contagion

The distressing gun violence in Chicago may have some very predictable epidemiological characteristics. That may help give policy makers important things to consider and act upon. The worrying part is that we already know about things that appear to work...but they keep finding themselves cut out of budgets.

News Too many people are reading just the headlines

But be careful of blaming the journalists named in the bylines -- headlines are often supplied by webmasters and editors. The point, however, is true: Bad headline-writing is hazardous to our understanding of the world.

Health Soldiers may be consuming too many energy drinks

Situational needs plus high availability may leave a few too many troops consuming high volumes of drinks like Red Bull -- to a degree that could be hazardous to their health

Humor and Good News Great reviews of bad restaurants

Because "De gustibus non est disputandum", but there's a lot of humor to be had in writing about it

Telephone or text: 918-2-GONGOL (+1-918-246-6465)

December 29, 2016

Threats and Hazards The US has no aircraft carrier in the Middle East right now

And may not for two months to come. Seems an inopportune time for that. And, perhaps, symbolic at a time when Russia is pulling the power move by taking credit for brokering a peace agreement in Syria.

Business and Finance Skilled-labor shortages are creating real economic problems

Businesses are falling behind on maintenance because they can't get enough workers to do it. And that's not just financially risky -- it could be physically hazardous to workers.

News The art is gone from naval architecture

If the new MSC Seaside is any indication, the cruise ships of tomorrow will look more like cargo freighters than the graceful SS Normandie...which might make sense, since the MSC cruise line originated as a cargo line. For those who actually want to be treated like cargo, there's already a cruise experience for that.

Business and Finance Toshiba in serious financial distress

One normally wouldn't expect the kind of trouble being seen now from a company with as broad a reach as Toshiba already possesses

News Celebrities may pass away, but we shouldn't be content with an "only hope"

If we can find the motivation to express grief about a celebrity death on Facebook, then we should compel ourselves to do something good in the real world we inhabit. Permanently archived.

December 28, 2016

News Buckle up: Petty disputes are about to become the norm in Washington

The incoming President turned to Twitter in the morning to complain about "roadblocks" erected by the sitting President. Later in the day, when asked, he blew off the issue as nothing at all. Not a lot of people go through life with a strictly momentary, transactional approach to their encounters with others -- it's extremely strange, since most of us expect to deal with the same people tomorrow whom we encountered today. But the incoming President has been programmed to behave as though there are no consequences beyond what's on the table in the moment. For a primer on this, read "The Liar's Ball", which tells the story of a single Manhattan office building and how it's changed hands (including in and out of Donald Trump's). His world is not the same as that of people who live in communities or who have durable relationships. In his world, your rival this morning may be your partner by lunch and your counterparty by dinnertime. You can love, hate, curse, and do business with the same person from day to day, and it doesn't have lingering consequences.

Computers and the Internet Russia will be punished, says Obama administration

CNN cites an unnamed official who thinks the government failed to exercise the necessary imagination to see what Russia sought to gain by cyberwarfare. A repugnant election later, and that failure of imagination seems pretty distressing.

Threats and Hazards Twin Cities police officer threatens to "put two in the back of your head"

Trust between the community and the police is built up over time -- and it can be damaged by those who assume too aggressive a posture. In the long run, this kind of behavior quite likely puts other peace officers at unnecessary risk.

Broadcasting Central Iowa is somehow the world hotspot for "The Big Bang Theory"

The New York Times illustrates the popularity of 50 television programs as heatmaps across the country. Really intriguing stuff.

News Not everyone needs a McMansion, but this is ridiculous

Nebraska family wants to stick four kids, two parents, and a dog into "tiny houses". That can't be good for the mental health of the kids.

December 27, 2016

Computers and the Internet The next President will likely keep using Twitter in office

If it were being done for transparency, or to reveal his thinking, it might be a good thing. But he's demonstrated a breathtaking lack of depth with his activity on Twitter up until now. Why would that change? In an ideal world, the President of the United States would spend five minutes a day composing and sharing his or her thoughts with the world. That's a far different thing from tweeting in anger in the middle of the night. Clear thinking and clear writing go hand-in-hand.

The United States of America Persuasion still matters

Lots of people are taking to social media to decry "anti-intellectualism" as the cause of dysfunction in politics and society. It's not enough. It's safe and self-gratifying to decry anti-intellectualism. But in a democracy, you still have to persuade the "anti-intellectuals".

News China's first carrier enters the South China Sea

The future of power in the Pacific Rim is a lot less monolithic than the past. China's first carrier will almost certainly have a pile of troubles. Its fifth will have fewer.

Iowa Do what you can, with what you have, where you are

A former law-enforcement officer, seeing what happened to the children of people who committed crimes, decided with his wife to start adopting kids

Computers and the Internet If Verizon drops out, Yahoo "has no Plan B"

News of past security breaches may be making Verizon skittish about an acquisition, and that could be a catastrophe for the old Internet giant

December 26, 2016

Business and Finance "Tariffs and quotas seldom save jobs for long"

The arguments for liberalized trade are always under assault from "common sense" that is wildly misinformed

Threats and Hazards What's making Finland nervous

Finland doesn't have a lot of generations of history of independence from Russia. Demonstrations of strength in the Baltics give the Finns thoroughly understandable anxiety.

News The trouble with the Obama Administration's anti-press chill

Frosty relations under Obama have set the stage for even worse behavior by his successor. That's bad for the country.

The United States of America Vice President Biden gets it

The future for the Democratic Party isn't to be found in doubling down on what makes the party "different" so much as in acting on needs that seem to be going unanswered. That's a very small-"d" democratic idea, indeed.

News The Sears Tower in 150 years

Yes, it's called the Willis Tower now. But that name has never stuck in the public imagination anyway. It's a really good question: What happens to our modern skyscrapers a century or two from now?

December 19, 2016

Business and Finance One-paragraph book review: "Bloomberg by Bloomberg"

Two decades after publication, still a highly recommended autobiography of a legitimate modern-day success story.

December 17, 2016

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - December 17, 2016

Including advice on what to do to try to stay safe online, even if Yahoo has a billion accounts hacked.

December 16, 2016

Computers and the Internet President Obama says Russia will be punished

For using cyberwarfare against the United States to influence the 2016 election, that is

Business and Finance Uber driver takes a passenger from Omaha to Denver

Driver: "I didn't have anything better to do". And that, you see, is what gives a low-friction economy the potential for both great opportunity and serious destabilization. If people are willing to transform their leisure time from "nothing better to do" into productive work, then lots of great things can be done. But if people are willing to do things as extraordinary as driving 1,100 miles in a day on little more than a lark, then anyone who depends upon the kind of work being displaced by "nothing better to do" could find themselves in a downward economic spiral in a hurry. Embrace the good that comes with these changes, but social stability will require figuring out ways to mitigate the harm done to those who lose out.

Computers and the Internet Why did it take Yahoo years to admit to a gigantic security breach?

Possibly because they weren't even the ones to have discovered the attack

News Over-extended metaphor or omen?

Is a disappointing hotel in DC a sign of what the next Presidential administration will do to the country?

Computers and the Internet When you refute an argument that nobody is making

Writer Dan Brooks says to call it "egg-manning", after the classic "straw man" fallacy -- but applied to the era of the Twitter egg

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December 9, 2016

News Justice Department rolls back Presidential emergency powers

Took you long enough: The standard in place had been around since 1982 and granted probably too much authority to the President to do things without the supervision and check of Congress.

News When is "Buy American" bad for American workers?

A plan to require "American Iron and Steel" in the construction of water infrastructure projects has been derailed from a Federal spending bill, and though it may seem paradoxical, that's probably a good thing for American workers. AIS requirements have actually imposed an unnecessary, complex, and expensive burden on a good number of American manufacturing companies that have made perfectly rational decisions to use supply chains that stop outside the United States sometimes. A lot of manufacturing happens up the manufacturing chain -- at high-value assembly of complex products. Artificially fumbling around with the inputs that these companies are required to use actually makes it harder for them to operate effectively and competitively -- especially if it means they have to set up multiple production configurations so they can meet domestic regulations with one process, and find ways to make other products at more competitive prices for export. Far too often, regulations like AIS end up doing more net harm than good.

News Wait; there was almost another government shutdown?

Once again, it would seem, the Federal government will be funded by swinging a few months at a time. But a fight over benefits for coal miners almost took us into a shutdown until a very, very last-minute vote bought some time. This is no way for a great country to act; nor is it any way for a country with a $19.87 trillion Federal debt to behave. Divided evenly among 325 million Americans, that's more than $61,000 in Federal debt per person. It's madness to run up that kind of debt without at least getting some long-term benefit from it. But that's not what we're doing -- our deficit spending is just the equivalent of running up a credit-card bill to pay ordinary household expenses. This reckless behavior will bring about consequences someday. Bad ones.

Computers and the Internet Samsung is going to brick all of the Galaxy Note 7 units out in the wild

Starting in a few days, they're going to send an update that will kill the ability of those phones to take a battery charge. Hard to think of a more dramatic move to force people to surrender their exploding devices.

Iowa Midwestern brain drain, measured

For every thousand people (over age 25) living here, about six degree-holders left between 2011 and 2015. That's bad, and it's not just an Iowa problem: Illinois and Nebraska were even worse-off, and every other bordering state (Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, and South Dakota) was also in the red. College degrees aren't the end-all, be-all of a society or an economy, but when you see the same negative thing happening across a broad contiguous area, you can't just turn your back on the phenomenon.

December 8, 2016

Aviation News John Glenn's final voyage

The astronaut pioneer has slipped the surly bonds of Earth

News Thoughts on the hazards of groupthink

Futurist Ian Pearson has an uncommon ability to see things coming in advance. Heed what he tells you: We're all going to need to make friends across party lines and expose ourselves to ideas that might make us uncomfortable...if we are to survive.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft Windows 10 will work on new mobile-device chips

The Qualcomm Snapdragon chips will be able to run the same Windows platform that finds its way into big devices like laptops. This won't necessarily turn the Windows Phone into a blockbuster, but it might make things easier for products in a "connected" home to work in tandem.

The United States of America Political borders are one thing

But a data-based analysis of commuting patterns makes it clear which parts of the country are tied to others, and how. If nothing else, the maps illustrating these connections should give policymakers some reasons to pick up the phone or drop an email by way of someone in a related area whom they may not have considered a counterpart before.

Iowa UNI picks its 11th president

Mark Nook takes over on February 1st

December 7, 2016

News Chinese state media take potshots at Trump

His diplomatic naivete and his bluster are going to combine to make bad things happen. He will be played -- with ease -- by rival powers with strategic foresight and patience. It will be very bad for America.

Threats and Hazards Parent of a Sandy Hook victim gets death threats because of fake news

The proliferation of stupid, fraudulent, and utterly wrong material on the Internet has caused some non-discerning audience members to lose their minds. One might think that it's time to add "media literacy" to the school curriculum, but the fact is that there are lots and lots of adults who lack the capability to discern between true and false, and there's no hope of putting them into a classrom now. Contributing to the problem is that stripping down content to suit mobile devices takes away a lot of the cues that might tell the reader whether a site is substantive or not.

News Should we have infrastructure investment programs?

Yes, if for the sake of the infrastructure itself. No, if it's a make-work ploy. So sayeth the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago -- and he's right. The former, if done right, establishes the foundation for important economic activity and growth elsewhere in the economy. The latter, especially at a time of basically full employment, only serves to inflate costs.

Computers and the Internet Google Earth now has a time-lapse view

The evolution of the Des Moines metro area over the last 30 years is evident to long-time locals. Also, for whatever amount the area has grown, "urban sprawl" here is hardly a meaningful concern.

Threats and Hazards Nude selfies as loan collateral in China

In the absence of a properly functioning market for legitimate moneylending, the crooks have moved in

December 6, 2016

Threats and Hazards We are supposed to be better than this

(Video) It's very, very hard to face the reality that half a million children are starving to death in Yemen right now. HALF A MILLION. But that is the reality, and the civilized world needs to face it.

Threats and Hazards UN asks for $22 billion

The organization says 93 million people are directly in harm's way due to violence, displacement, and natural disasters worldwide. 93 million people is a population larger than Germany, and would rank in the top 20 countries by population worldwide.

News Make time to listen to Maggie Haberman's take on the President-elect

The New York Times reporter explains more of the "must-know" in an hour than any amount of social media has covered. The first 25 minutes or so of her interview with Glenn Thrush spend a little too much time on inside baseball, so for the listener truly in a hurry, skip forward to the 25-minute mark for the real meat and potatoes.

The United States of America Don't read too much into this "post-ideology" thing

Donald Trump isn't the first vapid populist to hit the electoral scene -- not in the world, nor in America. He won't be the last, either. But ideas matter. As Margaret Thatcher's ally Keith Joseph once said, "We must fight the battle of ideas in every school, university, publication, committee, TV studio even if we have to struggle for our toe-hold there; we have the truth, if we fail to make it shine clear, we shall be to blame no less than the exploiters, the casuists, the commercialisers." In the short run, it's possible to win an election on empty promises. In the long run, something has to fill the void after those empty promises collapse under their own weight. People need answers, they need leadership, and they need something affirmative to believe in. It's up to sensible people on both the right and the left to define some sound intellectual foundations for what comes next.

News America's isn't the only election that counts this year

Ghana is going through a rough economic patch, which is challenging to sound government no matter where you are

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