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November 22, 2015

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - November 22, 2015

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

November 21, 2015

Computers and the Internet Is software programming really "engineering"?
On one hand, engineers of the civil/structural/environmental variety shouldn't let other people cheapen the title since certain types of engineering are (literally) a profession. On the other hand, engineering has long been much broader than what is defined strictly by those professions -- and we could use a lot more engineering-think from people outside the engineering professions (as strictly defined).

Iowa Rural bankers in the Midwest aren't very optimistic

News Steve Jobs and the drowned toddler can't be the only images of the Syrian refugee crisis
They both belong in the discussion, but our understanding of the situation must go deeper

News Japan asks Australia to stand up to "self-righteous assertions" by China
China says it's going to continue expanding its man-made island chain (in a transparent attempt to create maritime claims where none ought to exist). Now the question is whether anyone else can counterclaim or present a rejection of the claims that will stand up. China clearly doesn't want to lose face after putting in this investment.

News Fire in Chicago's Hancock Building on the 50th floor
It happened in a residential part of the building

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November 20, 2015

Business and Finance Jobs aren't the only thing
"Job creation" is a popular theme for politicians, but jobs alone aren't the only thing that matters. The national unemployment rate is estimated around 5.0%, which is generally thought to be in the neighborhood of the natural rate of unemployment. Yet lots of reasonable people would say the economy is substantially underperforming its potential. Jobs matter, but they're not the only thing that matters. And politicians need to show some humility about what they're capable of doing.

Threats and Hazards Why we shouldn't laugh at the (admittedly preposterous) North Korean dictatorship
It's now in its third generation of unimaginable absurdity, but it's no less murderous

News What's going on inside the minds of Trump supporters

Business and Finance Chinese government goes after $64 billion in "underground" money movement
It's no surprise that people inside China are looking for ways to get their money outside the country, for reasons of both returns and security

Broadcasting "Branded content" looks like a new thing -- but it's as old as broadcasting itself
Companies like Marriott are spending money on original content (like 15-minute YouTube movies) that are intended to promote their brands. It's actually quite a back-to-the-future thing, considering that many commercial radio stations started as in-house "branded content" vehicles: WLS stood for "World's Largest Store" (Sears). WHO started out as a tool for Bankers Life (now Principal Financial). KMA was a department of the Earl May seed company.

November 19, 2015

News Where Syrian children sleep
A powerful documentation of the refugee condition

Threats and Hazards ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh keeps a round-the-clock computer help desk
It does not do us any good to caricature them as some kind of medieval enemy. They are very much a product of the modern world and are not afraid to exploit modern tools. It is a modern machine of monstrosity.

Business and Finance US ranks second in index of global charitability
Seven of the top ten are among the world's most advanced economies. Two (Sri Lanka and Myanmar/Burma) are very much developing. One (Malaysia) is middle-class. It's certainly an endorsement for promoting prosperity.

Computers and the Internet What's new in the Windows 10 update?
It's a large update -- perhaps on a scale near that of the big service packs that came with Windows XP.

Business and Finance Proposed Canadian Pacific-Norfolk Southern merger would be huge
CP thinks it can cut operating costs at Norfolk Southern by 10 percentage points

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November 18, 2015

Business and Finance China won't save the world's economy
President Xi Jinping: "China's economy is still coping with the complicated internal and external environment, considerable downward pressure, and the temporary pain of deep reforms". Don't imagine them to be quite so temporary. The political environment is going to put a permanent damper on the economic environment. It's too bad we ceased to call it "political economy" as a branch of study a long time ago -- the two are intertwined.

Business and Finance First the boom, now the purge
China's government is arresting and prosecuting people inside financial firms. It's a very modern form of purge.

Business and Finance Skilled workers tend to retire at 65: Beware the consequential workforce shortage
North America could soon be short by almost a million skilled industrial workers

Computers and the Internet Digital exhibitionism puts us at risk
It's hard to resist the lure to share too much personal information and leave behind a big digital footprint. These are uncharted waters.

Broadcasting Cumulus Broadcasting is moving into the prettiest building in Chicago
The Art Deco-inspired but 1989-built NBC Tower is really quite gorgeous

November 17, 2015

Threats and Hazards What's the root cause of radicalization in Europe? Look at youth unemployment.
The most dangerous thing in the world may very well be lots of young people (especially young men) with lots of free time and nothing to do. It can be especially dangerous when they don't think they have any prospects for improvement to their own material well-being. Always beware the well-intended steps that are supposed to make things better for the poor but that present new barriers to entry into the workforce for those with no experience and no skills.

Computers and the Internet Asus introduces the Chromebit
An $85 computer running the Google Chrome operating system. Attach to a monitor, add a keyboard, and you have computer functionality.

Broadcasting Pandora buys out Rdio
Consolidation in the broadcasting industry continues, even when there's no actual broadcasting taking place.

Business and Finance The price of steel is in freefall
Really bad news for extraction economies. This needs to be on the radar of the people who look after foreign affairs and geopolitics: The extractive economies are generally the lesser-developed ones. If they suddenly have less income, they're going to become less stable.

Threats and Hazards Unintended consequences of a larger air war over Syria: More refugees
We can't just look at the millions of displaced people as simple "collateral damage". There needs to be a vision for what is to be done for and about them. The air war may very well be necessary -- but it cannot be conducted as though in isolation from any other circumstances or consequences.

November 16, 2015

Threats and Hazards Will terrorists try to exploit the refugee crisis? Of course.
That should not make us treat the refugees badly. They are victims, too.

The United States of America Good for Shepard Smith
Fox News Channel host editorializes against the knee-jerk reaction against refugees

News Germany orders its flags to half-mast in honor of Paris
A lot can change in the course of a few decades. It matters whether our civic and political leaders have a vision for the future.

Business and Finance Going public made Cabela's vulnerable
If you don't want to lose control, don't give up ownership

Business and Finance Chicago restauranteur thinks tipping is about go extinct
Instead? A flat 20% service charge added to every bill.

November 15, 2015

Threats and Hazards Keeping perspective after the Paris attacks

Business and Finance China wants to buy Syngenta
China has lots of available capital to invest, and lots of American companies are prospectively for sale. If you don't want to lose control, don't sell out.

Business and Finance Japan's GDP fell in Q2 and Q3
That officially makes for a recession. Business investment is slipping, and that most likely has a contributing effect.

Business and Finance Tough times for the South Korean chaebol
It may be necessary for government to protect certain firms or industries for countries without a lot of natural resources to develop rapidly. South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and others have gone the route of high intervention in exchage for quick development. But eventually the protections have to go away, and that transition isn't easy.

Threats and Hazards "[T]his is a war about a vision of history"
"State-sponsored slavery seemed like a thing of the past, but now ISIS is an unapologetic slave state."

November 14, 2015

Computers and the Internet Facebook never intended to get into fights it cannot now avoid
Some British parents are fighting to get the service to remove a photo of juveniles from the page of a far-right-wing group -- so far, to no avail

Computers and the Internet Google launches "YouTube Music" app for phones
People already use YouTube heavily for listening to music (whether or not they watch the videos), so this is hardly a groundbreaking step -- other than admitting that's what people use YouTube for

Computers and the Internet Microsoft starts major updates to Windows 10
It always takes Microsoft a little while to dial it in after launching a new operating system

Computers and the Internet Twitter's stock price is below IPO price
The service has certainly found its place, but growth remains elusive and so do profits. Who would want to compete with them if even from a position of dominance they still don't bring in buckets of cash?

Science and Technology Google self-piloted car pulled over for driving too slowly

Computers and the Internet Microsoft locates some data centers to avoid US legal authority
Probably a sensible thing to do if you have customers who want to avoid certain regulatory oversight

Computers and the Internet Amazon will start distributing NEXRAD data
The government collects the data via the National Weather Service, but until now has found the distribution of that data to be beyond its capacity.

Threats and Hazards Russia wants to build a nuclear doomsday machine
No, really. A doomsday machine, like in "Dr. Strangelove".

Aviation News Mitsubishi claims starting from scratch helps it build a super-efficient regional jet

Computers and the Internet Google is getting into the manufacture of computer chips
Not content to make the software, they're venturing into the deepest heart of hardware

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - November 14, 2015

November 13, 2015

Business and Finance China's dependence on captive government enterprises
That dependence will keep Chinese industry from developing the kind of quality improvements that Japan and Korea have used to their respective advantages. Honda, Toyota, and Samsung are all examples of companies that learned to get better at their industries because the pressures of the marketplace forced them to do so in one way or another. Toyota developed kaizen methods because they didn't have enough cash to purchase lots of raw materials inventory. Honda overcame strong government objection in Japan to even enter the auto market, and crushed the major automakers at meeting new emissions regulations using new technology in the 1970s, when its cars were entirely unknown in the US. Samsung has fought pitched battles in semiconductors, smartphones, and all manner of consumer electronics. To build a company for long-term success, it's crazy to try to insulate the company from competition with a captive market. Success is forged in the heat of competition.

Computers and the Internet Email goes back to the future
US military networks are going to strip incoming messages of HTML and turn them into plain text, just to thwart cyberattacks

Aviation News Dubai is (supposedly) buying jetpacks for high-rise firefighters

Humor and Good News Canada and Denmark are engaged in the most polite border dispute in history
Their respective militaries keep leaving bottles of liquor for one another

Weather and Disasters Des Moines got a tornado and then snow the other day
An exceptionally rare phenomenon

November 12, 2015

Threats and Hazards Russia is using "hybrid warfare" in Syria

Health Memorial Sloan Kettering says women shouldn't change their mammography schedules
Despite new recommendations from the American Cancer Society, MSKCC says women at normal risk should stick with a target age of 40 to start screenings

News Puerto Rico is edging towards full-blown fiscal crisis
This is going to test our understanding of bailouts

Business and Finance Female economists don't get the respect they deserve
Tacit demotions of their contributions seem to be a problem in the (already minimal) coverage their work receives in the mass media

Computers and the Internet Apple's new iPad Pro is 12.9" in diameter
...blurring the lines altogether between "tablet" and "laptop" sizes

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November 11, 2015

News The shocking human tragedy in northern Africa
People are risking everything -- and often losing their lives -- trying to escape war, terrorism, deprivation, and other horrors. And the heartlessness with which people like Mike Huckabee try to say "That's not my problem; they're too far from home" is revolting. No sensible person thinks we should grant entry to every refugee without the slightest effort at screening out the inevitable bad apples, but it is pure hackery to malign the refugees by mockingly asking, "[A]re they really just coming because we've got cable TV?"

Business and Finance AB Inbev lands the SABMiller purchase
Sale price: $107 billion

Business and Finance Negative interest rates, long thought imaginary, are now very real
It's one way to try to get people to spend money

Aviation News Mitsubishi officially enters the regional-jet market
Test flights are underway

Broadcasting Chicago Cubs broadcast moves again: From WBBM to WSCR
WSCR was formerly the renowned WMAQ

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November 10, 2015

News Why people are so desperate to get into Europe

Business and Finance Oh dear: Large companies have over-extended their borrowing again
The duration of near-zero interest rates should have been a signal it would come to this. The real peculiarity, though, is that all this borrowing seems not to have driven real investment in tangible things that will improve long-term business prospects. So where in the blazes has all the cheap money gone?

News The right is "peaceably to assemble", not to call in "some muscle" to bounce journalists from a public space
Fortunately, faculty members at the University of Missouri seem eager to punish the titular faculty member who demonstrated some serious misunderstanding of the First Amendment.

Business and Finance Saul Bass and the importance of a company logo that matches its image

Humor and Good News Why Dave from "Alvin and the Chipmunks" always sounded a little unhinged

November 9, 2015

Computers and the Internet Google and Tag Heuer roll out a $1,500 smartwatch
Get a smartwatch, but get a cheap one, then beat the crap out of it as most people do to their regular watches. Then replace it in a couple of years with one from the next generation. Unless there's something you simply cannot live without in the smartwatch you've been craving, everyone should start with the Pebble. For $100 (less when on sale, as they frequently are), you can test whether you get any real utility out of a smartwatch without committing hundreds and hundreds of dollars to a piece of vanity jewelry.

Agriculture The problem(s) with a record harvest
Iowa farmers are bringing in so much corn there's no place to put it all. And that's not going to put any upward pressure on low prices.

Computers and the Internet Samsung's $600 "Galaxy View" tablet has an 18.4" screen

Health Russia "sabotaged" London 2012 Olympics with doped athletes

Computers and the Internet "Uber angst": The fear of getting "disrupted" right out of business

October 29, 2015

The United States of America Rep. Paul Ryan is elected Speaker of the House
Ryan and Chief Justice John Roberts get a lot of flak from elements of the "conservative" movement -- but they are two of the sharpest center-right minds in America, and we're lucky to have them both in high office

Business and Finance Malaysia's slow drift away from English has hurt its economy

News The latest slang, interpreted

Humor and Good News Linguist says Australian accent comes from early settlers being drunk

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October 28, 2015

Business and Finance Michael Bloomberg editorial: Bad schools are a bigger long-term threat than terrorism
While dramatic, it's probably true. We badly need to find ways to improve career and technical training opportunities -- one of the worst things a country can develop is a persistent, low-skill, low-income underclass. It just doesn't work out in the end.

Agriculture Cash flow is becoming a problem for Midwestern farmers
As go the farmers, so goes a lot of the small-town economy. This is not a good sign.

Threats and Hazards Casey's finds credit-card skimmers mounted to gas pumps
The incident shows that not even the Midwest is safe from crooks

Humor and Good News Phil Collins is going back to the recording studio

Business and Finance Tough times for Norway's sovereign-wealth fund
Getting things right with a natural-resources bounty is very, very hard. Norway has done better than average -- maybe better than most -- but they're still not bulletproof.

News One-paragraph book review: "The Herbert Hoover Story"

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October 27, 2015

Computers and the Internet Yahoo turns back to Google for search help

Business and Finance Honda hits brakes on plant expansion in China
An $822 million plant will go on hold because the company is worried about a decline in demand growth

Humor and Good News Out-of-control orchestra dads
The CBC's very funny satirical program "This is That" spins a tale of a parent who brings varsity-sport-parent intensity to his kid's orchestra rehearsals

News What happens to people who die alone in New York City
It's a big city with a lot of isolated people

Business and Finance China's ways of manipulating the currency

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October 26, 2015

Computers and the Internet Google is betting on "machine learning"/artificial intelligence
Even a company that is "native digital" -- computer-based from its very founding -- is looking for new ways to have machines do the work so that they don't have to hire people to do it

News US Navy to China: Those aren't real islands. Your territorial claims are denied.
Turning reefs into artificial islands is just a naked ploy to claim large amounts of open sea. This isn't building up contiguous ground via landfill (like Manhattan) or draining low-lying areas (like Holland). It's really not that far from sinking an oil-drilling platform somewhere and claiming that it's sovereign territory with rights to a surrounding nautical boundary.

Business and Finance Why Omaha didn't stand a chance at salvaging ConAgra
Perhaps illustrative of the need for communities to focus on always leveling the playing field for the little firms that may organically grow into the big shots -- instead of trying desperately to kowtow to the big guns

News The worst thing in America? Donald Trump, say Latinas.

Weather and Disasters Big earthquake hits Afghanistan

October 25, 2015

News One-paragraph book review: "Honda: The man and his machines"

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

October 24, 2015

Business and Finance Negative interest rates in Denmark make property enter a bubble

Business and Finance It's getting really hard to differentiate in the car market
And it's only a problem because cars have generally gotten much better

Business and Finance China's economy keeps showing signs of slowing

Aviation News Building the next bomber

Business and Finance Omaha reacts to losing the ConAgra headquarters operation

October 23, 2015

Science and Technology A wheelchair that can climb stairs

Threats and Hazards Lifesaving aid workers in Syria are on the brink of collapse

Threats and Hazards Racist radicals may be working in German refugee camps

Business and Finance China may be easing controls on capital investment

Business and Finance Here's a terribly misleading list
A purported list of the "25 jobs with the best work-life balance" really only reflects that there are certain jobs that early entrants manage to exploit (temporarily)

October 22, 2015

Science and Technology Japanese automakers want to introduce self-driving cars around the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

The United States of America Jim Webb is dropping out of the Democratic Presidential race

The United States of America Good for Rep. Paul Ryan: Putting family ahead of political ambitions
And he may still end up as Speaker of the House

Computers and the Internet Price tag for SanDisk: $19 billion

News Canadian politics take a left turn

October 19, 2015

News One-paragraph book review: "101 Things I Learned in Architecture School"

October 18, 2015

Broadcasting Show notes: Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - October 18, 2015

News One-paragraph book review: "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis

Humor and Good News Larry David is brilliant as Bernie Sanders
But Kate McKinnon is positively inspired as Hillary Clinton in the latest "Saturday Night Live" cold open

October 17, 2015

News Meet Chinese democracy

Business and Finance The impossible position of a big metropolitan daily newspaper
Too long protected by monopoly powers, they haven't had a really good time making the transition to a much more competitive market

Broadcasting NBC is going to launch an all-comedy online programming service
If only it could bring back Phil Hartman and put him back with Dana Carvey, the world would be a better place

Agriculture What in the world do inmates have against bacon?

Computers and the Internet Disney wants a counter-cyberwarfare intern

October 16, 2015

News Shame on Mike Huckabee
A Presidential candidate who wears his Christianity on his sleeve should be positively ashamed of himself for saying of Syrian refugees, "It matters if they’re really refugees escaping terror, escaping potential death, or are they just looking at this as an opportunity to get out of their country and go find the benefits America will provide." First, it's preposterous to suggest that the overwhelming majority of people trying to escape Syria are anything but refugees trying to escape the twin threats of Assad's brutal and soulless dictatorship and ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh's awful incarnation of a totalitarian regime. Anyone who doesn't know better than that shouldn't be running for so much as dog catcher, much less President. But let's examine the second half of Huckabee's statement: Since when has any voluntary group of immigrants to the United States ever looked for anything other than "an opportunity to get out of their country and go find the benefits America will provide". That's exactly why immigrants have always come here! Huckabee's attitude is toxic and reflects the attitude of a man unfit to be President.

Science and Technology It's not quite full autopilot, but...
Tesla says the Model S can just about drive itself, and will be fully capable of so doing in three years

Computers and the Internet With the consumer computer business in turmoil, how long can AMD hold out?

Business and Finance Warning signs: Factories are slowing production
It's not a huge contraction...yet. But two months in a row of decreased output from American factories is a bad sign.

Broadcasting "Key and Peele" end the run of one of the smartest shows on television
It's good to know that they're going to continue working together -- but the show was just so perfectly executed and so brilliantly written that its departure will leave a void

October 15, 2015

Business and Finance The Midwest had accelerated deflation in September
There was slight deflation nationwide, but marked deflation in the Midwest

Threats and Hazards Russia plays cyberwarfare offense against NATO

News Federal government starts fighting back against non-payers on student debt
All the more interesting, considering the tone that has been set from the top of the Obama Administration for quite some time -- one that has suggested that college is a right and that other people should pick up the tab

Business and Finance Low interest rates have set large companies on a debt binge
This should surprise nobody. What is surprising, though, is that we're not seeing the money being spent on capital equipment -- durable goods orders are down and in some sectors, significantly so. That's a bad signal for the economy at large -- if you're not seeing spending on stuff that will produce future profits, then you're not seeing a priming of the pump for future growth.

News Taking the wrong messages from research literature
A pop-culture analysis in The Atlantic says that determination is a bad thing. Embedded in the story, though, is this clarifying quotation: "[I]t's important to know when to quit and reevaluate rather than blindly push through". That is quite the opposite of saying perseverance is perverse -- it says that we ought to look for the optimal outcome.

News One-paragraph book review: "Accidental Empires"

Humor and Good News An honest job interview
"I'm dumb as rocks"

October 14, 2015

News An identity crisis for today's libraries
Openness to all could mean an unsettling environment for some

Business and Finance Alibaba founder wants China's economy to slow down

Computers and the Internet FBI takes out a botnet

Humor and Good News Cubs to preserve home run ball that landed atop video board

News Australia will resettle 12,000 refugees from Syria
To those who fear the influx of refugees from Syria into Western countries, the question really is this: Wouldn't you rather show mercy and compassion in a time of need and give thousands of people the chance to absorb your sense of freedom and individual liberty, rather than condemn them to fear, violence, and potential radicalization in a hostile place?

Aviation News No doubt remains: Malaysian airliner was shot down by a Russian missile

October 13, 2015

Business and Finance Deflation in the UK
Falling prices only sound like a good idea if you don't know what happens in the long run

October 11, 2015

News If ever there were a case for government to try harder to do better
...it's the heartbreaking way in which American Indians have been treated

Science and Technology Where's the PIN in "chip-and-PIN"?
The whole point of making credit cards more secure is being negated by our failure to use the PIN system. Without the PIN, the chip is really too much just for show.

Business and Finance Union pension funds in big trouble
As with too many pension funds, the problems have been apparent for a long, long time

Business and Finance Good social relations at work
Sure, it's good to have friends at work. But we also should make sure that we're doing "work" in a way that respects the need for people to have "off-work" lives, too.

News Britain's new left-wing party leader is a small-"R" republican
And he may be wrong about a lot, but he's right about that

October 10, 2015

Science and Technology The time for real, deliberate laws and policies on police body cameras is well overdue
The law is way behind the technology, and that's a problem

News Why good people get chased too often out of politics
Tools like Twitter are leading us to behave like rabid pack animals

Computers and the Internet Google gets more search inquiries from mobile devices than from desktops

Health Cigarette smoking is going to kill China

Business and Finance The Donald Trump exit strategy
He's not serious about running for President. He's only in it for as long as it appears to inflate his personal "brand".

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October 9, 2015

Business and Finance The Federal Reserve held off raising rates because of the global economic picture
Threading the needle -- raising rates before inflation takes hold, but after the danger to the US economy is gone -- is a challenge nobody in economic history has ever faced with nearly the same heightened stakes. Janet Yellen may need more luck than anyone has ever needed.

Business and Finance Gannett just can't help itself from going back into debt
What a train wreck

Threats and Hazards These are our allies?

Threats and Hazards Whether it's making headlines or not, the refugee crisis continues in Europe
This is the most historically-significant event taking place right now, whether or not it's in the news

Business and Finance Corporate boards are boys' clubs, and that's a problem
Women shouldn't be there as tokens -- they should be there because they're half of the population and are conspicuous by their absence

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October 8, 2015

Business and Finance 45% of Americans don't pay income tax

Science and Technology Wind energy now costs the same as coal or natural gas power

Science and Technology Car buyers aren't willing to pay yet for the tools that will make driving safer
Too bad; the costs of crashes are much too high

Business and Finance AB InBev raises offer to buy SABMiller to more than $100 billion

Threats and Hazards Who wants to go to a crime-ridden city for the Olympics?
Rio 2016 may be your chance!

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October 3, 2015

Business and Finance Investment money is flowing away from emerging markets
And that's the first time that's happened in a quarter of a century

Business and Finance Carl Icahn foresees bad things ahead for the markets
Uncertainty persists, but catastrophe? That's a bit tough to swallow.

Business and Finance Credit scores and your love life
Couples with high credit scores tend to stay together. People tend to get romantically involved with partners of similar scores.

Business and Finance ConAgra is leaving Omaha to save $300 million a year
Or so they estimate. But those estimates, like any promises of savings from "synergy", are almost always well off the mark. And it's going to cost them $345 million to leave.

Science and Technology Iowa State University career fair shows just how much demand exists for engineering majors

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October 2, 2015

Business and Finance The long road to a more secure credit card

Science and Technology Tesla officially enters the SUV market

News Chicago cops break rules to save a young life

Business and Finance A look at one of America's most economically-disadvantaged places

Health Medicine as a science still has a lot to learn
But at least there's plenty of evidence that they're trying

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October 1, 2015

Science and Technology Flowing water on Mars, you say?

Business and Finance German publishers buy Business Insider
For a company valuation well over $300 million, that sure looks like a triumph for digital-first/digital-only publishing

Broadcasting Founder of Cumulus Radio booted from CEO suite

Iowa I-80/I-380 interchange project will cost $270 million
And it will take five years -- if all goes according to plan. But it's a much-needed development.

Iowa An unusual door-to-door sales pitch: Library cards

September 30, 2015

Threats and Hazards There are two terrible forces destroying lives in Syria
Both ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh and the Assad government are purveyors of death

Computers and the Internet Apple claims 13 million new iPhones sold on opening weekend

Computers and the Internet You cannot escape Facebook ads

Computers and the Internet Google claims "How to" searches on YouTube are growing by 70% per year
Fun fact: Not everything is best explained with a video

Business and Finance There just aren't many options left for central banks
God save us if there's a major economic contraction

September 29, 2015

The United States of America Speaker Boehner is stepping down

Science and Technology Is Apple really going through with its silly plan to build cars?

Business and Finance Profits of Chinese industrial companies fall by almost 10% year-over-year

Business and Finance US personal savings rate: 4.6%

Computers and the Internet German Chancellor Angela Merkel pokes Mark Zuckerberg over hate posts on Facebook

September 28, 2015

Computers and the Internet FTC investigating anti-competitive behavior by Google in the Android market

Computers and the Internet Pebble rolls out "Pebble Time Round" for $250
A new entry in the smartwatch market

Threats and Hazards Hundreds killed in Mecca stampede

Broadcasting How radio has gone video

Threats and Hazards Chinese copycat behavior is so bad, it even includes the F-35

September 20, 2015

The United States of America How the US DOT sees "megaregions" emerging in the coming decades

Threats and Hazards Hong Kong should worry about 2047
That's when the "one country, two systems" policy expires with China. But any reasonable observer would have cause to wonder whether that expiration date won't find itself radically revised closer to today. And when prospective candidates for office are out advising people to "prove" that Hong Kong is "here to contribute to the country, and not to make trouble", that should itself be a cause for worry.

Science and Technology Some predictions about your future dining experiences

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September 19, 2015

Computers and the Internet HP will cut an additional 30,000 jobs as it splits in two
That's on top of 55,000 other job cuts that were already expected.

September 18, 2015

News What happens when a library goes bad?
Omaha is dealing with what appears to be a serious erosion in conditions at its downtown library. The reports suggest it's become less a place for people to read and learn in peace and more a site for society to temporarily dump off some undesirable characters. Libraries are such an essential part of culture that it's tragic to watch when they aren't able or willing to remain vibrant. Some real changes in the way libraries work, reach out to the community, and see their scope of responsibility have been foisted upon them by outside conditions. But those same conditions -- mainly technological changes -- actually make good libraries more important than ever, to serve as a free public resource to those who might not otherwise have the means to improve themselves.

Business and Finance The cab-versus-ridesharing war in Chicago escalates
The mayor wants the ride-sharing services (like Uber and Lyft) to be able to pick up passengers at the convention center and airports (which they can't officially do now). But the plan would also grant a 15% fare increase to taxi drivers. Add in a bunch of new surcharges the city wants to assess from both classes of rides-for-hire, and you're looking at a pretty combustible situation. Cab owners and drivers don't want their franchise eroded, but it's hard to see how they can keep standing forever without massive reforms to the business model. If you only make money because someone else is statutorily prohibited from competing with you, that's rent-seeking.

News EPA orders 482,000 diesel Volkswagens to be recalled
The agency says their emissions-control systems were programmed to function at full capacity only when being tested, not when actually on the road

Business and Finance What to do with a loony economy
Canada's three largest political parties just held a debate on economics. The country is in an interesting situation: It's already a well-developed, highly advanced economy, but it's also been the beneficiary of a huge resource bonanza. That's really unusual: Canada only really entered the resource boom in the last generation, as a mature economy that didn't really need the money. Other countries with similar resource endowments (Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria, among others) never developed economies independent of their resources. That puts Canada in a truly blessed state, if they're smart enough to use it well -- but it's extremely hard to do so, as that requires striking a balance between enjoying the benefits today and putting off that enjoyment by reinvesting elsewhere and/or holding off on using up the resources too quickly. That may be easier in countries like Norway, where a very specific set of conditions exist that permit a highly socialized economy to work out. Canada is not as homogenous as Scandanavia, so it's very hard to get the same kind of cultural consensus built around making long-term decisions. That's no criticism of Canada; it's just what exists.

Aviation News Another hint at the flying-car future
For $200,000, you can get an amphibious airplane that you can stash in your garage. It's a light-sport aircraft, so it's meant to be easy to operate (the training time is half that for a regular aircraft). The wings fold, so it can be mounted on a trailer the width of a regular car, and the Icon A5 has a range of 450 miles on 20 gallons of regular unleaded gas. It has landing gear, too, so you aren't just tied to landing on water. But despite the 1,500 preorders already on the books, one has to wonder whether we're really going to see personal aircraft ever take off (pardon the pun). Even 20 hours of training is too daunting an obstacle for a huge portion of the population. A betting person might wager instead on the prospects for autonomous electric-powered aircraft that could carry about half a dozen passengers. Electric, because that would make them quieter, more reliable, and less polluting than engine-driven aircraft. Autonomous, because computers are already quite capable of autopiloting every stage of flight already (so why bother training people to do it?). And sized for enough passengers (probably 6 to 10) to make it profitable for someone to own and operate the aircraft as a service to go between secondary markets that are well below the demand sizes necessary to justify regular scheduled commercial aircraft. But if people knew there were flights taking off every 60 minutes between, for instance, Des Moines and Kansas City, then a scheduled air-bus-like service could be economically attractive.

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September 17, 2015

Business and Finance No change in interest rates, decides the Federal Reserve
This tightrope walk -- deciding when to reverse course on a positively stunning expansion of the money supply but not doing so before there's actual inflation to counteract. Money still isn't moving. And it seems like the Fed sees it that way, too.

Computers and the Internet Amazon is pushing a new $99 Amazon Fire TV box
Undoubtedly seeking to steal thunder from Apple TV. Oh, and now they're dropping the price of the 7" color-screen Kindle Fire with WiFi and 8 Gb of storage to $49. It might be noted that the regular Kindle is $79.

Computers and the Internet Twitter claims it reaches more people than Facebook does
A stretch, to be sure.

News GM will pay $900 million in settlement over faulty cars
They had ignition switches that could shut down while a car was running.

News Dog saves drowning boy, then gets help
Your cat wouldn't do that

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

September 16, 2015

The United States of America Some women who belong on US currency

Threats and Hazards Journalist: "Stop blaming the media for Donald Trump"
But there are at least two things wrong with that analysis: First, Donald Trump is a monster that is entirely the creation of a star-struck media complex. He has been since at least the 1980s. He can easily seem like a big deal to people in New York City, and that's where much of the nation's media narrative is driven. They mistake his chutzpah for actual success, and fawn over him like teenagers at a rock concert. (The truly, truly successful businesspeople typically avoid ostentation and excess attention to their work because they benefit from a subtle touch. Trump is nothing but a hype man.) The second problem is that the level of deference to Trump exhibited by some journalists is excessive to the point of irresponsibility. Unfortunately, most journalists aren't also business majors -- so they don't really know what questions to ask about what really matters. But because Trump can't stop telling them that he's "really rich", those who aren't sophisticated enough to objectively evaluate his claims are at high risk of falling for the (self-serving) legend.

Threats and Hazards Another civil war that deserves attention
Syria isn't the only place with strife, civilians on the run, and terrible atrocities taking place. Burundi is in a similar predicament.

Business and Finance A flywheel for oil production
Prices are low, so oil drillers aren't thrilled -- but they can't exactly shut down, because most producers have to rely on maintaining cash flow to service their debts and keep from going broke. Stopping production altogether is a non-option. Even when production actually costs them money, some will keep going because the costs of shutting down are so high. So now they're storing oil in tanks on St. Lucia, awaiting a day with higher prices.

Business and Finance AB InBev wants to buy out SABMiller
That's a lot of beer

Computers and the Internet Facebook wants in on that virtual-assistant action
"Facebook M" looks like it's out to compete with Apple's Siri and Google Now and Microsoft Cortana

September 15, 2015

Science and Technology Intel won't sponsor Science Talent Search anymore

Science and Technology An interesting history of color

Business and Finance Those who save 15% of their income

Aviation News How likely is your flight to be on time?
A deep and interactive analysis by 538

Business and Finance An expanded alliance between Toyota and BMW is under consideration
In a lot of ways, the main cost a company has to face in many endeavors is that of "tuition" to learn about whatever it's doing. Some companies buy out others to pay that de facto tuition, while others spend on research and development. One of the more interesting approaches (and one that isn't used as widely as one might expect) is the joint venture.

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

September 13, 2015

Iowa Does it matter that Iowa is losing a home-grown company?
Meredith says it will retain its presence in Des Moines even after its acquisition by Media General. But promises are easy to make. As always, the best way not to lose control of something is to keep ownership of it. Maybe local ownership matters, maybe it doesn't. Some companies would be better off under management by others; some companies get ruined by a merger or acquisition.

Computers and the Internet A basic understanding of technology should really be a prerequisite for holding high office in 2015
The Hillary Clinton e-mail server story is an example of exactly why technological illiteracy is hazardous, especially when it involves high-level government officials. For instance: After months of protesting that the server had been "wiped", the Clinton camp is now backtracking and saying they don't know what "wiped" really means, and their service provider says they only deleted the files. There's a big difference between "deleted" and "wiped", and it's the kind of distinction a person should know before trying to use technical jargon to sound sophisticated -- or before taking part in any kind of lawmaking process in which it would matter to know the difference. We need literate, numerate, and technologically literate people in high office. If you can't understand the scope of a problem, you're never going to find an adequate solution.

News There's a talent
Miss Colorado skipped the conventional light entertainment routine (singing, dancing, and so on) to talk about being a nurse in the Miss America contest.

Business and Finance A large crowd of men ages 25 to 54 has dropped out of the workforce
That could pose a long-term hazard to growth, as well as to political and social stability

Threats and Hazards The terrorism threat remains

September 12, 2015

Business and Finance What share China consumes of some of the world's major products

Health New cancer research suggests chasing the type of mutation, not the site of the tumor in the body

Business and Finance Goldman Sachs thinks $20-a-barrel oil could happen

News Far-left-winger wins leadership election for the UK Labour Party

News Why some teenagers make jokes about 9/11

September 11, 2015

Business and Finance Asking economists to forecast recessions is an exercise in hilarity
Knowing that something is likely to occur is one thing. Betting on when it will happen is a huge mistake. Brilliant people with lots of their own money on the line have lost big by trying to guess economic cycles. That's because it's not a rational process -- it's very much an outcome driven by human psychology.

Science and Technology Ten automakers agree to make automatic emergency braking a standard feature
This is how the self-piloted car is going to come about -- not in one big revolution, but in iterative improvements to our safety. Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo are all committed. The schedule is yet to be finalized between the automakers and the US Department of Transportation.

Threats and Hazards Fairfield police were "lawful" in using deadly force
Two officers fired on a car when the driver tried to run over one of them. Anyone who has the intention of running over a police officer deserves to get shot (at least karmically). However, the fact there were two other people in the car, including a juvenile -- compounded by the fact the police DIDN'T HIT THEIR MARK -- should be deeply troubling. If you can't hit your target, DON'T SHOOT. If they missed their mark, they could just as easily have hit one of the passengers. What if they had killed the kid?

Aviation News The guy who ruined air travel last fall gets a dozen years in prison
He cut cables and lit a fire at the air-traffic control facility serving Chicago before he tried to kill himself. He lived and the facility was badly damaged. Prosecutors said $100 million in losses resulted.

Computers and the Internet Is it real or is it Photoshop?
A 25-picture test

September 10, 2015

News President Obama wants 10,000 Syrian refugees to be admitted to the US in the next fiscal year
We could probably handle many more than that -- and morally, we probably should

Business and Finance Nobody wants to be around for a hard landing of China's economy
But don't be surprised if there's some serious pain as the laws of economic physics come to bear on the fast-growing market. Despite the rapid growth rates that have been achieved there, when China's premier says things like "we need to take targeted measures to resist downward pressure on the economy at the same time we need to build momentum for sustainable and healthy economic growth", he's only saying things that sound superficially good. The truth of the matter is that when politicians think they have the kind of power that the central government in China imagines that it has over economic growth, then they're only kidding themselves. The only thing a government can really do is remove impediments to growth by encouraging free markets and the rule of law, while reserving their interventions for those limited cases in which the market fails miserably. But that's not what the Chinese government is trying to do -- they're trying to keep up a specific rate of growth while exercising all kinds of measures to manipulate outcomes, like trying to prop up the stock market, micro-manage the currency exchange rate, and keep control of the "commanding heights" of the economy through state ownership of enterprises. That kind of stuff can work in the short term to kick-start growth -- authoritarian measures seem to have done well in small economies like South Korea and Singapore, but only for a limited time. The hangover that inevitably results once the economy grows beyond the reasonable capabilities of the government to manipulate (and China's economy is far beyond that point) is terribly painful (remember the Asian financial crisis at the turn of the century?). If you had $1,000 to invest right now (or even $1,000,000), you would stand much better odds for the next 25 years by investing in an index of the American market rather than an index of the Chinese market. A command economy (or even a mixed one) can only grow for so long before the inevitable inefficiencies, human errors, and pricing distortions catch up with the system and whack it in the kneecaps.

Computers and the Internet Apple to make iOS 9 available as a free update on September 16
The company also announced the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus (coming at the end of the month), a new Apple TV, and an $800 iPad with a $100 stylus.

Iowa Enrollment and lots of other figures rising nicely at UNI

Business and Finance The visibility of economic inequality may actually make people behave badly

September 9, 2015

Business and Finance Department of Labor proposes radical expansion of overtime eligibility
Anyone making $50,440 a year or less could not be exempted from receiving overtime pay. As always, the law of unintended consequences will rear its ugly head if this is implemented -- employers are terrified of a massive increase in overtime liability, so they might just end up hiring more part-timers or temporary workers instead of giving additional work to their existing employees. And don't be surprised if a massive wave of lawsuits ensues if the rules actually go into place. As has been too often the case with this administration, good intentions are advanced with little or no acknowledgment of economic reality, which will actually make it very likely that the people whom the government wants to "help" would actually find themselves penalized. Unintended consequences are very real, even if the people making the decisions think they're smarter than everyone else.

Computers and the Internet Federal government plans to indict hackers from China

Computers and the Internet Why the government wants access to your text messages

Aviation News British Airways plane catches fire in Las Vegas

News One-paragraph book review: "Kaizen: The key to Japan's competitive success"

September 8, 2015

Computers and the Internet Facebook changes its "Pages" service to try appealing to small businesses
No doubt this will spur Google to try to promote more heavily its services in the same market

Humor and Good News Cubs manager Joe Maddon on goal-setting

News Why you should donate instead of feigning outrage over a dead lion
The work of the African Wildlife Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for the people of Africa -- and thus by improving their economic prospects, reducing the incentive to do things like killing lions illegally. Taking care of people can also mean taking care of wildlife.

Business and Finance China has a lot of debt, but not in excess of assets
Interesting note: For all the talk about the tough times in China's stock market, stocks are only about 2% of household assets there.

Iowa Meredith and Media General will merge
And thus another Des Moines institution gives way to someplace larger

September 7, 2015

Business and Finance When publicly-funded arenas go bad
Nobody should be surprised when they don't pay for themselves

News Tips for personal productivity

News Phrases to use with children to develop their resilience

Socialism Doesn't Work Paul Krugman and Donald Trump agree on bad economics
Krugman thinks that government intervention has reduced the unemployment rate and sees a kindred spirit in Trump. Both believe far too much in their own hype.

News UK to accept 20,000 refugees from Syria
The situation is at historic proportions. Germany is taking 31,000 and France will take in 24,000.

September 6, 2015

Threats and Hazards Perverse incentives can deliver despicable results
In China, "It is better to hit to kill than to hit and injure" because the incentives are on the side of killing a pedestrian rather than causing injury. The costs of burial are less than the costs of compensating the injured person for their medical care. Always look to the incentives created by laws, rules, culture, and other systems to anticipate the likely outcomes or to explain ones that seem perverse.

Computers and the Internet The new Google logo
There are things that the new "identity" does well, but the logo itself is nothing impressive

Computers and the Internet Facebook Messenger is now the number-two app on US smartphones
Only the Facebook application itself is more widely used. Forcing people off the messaging service built into the broader Facebook app and into the dedicated service certainly gave them another product to tout -- though it doesn't necessarily mean they have any broader total reach than before.

News A thoughtful angle on the Syrian refugee situation
People are escaping war by boat and on foot. Pope Francis has gone so far as to implore every Catholic parish in Europe to take in a refugee family.

News One-paragraph book review: "Devils on the Deep Blue Sea"

September 5, 2015

Business and Finance Startups are wildly overrated
Fortune: "The companies in the US that have a high impact on job growth aren't newest firms -- they're companies that are at least 15 to 20 years old on average"

Weather and Disasters Why Miami isn't ready for another hurricane
Low elevation, high population density and growth, and porous bedrock

Humor and Good News Barenaked Ladies cover of "In the Air Tonight"

Humor and Good News The Cubs are at last consistently fun to watch
(Video) Cubs fans have waited far too long to get players who crush grand slams

September 3, 2015

News A mass crisis, summed up in one little person's tragedy
If your reaction to the death of a child who drowned while trying to escape Syria is anything but heartbreak, you need to readjust your thinking

News Why Europe has so many refugees trying to get in
Human-caused disasters in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and Northern Africa are leaving tens of thousands on the run

Science and Technology The near-term outlook for electric cars
They're coming soon to a mass market

Business and Finance Why Berkshire Hathaway reinvests all of its profits at MidAmerican
A guaranteed 11% return on equity is a huge incentive to reinvest. That's contributed heavily to Iowa's wind-generation boom.

Business and Finance Where are America's STEM jobs, and how much do they pay?

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

September 2, 2015

Threats and Hazards It's time to be clear about the shocking magnitude of the Syrian humanitarian disaster
2,500 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this summer. If six Boeing 747 jumbo jets had crashed this summer, we'd be paying attention to the problem. But somehow this story is falling through the cracks. And it's not a single disaster featuring 2,500 casualties -- it's 2,500 individual calamities, including two involving innocent little boys who drowned on a Turkish beach. The pictures are absolutely heart-wrenching. But the reality is even worse. Millions of people are trying to flee ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh and a criminal government in Syria. Where is our humanity?

Business and Finance A rise in productivity
0.7% from year to year, according to the BLS. That's better than zero, but not by much.

Threats and Hazards An extremely troubling police shooting

Business and Finance The trouble with chart-watching
People who look to predict the future of business by the movements of stock prices are playing financial astrology

Humor and Good News Cartoons should be funny, not tepid

September 1, 2015

Computers and the Internet Russia and China are building databases of data stolen from American computers
A vast repository of spies and subjects is being created, it would appear

Computers and the Internet Behold the new Google logo
A triumph of over-simplification. Where's the energy in the new look? Wholly dull, milquetoast, and uninspiring.

Business and Finance The NLRB may have gone too far

Broadcasting KCRG-TV is no longer independently owned
The Gazette Co. is selling off the standalone station

Computers and the Internet LinkedIn is rolling out a new messaging service

August 30, 2015

Broadcasting Show notes - Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - August 30, 2015

August 29, 2015

Broadcasting Show notes - WHO Radio Wise Guys - August 29, 2015

August 28, 2015

News The face of refugees arriving right now in Europe
Let's not forget that millions -- literally millions -- of people are on the run in Syria. They're people, not wild animals.

Business and Finance Going to cash right now is a dumb financial move
But people are doing it in droves

Threats and Hazards 11 years in prison for supporting ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh from America
Throw the book at them

Weather and Disasters Earthquakes are inevitable. Disasters are not.
Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, a reminder: Natural disasters are inevitable. But prosperity and the discipline to use some of that surplus in order to prepare for the inevitable are two very good ways to resist suffering.

Science and Technology Consumer Reports is crazy for the Tesla Model S
Tesla got one very important thing right: They went upscale with their electric car, rather than trying to achieve mass appeal but at a cost $15,000 above the comparable non-electric cars.

August 27, 2015

Computers and the Internet Facebook claims a billion users per day

Computers and the Internet Instagram to permit portrait, landscape modes
Art is in the constraints. This does away with the biggest constraint of all on Instagram: The forced square. This will obviously please some people in the short run, but it really damages the appeal that made Instagram attractive from an artistic standpoint. Now it's just another dull way to share photos, like all the rest.

Humor and Good News Burger King brilliantly proposes "McWhopper" in the name of Peace Day
Burger King: Looks clever and fun in their proposal. Looks engaged. Nothing to lose by tweaking your larger rival. McDonald's, on the other hand, looks sanctimonious in response. But rumor has it you shouldn't try building your own McWhopper.

Business and Finance The Federal Reserve looks at different exchange rates than Wall Street
Because the relative strength of the dollar affects our imports and exports, that affects the size of the economy. So it's not a trivial distinction what the Fed uses to establish how much inflation is occurring.

Computers and the Internet Not everyone named in the Ashley Madison hack was actually trying to cheat
Apparently, the company did nothing to verify addresses -- so people may have used the addresses of others in order to evade detection

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

August 26, 2015

Business and Finance New orders for durable goods are down a lot from last year
This is a problem, especially because capital investment by businesses has also been lagging for quite a while -- and there's really just no way to escape the fact that you need things in order to make other things

Computers and the Internet Putting computers to work on behalf of education
Computers aren't a substitute for teachers -- they should be used as enhancements. But if there's an area in which we should be almost maniacally eager to improve quality, especially in ways that can reduce costs, then education surely must be it.

Business and Finance Theo Epstein is up for a contract extension in 2016
The Cubs had better show up with a blank check. His value to the franchise is incredible.

News Angela Merkel reminds Germans: Migrants are people, too
Refugees trying to escape troubles south of Europe are really just doing what any rational person would try to do

Humor and Good News Plagiarized national anthems

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August 25, 2015

Science and Technology Selfies in the voting booth
On one hand, an expression of free speech. On the other, a risk to the secrecy of the ballot. Who can tell for sure that a photo of a completed ballot wasn't coerced?

Broadcasting Dish won't turn into a major cellphone carrier after all
The FCC has gotten in the way

Health Japan has so many people turning 100, it's busting the government's gift budget

Business and Finance Is the Chinese government really backing off intervention in the stock market?

Business and Finance NYSE Rule 48
How the stock exchange tries to put the brakes on an erratic market

August 24, 2015

Business and Finance Watch as the Chinese stock market enters a meltdown

Threats and Hazards 50 North Korean subs have left their bases

Business and Finance China's government can't prop up the stock market any longer
The market is a natural force much bigger than our power to coerce it effectively in most big cases. Britain's stock market took a big hit, too. Tremendous buying opportunities exist in the stock market when people lose their minds like this.

Science and Technology The tools Hyundai touts behind its convoy of cars driving themselves
The self-driving car isn't going to arrive all at once, like Google has been preparing to offer. It's going to arrive iteratively -- step-by-step. Parking assistance and lane management tools beget still better things and more serious overrides of human behavior. As comfort levels increase with each step, humans will eventually cede control of the car altogether to the car itself, and thank God. We are the weak link in the chain.

News Cop draws gun on man apparently just standing in his own yard
It's not that police officers are inherently bad or eager to power-trip, but some are -- and the consequences when they can't demonstrate adequate self-control are so grave that the rest of us need to be sure that real civilian oversight is taking place. We should also be recording and sharing evidence of misbehavior, because it matters.

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