Gongol.com Archives: October 2005
Brian Gongol

Socialism Doesn't Work (10.13.2005)
Proposed Irish Ban on "Super Trucks" a Case Study in Unintended Consequences
In trying to save a little bit on direct costs (damage to low bridges, for instance), such a law may end up costing much, much more in indirect costs (in greater pollution and higher fuel demand)

Health (10.13.2005)
Adults May Need Whooping Cough Vaccines Again
1,000,000 cases a year in the US. And there's a bird flu scare underway, too.

Weather and Disasters (10.13.2005)
Dismal Relief Effort Following India/Pakistan Earthquake
Related: Donor fatigue is kicking in across the country, as people get worn out from contributing to a series of relief efforts. Though it's probably rational to donate to disaster relief, the risk of donor fatigue suggests charities need to act more like insurance companies over the long run, smoothing out the differences between low-need and high-need periods.

Broadcasting (10.13.2005)
Too Much Anderson Cooper on CNN

Business and Finance (10.13.2005)
Rising Inflation Rate Spooks Ireland
Annual rate at 3% is enough to start interfering with smooth growth, especially with sectoral spikes of 20% or more

Threats to Western Civilization (10.13.2005)
Entire Russian City Raided

Weather and Disasters (10.13.2005)
Weather Channel Official Position on Global Warming
Bottom line: Warming has occurred, and there is "strong evidence" that human activity is responsible for much of it. Makes a very good point that much attention is paid to the macro scale, but the real story is on the micro scale -- how very local activities influence very local patterns, like the coastal erosion that make Hurricane Katrina so disastrous in New Orleans.

Weather and Disasters (10.13.2005)
Revealing Satellite Imagery of Katrina Damage

We All Need a Little Humor (10.13.2005)
Teen Girl Squad #10
The "Sweet Someteenth" Party

The United States of America (10.13.2005)
White Sox "Questionable" Third-Strike Play No Reason to Introduce Instant Replay
Baseball is fun precisely because it's often arbitrary. Introducing instant replay into the mix would just take all the fun out of it.

Broadcasting (10.13.2005)
Mystery Blimp Flying Around Minneapolis Turns Out to Be a TV Stunt
Ironically, it got some extra coverage on a competing station's newscast

Business and Finance (10.13.2005)
Whom to Pick for Next Fed Chair?

Computers and the Internet (10.13.2005)
US Can't Afford to Turn Over Internet Oversight to UN or Other Bodies
It was built in the US as a defense project. Everyone else is just a free rider, and some of them (like China) are clearly hostile to unrestricted universal access.

Weather and Disasters (10.13.2005)
Trying to Repopulate New Orleans
The longer the schools remain closed, the lower the probability of "full" recovery; if evacuees end up liking where their kids are going to school, they won't pull them out mid-year to return to New Orleans (especially if the city's still a mess). If they stay somewhere else through the end of the school year, then that doubles the improbability of their ever going back. A full 250,000 housing units were rendered uninhabitable; there's no way to replace them all in a reasonable period of time.

Business and Finance (10.13.2005)
Research and Development Should Perk Up During Recessions, But It Doesn't Happen
Theory suggests that if marginal profitability of additional production declines during a recession, then it's smart to spend more on R&D in anticipation of higher future profits. But nobody does it. Instead, they spend money on R&D during good times, which is needlessly disruptive (because that's when marginal profitability is highest). Similar to the case for advertising most heavily when times are slow, the case for higher R&D in down times is a little counterintuitive, but it makes sense.