Gongol.com Archives: December 2006
Brian Gongol

December 14, 2006

Humor and Good News "You pretty much just pull the trigger"

News Camp Dodge being used for immigration detention
The immigration raids at a bunch of Swift meat-packing plants may have been effective at capturing a bunch of undocumented workers, but they're also turning into an absolutely lousy public-relations move. The whole image of Homeland Security buses with blocked-out windows going in and out of a military facility is just a little too creepy, and a whole lot of leaving kids without their parents for a couple of days straight is just plain stupid. A ham-handed enforcement action on immigration is hardly the most effective way to manage America's borders; we need a much more thoughtful approach, including more opportunities for people to work here legally.

Business and Finance Confused about income inequality?
Apparently, so are some very smart economists. But the real rub is that people don't tend to care as much about inequality per se as they do about whether their own incomes are rising. My neighbor might make twice as much as I do, but as long as I'm getting a 10% raise next year, my life is better off. It's when things go the opposite way -- as when high inflation kicks in or when massive job losses take place -- that people really start to complain. If the real issue were strictly net inequality, then lots of upper-middle-class Americans would be incensed about people making $1 million or more a year. But they generally aren't.

Humor and Good News The Surveillance-Camera Players

Humor and Good News Would an NFL player really cheat in fantasy football?

News Red Cross says world ignores plight of Africans caught in natural disasters
The best life-saving tool of all: Economic growth

Iowa One of Iowa's regents resigns
It's just one member of the Board of Regents, but Tom Bedell has plenty of complaints both for the board and for the faculty and student senates at the University of Iowa. The Regents have managed to make a search for the next U of I president way too complicated.

The American Way Milton Friedman's "Free to Choose" free online
Video starts upon loading the page

News There's something really embarrassing about DC
That the nation's capital is also so chock-full of violent crime that it's a test bed for new technology to track gunshots is pretty sorry

Business and Finance National Federation for the Blind says don't change currency just for them
The USA Today editorial board wants the government to go about replacing the $1 bill with a coin in order to comply with a judge's ruling in favor of the American Council of the Blind to provide "paper currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired" users. But the problem is that the ruling makes law without sufficient regard to technology: Portable currency readers are already available for under $350, and assuming that there are five to ten million blind or very visually-impaired people in the US (that seems to be the generally-accepted figure), then it would be costly to purchase a reader for each of them -- perhaps on the range of $2 billion at the high end (assuming [a] no one has one today, [b] the government would buy five million readers, and [c] that no more economical alternative technology is available -- three pretty harsh assumptions). In reality, an estimated 1.3 million Americans are legally blind.

But at the same time, the direct costs of redesigning the currency to include cues for low-vision users are estimated at about $300 million, plus another $100 million in public education, plus another $200 to $300 to retrofit each of the estimated 1.4 million vending machines, for a total of at least another $300 million. None of that includes the hidden costs of helping people make the transition, nor does it account for the durability of the proposed changes to the currency (raised figures, for instance, could be worn down over time). The National Federation for the Blind gets it right: If it makes sense to redesign currency for several reasons, then so be it. But it's not particularly efficient to redesign all currency to solve a limited problem.

Graphics Square Dance

The American Way For-profit charities
It may become necessary in the long run to make all "charities" obey the laws (and tax consequences) of profit-making institutions. It seems unlikely that in the long run, the public will easily tolerate the abuse of some "charities" that have been linked to terrorism, even though the practice has been around for a while. But once some "charities" start losing their protected status, the courts will likely have difficulty discriminating between legitimate non-profit organizations and illegitimate ones.

Humor and Good News Innumerable tricks for baking bread
Explains everything from how to get a better crust to why loaves spread too much

Water News Wyoming snowpack persistently too low