Gongol.com Archives: December 2006
Brian Gongol

December 28, 2006

Graphics Rio from Space

The American Way Should America have universal 401(k) accounts?
The thought goes that by giving every American a mandatory investment vehicle, we could offset future expenses in welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare. The main problem with most Social Security privatization plans is that they offer too few choices to the owners -- which opens the door to abuse and cronyism. If all people can invest in are the DJIA stocks or the S&P 500, then that's just going to inflate those stock prices and penalize smaller firms and private companies. As a means of improving the welfare of poor people, just about any plan to increase capital ownership is preferable over raising the minimum wage.

Science and Technology How the polar bear is changing environmental policy
Strong evidence is emerging that they're losing their icy habitat; if that's happening, it means the government has to do things to prevent them from becoming further endangered. That may mean policy changes about global warming.

Health Getting doctors to wash their hands cuts mortality rates
Some infections that cost $45,000 to treat can be avoided through better hand-washing, so it seems like a pretty efficient way of cutting medical costs

Agriculture Farmers planting fewer peanuts and way more soybeans
Peanut crop to fall 31% from last year, but soybean yield is up by 5% to set a new record

Computers and the Internet Time's "50 Coolest Websites" of 2006

Threats and Hazards Incoming House Intelligence Committee chair turns out to be pretty stupid
It's one thing if Joe Sixpack doesn't know whether Al Qaeda is made up of Sunni or Shia Muslims, but if the chair of the House Intelligence Committee doesn't know, then God help us all. A bit of parochial ignorance is sufferable perhaps with the individual voter, but certainly not with elected leaders charged with making policy.

Broadcasting Radio show notes from this afternoon on WHO Radio

The United States of America Urbanization means Arizona doesn't have a "cowboy legislature" anymore
Only two members out of the state's 90-member legislature are still active ranchers; that's a big change from the 1960s, when they had a dozen or more. The amount of time state legislators spend doing their governmental work varies quite a bit -- some places like California pay their legislators well and make it a full-time job; some places like Nevada have "citizen legislatures" where the pay is low, staffs are small, and the legislative year short. Iowa and Arizona are examples of states that are stuck in the middle -- where most legislators have to have another full-time job, but spend much of the year at the capitol. That middle-of-the-road approach is probably the worst of all, since it means that only certain categories of people can afford (either in terms of job flexibility or income) to take the time to serve in the statehouse. Much like low-paid jury service, that skews the outcomes in favor of certain types of people and against other interests. Members of Iowa's legislature, for instance, make $21,381 a year, which is well below most professional salaries...but since they have to spend all of January, February, March, and April in session, that pretty well keeps them out of other regular work during that time.

Aviation News Home video of a carrier landing
Nice sunny day. Hard to imagine what it's like in inclement weather.

Water News Patterson to supply huge flood-control pumps for New Orleans

Humor and Good News At one time, coach-makers were at the cutting edge of technology