Gongol.com Archives: January 2007
Brian Gongol

January 18, 2007

Iowa McCain-Feingold comes to Iowa
HF 36 would limit the amount anyone (or any group) in Iowa could contribute to state-level political campaigns. It specifically cuts off both cash and in-kind contributions -- at very low levels, like $500 in a primary race for the Iowa House. Here's a lesson in unintended consequences, though: What's the value of an "in-kind" mention on someone's website, for instance? It's easy to quantify the value of a mention on a given website, since it's possible through services like Google's AdSense program to buy advertising space on sites like weblogs. What's a mention (or an endorsement) on Krusty Konservative or State 29 or Gordon Fischer's site worth? The bill could be interpreted to suggest that any Iowan with a website and an opinion would have to watch what they say and how often just to stay within the rules.

Iowa Fight over the UI Presidency makes its way to the Legislature
One of the big fights of the last year has been the Iowa Board of Regents' inability to pick a new president for the University of Iowa. They claim, in part, that the problem is that everyone wants to know who the candidates are, and that the candidates insist on secrecy (since they're usually working elsewhere and don't want to tip off their employers that they're on the market). Now SSB 1042 would change some of the rules for open-meetings laws as they relate to issues like hiring -- but the bill says the individual in question has to request a closed-door meeting in writing...which naturally places their request in the public record and reveals who they are. Not that the bill is a bad idea, though: It's just that the Regents aren't going to be happy with it.

Agriculture Half a million people are starving, but we only want pictures of Britney Spears
A persistent streak of repeat droughts in Uganda is putting 500,000 people's lives at risk due to crop failure. Meanwhile, the total cost of war operations in Iraq has hit $1.2 trillion. But Britney Spears remains for the 189th straight day one of the top-ranked searches on Yahoo. One might wonder if, perhaps, someone's asleep at the wheel.

Water News West Des Moines building water tower #5

Threats and Hazards Attorney General makes baffling case against judicial review
Suggests that judges who think domestic surveillance needs some separation of powers are "judicial activists." But at least a hint of separation of powers re-emerges as a court will supervise domestic surveillance.

Business and Finance The Chicago Tribune/LA Times merger was a mistake
In part because the Chandler family (which owned the Times) is really impatient and a little bit whiny

Humor and Good News The monkey who picks stocks better than some money managers
Related: Iowa HF 43 would require all Iowa high school students to take a course in financial literacy in order to graduate. Now that's a state-level education mandate that makes sense...unlike SSB 1036, which would require all students to go to the dentist. Dental checkups are a sensible idea, but they're hardly a public-health issue like immunizations.

News British troops attempt a legend-making rescue

Iowa Iowa Senate to consider repeal of English-only law
(SSB 1043) An English-only rule is a strange thing anyway in a state with places like Pella and Holstein, where the local signage is written in Dutch and German, respectively.

Threats and Hazards Atomic Scientists says it's "five minutes to midnight"
"Several factors are driving the turn to nuclear power--aging nuclear reactors, rising energy demands, a desire to diversify energy portfolios and reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and the need to reduce carbon emissions that cause climate change. Yet expansion of nuclear power increases the risks of nuclear proliferation."

Humor and Good News Most people aren't jerks...
...we humans just tend to over-react to others' incompetence. Or something like that.

News Woman loses life over a $250 gaming console
Stupid radio contest meets some people's inability to know when to say when

Computers and the Internet Why no one seems to care about Windows Vista

Iowa Legislature marks 150th anniversary of Sioux City

Weather and Disasters Gale-force winds pound Europe
The hurricane-force storm called "Kyrill" strikes Germany and the UK with the strongest winds in almost 20 years.

Graphics School's Closed

The United States of America Will President Bush surprise everyone with a new attitude on global warming?
Speculation is afoot that he might call for a major policy move in the State of the Union address. The recent decline in gas prices (and the persistence in the decline since August) may mean the door is open to the imposition of some policy like a Pigovian tax on energy consumption. But Pigovian taxes have limits -- sometimes they just create more trouble than they're worth, as when high cigarette taxes lead to black-market sales that give organized crime a new way to make money. And what happens if, as in the 1970s, political instability in the world's oil-producing regions (like Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Nigeria today) creates a real shortage in energy supplies that's only compounded by a tax policy intended to wean us off energy supplies like petroleum? What about offering inducement prizes for some of the discoveries that could cut pollution and/or reduce energy consumption?

Health American cancer deaths decreasing
Both in absolute figures and in terms of death rates -- but the overall decline hasn't helped blacks, who have abnormally high death rates due to cancer

Science and Technology No more open-source peer reviews in "Nature"

News Idiotic comments on TV's "Big Brother" create diplomatic tiff between UK and India
Prime Minister Blair's spokesperson says, "The message should go out loud and clear that we are a tolerant country and we will not tolerate racism in any way." Of course, there's still the racist British National Party, which has won in some local elections.

Humor and Good News No joke: The Washington Post will help distribute The Onion in DC
It's almost like CBS News getting into a serious relationship with the "Daily Show"

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