Gongol.com Archives: January 2007
Brian Gongol

January 31, 2007

News UK lays down the law vis-a-vis the EU constitution
No bringing it back up for at least two years, or Great Britain will veto anything sent its way

The United States of America The huge wood-and-glass building on the west side of Omaha
It's the Holy Family Shrine. Significant because it's distractingly obvious off the south side of I-80 near Gretna.

Broadcasting "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" creates terrorism scare
Cartoon Network put out magnetic lights that people mistook for explosive devices in places like Boston. Whoops.

Iowa Limited mail-voter bill under consideration
HSB 34 would allow towns of fewer than 200 people to conduct municipal elections solely by mail. Surveys in Oregon suggest that people like voting by mail, and some groups (including young voters and women) tend to vote more with mail-based elections. Related: HF 53 would require all votes regarding local-option sales taxes to take place at the general election. That would be an outstanding choice. As for requiring paper records of electronic ballots, as HF 71 would require, it seems to make more sense just to use optically-scanned paper ballots. No mess, no fuss, and all the speed of electronic balloting.

Iowa Jail time and a fine for political telemarketing
Iowa HF 68 would impose fines and jail time for political telemarketers who don't disclose certain information during the call, including who paid for the call. Unintended consequence alert: If passed, this would only exacerbate the problem of soft-money groups that are unaccountable to the candidates they're hoping to help elect. This kind of a law could hardly end well; if passed, count on political telemarketing calls from India. Also kind of scary is HF 56, the keg registration law. No, really: If made into law, it would require anyone buying a keg of beer in Iowa to show ID -- and the store would have to keep that information on file for 90 days. It's one thing to try to prevent underage drinking, but why infringe on the privacy of adult beer-drinkers?

Iowa The value of a child
Iowa's SSB 1138 would make it possible for parents to "recover for the expense and actual loss" upon the death of a child. Those losses include both companionship and service, so a case could be made for recovering for the loss of, say, lawn-mowing services. What's confusing here is why a law is necessary; aren't Iowa parents able to sue for this sort of thing already? It's not like forensic economics is anything new. But assuming the law hasn't allowed this before, the bill is a good idea -- it establishes that life does have a measurable value, and children's lives are valuable just like adults'. Related: The 2007 legislative scorecard.

Iowa Truth in campaign ads? Maybe.
Iowa HF 167 would impose civil penalties for false statements with "actual malice" against any candidate for any public office. The question is whether additional penalties for false statements in campaign ads are really necessary when libel laws already exist. And what about parody? Possibly related: SSB 1131 would make choke-holds illegal.

Iowa Do we need a center for governing excellence?
Iowa HSB 9 would create a "center for governing excellence" and a "local government innovation commission." It's laudable that public officials want to talk about making things better, but are such animals really necessary? Committees rarely make things better; individuals do. And with publications like Governing Magazine already on the market, a state-funded commission just seems sort of redundant. Can't local officials just call each other or exchange notes on best practices by e-mail once in a while?

Socialism Doesn't Work Change your lightbulbs or go to jail
California legislator wants to ban conventional conventional incandescent bulbs within five years. Two problems: First, the light produced by compact fluorescents is hard on the eyes. Second, no matter how big the energy savings, it's incredibly inefficient for government to ban things like light bulbs. If the bulbs really are miraculous money-savers, people will install them voluntarily -- or power companies will offer incentives for people to use them. But if people aren't busting down the doors to buy them, then there's a good chance that the poor quality of light given off is annoying enough that people want to avoid them.

Threats and Hazards Ahmadinejad's closest allies: American hotheads
His domestic popularity is eroding, so endless saber-rattling is about the only thing that keeps him lively

Computers and the Internet What's new in Windows Vista
Not much to get worked up about, it would seem

News French presidential campaign possibly weirder than the American
One candidate is holding rallies in London -- because 300,000 French citizens live there. For all the oddities of the campaign here, it seems unlikely that US Presidential candidates will be showing up in, say, Rome, in order to win the election.

Humor and Good News Lovie Smith: A really good guy
He's not only sublimely modest, he's also the type of person to look out for the mothers of his players. Go Bears!

Socialism Doesn't Work Governor proposes taxpayers spend $25 million without reward
Governor Culver has proposed spending $25 million in the coming fiscal year to create the "Iowa Power Fund," a centerpiece of his election campaign. The problem is that he plans to spend this money to "match private investments in energy ventures" and encourage the growth of Iowa's renewable-fuels industry. But these kind of subsidies are a no-win deal: Either the industry is in dire straits and can't survive without subsidies (in which case, why should taxpayers have to bail them out?)...or it's doing quite well on its own, and the subsidies are nothing more than a corrupt and redundant transfer of money from taxpayers to those well-connected enough to get the subsidies. Since the ethanol industry in Iowa is growing at a phenomenal rate, it looks like the second case, and it doesn't make sense to make taxpayers pony up. Something seems really wrong about asking hog farmers to pay taxes in order to subsidize the ethanol industry, which is consuming so much corn it's giving them problems by raising their major input costs. The renewable-fuels industry doesn't need any more taxpayer dollars.

Graphics Graphic of the day: Dash One

Water News Third-party testing says UV filters perform better than advertised

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