Gongol.com Archives: March 2008
Brian Gongol

March 25, 2008

Water News Colorado salmonella outbreak sickens more than 200 people

The American Way Life is getting better all the time
Thanks, mainly, to free trade, capitalism, and the technology that those two things encourage. The United Nations concludes that "People around the world are becoming healthier, wealthier, better educated, more peaceful, and increasingly connected and they are living longer, but at the same time the world is more corrupt, congested, warmer, and increasingly dangerous." The problems with corruption and danger can hardly be blamed on trade and free markets; free markets by nature depend upon a fair rule of law in order to function, and they certainly don't reward danger (which, after all, puts capital at risk -- Bill Gates and Warren Buffett sure aren't running around robbing banks or conducting terrorist attacks). As for congestion and warming, those are matters for argument and debate -- but the healthier, wealthier, and better-educated parts all seem to suggest that answers can be found. Related: Some remarkable structures are under construction around the world right now.

Humor and Good News "Chocolate Rain" as performed by Darth Vader's little brother

Humor and Good News Man steals donut truck, takes it on high-speed chase
That's the kind of crime Iowans are normally accustomed to

Science and Technology A view of Earth from Mars

Health Researchers think they've found a cure for macular degeneration
Which is great news, considering it's the leading cause of blindness in the Western world. Related: How safe are nanotech food additives that some people are speculating about right now? It seems like the jury is still out, from a scientific perspective -- which means that the people in government making the rules about it need to be as scientifically-literate as they can be. But does anyone think that Senator Kennedy is sitting down with a copy of Scientific American every Thursday?

Socialism Doesn't Work Medicare and Social Security are still on track to go broke...soon
Medicare becomes actuarially unsound in 2013. That's just five years away. And it's going to crush the US budget if we don't do something about it soon. This is a huge emergency, and sadly, almost no one other than the former comptroller general (who just resigned from his job in order to lead a private-sector think tank dedicated to sounding the alarm on the fiscal emergency) is talking about it.

Science and Technology Canadian popular opinion swings against oilsands
Half of the country wants a moratorium on new oilsands projects to prevent environmental damage. That ought to be important news to Americans, since we import more crude oil from Canada than from any other country.

Threats and Hazards More megacities? Please say it isn't so.
The research team at the McKinsey Global Institute has advised the government of China to pursue a plan of building "supercities" of 25 million people or more, arguing that such a policy will be the best for the environment and the economy. That hardly seems to be true; based on urban development patterns in Europe and the United States, diminishing marginal returns seem to settle in at population clusters of about a half a million to a million. That's large enough to support a research university (like ISU in the Ames/Des Moines area or UNL in the Omaha/Lincoln region), and large enough to sustain industry clusters and significant companies, but not so large as to create insufferable traffic problems or absurd concentration of pollution. The problem with megacities is that the larger the administrative unit, the less accountable the administrators for what's actually happening. That's why city-county mergers in the US have tended to go rather badly. China already has a colossal problem with environmental quality, and much of the problem stems from the fact that no one is really accountable for the damage that is being done. The Three Gorges Dam project, for instance, has created a huge environmental toll -- and a stupefying human cost as well -- but it's exactly what we should expect from a very powerful central government with no accountability to the local residents. Arguing that China would be better off with huge cities with their own unaccountable administrations seems to ignore the profound damage that is likely to cost. Not everything works better when it's bigger. Smaller communities can be much more efficient -- as well as more livable.

Threats and Hazards What if your money could watch you?
Electronics can now be built on a scale that is invisible to the naked eye. What if those electronics were outfitted with surveillance tools and implanted in things like currency? Imagine the power that would offer authoritarian governments. Or just ones that get a little snoopy. Researchers are already turning insects into remote-controlled spies, so there's little or nothing to suggest that further surveillance trickery isn't on the way. Americans are already being trained to quietly accept the indignity of red-light cameras, which are very bad at preventing crashes but very good at raising non-tax revenues for the governments that put them up.

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