Gongol.com Archives: 2018 Weekly Archives

Brian Gongol


November 25, 2018

The United States of America Enlarge the House of Representatives

The New York Times editorial board joins the chorus: The House of Representatives is too small, and by enlarging it we can do a lot to improve our governance. They back a modest increase in size -- growing from 435 members to 593. But we could easily split every district in two and still not reach an unwieldly stage. Smaller districts would make elections more competitive and diminish the effects of gerrymandering (in those places where it happens, which isn't everywhere). It could breathe some needed life into the intellectual capital of Congress by diversifying the backgrounds of the membership (not just by conventional demographics, but also by occupational background). It would make members of Congress easier to know -- and thus, one would hope, more responsive. And the actual budgetary cost would be trivial compared to the full budget of the United States. Supposing each Congressional office operates on a budget (including salaries) of around $2 million a year, even doubling the size of the House (and keeping every member's staff at its original size) would cost $870 million, or about $2.67 per American. The current limit is arbitrarily small, and it isn't consistent with the Founders' intent: In Federalist Paper No. 77, it was noted of the House that "in half a century it may consist of three or four hundred persons." They knew it would need to grow over time. It hasn't grown in a century. With too many people embracing ideas for changing the Senate in ways that would thoroughly corrupt the basic premises of the Federal system, enlarging the House is a sound plan with meaningful benefits.

Business and Finance Oh, the offers made (to, not by) Amazon!

What Amazon is getting out of New York and Arlington, VA, is a lot. A whole lot. And they also know how much hundreds of other cities would have been willing to give them.


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November 24, 2018

Business and Finance What's behind the plunge in oil prices?

A whole bunch of factors, but a surge in US shale oil production, growing stockpiles, and high production levels from many suppliers (some of whom are intent on cutbacks) have all contributed to shifting prices lower.

Threats and Hazards British academic sentenced to life in prison for "spying" on UAE

Matthew Hedges says he was researching his Ph.D. in security. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, one wonders whether anyone who might be out to study the critical topic of security could do so if they had to fear for their own security from the states where they need to do their research.

Iowa Varsity Theater in Des Moines to close at year-end

The owner announced that the one-screen theater on the edge of the Drake University campus is shutting down on December 30th.



November 23, 2018

News Moral imagination

A definition from Jacqueline Novogratz: "[T]he willingness to respond to the plight of others. To envision how to address suffering and injustice."

The United States of America Book review: "MacArthur at War"

A demanding, definitive, and enormous examination of the legend of Douglas MacArthur



November 22, 2018

Science and Technology "Innovation is the real driver of progress"

We are fortunate to live materially better lives which are far beyond the wildest dreams of our predecessors, largely thanks to their hard work. We ought to be dedicated to doing the same for our own descendants.

Humor and Good News Everyone has heroes, and it's hard to know when you might be one of them

A personal and important story about being decent and humane



November 21, 2018

Threats and Hazards When the President challenges the Chief Justice

As long as everyone remembers that the branches of government are co-equal, the Republic should survive. But we've had better moments as a country than one in which the head of the Supreme Court has to defend the independent judiciary. If nothing else, perhaps, we have the opportunity to be reminded of the central importance of the tripartite Constitutional order.

The United States of America How Ronald Reagan laughed off his assassination attempt

Not because it wasn't serious (it assuredly was), but because a sense of humor put Reagan in control of the situation

News A better way to navigate hospitals

Being in a hospital is usually stressful enough; making one's way wherever they're going shouldn't add needless stress to the experience

News What's the news?

News is anything that materially changes our understanding of the status quo

News The real heroes of education

The educators who think their first job is to get a lesson across to students, no exceptions

Weather and Disasters The incredibly destructive Camp Fire

It's destroyed more structures than the next six most-destructive California wildfires combined


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November 19, 2018

The United States of America "No one nests in a hotel room"

An observation from Ben Sasse that dovetails with the rule from economics that nobody washes a rented car. Ownership matters not just in the material sense, but in the civic one, too.