Gongol.com Archives: July 2023

Brian Gongol

July 31, 2023

Threats and Hazards Racial profiling via surveillance cameras

It's a dismal dystopian reality in China

Health Rural health care needs more people

From Nebraska: "There are 17 counties in the state without a primary care physician or a pharmacist." The state is working to fix that by training more prospective health-care providers in Kearney, in the central part of the state (which is overwhelmingly rural).

Business and Finance How bad is vertical integration, really?

It's pretty easy to forget how many past experiences with vertical integration have resulted in tears -- for the integrators. Sears used to sell everything right down to house kits, and look where they are now.

Threats and Hazards Even modest dissent is no longer safe in Hong Kong

"They define something as seditious when they feel you are urging people to directly or indirectly act against the government", says one ordinary person arrested for sedition.

News How much help is enough?

It is doubtful there are many problems in the social sciences that are bigger than figuring out how best to help a country become a truly liberal democracy. We clearly haven't figured out a secret recipe yet, but the world needs one. ■ It's hard to tell whether it's better for democratic practices to take hold first, or for a classically liberal set of values to become enshrined. The unsatisfying answer seems to be that they have to gradually build on each other. But the advice that Michael Bloomberg applied to business also applies to political reform: "Humans need to see results in time frames they can handle." ■ Democracy confers legitimacy on a political system, but a political system which doesn't guarantee civil liberties is ultimately hollow. Thus, it's a bit like a zipper: Leaders and citizens have to achieve small steps in both tracks, building upon one another in a virtuous feedback loop. It cannot take place so fast that people end up feeling disoriented and powerless, but it cannot be so slow that frustration boils over. ■ And just like a zipper, any backsliding on one side ends up tending to backslide the other. If people start to question the security of their rights, they become cynical about their votes. If people doubt that their votes matter, they tend to doubt their rights are secure. ■ Benjamin Franklin once wrote, "Sudden power is apt to be insolent, sudden liberty saucy; that behaves best which has grown gradually." Yet the world is so tightly interconnected, the weapons of oppression are so fearsome, and the scale of state power is often so great, that it's really hard to imagine how "gradually" we can wait for the growth required. ■ Clearly, Russia didn't achieve the necessary escape velocity from totalitarianism in the 1990s to overcome the risk presented by an authoritarian power grab. And look at all the suffering that has wrought. Not only does that nation still need reform, but so do many others -- and no one should doubt that China will ultimately have to undergo such changes, too. How and how fast? Mechanisms and pacing both matter.

Weather and Disasters Tornadoes can cross rivers

No matter what the urban legend says to the contrary. One just did so at Clinton, Iowa. It's always been a mystery what people who believed this myth imagined the mechanism to be. Why, exactly, would an atmospheric event care about the phase of the matter below it?

News Design for the occupants of a building, not its onlookers

The design of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Columbus, Indiana, looks like a good example of a building designed primarily for the people inside it. This may sound obvious, but far too often the focus lands on the people looking at a building, rather than those using it. Curiously, though, focusing on the welfare of those inside often yields a great deal of respect from those outside -- like the SC Johnson Administration Building.

Broadcasting "Benson" was lieutenant governor of Montana

Or, at least, that's the only state that fits the details. In one episode, they expressly state that they "flew 1900 miles" to get to Washington, DC. That narrows it down to Montana, Utah, or Arizona. Arizona is out because another episode features it as a distant destination. Utah is out because a different episode, set in Nevada, includes a line saying (approximately) that "winters are different here than at home" -- which would be odd to say about a neighboring state. So Montana it is.

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