Guns on Planes

January 7, 2017

Yesterday, (Friday, Jan 6, 2017) an army veteran, off a flight in Ft Lauderdale, killed 5 passengers at the baggage claim area for his flight.

the problem

Not being that close a follower of the gun problem, I was surprised, but maybe not, to find you can pack an unloaded gun in your checked baggage on a plane flight.

I guess packing guns in your checked baggage hadn’t been a problem until yesterday.  You’d now agree it is a problem, right?

outline of a solution

Independent of all the upstream approaches to the gun problem, involving gun permits, psychiatric evaluation, and the like, let’s search for a solution to this single problem: guns on planes.

My knee-jerk liberal self says, since you may not bring any weapon in your carry-on, let’s extend the thought to “no guns in checked baggage” either.  But my more reasonable self says, “wait a minute, that’s unfair to the countless law-abiding gun-owners”. Let’s figure out a simple way to permit a gun in checked baggage that doesn’t become a lethal weapon at the baggage claim.

Why not station federal marshals next to the outside baggage checkers. A marshal will receive a gun to be checked, while another at the destination will return the gun to its owner after the flight arrives.  Sounds simple, but here’s the catch: The gun owner will have to show a boarding pass to a flight that day, leave the gun with a marshal who then gives it to an airline baggage handler who further places the gun in a container designated for the flight. When that container arrives at its destination, it is unlocked by an airline attendant at the curbside baggage station, again with a federal marshal to hand the gun, in its own case, to the traveling gun owner.

time and money

Implementing this will take time and money.  The time is borne by the traveling gun owner; there will be an additional time at check-in for an airlines to tell its passengers what time they need to handle the weapon.  And the money.  There are at least three interested parties, or roles.  The gun carrying traveler, the gun, airline and travel industries, and the public at large.  One could ask each gun-carrying traveler to pay whatever fee the airline imposes for their service.

But it’s probably more reasonable to share the cost burden.  I don’t have a spreadsheet armed with the necessary data to make an estimate of the per-travel cost.  So, each airline could prepare an estimate of its costs, based on available data, which if not currently available, they would do well to answer the question: how many guns where checked last year?  They might then suggest a per-flight fee, if the other interested parties would offset the difference.

The government is unlikely to absorb the whole cost itself;  it has a few means at its disposal.  Raise the difference from the gun industry and its supporters.  A per company fee based on the percentage of its sales pro-rated against the guns allowed, or a per-gun tax on any such gun.  Remember, the cost of responsible gun ownership just went up because a deranged individual just abused the privilege of checking a gun.

on baggage checking and claiming

In full disclosure, I started thinking about baggage checking, and fairness when I came across a Change.Org petition:  Don’t Force Travelers To Pay For Overhead Bins (12/7/2016).  That one I regard as absolutely backwards.  Which most of the airlines have wrong anyway: it’s the overhead bins which should cost, and the checked baggage should be part of the ticket cost.  Why?  Simple fairness.  A carry-on bag imposes a burden on other passengers, unlike a checked bag.  And supposedly provides an additional service: escaping the terminal more readily.

So, now, the idea of free use of overhead bins opens a perverse disincentive to use checked luggage.  Especially if you think a deranged gun-owning traveler might be waiting with you at baggage claim.

But, let’s forget the entitlement sought by the overhead-using  traveler, and focus on the increased public mistrust of your fellow Americans as you wait at baggage claim.  So the public has an obligation to reclaim the public trust for this problem.

where are our leaders

And at the risk of sending the idea down in flames, my proposals to this point haven’t cost me a dime.  What I see missing in many solutions to our social problems is a tendency to avoid any personal sacrifice.

The sensible alternative is, “don’t offer a solution until you have some skin in the game”.  As a member of the public we have an interest in solving this problem as well.  We should be prepared to divide the cost equally among the gun carrying traveler, the gun, airline and tourist industries, and the public.  Or some other proportion.  I’ll leave that to our elected leaders.

follow up

I’ll update this when I’ve shared it with any of our elected leaders.

The Road Not Taken

November 15, 2016

Because of the recent national election disaster, I’m tacking my boat to port.   I’d spent way too much time on Facebook, and not enough time reflecting, pondering, thinking and then writing.   In a follow-up post to my sister Meg, on that other forum, I left a thought I’ve been simmering these past seven days:  I’ll be restricting my posts there to the family stuff, like our children, and theirs, our six grandchildren.   Recently their gift of Blue Apron to grandma and grandpa, for example, can make it’s way to Facebook.

Otherwise, my only self-restrictions on Facebook will be political comment and cat videos.    Political comment will be here, with references on Twitter, and in our closed family mailing list.

So, looking down the road not taken, we see the poem allows us to ponder that path for the remainder of our lives.   And in the case of this election, we’re allowed to consider the person of Uncle Sam as the one who trod the path.

President Obama, in recent days, advises us to “give the man time to make his choices” before getting rankled on first appearances.   I believe Obama has learned greatly in his time in office.   An early judgement of mine was his apparent political naiveté on the possibility of political comity from the other side.  And, I’ve not said it here, but I “blame” VP Joe Biden, while as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in his last blanket-trust act in behalf of the Republicans, gave Clarence Thomas a free pass to the Supreme Court.   He had the power to block him, and didn’t.   Obama came to office not having learned the lesson, and thought he could lead by example.   I daren’t count the number of times he was rebuffed.  He must have been listening to his mother’s advice, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, and try again”.  So, in the present instance, I’ll be taking the President’s advice, and giving the president-elect some room to make his own naive mistakes.  But not for long.

In an exercise of self-correction, and hence withdrawing from the sand-trap that is Facebook,  I’ll take more time — days and weeks — rather than minutes, to render an opinion on the scandal of political news.

For my father and his, recorded in  The Cub’s Corner and Martinis, respectively, the publishing cycle allowed them a week to fill their column. They occasionally felt the pressure of the deadline.  This suggests one of the great things about the past: as we chose to filter our memories, the past was “slower”; we felt less pressure to be in the moment.  Martin’s Sr and Jr chose their own way to observe their present.  Sr gave us classics such as “The Family Dog”, “The Plumber”, “Our Congressman”, “My National Readership”,  while Jr was about the cup of coffee on Main Street, the troubles of the local merchants, introducing HHH around town, his own growing brood, and awe of his own father. These were more imminent than Sr’s and reflected the quickening post-war prosperity.

We have some sense of their “roads not taken”.   In the case of Sr, it would be the early death of his first bride, and loss of a daughter, but his later re-marriage brought us yet another lovely family.   And my father, Jr, had imagined a career in the big-city news. But the WW II that required my grandfather to operate the family newspaper also brought my father home.    How do we relate those to the present need?    Those men, in their own times, and possibly halting efforts,  were effective models in extending the promise of the American dream to those around them.   They lived and flourished in  the 30’s and 60’s respectively, where social progress was taken for granted as the essence of that dream.   The brief resurgence offered by the ’90s has been trimmed by the general hostility of the 80’s and the current 10’s.   So, my hope is the present moment is but a brief interlude, and the generation before us returns America to a sense of shared, rather than exclusive progress.

I will not join those who predict or hope for failures from  the incoming administration.   Rather expect a growing political awareness to distinguish between our leaders directing shared spirit and purpose, rather than exclusive gains.   Those are at the fork in this road.  Which will be the road not taken?

 

One Summer: America 1927; Minnesotans in its pages.

April 12, 2016

 

Here is a list of 10 Minnesotans I could identify in Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America 1927 (OSA 1927):

  • Charles Lindbergh
  • Graham McNamee — Yankees broadcast reporter
  • Pierce Butler — Supreme Court Justice
  • F Scott Fitzgerald
  • Sinclair Lewis
  • Frank B Kellog — Secretary of State
  • John Monk Saunders — directed “Wings” the first ‘Best Picture’
  • Andrew J Volstead — the Volstead Act, think Prohibition
  • Simon Lionel Rothafel — built the “Roxy” in NYC
I’ve developed a new hero from these names.   And you’ll come to see why.

Among these names, those I knew as Minnesotans from my first learning of their names: Lindbergh, Lewis, and Fitzgerald.

One of the two names new to me is John Monk Saunders, who deserves further exploration because of the praise heaped on his movie “Wings” which won the first ever Academy Award for Best Picture.   And if you believe Bryson, the movie still stands in its technical achievement.   Speaking of movies, the “granddaddy of them all” (theaters) was the Roxy in New York.  It was built by Simon Rothafel (the other new name on the list) who was nicknamed “Roxy” well before he built the “bejeweled Roxy Theatre on 50th St at Seventh Ave”.    He also built Radio City Music Hall, where the Rockets were originally the Roxyettes.

Graham MacNamee — I’m sure I’ve heard his voice on Dad’s copy of I Can Hear it Now recordings from the history of radio and TV by Edward R Murrow.   Bryson’s  book reinforced the view that McNamee’s was the most famous voice of his day.

Andrew J Volstead earns notice for the act bearing his name, which supplied the weak legislation enabling the Prohibition Amendment.   He was merely doing his job, and retired to Granite Falls MN, well before prohibition was repealed.   My personal connection is through Pioneer TV, West Central Minnesota’s PBS outlet established by my father and others in the mid ’60s in our hometown of Appleton, which is moving headquarters 45 miles down highway 212 to Volstead’s Granite Falls.   This latter stands a better chance for survival as a more prosperous center in the area.   “Granite” was one our frequent sports rivals when I was in high school.

Frank B Kellog was Calvin Coolidge’s Secretary of State, having been a Senator from Minnesota.   He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929, having drafted the Kellogg-Briand Pact, recalling my high school history, which outlawed war.    Kellogg catches passing mention in OSA ’29 since the fun and lights were elsewhere.   Bryson hasn’t linked his name to Minnesota.   Encountering his name was my inspiration to collect this list.

Pierce Butlter is interesting to me since we’ve frequently travelled on “Pierce-Butler Route” in St Paul, which parallels the railroad, just south of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.   In McGowan-speak, the question is: “This guy, what did he ever do?”.   I learned by a recent (before reading OSA 1927) of Butler’s having been a Supreme Court Justice, and had it refreshed here by his lone dissent in Buck v Bell. He went against the majority opinion, written by the esteemed Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, in one of the lowest decisions of the court, as it affirmed forced sterilization.

Lindbergh, Lewis, and Fitzgerald still stand at the top of nationally recognized names, not that the others weren’t so in 1927.   Few of these names, with Fitzgerald as the likely exception, are recognized as Minnesotan.   This thanks to Garrison Keillor’s witness of Fitzgerald, since  the Fitzgerald Theatre has long home of GK’s Prairie Home Companion.    Keillor has fused the name of Fitzgerald to Minnesota.

A few years ago, in a single day, Pat and I had the occasion to visit (in just passing by) both the Sinclair Lewis museum in Sauk Centre, and the Lindbergh boyhood home outside Little Falls.  This was while driving from Mom’s ancestral Nolan home of Brainerd, to Dad’s and our family’s of Appleton.   The route took us through the very setting of Keillor’s  Lake Wobegon, somewhere in the vicinity of Westport and Villard.

Sinclair Lewis has long been one of my favorite authors, numbered on the fingers of one hand.  He, for his depicting rural American life in Main Street, and in Babbitt,  our national self-seduction by progress of the 20’s. My favorite book of all is his  It Can’t Happen Here describing how the facism sweeping Europe shouldn’t be ignored on these shores.   The plot connects Vermont, by coincidence the ancestral McGowan roots,  to our home state of Minnesota.   Other fingers are reserved for Philip Roth, Louis Menand, Upton Sinclair (The Jungle) and … ( who gets the thumb ?)

Lindbergh (save a thought for Roth) was a national hero of a generation.   But a deeply flawed person.   His Nazi embrace clouds any luster on his virtual statue.    Lewis, and in our era, Roth in The Plot Against America expose the ugly side of the American psyche which might have installed Lindbergh as President.   Roth makes an oblique reference to Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here in American Pastoral, when his character, Swede Levov recalls scenes from that book, but can’t remember the author.  Roth is piquing the curiosity of the reader unfamiliar with Lewis.

As a professional Minnesotan,*  it’s with humble pride I draw attention to these figures.   We are no less flawed than any such group of people.   Lindbergh, as the “greatest” Minnesotan of any such list, in my judgement was the most flawed.   My personal choice for ‘new hero’ is Pierce Butler.  For example,  the Wikipedia entry for his name takes you to a Revolutionary War figure, where our Minnesotan is found under “Pierce Butler (disambiguation)” as Pierce Butler (jurist).   This is all the evidence one needs to validate a claim of “flying under the radar”.

Butler, in his sole opposition to  the majority in Buck v Bell, struck a rare note of reason at a time when it was too easy, too popular — because of the eugenics movement sweeping the country — to marginalize the powerless.   He is noteworthy as the first Democrat appointed to the Supreme Court by a Republican, in his case Warren Harding. Buck v Bell is remembered for Oliver Wendel Holmes Jr’s majority opinion.  There is another connection here.   Holmes is a major figure in Louis Menand’s  The Metaphysical Club.  For my mind, Holmes is too-widely respected a jurist.   Menand revealed, dis-positive in my mind,  a Holmes quote:   “Decide first, reason later” to describe how he framed his judicial opinion.    I sadly feel this has survived to the current era, and was given added currency by the now-departed Antonin Scalia.   The mistaken approached allowed Scalia to wrap his preconceived judgements in the emperor’s new clothes of “constitutional originalism”.

In Buck v Bell, the case in OSA 1927, the result allowed the eugenics craze in this country to feed Nazi furnaces.  Bryson points at frequent Nazi visits in the ’30s to Cold Spring Harbor, which was the home of the Eugenics Institute.

Therefore, Pierce Butler is a new hero, a necessary figure in any age. He exemplifies the notion that on occasion, all but a single person stand between us and the brink.   I’m glad that he is a Minnesotan, and equally glad it’s not what he’s known for.

_______

* professional Minnesotan — you know “professional Texans” since they are immediately indentifiable as such.   The reason you’ve never encountered one of us is our objective is to remain anonymous.  Think of Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy.   Minnesotans are most alike members of the Second Foundation.   Try to identify us.

Dark Money, the Koch Bros

February 21, 2016
This letter went to a good friend, a member of the MIT of Northern NJ Club.
============================
Phil,
    Your challenge to MIT President Hockfield is often on my mind.   It’s a story I relate at appropriate moments.   Here’s more fuel for the fire.   The current NY Review of Books has a review of a book by Jane Mayer, Dark Money, where Bill McKibben, the reviewer, summarizes Mayer’s laying bare the Koch brother’s outsized, and corrupt (my characterization) of the influence of money on the election process.
   I’ll be writing, not a review of the article, but an indictment, to be posted on Facebook (and anywhere I can do some good) challenging those who give money to any Republican to point out they are wasting their money, since Charley and Dave have all the influence money can buy.   And then working to support my cousin, Rick Nolan. (D, MN 8th) who faces Koch money at every turn.  He’s won re-election twice (’12. ’14) since he last held a seat in Congress (’79-’81), the record interval in US history.
  I’ll be looking for you to again raise the challenge to the MIT board since you last challenged the president.  Here’s probably the least damning of the indictments from the Review article:
   What makes this book more than a study in sociology and history is the effectiveness of these billionaires in dominating our political life.  They merged three forms of political spending — campaign dollars, lobbying expenditures and philanthropy at think tanks. universities, and media properties — into a juggernaut. 
   After this article, and the reviewed book which I’m about to order, my prior remarks about reviling the Koch brothers have been too timid.
   
   Stay tuned for my posting on Facebook  and a public web link.
=*+*-
  Marty McGowan   908 NPA-NXXX
  mcgowan@alum.mit.edu
bcc: a bunch of close, influential a/o liberal friends, a few conservatives, family, classmates, and associates, begging forgiveness from those who may receive multiple copies
p.s. for those who may not know, charley, dave and i share the “university” in question, where i’m limiting my formerly generous (too me anyway) contributions now to a dollar per year per year.  (i.e. this year I’ll give “the Tute” $50, since it’s my 50th reunion coming up).  when a solicitor asks to up my pledge i tell them “chuck and dave are covering for me”, followed by my explanation.

Happy New Year 2016

January 4, 2016

It’s time to avoid New Years Resolutions and simply get on with the Year.

Things I’ve got planned for this year:

  • at the moment, Pat and I are welcoming our latest and 6th grandchild in Houston, Ellie Hoffman, b. 12/20/15, to mom and dad, Katie and Justin Hoffman, their very first
  • a road-trip to Minnesota in our new Prius.  I know gas is down, so why the Prius?   Isn’t it about time?
  • more social activity in the web, like WikiTree and Wikiversity, with my passion for Shell Functions,
  • re-hosting McGowans.Org on a more socially conscious web-host,
  • which will permit publishing my commonplace book,
  • continued work with our local Boy Scouts,
  • my alumni club’s Book Club,
  • the Nativity Choir,
  • see niece Courtney graduate from Wagner this spring,
  • a trip to our in-laws, the Hoffman’s on Long Island, no doubt to coincide with J&K’s return.

By the way, this was motivated by a local Houston columnists pointedly humorous predictions for 2016.    So,  thought I’d make some of my own.

On the Papal Encyclical (almost)

June 20, 2015

I’ve promised myself to refrain from commenting on Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudauto Si”.  So, “what’s this?” you might ask. This is a comment on a comment: “The Pope’s Climate Error“, in today’s (6/20/15) NY TImes.

I was captivated by the title.   (in my print edition, it differs from the current on-line).  Further by the author’s credentials: philosophy, University of Toronto. And interestingly, his argument is honed with economic reality, and the pragmatic: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the practical.

My plan was, and remains, to read the encyclical.   And the next thing I’ll do. Since i’m one of those influenced by the last word i’ve read, especially if it has a liberal bias,Heath’s argument is now my point of reference.   One might think from the title that Heath disagrees with Pope Francis in principle.   He doesn’t. In summary:

Here he reveals the limitations of his own approach.  The problem of climate change is so urgent that we cannot wait for people to come to some kind of spiritual agreement.

And that would be my only quibble with Heath’s argument.   Who says we have to wait for people to come to some kind of agreement.   Stephen Carter offered the way through this apparent dilemma.  paraphrasing, at best:  in the marketplace of ideas, let’s allow all value systems, and especially not discount those arriving from a faith perspective.

In Heath’s behalf, he offers the necessary philosophic (mathematical logic, really) perspective:

 This commitment can be found at the heart of the “polluter pays” principle, which Pope Francis also endorses.  Most people like this idea when it’s read forward: “If you pollute, then you should pay.”   They dislike it, however when read backward:  “if you’re willing to pay, then you should be allowed to pollute.”

I’d not spent much time with this idea, and now realize my discomfort in it.   Hearkening, back to my teaching geometry at Benedictine, in the curricula of the time, this is where elementary boolean logic was taught.   “If A, then B, does not imply if B then A”, and so forth.   I used to challenge the students, “How may you answer ‘At a fork in the road do you turn right or left?'”   Most students, thinking for a few seconds would choose either obvious answer, some would still be scratching their heads.   I don’t think anyone got “Yes” as a possible response.  There are many ways to phrase such a choice.  The challenge is recognizing similar forks in the logical road.

Heath has shown me one I failed to recognized.

Command Line vs the Editor

May 10, 2015

Which Editor matters, in this case it’s Emacs.

Because emacs has a different view of the world.  The editor is not yet-another-command-line tool. No, the editor is the environment. The past year has been real growth for my editing, command tool writing.   Shell Functions has been out there for a few years now, and upgrading it, rather how, which way to go is my current challenge. But that’s another story.

My current challenge: do I work principally from the command line vs inside an editor.   The standard answer:  “It depends”.

But now the answer is taking shape.   When editing text, this blog being an exception, the answer is “in the editor”.  The routine tasks are, the diary, the analemma project, the software diary, my story, quotes from diogenes small, etc..  I break out to the command line when I’m doing “my business”:  my expense tracking, my stock-watching, my shell-curating…

Most recently, however, I’ve moved my expense tracking back online.   I’d used gnucash a few years ago.  With a new iMac, I figured it time to take another look.  Sorry gnu-bies.   The online connection is still as confusing as it was in ’13.   So, that cuts into the tool development.  Another bit of the toolshed is closing:  my “MarkApp”.  I’d developed a Markdown wrapper to add “include file” and “table of contents” features.   Time to trash that as well.   The surviving local tool work is now based around /rdb, “the Unix Relational Database Management” brought to us by Manis, Schaefer, and Jorgenson near 30 yrs ago.  But that’s another story.   What’s happened with Markdown?

I was introduced to Markdown while writing the book.  It’s a clean way to produce HTML documents, from a simple, almost syntax-free editor.   The core idea from markdown is “you should be able to use a readable text document to produce a nicely formatted (in this case HTML) document”.  Standard things like section headers, lists are easy.  Importantly hypertext links have as low a learning curve as necessary, with convenient features to produce references.  This served me well for the few years since writing the book.   As a matter of fact it got me to eschew my original idea, “THT” Tcl HyperText.   So, time to take these two down from GIthub:  Tht and MarkApp.    But, lurking in the background, I’d had an experience with OrgMode,  mostly as t GTD (Getting Things Done) tool.    Not that I’d ever been a great “todo” user.   But occasionally thumbing thru the OrgMode manuals, _and_ importantly keeping a up-to-date copy of emacs handy, I was challenged to see more of what’s there.

OrgMode is doing itself a favor by moving away from the GTD focus and aim for the note-taking focus.   it’s TODO idea follows, rather than precedes note-taking.   Approached that way, it is much more widely useful.  And with that, is Markdown’ denouement.   For me, now,  OrgMode’s most important feature is its “export” feature.   Foremost is the HTML export, since that avoids the need to use Markdown.  But, it also has a Markdown feature, which I’ll use when it’s time to work on the book.  There are a handful of others, interestingly LaTex, PDF, ODF, but that’s another story.   The real reason it captured my attention is it’s ability to open and close on an outline.   For example, here’s the current section of my diary:

* 2015
** July 2015...
** June 2015...
** May 2015...
| sun | mon | tue | wed | thu | fri | sat |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|     |     |     |     |     |   1 |   2 |
|   3 |   4 |   5 |   6 |   7 |   8 |   9 |
|  10 |  11 |  12 |  13 |  14 |  15 |  16 |
|  17 |  18 |  19 |  20 |  21 |  22 |  23 |
|  24 |  25 |  26 |  27 |  28 |  29 |  30 |
|  31 |     |     |     |     |     |     |
     
*** Nextday
*** Saturday, 9th :chip:katie:

Today we go to Chip's to see Reese play baseball and _maybe_ bbq

A number of feauturea are evident:

  • The outline with leading *s allows TABbing in to show the contents of the current level, and
  • The trailing … in each headline indicates there is hidden hidden content below, which a TAB exposes
  • Self-formatting tables allow easy creation of calendars, for example.
  • Tags are appended to “headline”s (with *s) between “:”s, e.g. the two tags in the example are “chip” and “katie”, two of our three children.

Another reason the text editor is a big deal for me: the editor in this and most media sites I’m familiar with has gratuitous behaviors. In this case, it insisted in placing either the closing CODE or PRE tags on the first blank line after the opening tag.

So, this will be an occasional stop for me.  My blogging will take place in a much friendlier editor

Free Trade — post NAFTA

May 9, 2015

Today’s NYTimes reports Obama Scolds Democrats … .   Well, good for him, but since NAFTA I’ve thought those who see themselves as gaining from these “free trade” bills would assist those who see themselves as losing.   In this later category, there are plenty of folks who are willing to self-identify:  “I can see my job going overseas if we do this deal”.   Well last night, on the News Hour, I heard first evidence of the former: someone willing to announce they will benefit.  One of our sneaker manufacturers (I believe, someone check me on this) announced “If we get this deal, we will create 10,000 US jobs”.   For them, that’s a cost they seem willing to bear.   Let’s say we want to hold them to this commitment.

If we wanted to see this was more than an idle promise, we’d have to put some more information into the Labor Department statistics.  That would add costs, both to the government and private sector.   But, of course, since any trade agreement is sold as a net plus to the economy, we should expect commitment on both sides.   And by commitment, I’m thinking more than just words, which our sneaker manufacturer appears willing to do.   But they can’t be alone.   Here’s where the government, with a plan, steps in.

Each state in the nation offers a number:  How many jobs is this agreement going to cost us?  These are totaled.    And to keep the numbers from being wildly speculative.   Each state’s compensation is calculated on their accuracy of  reporting on a ratio of their estimate to the total, given their population.   The total cost is the cost of creating the jobs.   This is not on the back of any state, and certainly not the federal government.  It’s on the back of those companies pledging to create those jobs.   And not until the pledges of new jobs exceeds the total demand as tallied in the states, is there any free trade agreement.     The rationale is as follows:  “this will create more jobs than its costs”.  Good.

There would be a penalty for a shortfall.   The penalty is the salaries of the un-filled jobs.   The money collected (units of percent for administering) would be disbursed to the states whose job-creation (from these promised jobs) fell furthest from the target.

There are obvious problems, but let’s call them details.   It would be difficult for any company to pledge it’s job-creation to be uniform across the nation according to the perceived need to offset job loss.   So, an additional piece of overhead would be tallying the jobs lost as a result.   We hear too many companies (not necessarily their fault) who lose jobs overseas, if not ship them out by themselves.     Another problem:  small companies.   We can’t ask every mom and pop to take on specific jobs, not to mention the bureaucratic overhead of accounting for need and job-creation credit and loss.   Some provision would allow, if not encourage trade groups, chambers of commerce, etc.   to take on this role.   With carrots and sticks. It all has to add up, so, at the end of the day we can say:  “this trade agreement lived up to it’s promise”.

So, how would we pay for this?   Our sneaker manufacturer has hinted at the way.   Increased economic activity will necessarily produce increased income and corporate taxes.   But this has to be more than wishful thinking.   These increased  taxes would pay for the administration, and the disbursement to the states.   Missing pledged job growth would incur the much greater cost of the salary.  Imagine a corporation, faced with paying 6% of a person’s salary as a tax, or 100% of a person’s salary to the government as a penalty, would have little trouble in finding a productive job for a person to fulfill their pledge.

Now there’s an incentive for job growth.  Let’s get the projected winners to put some skin in the game.

Fidel’s and my birthday

December 17, 2014

is  August 13th, along with Alfred Hitchcock, Tony Cloninger, and Ben Hogan.   Having tried baseball and golf, because my birthday was covered in those endeavors, I also decided to forgo careers as movie producer or communist dictator.

In full disclosure, I was a high school junior when Fidel came to power in Cuba.  I may outlive him yet.   But that’s not today’s story.  Here’s one from those years.

It’s a little know fact, but Cuba did not just fall, nor was seduced into the russian/communist orb.   It spent a few seasons testing the then non-aligned nation role.   Fidel traveled to Indonesia and more notoriously India.   Here’s what happened there:

Fidel was scheduled to meet Jarawhala Nehru, India’s Prime minister.  He was expected in Delhi, but went to Bombay instead.  Making no move towards Nehru, he traveled elsewhere.   I don’t know if they ever had an amicable meeting.  The moral of the story:

While Fidel roamed, Nehru burned.

Which brings us to this day:  Dec 17, 2014.   On which the US took the first step — thanks, President Obama — to normalize relations with Cuba.  Add my voice to those who say:  “Our policy of the last 50+ years hasn’t worked.  Anything different has to be better”.   And to those who say we’re giving the Castro brothers a free pass, I’d ask, “what do they have tomorrow that they don’t already have”?   Other than citizens who can call their family in the US, or vice versa?   Duh?

And, while I’m thinking of it, those who oppose this openness belong to a certain segment of American political thought which believes opportunity is dispensed by the powerful, it is never won by the majority, the people, the “man” in the street.   Today’s US Republican can’t bear the test of the idea that freedom arises from the people.   No, our freedoms are dispensed by the Walton’s, the Koch’s and god-willing, if we grant them the lever’s of government, the Bushes.  Heaven forfend that the citizenry would ever establish its right to determine its course.   That’s what rankles the Marco Rubio’s, the Jeb Bushes, etc…

God willing, Fidel and I will celebrate another birthday together.  He’ll be no less free then, but the people of Cuba will be more free.

After the storm, hope.

November 17, 2014

It’s now in the history books.

We Democrats took a shellacking at the polls.   For me, the saving grace was the re-election to Congress of cousin Rick Nolan in Minnesota’s Iron Range 8th district.   Congrats to Rick.

Hopeful Ideas

But this is about ideas, particularly of the hopeful variety.   Thru this report, and in conclusion, Ill offer my thoughts on why I’m still hopeful.

This morning, Paul Krugman’s, When Governments Succeed got these juices flowing.   Also, left-over reading from Sunday’s Newark Star Ledger, Tom Moran’s Lance Shows why the GOP won’t budge on climate, and conservative (yes, Conservative) columnist, Paul Mulshine’s Can a RINO cry crocodile tears? rise to the level of motivational.

At the risk of sounding like a plug for the paper, but the Star Ledger has at it’s disposal any number of terrific writers in all directions: opinion, sports!, and certainly the Jersey beat; those who  hold my interest in “print” so long as we both survive.  Those who know me, know my roots are in printers ink — long may it flow.

Can a RINO … ?

Mulshine, while the conservative columnist, is one I often agree with.   Why?  He represent the age when Republicans were thoughtful and had a plan beyond cutting taxes.  A dieing breed in the land, and shrinking badly here in the region that gave us “Rockefeller Republicans”.  (note to self:  time to read Richard Norton Smith’s Nelson Rockefeller biography)  Mulshine is unafraid and unapologetic about reminding Republicans of their true calling.  Recalling the history of Romney-/Obama-care, Mulshine says

The health-care reform Romney endorsed also would have been pretty much the same as the plan Obama pushed through.

So why the Republican outrage? The only possible explanation is because Obama is beating them at their own game.

That they should never have played it in the first place does not seem to have occurred to them.

As a footnote in his online column, he points out the MIT prof, Gruber, who made the “stupid voters ” remark about Obama-care is also the author of Romney-care, and also said of them, “they’re the same”.

Lance shows …

Moran delivers live data gathered from the field of dieing Republican values.   Reporting on Leonard Lance, a 3-term Republican from NJ’s central 7th district, Moran interviews and quotes Lance, concluding that

… Lance has done a full 180 on the most important environmental question of our generation. He has become as rabid as the rest.

To me, this is beyond sad. In Trenton, Lance was a man of unshakable principle. He lost his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee after he bucked the party and refused to support Whitman’s bonding scheme, a stance that history has vindicated. He was deeply respected in both parties.

But since Republicans took over the House in 2010, he’s become an orthodox conservative on big issues like the climate and the budget.

and further:

That’s an explicit warning from the Americans for Prosperity, one of the financial tentacles of the Koch Brothers.

They impose discipline by promising to kill the outliers.

Lance says that none of that plays into his calculation on climate. “I’ve always voted my conscience,” he insists.

My $0.02:  any suggestions the Koch brothers are in it for anything (or one) but themselves needs more evidence-based reasoning.

About Lance:  He really needs to check how his conscience has been formed of  late.   Moran traces his evolution from one who could work across the aisle, to where he now can’t find the center aisle.  For me, Lance, our former congressman (Pat and I left our home in the Sandy- and Irene- ravaged Union Co squarely in the 7th, for the more liberal if not safer central Jersey 12th this year) is the model of the impact of money and public cynicism it so easily spreads on people of principle.

So, where’s the hope in these?  For me, it’s that there are still people of principle who have the courage, resources, and support to hold our public servants’ feet to the fire.

Governments succeed …

Krugman hits a smorgasbord of current issues: the Ebola “freakout”, DOE energy investment, ACA success, and Obama deficit growth (or not).   These are remain current to Krugman, and the rest of us evidence-based folks, since respectable commentators on the public sphere collect evidence as we go for later recall, something beyond the 24 – hour video cycle.

On the Ebola freakout, it will have a hiccup today (11/17) as word arrives that Dr Salia died from Ebola.   Krugman points at the political hay the right was making over “lack of preparation”, etc… but that has proven to be the noise it was.   Sadly, the problem remains, but the cautions from the CDC about getting to the roots of the problem will fall on deaf ears in the new majority in Congress

The DOE energy investment screen was about the $500 +M we taxpayers lost on Solyndra.   Krugman reminds us that was an investment, and the whole program as returned $5B ( ten times as much ) to the government.  Even Warren Buffet lost half again as much as us taxpayers on Solyndra.  Part of my thinking on this one is the right, moneyed interest section, doesn’t want to help JQ Public think too deeply about what investing means, lest he demand his fair share of the capital landscape.

That the ACA  success is out of the news does not surprise.   First, because bad news sells, and secondly, those in media who were promoting rather than reporting it’s potential failure aren’t likely to apologize.

… and a new Gallup survey finds that the newly insured are very satisfied with their coverage. By any normal standards, this is a dramatic example of policy success, verging on policy triumph.

In an atta-boy selfie, better part of 3 yrs before the ACA, I was saying “where can I send my check to see that everyone get’s healthcare”  (what is health insurance anyway, if not care).  Here’s a simple challenge:  What’s it worth to you ( in dollars ), to see that everyone has healthcare?   I was willing to kick in $1K / yr.  Too many of us would say, “nothing”, which is a legitimate, if not too-selfish reply.

The purported deficit growth from the ACA receives Krugman’s attention:

Surely the exploding costs of Obama-care, combined with a stimulus program that would become a perpetual boondoggle, would lead to vast amounts of red ink, right? Well, no — the deficit has indeed come down rapidly, and as a share of G.D.P. it’s back down to pre-crisis levels.

That the rabid right refuses to be held accountable for those predictions points to why I have little faith in dialogue with that segment.  Except, bending back to Mulshine and Moran respectively, there remain people on the right capable of harmonic dialogue and those on the left who remember and report on dialogue across the aisle.

Where’s the hope…

I’ve alluded here, and confessed to a certain bias for the “print” media.    As TV made it’s inroads in the ’50s, my dad told my brother and me as we sold subscriptions to the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, “tell them they can’t cut it out of the TV”.  Well that’s changed.   As the TV and the newspaper collide here on the internet, I detect a residual difference in the reportage, if not opinion and thought.  Print media has at its heart a level of engagement not possible in the push media of the video.   Certainly changes are afoot in both directions.

My hope here is in print media, however it sees itself, to ever foster legitimate dialogue that holds us and our ideas accountable.