dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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Who Cares About Causes When Effects Can Be Denied?

January 7th, 2019 by dk
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It turns out things are worse than we thought. We knew that a significant portion of the current Republican Party has lost faith in science. But it’s becoming apparent that they also don’t believe in cause and effect. In fact (and I don’t use those two words lightly), that may be their central gripe with science — the “effect” part of cause and effect.

We now know that some climate-change skeptics do believe that humans are causing changes in the earth’s atmosphere. The current administration admitted as much in court documents in their rebuttal to Eugene’s Climate Kids case. It’s just that they are less than positive that those human-caused changes are having a specific effect on the environment.

Do actions have consequences? This is where certain people have become less than certain.

Last month, the Associated Press analyzed federal documents that justified the current administration’s decision to rescind an Obama-era regulation requiring electronic brakes on trains carrying explosive fuels. The brake rule was canceled, at the request of railroad and oil industry lobbyists, because it was calculated to be too expensive.

The AP study found that the federal government’s numbers omitted over $100 million that the rule would save by avoiding the damages incurred by train derailments that would be prevented. When confronted by what seemed to be a blatant miscalculation, Department of Transportation officials replied, essentially, “We meant to do that.” They don’t see why the cost — the consequence — of doing nothing should be taken into account.

Other examples have gotten more attention. They demonstrate a belief that elections shouldn’t have consequences. Republican lawmakers in North Carolina were voted out of the majority in 2016, so they used their remaining days in power to strip certain powers from the incoming Democratic leadership.

Republicans have done the same this winter in Michigan and Wisconsin, denying incoming Democratic governors certain powers that had been wielded by their Republican predecessors. Elections may have consequences, but not always the ones voters intended.

And then there’s Missouri, where the rebuke of the voters’ decision is the most direct. Missouri citizens overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that would have subjected lawmakers to the state’s open-records law and reformed the process for drawing legislative districts.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson plans to lead Republican lawmakers to repeal the amendment and replace it with something more to their liking. And, in case the voters don’t get the message, they also plan to increase the number of signatures required to have future initiative petitions placed on the ballot. Voters in Missouri should be seen but not heard from.

“Fundamentally, you think when the people vote you shouldn’t be changing that vote,” Parson told the AP. “But the reality of it is that is somewhat what your job is sometimes, if you know something’s unconstitutional, if you know some of it’s not right.”

I can only guess how dispiriting this is to the volunteers who worked on “Clean Missouri.” Who wants to take up a cause when those in power can simply deny its effect?

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Eugene Needs the Skyline Icon It Already Has

January 7th, 2019 by dk
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Eugene native Quinn Wilhemi Reilly had a vision in October, and anyone in San Francisco after dark on Halloween got to see it. It started as a Facebook post. That spurred an online petition. Eleven thousand signatures later, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” had its biggest hit since Peter Jackson’s films — if not its biggest hit, certainly its tallest.

Before we follow the plot, some atmospherics to set the stage: San Francisco has a new skyscraper. The Salesforce Tower is the city’s tallest building, 61 stories of glass and metal. The top floor observation deck is free and open to the public. The view from the top, thanks to cutting-edge technology, goes both ways. The tower’s top nine stories are outfitted with 11,000 programmable LEDs, projecting a video-screen and light show that can be seen from 20 miles away.

As these ever-changing images were staring down at Reilly and his friends, he suggested online that it would be fun and cool if it displayed the Eye of Sauron, a gaze that it was said few in Tolkien’s Middle Earth could endure. And when better to have this fun than on Halloween?

The resulting petition’s success caught the attention of Jim Campbell. He coordinates the rooftop displays on the edifice. Nothing was confirmed before Halloween night, but parties were planned around viewing what might or might not appear overhead that evening. San Franciscans don’t need much of an excuse to throw a party. The eye appeared, delighting Tolkien fans, partygoers, and especially Reilly.

Will topical light shows endear the Salesforce Tower to its neighbors below? History says yes. Paris hadn’t planned on keeping the Eiffel Tower past its original 20-year lifespan, but electric lights turned the structure into the popular icon it is today.

The Eiffel Tower’s light display became even more popular with LED technology in time for the beginning of this millennium. Again, what had been intended as temporary became permanent, after the city’s residents insisted. The Eiffel Tower is now the most photographed structure in the world.

Those two successes got me thinking about our own not-very-well-loved tower. A light show could makes its presence against the night sky welcome and even emblematic for the city of Eugene.

Ya-Po-Ah Terrace, Eugene’s tallest building, is undergoing a $29 million makeover. The senior housing structure has never been well loved by anyone but its residents. Where it doesn’t obscure the view of Skinner Butte, it defaces it. The Eugene City Council instituted building height limits almost immediately after Ya-Po-Ah opened in 1968.

Half a century later, its height could become an important asset to downtown.

Our tower’s most redeeming feature is on display for only a few weeks every year. “PEACE ON EARTH” is beamed from its roof every December. I propose we remove the holiday garlands and make its message a permanent, year-round feature of our nighttime skyline, along with an hourly LED light show.

Eugene residents will see an iconic, inspirational message — and an excuse to throw a party.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Writers Will Sometimes Give You the Quote off Their Back

January 3rd, 2019 by dk
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I don’t know what to think or say or do about what happened to me the other night. But I know my experience is not uncommon, so I’m going to bring you along with me on my train of thought — even though I don’t know where it leads.

I heard that an outreach event for our less fortunate neighbors was occurring at a church a couple of miles from my home. My family’s holiday plans left me free for the evening, so I volunteered. I also decided I would walk to the church. Why not take a little extra time to reflect on the holiday spirit? Well, rain would be why not, but there wasn’t any, so I bundled up and walked.

The organizers greeted me warmly, but their feared shortage of volunteers had become a surplus. Dishwashers and cooks needed no help. I was given an easy task: to organize a table filled with shirts and sweaters and coats for men, free for the taking.

After folding and refolding shirts and sweaters for an hour, I wandered across the room to see if the dishwashing situation had changed. That’s when I noticed something about my coat, hung near a staff area across from the kitchen. My coat wasn’t there. I checked the floor and the area around it, but nothing resembling my puffy blue down jacket was anywhere around.

I went back to my clothing giveaway station, pausing at every patch of navy blue along the way. My coat, my hat, and my scarf were definitely gone.

I fibbed to the organizer and said something had come up. (I didn’t say something had gone away.) I asked if I could leave early, since help was plentiful. I also said I’d like to help again, not fibbing. I rushed because I knew my walk would get much colder after dark. I had a brisk time for reflection — though not as warmly as I had planned.

I wasn’t concerned about replacing the coat. The scarf was a souvenir from France, but nothing worth fretting over. My thoughts turned to deeper matters. I noticed myself checking pockets for my keys and my phone at least a dozen times, as if they could be taken from me as I walked.

My afternoon heart, filled with liberal charity, was now replaced with cold evening air and a reflex to conserve what I (still) had. Do sentiments always flow more swiftly downward? One small loss and my self-protection instincts were kicking in.

I can learn to store my coat in a safer place. Others may choose to stay home and write a check to the same charity. And others just stay home, doors locked, thinking the worst about other people. Is there any meaningful difference between these expressions of self-protection? Do they differ only by degree? (This is where Francis strips naked and walks into the woods, but there are no saints here.)

Replacing things is easy. Restoring trust is harder. I’m trying to find ways to make more connections with others from this experience, not fewer. You’re helping, and I appreciate it.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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A Truth-Telling Strategy That Will Totally Work

January 3rd, 2019 by dk
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We’re going to have to amend the playbook, because it’s not giving us a plan that addresses willful, repeated lies from positions that project authority — positions that have always demanded and deserved respect.

News gathering is always one or two steps removed from actual events. I tell you stories so that you can feel like you were there, even though you weren’t. Most stories become even further removed, especially the big ones, because we follow and understand statistics better than people.

Stories about people are always complicated. Those complications are easily hidden behind numbers. Statistics are always less than the whole truth, even if they are not themselves untrue.

The present challenge to journalism is very different. According to The Washington Post, President Trump made 7,546 false or misleading claims through Dec. 20, his 700th day in office. How can journalists respond to such rampant disregard for truth?

How can we retain our integrity, covering subjects who have abandoned theirs? When sources spew public falsehoods, should we report them as false or refuse to report them at all? Either way, we’re trading in Fake News. It’s a Catch-22.

Not reporting everything the president says won’t work in a media landscape as diverse as ours. Even if we could, it wouldn’t matter. The president communicates directly to millions of followers with a tweet, bypassing all the gatekeepers.

No editor wants to clutter a page with disclaimers and dependent clauses. They can insert “without providing evidence” and “despite the consensus among experts,” but the president’s words must still be presented as he said them.

Fact checkers do their best to keep up, but their columns are read most often by people who already have a strong bias they are looking to confirm. Follow-up stories debunking previous assertions seldom attract the same attention given to the original claim. Casual readers prefer to read what’s new when they are reading the news. Corrections and clarifications never are.

So let’s try this. Use italics whenever a quote asserts a fact that cannot be verified or is verifiably false. Television news can blur the edges around a picture when the statements being given are untrue. Newscasters and reporters should signal dubious claims with “air quote” gestures. If radio and podcasts manipulated the voice making unfounded claims, the cartoonish intent could be conveyed without omitting words spoken.

Each medium will need its own signal to its audience that something less than true is being told. Truth be told, we’ve needed this for a long time. Who really wants to read an in-depth follow piece about whether a hastily departing executive really ends up spending more time with their family?

We’ve delegated the eye-rolling mostly to opinion writers, but their readers are similar to the fact checkers’. What we need — and suddenly, desperately so — are signals to use when the words that were spoken are somehow less weighty than what’s actually so. Italics can do that without slowing the reader or cluttering the copy.

Will it work? Of course it will work. All we can say for sure is, we’ve got to try something.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Gifts This President Could Give Us

January 3rd, 2019 by dk
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We’re a diverse nation. We don’t agree on much. We celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or solstice. Seinfeld fans are somewhere celebrating “Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us.” Our December traditions do share one organizing feature — gift-giving.

Voters recently gave themselves the gift of divided government, but they didn’t agree exactly what that gift should look like. Some would like to see impeachment papers in their stocking. Others will be happy with more coal. The largest majority did make one thing clear. They don’t want nothing. Governmental gridlock pleases no one.

We have a president who fancies himself a builder and an all-around rich guy. There are gifts his government could us that affirms what he believes about himself, while also pleasing his citizenry. I’ll list three. You’ll think of others.

Starting with the basics, everybody needs a bathroom once in a while. Our builder-in-chief should insist that public buildings include them.

Every police and fire station should have a bathroom that’s accessible to the public 24 hours a day — post offices, libraries and larger government buildings, when they are open. Encourage and reward businesses to provide facilities, especially those that stay open all night.

Monitoring the bathrooms to prevent bad hygiene and illicit behavior creates complexity, but the federal government is best suited to meet complex needs. We need government to solve problems that seem both intractable and ubiquitous. Sewers never could have been built by compassionate citizens without government resources.

Second, let’s bury every utility wire. Telephone poles are so 1955! They create hazards and outages during every major storm. These “shovel-ready” public works projects would bring jobs to every acre of America.

The jobs will be temporary, but the beauty will be permanent. Earlier in my life, I was a professional photographer (as was my father.) I married an artist because her landscape paintings could do what my photographs couldn’t — eliminate the wires that we’ve trained ourselves to overlook. (Our marriage ended around the time Photoshop was introduced, but I’m sure that was a coincidence.)

Beauty benefits all of us, almost always in ways we do not understand. That’s why my last request of Washington politicians is also the simplest. It would help arts organizations immensely. Use the Oregon Cultural Trust as the template for a federal tax credit program.

If you don’t know about the Oregon Cultural Trust, you should. Here’s how it works. If you donate up to $500 to any (or many) of the hundreds of cultural non-profits registered with in Oregon, you can then donate the same amount to the Oregon Cultural Trust, which then gives grants to arts organizations across the state.

Your OCT donation earns you an equivalent state income tax credit, so your second donation costs you nothing. The state is essentially doubling your donation’s impact on behalf of the arts in Oregon. It’s a program that is unique to Oregon, but we’d be more than happy to share the concept with the rest of the nation.

This is, after all, the season of giving.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com. Learn more about the Oregon Cultural Trust at www.culturaltrust.org.

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There’s Something Miraculous Inside You

January 3rd, 2019 by dk
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December is our month for contemplating miracles. A small amount of oil lasted an impossibly long time. God became a person, born on to a virgin mother. Kwanzaa’s focus falls between the Christianity’s cosmic claim and Judaism’s tactile tradition. Kwanzaa celebrates the first fruits of the annual harvest.

Some miracles hide in plain sight. Because they occur all the time, we see them as normal, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t miraculous. The growing season’s reliability is the miracle. Every marriage that succeeds is a testament to the improbable. Every snowflake — solid and soft at the same time — should provoke wonder. Emerson once remarked that if the stars appeared only once each year, no one would sleep that night.

Let me describe an everyday miracle you may not have seen. As I set the stage to describe it, I ask only that you trust your gut.

Our Milky Way galaxy has at least 100 billion stars. The Hubble space telescope has detected no fewer than 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. There are approximately a trillion trillion stars and planets — and that’s a low estimate.

There are approximately 130 billion mammals walking the earth right now. You and I are among them. Inside each animal is another galaxy. Inside every human gut, there are approximately 300 billion bacteria. They are the worker bees our digestive system work. We cannot digest food, expel waste, and replenish our cells without their assistance.

Every human life relies on a nearly infinite number of tasks performed by micro-organisms. We’ve outsourced all the basic processes the keep us alive. The work they do collectively results in what we call “life.” Just as the sun supports life on earth, you support these bacteria. You are the star of their show. From each bacterium’s point of view, “you” are Gaia. You are the end which justifies all their means.

The more we learn about the human microbiome, the more we marvel at its complexity. Studies have shown that animals with less diverse microbiomes are more likely to become obese. Scientists speculate that a diverse microbiome allows each of its “inhabitants” to specialize, making the system more efficient. It takes a village to digest a cookie.

There’s no reason to doubt that inside every cell in every bacterium, we’ll someday see another galaxy of activity, and then inside every atom another. It’s worth contemplating this every time we see another person or look in the mirror and see our “self.”

You and I represent midpoints between infinite complexities. The worlds beyond us number beyond 100 billion, and the worlds beyond those do too. But the world within us is also on that scale — for you and me and 100 billion others.

Whatever force created self-awareness in humans, that force — whether by chance or intent — put us in a spot somewhere near the middle of unending layers of complexity. The universe doesn’t revolve around us, but we certainly have the best seat in town.

Simply stated, mathematically, you’re awesome. Before you’ve done anything at all, the fact that you’re alive is nothing less than a miracle.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Neighborhood Holiday Singalong 2018

December 17th, 2018 by dk
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Nathan Showers and Tracy Joscelyn are concerned about an epidemic that is plaguing American society. They’re not the type to sit on their hands and hope somebody else addresses the problem. Nathan learned survivalist skills as a Boy Scout near Salem. Tracy got her degree in Recreation Management, with a focus on wilderness leadership.

Add resourcefulness to their generous spirits, and you can see why their work is gaining such respect. This weekend, during one of the shortest days of the year, they and their closest neighbors are hosting a holiday singalong. You’re invited.

This Saturday evening from 5 until 7 p.m., we’ll sing and enjoy each other’s company with hot chocolate and corn chowder around a blazing fire pit in the parking lot beside Good Samaritan Society at 34th & Hilyard in south Eugene.

For Tracy and Nathan and 10 other residents, this parking lot is their home. They live in Conestoga Hut micro-shelters built by Community Supported Shelters. Except for the warmth they generate themselves, they have no heat. And yet, they will be the ones inviting others in from the cold.

Homelessness is not the problem that is damaging us most. Our society is being decimated by loneliness. This scourge has infected the housed worst of all, because we can run inside and draw the curtains, keeping others away. We should have recognized that subdivisions might lead to loneliness.

Campers are less likely to be lonely. If you’ve ever exited a tent after a rainstorm, you know how adversity can bring strangers together. Tracy and Nathan estimate they’ve had 300 temporary neighbors over the past five years, 130 of them moved into stable housing situations.

“That’s definitely the weirdest part,” Tracy told me. “People cycle through, but some become lifelong friends. We want everyone to be comfortable, but they also have to always be ready to move on.”

Each person’s needs are different, and they aren’t easily hidden. One was between jobs and fell through the crack. Another is waiting for his girlfriend to relocate. Another is “a marshmallow pile of sadness,” who just needs people around him. In other words, Tracy’s closest neighbors are a lot like yours and mine — even if we’re less likely to know it.

That’s the point of the party. Everyone has needs and nobody has nothing to give. Whether it’s woolen socks or an understanding smile, sharing creates warmth. Music draws people together, divided only into sopranos and altos — not the housed and the unhoused.

About 50 people came to the party last year. Neighbors exchanged cookies and stories. Residents gave micro-home tours. Bi-Mart ran out of wool socks. We don’t need to be divided, much less subdivided. Relying on others is a skill worth relearning. Being tutored will cost you nothing. You can have it for a song. Let’s beat back loneliness, one stanza at a time. Please join us.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com. The 2nd Annual South Neighborhood Holiday Singalong will be Saturday, Dec. 15 from 5-7 p.m. Parking will be available at Good Samaritan Society’s Eugene Village. The event will be canceled only if there’s a cold rain.

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Exactly How Much is Our Attention Worth? (Four Dollars)

December 17th, 2018 by dk
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I don’t know about you, but December is just about the only time I feel any urge to splurge on myself. Once I’m in a gift-buying mindset, I consider things that I’d like but don’t actually need. I’ve had my knives sharpened. I bought an annual parking pass for Mt. Pisgah. I picked up a mushroom-growing kit.

Only in that context did Hulu Plus make any sense to (and for) me. For less than $50, I treated myself to a year of commercial-free television. Hulu is one of many services that caters to the so-called “cord-cutters” — those without extended cable TV packages. Hulu is owned by ABC, NBC, and Fox. It packages those networks’ shows, plus more than a dozen smaller cable networks.

Four dollars isn’t much to pay if you want to avoid commercials for a month. For a one-hour show, my four dollar investment allowed me to skip about 20 minutes of commercials. I save one third of my screen-viewing entertainment time for an entire month and it costs me less than a deli sandwich I might have made during one of those commercial breaks.

I tell that story not to promote Hulu Plus or any other commercial (or, in this case, commercial-free) product. It served as a stark reminder of how much commercials have become a part of our lives. Advertisers count on it. Or they would, if anyone could actually count to five million, which is how many dollars a 30-second Super Bowl ad costs.

This is no longer the Information Age, if it ever was. Information has certainly become super-abundant, but it was always a means to an end. The shows we watched were there to make us see the commercials that paid for them. We’re now calling this the Attention Economy, because that’s really what’s being bought and sold.

The measurement of our attention has been sometimes crude and unflattering. “Click-bait” hasn’t gotten a bad name — it’s given a name to something bad that always existed.

Media companies always had to approximate what value they brought to their advertisers, based on (independently audited) circulation/viewership/listenership numbers, time-spent and user profile surveys, along with plenty of anecdotal testimonies. Online businesses measure all those same things, but with much greater precision. Ads can now be targeted to tiny subsets of the overall audience. Prices are often set by auction.

How much is our attention worth? To be honest, that’s not a question I ever contemplated before this week. Hulu (and its three television network owners) believes it’s worth four dollars a month. That’s almost insulting, when you stop to think about it.

If Hulu’s accountants are accurate — and why wouldn’t they be? — we could have had commercial-free living rooms for the past 70 years, for one measly (inflation-adjusted) dollar each week. For 13 cents a day, we could have saved all the time we’ve spent watching TV ads? If that’s true, the American public has been selling itself short for a very long time.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Let Trump Sell “Made in America” to Americans

December 17th, 2018 by dk
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We’ve been debating for years now the meaning of “Make America Great Again.” As the campaign slogan has begun shaping presidential policy, industry leaders and accountants are worrying that their balance sheets could start looking ball-cap red.

Economists warn that trade wars are not “easy to win,” as President Trump claims. Every country suffers when trade is restricted — if we suffer less than the others, that will be a cold comfort. There will be casualties, unless we change course.

Unfortunately, what our current leader lacks in adaptability he makes up for in confidence. As economic conditions worsen, he will double down on his original strategy, escalate his demands, and always be ready to blame others for the outcome.

Trump is bound and determined to bring manufacturing jobs back to America. That is to say, unless Trump is somehow bound, he will remain determined. We must find a way to give the president what he wants. But it would be even better if we could use his unique skills to fulfill his promise to his devoted believers.

Trump calls himself a builder, but there has been just one thing that he has undeniably built — his brand. Our brander-in-chief could revive “Made in America” as a label that conveys American self-sufficiency, even if it comes at a price.

Could President Trump convince Americans that the extra cost of locally sourced goods is worth the prestige that the consumer’s choice carries? Luxury brands have been built on less, and successfully so. Will Americans pay more to keep their neighbors employed? They may, or they may not, but there’s no better time than now to find out.

How can this or any other president get more Americans making more things? President Obama reportedly asked Apple’s Steve Jobs exactly that. The president got a rebuke more than an answer: “Those jobs are not coming back!”

Economic pressures to use inexpensive labor are simply too great for any political force to counteract. Faced with that reality, Trump has threatened tariffs and other penalties against companies that refuse his overtures.

Let’s try shaking the other end of the rattle. It might sound better. What if there was a way to entice manufacturers without bribing them or threatening to punish them? We may have an opportunity here that no one could have predicted, using Trump’s unique skills.

Rather than asking Apple to make their iPhones in America, Trump could ask that they make some of their iPhones here, but with two significant differences. The locally made phones would have an American flag embossed into the case, and the price would reflect its higher labor costs.

Other industries would likewise offer locally produced products, side-by-side with their less expensive, foreign-sourced version. The difference in price would show consumers exactly what “made in America” costs.

Can our president persuade people to pay extra for patriotism? Americans have begun to think of themselves as citizens second and customers first. This could reverse that trend. If Americans become convinced that shopping can contribute to civic solidarity, America’s greatness will take care of itself.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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Uncle Phil Should Adopt the Eugene Airport

December 17th, 2018 by dk
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Phil Knight has always been an innovator. He and his coach Bill Bowerman recognized that competitive athletes were underdressed. His Stanford studies reimagined how international trade drives American consumer goods. He pioneered branding on merchandise that others considered disposable.

As his philanthropy matured, his business acumen identified spots where incremental improvement couldn’t compete with a surge of investment. Indoor practice facilities cannot grow a little bit at a time. You have to build it all at once. It’s better to completely reinvent athletes’ conditioning facilities than to make a few improvements here and there — likewise with their academic assistance center.

After each leap forward, Knight has watched in his rearview mirror how other companies and other schools scurry to avoid being left behind. Knight is more than ahead — his moves often define the curve that follows. Knight’s imitators outnumber his company’s sneaker styles.

His latest and largest local investment boldly inserts its strategy into its name. The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact will confirm what all of the earlier experiments hypothesized. Some changes occur quickly or they don’t occur at all. A large investment, quickly implemented, can make the impossible possible.

But “Uncle Phil” has a problem. His remaining years are diminishing faster than the largesse he seems determined to distribute. As the richest Oregonian ever, he wants to do what others cannot.

Where else can he exert that singular impact that has satisfied him so well for decades? His vision has widened in recent years from improving Duck athletics. His current vision is a billion-dollar bet on remaking the University of Oregon, and you would be well advised not to wager against it. Knight’s investments have produced an impressive track record. Or, in the case of athletes who benefited, many impressive track records.

As his vision widens, Knight should focus on the Eugene Airport. A large cash infusion would make a qualitative difference for the airport’s trajectory — something more than what time and attention will naturally produce. Growing the airport would benefit everything around it, including the Ducks.

Twice the airport has pursued a contractor to build an adjacent conference hotel. It doesn’t pencil out. We can be confident that it will eventually, except there are dozens of other mid-sized urban centers running in the same lane, jockeying for advantage when the next curve in the economy resets the competitive field.

Airport officials speculate that we could have direct flights to Chicago by 2025, but nobody wants to guess any growth beyond that. Our future would be brighter if we didn’t have to wait for it.

For those who object that air transportation is too regulated for an entrepreneur’s flair, I would remind them that we used to think that about a state’s flagship research university.

Knight’s philanthropic passion seldom strays far from his beloved Ducks, but an improved airport would help the teams and fans in unexpected ways. Women’s Basketball Coach Kelly Graves told supporters this week how hard it is to schedule non-conference home games. “It’s just hard to get here,” he said with a shrug, as if nothing can be done about that.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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