Terry H. Schwadron
Aug. 18, 2018
Some ideas that spring up to celebrate living through our times are so good — or so bad — that they force an immediate emotional response. I think we like to hear something and rule immediately that here’s one that (finally) sounds worthwhile, or that should never see the light of day.
Most, of course, require actual plans to make them come into being, and the ensuing grueling debate over details is what makes enthusiasm for them wane.
Medicare for all? Who could be against it, except the talk, posturing and politics over how to arrange for it inevitably drags the issue down the path of politics-as-usual. Self-driving cars? Sure, as long as they don’t kill people. Space Force? Not so much.
So, as a tribute to imagination, today is a day to hail or trash some of those many ideas that pop up that someone thought would be just the thing. You can vote.
- Dressing for success. The Riverside branch of the New York Public Library on New York’s Upper West Side is offering neckties, bow ties, briefcases and handbags for checkout to members to help job seekers. Crain’s said the idea came out of the library system’s Innovation Project,which funds projects that staff members think up for the community. “We get a lot of kids from schools across the street going on first job interviews,” said Thaddeus Krupo, branch librarian. “This is what prompted us to launch the program.” So, the program allows adults and teens in good standing with the library — with fines of $15 or below — to borrow items for a one-time, three-week lending period, and to take advantage of interviewing tips, free career resources and suggested organizations that can help with professional fashion advice and attire. In truth, you can borrow accessories for weddings and proms as well. Hurrahs to the Charles H. Revson Foundation and donations from Career Gear and private individuals, which have given the program a year’s funds. This is an immediately good idea, though I’m sure one can find problems over time.
- Military on parade. President Trump fell for the pomp of France’s Bastille Day ceremonies last year and took about 10 seconds to come up with an order for a national military parade of our own. Then that sticky problem of actually arranging it came in, and before you know it, the Pentagon now says it will cost upwards of $100 million. Faced with the costs, the Pentagon thought better of the idea and postponed it, and then Trump canceled it altogether. I must say, this idea took me less than 10 seconds to decide is a lousy way to spend $100 million in a country whose boundless needs for public money seem to be our most important national product. How about bringing electricity to the rest of Puerto Rico, for example. The Washington Post noted,“The cost and the symbolism of the parade — reminiscent, critics say, of shows of force by authoritarian governments — have generated criticism from Democrats and, privately, consternation among military officials at a time when the Pentagon is trying to demonstrate its might against competitors including Russia and China.” That sounds right: Let the military use the money for veterans’ health or to ensure safety of equipment already deployed.
- Finding EpiPens. Hearing renewed stories of EpiPen shortagesaround the country, the Food and Drug Administration surprisingly did what you would have thought a no-brainer. They okayed a generic by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, presumably at a much more affordable price than the $600 being charged by Mylan, the company that hiked the cost of the life-saving antidote to allergic shock. There have been numerous reports of problems at Mylan’s manufacture of the pens and a general shortage. So, yes, authorizing a generic alternative seems like an obvious answer. One does wonder what took so long.
- Picking up the Trash. Next month, a 23-year-old Dutch college student drpped out of college to pursue his good idea; now, he will find out whether his thinking was brilliant or dumb. Boylan Slat is launching an ungainly, 2,000-foot-long giant sieve from San Francisco 240 miles offshore in the Pacific to corral millions of tons of garbage in what’s called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. He calls it the Ocean Cleanup Projectto maneuver floating plastics and trash that can be harmful to whales, dolphins, seals, fish and turtles into a U-shape formed by 4-foot pipes and netting so that ships can start to pick it up. Apparently, he was so disgusted by the plastic waste he encountered diving off Greece as a teen that he has devoted his life to cleaning up the mess. Although the idea is very expensive — Slat has raised money through the internet — scientists think the situation is growing so severe that it’s worth a shot. There are some estimates that floating plastic garbage, which never decomposes, is twice the size of Texas. If the first experiment works, Slat plans to move 700 miles westward to yet larger blobs of garbage. The idea is so crazy it deserves applause for trying.
I think one thing that distinguishes the good ideas from the not-so-good is whether there is a chance that it will actually serve people rather than just make money for corporations. Of course, that could just be my good idea.