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Kicking More Tin: UPS 1354

Thu, 29 Aug 2013 00:11:00 +0000

[Note: due to the complexity of this mishap, what follows contains more arcana than is healthy for anyone. Also, this will be the last post at The Daily Duck. I will henceforth post at Great Guys. This post just doesn't fit there.]First Asiana 214, then Southwest 345, now UPS 1354. Three serious landing mishaps in quick succession. What's going on here — have pilots forgotten how to land?While the accidents are superficially similar, they are actually significantly different. I have already speculated that Asiana was a glaring example of inadequate basic flying skills caused by excessive reliance on automation. SWA 345, which thankfully didn't seriously hurt anyone, was the result of a snap decision by the Capt to salvage a landing when a missed approach was in order. The First Officer allowed a low altitude (approx 500') change in the winds from 11 kts on the tail to 10 knots on the nose to shift the aimpoint well down the runway, which would have caused a long touchdown (speculamatation, except for the winds). The Capt took control at 400' (fact), then readjusted the aimpoint; however, the adjustment required was quite large, particularly that close to the ground (speculamatation). The consequences were an unrecoverable high sink rate and nose first touchdown (fact). That is at least bad headwork, and possibly a sign of overall marginal piloting ability.In contrast, UPS 1354 is far more complex. Ultimately, the cause of the mishap will be controlled flight into terrain, a sufficiently common cause of accidents that it has its own acronym: CFIT. In other words, due to a lack of situational awareness, the crew flew the airplane to a point that wasn't the runway. But there is probably a lot more to it than just that.First, a quick summary of the UPS 1354 mishap sequence:The flight was a 45 minute leg from Louisville, KY to Birmingham, AL. Weather was above approach minimums — scattered clouds at 1100 feet, ceiling at 3500 feet, good visibility, and calm winds; it was still night. The primary instrument runway was out of service. The instrument approaches to the secondary runway are non-precision approaches (NPA) which means they only had horizontal guidance. The Captain was the pilot flying (PF), the First Officer Pilot Monitoring (PM). Both pilots were fully qualified in the A300. The flight was cleared for the Localizer approach to Rwy 18 (i.e., the final approach course is due south). The aircraft was fully configured and on speed. The aircraft impacted trees approximately a mile short of the runway, then the ground.This is a much more complex accident chain than either Asiana or Southwest. It certainly involves human visual limitations. It might also involve one or more of channelized attention, proficiency, procedures, complacency, terrain, and flight management system (FMS) memory limitations.During the day, gauging the proper glide path, while not a superhuman feat, is reasonably demanding: being more than a half degree above or below is significant. At night, all bets are off. The lack of depth cues at night turns what was already non-trivial into downright difficult. Making matters worse, the final approach was over sparsely lit terrain, creating what pilots call the "black hole" effect. This aggravates the already existing tendency to be low on final at night, making it even more likely that the deviation will not be detected, even up to the point of impact. Because the only available instrument approach did not have vertical guidance, it required far more respect than a precision approach, even with the available visual glide slope indicator (VGSI) system (the approach procedure is prohibited at night if the VGSI is inop). There was nothing inherently dangerous about the combination of weather, darkness, and a non-precision approach (NPA), but it did create a situation requiring more skill and preparation than a garden variety precision approach. The next thing worth noting is that there were two available instrument approach procedures (IAPs), one relying upon a localizer (e.g.,[...]

Let the Speculation Begin

Mon, 08 Jul 2013 14:36:00 +0000

Updates:For particularly outstanding speculation, go here. He is a general aviation pilot and aerospace engineer. He used ATC tracking data to provide more factual bases upon which to speculate. All the news outlets should stop reporting and refer to him. (Gratifyingly, his conclusions are the same as mine.)I had the seat positions reversed. PF was in the left seat, getting initial operating experience as a Captain. The instructor pilot was in the right seat; I have made changes where appropriate.The NYT today has a classic case of journalistic buffoonery: taking a simple fact and following it to never-never land:Investigators in the cockpit of the wreckage found the auto-throttle switches set to the “armed” position, meaning that the auto-throttle could have been engaged, depending on various other settings, she said. The disclosure is far from conclusive, but raises the clear possibility that there was a mechanical failure or that the crew misunderstood the automated system it was using.In other words: we have no idea what we are talking about. If the journalist had spent any time at all -- say ten minutes with Wikipedia, and looking around for a subject matter expert -- said journalist would have learned that there are many autothrust system (ATS) modes. One of them could have been selected before being cleared for the visual approach, then forgotten.It appears the PF might have selected "Level Change" as the vertical guidance mode. This would have clamped the throttles in idle until capturing the target altitude, at which point the Flight Management System (FMS) will transition to speed-on-thrust. The flight management system would then use pitch to control speed (too fast, raise nose; too slow, lower it). It is a mode I almost never use, although many guys do. IMHO, its only purpose is to cause the FMS to ignore any altitude restrictions en route to the assigned altitude because of reasons. It would have been a completely inappropriate mode to use on a visual approach, though, for several reasons. First, there is no altitude to capture. Second, by no later than 500' above ground level, stabilized approach criteria require the airplane be on speed, which requires a speed-on-thrust mode. Additionally, speed-on-pitch only makes sense if you are on speed already; otherwise, if steep in fast selecting speed-on-thrust will put the throttles in idle until capturing the target speed, at which point the FMS will manage thrust to maintain speed. It is possible that PF had selected Level Change while getting vectors on downwind and then forgot about it when cleared for the visual approach. Rolling out on final steep and fast would have camouflaged the incompatible mode until short final, when the airspeed finally went below target. It is still baffling how the crew could have let it get even 5 knots slow, never mind 20, or why the pilot monitoring did not note the inappropriate ATS mode. An A330 Captain friend of mine sent me this:Here's an email from one of the United 747 pilots that witnessed the 777 crashed in SFO. They were holding short of runway 28L at the time of the crash.On July 6, 2013 at approximately 1827Z I was the 747-400 relief F/O on flt 885, ID326/06 SFO-KIX. I was a witness to the Asiana Flt 214 accident. We had taxied to hold short of runway 28L at SFO on taxiway F, and were waiting to rectify a HAZMAT [hazardous materials] cargo issue as well as our final weights before we could run our before takeoff checklist and depart. As we waited on taxiway F heading East, just prior to the perpendicular holding area, all three pilots took notice of the Asiana 777 on short final. I noticed the aircraft looked low on glidepath and had a very high deck angle compared to what seemed “normal”. I then noticed at the apparent descent rate and closure to the runway environment the aircraft looked as though it was going to impact the approach lights mounted on piers in the SF Bay. The aircraft made a fairly drastic looking pull up in the last few feet and it ap[...]

Hubris, Thy Name is The Daily Duck

Wed, 19 Jun 2013 09:24:00 +0000

Today this blog turns 1,000. Had it lived up to its grandiose claim, this postiversary would have occurred in July of 2007 or, if one is charitable by considering only those days between Sunday and Saturday, January 2008.Clearly, then, The Daily Duck stands in some sort of pantheon of the over promised or under delivered, a distinction probably without difference. Robert Duquette started TDD in October 2004, inviting Brit, Oroborous and me to contribute. TDD was both an extension of, and reaction to the Brothers Judd Blog. Orrin had an unparalleled format: pithy and contrarian takes on a wide range of social, political, religious and economic viewpoints. Probably because the topics were rather more demanding than most would willingly read for entertainment, BJB wasn't much visited by nitwits, flamers, or fools. Instead, it gathered posters who were largely articulate, knowledgable and analytical. Unfortunately, and for reasons I've never sussed, Orrin suddenly changed. First becoming antagonistic then, through surreptitiously vandalizing comments, dishonest. It isn't clear what was to be gained by causing readers to beat a path to the exits, but that was the genesis of the term Post Judd Alliance.Unsurprisingly, at first TDD largely focussed on the same topics as BJB: religion with regard to ethics, religion with regard to knowledge, religion with regard to politics, religion with regard to evolution, religion with regard to science, religion with … well, you get the idea. For example, Brit's brilliant post, The Story of the Moral is as good a discussion of ethics and religion as can be found anywhere.In contrast, Oroborous gave TDD much needed breadth. Writing outside the nearly pervasive all religion vs. [fill in the blank] all the time, Oro's wide-ranging posts almost never had anything to do with the God wars. Thank goodness.Inevitably, TDD has changed over the years. In May 2007, Brit left to start The Dabbler. Whether it is rhetoric, verse, prose (see in particular his Dabbler Diary) or satire, he is one of the very best writers I have ever read. With regard to the latter, I wrote my one and only Amazon review of his Blogmanship:Sociology has long been stuck in the deathless troika of class, race, and gender. Blogmanship, to which the appellation 'seminal' surely applies, shows the way forward for sociology to gain in the 21st century the relevance it claimed for itself in the 20th. After all, as this sharply observed study clearly demonstrates, on the internet the color of your gender, or its bank balance, are completely irrelevant. All that matters is the correct and timely application of the principals of blogmanship in order to leave your opponents watering their keyboards with tears of humiliation.In assembling this academic masterwork, Noseybonk -- considering the subject, an actual name would have been as jarring as a Lamborghini at a Green Peace meeting -- has cited the leading experts in the field, as well as adding his own sharply observed insights.The result is a definitive delineation of blogmanship principles which, absent being extremely well written, will surely be seen as Clausewitzean in stature. Just six months later, Oro stopped posting. Later I heard it was because he had started a business, and simply didn't have the time. To this day, however, I can't help but think that my post on the FLDS and polygamy angered him; after all, he was Mormon. That was the beginning of the end of my posts on religion.Tragically, Duck passed away in January 2009. Unsurprisingly, in eulogizing Duck, Brit perfectly encapsulated TDD, and, by extension, all bloggers within the same genus as TDD:The Daily Duck was the cornerstone of the ‘post-Judd Alliance’ and, for a few years in particular, when there were four of us posting regularly, it was an absolute riot – providing the ideal, uncensored outlet for a motley bunch of amateur intellectuals to engage in ferocious debate, ribbing, one-upmanship and all the other things that prolix but[...]

AF447 -- The Final Report

Sun, 19 May 2013 07:05:00 +0000

"To an even greater extent than the sea, the sky is incredibly unforgiving of human carelessness, incapacity, or neglect." (Unknown)With little notice, last year the French Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority released the final report on AF447. (I have written about the mishap investigation here and here.) First, a few words about how crash investigations proceed. They start with an initial report, which primarily serves as an official notice of the accident and known circumstances. Then, depending on the severity of the crash and the complexity of the investigation, there will be one or more interim reports. Their purpose is to provide the accumulated list of facts. The final report, based upon the accumulated evidence, provides a theory of the accident that incorporates the facts, along with recommendations to prevent similar mishaps.At over 250 pages, the report is definitely not something you would look to for light beach reading. Nor, as I am about to demonstrate, is it a natural fit for a blog post that won't soon remind readers that the internet is indeed big, then shortly thereafter convince them to direct their attention somewhere, anywhere else. In order to avoid various and tedious means of citation, I will simply preface everything I sourced from the final report with (FR). Text prefaced with (DE) is descriptive for a non-specialist audience. Everything else is in my humble, but very expert, opinion. Since the report follows a specific format, which is organizational rather than narrative, so a great extent this analysis will, too.For those unwilling to subject themselves to a slog, I'll cut to the chase. I thought the report failed to understand the underlying cause of the mishap, engaged in unwarranted speculation, completely missed a few "wait, what?" moments, and didn't question existing procedures. Now, the slog.In order to substantiate those criticisms, I'm going to become unavoidably abstruse.Mishap SummaryWhile flying through an area with super-cooled water droplets, AF447 lost all airspeed indications due to icing of the ram air pressure sensing devices. The flying pilot (PF) then commanded full nose up, which resulted in the aircraft climbing outside its flight envelope, whereupon it entered an aft-stick stall. Neither the PF nor the monitoring pilot (PM) recognized the stall. The aircraft remained in the aft stick stall until impact.History Bites (FR) With respect to the A330, there had been 13 previous incidents sufficiently well documented for analysis and comparison. In all cases, unintended altitude variations were less than 1000 feet. In five cases, crews deliberately descended up to 3500 feet in response to stall warnings; all but one of those warnings was due to a combination of flight control reversion to Alternate Law and turbulence. (Alternate Law is a degraded flight control mode that uses arbitrary values instead of air data inputs to the flight control computer; also, in AL there are no flight envelope protections.) Within that seemingly benign group, though, is one instance where the crew made inappropriate high-amplitude control inputs, sometimes from both pilots, over four minutes. The inputs, although extreme, weren't sustained, the altitude deviations were less than 600 feet. (FR) None of the affected crews applied the memory items from the unreliable airspeed procedure. They didn't manually disconnect the flight directors, disengage autothrust, or set the pitch attitude to 5º per the procedure.At this point, someone — heck, everyone — should be raising their hands. What are memory items, and what good are they? (DE) Memory items are procedural steps to a small number of emergencies considered too time critical for reliance on the Quick Reference Handbook. (The QRH is largely dedicated to abnormal conditions. It also has supplemental checklists for normal but non-routine operations, and tabular performance data.)While seemingly sensible, memory items disregard [...]

This needs some 'splainin

Fri, 26 Apr 2013 00:16:00 +0000

From Fred Kaplan, who, if memory serves, excoriated Bush for giving Saddam the bum's rush, in Slate:

At least five times in the last eight months, President Obama has declared that any such use of chemical weapons would cross “a red line.” These are fighting words, or very close to them. If a president describes a possible action as “crossing a red line,” then does nothing about it, no future declaration of red lines—no threat to respond with force to some horrible action—will be taken seriously by anyone, friend or foe.

So how is it that Assad's (possible) use of chemical weapons crosses a credibility threatening red-line, but Saddam's killing over 5,000 Kurds with chemical weapons did not? On what basis did Obama vote against invading Iraq?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Tilting to the Left. Just a Little.

Sat, 13 Apr 2013 01:22:00 +0000

My son, a freshman at Washington State University, is taking one of those courses that are the backbone of a university's core mission: to produce broadly educated minds. Or, to say it more concisely, a gen-ed requirement -- History 105, Contemporary Issues. This the prompt, quoted in full, from his class's most recent assignment:Some pundits, academics, and politicians often talk about the “unintended consequences” of global capitalism (Joyce Appleby uses this phrase in the final assigned section).  Others argue that there is nothing unintended about capitalism’s consequences – that those in power are fully aware of the potential results, including financial crises like the one that shook the global economy in 2008 and continues to plague people’s of all nations (Naomi Klein makes such an argument).In a succinct, clearly written, three-page double-spaced essay that uses multiple historical examples from not only Appleby but from other readings, lecture notes, and discussion notes, answer the following question:Why has the capitalism/socialism debate been so divisive?Use the 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing global recession as a starting point for a discussion of the historical and very contentious “consequences” of and responses to capitalism – arguably one of the most defining historical processes of the modern era. On taking a look at this, some questions came immediately to mind:In what universe, no matter how distant in space or time, does Naomi Klein make an actual argument? Others argue there is nothing unintended about capitalism's consequences. Are there other Others who argue that socialism's bugs are actually features? Based upon the prompt, what is "arguably one of the most defining defining historical processes of the modern era?" Again based upon the prompt, why would the students suspect the professor would be able to tell the difference between a succinct, clearly written essay and a pile of fish dead for three days?Why does leaden, prolix and ungrammatical writing plague the collectivist professor's of all humanities? What the heck is the question, anyway? Is that even important to providing the correct answer? Remember, this is a prompt for a writing assignment. What is the prompt prompting? On the face of it, that is easy — discuss some ways in which the intellectual divide between socialism and capitalism persists. And, for the clairvoyant students, not just the ways, but the whys, too. At some point, our entering arguments become axiomatic. In many cases, there is no proving that a greater degree of individualism is preferable to more collectivism, because the notion of "preferable" itself is also at stake. So, if the prompt had gone on from the seemingly simple question and focused it by saying "Use the 2008 financial crisis to show why the argument between socialism and capitalism will continue", then the student could take the fundamental tenets of each, and show how the crisis both undermined and substantiated them. (The CRA was an instance of socialism, and, by ignoring risk, destroyed the housing market. The banks, through looking only at personal enrichment, privatized gain while socializing risk.) But that isn't what the prompt says. Instead, it amounts to a non-sequitor. One might just as well ask "Why are the arguments between Yankee and Red Sox fans so divisive? Using the recent doping scandals in athletics, explain why baseball is bad." And that is before getting to the ambiguous references. What, arguably, is the most defining historical process of the modern era, the 2008 financial crisis, the responses to it, or capitalism? Then there is the fundamental viewpoint of the prompter, who really seems to be asking "why, since socialism is so obviously superior, how can there possibly be, absent those possessed of malevolent intent, any capitalists around with whom to argue?" But wait, there's more. My son got his[...]

Nothing was not an Option

Thu, 28 Mar 2013 08:13:00 +0000

[This should have been entitled "18 Months Later, Tomorrow Comes". I don't know why this took so long to get to — for me, time is no excuse — particularly because this is a subject with which I have some first hand experience] For those who opposed the war all along, first 9/11/11, then 3/20/13 were causes for fresh waves of nearly onanistic condemnations and toldjasos. Even initially hawkish editorialists, chastened by a decade of bleak experience, have engaged in hand-wringing attempts to explain their misjudgment. NYT Op-Ed page writer and executive editor Bill Keller epitomizes the latter group, and ultimately encompasses the former. Here are some representative (and highly edited for length) pull quotes from his mea culpa: The question is really two questions: Knowing what we know now, with the glorious advantage of hindsight, was it a mistake to invade and occupy Iraq? And knowing what we knew then, were we wrong to support the war?Broadly speaking, there were three arguments for invading Iraq: … humanitarian; … [promoting] democracy …; … and [WMD/regional security/explicit and implicit support of terrorism]. For many of us, the monster argument was potent, even if it was not sufficient. … We were, as Andrew Sullivan put it, “enamored of [our] own morality.”But there are plenty of monstrous regimes that we do not go to the trouble of overthrowing. It should perhaps have caught our attention that Samantha Power, who literally wrote the book on humanitarian intervention (the Pulitzer-winning “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”) and who had endorsed armed intervention in Bosnia and Rwanda, and at an earlier time in Iraq, did not support the invasion of Iraq in 2003.“My criterion for military intervention — with a strong preference for multilateral intervention — is an immediate threat of large-scale loss of life,” explained Power, who now advises President Obama on multilateral affairs and human rights. “That’s a standard that would have been met in Iraq in 1988 but wasn’t in 2003.”The idea that America could install democracy in Iraq always seemed to me the most wishful of the rationales for war, although some people who knew the region far better than I made that case. … The exiled Iraqi academic Kanan Makiya — a proponent of invasion who later repented — observed that Iraq’s population was so traumatized by decades of abuse that they were unwilling to take initiative or responsibility ……The main selling point for war in Iraq, at least for the American public, was that Hussein represented a threat to American security. But what kind of threat, exactly? The following couple paras contain, more begged questions than there are sentences. Iraq was not, as Afghanistan had been, the host country and operational base of the new strain of Islamic fascism represented by Al Qaeda. It is true that Hussein hosted some nasty characters, but so did many other dictators hostile to America. At the time, Iraq was one of seven countries designated as sponsors of terrorism by the State Department, and in the other six cases we settled for sanctions as recourse enough. And his conventional military — what was left of it after it was laid waste in the deserts of Kuwait and Iraq in 1991 — was under close supervision.That leaves the elusive [WMD]. We forget how broad the consensus was that Hussein was hiding the kind of weapons that could rain holocaust on a neighbor or be delivered to America by proxy. He had recently possessed chemical weapons (he used them against the Kurds), and it was only a few years since we had discovered he had an active ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. Inspectors who combed the country after the first gulf war discovered a nuclear program far more advanced than our intelligence agencies had believed; so it is understandable that the next time around the analysts erred[...]

Toldja so. I think.

Tue, 19 Feb 2013 04:23:00 +0000

Some years ago, so my memory could well be, shall we say, inexact, I suggested at Thought Mesh that the 144,000 terawatt hours of annual global energy use could — must — be contributing to the increase in global temperatures.

AOG, whose technical and mathematical skills dwarf my own, was singularly unimpressed. His argument, and it persuaded me, was human energy use was such a small proportion of that coming from the sun that, while true in theory, as a matter of practical fact the effect would be immeasurably small.

Yes, but. According to A New Study:

Researchers using a computer model of the atmosphere found that activities from urban areas can warm the air as far as 1,000 miles away. In some areas, that increase was as much as 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

The temperature changes were caused by human behavior in cities, like heating buildings and powering vehicles, rather than natural heat that was captured by paved surfaces. The heat entered the atmosphere directly above cities, the scientists said, but was then dispersed by the natural movements of the global jet stream.

As it happens, Watts Up With That has noticed that many weather measuring stations are poorly cited in ways that must result in systematically biasing temperature readings upwards.

However, if this article says what I think it says, and if The Study is sound, then two things must be true:

  • Since most weather stations are where people are, and most people are near urban areas, then most even apparently well cited stations are, in fact, irretrievably poorly situated. Consequently, their temperature changes over time are, at least in part, proxies for economic activity.
  • The magnitude of the urban induced temperature change is very nearly the magnitude of global warming over the last forty years. Therefore, temperature records may be, albeit indirectly, measuring the global urbanization occurring over the same period.
Unsurprisingly, "to better represent the effects of global warming, climate scientists should consider incorporating the effects of urban areas, they concluded." If this sentence says what I think it says, then it means that what has been taken for greenhouse gas induced climate change is, in fair measure, actually a simple consequence of energy usage. Which, in turn, means that climate change must be less disastrous than Warmenists believe, and that the only way to reduce such warming as there has been is to return to the stone age.

Which Warmenists may believe and desire, but will not admit.

Agenda Journalism

Tue, 19 Feb 2013 03:25:00 +0000

Just as the Sandy Hook tragedy gave a heretofore unexcelled opportunity for gun confiscators to capitalize on hysteria in order to potentially reach ends otherwise unobtainable, it has also shone a light on the intellectual and moral failures of collectivists — the tribe to which all confiscators belong.These failings are two, and endemic to collectivists: demonizing those who disagree, and agenda journalism. No matter the issue which holds collectivists in thrall of their own intellectual and moral superiority — gun control, global warming, name it — what should be straight, factual, stories are littered with questionable assertions and unsurprising elisions. A recent WSJ article, Why our Gun Debate Is Off Target raises these points. The author is writing from the perspective of what we now call an embedded reporter. [At the firing range I] did my best to avoid gun politics, the subject came up constantly. What came through loudest of all was that gun guys feel insulted. The caustic and routine dismissal of "gun culture" is only part of it. Gun guys look at the most strident advocates of gun control and say, "You know nothing about what it means to handle guns, but you presume to make judgments about my ability to do so."…A parks-and-recreation worker in Wisconsin told me he was offended by the Democrats' view "that guns are for the unwashed, the yokels." It's hard to think of a better organizing tool for the right than the left's tribal antipathy to guns. For examples of the confiscators demonizing gun owners, the NYT in the weeks following Sandy Hook is a rich hunting ground. But why go so far as that Fort Knox of unexamined ideas when we have our own Harry Eagar and his Restating the Obvious? In a recent piece, The Infantilization of Firearms, the entire demonization menagerie, so characteristic of collectivist rhetoric, is on display: Today, you can go to Uncle Jesse's on Maui and buy “tactical” anything. Camo underwear, for example.How weird is that?Silly, but a sign of a more profound delusion. Camo underwear is, in fact, the gun nut version of the Batman underwear that 5-year-olds wear.…I have not addressed the issue of sexual anxiety. The Bushmaster ads confirm the idea that guns are substitute penises for men who are worried their natural equipment is substandard. A writer engaging in this kind of invective cannot be trusted to provide rigorous analysis, as the penultimate sentence demonstrates: "… disarming the population would cut out the slaughter of millions of our fellow citizens."Going with far less antagonism, but no more forgivable for that, is a recent offering from the New York Times, To Reduce Suicide Rates, New Focus Turns to Guns, which turns a truism, guns are good at killing things, into a tendentious conclusion: the U.S. suicide rate is substantially higher than it would be without guns.Let me demonstrate:Suicidal acts with guns are fatal in 85 percent of cases, while those with pills are fatal in just 2 percent of cases, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. …The national map of suicide lights up in states with the highest gun ownership rates. Wyoming, Montana and Alaska, the states with the three highest suicide rates, are also the top gun-owning states … This is either intentional deck-stacking, or profound ignorance. How so? There is something completely germane, yet wholly unmentioned throughout this entire article: gender. Males attempt suicide mush less often than females, but are far more frequently successful. Indeed, the second sentence begs examining that possibility. After all, besides guns, the other thing that lights up in states with the highest gun ownership are also the highest Male to Female ratios; the three states listed are among only nine that have more men than women. At 108.5 and 104.1 men per 100 women, [...]

The Repression Shoe is on the Other Foot

Fri, 18 Jan 2013 00:22:00 +0000

Having been told more than once that management is engaged in nearly unceasing violence upon angelic unions, which are never thuggish or corrupt, this very nearly used up every bit of gast in my flabber:

PHILADELPHIA — It was several weeks ago when vandals struck the building site, setting fire to a crane, cutting deep gashes in steel columns and loosening the bolts that anchored them. The episode resulted in about $500,000 in damage and was, the authorities believe, apparently an attempt to halt the construction of a Quaker meeting house.


Four union members visited the site during the week before the overnight attack on Dec. 20-21, asking questions about who was doing specific construction tasks, said Robert N. Reeves Jr., the president of E. Allen Reeves Inc., the contractor. The company operates an “open shop” that does not employ union members but may work with unionized subcontractors, Mr. Reeves said.

Each of the union members left the site after being told by employees that they could not give out information about the construction, Mr. Reeves said. The fourth told the site manager on Dec. 17 that “I’ll do what I have to do,” said the manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Gee, I wonder why.

But wait, there's more:

The episode is the latest in Philadelphia to prompt allegations that trade unions engage in violence and intimidation in an effort to secure work for their members.

In mid-December, an employee of Post Brothers Apartments, a local developer, was attacked with a crowbar by a member of the Ironworkers Union, according to Michael Pestronk, chief executive of the company. Post Brothers is in a dispute with local unions over its refusal to hire all-union labor to work on an apartment building in central Philadelphia


Post Brothers initially wanted to hire 40 percent union labor on the project, converting a factory into 163 loft apartments, but is using all nonunion workers after unions withdrew their members in protest at the company’s position, Mr. Pestronk said.

“They told me, ‘If you don’t make this project 100 percent union, we are going to do everything in our power to stop this job,'” Mr. Pestronk said in an interview. Picketing of the Goldtex site began in December 2011 and employees have been harassed and attacked in episodes that have been captured on video and posted on a company Web site, he said.

Remember, look for that union label.


Wed, 02 Jan 2013 01:48:00 +0000

It seems a done deal that the Bush tax cuts will expire. Well, not entirely, but rather for those whose income exceeds $200,000 (filing singly) or $250,000 (filing jointly). [Pre-publication update: Apparently those numbers have gone northward. However, not only does that not change the points I'm trying to make, I put way too much effort into writing this to then bit bin it on a technicality.] The collectivist justification is that the rich, where richness happens to match numbers that both fall glibly off the tongue, and constitute sufficiently few easily demonized votes to mount an electoral defense, are not paying their "fair share". Whatever that means. Like most, I am loathe to discuss personal finances; however, in order to take a whack at what constitutes fair, it is only proper I declare my interest up front: my family income just reaches the upper 2%, about 12% of which comes in the form of military retirement. In 2013 I can expect my tax bill to increase by at least $6,000, on top of the $51,000 I will pay for 2012.Is this "fair"?Before trying to crack that nut, there is one notion that needs immediate rubbishing: regardless of fairness, that money is not free, a concept much beloved by collectivists but mugged by reality. The effect on my household serves as a case in point. Since our savings rate approaches 50% (the sum of Social Security, Medicare, 401k, mortgage principle, and positive monthly cash flow) our consumption habits are not going to change. Being both fortunate and thrifty — heck, I drive a car old enough to get into a bar, and wouldn't that bring a whole new slant on DUI — a six-grand hit over a year isn't going to affect how often we de-trouser the wallet.That still doesn't get collectivists to free. Putting it another way, that $6,000 increase in our tax bill amounts a nearly 20% reduction in our positive cash flow. Regardless, and this is where the whole notion of "free" takes a beating, there will be two very real consequences.First, that $6,000 means exactly that much less investment next year, and eventual larger reduction in our net-worth.So, not free. I will be the first to grant that hardly amounts to a tragedy, but that's not the question, which is fairness. Given that the upper 5% of the income distribution pays something like 40% of federal income taxes, it doesn't appear the fortunate are under taxed. On the other hand, some very wealthy people, while paying a considerable amount, are yielding a far lower amount than they would if taxed at the same rate as less wealthy people. That still doesn't yield much light. Is rate the appropriate criteria, or magnitude? (It is worth noting that collectivists always refer to rate, and never amount, which to me indicates intellectual dishonesty, because it is more of an insult to assume the kind of mental deficits required for pervasive innumeracy.)At the most superficial level, even the current amount I pay is unfair — as a family, we do not consume $51,000 of federal government services in a year, never mind $57,000. This disconnect becomes particularly glaring for those who are truly wealthy, rather than merely very comfortably situated. However, I understand the moral argument that those who get more, should give more. In any community, there is bound to be some communism. I have no problem with wealthy New Yorkers or Alaskans transferring some income to poor West Virginians. I accept that the bill society charges the unlucky should be much lighter than that presented to those upon whom fortune positively beams.On balance, then, despite already paying a substantial absolute amount, I think it is within the bounds of arguably fair that my wife and I pay more. In order to keep the federal government's fiscal situation from further deterio[...]

Okay, explain this.

Tue, 01 Jan 2013 03:29:00 +0000

Katie Roiphe, progressive author and journalism professor at NYU (seems to be a lot of repetition in that sentence), defends single motherhood against moralizing scolds:

I happen to have two children with two different fathers, neither of whom I live with, and both of whom we are close to. I am lucky enough to be living in financially stable, relatively privileged circumstances, and to have had the education that allows me to do so. I am not the “typical” single mother, but then there is no typical single mother any more than there is a typical mother. It is, in fact, our fantasies and crude stereotypes of this “typical single mother” that get in the way of a more rational, open-minded understanding of the variety and richness of different kinds of families.

The structure of my household is messy, bohemian, warm. If there is anything that currently oppresses the children, it is the idea of the way families are “supposed to be,” an idea pushed — in picture books and classrooms and in adults’ casual conversation — on American children at a very early age and with surprising aggressiveness.

A British consumer survey recently released its list of children's most wanted presents this Christmas.

Coming in at number 10: a Dad.

Right to Work

Sun, 23 Dec 2012 23:10:00 +0000

U.S. Department of Commerce data shows that BMW's Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant is the largest automotive exporter in the country. Since 1994, its first production year, the company has continued to invest and add models to the lineup of vehicles produced there, which now include the X3, X5 and X6 models, and with the $900M expansion underway, will add the new X4 — increasing total production to a whopping 350,000 vehicles per year. The company expects that 70% of the production will be exported to more than 130 markets worldwide. Once the expansion is complete, the plant will cover five-million square feet, employ 8,000 workers, and represent a cumulative $6.3B investment by BMW.

And all that without the UAW.

(article behind BMW Car Club of America pay wall)

Collectivism on Parade

Mon, 03 Dec 2012 03:13:00 +0000

Youth unemployment in Europe has gone from merely stratospheric to astronomic.

Throughout the European Union, unemployment among those aged 15 to 24 is soaring — 22 percent in France … But those are only percentages among those looking for work. There is another category: those who are “not in employment, education or training,” or NEETs, as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development calls them. And according to a study by the European Union’s research agency, Eurofound, there are as many as 14 million out-of-work and disengaged young Europeans, costing member states an estimated 153 billion euros, or about $200 billion, a year in welfare benefits and lost production — 1.2 percent of the bloc’s gross domestic product.

… In France, it’s 16.7 percent — nearly two million young people …

For the innumerate, that means nearly 39% are doing nothing. (That is nearly three times the comparable the U.S. rate.)

Collectivism's parade of horribles is easy to see:

This is a “floating generation,” made worse by the euro crisis, and its plight is widely seen as a failure of the system: an elitist educational tradition that does not integrate graduates into the work force, a rigid labor market that is hard to enter, and a tax system that makes it expensive for companies to hire full-time employees and both difficult and expensive to lay them off.


Ms. Sonnet, the O.E.C.D. economist, said that high youth unemployment is a regular problem in France. Companies are afraid to commit to permanent hiring when economic growth is stagnant and charges for social benefits are so high, and the educational system tends to value liberal arts over technical or industrial expertise.

Nothing could possibly go wrong with any of this; after all, the collective has used its superior knowledge and intellect to ensure social justice.


Without cost, nothing has value. Their education system is a sinkhole. The real reason the "rigid labor market is hard to enter" has nothing to do with hired, and everything to do with getting fired. Standard collectivist misdirection charges companies for social benefits. It is the perfect way to convince people there is such a thing as "free".

Mysteriously left unmentioned in this NYT article is minimum wage. In France, it is $12.35 per hour, more than 65% higher than in the U.S.

And I'll bet the next NYT editorial advocating an increase our minimum wage will resoundingly fail to note the unmentionable.

Being a collectivist means never having to say you are sorry, because you are immune to the obvious.

Goose, meet Gander

Thu, 08 Nov 2012 07:46:00 +0000

Ski Officials to Discuss Lindsey Vonn's Request to Race Against Men

Next up: Ski Officials to Discuss Ted Ligety's Request to Race Against Women

Or if not, why not?

Unknown Knowns

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 19:05:00 +0000

[Updated to fix some egregious writing errors.]Recently, the WSJ's motoring correspondent, Dan Neil, made the case that we will cede control of our cars to the cloud sooner rather than later, and for the better. He starts by vividly demonstrating that a car can, in fact, pilot itself under demanding conditions:The Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca is a 2.2-mile asphalt roller coaster plunging and soaring across California's tawny Monterey highlands. The most famous section, the Corkscrew, requires drivers storming up a long hill to slam the brakes and take a hard left into what seems to be thin air. The car goes momentarily weightless, and when the track materializes beneath you—always a pleasant surprise—it's going downhill like a ski jump—and, oh yeah, heading hard right. … Except that I wasn't really driving. While I was indeed in the driver's seat, my hands and feet were weirdly unoccupied.The car was driving itself, digitally duplicating a lap driven earlier by a professional driver—a man now sitting on the pit wall, watching the car and me come and go. All I had to do was sit there, with the car dancing on the edge of control under me, manfully freaking out. BMW's TrackTrainer—an experimental 330i sedan bristling with machine-vision equipment—uses GPS, track maps and telemetry recorded during a professional driver's model lap to negotiate a racecourse.In Mr. Neil's view, these autonomous driving systems (ADSs) "have long since passed the point of mere driving competence to arrive at something like expert status." Therefore, it is only a matter of time before we hand over the controls, and the autonomy that implies, to these digital uberdrivers. After all, because ADSs will be able to predict rather than merely react, they would make the stop-and-go traffic jams a thing of the past. Highway carrying capacity will increase, because that same predictive ability will reduce following distances. Having pre-programmed the route, turbulence caused by lane changes will go away, and so will the need for almost all traffic control devices.In contrast, human controlled vehicles will be outliers, the risk carriers. One of these days, we will be banned from driving on our own roads.The danger will come not from auto-piloted vehicles but from the holdouts, those drivers who for whatever reason rely on the faulty, flimsy wetware between their ears. What will be normative? Should manually operated vehicles be the ones to give way? Or should autopilot cars (with special running lights) be especially deferential to their inferior human counterparts? Despite being something of an gear head, I can see his point. But because I am a gear head, I find it disturbing that in some not too distant future, driving will be a lost skill. While that might seem an extreme conclusion, remember this: what was once taken for granted has already nearly vanished -- virtually no one under the age of 30 can drive a three pedaled car. That's a reduction of almost 100% within a couple generations.Why? Because essentially no one among that group that makes almost all car buying decisions — women — enjoys telling the transmission what to do (full disclosure, both my cars are manuals). Similarly, hardly anyone views driving as any less a chore than vacuuming.So we will, a few atavistic double-declutching stick rowers notwithstanding, happily cede the right of way to our digital overlords.Left unanswered, though, is something of a conceptual problem. Granting that autonomously operated vehicles are the future, how do we get there from here?There are two problems Mr. Neil doesn[...]

Remember, you heard it first at TDD

Thu, 20 Sep 2012 06:37:00 +0000

Three years ago, the next ice age started.

How do I know? Compare these two photos:

The first is from a display at the Eagle River Nature Center, the purpose of which is to help people identify various peaks, their names, and the dates of (recorded) first ascent. It was taken sometime after 1998 (the latest summit date on the image), and was prior to the first snowfall.

Below that is a picture I took from the same spot, somewhat grainy, because the iPhone 4 camera is lame to begin with, and cropping to make it the same size as the display only further stressed those poor pixels.

My timing was a bit off, but that isn't my fault. In an era of global warming, how was I to expect the first snow (not quite correct, since there has been snowfall on these mountains every month since the end of winter ...) with summer still having a couple weeks to run.

What you are supposed to notice, comparing the two, is a large ice field towards the left that was scarcely there 12-ish years ago, plus considerable expansion in all the other fields.

This caught my attention as the summer of 2009 drew to a close, and has become more obvious at the end of the three succeeding summers.

I hate to be the harbinger of bad news. Global Warming, we can adjust to. Another Ice Age, we are toast.

So, when you finally heave your snowblower aside as completely inadequate to the task, and start running for Costa Rica, remember: TDD toldjyaso.


Thu, 30 Aug 2012 01:43:00 +0000

[rant]Now that that women are viewed, in the West anyway, as fully fledged – at the very least – members of the human race, linguistic conventions are clearly outdated. This, by the way, is not unique to English. Every known language deprecates and subsumes women. (See Robin Lakoff, Language and Women's Place, probably not available anywhere.) In fact, English, being one of the few genderless languages, is rather less guilty of perpetuating patriarchal hetero-normativity than the rest.For this blog's mother tongue, the most egregious offense, aside from the obvious affronts presented by "history" and "women", is the dual-purposing of masculine pronouns, as they have always been used to refer to both men and people. Consequently, writers have been torturing both themselves and readers in circumlocutions tendentious, ungrammatical, or, frequently, both.In a recent newspaper article about how GPS is changing, well, everything, one sentence referring to flying used "pilot ... she". As a practical matter, of course there are women pilots. Just not very many; statistically, the writer should have deferred to the masculine, and might well have done, except for the near-certainty of style sheets demanding a certain ratio of female pronouns.Even James Taranto, who is the gold standard for direct, telegraphic, and economical writing, falls into this trap. In today's Best of the Web, regarding the GOP convention, he had this to say about Ann Romney's speech:Which reminds us of something we found mildly vexing about last night's big speeches, namely the feminist pandering. Gov. Christie did it by using poor grammar: "Mitt Romney," he declared, "will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the debacle of putting the world's greatest health care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor."In English, masculine pronouns double as neutral ones. "An American citizen and his doctor" would have been the correct way of referring to a generic patient who could be of either sex. Make it ". . . her or his doctor" and you say the same thing, albeit with two excess words. But if you take Christie's words literally, ObamaCare is a problem only inasmuch as it harms women. The death panels can have at the guys.I happily grant that my criticizing Mr. Taranto on his writing is scarcely less hubristic than diagnosing shortcomings in Ted William's swing. Nonetheless, he has this wrong, as do all the other scribblers agonizing over the repression inherent in the language. I contend you can always, or close as darnnit, recast any sentence to avoid grinding women under the heel of grammatical repression. Hint: if the subject is inherently collective, it is also inherently plural. Try this instead: "... putting those bureaucrats between American citizens and their doctors." Or, better yet, since, with regard to healthcare, companion animals are not yet the beneficiaries of government largesse, how about "... Americans and their doctors."Try it, works every time.Besides it will forestall, perhaps indefinitely, the imposition of s/he.Oh, while I'm on a roll, we are beset by the clanking of gender neutrality right where it is least necessary. To wit, every article on "parenting" is written by women, about women. So, how about leaving us guys out of that cat-fight? "Mothering" is a perfectly good word.[/rant]No, wait ...[rant back on]The progenitors of "You've got mail" and "America's got talent" to name just two examples, should be rewarded with a sound[...]

Tick. Tock.

Tue, 28 Aug 2012 01:07:00 +0000

As of two weeks ago, Chez Skipper is an empty nest. Both the woman and man children are now at Washington State University.

For the last half year or so, if I stopped what I was doing, I could hear the ethereal pendulum of an invisible clock swinging remorselessly, slightly louder with each descent. Of course, time is marking off for all of us always, but some events, rubicons, whose approach is sufficiently obvious, particularly tune our ears to its relentless march.

When the other SWIPIAW and I headed for the airport, the rest of their lives, and ours, started.

As portentous as all that is, in all senses of the term, over the months my mind couldn't help but wander away from the universe's escapement mechanism. Frequently, it ended up in the financial morass we call higher education.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a collectivist. I'll leave that to those whose visions are without constraint. Yet I can't help but apply that collectivist term "fairness" to the ravenous monetary maw college educations have become: $26,000 per year, not including books, travel, or incidentals. It is worth noting that we picked WSU for its proximity and cost. It is the closest suitable college to Alaska that is only four times as expensive as it should be, instead of ten. And while the Skipper sprogs are no doubt exemplars of their kind, I don't doubt there are many every bit as meritorious, but whose choice of parental units was less fortunate. For them, even a decidedly middling college is either out of reach, or attainable only through the prospect of years laboring out from underneath debt.

The questions are, or at least should be, obvious. Colleges impart no more education now -- leaving aside for the moment the intrinsic value of what higher education pedagogy hurls from its podia -- yet the cost to purchase it has skyrocketed.

Consider a microcosm of the college experience, textbooks.

When it comes to economics, one the nice things about books is that once invented, they have scarcely changed, making the concept of inflation far easier to apply. Over the last forty years, without any adjustment, the number of dollars required to purchase a hard back book has roughly tripled. Over that same period, the unadjusted cost of college textbooks has increased over seven times. As for the wider picture, I'll bet the average college budget top line is an order of magnitude greater. Why?

Two reasons, probably. Just as the CRA created the housing bubble, government attempts to ameliorate unfairness have just made the problem worse. James Taranto has also theorized that court decisions eliminating aptitude tests with racially disparate outcomes has caused companies to look elsewhere for talent proxies: college diplomas have become de rigueur where they once were beside the point.

No matter. Despite being an admission against interest, the sooner this government fueled and fortified fleecing collapses, the better for all of us.

This Enquiring Mind Wants to Know ...

Wed, 22 Aug 2012 21:00:00 +0000

A recent post at Volokh about consensus economic policies included this:

One: Eliminate the mortgage tax deduction, which lets homeowners deduct the interest they pay on their mortgages. Gone. After all, big houses get bigger tax breaks, driving up prices for everyone. Why distort the housing market and subsidize people buying expensive houses?

There are really two issues here: market distortion and subsidy; it is the latter which puzzles me.

First, if it is a subsidy, who is subsidizing whom?

Second, why eliminate it only for homeowners, but not rentiers?

(Full disclosure: I am an owner/occupier.)

Catch-29 Million

Mon, 23 Jul 2012 12:07:00 +0000

Post Stockton, post Solyndra, post GM, you'd think we had pretty much plumbed the depths of rapacious government.

Sorry, but no. From today's International Herald Tribune:
What is the fair market value of an object that cannot be sold?

The question may sound like a Zen koan, but it is one that lawyers for the heirs of the New York art dealer Ileana Sonnabend and the Internal Revenue Service are set to debate when they meet in Washington next month.

The object under discussion is “Canyon,” a masterwork of 20th-century art created by Robert Rauschenberg that Mrs. Sonnabend’s children inherited when she died in 2007.

Because the work, a sculptural combine, includes a stuffed bald eagle, a bird under federal protection, the heirs would be committing a felony if they ever tried to sell it. So their appraisers have valued the work at zero.

But the Internal Revenue Service takes a different view. It has appraised “Canyon” at $65 million and is demanding that the owners pay $29.2 million in taxes.

Lemme see if I have this right. Its purported value is $65M, but it is worthless, so cough up $29M. Which, presuming my précis is correct, makes me feel somewhat delusional, despite being completely sober and compos mentis.

But wait, there's more. This, err, valuation comes despite "IRS guidelines [saying] that in figuring an item's fair market value, taxpayers should 'include any restrictions, understandings, or covenants limiting the use or disposition of the property.'"

In this instance, the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act make it a crime to possess, sell, purchase, barter, transport, import or export any bald eagle — alive or dead. Indeed, the only reason Mrs. Sonnabend was able to hold onto “Canyon,” Mr. Lerner said, was due to an informal nod from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 1981.

Now, as it happens, the heirs probably fuel their hot-tub with mounds of crispy Benjamins whilst pondering how best to grind the lower orders under the diamond studded soles of their Maniks.

But let's change the facts a little. Let's say I did something particularly noteworthy for Mrs. Sonnabend -- whatever that might be I'll leave to the reader as an exercise -- and I inherited this thing.

I couldn't sell it, and I couldn't afford to keep it.

Framed in this way, the solution practically hurls itself onto the page. Perhaps my artistic values are somehow wanting, or the picture doesn't do the work justice, but if that thing showed up on my yard, I'd burn it.

That would be a win-win. First, it would provide the perfect opportunity to very publicly present the single-digit salute to the IRS. But wait, there's more. By getting away with not paying my taxes, I could for once, and that's about the limit for a lifetime, prove AOG wrong.

Excuses, Excuses

Mon, 23 Jul 2012 09:30:00 +0000

Even beyond my perplexing and exasperating writer’s block, this summer has been particularly antagonistic to the annals of the not so Daily Duck.Just to be clear, I am in no way claiming the kind of busy that afflicts AOG. Quite the opposite, actually. So while it is true that I have been flying more than usual, I have developed quite the talent for relentlessly wasting entire days in hotel rooms. (Example: reading the comments thread attached to an NYT article about the Boy Scouts reaffirming their ban on openly gay scouts. Even my dog, more anon, wouldn’t require that much time to conclude that the paper had completely, and their readers nearly universally, had managed to completely miss the point at hand.)But stuff beyond that kind of heroic dithering has been actually been going on. Following are the highlights, aided by visual aids to help hide unhappy lapses in content, organization, and writing skill.We Build a FenceI grew up in Southern California, where everyone’s back yard is fenced in. The other SWIPIAW grew up in the northeast, where yards are never fenced. I have no idea why this is.When we moved to our current neck of the woods, hardly a yard was fenced. Now most are, and TOSWIPIAW decided that we would join that trend. Not that there is anything particularly, or even slightly, earth shaking about a fence. But we (I) decided to build the thing, rather than write a check to someone else.I think this runs afoul of Bret’s observation that by doing so, I am trespassing upon specialization. (We did pay to have the posts put in: the boulder laced glacial till upon which we sit is absolutely antagonistic to any digging means I would even be remotely qualified to employ.) Perhaps this is so, but after it was all said and done, we saved $1200 after material costs, which worked out to about $20 per family person hour. The man-child, who was quite taken by his high school Econ class, asserted that our DIY approach, we were hurting the economy. To which I replied “Son, there are two women in this family. That money is already spent.” After a gratifyingly brief moment, I could see the light come on. “Oh, I get it. No GDPs were harmed in the making of this fence.”TOSWIPIAW Getting Started Worker and credible supervisorThere is some backstory. Rusty the Alaskan Wilderness Adventure Dog (RAWAD) thinks he is supervising; in that role, he was as good as most. However, RAWAD is the genesis of our enclosure. He is a doggy role model: doesn’t bark, dig, chew, jump on people or the furniture. Unfortunately, he is not quite at the apex of houndom. The AKC papers say he is a Golden Retriever. I really must get around to correcting them on this point, as in practice he is a resolute Won’t Retriever. Also, he very occasionally goes walkabout, nearly always when I’m gone. This is a problem in the winter, because between snow and darkness, he is impossible to see when out doing his constitutionals.This came to a head last Christmas eve. He went out, but didn’t return. A half hour later, we got a phone call from a house a street over and down. They had very kindly collared him for us. When the man-child went over to get him, he learned that RAWAD had scarfed a half dozen créme brulees cooling on their back deck.Which I learned about the next day, in great detail, and with some vehemence.Unfortunately, there is no way to really recover from this sort of thing, but [...]

Why would we want to be Bretless?

Tue, 08 May 2012 06:37:00 +0000

In my previous post I suggested that a study purporting the advisability of extortionate tax rates on the wealthy was an empty exercise in mathematical bling, concocted without any apparent reference to the real world, or any consideration of consequences therein.

Last week, the NYT carried a pre-publication review of “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong", written by Bain venture capitalist Edward Conard. Who, since he is not just the 1%, but the 0.1%, clearly wants to make everyone except himself poor so they are free to sleep under bridges.

The idea that society benefits when investors compete successfully is pretty widely accepted. Dean Baker, a prominent progressive economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, says that most economists believe society often benefits from investments by the wealthy. Baker estimates the ratio is 5 to 1, meaning that for every dollar an investor earns, the public receives the equivalent of $5 of value. The Google founder Sergey Brin might be very rich, but the world is far richer than he is because of Google. Conard said Baker was undercounting the social benefits of investment. He looks, in particular, at agriculture, where, since the 1940s, the cost of food has steadily fallen because of a constant stream of innovations. While the businesses that profit from that innovation — like seed companies and fast-food restaurants — have made their owners rich, the average U.S. consumer has benefited far more. Conard concludes that for every dollar an investor gets, the public reaps up to $20 in value. This is crucial to his argument: he thinks it proves that we should all appreciate the vast wealth of others more, because we’re benefiting, proportionally, from it.

As it happens, Bret Wallach, one of The Great Guys is an entrepreneur: his company is engaged in designing a robot smart enough to automate pruning grape vines. In order to solve that very non-trivial problem, beyond a daunting amount of knowledge and talent, he needs two things: financial incentive to forego certain income now for more, but less certain, income later. That, and investors who see enough potential reward to make the risk worthwhile.

In other words, to make our society wealthy, we must allow people to become rich.

But never mind that. After all, equality is far better than having to suffer the success of the Brets and Conards.

Just ask the Cubans. Or the North Koreans. Or the Europeans.