Academics and NYT stirring up envy

“How to Tax Our Way Back to Justice: It is absurd that the working class is now paying higher tax rates than the richest people in America.” (NYT) is kind of fascinating for what it says about our media and taxpayer-funded universities.

Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, economists at UC Berkeley, figured out that the “bottom 50%” of Americans earn $18,500/year on average and pay a tax rate of 25 percent.

Here’s my comment on the piece:

I wonder if these guys ever leave their offices on campus.

If they were to walk down to one of the less genteel neighborhoods in their fair city of Berkeley they would discover folks who are living in taxpayer-funded housing, signed up for taxpayer-funded health insurance (Medicaid), receiving taxpayer-funded food stamps, and using a taxpayer-funded smartphone.

Unless you’re going to turn all of these noncash welfare programs into some kind of cash income equivalent, there is no meaningful way to calculate the tax rate paid for an American on welfare. Given that 71 million of us are on Medicaid, for example, the numbers presented in this article cannot possibly be correct. The economists have the “bottom 50%” with an average annual income of $18,500. The income limit for welfare in the writers’ native Bay Area is at least $117,400/year (see ).

Maybe they found some people with a cash income of $18,500, but that isn’t their spending power. If it were, these folks could not afford to live in the U.S. at all (since, if they have a kid or two, health insurance would consume 100% of their income, leaving nothing for food or shelter).

The truly amazing thing here is that middle class Californians are being taxed to fund these two professors!

The article has a lot of information about how the rich are getting richer.

Since it is obviously absurd to talk about the tax rate paid by people who are mostly living on welfare, what could the purpose of the article be other than to sow discord and rage? (the authors hint that they have been advising Elizabeth Warren and presumably would be on track for central planning jobs if she were to be elected)

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NTSB preliminary report on the B-17 crash

A reporter sent me the NTSB preliminary report on the recent B-17 tragedy at Bradley in Connecticut. Here’s what I wrote back…

This more or less eliminates a popular speculation that the plane was mistakenly fueled with Jet A. Two people were there at the fueling. A good FBO will sample the fuel truck every morning for water, sediment, etc. This particular truck was thoroughly checked as part of the investigation.

The NTSB found no skimping on maintenance. The plane was within its annual inspection and had received progressive inspections at 25-hour intervals. Three of the engines were more or less fresh from overhaul (0 hours in January 2019; 268 hours of operation since then). Based on a quick search, I found that gently operated big radial engines in airline service after World War II were able to go 3,000+ hours between overhauls.

The plane should have been light. Out of a total fuel capacity of 1,700 gallons for a standard B-17, only 160 had been added that morning (to whatever was held in reserve from previous flying).

The report seems to eliminate another possibility, i.e., that the No. 4 engine wouldn’t feather properly, thus creating a huge amount of drag on one wing. (see ASA 2311 and ASA 529, both of wouldn’t have occurred if a prop could have been feathered; multi-engine planes are designed with the ability to twist the prop blades until they’re more or less at a knife edge to the wind, thus minimizing drag and workload for the remaining engine(s)).

The report hints at the No. 3 engine also being feathered. That would be bad. The plane isn’t designed to fly with two engines on one side and none on the other, though it probably would still be controllable at a low power setting consistent with approach and landing, especially at the “no flap” setting that they were using (flaps are essentially for landing on a short runway because they let the plane be flown slower and descend steeply at a slow speed, but they add drag and require extra power, so the pilots were being conservative in not extending them and relying on having a long runway for rolling out from a higher airspeed).

This doesn’t resolve any of the mystery, I don’t think. The failed engine was feathered, so the multi-engine plane should have been flyable just like the book says to fly it. The fuel was good 100LL. The pilots shouldn’t have needed more than a touch of power since they wanted to descend and had no flaps out.

The most surprising part of the report: “the airplane was about 300 ft agl on a midfield right downwind leg for runway 6.” Normal pattern altitude is 1000′ above ground level (AGL). “Right downwind” means they were going in the opposite direction of Runway 6 such that they’d have to turn right and right again to land. If this 300′ AGL altitude is correct, the plane was buzzing buildings on the SE corner of the airport (diagram) and better set up to land on Runway 33.

Still just as sad and still nearly as mysterious.


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Programs to raise female wages will secure a voting majority for Democrats?

Democrats advocate more low-skill immigration. This makes sense politically since roughly 80 percent of Americans on welfare will vote for Democrats (stats at end of this article; 88 percent of folks who benefit from public housing are loyal Democrats, for example). With 10-year waiting lists for public housing, though, it is unclear that low-skill migrants are a sustainable resource for the Democrats.

How about women? The Economist: “unmarried women are spectacularly loyal to the Democrats … The ‘marriage gap’ dwarfs the sex gap, by which women as a whole have long favoured Democrats.”

Is there a way that Democrats could increase the percentage of unmarried women and thereby secure permanent control of the U.S. political system? In general, it does not make sense for women to marry men who earn less than they do. So for every additional dollar that women earn relative to men, support for Democrats becomes more secure.

[See “Mismatches in the Marriage Market”, which notes a “shortage of economically attractive partners for unmarried women to marry” (if the economists who wrote this wanted a one-line summary, they might have said “Men see women as sex objects; women see men as success objects.”); see Real World Divorce for the ruinous exposure to alimony and child support lawsuits that a woman incurs by marrying a lower-income man (or having a child with one; see Sarah Palin’s daughter sued for child support by a Marine Corps veteran); see “Burning Man: Attitudes toward marriage and children” for a finance executive saying “I worked my ass off for 17 years for what I have. I am not going to risk losing it,” regarding the idea of marrying a man who earned less than her (way above average) salary. “Men from poor backgrounds ‘twice as likely to be single'” (BBC).]

Consider Melinda Gates, a supporter of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation (side question: are foreign governments still donating to this foundation now that Hillary Clinton is out of power?). She explains “Here’s Why I’m Committing $1 Billion to Promote Gender Equality”:

I am committing $1 billion to expanding women’s power and influence in the United States. I want to see more women in the position to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives.

Previously, in Harvard Business Review, Melinda Gates “We still aren’t earning as much” and “a stubborn 20% gap persists between men’s and women’s pay.” (Note that this might not be a reasonable measure; see “Gender equity should be measured by consumption, not income?”; Melinda Gates herself is a great example of a person whose income was negligible (went to $0 after marriage), but whose spending power is in the $billions (due to her sexual relationship with an older high-income man).)

Elizabeth Warren has been an advocate for increasing women’s pay relative to men’s (e.g., press release). She recently mocked men who don’t earn enough to attract a wife: “then just marry one woman … Assuming you can find one” (New York Times). If the typical woman in the U.S. earned more via wages than the typical man, Elizabeth Warren (or any other Democrat) would easily defeat Donald Trump.

Male Democrats are also passionate about increasing female wages to the point that marriage (and voting Republican) won’t make sense for them. Here’s a 2014 Obama Administration web page on the subject.

Readers: What do you think? Are efforts to boost wages by those who identify as “women” at least partly motivated by a desire to reduce the number of women who vote for Republicans?

(And, don’t forget that as long as this massive wage gap exists, a company can make crazy huge profits simply by hiring only women and thus having a big labor cost advantage over competitors with a mixed-gender workforce.)

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Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the Mosquito

Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, marking the anniversary of the beginning of European immigration to the U.S. (Who will be brave enough to suggest a further renaming of Columbus Day to “Destruction of Native Society via Immigration Day”?)

I’m in the middle of The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present, which blames smallpox, measles, and other diseases than can be transmitted from person to person for the majority of Native American deaths as a consequence of this immigration.

I recently finished The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator. This book, by contrast, says that it was mosquito-borne diseases, notably malaria and yellow fever, that were responsible for most of the killing. North America had mosquitoes prior to European migration, but was free of malaria, yellow fever, and a variety of other diseases spread by mosquitoes:

The deadly yellow fever virus disembarked in the Americas with African slaves and an imported Aedes breed of mosquito that easily survived the journey on the slave ships, reproducing in the plentiful barrels and pools of water. European slave traders and their human cargo provided ample opportunity for a continuous cycle of viral infection during the voyage until fresh blood could be claimed upon arrival at a foreign port. The Aedes mosquito quickly found its niche and a suitable home in the cheerful climate of its new world and thrived both in its superiority to domestic species and in its role as a deliverer of suffering and death.

Readers: What do you think? Most of what I have read suggests that malaria and yellow fever were at their deadliest in the coastal South. Yet Native American populations were largely destroyed throughout the continent.


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Are American interests harmed when the Syrian government governs Syria?

My Facebook feed is now 99 percent hysteria regarding the U.S. policy shift in Syria. Trump has decided to scale back involvement in the Syrian civil war, now in its 8th year. My friends who identify as Democrats are demanding continued U.S. military action (none has demanded a 600-ship Navy yet, but I remain hopeful!). Note that none of these folks are actually in the military or young enough to join, so they take no personal risk by advocating that others fight.

From a recent New York Times article:

The Syrian government had been almost entirely absent from the northeast since it withdrew or was chased out by armed rebels. The Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia that worked with the United States to fight the Islamic State, soon became the region’s overarching political force.

If Syrian government forces can reach the Turkish border to the north and the Iraqi border to the east, it would be a major breakthrough in Mr. Assad’s quest to re-establish his control over the whole country.

In other words, while complaining that some Russians may have purchased a Facebook ad falsely asserting that Hillary Clinton was an elderly tax-and-spend Democrat, we have been supporting a group trying to carve off part of another country and run it for themselves.

(I recognize that Bashar al-Assad may have shortcomings as a leader, but he has a challenging task and it is unclear that the Syrian government is worse than a bunch of other governments worldwide. If it is legitimate for us to help an armed rebellion against Assad, shouldn’t we also be helping armed rebellions all around the world?)

Readers: Plainly it would be better if Syrians were more like the Costa Ricans and the Syrian government were more like the Costa Rican government. But, given that Syrians are not like the Costa Ricans, does it make sense to be continuously outraged that the Syrian government is not like the Costa Rican government? What are we buying with the money and American lives spent over the last eight years in Syria?

Is it enough to say “Because terrorism”? Why is it obvious that some government other than Assad’s would do a better job of discouraging Muslims in Syria from waging jihad? None of the September 11 jihadis were from Syria and, in fact, all came from countries whose governments we have supported.

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Teaching 5th graders who vs. whom in an LGBTQ+ world

Email from a 5th grade teacher to parents at our local public school (soon to occupy the most expensive, per-student, building ever constructed in the United States):

Just wanted to reach out to tell you about the conversation we had in class today. Our middle school (grades 5-8) has a group called SAGA that meets weekly. SAGA stands for “Sexuality and Gender Alliance.” Today was the first meeting of the year.

In preparing the kids for possibly joining SAGA, our conversation centered around LGBTQ+ vocabulary and terms. I am attaching the vocabulary list that was used with the students. These definitions come from Welcoming Schools. It was a good conversation and the students have a lot of great knowledge already!

The attachment (below) uses the phrase “Who you love” (contrast to Barack Obama: “No matter who you are or whom you love, celebrate #Valentines Day with pride. #LoveIsLove”). Also note that, presumably due to recent definitional problems with the word “woman”, “Gay” and “Lesbian” have the same definition. Finally, I wonder if defining “Sexual Orientation” (Merriam-Webster) by “Who you love” will cause some confusion, even if one accepts that “who” can be used for the object of a verb. Fifth graders are familiar with parents who love children. They may also be familiar with children or adults who love a dog and a dog who loves human family members. Can the fifth grader now assume that the dog is sexually oriented toward human family members or that a parent is sexually oriented toward children who are loved? If “love” and sexuality are equivalent, does that make the fifth grader’s world simpler or more complex?

[Attached] LGBTQ Vocabulary Words

Words associated with gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexuality


Cisgender: When your gender identity (how you feel) is the same as what doctors/midwives assigned to you when you were born (girl/boy or sex assigned at birth).

Gender: How you feel. Your internal felt sense of being a girl, boy, both or neither. 

Gender Binary: A way of seeing gender as two distinct and opposite groups—girl and boy. This idea doesn’t include all the ways we can have a gender identity and express our gender. 

Gender Expansive: Some people feel that the traditional ways of being a “boy” or “girl” do not fit for them. They live their lives showing that there are many ways to be a girl, boy, both or neither. 

Gender Identity: How you feel. Girl, boy, both or neither. Everyone has a gender identity. 

Non-Binary: People who do not feel like the words “girl” or “boy” fits. They may feel like 
both or neither. They sometimes use pronouns such as they, them, theirs. 

Sex Assigned At Birth: When a baby is born, a doctor or midwife looks at the baby’s body/anatomy and says they are a boy, girl or intersex. 

Transgender or Trans: When your gender identity (how you feel) is different than what doctors/midwives assigned to you when you were born (girl/boy or sex assigned at birth). 


Bisexual: People who love or are attracted to people of two genders. 

Gay: People who love or are attracted to people of the same gender. 

Heterosexual: People who love or are attracted to other people of the opposite gender.

Lesbian: People who love or are attracted to people of the same gender.

Sexual Orientation: Who you love or are attracted to.


LGBTQ: Acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. 

Queer: People use this word as a way to identify with and celebrate people of all gender identities and all the ways people love each other. When used in a mean way, it is a word that hurts. 

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Complete glass cockpit in one retrofit instrument

Here’s something that one would have thought would have been built about 15 years ago: a complete glass cockpit that fits into a legacy instrument panel 3″ hole. The uAvionix AV-30: it can be an attitude indicator, an HSI, a G meter, angle-of-attack indicator (“AoA is calculated by comparing the aircraft’s pitch, flight path, and G-loading”), etc. It even has a built-in battery that will run for 2 hours after the aircraft’s electrical system fails. All for about $2,000 for a certified aircraft.

Thought: if the Boeing 737 MAX had used this device, which tries to determine AOA via inference, instead of the (failure-prone) mechanical AOA sensors that it did use, nobody would have been killed by the airplane.


  • the same company has a retrofit wingtip-mounted ADS-B OUT transponder and a new one that will work on the 1090 MHz frequency required for Canada
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Department of Understatement: Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein

From “Bill Gates Met With Jeffrey Epstein Many Times, Despite His Past” (NYT):

His lifestyle is very different and kind of intriguing although it would not work for me,” Mr. Gates emailed colleagues in 2011, after his first get-together with Mr. Epstein.

Almost as good as The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook:

Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word “cake.” I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for dessert. Still, I feel that this may be my most profound achievement yet, and have resolved to enter it in the Betty Crocker Bake-Off.

Also in the article…

Mr. Gates, in turn, praised Mr. Epstein’s charm and intelligence. Emailing colleagues the next day, he said: “A very attractive Swedish woman and her daughter dropped by and I ended up staying there quite late.”


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Americans don’t read the world’s best literature?

Two authors won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year: Peter Handke and Olga Tokarczuk. I hadn’t heard of either of these writers so I figured I would head over to Amazon and pick the ones that got the best reader reviews.

The Amazon page for Handke lists books with, mostly, between 0 and 5 reviews. For Olga Tokarczuk, there are just two books, with a maximum of 44 reviews. Compare to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Ode to Victimhood (4,200+ reviews), anything by Stephen King (up to 10,000 reviews!), Michelle Obama’s How to Marry a Successful Man (15,500+ reviews), etc.

Do we conclude that these recent Laureates are not truly great authors? Or that Americans don’t bother to read authors of great literature?

I want to give Slow Homecoming a try, since it starts in Alaska. Flights seems promising since it is about travel.

Readers: Had you heard of these authors? Planning to read anything by them?


  • Wikipedia says Peter Handke questioned the demonization of Slobodan Milošević (thus upsetting the European righteous)
  • the Wikipedia page for Olga Tokarczuk says “she has leftist convictions” (so she might agree with Slobodan Milošević, at least, on the merits of socialism?)
  • NYT article on these prizes quotes Olga Tokarczuk as an enthusiast for low-skill migrants going to the U.S. (but not to her own homeland of Poland, it seems!): She also referenced increasingly severe immigration policies in the United States. “Twelve years ago there was no mention of the idea of walls or borders, which were originally adopted by totalitarian systems,” she said. “Back then I must admit that I was sure that we had put totalitarianism behind us.”
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