Grounding

On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Air flight 409 crashed shortly after takeoff from Beirut. Radar and cockpit communications showed that the pilots struggled to keep the plane flying from the moment it rotated off the runway, eventually just falling out of the sky in a stall.

It was eerily similar to the rash of Lion Air 610 out of Jakarta on 29 October, 2018. Both crashes were of a kind that simply should not happen to a modern aircraft.

Since both incidents involved the relatively new Boeing 737 Max airplane, attention immediately centered on how safe the plane was. It seems like a simple decision – is this plane safe? But if you read a lot of the coverage of it, you might think this was entirely a political issue. Has everything, even safety, become a matter for politics and the questions at hand involving money and who looks bad?

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We Are All Immigrants

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

At most of our southern borders, there is no great statue welcoming anyone. There is only the vast expanse of desert to cross, there is only the journey. No one comes through this looking good, but at the end there is the goal. It may not be paradise, but it sure looks like it to someone running, riding, walking, moving however they can just a few steps ahead of death.

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Brexit: Talking Past the Point

It is a busy week in the UK House of Commons. At this writing, Meaningful Brexit Vote 2.0 (We Really Mean It This Time) has failed by 149 votes.  This deals an apparent death blow to PM May’s attempts to negotiate an orderly retreat from the EU. The likely result will be a lot of hand wringing and a vote to delay the process.

The entire exercise appears to be based on what Winston Churchill once accused Americans of doing, namely “Once we have exhausted all the other possibilities we do the right thing.” Ignoring the will of the people after a referendum requires a period of slow torture and likely another popular vote (We Really, Really Mean It, We Promise).

All of this is quite impossible for one simple reason: Brexit isn’t really about Brexit. Like most political issues in developed nations today, the cause of all this noise and nonsense isn’t really the issue at hand. It’s not about whether the UK should be in the EU or not – in an ideal situation it’s rather obvious that it should be. The problem is that we are so far from ideal that no one can make any sense of anything.  And that’s where this American politely, humbly, offers his opinion on this situation.

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Seeking the Source

This piece from four years ago is a bit dated, but it also is not. We do need to find original sources, and far too many important issues in our world are clouded by the lack of them.

The internet is a wide, rolling river of information. It can be treacherous and dangerous to wade into if you’re not careful. If you’re looking for a cool drink of truth, the muddy brown of this mighty Mississippi of data often has a harsh stench of bias bubbling along with the waves. What can a reader thirsty for knowledge do?

The answer is to seek the source – the cool, clear stream that feeds into the torment at the headwaters. I call it the “Urquelle”, a German word meaning “original source” favored in the mountains and rolling hills that are the source of so many great rivers in Bavaria and Bohemia. This process of seeking out primary sources is valuable not just for writers, for whom primary sources have long been a staple of good, useful prose. As surely as reading is writing, today’s discerning reader should also seek the Urquelle.
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Trade Deficits Tell Us Something

The US trade deficit in goods jumped a solid $80 billion per year in 2018 to $878 billion, a net increase of 10% over 2017. This rather abstract figure is naturally spun to reflect either a rebuke of Trump and his policies or as a sign that the economy is particularly strong, depending on your perspective. From the point of view of China, it’s a sign that they might well be “winning” a trade war.

Is that what any of it means? The long answer is no, of course, but it begs the question as to what any of it actually does mean. It’s important to put the trade deficit into context and reach a deeper understanding of the flow of money around the world. The resulting analysis does show that there is a problem in the world, a fundamental imbalance, but does not tell us how much we should be worried about it.

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