Monday, November 23, 2009

Ocean Ditching

I believe after 35 years the statute of limitations may have run out on one of the stupidest things that I have ever done. One of the stupidest because there are a few others that I cannot recall right now, but that they occurred is etched in my mind. Eventually, something will trigger their recollection, I know.

The ditching at night, of all things, of a medical mission flight off Norfolk Island in the Pacific Ocean, about 1,200 nautical miles North West of Australia, after the pilot failed to make a successful instrument landing after three attempts to land in poor weather, brought this particular incident to mind. It took a while to convince myself that I should tell the story.

I flew my Twin Comanche with friends down from the Johannesburg region to Plettenberg Bay (FAPG-PBZ) in the southern Cape in South Africa. The friends with whom we would be staying for the weekend indicated that they’d like to see Plett, as the coastal town is affectionately known, from the air. I didn’t hesitate to take him and his wife up because, after all, they were our hosts for the weekend – it was the least I could do.

We took off, flew a typical sightseeing routine and then flew about 100 miles inland over the mountains to the north. Notorious for sudden changes in the weather, I found myself on top of a layer of cloud that covered the entire area when we returned from our inland excursion. The top of the layer must have been at about 3,000 feet with rain clouds further out over the ocean.

Instead of electing to fly back inland and overnight somewhere else, I elected to descend through the cloud layer by flying out over the ocean tracking a nearby ADF beacon outbound. (I said it was stupid.)

After passing the ADF beacon abeam, to make sure that we were over the ocean before entering the cloud layer, I maintained about 150 knots and a rate of descent of 500 feet per minute. I knew my altimeter was reasonably accurate since I set the QNH at the airport before takeoff according to the airport’s elevation, but the change in weather probably changed that a bit, so at 500 feet above the water I gradually slowed my descent rate. By this time it started to rain heavily reducing the visibility to less than half the wingspan of the Comanche. There, with the inside of the cabin and the drone of the engines the only visible clues that we were somewhere, sat the three of us and I am the only one knowing what’s happening. I must say, my passengers were awfully quiet. That was fine by me because it was no time to recite poetry.

As the altimeter wound down to about 100 feet above zero, I brought the rate of descent to about 25 feet per minute, which would get us to the water in four minutes. Knowing my vertical speed indicator to be very accurate, I could reduce the rate of descent to less than the width of the zero-line on the instrument, guessing the actual rate to be about 10 feet per minute. Then, peering outside through the side window between the left engine and the fuselage past the front of the wing, I waited. We waited. Soon, the ocean would show itself.

As the altimeter almost touched the zero line the ocean appeared through the grayness of the rain and I immediately climbed back up to 100 feet waiting to fly out of the rain. I wasn’t prepared to turn around towards land until I could see where I was going so we continued to plough through the rain for about 5 more minutes when suddenly the skies opened up and we popped out of the shaft of rain in which we descended. The overcast was about 1,500 feet above sea level giving us ample room to fly back and land at Plett, which is at 465 feet.

By the time I turned around and flew around the rain, there was no land in sight. The first thing my friend said was, ‘where are we?’ I pointed to the ADF needle pointing dead ahead and it wasn’t long before we were safely on the ground. To them, I performed a miracle. You don’t want to know what I, quietly, called myself.

Seeing the ocean appear almost within touching distance, skirting it at more than 250 feet per second, was brought to mind when I heard that the pilot of the medical mission ditched the Westwind Jet in the ocean under controlled flight. I couldn’t help but wonder if he, too, saw the ocean appear in the cone of his landing lights, and, unlike in my situation, knew that the safety of the cabin would very soon be destroyed, by choice.

I am glad I didn’t have to make that decision.

Good thing they all survived.

We did, too.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Fool and the Professor

The time has come where the elite of our society, college professors, are being laughed at and ridiculed. That’s both a blessing and a shame. A blessing because fools ought to be ridiculed when they mislead people from positions of power; A shame because we expect those who specialize in certain fields to be honest brokers of their positions and to pass that honesty on to their students.

By no means are college professors the only class of elite who are generally being tolerated with a snicker and dismissal. Elites of all fur are falling prey to that perception.

I read an Op-Ed in the New York Times1 today by Professor Ray Madoff2 (I don’t know and don’t care if she’s related to the infamous Bernie) about the estate tax reduction that congress enacted in 2001 under President George W. Bush, which would make the total eradication of all estate taxes permanent in 2010. Not doubting that it is any administration’s right to repeal the acts of a previous administration, the premise upon which Professor Madoff argues is false, has always been false, and will remain false regardless how many times ridicule-worthy-elite like Ray Madoff repeats it.

Or should I say that they have never been in touch with reality. Safely ensconced in their ivory towers of tenure they can afford to walk around with blind spots, which they hold over the truth here and there whenever they choose to do so without any threat of accountability.

Wouldn’t I just love to drag her into the Court of Dishonest Opinions and throw her into the dungeons of having-to-work-for-a-living?

Professor Madoff’s premise on estate taxes are pretty much defined by her using words such as “the farmer/heiress riddle” and “move our tax system closer to the values on which the country was founded…” and here is the kicker, she continues, “…that hard work should be rewarded and power should not be conferred by birth.” What?

And she is a Professor teaching trusts and estates, estate and gift tax, estate planning and she cannot get a simple fact about this country straight? Not taxing estates is a “giveaway” to the rich?

The government has no money to “give away,” Professor Madoff. Government takes money from people under threat of penalty and incarceration and then blows it away on others who should be in the dungeons like the rest of us.


1 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/21/opinion/21madoff.html?_r=1&th&emc=th
2 http://www.bc.edu/schools/law/fac-staff/deans-faculty/madoffr.html

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Riskless Society

What Does Riskless Society Mean?

According to Investopedia, a riskless society can be defined as A fictional society in which the world markets become complete and sophisticated enough that every imaginable risk can be mitigated by insurance. The notion of the riskless society was developed by Dr. Kenneth Arrow and Gerard Debreu, which has led the way to further progress in the risk management sciences.

Granted, the premise of the fictional society is that market equilibrium is possible, which is an assumption that opposes much of the practical evidence we see.

However, why someone would create a model with such obvious flaws is rather baffling, unless there are some issues that are above my pay-grade, which is quite probable. Dr. Debreu won the Nobel Memorial Prize for this in 1983, which also says something about it, I suppose.

One aspect that I found particularly flawed is the notion that a market would be complete and sophisticated when every imaginable risk has been mitigated by insurance. Those are irreconcilable forces. Insurance, by its very nature, spawns risky behavior because the consequences of the behavior have been sold to an underwriter liberating the risk-taker to engage in even riskier behavior. Unfortunately, as insurance mitigates more risks, risks become greater at an accelerated scale, rapidly overtaking the ability to insure them.

A couple of years ago, there was an issue with our auto insurance, which only came to my attention after receiving a cell-phone call while I was driving 70 mph on one of the busiest freeways in the country. With gazillions of cars going in all different directions whizzing past me sometimes with only inches to spare, I suddenly realized I might not have insurance.

I immediately slowed down, made sure there was more than ample room between my car and the guy in front of me, scanned the instruments, rear-view mirror, side mirrors, traffic on the other side of the concrete median, everything, like a pilot on Instrument Flying Rules scanning his old steam gauges. If someone a mile away from me acted suspiciously, I knew about it and already planned a counter action to avoid any collision or incident. If someone cut in front of me, I gladly made room and let him in as long as he didn’t think that my intent was malicious and engage in road rage.

Damn! I just need to get to the office unscathed to sort this mess out.

It dawned on me that that is the way everyone should be driving with or without insurance. But that’s not reality, that’s like seeking a riskless society. It’s a fallacy and like trying to prove that a cat cannot sustain level flight under its own power. You know that already.

There was no problem with our insurance after all. I got onto the freeway to go home and as I sped up to 70 mph again, gave what just happened a brief thought.

That was all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Storm Clouds

We are, indeed, living in interesting times.

The clouds of trouble are thickening in the sky, nobody can deny that.

Someone who has been around thunderstorms (not the ones spurting up in California) for a while knows that the air would briefly and unexpectedly pluck at one’s clothes like warning scouts going before the king’s arrival. Heat and cold dance around the advancing mass and small twisters scatter ahead like yapping mad-dogs, kicking up dust here and there clearing the field for the oncoming carnage.

Who do we support, who do we trust? Some say go with Change, go with Hope. Some say No, this is self destruction, we will never be the same again.

C.S. Lewis once said, “We all want progress. But, if you are on the wrong road … the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

Just as I imagine the people around me to be those who were around when my dad was born 100 years ago this year, to get a perspective on families, old folks, cousins, brothers and sisters, playful teens, and so on, with whom my grandparents lived, so I imagine the people around me to be those who lived before the Second World War. They, too, looked at their political landscape and saw the beginning and rise of the Third Reich and couldn’t always clearly determine which direction to go with the clouds of trouble thickening in their sky.

With the advantage of a retrospective view on history it’s easy to judge those, while sitting in the peace that was brought about by so much carnage and death, who went one way or the other, especially in the beginning.

By the yardstick of history, many went the wrong way and others just didn’t go anywhere believing things will sort themselves out on their own as they usually did. They got caught in the rapids of the forces that were unleashed upon them; forces that were craftily positioned beforehand so that they would rouse the least suspicion as to their real intent. The orchestrators pieced together a strategy in which they alone would be hailed as the emperors having invested the necessary blood-capital to exact the bow and prostration of everybody else.

It would be hard to deny that the pre-Second-World-War era is in the mirror of history especially as to the arrangement and magnitude of the forces aligned against the orchestrators’ adversaries, who are the blood-capital of the future.

In the mirror we see the intent: to invest this blood-capital to elevate One to the level of world-emperor.

In the mirror we see that it failed.

In the mirror we see the sea of blood that it cost.

In the mirror we see one factor that could have prevented the terrible cost: Time.

The Time it took to recognize the plan and restrain the orchestrators. Without the mirror of history we may be excused for not knowing. With the mirror of history, there can be no excuse.

Look around you. See your family and other families’ family. See who of them you would choose to be the blood-capital to elevate One to be the emperor. Emperors almost always come back to the fount for more blood as the desire to conquer and rule becomes easier and more profitable.

More blood-capital will be needed to reverse that and overthrow the emperor. Look around you again for more families.

Time. Use it wisely. Use it soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 11

Today is Veterans Day in the US.

This date is remembered all over the world as the day on which World War I ended. The ceasefire was reached on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. It was known as Armistice or Remembrance Day until 1954 when President Dwight Eisenhower changed it to Veterans Day to pay tribute to all veterans of all wars, which I thought should have happened much sooner. It got fixed anyway.

On November 11 many things happened in history, such as: St. Silverius’ reign as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church ended on this day in 537; Turkey and Austria signed the Treaty of Zsitva-Torok in 1606; Massachusetts was the first state to pass the U.S.’s first compulsory school attendance law in 1647; In 1778 Iroquois Indians killed 40 in the Cherry Valley Massacre in New York; In 1851 Alvan Clark patented the telescope; Washington was admitted as the 42nd state in 1889; Construction of the navy base at Pearl Harbor began in 1909; The tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington was dedicated by President Harding in 1921; The first great dust storm called “Great Black Blizzard” kicked up in Great Plains in 1933; Jews were forced to wear the Star of David in Kristallnacht in 1938, which was the first sign that something terrible was about to happen in Germany; Kate Smith first sang “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin in 1939; The Willys Jeep was born in 1940; Seals Stadium in San Francisco was demolished in 1959; Cassius Clay knocked out Floyd Patterson in Las Vegas in 1965; Gemini 12 with Lovell and Aldrin on board was launched into space in 1966; The Dow Jones Index moved above 1,000 for the first time in 1972; Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975; Van Gogh’s “Irises” sold for a record $53.6 million in 1987; and 11-11-1999 was the last upside-down date until 1-1-6000, which I gladly will not see.

The event that I probably will never forget that happened on November 11 is Rhodesia’s unilateral declaration of independence from Britain in 1965 by Ian Smith, Rhodesia’s Prime Minister at the time.

Why would anyone remember that particular day, you may ask, since I am not from Rhodesia and had no family there either. Well, I was a cartographer in the South African army at the time and we were already in 1965 preparing maps for anticipated hostilities in Angola and South West Africa, which became Namibia after independence. One of my draftsmen was a Rhodesian who came down south to seek a more peaceful life and on November 11, 1965 he listened to Ian Smith’s speech announcing the unilateral declaration of independence, which became known as UDI, on his transistor radio. Dutifully, I asked him not to listen to the radio during working hours but he protested that history was in the making and I ought to listen to it, too. I listened and soon realized that I will probably remember this day as long as I lived. So far, I have remembered it every year.

UDI led to worldwide sanctions against Rhodesia as the world protested against it in its struggle against communism and anarchy.

Within 15 years, however, Rhodesia succumbed to the pressure as South Africa, who gave Rhodesia access to ports and a lucrative market during the sanctions era, also increased pressure on Ian Smith to strike a deal with the opposing sides. Huge deceptions hoodwinked the Rhodesians and in the end Robert Mugabe came into power driving the country into the ground with communist-socialist policies.

It became a common slogan: Previously one could go to Rhodesia and visit the Zimbabwe Ruins; lately one can go to Zimbabwe and visit the Rhodesian Ruins.

There is a lesson in it all for us here in the U.S., especially in today’s economic and political climate: Socialism by nature is corrosive and destroys. The Judeo-Christian economic model is the only model that spawns universal wealth, prosperity and justice.

The beauty is that one doesn’t have to believe in the doctrine to practice it and share in its bounty.

About Me

Seeking the truth until I find it.