Hughesair (Inflection Point)

Retired physician and air taxi operator, science writer and part time assistant professor, these editorials cover a wide range of topics. Mostly non political, mostly true, I write more from experience than from research and more from science than convention. Subjects cover medicine, Alaska aviation, economics, technology and an occasional book review. The Floatplane book is out there. I am currently working on Hippocrates a Fanciful History of Medicine and Death of the Middleclass. Enjoy!


Monday, November 20, 2017

Daily Treasury Statement

This tip alone is more than worth the price of the book. However, readers who follow my blog, have heard it before. It's a matter of  market liquidity. The daily tax revenue acts as a fairly reliable proxy for expansion and contraction of disposable income. To be sure, one must consider the number of IPOs, stock buy backs, accusations and mergers thus taking into account extraneous market events. However, the most recent two or three days of treasury receipts compared with the same dates the year before, usually correlates surprisingly well with current market movement. Some would look at just one day; unfortunately the most re cent day posted will always be a day or two old.
Go to: / current statement, pick PDFs, scroll down to the bottom and find on the left, three boxes of total receipts, daily monthly and year to date. Write these numbers down with the date along with, on the right and up a bit the current day's national debt.
Now return to the starting page and find Archive under Current. Choose Archive, select the prior year and the relevant quarter and look for the same month and day as the current report. Note, last year comes a day of the week earlier; use the date rather than the day. Open the PDFs and copy down the same numbers as previously copied on the current. Now calculate the percentage differences. Again as a prediction of stock market movement, the daily year over percentage may predict tomorrow's market strength. Of course this will not always work; it's just a statistic, but it is frosting on the cake if you are already in the market and know what's going on.
As a bonus, looking at the increase in National debt year over, and comparing that with the year to date revenue demonstrates in exact terms the success, or lack thereof, of government economic policies, not withstanding certain unavoidable enviromental disasters.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

0.3 degrees Centagrade

Can you imagine the energy released by warming the atmosphere only 0.3 degrees Centegrade? If that small increase in temperature effected only the top one centemeter of the ocean surface -- i ran a quick calculation based on "1 calorie is the energy from heating 1 ml of water 1 degree C." -- it looks like the equivelent of 11,000 Hiroshima size nuclear bombs, no wonder the vicious storms.

The oceans cover 510 x 10 to the 6 square kilometers.
The Hiroshima bomb was aproximately equivelent to 15 kt of TNT ( 1 kt TNT = 10 to the 12 calories.)
Please check my numbers; ther's a lot of zeros.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fatal Crash Ketchikan

NTSB reports the 2015 crash in South East that killed 9 sight seers from Holland American Lines as controlled flight into terrain, indeed it was controlled flight first into instrument conditions.  There was plenty of blame all around. The pilot age 64 had 1200 Alaska hours and a reputation for caution. but flew an Otter into the mountainside near Ella Narrows, Misty Fjords and Ketchikan.

There were several issues. This was a part 135 operation. The mantra for part 135 is 500 and 2, that is 500 feet clear of clouds or terrain and 2 miles visibility. There was no way given the photograph and fatal outcome that this basic regulation, meant to insure minimum passenger safety, was even partially followed. The radar altimeter was found to be shut off, with the explanation that pilots frequently disable the device because it makes a frequent noise that frightens passengers. If the warning device was set at 500', that alone would confirm the disregard of the basic flight limitation for this level of commercial flying. Ah, but this is Alaska, home of the dare devil bush pilot where Lodge pilots, not limited by the Part 135 restrictions routinely brag about flight where overcast is "down to the grass." At 64, the pilot was a bit of an oddity with only 1200 Alaska hours, maybe he was a retired airline pilot. Airline pilots are accustomed to fling high, fast, in the system and on auto pilot. Mountain flying, low and slow under the scud is new to them. That may account for reports of his poor adaptation to down drafts and "misty conditions." More than anything this was a human factors disaster on multiple levels. Additionally 1200 hours may be a time when pilots gain some elementary level of confidence about Alaska flying which can easily turn into relaxation and over confidence. Then one sees others doing it, and one is tempted too. So much for the pilot, he paid the price. This was his third flight of the day, flight time and fatigue may have played a role as well.

Unfortunately, the blame does not stop there. The weather reports are not much better than in the 1940s. NWS still reports weather in the acronyms and hieroglyphics understandable only by themselves and pilots in a flight service briefing or on the ground. Add to that the US compliance with international weather terminology reports temperature and due-point in Centigrade whole numbers, numbers representing a wider value than Fahrenheit. NWS should report the temperature due-point spread with a decimal point to the tenth, so as to more finely describe the amount of visible moisture in the air. Furthermore, and for the same reasoning, WS reports low clouds and fog as mist, with a criteria that offers an excuse to fly into mist considering mist not to violate the 500 and 2 rule. In this tragic fatality weather service bears a significant blame due to its own reporting criteria.

Not to be left out, the FAA bears a significant responsibility. For one, they have left Alaska in the dark ages of aviation with primitive third world airfields, little or no support for float or seaplane operation, and in their twice a year inspections, the PI fails to contain the local convention of routinely violating the most basic part 135 rules. Furthermore, FAA is blind to the need for Alaska pilots flying in conditions prone to whiteout and sudden precipitation of fog over a massive area to be IFR certified and current whether their aircraft is or not. The FAA approaches IFR for air taxi operations is just say no. By saying no, as if saying no the FAA will eliminate the high likelihood that 135 pilots will encounter unintended and unavoidable instrument meteorological conditions.  When mist turns into a solid fog bank or suddenly dense cloud cover, there is no way to go except up, way up. Just last week a young  man failed to survive his vertical landing near Nome because he was not instrument capable. Instrument flying is not rocket science, in fact it is very basic.

Not so basic is a particular advanced IFR maneuver from the RAF. The Chandelle will get you turned around given enough maneuvering room; however, the Ella Narrows are apparently extremely narrow, severely limiting the pilots ability to just turn around. In discussing this issue this morning with another retired 135 pilot, I recalled having learned an IFR maneuver that was perfected by the British for bombing German installations at the head of Norwegian fjords. The Brits made use of twin engine Spit Fire bombers to run in low under the cloud cover targeting the enemy facility at the head of the fjord right in the face of the steep glacier wall. The pilots would drop their bombs and immediately climb up into the cloud cover, full power, steep to the stall point, then executing a coordinated turn to the left - always to the left, still full power, dropping off to a reciprocal heading while remaining in clouds, thus executing a 180 with minimum lateral displacement, IFR in the clouds until out of anti aircraft range. I was taught this maneuver (IFR) in an A36, by one of the owners of the aircraft as a safety measure for dealing with accidental controlled flight into instrument conditions in the mountains. The maneuver somewhat resembles the lazy 8 but much steeper and a bit more abrupt, scary in concept but easy to do, at least in the A 36, I don't know about an Otter. The stall characteristics might be a bit less forgiving -- would sure scare the passengers.

The FAA once allowed 15 minutes of IFR if visual flight rules when VFR could be had within the 15 minutes on departure and the same upon arrival in event weather changed in-rout. It now requires an extensively equipped aircraft, more extensive than needed when used only for emergency or potential emergency.

The operator in Ketchikan must be saddened, but cannot claim complete innocence or ignorance. One hopes there was not a financial motive for pressing the limits. The report mentions some significant training shortcomings and surely dispatch has a duty to red-line flights due to weather if indeed the owner or chief pilot is not available. The ultimate responsibility rests with the pilot but in a multi pilot operation, there needs to be a chief.

Time spent on the ground due to weather is not counted against your life.  Please consider these comment as generic and thought provoking, I have no personal knowledge of the incident nor the terrain in question and defer any judgement to the NTSB and their superb capability and analysis.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Big Fix

It remains to be seen whether or not the new Administration and Legislature will/can fix the economy.

Ever since Thomas Piketty's work, economists have grasp the meaning of accumulated capital as the cause of recurrent depressions, Simply put, the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the 1% and the 0.1% -- an accumulation of capital, some 6 times greater than National Income -- denies liquidity in the consumer market, which is nearly everything. A historical truth, the hoarding of wealth exactly correlates with the great depressions of the past; furthermore, relief, redistribution, came only in the form of revolution, war, pestilence - the plague was the great equalizer - or depression itself. These disastrous redistributing events correlate also with subsequent resumption of productivity, economic vigor, growth and consumerism.

The solution to redistribution, however, remains a modern day challenge. If the government somehow confiscates the wealth, would we trust them to redistribute it back into the consumer economy? One economist suggested in his lectures, dropping money from a helicopter.

Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, proposes a global tax on capital. In truth, we could never expect that level of cooperation, and who could we trust? We can't even trust our own government not to spend it on themselves. Tax is a bad word, so two problem: how to capture the sequestered wealth and how to distribute it. It's like a game of Monopoly, 6 hotels on Board Walk, everyone broke, game over. Speculation follows:

1.Thomas Paine in his book Agrarian Justice, suggested that every person has an equal right to the natural unimproved land and thus deserves a rent for the titled and improved use of that land during each person's lifetime -- makes sense. Thomas Paine if you have not done so, deserves a careful read, ("These are the times that try men's soles, etc." articulating the argument for equality and the American Revolution.) Paine outlines a system for collecting rent from property owners, deposited in banks, accounted for and distributed to every person during their lifetime, property rent, not property tax, thus redistributing capital equitably while avoiding the capriciousness of legislators attempting to, balance the budget after the fact, and the popular resistance to taxation.

2. Social Security struggles as a pay as you go (PAYGO) system, but if funded -- something like the Alaska Permanent Fund -- it would grow at the rate of capital growth, historically 5 or 6 times the rate of National Income and provide an equitable distribution of capital earnings. A funded Social Security could be far more generous, thus shifting capital into the hands of the consumer market and affording greater support for those who need it most including seniors. One might load such a fund through fees assigned to large financial holdings in the hedge funds and shadow banking's trillions. fees rather than tax, once funded it would be self sustaining. Capital growth is far greater than income. One might further prevent a raid on such a fund by removing it from the control of congress and placing it under the judicial system, judicial for protection of the constitutional amendment necessary to establish funded Social Security.

3. Free mandatory education to the age of 21 accomplishes not only an equitable distribution of capital but a game changer for a declining culture. It's nice to think globally, but at the end of the day, if we are to leave anything at all to our children we need to clean up our act here at home. Education probably offers the greatest return for the dollar in terms of driving growth. Furthermore, education to y21 will drastically reduce the unemployment by putting the unemployed back in school regardless of age and putting unemployed youth back in school and better preparing them for the high tech jobs of the future.

4. There are 3.4 million homeless, coincidentally, approximately the number of empty foreclosed homes. One forth of the homeless are veterans, and this is not counting the number of persons living in their cars and trailers. The banks carry the empty homes on their books at full value, not fair. A radical and somewhat dangerous solution might be to judiciously declare the foreclosed mortgages fraudulent restoring the titles to the former owners free and clear. This humanitarian act alone would transfer an enormous ill gained wealth back into the consumer market not to mention restoring housing to massive numbers of people. --- Great care would be needed to separate the investment banking capital from commercial deposits, not to trigger a run on the banks and failure of the commercial banking along with the investment side, doing so in such a way as to allow the investment losses not to affect the consumer side, the taxpayer or require government bailouts.
Commercial banking may once more need to separate from investment banking; there are many additional reasons.

5. Tariff should not be a bad word; it can fund a massive re-capture of capital and allow underdeveloped countries, that have no other source of revenue, to tax imports as well. OK, free trade, but balanced trade, otherwise it amounts to Colonialism. OK, let's also tax the obscene salaries of CEOs and add a high inheritance tax as well. According to Piketty a progressive tax rate above 50% correlates historically with a lower capital to income ratio and greater economic growth.

With enormous wealth, comes enormous power, much of it is used to rig the system, manage perception, the media, political correctness, a legal and environmental structure that furthers the Oligarchy. Globalization is Colonialism by a different name, and we are the colonists, the exploited. Furthermore,  free movement of labor into our country reduces the standard of living within our borders, adding to the exploitation and concentration of wealth -- a return full circle to the class divide of per-revolutionary Europe.

Again, redistribution happened naturally though not painlessly during WWI, the Great Depression and WWII. One way or another redistribution will happen; it will be painful, and nothing less than civilization is at stake.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


February 17th marks Rene' Laennec's 236 birthday. The inventor of the stethoscope, a professor and chest physician U of Paris, would be surprised to see his invention so widely displayed, wrapped around the neck as an iconic item of dress, and in such poor taste at that.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Trade Deficit

To burry one's head in the sands and say all is well in this best of all possible nations is part of the political correct thinking that got us were in the first place. Tha June trade deficit, just announced comes I at 44.5 billion dollars on imports of 227.7 billion and exports of 183.2 billion. Annualized that amounts to a growing half a trillion a year. What has that got to do with the economy you ask? The media continues to insist the deficit is made up by the cheaper superior imported goods and services, but the evidence says otherwise. China's military buildup, investment banking and multinational corporations are the only beneficiaries of the deficit, not the American people. Every purchase of an imported product or service subtracts from our GDP. The GDP is the better measure of our economy, not the stock market. Economists still argue over supply side versus demand side economics. In our depressed state, the only supply and demand are China and sad shoppers at Walmart.

Free trade has some benefits: it stabilizes relations between quarlsom neighbors and it increases efficiency in a free market among more or less equal trading partners. The theory first advanced by Adam Smith in his "Wealth of Nations," compared balance of trade as a producer of wealth with Smith's theory of free trade. Published in 1776 when colonialism provided abundant cheap resources and plunder, free trade thrived between large and small colonial empires with positive results for the empires, not so much for the colonies, one of the reasons we sought our own independence. 

On the other hand, today's free trade has become a means for multinationals to exploit cheap foreign labor moving US manufacturing, the only source of wealth in Adam Smith's world, to the cheapest and most receptive foreign environment, taking American jobs and the revenue from sales with them, a new form of colonialism in which we are the exploited.

Unfortunately, both political parties support the continuation of this failed experiment, the Democrats out of a sense of Utopian idealism and the Republicans out of a sense that unbridled self interest in everything economic, unregulated and privatized, results in the higher order of good, strengthened by the struggle between communism and freedom. Paradoxically both polarized political doctrines combine to perpetuate this unsustainable fantasy that the trade deficit is overall a good thing. 

Furthermore, politics as usual now swallows up the true reality articulated by both contrarian candidates -- in the primaries -- while economists still argue over supply side economics. The American people are screaming for a solution; they see problem, the well paid politicians, and media do not. Tariffs would impose an immediate solution, raining in the multinationals and the continuing loss of wealth but with unstabilizing consequences, necessitating greater security measures and a massive rebuilding of both infrastructure, manufacturing and business.

If Ireland can do it, so can we. Ireland reports a 26% growth in GDP with a big trade surplus.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016


Why would NASA promote a human space expedition to Mars when drone programs prove so successful? And to the stars, wait a minute.
Even if the crew survives, the uncontrollable cosmic radiation seriously damages both the vascular and neurological systems. Even though astronauts return younger in relation to those they left behind, the damage is not repairable. How much better to launch a drone, robotic in every respect, with the astronaught sitting comfortably and safely behind an earthbound flight deck, nine to five, evenings and weekends at home, thus solving the human factor issue and providing easier and better engineering of the space vehicle. Without the fragile and demanding attention to a survivable habitat, there would be far less space, energy and weight demand, leaving room to perfect the mechanics of the mission, mechanics that could do more than what is humanly possible. 
No longer requiring human scale, the whole project could be miniaturized, further improving the power to weight demand, never mind cost. Robotics should be the future -- a vast improvement on space probe launches in the past.
Time lag, like a satillite phone, becomes a problem with remote control. By the time a signal arrives for a maneuver, it may already be too late. Two solutions: one artificial Inteligence, and two, quantum computing, both of which are advancing rapidly. Is it science fiction to envision quantum entanglement as a means of realtime control of a drone at great distance and to what limit? -- to the stars? Artificial Inteligence seems more likely. The earthbound astronaught might discuss strategy with an onboard artificial Inteligence, 2001 without the onboard passenger or a holograph if you must, an avatar. Nanoscale might even become feasible; someone already proposed tiny space sail capsules.

Saturday, July 09, 2016


Globalization, while built for the exploitation of emerging economies and the wealth of the American people by monopolies and multinationals and justified by utopian dreams, does indeed result in greater education of young people in those exploited countries. Meanwhile US education flounders despite efforts towards qualitative improvement. Budget cuts, permissiveness and cost shifting onto unenfanchised students takes priority over quantity. Simply put, we have more early dropouts and less. time in the class room whilst the rest of the world moves in the other direction, many examples. 

The massive ills of our society result directly from a lack of qualification for employment and lack of productive engagement, lack of education. The military promises the only secure escape from the street, but most do not qualify. Think prison population, drugs, homelessness and unemployment, education should be the solution. Combine education with health care, psych care and recovery strategies -- not socialism but survival of our culture.

Not privatized education, not K- 12, but a mandatory 4 through 21 year of age education, eleven months of the year, supplemented by a voluntary pre school. Play school 9 hours for infants of working single moms or dads would solve many problems. Unwanted and inconvenient children could benefit from abundant early positive social enteraction and love, experience an early model of cooperation, civility and later citizennship. Then, advanced education through, liberal arts, engineering, science or tech school would not only channel students through appropriate areas of student interest and talent, but also: explode the economy, reduce crime, treat drug addiction and eventually eliminate homelessness and poverty. Providing dormitories for homeless students, homeless adults while extending the education to all unemployed could end poverty while providing a higher quality motivated labor force for economic growth.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Globalization = Colonialism

Well, not exactly, today we are the exploited. Political idealism, political correctness continues blindly in support of globalization despite overwhelming evidence of its deleterious effect on our economy: flat GDP, half a trillion a year trade deficit, unimployment, loss of manufacturing, polarization of wealth, overburdening immigration as well as a national security risk due to economic weakness.

Meanwhile so called conservatives, the wealthy, minimize the damage to the rest of us claiming the unemployed are just lazy, a few lost their jobs, but over all free trade is a benefit. Big business profits from cheap foreign labor, outsourcing goods and services, avoids taxes by manufacturing offshore, and multinationals go a step further. Newfound foreign wealth in part comes back seeking secure shelter, enriching our bankers with their hedge funds, dark pools and shadow banking, indeed, furthering economic and political polarization.

Government favors globalization with a belief that it enhances stability and that trading partners will be less warlike and adhear to international laws and norms. Wlhile some of this is true, it comes at the overwhelming expense of our middle class. One can hardly call the Middle East stable, however. We have unleashed wave upon wave of refugees with nowhere to go. It will only get worse with global warming, over population, war and famin.

It is past time for us to take care of our own population, not nationalism, but survival. "None are so blind as those who will not see." Our media are like marionettes to the vested interest oh the oligarchy.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Christine Legarde

Like another elegant French lady, La Belle Poule, (The elegant French frigate fighting off the British blockade 1778) Christine, the director of IMF calls attention to US poverty, one in seven living in poverty, unsustainable, and the polarization of wealth. Christine Legarde is the first out of this whole political season to mention productivity as a solution. Our first quarter GDP growth fell to 0.5%, just short of going backwards.
Christine suggests childcare and maternity leave to bring more women into the work force and increase minimum wage, some tax credit at the low end to encourage greater participation in the economy, but the cornel of wisdom was her call for productivity.
How few pay any attention to the antecedents of productivity. First a cheap, sustainable, abundant resource, second the human resource, then capital and entrepreneurial ability, both of which we have in abundance. It is the first two where we stumble with misunderstanding and misdirection.
Think what a flood of opportunity might come from: free bandwidth, free information, cheap energy/electricity, cheep transportation, free education and cheep communication.
No business flourishes without a secure labor force, healthy, well fed, with energy and satisfaction. To that end: free or cheap healthcare, affordable food and shelter, education, safety (better law enforcement) employment, security in retirement, childcare ( pre-school) etc. If the poor had access to the infrastructure they would no longer be pore.
We can tax the wealthy to pay their fair share for public infrastructure, but none of this will work so long as we have the colossal loss of jobs to cheap foreign labor, loss of manufacturing to inequitable trade treaties, with the resulting loss of wealth from the US economy. Monopolies dominate the infrastructure, and lost wealth accrues to the so called one percent who now control the legislative process.
There remains a preoccupation with consumption. "If people would just spend more, the economy would grow/" As things stand, if people spend more, they would just run out of money. The economy runs on velocity. Spending is only a part of the equation, it's a product if you will. How many times will money change hands over a period of time. It is more a matter of churn, of energy, of optimism, an energy you can feel on the street. Instead, our political status quo brings us tattoos, obesity, drug addiction, depression, lethargy and an admonition to buy more at Wal-Mart.
More women working in the workforce and increased minimum wage are strong boosts, but they come at a price. In good times it does not require two or more family members working to provide a living. Increased minimum wage already boosts food and restaurant prices causing a strain on fixed income seniors. As the elegant French lady suggests, we need to think productivity.