The Big Sky is Falling

The history of instrument flight (originally called blind flying) has had three distinct phases. The first began with Elmer Sperry’s Gyro Horizon in the 1920s that allowed skilled pilots to fly through clouds by showing them where was the horizon they couldn’t otherwise see. Race pilot Jimmy Doolittle used Sperry’s gyro and a precision altimeter, a gyro compass and a primitive navigation radio in 1929 to make the first flight entirely “under the hood” with takeoff, flight, and landing all without visual references. That Jimmy Doolittle was one hell of a pilot. But for the purposes of this column what I want to concentrate on is that in this first era of instrument flight the only thing Doolittle had to worry about hitting […]

The Incentive Game

My friend Bob Litan, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is worried about COVID-19 herd immunity. Specifically, Bob worries that the only way our population can reach the 60-70 percent immunity rate required to protect us all from the novel coronavirus is if some people are paid to take the shot. And Bob may be correct: a Gallup poll last month concluded that 35 percent of Americans would refuse to be vaccinated.

Uh-oh.

Bob thinks the way around this problem is to pay people, giving them an economic incentive to do the right thing. This got me thinking about the whole concept of […]

Jeff Bezos Can’t Lose

Big technology companies have been recently coming under increased scrutiny from federal regulators. Several tech companies are reportedly under investigation, but this column is only about Amazon, which seems to be in regulatory crosshairs in part because President Trump doesn’t like Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns one of Trump’s least-favorite newspapers, the Washington Post. Ironically, Trump’s goal of breaking-up Amazon would only make Jeff Bezos at least $35 billion richer.

It’s simple: Amazon is worth a lot more in pieces than it is as a single company.

Bezos is no fool, so he knows […]

Three Mile Island Lessons for COVID-19: FEMA and Me

Forty-one years ago this summer I was a young investigator working in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC for the President’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, a big federal investigation chaired by Dartmouth Professor John Kemeny, who is best known as the father of the BASIC programming language. I learned a lot that summer and fall not only about nuclear accidents but about how governments and industries respond to crises. Some of those lessons apply to the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is also being poorly managed. This may surprise you (that 41-year-old lessons can still apply) but governments, especially, change at a glacial pace.

The two […]

2020 Prediction: COVID-19 will suck like 9/11

This is the first of two 2020 predictions concerning COVID-19, the so-called coronavirus. This column will cover short-term impacts while my next column will cover longer-term changes that were probably going to happen anyway but are already being accelerated by the current health crisis.

NOT business as usual…

No, I’m not a doctor or an epidemiologist, but I’m also not an idiot. And as a non-idiot, I can confidently predict the significant short-term economic, social, and political impacts of COVID-19 on my global readership. The far more significant longer-term effects will be covered in my next column. Short-term, COVID-19 feels remarkably like 9/11, which wasn’t a health crisis in any sense, but it […]