Peter Thiel Asks “What Happened to the Future?”

(p. B4) Mr. Thiel has been an important player in Silicon Valley since the first dot-com boom, but he has recently taken on a much more public role. He was born in Germany and came to the United States as an infant when his father, a chemical engineer, found work here. He was raised in Silicon Valley and went to Stanford, where he developed the views in his first book, “The Diversity Myth,” about the multiculturalism debate on campuses, written with the entrepreneur David O. Sacks.
In 1998, Mr. Thiel helped found the online payments company PayPal, an immediate success. He was the first outside investor in Facebook. Forbes estimates his net worth at $2.7 billion. Last year, he became a part-time partner at Y Combinator, a loosely defined advisory position.
A handful of others in Silicon Valley have similar investing track records. Where Mr. Thiel really separates himself from his peers is his skepticism that Silicon Valley is building a better world for all. His investment firm, Founders Fund, used to begin its online manifesto with the complaint, “We wanted flying cars; instead we got 140 characters,” a reference to Twitter. Now it says simply, “What happened to the future?”
San Francisco, Manhattan and Washington, D.C., are doing well, but the presidential campaign has laid bare the angst of many other places. Feelings of decline are rampant. “Most of the millennials have lower expectations than their baby boomer parents,” Mr. Thiel said. “Where I differ from others in Silicon Valley is in thinking that you can’t fence yourself off. If it continues, it will ultimately be bad for everybody.”

For the full story, see:
DAVID STREITFELD. “Peter Thiel, Contrarian Tech Billionaire, Defends His Support of Trump.” The New York Times (Mon., OCT. 31, 2016): B1 & B4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 29, 2016, and has the title “Peter Thiel Defends His Most Contrarian Move Yet: Supporting Trump.”)

The book mentioned above, that was co-authored by Thiel, is:
Sacks, David O., and Peter A. Thiel. The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford. Oakland, CA: The Independent Institute, 1995.

Chelsea on Clinton Foundation in Haiti: “The Incompetence Is Mind Numbing”

(p. B1) Chelsea Clinton was alarmed.
. . .
As Ms. Clinton asserted herself at the Clinton Foundation, eager to embrace her role as a board member and de facto heir, she became concerned about what seemed to her to be a lack of professionalism, as well as a blurring of the lines between the foundation’s philanthropic activities and some of its leaders’ business interests.
. . .
Even when emailing with her parents, Ms. Clinton was not shy about delivering blistering criticism, as when she wrote to them after a trip to Haiti, which the foundation was trying to help rebuild after the devastating 2010 earthquake. “To say I was profoundly disturbed by what I saw — and didn’t see — would be an understatement,” Ms. Clinton wrote to her mother. “The incompetence is mind numbing.”

For the full story, see:
AMY CHOZICK. “CAMPAIGN MEMO; Hacked Emails Reveal Image of Chelsea Clinton.” The New York Times (Fri., OCT. 28, 2016): A17.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 27, 2016, and has the title “CAMPAIGN MEMO; Chelsea Clinton’s Frustrations and Devotion Shown in Hacked Emails.”)

Many Can Have Good Jobs, and Good Lives, Without College

SkillsGapApprenticeshipsGraph2016-09-30.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. B1) American employers struggling to find enough qualified industrial workers are turning to Germany for a solution to plug the U.S. skills gap: vocational training.

Two million U.S. manufacturing jobs will remain vacant over the next decade due to a shortage of trained workers, according to an analysis by the Manufacturing Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group affiliated with the National Association of Manufacturers, and professional-services firm Deloitte LLP.
While the Obama administration has invested millions of dollars to promote skills-based training, it remains a tough sell in a country where four-year university degrees are seen as the more viable path to good-paying jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said two-thirds of high school graduates who enrolled in college in 2015 opted for four-year degrees.
. . .
In Germany, roughly half of high-school graduates opt for (p. B2) high-octane apprenticeships rather than college degrees. One draw: almost certain employment.
German apprentices spend between three and four days a week training at a company and between one and two days at a public vocational school. The company pays wages and tuition. After three years, apprentices take exams to receive nationally recognized certificates in their occupation. Many continue working full time at the company.
The Labor Department said 87% of apprentices in the U.S. are employed after completing their training programs. Workers who complete apprenticeships earn $50,000 annually on average, or higher than the median U.S. annual wage of $44,720,

For the full story, see:
ELIZABETH SCHULZE. “U.S. Turns to Germany to Fill Jobs.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Sept. 27, 2016): B1-B2.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 26, 2016, and has the title “U.S. Companies Turn to German Training Model to Fill Jobs Gap.”)

New Tech in Costly Cars “Trickles Down” to Cheaper Cars

(p. B5) Chances are slim that the car, starting at just over $200,000 ($215,000 as tested), will grab market share from the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. But in the four days I had the GT, my wife was astonished at my eagerness to run errands of any kind.
. . .
Surely, few people buy cars this expensive, but such vehicles are important because they pioneer technology that trickles down to everyday cars. Recall that anti-lock brakes showed up first on supercars in the late 1970s. (The 570GT’s brakes are very good, by the way.)
Perhaps McLaren’s carbon-fiber tub chassis structure will be common in the future.

For the full commentary, see:
TOM VOELK. “Driven: McLaren 570GT: High Speed Meets High Style (at a High Price).” The New York Times (Fri., NOV. 3, 2016): B5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date NOV. 3, 2016, and has the title “Driven: Video Review: McLaren 570GT Is a Rare Blend of Speed and Comfort.”)

Breakthrough Surgeon “Defied Skepticism”

(p. D8) Dr. Johnson was a reluctant surgeon — early on, he once recalled, “I disliked surgeons and their pompous attitudes” — but he applied the crocheting skills he had learned from his mother, who was a home economics teacher, and the needlecraft he was taught in a seventh-grade sewing class (he got an A), to perform more than 8,500 heart bypass operations over four decades.
. . .
Doctors had experimented with coronary artery surgery since the 1950s, the goal being to remove accumulated plaque caused by cholesterol deposits, which can block blood flow and cause the stabbing pain of angina. One method was to remove the clogged portion of an artery and graft on a replacement patch of cardiac membrane or a segment of vein from a leg.
In 1968, Dr. Johnson and his team took another path, sewing segments of veins from multiple arteries end to end and stitching them directly into the aorta, the body’s main artery, bypassing cardiac ducts where the flow of blood was impeded.
His breakthrough, reported the next year, defied skepticism within the medical profession and heralded a new era of successful double, triple and quadruple bypass surgeries.
“It was perhaps the presentation of Johnson in the spring of 1969 that had the greatest impact on the widespread use” of coronary artery bypass grafting, Dr. Eugene A. Hessel II wrote in “Cardiac Anesthesia: Principles and Clinical Practice,” published in 2001.
To facilitate surgery, Dr. Johnson made another breakthrough by temporarily stopping the heart and slowing the body’s metabolism by cooling and circulating the blood through a heart-lung machine.
. . .
Dr. Johnson’s multiple bypass surgeries, which could take as long as nine hours and were often accompanied by classical music in the operating room, were credited with saving an untold number of lives.
But in an interview with Dr. William S. Stoney for “Pioneers of Cardiac Surgery” (2008), Dr. Johnson said “the single biggest thing I ever did to lower mortality” was to prescribe the drug allopurinol, which is ordinarily used to inhibit the production of uric acid (high levels of it can cause gout), but which has also been found to improve survival in cardiac patients by improving their capacity for exercise.
. . .
“The coronary artery bypass graft operation does nothing for the basic cause of the disease,” Dr. Johnson said, adding, “Prevention is, of course, the ultimate answer.”

For the full obituary, see:
SAM ROBERTS. “W. Dudley Johnson, Heart Bypass Pioneer, Dies at 86.” The New York Times (Mon., OCT. 31, 2016): D8.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date OCT. 30, 2016, and has the title “W. Dudley Johnson, Heart Bypass Surgery Pioneer, Dies at 86.”)

Stoney’s book mentioned above, is:
Stoney, William S. Pioneers of Cardiac Surgery. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2008.

“Negligible Temperature Impact” of Paris Agreement

(p. A11) The Paris Agreement will cost a fortune but do little to reduce global warming. In a peer-reviewed article published in Global Policy this year, I looked at the widely hailed major policies that Paris Agreement signatories pledged to undertake and found that they will have a negligible temperature impact. I used the same climate-prediction model that the United Nations uses.
. . . , consider the Obama administration’s signature climate policy, the Clean Power Plan. The U.N.’s model shows that it will accomplish almost nothing. Even if the policy withstands current legal challenges and its cuts are totally implemented–not for the 14 years that the Paris agreement lasts, but for the rest of the century–the Clean Power Plan would reduce temperatures by 0.023 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.
. . .
The costs of the Paris climate pact are likely to run to $1 trillion to $2 trillion annually throughout the rest of the century, using the best estimates from the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum and the Asia Modeling Exercise. Spending more than $100 trillion for such a feeble temperature reduction by the end of the century does not make sense.

For the full commentary, see:
BJORN LOMBORG. “Obama’s Climate Policy Is a Hot Mess; The president hails the Paris Agreement again–even though it will solve nothing and cost trillions.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 1, 2016): A11.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 30, 2016.)

The academic version of Lomborg’s argument, is:
Lomborg, Bjorn. “Impact of Current Climate Proposals.” Global Policy 7, no. 1 (Feb. 2016): 109-18.

Lower Solar Panel Subsidies Means Cheaper Electricity for Poor

(p. B1) LAFAYETTE, Calif. — It was only two years ago that Elroy Holtmann spent about $20,000 on a home solar array to help cover the costs of charging his new electric car. With the savings on his monthly electric bills, he figured the investment would pay for itself in about a dozen years.
But then the utilities regulators changed the equation.
As a result, Pacific Gas & Electric recently did away with the rate schedule chosen by Mr. Holtmann, a retired electrical engineer, and many other solar customers in this part of California. The new schedule will make them pay much more for the electricity they draw from the grid in the evening, while paying those customers less for the excess power their solar panels send back to the grid on sunny summer days.
As a result, Mr. Holtmann’s solar setup may never pay for itself.
“They’ve taken any possibility for payback away,” he said with resignation, looking up at the roof of his 1970s ranch-style house in this suburb a short drive east of Berkeley.
The paradox is playing out around the country. Even as policy makers at the federal and state levels promote clean energy to fight global warming, the economics of electricity can often be at odds with those goals.
Thrust in the middle are utility regulators. Even if they support greening the grid through technology adopters like Mr. Holtmann, the reg-(p. B5)ulators are also responsible for ensuring that the utilities can afford to supply power to the largest number of customers at the most equitable rates. That includes people without the money or inclination to install solar collectors.
“The grid is no longer just a cheap way to get electrical commodities to people,” said Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission. “People want choices, they want customized services,” he said. “And how do you make that fair to everybody, because not everybody is moving as adopters at the same pace?”

For the full story, see:
DIANE CARDWELL. “Tug of War in Fine Prine of Your Electric Bill.” The New York Times (Weds., JULY 27, 2016): B1 & B5.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JULY 26, 2016, and has the title “Why Home Solar Panels No Longer Pay in Some States.”)