“Everybody Wants Coconuts, but Nobody Has the Guts to Go Up There and Get Them”

(p. A32) Leaping out of a balloon gondola almost 20 miles above the New Mexico desert on a summer’s day in 1960, Joseph Kittinger seemed like something out of science fiction.

He free fell for 13 seconds, protected against air temperatures as low as minus-94 degrees by specialized clothing and a pressure suit. And then his small, stabilizer parachute opened as planned to prevent a spin that could have killed him. He free fell for another 4 minutes and 36 seconds, descending to 17,500 feet before his regular parachute opened.

Mr. Kittinger, who died on Friday [Dec. 9, 2022] in Florida at age 94, never rivaled the original Mercury 7 astronauts or the men who walked on the moon in terms of celebrity, but he was an aviation trailblazer in his own right, paving the way for America’s first manned spaceflights.

Taking part in experimental Air Force programs in the skies over New Mexico in the late 1950s and early ’60s to simulate conditions that future astronauts might face, Mr. Kittinger set records for the highest balloon flight, at 102,800 feet; the longest free fall, some 16 miles; and the fastest speed reached by a human under his own power, descending at up to 614 miles an hour.

. . .

When Joe Kittinger was 13, he once scrambled atop a 40-foot-high tree to snare some coconuts, ignoring warnings to stay put. His father recalled that venture as symbolizing the derring-do that would be his son’s life.

As the elder Mr. Kittinger put it: “Everybody wants coconuts, but nobody has the guts to go up there and get them.”

For the full obituary, see:

Richard Goldstein. ‘Joseph Kittinger, 94, Adventurer Who Paved Way for Astronauts, Dies.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, December 11, 2022): A32.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Dec. 9, 2022, and has the title “Joseph Kittinger, a Record-Setter High in the Skies, Dies at 94.”)

Entrepreneur Kerns’s Internal-Combustion-Engine Electric Generators Gave Power to the People

(p. A21) Robert D. Kern, a mechanical engineer who in the mid-1950s started a company in a garage making portable backup power generators and then transformed the business into an industry leader known as Generac, selling it in 2006 for an estimated $1 billion, died on Nov. 8 [2022] in Waukesha, Wis.

. . .

“The company is way beyond anything we dreamed about,” Mr. Kern said in an interview with the Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois, his alma mater. “My vision was incredibly small compared to what it became, but tenacity is what it is all about.”

He and his wife and a few investors started the business after the rise of the airline industry had cost Mr. Kern his job making motors for railroad cars. Generac became a leading developer, manufacturer and marketer of portable and backup electric generators for homes and industry.

Today, Generac, based in Waukesha, about 18 miles west of Milwaukee, accounts for roughly 75 percent of standby home generator sales in the United States.

. . .

Mr. Kern was hired by the Waukesha Motor Company to design generators for combustion engines to be used on railway passenger cars. With the growth of the jet airline industry, rail travel in the United States plummeted, and Mr. Kern’s division was eliminated.

But remaining passionate about internal combustion engines, he decided to adapt developing technologies in generators for potential new markets and establish his own company to reach them.

In 1954, with his wife as the new company’s bookkeeper, he began making portable generators for recreational vehicles and for farmers and construction crews out of a garage in the village of Wales, Wis., about 28 miles west of Milwaukee. The business, originally called Electric Controls Inc., marketed the gear through Sears under the Craftsman brand. It became Generac in 1959, combining the word generation with AC.

. . .

Generac also developed an affordable backup generator for home emergencies and then expanded the business to produce permanent emergency generators for the commercial and industrial markets.

In 1967, the Generac factory in Waukesha burned to the ground, but with help from the local community, production resumed six days later, and the plant was rebuilt in seven weeks, without layoffs.

For the full obituary, see:

Sam Roberts. “Robert D. Kern, 96, Engineer Whose Idea For Portable Generators Produced Riches.” The New York Times (Thursday, November 24, 2022): A21.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Nov. 22, 2022, and has the title “Robert D. Kern, 96, Whose Emergency Generators Produced Riches, Dies.”)

Corrupt and Bankrupt FTX Got Higher ESG Rating for “Leadership and Governance” Than Exxon Mobil

(p. A14) Crypto dark knight Sam Bankman-Fried may have deceived investors, customers and various journalists and politicians. But now the FTX founder is at least telling the truth about a few things. Lo, he says that environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing is a fraud, and so was his progressive public posturing.

. . .

“Problems were brewing. Larger than I realized,” he tweeted. “In the future, I’m going to care less about the dumb, contentless, ‘good actor’ framework,” he added. “What matters is what you do—is *actually* doing good or bad, not just *talking* about doing good or *using ESG language*.”

Mr. Bankman-Fried is also acknowledging that he genuflected to regulators and Democratic lawmakers to win political protection. ESG ratings company Truvalue Labs even gave FTX a higher score on “leadership and governance” than Exxon Mobil, though the crypto exchange had only three directors on its board.

For the full editorial, see:

The Editorial Board. “Sam Bankman-Fried, ESG Truth-Teller.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Nov. 18, 2022): A14.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the editorial has the date November 17, 2022, and has the title “Sam Bankman-Fried Becomes an ESG Truth-Teller.”)

Inequality Has Not Increased If Government Transfer Payments Are Included in Income

(p. C10) This book—by Auburn University economist Bob Ekelund, economist and consultant John Early, and former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm—shows that the political debate over inequality since the 1960s has had almost nothing to do with reality.   . . .   When the Census Bureau, which provides the source data everyone uses for inequality, calculates income, it counts only cash income. Nearly every transfer payment—money redistributed by the government for the purpose of attacking poverty—is left out! Once you include that money, the bottom half of the income distribution has almost exactly the same income from top to bottom. “The Myth of American Inequality” is in my view the most important book published this year.

For the full review, see:

Kevin Hassett. “12 Months of Reading; Kevin Hassett.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 10, 2021): C10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 8, 2022, and has the title “Who Read What in 2022: Political and Business Leaders.”)

The book praised by Kevin Hassett is:

Gramm, Phil, Robert Ekelund, and John Early. The Myth of American Inequality: How Government Biases Policy Debate. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2022.

Dependent, Missionless Resignation Can Be “Fundamentally Degrading”

(p. A13) At the Harvard Business Review, Joseph Fuller and William Kerr wrote this spring that the Great Resignation was an “unprecedented mass exit” but also the reversion to a long-term trend, one we’re “likely to be contending with for years to come.” Quit rates have been rising steadily for a long time. When the pandemic first hit, workers held onto their jobs for fear of layoffs and recession. But by 2021 stimulus money hit the system and uncertainty abated. That’s when the Great Resignation hit. “We’re now back in line with the pre-pandemic trend.”

. . .

. . . political economist Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute . . . notes that recent workforce changes follow a postwar pattern. Usually after recessions, male labor-force participation drops, and when the recession ends it ticks up, “but never gets back to where it was.” Labor-force participation for both sexes, he notes, peaked in 2000 at 67%. We’re now 5 points lower than that.

The work rate for those in their prime working years, 25 to 54, has been declining since the turn of the century. The economic implications are obvious—slower growth, less expansion—and the personal implications are dire. “By and large, nonworking men don’t ‘do’ civil society,” Mr. Eberstadt says. They stay home watching screens—videogames, social-media sites and streaming services. There is something “fundamentally degrading” in this, and Mr. Ebestadt refers to an “archipelago of disability programs” that help make not working possible.

Staying apart, estranged from life and not sharing a larger mission can create “really tragic long term consequences,” Mr. Eberstadt says. These young people aren’t taking chances, leaving a job to start a small business. They aren’t finding themselves. They aren’t even looking.

For the full commentary, see:

Peggy Noonan. “DECLARATIONS; The ‘Great Resignation’ Started Long Ago.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, July 23, 2022): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 21, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

An Economist with “Enough Steel” to Cut “the Tentacles of Restrictive Government Regulation”

(p. A9) When Elizabeth Bailey was appointed in 1977 as the first woman to serve on the Civil Aeronautics Board, or CAB, she saw her job as freeing the airline industry “from the tentacles of restrictive government regulation.”

During a confirmation hearing, Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska asked Dr. Bailey, a Republican with a Ph.D. in economics, whether she had “enough steel” for the task.

“I hope so,” she said. “I’m tougher than I look.”

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, approved by Congress with strong bipartisan support, led to abolition of the CAB at the end of 1984 and freed airlines to set fares without government permission. During her six years on the board, Dr. Bailey proved one of the most ardent advocates for swift deregulation, a process that reduced fares, increased choice and doomed inefficient airlines.

. . .

One summer, she accepted an offer to join a group studying regulatory issues at Bell Labs. She gave a presentation on regulatory distortions to a panel of economic advisers to AT&T, including William Baumol and Alfred Kahn.

Dr. Baumol helped her gain admission to Princeton as a doctoral candidate in economics. She delved into business-competition issues and received her Ph.D. in 1972.

Those studies prepared her to oversee economic research at Bell Labs and advise AT&T on its impending breakup by regulatory authorities. “We said, ‘Look, if the government is going to bust you up, there are some ways that are going to be a lot less costly and a lot more efficient than others,’ ” she recalled.

Dr. Kahn, later chairman of the CAB, became her mentor and ally at the agency, where she rose to vice chairman.

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Economist Helped Free Airlines From Red Tape.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date September 1, 2022, and has the title “Elizabeth Bailey Helped Free Airlines to Cut Fares.”)

U.S. Chips+ Act Rewards Intel for Being Less Innovative Than TSMC

(p. A15) Intel, with huge profit margins on its Pentium microprocessors, could spend more than its competitors on state-of-the-art fabs, but innovation eventually was pushed aside for predictability. Intel would get one fab working and then “copy exactly” new cookie-cutter fabs. For smaller feature sizes, Intel looked at the new Extreme Ultraviolet technology from Dutch equipment company ASML and thought it too expensive and risky to use. TSMC embraced ExtremeUV and won, especially for lower-power chips for mobile devices. TSMC can now spend more than anyone else on fabs.

With the Chips+ Act chock full of $52 billion in subsidies and tax credits for chip makers, Congress is saying that real countries have fabs. The act also authorizes $1 billion for carbon removal—weird, because chips are made from silicon. Worse, the U.S. is rewarding Intel, which just announced a disastrous quarter, for coming in third place behind TSMC and Samsung.

Nothing is free. Even Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo admitted “there’s a lot of strings attached” in the 1,054-page law. National Economic Council director Brian Deese endorsed command-and-control industrial policy: “The question should move from ‘Why should we pursue an industrial strategy?’ to ‘How do we pursue one successfully?’ ” This is as wrong as Soviet or Chinese five-year plans. Industrial policy eventually leads to disaster. Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry micromanaged the country’s domestic semiconductor industry and ended up presiding over its decline. Today no Japanese semiconductor company sits in the global top 10. Because China doesn’t have access to ASML ExtremeUV equipment, it has made little progress in advanced chips.

Yes, we need domestic supplies of advanced chips in case China invades Taiwan. But subsidies are the wrong approach.

. . .

Instead, the U.S. could enable suppliers to place large orders for chips for the military, intelligence agencies, whatever. They could even prepay. Silicon Valley was originally built on orders for transistors for intercontinental missiles and the space program.

For the full commentary, see:

Andy Kessler. “INSIDE VIEW; The Semiconductor Boondoggle.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Aug. 15, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 14, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

Steve Case’s “Heroic Push” to Encourage Entrepreneurship Outside Silicon Valley, in “Surprising Places”

(p. C12) This is why one of the most energizing books I read this year was Steve Case’s “The Rise of the Rest.” It chronicles Steve’s journey to nurture tech startups in what some might consider “surprising” places. Think: Milwaukee vs. Silicon Valley.

. . .

Steve’s book is a heroic push encouraging us to widen the aperture. With the right investments and visibility, we can change the American landscape for the better, leveling the playing field and creating a more inclusive economy for years to come.

For the full review, see:

Asutosh Padhi. “12 Months of Reading; Asutosh Padhi.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 10, 2021): C12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 8, 2022, and has the title “Who Read What in 2022: Political and Business Leaders.”)

The book praised by Asutosh Padhi is:

Case, Steve. The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places Are Building the New American Dream. New York: Avid Reader Press, 2022.

So-Called “Inflation Reduction Act” Reduces Incentive for Pharma Firms to Seek Approval for New Uses of Drugs

(p. A17) It may take years before we can fully appreciate the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act on the pharmaceutical industry, but we’re already getting signs of the damage. While Democrats boast that they’ve given Medicare the power to “negotiate” drug prices, the effect has been to saddle manufacturers with a complex and ill-conceived price-setting scheme. In response, many have canceled drug-development programs, resulting in an unfortunate but predictable loss for patients nationwide.

One poorly crafted provision is driving companies away from research into treating rare diseases. In its Oct. 27 earnings statement, Alnylam announced it is suspending development of a treatment for Stargardt disease, a rare eye disorder, because of the company’s need “to evaluate impact of the Inflation Reduction Act.” Alnylam’s decision turns on a provision in the Democrats’ bill that exempts from price-setting negotiations drugs that treat only one rare disease. The company’s drug is currently marketed as treating only amyloidosis, and thus is exempt from Medicare’s price setting. If Alnylam proceeded with research into treating Stargardt, it would lose its exemption.

That disincentive might be most pronounced in cancer treatments. On Tuesday [Nov. 1, 2022], Eli Lilly announced it is canceling work on a drug that had been undergoing studies for certain blood cancers. “In light of the Inflation Reduction Act,” the company wrote to Endpoints News, “this program no longer met our threshold for continued investment.”

. . .

Nearly 60% of oncology medications approved a decade ago received additional approvals in later years. The new law eliminates the incentive to conduct additional research, because its price-setting mechanisms kick in after nine years for small-molecule drugs and 13 years for biologics, regardless of how much research companies conduct after the drug’s initial approval.

For the full commentary, see:

Joe Grogan. “The Inflation Reduction Act Is Already Killing Potential Cures.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Nov. 4, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 3, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

Auto Experts Are Skeptical of EVs, but Are Afraid “So They Can’t Speak Out Loudly”

(p. A1) “People involved in the auto industry are largely a silent majority,” Mr. Toyoda said to reporters during a visit to Thailand. “That silent majority is wondering whether EVs are really OK to have as a single option. But they think it’s the trend so they can’t speak out loudly.”

. . .

(p. A6) The world’s biggest auto maker has said it sees hybrids, a technology it invented with the debut of the Toyota Prius in the 1990s, as an important option when EVs remain expensive and charging infrastructure is still being built out in many parts of the world. It is also developing zero-emission vehicles powered by hydrogen.

“Because the right answer is still unclear, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just one option,” Mr. Toyoda said. Over the past few years, Mr. Toyoda said, he has tried to convey this point to industry stakeholders, including government officials—an effort he described as tiring at times.

Global car companies have made a sharp pivot to electric vehicles within the last few years, driven in part by the success of EV-only maker Tesla Inc.

. . .

At the same time, the legacy auto makers have a much broader base of customers, including many living in rural areas and developing economies with unreliable electricity supplies.

And their gas-engine businesses are still driving the bulk of profits needed to fund the costly shift to electric vehicles, which not only requires the development of new models but also construction of new facilities and battery plants.

The infrastructure to charge electric vehicles is meanwhile still lacking in the U.S. and many other parts of the world, making owning an EV still a challenge for many types of consumers.

. . .

Ryan Gremore, an Illinois-based dealer, who owns several brand franchises, said he gets a lot of customers inquiring about EVs, in part because of limited supplies.

That might give the impression of robust demand, but it is unclear how it will materialize when inventory levels at dealerships normalize, he added. “Is there interest in electric vehicles? Yes. Is it more than 10% to 15% of our customer base? No way,” Mr. Gremore said.

Mr. Toyoda’s long-held skepticism about a fully electric future has been shared by others in the Japanese car industry, as well.

Mazda Motor Corp. executives once cautioned that whether EVs were cleaner depends largely on where the electricity is produced. They also worried that EV batteries were too big and expensive to replace gas-powered models and better suited to the types of smaller vehicles that Americans didn’t want.

For the full story, see:

River Davis and Sean McLain. “Toyota Skeptical of Going All-EV.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Dec. 19, 2022 ): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 18, 2022, and has the title “Toyota Chief Says ‘Silent Majority’ Has Doubts About Pursuing Only EVs.”)

Dogs Can Accurately Know by Smell When a Human Is Stressed

(p. C4) Dogs are champion sniffers, equipped with 100 to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses—compared with a mere 6 million in our own—and an olfactory cortex 40 times as large as ours. They can be trained to detect disease in human beings, including cancer cells, a latent epileptic seizure, or a Covid infection, just by sniffing—no blood samples, biopsies, MRIs, antigen or PCR tests required.

. . .

In a study published in September in the journal PLoS One, Ms. Wilson and colleagues tested whether dogs can read and respond to our emotional states, without the benefit of facial expression, tone of voice, or social context. The researchers trained four dogs to detect and react to the smell of human stress, depending on their sense of smell alone to distinguish between a person’s baseline scent and the unique cocktail of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in their sweat and breath when they’re feeling stressed out.

. . .

The results offered overwhelming confirmation that dogs can smell psychological states as well as physical ones. On average, the four dogs picked out the stress sample 94% of the time, with individual dogs ranging between 90% and 97% accuracy. “There’s a smell to stress,” Ms. Wilson concludes. “If we can add it to the dog’s repertoire, we can use it to identify anxiety and panic attacks before they occur.”

For the full commentary, see:

Susan Pinker. “MIND AND MATTER; Dogs Can Sniff Out When a Human Is Stressed.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022): C4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date October 20, 2022, and has the title “MIND AND MATTER; Dogs Can Sniff Out Human Stress.”)