Monday, 29 October 2012

“Sprawl” versus “intensification”

[Welcome Kiwiblog, Herald and NBR readers. Please also see my more immediate reaction to National’s proposals: Government finally plans to address unaffordable housing. But…]

The debate over affordable housing is already being framed as a facile debate between “sprawl” and “intensification”—a debate between those who wish to release (just a little) the planners’ ring-fences around NZ’s major cities to allow new homes on “greenfield” sections, versus those who insist we build with more intensity within the ring fence on so called “brownfield” sites.

The latter group characterise the former as being in favour of “sprawl”; the former characterise the latter as promoting the construction of the slums of tomorrow.

Both are right, and both are wrong.

What’s missing here is choice.  In talking about about development on either “greenfield” or “brownfield” sites, both advocates insist that folk do things their way. They completely ignore the fact that people have the right to choose where and how they live, particularly if they own the place on which they choose to settle down.

Let people live where they wish to, as long as they bear the costs. And let those choices themselves—choices based on people’s own values for which they are prepared to pay the cost—organically reflect the way the city develops.

Ironically, it’s the very promoters of intensification, the planners themselves, who have done the most to make decent intensification more difficult.  Here's just some examples of a few urban housing types that are enormously popular overseas, but could barely be even contemplated here…...

Government finally plans to address unaffordable housing. But… [updated]

imageGraph from Rodney Dickens’s report “Quantifying the Housing Affordability Time-Bomb

FOUR YEARS AFTER THEIR election pledge to address housing unaffordability, and ten years after the housing bubble began to seriously inflate, the National Government is finally making noises about the problem.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure they’re the right noises.

Short on specifics as yet—apparently there is a paper being submitted to Cabinet today outlining “a multi-pronged work programme” issued in response to the Productivity Commission's report on this issue,* after which we might perhaps learn more—and not a  peep has been heard out of housing minister Phil Heatley—so all we have to go on presently are the noises about this made over the last week and weekend by Finance Minister Bill English.  And those noises are not altogether encouraging.

English identifies housing affordability as a problem, yet his characterisation that the "housing market is not working properly” is neither accurate nor helpful.  The housing market is working as well as it can within the shackles and costs placed on it by government and councils. What is not working however are the planning, regulatory and rates burdens that constitute those shackles and add to the costs—such that between 1992 and 2012 the national average house price increased more than four times more than prices in general, which should ring warning bells.

IT IS ENCOURAGING THAT English is framing the debate around Hugh Pavletich’s annual Demographia  International Housing Affordability Surveys,** which now show the median cost of a house in New Zealand is 5.2 times the median income in New Zealand, and in Auckland 6.4 times median income.

Any ratio above five is considered unaffordable [says English in last week’s Herald]. Despite demand for low cost houses, relatively few are being built - in part because of the very high cost of land, particularly in Auckland.

Yesterday on Q+A he expanded on that, recognising “there are a number of problems.”

One is the cost of building. That does appear to be pretty high, particularly compared to Australia. There's a lot of work being done on why that might be the case. More scale, building regulation - all of that can be improved, and that process is underway.

imageWhile it is accurate however to say “that process is underway,” it is totally inaccurate to characterise Maurice Williamson’s amendments to the Building Act as anything but a sop. Nothing proposed therein will help reduce the increasing time, costs, delays and uncertainties involved in getting a building consent and in enduring the inspection process on site—instead he will be imposing new costs and further muddying the already opaque waters around risk and responsibility.   Not to mention the licensing of building practitioners, which will further reduce the already low number of builders in the country while doing nothing to ensure their quality. All of which will further reduce the number of houses being built.

And while the cost of building materials sky-rocket, nothing proposed therein is going to make it easier to break what is essentially a “regulatory wall” of box-ticking making it almost impossible for NZers to use inexpensive foreign materials, or to enjoy the cost-savings of innovative building systems and techniques and systems. Systems like these Structural Insulated Panels, which are used in Canada, Europe, the US and Australia to great effect—low cost, low risk, low energy, huge insulation value, robust--but which are virtually impossible to build with here at home under our command-and-control building regulations that dictate virtually every detail of every new build.

There will be no innovations in NZ’s high-cost labour-intensive building techniques until innovative systems such as this can be painlessly introduced and exploited—perhaps only when councils themselves are taken out of the chain of responsibility for policing building standards

Friday, 26 October 2012

Beer O’Clock: ?


Yes, it’s nearly that time. And since I’ll be heading off to Pukekohe to see Counties knock over Otago in the only game of rugby this weekend … I have no idea what I’ll be drinking. 

But hopefully it will taste like victory!

Spring is here!

After scouring the whole North Island for signs of it over the last week, I can confirm that Spring is now here!

And despite the many doubters, I can report it is possible to celebrate Spring in Auckland. With trees!

To celebrate Auckland’s Spring, Patrick Reynolds has tracked down and photographed his favourite city trees. Like this one:

imagePhotograph by Patrick Reynolds

Raw food is not real food

A diet consisting only of raw, uncooked food is one of many fad diets currently fashionable, one purporting to be healthy.

Sadly, for my many friends partaking of the fad,

eating a raw food diet is a recipe for disaster if you’re trying to boost your … brainpower. That’s because humans would have to spend more than 9 hours a day eating to get enough energy from unprocessed raw food alone to support our large brains.

N0, it really wasn’t about a YouTube video

Can we now get over the nonsense perpetrated by the media and the Obama Administration that the attack on the Benghazi Embassy, and the murder and desecration of Ambassador Chris Stevens, were the result of a random protest against an ill-made YouTube video?

Can we get over Vice President Biden’s assertion that the reason the Obama Administration spent weeks falsely blaming it on the video was "Because that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community" ?

Because a flood of State Department emails released by Reuters makes clear that

within two hours of the attack, the State Department was aware that the jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia—declared by the State Department itself to be an al Qaeda affiliate—had claimed responsibility for the raid (or more appropriately, “razzia”).  These emails were disseminated by the State Department to sundry “redacted national security platforms,” such as the White House Situation room, the Pentagon, the FBI, the Director of National Intelligence and the State Department. An estimated 300-400 national security figures obtained these emails—including persons working directly below the administration’s leading national security, military and diplomatic officials—“in real time almost as the raid was playing out and concluding.”

Who are Ansar al-Sharia?

AL-QAEDA IN LIBYA: A PROFILE” was an August, 2012 report prepared by theCombating Terrorism Technical Support Office, a Pentagon program office under the aegis of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict.  The report emphasized how Al Qaeda Senior Leadership (AQSL), working via a large, powerful, and well-established jihadist infrastructure in Libya—including, prominently, Ansar al-Sharia—sought to capitalize on the US and NATO-supported insurrection which toppled the Libyan despot Qaddafi, and fulfill its goal of making Libya part of an eventual transnational caliphate.

So they can’t say they didn’t know why they did it.

The attack was nothing to do with a video.

The defence—or lack thereof—was everything to do with the US being blindsided by its refusal to learn from history, and from what it knew in advance about the strength and plans of Libyan jihadists.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Study Shows Studies Show Nothing [Updated]

Guest post by Nick Hubble of Money Morning Australia

If you’ve ever wondered how a study can show something that just can’t be true, or how studies can completely contradict each other, we’ve figured it out. With a little help of course. After today’s post, I hope you never believe another ‘study.’

Our heartfelt congratulations go out to a computer programme called Mathgen. A mathematics journal provisionally accepted its study for publication.

Wait, ‘its’ study?

Yes, that’s right. These days a computer programme can write an academic paper about mathematics. Then get published in academic journals like‘Advances in Pure Mathematics,’ as this one did.

And you thought those computer programs dominating the stock market were smart!

So what was the paper Mathgen wrote about? Here’s the abstract, which describes it:

‘Let ρ = A. Is it possible to extend isomorphisms? We show that D’ is stochastically orthogonal and trivially affine. In [10], the main result was the construction of p-Cardano, compactly Erdös, Weyl functions. This could shed important light on a conjecture of Conway-d’Alembert.’

If you’re confused, that’s sort of the idea.

Only a mathematics academic could decipher that abstract, because point of fact it’s completely meaningless—and intended to be so. You see, Mathgen creates papers by combining random nouns, verbs, numbers, symbols and the rest of it.  It spits out something that makes grammatical sense, not that you’d know it, but is completely devoid of any meaning.

The formatting is said to be nice, though.

Once the paper is randomly generated and submitted for the academic journal’s review, the academics safeguarding the gates of science and knowledge read the paper and figure it must mean something.

That’s how the paper gets past the peer review process. The same process that keeps climate change science squeaky clean, by the way. Here’s what the anonymous peer reviewer wrote about Mathgen’s bizarre creation:

For the abstract, I consider that the author can’t introduce the main idea and work of this topic specifically.

Maybe that’s because there is no main idea. No ideas at all, in fact.

Anyway, once the academics of the peer review process give the paper a once over and decide it’s fine to publish in their illustrious journal, the valuable and useful knowledge in the paper is disseminated around the academic world. That will probably never happen to Mathgen’s paper because the joke was exposed before the journal was finalised.

If all this makes you chuckle and shrug, consider that it’s the norm in academic publishing. A similar computer program managed to get an article about postmodernism published in a Duke University journal. And even when people run coherent scientific experiments (with real people) the results have a habit of being suspect too.

Many studies can’t seem to be replicated these days. Meaning, if you ran exactly the same experiment, you wouldn’t get results that confirm the study’s findings. According to one science journalist, 47 of the top 53 most important cancer studies can’t be replicated. They might be completely wrong, and yet we base modern research on the assumption they are right.

To be clear, for any sceptics, the Mathgen paper is a true ‘gotcha’ moment. It wasn’t about the fact that a paper can be written by a clever computer program. It wasn’t about anything. It was complete gibberish. But it did show the fact that academic journals are … academic. Let’s hope nobody reads them.

Unfortunately, finance and economics journals actually do get mentioned in the real world. In fact, their conclusions often determine public policy. Politicians hurl studies at each other proving their opinion.

Luckily for economists, it’s very difficult to disprove an economics study. You never know the ‘counterfactual’ — what would have happened. But if maths and science are corrupted, you’d think economics is corrupted twice over.

So the next time you read ‘a study has shown,’ you can disregard the end of the sentence.

Nick Hubble
Editor Money Morning Australia

This post first appeared at Money Morning Australia

UPDATE:  The author of the bogus paper blogs the story here.  And compares this to

Alan Sokal’s 1996 hoax, in which Sokal, a physicist, got the cultural studies journal Social Text to accept a parody article which identified physics and physical reality as a social construct.

#RoadTrip - And finally...

So where now then?


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Waitangi? It imposed no such obligation

I’m sorry, but this news this morning is ridiculous.

The Waitangi Tribunal has called on the Crown to apologise to the country's kohanga reo because they have suffered significant prejudice from early childhood policies of successive governments… The report follows a claim made to the tribunal by the Kohanga Reo National Trust last year.

“Prejudice”?!  Really?  What sort of “prejudice”? 

And a claim? A Waitangi claim?  About this? Have we gone mad?

The only prejudice I can see here is race-based early childhood centres set up and paid for by taxpayers on the basis of racial prejudice.

I have no problem at all with anyone wanting to send their children to early childhood centres using whatever language or languages they like. At that age children learn languages so easily, and the learning of them is so good for their development of literacy that introducing them to a wide range of languages is ideal.

But let’s not confuse that boon with the separatist aims of these race-based schools. Their aim is not literacy, but separatism.

[The Tribunal report says however] government policies have failed to support the Maori language immersion centres and to recognise their special role.

It would be far more accurate to say parents themselves have failed to support the centres by sending their children to them in large enough numbers, and the Kohanga Reo movement has failed those parents who do send them to their centres by filling them with teachers not fit for the role.

If there’s an apology needed here, it’s to parents from the movement for failing their children.

And what  “special” role do these centres have? What could possibly be so “special” about them it needs to be recognised by government, apologised for by past governments, and paid for (through the nose) by taxpayers? Here’s your answer:

Kohanga reo are so important for the survival of te reo Maori, [says the Tribunal’s report], that the Crown's obligation to protect the language extends to kohanga too.

What “obligation” is that then? An “obligation” to “protect the language”? Where does this obligation come from? Well, remember that the Waitangi Tribunal is not just a race-based talking shop. It is also a supralegal body, with its opinions not grounded not in prejudice but in law.  At least in theory. So this is a legal obligation they’re talking about.

And the law they point to? You guessed it: Te Tiriti, in which the British Government promised to protect Maori property. Except since Maori had no concept of “property,” the explicit concept “property” was translated as the vague and indefinable concept “taonga”—allowing gravy-train riders ever since to define and re-define and all along the line to claim government protection (and taxpayer resources) for whatever “treasures” they feel like.

Including language.

It gets worse:

The Tribunal found that the Crown’s early childhood education system … had failed to adequately sustain the specific needs of kōhanga reo as an environment for language transmission and whānau development. These failures constituted breaches of the Treaty principles of partnership and equity.

What “breach” is this then? Of the treaty principle of “partnership”?!

But the Treaty has no principle of partnership. It neither mentioned nor implied partnership. In three short articles it simply offered the introduction of British law, and the rights and protections that were then protected by British law. One law for all, you might say.

The Treaty which was drawn up and signed talked neither about race nor culture nor any partnership between them—nor about any permanent welfare, or a tax-paid gravy train into perpetuity.  Like British law itself at the time it was colour blind, and welfare-free.  What it promised was not the politics of either race or welfarism but the simple legal promise of protection of the rights of all, regardless of race, creed or skin colour.

This principle of partnership supposedly appearing in the Treaty, on the back of which so much garbage has been said and so many millions given away, is a myth. A modern myth.

A myth made up from whole cloth by modern politicians for reasons of political expediency.

If they do have anything in this about which to actually apologise , they could start there.


Religion vs Science

I don’t enjoy Ricky Gervais’s TV shows, but his Twitter feed is pure genius:


The State vs Christie Marceau

The first job of the state, its only legitimate role, is to protect the individual rights of its citizens—to protect each individuals’ rights to life, liberty and pursuit of property and happiness.

To protect our lives.

imageIt failed to protect Christie Marceau.

The primary purpose of incarceration is not to punish criminals. It is not to teach them a lesson, nor to turn them around. The primary purpose is protection. Protection for the harmless, like Christie Marceau, from the harmful, like her murderer.

The state, in the person of Justice McNaughton, failed Christie Marceau when it released on bail a man who had already been charged for kidnap and assault and attempted rape—for her kidnap and assault and attempted rape.

Justice McNaughton failed Christie Marceau.

The injustice system failed Christie Marceau—as it fails all of us when it fails to prosecute with sufficient swiftness, so because of long delays in coming to trial it releases on bail, and continues to release on bail, those charged with violence.

This is unconscionable. The price is paid in the blood of innocent people.

People like Christie Marceau.

And forget this nonsense of “not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.”

Guilty is guilty. Guilt properly should not require that you know you did wrong, that you understand what a moral action looks like, or that you were or were not in the grip of voices telling you to kill. It should not require this because the primary purpose of justice is not punishment. It is protection.

Protection for innocents like Christie Marceau.

Melnikov House, by Konstanin Melnikov

imageSource: Melnikov House

Even in the depths of the Soviet conquest of the soul, Konstanin Melnikov found a way to make inspiring architecture.  This, his family home, his masterpiece, he somehow managed to get through the system.

[Hat tip Sandrine L.]

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The worst Nobel Prize ever?

imageGuest post by Keith Weiner

Amidst global economic collapse, *THIS* is what wins the Nobel Prize in Economics?!?

The world is building a tower of debt unprecedented in any prior era. The derivatives tower is estimated to be one quadrillion dollars.  It has taken unprecedented government injection of methamphetamine to "stabilize" things, and every central bank and government knows they dare not reduce the drip or the patient will collapse.

"The economy is recovering,” sayeth the Fed, “and zero interest rates will continue until 2015, and we will buy $40B+ of mortgage bonds per month with no set limit,"  Unemployment goes down only because people drop out of the workforce and onto welfare, disability, or social security when their patience (and savings) run out.

The marginal productivity of debt--how much additional GDP does the next dollar of borrowing buy--has been falling for many decades.

Capital destruction continues to accelerate. Savers are hosed, and let's not even talk about people trying to live on a fixed income!

Keynes' theory, the bedrock of the modern economy, is in a shambles (or ought to be if people could think their way out of a wet paper bag). And the most prestigious prize in economics?

Yeah, let's award that to a couple of guys who have played with a model for central planning when money cannot be used (e.g. organ donations, where buying organs is illegal).


The Philosopher is in

imagePhilosopher Leonard Peikoff is online at 11:30am talking and answering questions about his new book, The Dim Hypothesis, which attempts to integrate the entire history of human thought.  

Watch it on LiveStream via Facebook.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Bad weather for warmists

Ahem, I have some news for you.

Global warming stopped 16 years ago.

imageSOURCE: Daily Mail

See, if we had my Very Special Carbon Tax, you’d all be getting a tax refund now.

Instead, we’re still hammered by Nick Smith’s Emissions Trading Scam.

Bad advice for NZ

Various monetary cranks in both politics and journalism continue to advise that the best way for NZ to get richer is to make our currency poorer. To make it poorer by the simple expedient of diluting its value with truckloads of new paper, to be spent on white elephants of their choice—combined with Muldoonist “capital controls” requiring the permission of the state to transfer your own money abroad.

This advice for the Greeks, appearing today at the Mises Daily, is just as much advice for these deadheads. (I have changed only pronouns, proper nouns, and some of the insults.)

Their statist advice stems from their misunderstanding of basic economics in which they views symptoms as causes.
    They offer no explanation for our increasing debt burden, high cost structure, and high unemployment other than the standard Keynesian explanation of inadequate aggregate demand. Once this fallacious view is swallowed, the prescription follows axiomatically, i.e., devalue the currency to restore competitiveness vis-à-vis foreign markets, which will increase aggregate demand and reduce unemployment…
    That's it! There is no need to cut public spending. Quite the contrary, because public spending adds to the Keynesian concept of aggregate demand, and aggregate demand cannot be allowed to fall…
    These monetary cranks see the world upside down. In their world of aggregate demand, a weaker currency always is preferable to a stronger one, because a weak currency purportedly makes a nation more competitive in international markets. But this is pure propaganda. A weak currency not only makes necessary imports more expensive, reducing prosperity, but it also is an outright subsidy to foreign buyers of a nation's goods. As I have argued in
"Value in Devaluation?" and as James Miller has argued in "Mark Carney's Zero-Sum Game," currency devaluation is merely a transfer of wealth from all of a nation's citizens to politically favoured industries, usually export industries. It is no different from giving a subsidy to any domestic producer. The subsidy is paid by all the citizens of the subsidizing country, not by the foreigners who buy the subsidized good. They get a bargain.
    Furthermore, devaluation does not make a nation more competitive. It does nothing to spur increased domestic saving or external capital investment, which lead to the increased application of capital per capita, the only sources of increased worker productivity and the only sources of increased real wages. Devaluation does not reveal the onerous, wealth-destroying effect of economic regulation, not does it reveal the true costs of the welfare state, which relies on high taxes to fund present consumption at the expense of future prosperity. What the state spends cannot be saved and invested, no matter how cheap the currency.
    And, contrary to statements that "improving competitiveness is at odds with the objective of reducing the debt burden," a country will never be able to reduce its debt until it does become more competitive. It may well become impossible for NZ to pay all of its debts if it continues to borrow at the current rate, but this merely reveals the dire reality of current policy; it does nothing to change that reality. The increase in the debt burden must stop! It must stop now!
    …So, the cranks put forward a devalued argument for a devalued currency. And if NZers resist outright theft through devaluation, then the government must trap their wealth internally, where it can be plundered later, by using capital controls to stop transfers to safer, foreign banks. The fact that the free movement of capital was one of the pillars of free trade apparently must be sacrificed for the benefit of the state…
     All tyrants love a crisis…

Monday, 15 October 2012

Benghazi murders are Obama’s hostage crisis

One thing I was struck by in the recent US Vice Presidential debates was how the candidates of both major parties seem now to both accept the fact that the attack on the US’s Benghazi embassy and the murder of the US Ambassador and three of his staff was not an over-excited protest over a YouTube clip that coincidentally occurred on the anniversary of 9/11, but a concerted terrorist attack.

As Mark Steyn points out, this concession follows weeks of lying.

There was no demonstration against an Islamophobic movie that just got a little out of hand. Indeed, there was no movie protest at all. Instead, a U.S. Consulate was destroyed and four of its personnel were murdered in one of the most sophisticated military attacks ever launched at a diplomatic facility.
This was confirmed by testimony to Congress a few days ago, although you could have read as much in my column of four weeks ago. Nevertheless, for most of those four weeks, the president of the United States, the secretary of state, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and others have persistently attributed the Benghazi debacle to an obscure YouTube video — even though they knew that the two events had nothing to do with each other by no later than the crack of dawn Eastern time on Sept. 12, by which point the consulate's survivors had landed safely in Tripoli.
To "politicize" means "to give a political character to." It is a reductive term, capturing the peculiarly shrunken horizons of politics: "Gee, they nuked Israel. D'you think that will hurt us in Florida?" So media outlets fret that Benghazi could be "bad" for Obama — by which they mean he might be hitting the six-figure lecture circuit four years ahead of schedule.
But for Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, it's really bad. They're dead, over, gonesville. Given that Obama and Hillary Clinton refer to Stevens pneumatically as "Chris." as if they've known him since third grade, why would they dishonor the sacrifice of their close, personal friend by peddling an utterly false narrative as to why he died?
You want "politicization"? Secretary Clinton linked the YouTube video to the murder of her colleagues even as the four caskets lay alongside her at Andrews Air Force Base — even though she had known for days that it had nothing to do with it…
    In the vice presidential debate, asked why the White House spent weeks falsely blaming it on the video, Joe Biden took time off between big toothy smirks to reply:
        "Because that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community."
    That too is false…

The Benghazi attack, the non-reaction to it and the lying about it, are as symbolic of American defeatism today  as was the Iranian hostage crisis in the last days of Jimmy Carter’s defeatist Presidency.

The Benghazi murders are Obama’s hostage crisis.

[Hat tip Thrutch]



One-hundred years ago we were just beginning to leave the ground, for brief periods, in contraptions made of wood and canvas.

Now, not only do people parachute back to earth from the stratosphere, men sit at their desks on earth controlling on a far distant planet a small robotic machine designed to explore and investigate—controlling it as if they were there and sitting in its cockpit.

It’s easy to take this stuff for granted.

Which is why a new book by William J. Clancey about Mars’s robotic geologists, Working on Mars: Voyages of Scientific Discovery with the Mars Exploration Rovers, is so fascinating.

This is, in Clancey's words, "a unique human-robotic enterprise," by way of "teleoperated robots" or "telerobotic tools."
    The book is … not a
New Yorker-style profile of mission scientists in their lab at Pasadena [says my reviewer a the BldgBlog] but it nonetheless reveals the bizarre methodological requirements of working on another planet through remotely controlled machine-surrogates. From altered sleep-patterns (to keep pace with the longer days on Mars) to darkened window shades (to enact on Earth the darkness of the Martian nightfall for rovers), the actual practices of the scientists come to the foreground of Clancey's study.
It is through these practices that the humans can engage with and control—or at least efficiently keep track of—these radically off-site prosthetic extensions, the rover now understood as "a mechanism that can be 'acted through,' an extended embodiment of the human eyes and hands of the people who control its actions from Earth."
It is a remotely operated surrogate sensory apparatus—organs without a body.


We should never lose our sense of wonder at how cool human beings can be.  We can do this!


More pictures here.

QUIZ: Which presidential candidate are you closest to?

This quiz promises to tell you to which presidential candidate you are the closest

These sorts of quizzes usually discount presidential policies that turn you off completely in favour of those for which you’re mildly in favour—in short, they highlight every minor similarity and ignore any major difference.

But this quiz does at least allow you to write your own policies. Sort of.

Anyway, here are my results after running through twice to see if it made any difference (the second time without rewriting policies to make them closer to what I’d support). What do you come up with?



Falling at the speed of sound!

Man breaks speed of sound…without a vehicle. For the first time in history.



What makes it even cooler is this breaks a record that has stood for over fifty years—and the bloke who held that record was on Baumgartner’s crew.

The previous highest, farthest, and longest freefall was made by Col Kittinger, who leapt from a helium envelope in 1960. His altitude was 102,800ft (31.3km). (His mark for the longest freefall remains intact; he fell for more than four and a half minutes before deploying his chute.)
    Col Kittinger, now an octogenarian, has been an integral part of Baumgartner's team, and has provided the Austrian with advice and encouragement whenever he has doubted his ability to complete such a daring venture.