Monday, March 31, 2014

MH370 Update

Once again the Malaysian officials demonstrate why they really cannot be trusted with just about any detail.  Today they've contradicted their initial reportage on the final transmission from MH370 before disappearance, amending it as such:
On Monday, Malaysia's Transport Ministry said the final voice transmission from the cockpit of Flight 370 was "Good night Malaysian three seven zero." That's a departure from earlier language in which Malaysian authorities said the final transmission was "All right, goodnight."
Which sounds perfectly normal.  The other version was not entirely unbelievable, but this sounds absolutely non-controversial.  Interestingly enough, if (and that's a BIG if) it's accurate then it pretty much shows that the London Telegraph was punked when they published the unofficial transcript some time ago, which included the original "alright, good night" verbiage. So, either that version was true and this is a lie (which the Malaysians have decided to fabricate for some reason) or someone sold the Telegraph a bill of goods and they ran with it.

One would think the Malaysian government (via their air traffic control facility) would be the sole owner of the taped transcript.  A good question would be whether they've allowed the NTSB or anyone else to listen to it.   Such a conversation might not be on the CVR assuming it's a standard final 2 hour tape (and the earlier activity is not digitally retrievable). 

A few more things of note. The CNN report indeed clarifies something written here (and elsewhere) regarding the Malaysian PM's finality statement about the passengers and plane being lost--the intentional avoidance of the word 'crashed'.  The Malaysians admit this word was not used because it's not known whether the plane crashed or perhaps did a Sully-like splash down, etc.

Finally, the web site is a good source of info because they preserve a running account of the coverage from most aviation events for posterity.  The discussion of late indicates the ACARS unit was only placed into a mode where it would not report data as opposed to being absolutely turned off (circuit breaker pulled). Pulling a breaker would indeed have required someone to pull up a section of carpet in the first class galley and open a floor hatch to reach the E&E bay.  Confirmation of such doesn't rule out terrorists completely, but it certainly makes it easier for a rogue pilot to take over the plane and do what we know was done without having to access the compartment. 

Assuming the final gibberish transmission was actually received from MH370, which would have come from First Officer Hamid, then it points strongly to Captain Shah as the number one suspect.  Whatever the case, the recent relocation of the search area based on the aircraft 'flying faster' than previously thought (determined by the last few actual radar fixes) while at the same time traveling a shorter distance, all while the ACARS data stayed on 6-8 hours, suggests the aircraft might have done the splash down thing, to the point of remaining afloat long enough to produce a few pings.  Otherwise this theory seems weird because again, the radar tapes shouldn't take 3 1/2 weeks to analyze.  Then again, it's the Malaysians.

Which gets us back to square one. Things remain pretty much right where we found them the week after the disappearance.  But it sure has given CNN something to do with themselves. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Side Tracks

You Tube has some fabulous clips of The Beatles playing live before they got too big to play live anymore (or the "live" was simply a studio recording behind a bunch of guys fake singing).   This clip is one of the few where screaming girls don't overpower their raw vocal talent.    

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Condi Rice has done it now

The former Secretary of State has weighed into the murky waters of O-criticism:
“Right now, there’s a vacuum,” she told a crowd of more than two thousand attending the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual dinner last night in Washington, D.C. “There’s a vacuum because we’ve decided to lower our voice. We’ve decided to step back. We’ve decided that if we step back and lower our voice, others will lead, other things will fill that vacuum.”
Citing Bashar al Assad’s slaughter in Syria, Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, al Qaeda’s triumphant return to Fallujah, Iraq, and China’s nationalist fervor, she concluded: “When America steps back and there is a vacuum, trouble will fill that vacuum.”
We just saw Rummy infer that the president was less than a "trained ape" so it'll be fun to watch the reaction to this one.  The former Stanford Provost and Russian expert is already a lying Aunt Jemima House Negro killer who likes the NFL, so now she's probably a racist, too.

But it's nice to hear some confirmation that when the 'world breathed a sigh of relief' after Bush left office it was mainly the tinpots and bad boys who were doing the deep exhaling, even if the initial prediction was just a bit off.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

MH370 Update

The Malaysians are now saying they have no doubt the flight 'ended' in the southern Indian Ocean. Their PM came on TV to make the announcement, based he said on new information from Inmarsat.  The new floating debris was also mentioned, although it wasn't specifically tied to the aircraft.  Careful observers will note they didn't seem to use the word "crashed", sticking with "lost", "went down" and "ended".  That may be intentional or out of respect for the grieving.   But why should anyone believe them?

After all, until yesterday they had said the last ACARS transmission at 01:07am indicated a pre-selected turn and possible foul play in the cockpit.  Then suddenly yesterday, without much explanation, it changed.  The last ACARS transmission at 01:07am was back to normal again.

Now today they have announced a finality. 

OK.  Well, this new finality coming without identifying specific debris is odd, but could be in response to search planes spotting something fairly absolute, such as human remains.  That occurred in AF 447, five days after its disappearance and before the major pieces of debris were located.   If true, this might be something they want to first confirm before blurting it out to the media due to the obvious sensitivities.  

The new narrative also brings back the catastrophic theory again, with something happening between the 01:19am sign-off and the scheduled 01:37am ACARS transmission that didn't occur.  In such a scenario the captain or FO would have likely attempted to turn the airplane back towards Malaysia and drop the altitude to 12,000 feet (which they now claim is what the military radar shows).  Dropping to 10 or 12 thousand feet would be protocol in a decompression event to ensure passenger survivability,  since the drop down O2 masks have a short supply.

But that doesn't solve everything.  It doesn't explain why the aircraft rose to over 40,000 feet after the turn as earlier reported.  Unless that has vanished from the narrative.  It's hard to believe the military radar could be misinterpreted to such a degree.  Also, the Malaysians said their last radar hit in the Malacca Strait showed the aircraft at 29,500 feet.  Why would it descend then ascend back up over 12,000 feet if it was crippled with decompression or some other problem?

But it had to ascend.  If it stayed at 12,000 feet there's a high likelihood it wouldn't have had enough fuel to make it all the way to the suspected Southern Indian Ocean crash zone because the airplane would burn fuel at a much higher rate than at FL295.  But why would it ascend if it was crippled? They would have been searching for a place to put it down.  And how would it ascend?  If the pilots weren't incapacitated it makes no sense.  If they were perhaps the FMS returned it back to that level by itself.  But why were the pilots incapacitate?  That brings back a hijacker or suicide narrative again.   

Also, nothing seems to explain why the transponder and ACARS would stop working while the FMS and Inmarsat hub kept operating.   The only way Inmarsat was able to re-compute their data (and they probably have fine-tuned it using an analysis of winds and other data not immediately available) was because the power stayed on to their hub in the E&E bay of the aircraft the entire time.  So whatever catastrophic event occurred didn't entirely take out power to the aircraft (there are multiple backup systems anyway).  Experts on TV will explain how all this could happen, but like so many other things it seems hard to process in line with everything else we think we know.  Assuming we really know anything definite. 

For instance, those following the story closely should remember that we first heard from the Wall St Journal on March 13th quoting "US investigators" that engine-maker Rolls-Royce and Boeing reported they were receiving pings from their onboard comms units for up to 5 hours after last contact.  At the time the Malaysians were allowing the search and rescue effort to be concentrated on the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea, with a secondary area in the Strait of Malacca.

Keep in mind this came from "US investigators" in a very similar manner to the New York Times report from March 17th that quoted "Senior American officials" about the last ACARS transmission at 01:07am actually showing an early course change programmed into the aircraft's FMS before the last verbal sign-off:
Flight 370’s Flight Management System reported its status to the Acars, which in turn transmitted information back to a maintenance base, according to an American official. This shows that the reprogramming happened before the Acars stopped working. The Acars ceased to function about the same time that oral radio contact was lost and the airplane’s transponder also stopped, fueling suspicions that foul play was involved in the plane’s disappearance.
Curiously, both reports, from US sources, have been denied by the Malaysians.  Why is our government telling our press different information?   Are we seeing an attempt to whitewash something or is it just incompetence?

Finally, the cargo manifest and the ATC tapes are still up in the air. The Malaysians finally admitted the aircraft was handling lithium batteries after denying it earlier.  They have zero credibility, so what else was the aircraft carrying? As to the ATC tapes, we still have not gotten a verified transcript. The one released to the British Telegraph was "translated from Mandarin" for some reason, leaving suspicion that it was leaked by the Chinese.  The NY Times yesterday had more information about what Malaysian and Vietnamese controllers were saying after MH370 disappeared from their radar scopes, but we need actual transcripts.

All in all this investigation has suffered greatly from a near blizzard of erroneous, unconfirmed, uncorroborated and misleading information from the Malaysians.  Whether this is intentional to put a shroud of fog over the story and keep people from understanding or remembering what's been said or just plain incompetence from a government trying to keep up with an overwhelming story is unknown.   The impact on the families of the lost is indescribable to anyone else but them.  But everyone following the story wants closure, for a variety of reasons.

But there may never be full closure on this event unless the bulk of the wreckage is found and both the CVR and FDR are found and examined by officials outside Malaysia.  If the current theory holds, that the pilots were both incapacitated and the aircraft was flying on its last heading until running out of fuel, then the FDR and CVR--largely silent--may confirm it.  If not, and even if, the conspiracy theories on this mystery will rival those of the Kennedy shooting.

AND..  3/24/14

This story seems to have vanished from the talking head networks, but seems rather important (if true):
“We managed to establish contact with MH370 just after 1:30 a.m. and asked them if they have transferred into Vietnamese airspace,” the pilot reportedly told New Straits Times. “The voice on the other side could have been either Captain Zaharie (Ahmad Shah, 53,) or Fariq (Abdul Hamid, 27), but I was sure it was the co-pilot.
“There were a lot of interference… static… but I heard mumbling from the other end. “That was the last time we heard from them, as we lost the connection,” the pilot said, adding that he thought nothing of the lost contact since it happens frequently — until he learned of MH370 never landing.
Would this be on any country's air traffic frequency archive?  Surely investigators would want to scrutinize what would be some very important information-- activity at 1:30am, which was between the 1:19am sign-off and the missed 1:37am ACARS report. 

"Mumbling" could mean a variety of things; but it would confirm they were doing more than "aviating and navigating" after/during the turn.  While it's impossible to say what the condition of the flight deck was at that moment it's now known the FO was on the radios, so ANY conversation from the crew after the sign-off might indicate they had either suffered an in-flight emergency or were in the process of being taken over by hijackers (to possibly include a member of the crew itself).  At the same time it would tend to diminish the possibility that both pilots were involved in some kind of aircraft theft or suicide mission, since they would have maintained radio silence after the last sign-off.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fools Rush In

The NY Times' Pakistani correspondent, Carlotta Gall, seems like a reporter's reporter, if the story she just broke is any clue.  She's been assigned to that backwards hellhole region since 9/11, venturing into areas that few reporters go.

And after years of searching she says the Pakistani ISI knew a lot more about bin Laden than they will admit:
Finally, on a winter evening in 2012, I got the confirmation I was looking for. According to one inside source, the ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle Bin Laden. It was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: Bin Laden.
I was sitting at an outdoor cafe when I learned this, and I remember gasping, though quietly so as not to draw attention. (Two former senior American officials later told me that the information was consistent with their own conclusions.) This was what Afghans knew, and Taliban fighters had told me, but finally someone on the inside was admitting it. The desk was wholly deniable by virtually everyone at the ISI — such is how supersecret intelligence units operate — but the top military bosses knew about it, I was told.
She is scratching her head wondering why the US Government (obviously both Bush and Obama) have not seemingly understood the motives of Pakistan in this WoT thing.  Pakistan formed the Taliban, they probably ran bin Laden, and they will have their proxies sweep in and take over Afghanistan as soon as we leave. It's far too easy to pawn it off to oil or the military-industrial complex.  But pawning it off to bigger and more troublesome things is hard to do without total sunshine.  Maybe it's time for Jack Nicholson again...


MH370 Again

A few items of interest to chew on.

One, the transcript.  Hot Air goes over the final few minutes and finds some possible curiosity about the First Officer's (FO) sign off, 'alright, goodnight'.  Technically it breaks standard ATC protocol as to reading back instructions.  And it could be an indication something was happening or about to happen in the cockpit, as Jazz Shaw says.  But chances are if you listened to 100 ATC tapes of hand-offs from one sector to another, one control area to another, or one country to another this kind of thing would occur a few times.

I'd like to go back into the transcript a little further than where Hot Air started:
00:46:51 MH370: KL ATC, this is MH370
00:46:51 ATC: MH370 please climb to flight altitude 250
00:46:54 MH370: MH370 is climbing to flight altitude 250
00:50:06 ATC: MH370 climbing (sic) to flight altitude 350
00:50:09 MH370: MH370, climbing to flight altitude 350
01:01:14 MH370: MH370 remaining in flight altitude 350
01:01:19 ATC: MH370
01:07:55 MH370: MH370 remaining in flight altitude 350
01:08:00 ATC: MH370
01:19:24 ATC: MH370, please contact Hu Chi Mihn City 120.9, good night
01:19:29 MH370: All right, good night.
Notice the double reporting of being at FL350 (flight altitude 350).  MH370 reports FL350 at 01:01, then 6 minutes later, reports it again. Malaysian ATC acknowledges both with a simple "MH370". Why report it twice?  Was it because the pilots were distracted or perhaps a little foggy/loopy due to a slow-developing cabin pressure problem?  A slow leak is what got the crew of Payne Stewart's aircraft--they didn't realize they were becoming hypoxic fast enough to don their masks, so everybody went to sleep and the plane kept flying until it ran out of gas.

That kind of scenario would fill in some blanks here.  The FO read their altitude twice, then broke protocol on the last transmission because he was about ready to pass out. This would also explain why no passengers reached for the airphones--they were all about to pass out as well--or had. 

But that doesn't explain why the ACARS and the transponder were turned off.  Again, if the experts are correct about pulling a breaker to disable ACARS that would have to happen below deck and likely could not have been done by a captain about to pass out, or for any other reason imaginable.   The disabling of the comms on the aircraft doesn't seem to line up with a slow cabin pressure leak unless the leak completely blew out shortly after the last transmission causing explosive decompression and damaged the electrical system to where ACARS and the transponder blinked off.   But hold on--Inmarsat continued getting pings from their main hub box in the aircraft for 7 more hours, which would require power.  So that dog doesn't seem capable of hunting. 

As to the transcript, one thing that doesn't make much sense is the disclaimer on the bottom that says it's based on a Mandarin version of an English language transcript. Where did this come from, the Chinese?  Can they be trusted to take an English transcript, convert it to Mandarin, then correctly back to English? Let's see the actual English transcript as it occurred, since it was spoken in English.  And with sound.

Without sound it's impossible to tell whether the double reporting--the ones at 01:01 and 01:07, sounded unusual along with the sign-off. Did the FO's voice tone change from his first contacts to the last few?  That would be significant.

Meanwhile, as analysts point to more possible floating debris for searchers to chase, Daily Mail reports on a possible strange cell phone contact with the pilot before they took off:
The captain of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 received a two-minute call shortly before take-off from a mystery woman using a mobile phone number obtained under a false identity. It was one of the last calls made to or from the mobile of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah in the hours before his Boeing 777 left Kuala Lumpur 16 days ago.
Investigators are treating it as potentially significant because anyone buying a pay-as-you-go SIM card in Malaysia has to fill out a form giving their identity card or passport number.
Potentially significant or even nefarious, or maybe just an indication the captain was a horn-dog who liked women, which might explain why his wife had allegedly taken herself and the kids out of the Kuala Lumpur home a day before.  There may have been divorce considerations in play to explain the James Bond behavior of the phone/call. 

As to the latest fog of shifting information, today we are being told there was nothing unusual with the scheduled ACARS automatic status report at 01:07am. Earlier we were told that the new way points were programmed into the FMS computer prior to that report, based on that very same 01:07am ACARS.  From CNN:
Before 1:07 a.m.: Route change believed programmed into computer Investigators believe a change in flight plan was programmed into the plane's guidance system -- though not yet executed -- by this time, a senior U.S. official who was briefed on the investigation told CNN. This belief is based on data that was transmitted 12 minutes before the pilots' last voice communication, the official said.
Today it's a different story:
3. Update on ACARS transmission a. The last ACARS transmission, sent at 1.07am, showed nothing unusual. The 1.07am transmission showed a normal routing all the way to Beijing.
This sounds weird, but completely typical for this event. If true the significance might be that it brings back a mechanical explanation again, ie, if everything was normal at 01:07, and even normal at 01:19 when the FO signed off, but the ACARS and transponder went off sometime between then and 01:37 (the next scheduled ACARS auto report) then maybe something catastrophic occurred. Maybe the captain made one last valiant attempt to get the plane back to Malaysia by changing the way point before passing out and before everything turned off.  But we're back to square one with the Inmarsat box remaining powered for another 7 hours.  Just bizarre.

Meanwhile it seems to be a race between the Chinese and western countries to find debris first.  Surely there is some international tension in that setup.  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Side Tracks

The weather is finally warming, even down here in the warm south.   Here's some warm weather music to celebrate..

And another..

Risk? What Risk?

A presumptive GOP candidate for 2016 sets his table:
Bush said immigrants capture the entrepreneurial spirit of America. “People who come here legally and illegally are the risk takers,” Bush said. “If you’re living in a rural area of Guatemala and you come, you’re a bigger risk taker than those who stay.”
There's just so much wrong with that comment. One, what other criminal activity does he consider to be 'risk-taking' and worthy?  Two, he grouped both legal and illegal activity in the same breath.  Does he consider people who follow the law no different than those who can't be bothered?  Three, what risk is there for illegals coming into the country anymore?  If they get past the Border Patrol and settle somewhere they immediately become knighted saints with absolute moral authority, often held in higher esteem than tax-paying law-abiding citizens who suggest they be deported for breaking the law. 

As to education reform:
Aside from immigration, Bush’s advocacy for Common Core State Standards has earned him enmity on the right.
Bush isn't the only Republican jumping on Common Core, many Republicans have embraced it. One of them is the Republican governor of Tennessee. Ads have been running on local radio in the state pushing CC. Why? Do the various characters involved in the development of the program not bother these guys? Or have they been convinced otherwise?  Or something else?  Someone should ask them. 

And here's a potential question-- why do we need new national standards when the US education system has a long history of training some of the most brilliant minds in history that gave rise to a great nation?  Sounds like the problem is more with teachers and parents, not inadequate national standards.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Latest Breaking News! on MH370

CNN continues to report nothing else.  NBC News is reporting the following:
The missing Malaysia Airlines jet's abrupt U-turn was programmed into the on-board computer well before the co-pilot calmly signed off with air traffic controllers, sources tell NBC News. The change in direction was made at least 12 minutes before co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid said "All right, good night," to controllers on the ground, the sources said.
The revelation further indicates that the aircraft's mysterious turnaround was planned and executed in the cockpit before controllers lost contact with Flight 370. But it doesn't necessarily indicate an ulterior motive.
Let's take a step back. The ACARS is a plain text message, in code of course, that doesn't need 10 days of translation to interpret.  So it's a certainty that Malaysian Airlines--and probably the government--knew all about this westward course correction on day one.

Granted, officials did mildly hint at the turn a few days after the disappearance, all while 40-60 assets were frantically searching an area they almost certainly knew didn't contain the airplane.  Also keep in mind that early on the Malaysians were saying the ACARS data didn't show anything unusual before it was cut off.  They are hiding something, but whether it's something sinister is hard to know.  There are going to be lots of deceptions from many governments over this mystery, mostly for national security and to protect tourism.   

Anyway, let's continue foolishly assuming the updated info out of Malaysia is close to true. If indeed the FMS system was programmed to change course BEFORE the First Officer (FO) signed off with ATC it would appear to rule out terrorism almost completely, which might be convenient, seeing as how they could have ruled it out the day after the crash, but of course that would have implicated their pilots.  But perhaps the trickle of information--and the trend--is how the Malaysians are going to reach the truth.  Drip by drip, hoping the story subsides a bit before the real embarrassing stuff comes out.  Yes, silly.    

This new information seems to set up three possibilities.  One, a mechanical issue the pilot was dealing with and trying to solve but hadn't yet, leading the FO to calmly sign off with ATC so as not to alarm anyone.  Then suddenly all hell broke loose.   Still possible, although it's hard to think the aircraft would have kept flying for 5-7 more hours unless it was the Payne Stewart slow decompression leak, where everyone just goes to sleep.  Yet the Malaysians seem to be saying more course corrections were made after the aircraft passed the Malay peninsula and some available airports.  That doesn't make sense. Besides, crews would be reporting something to a local airport or Malaysian center controllers if they were dealing with a problem and still in control.  They would want emergency services on standby upon landing. 

Speaking of ATC, it would be nice to hear or read the transcripts from Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese ATC regarding this flight.  Were they talking about the plane's disappearance?  When the transponder blinked off were they asking other aircraft in the area to be on the lookout?  What was said?

Possibility two, the FO had taken over the plane already, with the captain incapacitated, when he calmly replied to ATC in an effort not to draw suspicion.  He wasn't on oxygen presumably, or the voice would have sounded muddled and no mention of this was made by the Malaysians.  So we can infer that even if the captain was taken out the passengers were still alive and unaware at this point.  But there's a problem with a one-man operation.  It was at this point forward they say the ACARS was turned off--but only two minutes later!  IF we presume that it requires going under the floor to the E&E bay then the FO could not have possibly done that in such a short period, unless the hatch was already unlocked.

At this point other electrical systems (such as a WiFi or airphones) were also presumably switched off before the plane zoom-climbed to over 40,000 feet, because otherwise somebody might have tweeted it.  Perhaps this was the point the oxygen was shut off, causing the masks to drop and panic to set in.  The sudden ascent combined with a lack of pressurization would have knocked out the passengers.  However, some flight attendants might have gone for their emergency oxygen packs.  Could they have accessed the cockpit? Maybe, unless something was placed in the way or they were taken out.

But again, the E&E hatch is in the forward galley outside the cockpit door.  If the FO was himself going down there, then suddenly the masks dropped or electrics went off, and he was still outside the cockpit getting out of the hatch one would think a flight attendant would have been nearby and inquired as to WTF. 

Finally, possibility three--the captain and the FO were in cahoots. They stole the plane and headed west, working together to change course, talk to ATC and turn things off.  Protocol suggests the captain flying would have commanded a new course waypoint change in the FMS, so if he didn't he was likely not available.  If he did, and if the FO made the last contact with ATC, this new information certainly makes it look like both pilots were working together.  Yes, the captain could have been in the bathroom, but it's hard to believe he wouldn't have felt a course change and wondered what the heck was happening.  Presuming someone had to descend into the E&E bay to turn off the ACARS, it doesn't make sense for the pilot to have still been alive if the FO was acting alone.  

Amazingly it has taken ten days to get this pretzel wound in a different direction to almost completely rule out terrorism, using information known on day one.  There's still an outside, outside chance it was terrorism or something beyond pilot control.  Was there a person sitting in the 'jump seat' with the crew?  If so, perhaps he was part of the gang, which included other passengers or persons hiding in the bay.  Of course for this to be true one of them would have to have been holding a gun on the pilots when the FO issued his calm "goodnight" presuming it was his voice on the air and the turn was already being executed.  Seems a lot farther fetched.

Then again, eyewitnesses in the Maldives said they saw a low-flying plane with a red stripe that morning.  This is strange timing of course, since it's not like a time warp exists there to where it couldn't have been reported a week ago or more. But eyewitness testimony isn't always reliable. Even when it is it might not mean what the viewer thinks it does. Take for instance the oil rig worker who saw the 10 second fiery light in the sky on the night of the disappearance. Maybe it happened, just as he said. Maybe it was a fireball meteor. He never said he saw a plane.

But certainly, if any of this new breaking info is remotely true the focus is now squarely on the pilots, either one or both.  We've heard all about the captain and his politics. We haven't heard much about the politics of the FO. Were they at odds?  Did the junior man owe his livelihood to a government official the pilot hated?  What is the motive?

The bad thing is we may never know, even if the airplane is located and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) is intact and analyzed.  We have been told the aircraft flew for up to 5-7 hours; however:
A CVR, installed in aeroplanes of a maximum certificated take-off mass of over 5 700 kg for which the individual certificate of airworthiness is first issued on or after 1 January 1990, should be capable of retaining the information recorded during at least the last two hours of its operation
Which is one reason a crazy suicidal pilot might want to fly for more than 2 hours after taking over an aircraft. Either that, or an excuse the crazy Malaysians (or others) might be using to cover something up.


No matter what new information comes out some lingering questions remain.   Such as, why did the Malaysians allow search and rescue over areas they knew didn't contain the aircraft?   They had the ACARS data from day one, showing the turn.  They had radar data.  Or why haven't we seen any transcripts out of the nearby air traffic control facilities?   What were the controllers saying that night when MH370 failed to appear on its route?  Were the Malaysians or Vietnamese frantically trying to hail the aircraft on radio, or did they just shrug?      


Back and forth we go. Now the CEO of Malaysia---after the debris field in the South Indian Ocean turned up empty--is saying the jet was carrying lithium ion batteries after all.   I suspect this will become tonight's coverage theme on CNN, alongside the newest theory gleaned from some old guests on the Art Bell show. 

Whether the lithium batteries caught fire or not their presence still doesn't seem to explain the course correction made right before the aircraft was 'handed off' to Vietnamese ATC (the transcript was released today) with no mention to Malaysian ATC that they were either in trouble or returning.  It also doesn't explain the 5-7 hours of satellite pinging on the Inmarsat box.  In other words, the box remained powered and operative during the entire 7 hours while we are to believe the transponder and ACARS became in-operative.   A fire in the cargo hold wouldn't likely burn up everything but the Inmarsat box.  Based on the UPS 6 crash it also likely wouldn't have allowed the aircraft to remain intact for 7 hours.  Things seem to be right back at square one.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Military actions for oil now cool

Trouble in Libya?  Who knew?  Today the news has quietly trickled out that Navy SEALS used a military operation to board and secure an oil tanker near Cyprus carrying Libyan oil with the intention of bringing the pilferers and oil back to Libya.  So why is the president doing this and under what authority is he acting?

By all accounts this is a civil squabble in the new Libya.  Some want federalism, especially those sitting in the east where all the oil lies.  Not surprisingly, the Tripoli government--in the west--wants a solid union (controlled by them).  Here's a nutshell of the politics:
Now the American intervention has dealt a serious blow to perhaps the Libyan government’s greatest foe, Ibrahim Jathran, the 33-year-old leader of the eastern Libyan militia that blockaded the ports and tried to sell the oil. Mr. Jathran, a former rebel who fought against Colonel Qaddafi, was initially named to lead a force protecting the oil infrastructure.
He has since allied himself with the so-called federalist movement demanding more power, autonomy and oil revenue for the nation’s eastern region, which contains most of Libya’s reserves. He has refused to reopen the ports until the central government agrees to investigate allegations of corruption in its oil sales and give the east a larger cut of the proceeds.
According to this report the federalist supporters are not AQ or Islamic radicals, they actually oppose each other.  So, under what authority were our SEALS operating?   Was it the AUMF or a simple directive from the POTUS or something tied to the UN?  Sounds more like a police action.  But it's fun to see the media and leftist reactions, or lack thereof, when Obama plays the oil games.   Or when any story comes up remotely in the vicinity of Benghazi. 

Goose Chase, Con't

CNN continues to reap a ratings bonanza in their day-to-day reportage on MH370, as the story itself changes from day-to-day.  New viewers are tuning in because they know CNN has a bigger international operation than any other network. Time will tell if they've made any new fans.

But sudden interest in lowly CNN shows how much interest there is in the mystery--perhaps the strangest and most compelling since the disappearance of Amelia Earhart or the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.

Focus keeps shifting.  For the past few days it's been on the flight crew.  Information coming out on Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah certainly does appear suspicious--that is, when digesting it after the fact.  Pilots usually get blamed.  Maybe he deserves to be the number one suspect.

Occam's Razor might support it.  If reports are true that his political hero was the man jailed for five years earlier that same day and that his wife and children moved out of the house a day earlier, that certainly set up a frantic scenario for Captain Shah.  Let's wildly speculate that he'd been fantasizing about taking off into the wild blue yonder by himself on his home Triple 7 simulator many times.  The events of March 6 and 7 could have been the trigger.

But the devil is always in the details.  If Captain Shah was responsible either he or First Officer Hamid would have had to retire down the cockpit hatch to the comms compartment under the floor to flip the breaker on the ACARS unit--the first piece of equipment disabled.  It makes sense for Shah to have disabled First Officer Hamid, crawled down into the comms room and done it, then returned to the cockpit to sign off verbally with ATC then turn off the transponder.  Another alternative--Hamid was not 'taken out' but was out of the cockpit in the bathroom, and Shah made it so he couldn't get back in.  

But the Malaysians have added another twist.  They claim the final verbal communications from the plane came from First Officer Hamid.

That means he was almost surely in or near the cockpit after the ACARS was turned off. It also means Shah was the "Pilot Flying" (PF), as the one not flying usually handles the radios.  The transponder was reportedly turned off 14 minutes after Hamid's last verbal communication, and before they were to contact Vietnamese ATC.

This still might work, assuming Shah either made up an excuse to go down under the floor, then came back up and either allowed Hamid to sign off with Malaysian ATC or waited until he was done before reemerging and taking him out.   If FO Hamid left the cockpit for the bathroom before Captain Shah tried to sneak down and flip the breaker he would be running the risk of having Hamid return early to find nobody at the controls and potentially question what the fark was going on.  Yet he signed off rather calmly with Malaysian ATC.  Fourteen minutes later the transponder was turned off and the wildness began.  

If authorities could simply get rid of the above vexing distractions they could probably find a way to have Shah take out Hamid, flip off the cabin WIFI, don his oxygen mask and fiddle with the cabin pressure to take out all the passengers (as he ascended to over 40,000 feet), then turning left and diving back down and play a cat and mouse game with radar through the Malacca Straits.  That would put him in the Indian Ocean, with two distinct directions of flight according to the satellite tracks--NW towards the Bay of Bengal or SW towards the open ocean.

Everyone keeps saying "why would he fly 7 hours to crash the plane?"  I've said it too.  But it's based on him being a terrorist, not a middle aged father/husband of strong political beliefs (and not radical Islam) who's just lost everything and has become suicidal.  In such a scenario he might want the airplane flying long enough to 1) make it hard for his government, and everyone else, to find and recover, 2) make sure the Flight Attendants using emergency oxygen bottles (they would be the only ones left alive in the cabin) had run out of oxygen, and 3) make sure the CVR would run out of tape so as not to incriminate himself after the fact.   He would likely want his family to receive any life insurance or other death benefits.   So, he puts the aircraft on auto-pilot towards the southwest, takes off his oxygen mask, and goes to sleep with the rest of them.   No need to be alive during the final terrifying plunge.

But again, with Hamid making the last transmission this scenario has become a bit more difficult.  The earlier theory of terrorists disguised as ground crew hiding in the comms bay (entering the aircraft before the crew or passengers), who disable the ACARS (and maybe WIFI?) then burst through from under the floor and take over the cockpit 10 minutes or so after the last conversation, remains in play.  

All rank speculation based on open source information and subject to change later today or in the next 10 minutes.  And for all anyone knows the aircraft crash site has already been cleaned up by the Chinese or North Vietnamese.     


Pilots should laughingly point out the obvious error in the above speculation--the comms access hatch is NOT in the cockpit environs behind the locked door, it's in the cabin area behind the cockpit door.   Should have confirmed this because it changes the wild speculation above.   And let's face it, this is all just wild speculation so far.  So like a fool, will try one more time.  

Based on some supposed pilot feedback on forums the O2 may be able to be switched off from the circuit breakers in the below deck bay.  Assuming this is the case, the hiding terrorists theory may still be valid.  Let's say they first disabled the ACARS and a WIFI circuit, so the passengers who weren't sleeping but sitting there reading the internet couldn't suddenly tweet "hey, something is going on here", etc.  That this did not happen has always been baffling and strongly suggestive of a catastrophic failure.  A more deliberate event requires someone to either watch over every passenger and make sure they don't secretly send something or incapacitate them all with some kind of gas reminiscent of a Batman villain.  Somehow, some way the passengers didn't have time to communicate (we've been told that cell phones were out of range at that altitude).

So, after the speculative terrorists switched off the innocuous ACARS and WIFI, which wouldn't raise any immediate suspicions, in the interim the FO in the cockpit acknowledges Malaysian ATC with 'goodnight'.  Fourteen minutes later perhaps the breaker is pulled on the transponder and the O2 systems from the guys still hiding. Then suddenly they burst forth, wearing personal O2 masks, with small explosives to blow the cockpit door, enter, and there's a struggle as the pilots (who have donned their personal O2 masks while trying to ascertain the issue) are taken out.   In the struggle the plane zooms to over 40,000 feet, disabling all but the hijackers.  From there it's on to wherever.

But good Lord, would anyone believe a Tom Clancy novel like that?  Isn't it more likely than one of the pilots was to blame? Or that the entire narrative is utter BS designed to cover up a Vietnamese or Chinese shootdown?  Since I've long ago passed the point of rational speculation it's best to draw back and watch CNN.

I GIVE UP  3/17/14

This comment from the Malaysian officials solidifies the futility of speculating on this event:
Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s defense minister and acting transportation minister, had made that assertion on Sunday, saying that the aircraft’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS, was disabled at 1:07 a.m. Saturday, well before the co-pilot’s verbal signoff. That appeared to point to possible complicity of the pilots in the plane’s disappearance.
But Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, the chief executive of Malaysia Airlines, said at a news conference early Monday evening that the ACARS system had worked normally at 1:07 but then failed to send its next regularly scheduled update at 1:37 a.m., and could have been disabled at any point between those two times.
“We don’t know when the ACARS system was switched off,” he said. Mr. Ahmad Jauhari said the co-pilot’s verbal signoff was given by radio at 1:19 a.m., and the aircraft’s transponder, which communicates with ground-based radar, ceased working about two minutes later.
Now the transponder stopped working only 2 minutes after the last signoff instead of 14.  Why should anyone believe the crap they are spewing?


The New York Times broke a story on Megyn Kelly's excellent Fox program tonight:
The first turn to the west that diverted the missing Malaysia Airlines plane from its planned flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing was carried out through a computer system that was most likely programmed by someone in the plane’s cockpit who was knowledgeable about airplane systems, according to senior American officials.
Instead of manually operating the plane’s controls, whoever altered Flight 370’s path typed seven or eight keystrokes into a computer on a knee-high pedestal between the captain and the first officer, according to officials. The Flight Management System, as the computer is known, directs the plane from point to point specified in the flight plan submitted before a flight. It is not clear whether the plane’s path was reprogrammed before or after it took off.
That suggests a more deliberate turn designed to not aggravate the passengers without a sense of urgency.  Evidently they know this by looking at radar know, the same radar tapes they claim did not exist when this whole mystery began.  Back then we were told it just disappeared off radar at 1:30am, which fueled the explosion theories.

Now they have tapes to suggest a broad sweeping turn was made to a 'waypoint' (navigational point in the air) which was LIKELY input via the FMS computer to be read and executed by the auto-pilot.  Input by either one of the pilots or a very knowledgeable hijacker.  Like of the 9/11 variety.  In other words, if it was a mechanical emergency the captain flying would have done a more distinct u-turn and headed back to Kuala Lumpur.  But we kind of already know this because the plane ended up in the Straits of Malacca according to the Malaysians own military radar and the ACARS one-way pings, a place where eyewitnesses claimed to have seen it

So let's update. According to Malaysia Airlines the last ACARS report did occur at 1:07am (apparently it was unremarkable) but there was not another one at 1:37am.  So somewhere along the way the system was taken out.  The Malaysian government now reports that First Officer Hamid made the last calm, cool verbal communication with Malaysian ATC at about 1:20am.  Then 2 minutes later the transponder blinked off (instead of the previously mentioned 14 minutes).  What the Malaysians DO NOT say is the precise time the turn began.  How long after the missed 1:37am ACARS report did this turn occur?

If it was only a matter of a few minutes this doesn't seem like enough time for hijackers to burst into the cockpit and take over, disable the pilots and make the course correction without bedlam in the cabin and people tweeting and instagramming and facebooking and cell-phoning.  The hijackers would almost certainly have to be hiding in the comms bay, switching off electronic equipment, including the cabin O2, before rushing the cockpit.   But of course they don't know precisely when the ACARS was switched off.  It could have been 1:08am, a minute after the last scheduled report.  But if the terrorists were dumping the O2 up to 12 minutes before the FO signed off to ATC, the cockpit would know about it via indications. All the electrical could not have been shut off before the final transmission or the FMS computer wouldn't have accepted the course correction.  That's why shutting systems off methodically makes more sense.

It's still possible the pilot was down in the comms bay doing this while the FO was flying and making the last contact.  Then after triggering the outages the pilot reentered the cockpit, took out the FO with a knife or some other sharp object, dumped the O2, made the course correction, all with little notice from the passengers or flight attendants.   The terrorists hiding in the bay would have had to have dumped the O2 before coming up the stairs and taking over the cockpit, which might have involved blowing open the door, which would have alerted the passengers and flight attendants--unless they were already dead or unconscious.   If such were the case the hijackers/terrorists were almost certainly state-trained intelligence operatives, not greenhorn religious kids trained by reading flight manuals in tents.   

Of course every bit of the above could be erroneous and/or eclipsed by the next Malaysian press conference.  Who knows what they might say next. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

More on MH370

When I say more, obviously more speculation because that's all anyone seems to have right now.   But it's becoming clear some entities know some things they haven't been saying:
The investigators believe the plane flew for a total of up to five hours, according to these people, based on analysis of signals sent by the Boeing 777's satellite-communication link designed to automatically transmit the status of certain onboard systems to the ground.
Now clearly Rolls Royce and probably Boeing knew this days ago, if not the day of the event. Why would they sit on such information? Is it possible Malaysia or other airlines didn't know this telemetry was taking place?  Maybe--current stories say they didn't subscribe to the service so maybe they wouldn't know the transmitter was able to send connect pings if it wasn't pinging back.

Yet the Malaysians seem intent on pretending it didn't happen.

So it's clear that some entities don't want to show all their 'cards' in this event, probably because they'd rather not telegraph their capabilities (or lack thereof) to their neighbors or competitors.  Such goes for Malaysia, Vietnam, corporations such as Boeing and Rolls Royce, and major countries like China and the United States.  It seems likely those considerations have probably clouded the search. 

Despite the clouds and whatever the hapless Malaysians say it now appears definitive that the aircraft did not crash close to where it disappeared from radar, rather about 1000 miles beyond it.  Now, that's not to say it didn't make a giant loop west, then south, then east to north of Australia.  If the pilots somehow managed to attempt a course correction for return to Kuala Lumpur before they became incapacitated then maybe it did a big circle.  The United States seems to think it went west into the Indian Ocean and are sending Navy destroyer USS Kidd to investigate.  Maybe that's based on some other secret data not yet released. 

But what about the Vietnamese?  Has anyone heard their ATC tapes or the voice transmissions?   Do we KNOW for certain it didn't continue north without a transponder and wander into Chinese airspace, only to get shot down?  Would the Chinese want to admit they killed 150 of their own people?  Or be embarrassed on the world stage after pulling that ADIZ stunt?   All I've heard is that Vietnamese officials claim the airplane disappeared "1 minute" before entering their airspace.  From that time forward the goose chase has been focused away from the communist utopias.

LATEST  3/13/14

There's some bigtime BS going on here.  Multiple reports that the ACARS and transponder systems were shut down 15-20 minutes apart and the aircraft kept flying for up to 5 hours.  Malaysian government officials now admitting they had some pings from telemetry on the plane (CNN saying it was ACARS while also reporting it was shut off), something they earlier said wasn't there.  Of course they probably meant the unit itself was disabled. The Rolls Royce leak to WSJ reported this morning either forced their hand or they are just now realizing that "off" doesn't mean no data.  Not sure if they are incompetent or crazy like foxes. 

Since several US media outlets are reporting the plane might have kept flying for 5 hours, and since we know it didn't land at any known airport, this might suggest to some the Payne Stewart effect, ie, slow leak in cabin pressure knocks everyone out before anyone, including the cockpit crew, realizes it.  Then they all basically go to sleep and the aircraft flies until it runs out of fuel before crashing.  The problem with that theory is the time lag between shutting off systems.  And the fact the systems were shut off at all--there's no reason to manually do it and if the aircraft kept flying for 5 more hours it wasn't about to disintegrate and fall out of the sky.  So, as US intelligence seems to be indicating, the deviation off course seems deliberate.

They likely also turned off the cabin WiFi as well--if so equipped--so as to prevent transmission of phone/internet data.   If it headed into the Indian Ocean that would explain why the phones kept ringing but never answered--no cell towers.

So where might it have gone?  The most likely spots to me would be Bangladesh, due to it's remoteness, and western China.  Why western China?  That's the home to several Islamic terrorist groups (Uighars) who recently waged an attack on a train station with short swords, killing almost 30 people.

Good grief this is strange. 

MORE 3/14/14

This is not to say the plane definitively turned back west and headed towards Islamofacistan--such news, which is now being accepted as gospel by the press, could be just another red herring hatched by one of the governments involved that has been playing games with the public on this story for a week.  And yes, they are playing games--certain entities almost certainly knew of the pings early on.

And who can explain China, sending out bogus satellite images of nonsense a few days ago, which moved the aircraft further east, then today likely a bogus report of an undersea vibration along the route of flight to suggest the plane crashed on course.   Reporters should be asking why China appears to be running interference if the aircraft never got north of Vietnam.   Maybe it did.  Maybe it was shot down near one of those new ADIZ areas.  The entire new narrative seems to be based on weak radar evidence of a turn.  What if the turn didn't happen?  That would put the 4 hour flying dark aircraft up near the Chinese or even North Vietnamese.   

But let's assume for a moment this recent storyline is the real one.   Let's assume the aircraft was indeed involved in an 'act of piracy' and that the hijackers wanted to grab it to land it somewhere (so they could stuff it with explosives or worse and fly it towards a major city or run drugs or something).  Have they checked either Burma or Bangladesh for suitable runways?

From just a planning aspect this appears to favor a snatch job.  The aircraft was commandeered and turned in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand around 1:20 local time, the middle of a moonless night.  If the plane headed west it was ahead of the sunrise, which would have been approaching from its rear.  Cover of darkness would be vital in hiding the aircraft at a smaller strip and taxiing it into a hangar.  How weak are the Bangladehsi or Burmese ATC systems and/or military radar capabilities? 

It would have been a stretch to reach Pakistan, and Iran would likely not want anything to do with such a plot right now.  Besides, flying south would put the aircraft over more active sea lanes and US military presence at Diego Garcia (and maybe traffic into and out of Afghanistan).

As for the 'there hasn't been any terrorist chatter or claims of responsibility', ie, they would have claimed it by now.  Well, no, not if they hijacking was designed to steal the aircraft.  The latest narrative supports somebody manually turning off the last data stream around 4 hours out, which might mean they were heading towards a landfall.  If terrorists stole the airplane and want to load it with bad stuff, no way would they declare anything yet.  The attack is not over.

Lots of worried politicians and professionals out there, no doubt.   

ANOTHER DAY... 3/16/14

..another plot twist.  People are watching CNN again, in droves.  Stories like Crimea are being ignored.  Is there any chance this is some kind of elaborate made-for-TV reality series publicity stunt?  It's about the only road this story hasn't taken.

Now they are going after the pilot.  Some of the things being reported, like the hero politician being sentenced to jail and his wife and family supposedly leaving him, sounds a little incriminating.  IF those stories are correct.   The media should be careful blaming the pilot, especially if we later find out he was a victim as well.

For instance, with confirmation that the ACARS circuit was pulled before the transponder was flipped off (and before the pilot's last communication with ATC) it could be theorized that a bunch of criminals/terrorists, with first-hand knowledge took control of this flight.  Let's say they disguised themselves as ground crew, got aboard the aircraft during servicing and hid in the communications bay under the floor of the cockpit, only to pull the ACARS circuit then burst up through the hatch and take over the plane, immediately turning off the transponder and making a course change. 

This would all be going on behind the locked cockpit door.  After taking control of the flight deck they would have to disable the passengers--but they would have had control of the oxygen system (and presumably access to the crew oxygen masks, or even had their own bottles with them.  Perhaps that's why the aircraft went to over 40,000 feet, to enhance the effect.  As the Malaysians are now saying, the rest of the journey appeared to be precise, flying along established waypoints most likely entered in the Flight Management System computer.

Not saying that happened, just saying we need to be careful convicting the pilot s) before more information is known.   


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Intel Wars

With focus on the Malaysian aircraft disappearance, Ukraine, and Obama trying to do comedy on some Hollywood pinhead's internet channel, this story hasn't gotten the legs it would have otherwise.  But the press has sure noticed it..
Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) stunning accusation that the CIA spied on her panel plunged the president into a controversy over the separation of powers that threatens to become a major headache for his administration. The White House did its best to steer clear of the storm on Tuesday, but Obama could soon be forced to take sides.
What the heck is going on?   Well, it's complicated.

The Senate has been working on an intel report that will presumably show the CIA took torture to heart during the Bush years but the outcome was mostly fun with no results.  It didn't lead to bin Laden or anyone else.  Therefore, Bush should be impeached or sent to the Hague or something.

Not surprisingly the Republican Senators on the committee don't agree.  That's all standard stuff and really won't get much traction with the American public because 1) it's business as usual in Washington, and 2) everybody that went to see "Zero Dark Thirty" knows we roughed up some jihadies.

The interesting thing here is the setup. CIA DCIA (Director) John Brennan was a Langley overseer of the 'torture' program during the Bush years. He punched out of the CIA around 2006 to became the head of a security firm called "The Analysis Corporation", which was later embroiled in a scandal over passport access during the 2008 elections. One of Brennan's employees was apparently reprimanded for accessing Obama's passport records (something that clown Keith Olbermann compared to Watergate as the story broke, only to find out shortly thereafter that Hillary's and McCain's records were also accessed). The story quickly dropped to the bottom of the ocean floor, where things go to rest.  

At the time Brennan was acting as a security adviser to Senator Obama.  He had donated the max to the campaign.  Then Obama won. He nominated Brennan for DCIA but the nutroots went nuts because of his 'torture' background at CIA. So Brennan removed his name from contention and Obama made him some kind of a security czar.  Brennan kept a low profile except for a few notable instances, in particular the Christmas 2009 underwear bomber case (he claimed the case was 'unique'), the UBL takedown (he told the press UBL was killed in a firefight) and the package bomb fiasco (where the identity of a Brit-Saudi asset embedded in AQAP was blown, some blaming Brennan).  

This propelled him to be nominated to DCIA again after Obama won in 2012, where he was confirmed.  But during his confirmation hearings Democratic Senators asked a lot of questions about the torture program, to which Brennan said he would work with the Senate in their investigation. 

To that end, the CIA developed some kind of secure access room at Langley for Senate staffers to visually access the documents compiled on 'the program'.  To confuse matters, former DCIA Panetta started an internal report when he was there to allow CIA staffers to keep track of what was being provided to Congress.

Now comes the rub. Senate staffers working in the access room somehow found a way to access some documents that weren't supposed to be there.  They claimed they were worried about them disappearing because some other docs had, so they found a way to grab them, print them, and scurry them off to their bosses in the Senate.  According to those in the know the documents contained scribblings by CIA personnel that agreed with Senate Democrats on the idea of torture fail (Feinstein yesterday suggested those documents might have been put there by 'whistleblowers').
Over time the CIA came to understand that somebody had something they weren't allowed to have, and sent some IT geeks into the access room to scan the PCs whereupon they found evidence of the theft. So the CIA general counsel (chief lawyer) sent a referral to the Justice Dept (Eric Holder) over the unauthorized access.  To make things even more fun, according to the WaPo this lawyer oversaw parts of the program. 

Anyway.... that criminal referral over the doc theft lead to Diane Feinstein's outburst on the Senate floor yesterday.  Starting to get the gist of this child's play now?  But where does Obama come in, you say?

That's even more fun.  Brennan is basically "Obama's man".  He was the loyal adviser to the campaign who went on to help answer some difficult questions during the first term, and was rewarded with DCIA for the second.  Now the president is in the middle of a squabble between high-ranking Democrats in the Senate (his allies) and "his man" at the CIA.  What to do?   Send out Jay Carney to stonewall, of course!

But that can't last forever because the president himself may be involved in this intrigue, as pointed out in this rather disgusting display of journalist intimidation by Carney to a young female Politico reporter at yesterday's briefing.  C-SPANs clipping process isn't working so you'll have to advance to 47:44 to view.  Also, you might want to check out Chuck Todd's exchange beginning at 32:19.   

So why is this happening?  Didn't the president's Justice Department decline to prosecute anyone at CIA for what the president called torture?  Didn't the president himself say we need to look forward, not backwards?  Yes.  Meaning this is all politics.  Well, except the part about whether the administration told the Senate to remove the documents, which would seem to pit Brennan against the president and Senate Dems. 

If the president takes Brennan's side he'll tick off his allies in the Senate and in effect throw cold water on the highly political torture report that Democrats no doubt want to use as another cudgel against the GOP ahead of the mid-terms, a report that our forward looking president wants to declassify despite hiring an overseer of the torture program as CIA chief. 

If he throws Brennan under the bus well, Brennan is a career CIA man.  He knows a few things. He might be able to do some "damage" on his way to that figurative spot under the bus.  Maybe that's part of why Brennan was chosen as security adviser then DCIA in the first place, as kind of insurance policy to keep the CIA at bay.  Maybe in year six that's no longer necessary.  Maybe we'll see.  Maybe we won't.

Monday, March 10, 2014

More on MH370

The mystery continues.  As no traces are being found in the water, evidence is coming forth about the two men who presumably boarded using the stolen passports--both are thought to be Iranians.  An Iranian is suspected of buying the tickets for them after another Iranian booked the flights   How long until this gets blamed on Mossad?    Meanwhile terrorism experts no doubt know that tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of the Madrid train bombings.  Terrorists tend to like anniversaries.  Let's hope the lack of chatter on the wires isn't radio silence before something bigger.

Meanwhile, CNN's most trusted liberal-leaning terrorist expert weighs in on 'conspiracies' already attached to this flight by pointing out past crashes and their conspiracy theories.  First of all, there are no conspiracy theories on this event yet because no official government body in the region has come out and said anything conclusive other than they don't know what happened.   When one of them makes a proclamation a theory can be hatched, but until then it's mainly goofy/zany speculation.

Going back to his examples of the past, he mentioned Pan Am 103, which some believe was a CIA plot, Egypt Air 990, where the conspiracy theory actually came from Mubarak's government, and of course TWA 800. In particular, this:
The conspiracy theories that developed around TWA 800 were caused by unreliable eyewitness accounts and Internet rumor-mongering.
Interesting, considering the FBI and NTSB contracted the CIA to produce a cartoon video that made some unreliable physics assumptions about the breakup of the aircraft in an effort to dismiss those unreliable witnesses. Not to mention the traces of explosive residue found on the aircraft, explained away by either a dog or combat boots weeks earlier.

And not mentioned at all by Bergen were the former NTSB investigators and several others who recently came forward to challenge the official finding.

Here's a crazy theory.  Bergen doesn't care about EgyptAir 990 or Pan Am 103. The former was fairly straightforward because there were CVR tapes and we heard the pilot yelling Allah Akbar or somesuch.  Even if AQ brought it down it was still a crazed Islamist either way.   As to Pan Am 103, it happened a long time before Bill and Hillary came to power.

No, chances are he says things like "we should be careful not to allow.." with TWA 800 in mind because if MH370 turns out to be an admitted terrorist attack or military shoot-down, the same things the media once said about 800, some might start getting interested in the old story again--just as Hillary prepares to run.

MORE  3/10/14

Nobody is talking about the court trial of Abu Ghaith going on right now in Manhattan.  Here's some activity from today's session:
On Monday, prosecutors played two videos from October 2001 in which Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti and son in law of Osama bin Laden, is seen warning of further attacks in the wake of 9/11. "There are thousands of young Muslims who look forward to die for the sake of Allah," Abu Ghaith said in one video.
"The storm of airplanes will not stop."
At another point, Abu Ghaith warns Muslims "not to board aircraft and we advise them not to live in high rises and tall buildings." Also on Monday, prosecutors questioned via a video feed a convicted al Qaeda operative linked to "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, who testified that he was planning shoe-bomb attacks on airplanes around the same time that Abu Ghaith was warning of additional attacks. The implication was that Abu Ghaith was aware of these planned attacks.
As Mr. Bergen knows, Ramzi Yousef was on trial for the Bojinka plot when 800 crashed. Not that it means anything, but there's absolutely no question the counterterrorism people are watching this closely.


Repeating, when government officials are just as clueless as everyone else and don't make any definitive statements about what happened to the plane, then crazy explanations like aliens or stealth tractor beams are just crazy speculation.  But when officials start talking. in specifics..
But local newspaper Berita Harian quoted Malaysian air force chief Gen. Rodzali Daud as saying radar at a military base had detected the airliner at 2:40 a.m. on Saturday near Pulau Perak at the northern approach to the strait, a busy waterway that separates the western coast of Malaysia and Indonesia's Sumatra island.  A high-ranking military official involved in the investigation confirmed the report to The Associated Press on Tuesday and also said the aircraft was believed to be flying low. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
A Malaysian military official who has been briefed on the investigations, who spoke to Reuters Tuesday, also said the country’s military believes the plane was last tracked by radar over the Malacca Strait. "It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait," said the official, who was not named. Kota Bharu is a city on Malaysia’s east coast.
..then later other officials come out and pour cold water on the previous stories..
A senior Malaysia air force official Tuesday rejected media reports that military radar had picked up signals from the jet over the Strait of Malacca. The official said the plane dropped off radar midway between Vietnamese and Malaysian airspace as it was apparently turning back from its original course. The official said that searches near the strait, which is much farther west, were mostly precautionary.
..that's what generates the conspiracies. Just keep in mind competence, job security, local politics, graft, corruption, even sexual liaisons can come into play with big stories like this suddenly thrust on previously anonymous officials. So while the conspiracies will get flowing it's still too early to make any concrete assumptions in my book. Still just a bizarre mystery.

MORE  3/12/14

Re the above, it's one thing to say "I was misquoted" after telling the press that the search area had been extended to the western shore of the Malay peninsula 'out of caution'.  It's quite another to say "I was misquoted" after telling the press specific details, such as the last point the radar blip was seen or that it was flying low, etc.  And when several officials confirm such a thing---then go back later and claim they were all misquoted-- it can only lead to two conclusions.  One, they suffered a temporary lapse of honesty before higher-ups (for whatever reasons) told them to rein things back in.   Or two, the government is incompetent. 

Attkisson Out at CBS

Investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson has negotiated her way out at CBS. And judging from the Politico report that newsroom might be a lot more in Obama's tank than previously thought:
But Attkisson had become a polarizing figure at the network, sources there said. While some championed her relentless dedication to investigations — ranging from defective Firestone tires to the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal — others saw evidence of a political agenda, particularly against President Barack Obama.
Got that?  Reporting on huge government screw-ups that would have been covered relentlessly by CBS (and all the rest) had Bush or Romney been involved (and relentlessly BY 60 MINUTES no doubt) becomes evidence of a 'political agenda' when it involves Obama. Sorta makes her point.

Expect to see a lot of dirt thrown about her between now and the time her book comes out.  They will say the book itself is evidence of an agenda.  But any book she writes will likely expose who she thinks hacked not only her work computer, but her home PC, another story that would have been huge if roles were reversed.  Hell, if this had happened during Bush Hollywood would have made a movie about it, maybe starring Naomi Watts with Sean Penn as her heroic producer speaking truth to GOP power.

It goes without saying she's privy to a lot of inside baseball stuff at the network and the MSM in general, which could be rather juicy insofar as telling the tale of what got spiked. 

And speaking of hot babes working for CBS, what's up with Lara Logan, another investigative reporter who dared touch a liberal third rail?  She's still listed as a correspondent on the show but CBS isn't commenting on when she'll return from her "leave of absence".   Wonder how long her sentence is?  And wonder what happened to Dylan Davies, her disgraced source, who at last check was on the run to escape threats to his family

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Aviation Update

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is lost and presumed down somewhere along it's route from Malaysia to China.  The aircraft was last reported by flight trackers to be flying at a cruise altitude of 35,000 feet after leaving Kuala Lumpur. The incidences of aircraft disappearing in cruise flight are few and far between, so there is obviously concern--not only about where it is, but how it disappeared. 

Reports say a mayday was not issued, which could suggest a catastrophic failure, however the pilots always have to fly the plane first so it doesn't always indicate a sudden loss.  The last large airliner lost at cruise was Air France 447, over the open Atlantic in 2009, but it encountered a large thunderstorm complex. Did the Malaysia aircraft encounter any weather?

It appears the answer is no.  Here's a satellite page from the CIMMS satellite unit in Wisconsin that shows Southeast Asia.  By the time the aircraft would have transited the area (approximately 1840Z March 7) there was no precipitation that would have affected an aircraft at 35,000 feet.  Turbulence is another matter, but it's harder to spot on satellites.  However, modern passenger aircraft are rarely taken down by severe turbulence.  Had they encountered something bad it's likely they could have made contact before disappearing, unless the shear was so bad it ripped off a wing or tail surface or the crew made some kind of speed correction that resulted in a stall.  But that's beyond my pay grade.

In any developing story there is conflicting information, which has been noted already in this one.  First reports said the aircraft was over Vietnam and had possibly flown out over the South China Sea.  Indeed, the Chinese were searching there.  Later reports said the aircraft was over the Gulf of Thailand--reports this morning say an oil slick has been spotted south of the Vietnam coast.  The only problem with that seems to be time--if the early reports were true.

Those early reports from Malaysia Airlines said the aircraft disappeared off radar about 2:40am, or 1840Z, which would be 2 hours into the flight:
Flight MH370 lost contact with air traffic controllers at 2:40am local time (5:40am AEDT) on Saturday, just over two hours into what should have been a six-hour journey.
Airline tracking site Flight Aware showed the aircraft off Kuala Lumpur at approximately 1640Z, 12:40am Malaysian time or 11:40am EST.  If that's true the aircraft should have made it further north than the Gulf of Thailand based on flight histories.

Now reports this morning are backing up that time up to about 1:30am.  When looking at Flight Aware tracking, the tracking stops shortly after leaving Kuala Lumpur.  Here's a comparison graphic with yesterday's flight on top of the same flight run 2 days ago..

Flight Aware uses ADS-B info to plot these tracks.  Their updating isn't constant and their coverage map shows many gaps in this area, so the precise location is far from certain. Data from another popular tracker, Flightradar24, also suggests a disappearance south of Vietnam.  However, looking at the previous run of MH370 it was over the South China Sea by 2:30 to 3:00am local time.  Whether all of this is just standard news media time zone confusion or something else is unclear, but the fact we are dealing with two communist governments here should probably be noted. Case in point:
The plane "lost all contact and radar signal one minute before it entered Vietnam's air traffic control," Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese army, said in a statement.
How convenient.

If you're thinking of China and that new ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) and some military hanky-panky, that ADIZ was established in the East China Sea.  It doesn't appear the aircraft got that far north and off-course to the east.   The Chinese don't have an expanded ADIZ in the South China Sea yet--but they want one.  There are a lot of details we don't know at the moment.

As to terrorism, officials have smartly not ruled it out yet (as they normally do within hours with most other crashes/events).  China just suffered a big attack and they are no more adored by Islamist radicals than America. Going back into history, Ramzi Yousef planted a micro-seat bomb on Philippine Airlines flight 434 in 1994.  He planted it under a seat on the first leg to Cebu; got off, then the timer-bomb exploded on the leg to Tokyo. Had it been successful PAL 434 would have also disappeared at sea but the damage didn't cripple the flight and the pilot made a heroic emergency landing in Okinawa.   Here's a brief summary of how Yousef, who was already an international fugitive wanted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing at the time, managed to get on an airplane to plant the bomb:
Authorities later discovered that a passenger on the aircraft's preceding leg was Ramzi Yousef.[3][4] He was later convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[4] Yousef boarded the flight under the fake Italian name "Armaldo Forlani",[2] an incorrect spelling of the name of the Italian legislator[5] Arnaldo Forlani.
In what may just be a weird coincidence, the Italian passenger on the manifest of MH370 has contacted authorities to confirm he wasn't on it; that his passport had been stolen months ago in Malaysia.  Now Daily Mail is saying there was another phony passport.  That's a classic terrorist tactic.

If it was terrorism it's likely a group would want to take credit, unless they are waiting until confirmation. Even without confirmation it's likely that worldwide aviation authorities are maintaining a heightened sense of awareness at the moment.

MORE  3/8/14

Words can do this no justice. 

Meanwhile, Maguire cautions on making a leap to terrorism based on the use of stolen passports without a baseline of how often this occurs.  Had he been reading his own comments more closely he might have noticed the resident pilot commenter who flies cargo said the Chinese scrutinize his passport thoroughly every time he enters their country, even if he's doing a turnaround hop at the airport without leaving the aircraft.  Of course that doesn't account for people the Chinese might want to ignore, for whatever reasons.

And those whatever reasons must include the international drug/criminal trade, which just lost a huge kingpin in Mexico when the Sinaloa Cartel boss was hauled in.  Was there a disruption in the force strong enough to cause something like this?   Assuming this crash was not mechanical-related.  Space debris is another possibility, although it has to be considered the farthest outlier, however it was mentioned during the TWA800 investigation.   

MORE  3/9/14

The focus now seems to be on the Gulf of Thailand.  Apparently the 2 versus 1 hour flight time discrepancy has been cleared up by explaining that 2:40am local was when the Vietnam controllers considered the flight missing, but 1:30am was when it disappeared from radar.

The hour delay is maybe a little weird, or maybe not depending on their ATC protocols. If the transponder stopped working and all comms were lost, AND the Vietnamese couldn't see a 'primary target' on their radarscopes (radar data point without the corresponding text information they normally have associated with it) they would likely immediately consider the aircraft either crashed or crippled to the point it had fallen below radar coverage.  The fact there were no radar returns is different than them thinking there was an electrical system failure in the aircraft---the radar should see them anyway.

Vietnamese controllers would have been calling other aircraft in the area to relay instructions or figure out what was happening, or get a visual on a possible crash site.   Wonder if their ATC tapes can be released?  They have to speak English, by the way--it's the international language of commercial aviation.

As to the report that Malaysian officials wanted Thailand to check their west coast along the Andaman Sea, as if the aircraft might have made a big loop to the west after having dropped below radar coverage, well it sounds far-fetched but such depends on the minimum altitude their radars can view.  Surely the Malaysian and/or Thai military have defense radars that would scan pretty low and be able to see traces of a massive Boeing 777.  Also, one would think at least a passenger or two would have tweeted for Facebooked someone knowing things were going wrong after the sudden descent.

ABC News has a fairly decent list of possible causes (of course they left off TWA800 with the spark in the fuel tank), which included a military shoot-down.  That's probably something no government in the region would want to own up to initially, choosing to wait for years as an investigation chugged on.  At this point just random speculation and of course zero comfort to those with loved ones on the flight.