Runaway Plane Hypothesis Looking Pretty Good Right Now

As search crews race to home in on data recorders at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, it is worth a look back two weeks ago, to when I discussed the possibility that Zahare Ahmad Shah, the pilot of missing Flight MH 370, acted in his final moments to prevent his runaway plane from becoming a danger to anyone else. Whatever killed the passengers and crew — poisonous fumes, a terrorist’s chemical weapon, or a simple onboard fire — this heroic hypothesis is a satisfactory and simple explanation for the last course that Shah programmed.

CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes cautioned against assuming a nefarious reason for steering the plane around Indonesia’s airspace.

“I think the plane’s being intentionally flown there, but I think it’s still a mystery as to why. … I think they would probably guess they’re not avoiding anybody’s radar, because there’s a lot of radar in the area,” he said. “I think they’re avoiding getting shot down or colliding with another airplane.”

CNN aviation analyst Miles O’Brien said the new route includes designated waypoints that pilots and air traffic controllers use.

“This particular route that is laid out happens to coincide with some of these named intersections,” he said. “So what it shows is an experienced pilot somewhere in the mix on this.” (Emphasis mine)

A professional pilot would presumably be aware that their crew and passengers were succumbing to smoke. Having failed to extinguish the fire (or an event that he thought was a fire) with a series of rapid altitude changes, and knowing that he had only moments left himself before succumbing to smoke, a professional career pilot like Shah must have understood that he would die before reaching the ground. So what did he decide to do?

The heroic hypothesis offers a very simple, and therefore likely, explanation for the known facts: Zahare Ahmad Shah minimized the chances that his runaway plane would kill anyone on the ground, on the water, or in the air by programming his autopilot for the middle of nowhere — and then he died flying.

Posted in Transportation | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Dan Backer’s Revealing Victory Lap After McCutcheon v FEC Decision

Dan Backer’s Revealing Victory Lap After McCutcheon v FEC Decision (via Breitbart Unmasked)

Dan Backer called into the Steve Malzberg Show yesterday to pat himself on the back for winning the McCutcheon v FEC decision in the Supreme Court. Backer is the foremost litigator in the brave new world of Citizens United, with fingers in all kinds…

Continue reading

Posted in Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Persecuted:’ Christian Conservatism Is Now A Movement Of Querulants

‘Persecuted:’ Christian Conservatism Is Now A Movement Of Querulants (via Breitbart Unmasked)

Hollywood conservatives offer something new every year at CPAC. This year’s hot new film stars Fred Thompson, Dean Stockwell, Bruce Davison, and Natalie Grant. According to Peter Montgomery of Right Wing Watch, who endured the film so that we do not…

Continue reading

Posted in Conservatism, Kulturkampf | 1 Comment

On Shootings At Fort Hood And The Era Of Suicide Attacks


Journalists have described the scene in Texas as “chaos,” but any shooting scene is chaos, and that holds especially true when the scale is enlarged to a war zone. In a very real sense, armies are in the business of overcoming that chaos. The daily routine of garrison life — “police calls” to gather litter, formations to account for personnel, movement and fitness training as a unit, or motor pool maintenance — is a constant struggle against entropy. It instills a discipline that is meant to keep soldiers working through the frenzied adrenaline of a firefight.

But rigorous rank and discipline can also engender resentment and rage. We still don’t know yet what problems Ivan Lopez decided to resolve with gunfire. His four months in Iraq three years ago do not explain what he did, and it would be dangerous to dismiss this tragedy as a lesson on the moral injury of war. Lopez was not at war, and had not been at war for a long time, but he decided to start and end his own war, all by himself. Whatever he was angry about, it was in that motor pool, not the Middle East. So I will leave it to others to talk about what this all means for the politics of guns and violence. Instead of reading a political or social meaning into what happened, I’d rather take this opportunity to write about the history of gun violence in and around Fort Hood, because I was there for some of it, and it feels important to talk about that right now.

Continue reading

Posted in Ft. Hood, guns, military, terrorism | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

404 Day: A Day of Action Against Censorship in Libraries

404 Day: A Day of Action Against Censorship in Libraries (via EFF)

Join EFF on April 4th for 404 Day, a nation-wide day of action to call attention to the long-standing problem of Internet censorship in public libraries and public schools. In collaboration with the MIT Center for Civic Media and the National Coalition…

Continue reading

Posted in Blog Action, censorship | Leave a comment

The Incredible Narcissism Of Don Blankenship

MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki hosted All In last night for Chris Hayes, and what a show it was. Kornacki had coal baron Don Blankenship on the program to explain his incredibly self-serving new “documentary,” Upper Big Branch: Never Again. The film apparently whitewashes the systemic safety problems at Massey Energy facilities by trying to blame the 2010 Upper Branch Mine explosion on natural gas. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, normally a booster of Big Coal, said yesterday that he was deceived about the purpose of the film when he agreed to appear in it. Here is the first segment:

Then Kornacki brought Bob Kincaid, a longtime friend of this blog, on the show to speak for Appalachian people affected by the coal industry. I do wish this segment could have been longer, because Bob has wanted to have this particular confrontation for many years now.

Don Blankenship would be over-the-top as a comic book villain. His documentary speaks more to his own megalomania than any mine safety issues; his tremendous ego was publicly bruised by responsibility for the Upper Big Branch disaster, and Blankenship is not the sort of man who just takes his lumps. Remember that whenever he says anything about how much he wants safer mines.

Posted in Peak Coal | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New Alabama Food Truck Regulations Prevent Local Churches From Feeding The Homeless

New Alabama food truck regulations prevent local churches from feeding the homeless (via Raw Story )

Food truck regulations that went into effect on January 1, 2014 are preventing churches in Birmingham, Alabama from feeding the homeless. Minister Rick Wood of the Lords House of Prayer told ABC 3340 that police informed him that he would not be able…

Continue reading

Posted in alabama, Civilization | Tagged | 3 Comments

BREAKING: U.S. Spy Agency Has Been Spying…On Countries That Spy On The U.S.


This might be news to some, but the National Security Agency exists to spy, and spying is the only reason it exists. The NSA was never appointed to protect the privacy of foreign citizens, or corporations, or agencies, but to break said privacy with prejudice in furtherance of national security interests. Everything the NSA does, or has ever done, is illegal in every other country in the world — just as when any country’s intelligence agencies operate in the United States, they break our laws, too. Even before the invention of electronic communications in the 19th Century, this is how the spy game has always been played by every nation. It has never, ever had a different set of rules at any point in human history.

But you would never guess this from the paroxysms of outrage over NSA spying that continue to spill out onto the internet every day. According to the weirdly naive and historically-challenged propaganda of endless self-appointed experts, the NSA has done its job too well, and ought to apologize for being so successful. Ever since Edward Snowden’s purloined PowerPoint slides emerged in the hyperbolic reporting of Glenn Greenwald, there has been a steady drumbeat of this nonsense, with new “revelations” arriving every week to the outraged fanfare of those who mistake the NSA for a historical aberration from some imaginary golden era of blissful, espionage-free peace.

Continue reading

Posted in Glenn Greenwald, national security | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Case Study In Wingnut Welfare: Think Freely Media

A Case Study In Wingnut Welfare: Think Freely Media (via Breitbart Unmasked)

In 2012, “Think Freely Media” received over $600,000, mostly from the Koch brothers’s Donors Trust. According to the organization’s IRS 990s, $420,000 of that money was spent on a company called Virion Strategies. But we have found no sign…

Continue reading

Posted in Transparency | Leave a comment

Runaway Plane: A Heroic Hypothesis For Flight MH 370


It is now certain that the missing Malaysian Airlines plane has been swallowed up by the Indian Ocean. Inmarsat telemetry has confirmed that Flight 370 flew South into remote waters before its fuel ran out. Just as I engaged in speculation about a northern destination last week, when it appeared possible that the plane had been diverted, now I’ll look at the simplest, and saddest, explanation offered so far: that an onboard fire killed the passengers and crew, leaving the Boeing 777-200ER a runaway plane.

Continue reading

Posted in Transportation | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Lost Horizon Hypothesis: Did Xinjiang Separatists Hijack Flight MH370? (UPDATE)

UPDATE: Scrutiny of the pilots of Flight MH370 has intensified, but nothing so far disproves the Lost Horizon hypothesis, not even a homemade flight simulator. To my mind, the clarified timeline of events supports a scenario in which the pilots acted under duress and according to instructions from a hijacker. From the Associated Press:

Authorities have said someone on board the plane first disabled one of its communications systems — the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS — about 40 minutes after takeoff. The ACARS equipment sends information about the jet’s engines and other data to the airline.

Around 14 minutes later, the transponder that identifies the plane to commercial radar systems was also shut down. The fact that both systems went dark separately offered strong evidence that the plane’s disappearance was deliberate.

On Sunday, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference that that the final, reassuring words from the cockpit — “All right, good night” — were spoken to air traffic controllers after the ACARS system was shut off. Whoever spoke did not mention any trouble on board.

As I said yesterday, a credible threat made to the crew along with detailed instructions is sufficient to explain this sequence. After the plane leveled off and people began to move about the cabin, say about thirty minutes into the flight, our notional hijacker passed his first note to the cockpit. This person may have demonstrated awareness of the plane’s signaling systems, say by allowing the flight attendant to see their laptop screen. When the first specific demands — “turn off the ACARS and follow this course or I will blow up the plane” — were met, a second note may have instructed them further.

Were the pilots acting under a hijacker’s warning? It isn’t hard to imagine someone claiming to be able to hear the pilots and warning them to be tight-lipped. It isn’t hard to imagine a second note with instructions to deactivate the transponder, a third note to fly out over the Strait of Malacca, and a fourth note to turn North or South over the Indian Ocean. Of course, this is all entirely speculative, but so is a suicide run by the pilots. We still have zero proof for that hypothesis, either. The only solid lead we have is some engine telemetry pings that draw a red arc over open ocean and Western China.


ORIGINAL POST: In 1971, D.B. Cooper hijacked a commercial airliner by passing a note to the flight attendant. At this hour, there is no reason to suspect that the pilots of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 directed the evasive maneuvers and complex flight plan that made the Boeing 777-300 vanish out of some bizarre need to disappear with their plane. Friends and family of the crew reject the idea. I find this theory unlikely, and probably a waste of time, because there are several scenarios in which the crew may have flown the plane under some kind of duress.  Continue reading

Posted in China, crime, terrorism | 3 Comments