Monday, April 07, 2014

Flight 370 Scenarios

First of all, it is a very somber thing, that has happened to the people aboard that flight. I think of this situation and my thoughts become quiet: this appears to be a very awful thing, no matter how it happened. I'm not writing this as some sort of "sensationalism" because this blog is very much unsensational. There are few pictures, not a lot of interesting or useful info outside of a very narrow scope, and even what is provided within a narrow scope is spurious at best.
Before I start, one thing first: CNN is really more than a little asshole-ish. I was listening to CNN on SiriusXM radio, and their whole angle was "boy, now that the good ol' US of A has their equipment in place, boy, we really have found out some stuff right?" and they would ask that question in one form or another, overtly or less overtly, to the various people they had on. Which is really pretty... well: asshole-ish.

But, I'm writing these things down so I can tweet the link and then maybe some feedback, but most likely not. I enjoy reading conspiracy theories, all kinds, to make my imagination run wild.

So here my "not too crackpot but most likely fairly crackpot theories" about Flight 370.

SCENARIO ONE: Really, really, really horribly bad misfortune:

The pilots flew as planned, towards where the flight was scheduled to be flying, and everything was lined up for a smooth flight. But moments after they sign off, a catastrophic mid-air collision with something occurs, or something wholly unexpected and damaging to the plane occurs, and the cockpit is rendered instantly a) depressurized and b) un-enterable, as well as leaving the pilots mortally incapacitated.

Because of this, in their last moments, the pilots react as best they can, heroically pulling the plane up and turning towards the next nearest landing zone with all their strength, but then lose consciousness and slump forward, bringing the plane down and swinging it on a wild heading. This has the effect of decompressing the cabin, which causes the emergency oxygen masks to drop down for the passengers. But these only last for so long, after which the passengers also slip into unconsciousness and then, so very sadly, pass on.

The plane makes a wild looping turn, and as a result it, horrifically, enters a "seam" between two radar zones. In addition, a fire was raging in Indonesia, which may or may not may have limited radar effectiveness there. However, the bottom line is that the plane's diversion goes unnoticed.

One or both of the heroic pilots' now lifeless bodies now slumps against the controls. The cold high altitude air along with the process of death renders them rigid: horribly, the turn they intended to make is followed by a random one, now tragically "locked" into place.

Another variation on this is the plane being damaged somehow, either through sabotage or natural act, where the pilots lose key systems, but retain yet others. Again, they set on a heading that will take them to the nearest landing area, but circumstances prevent them from carrying out that contingency before their end.

Another variation is a huge mistake: a very incorrect heading is put into the computer, which takes them in a very wrong direction. Somehow, this goes unnoticed by the pilots, and they fly on until it's too late. This seems very farfetched.

Another variation is that a malicious crew member with access to the flght deck for some reason decides to sabotage the flight and set the wrong heading into the computer. Or that a virtuous crew member somehow tries to turn the plane back around after both pilots become unable to fly. The pilots guide them through a turn, but then succumb to their illness, nobody is able to operate the plane, then never can make contact with the ground given the heading they are on? Also very unlucky and farfetched, but if not again really sad and awful.

The plane continues on it's course, hugely off course over the most remote reaches of the ocean, runs out of fuel and falls into the sea.

So awful. Too awful for words, a horribly tragic story that will bring about all sorts of preventive measures.

Actually, regardless of what actually happened, if any of these variations are remotely plausible, it should bring about all sorts of preventive measures to address this question-- what should happen if both pilots are unable to fly the plane in the absence of any sort of criminal plot, and there is either nobody on board who can fly it or the cockpit cannot be entered?

SCENARIO TWO: Crew complicity in a mass murder and possibly suicide

This is the more straightforward one or the most complicated one, depending on the variations, and there are several variations of this scenario. The primary gist is that one or more of the crew decides that, for whatever reason, this planeload of people is going to be one where everyone deserves to die, with possibly a limited exceptions, or not. But, they cause all the passengers to die, after which they plug in a course that will take them over the most remote reaches of the ocean, where they run out of fuel.

If it is just one pilot, he has to kill or otherwise incapacitate the other, then barricade himself in the cockpit. He decompresses the main cabin, deploying the masks for the emergency O2 supply which, as in the first scenario, finally runs out and kills all the passengers. Maybe it is both pilots. Maybe it is multiple crew.

Then, the plane is brought to a lower altitude and the remaining human(s) on board either cruise[s] on into the night psychotically enjoying the quiet and waiting for the plane to run out of fuel. Or, the plan never included dying:

Once the passengers are dead, the conspirator(s) rob[s] the passengers, taking as much money, jewelry, and other small valuable belongings as possible in the time remaining until the plane is over a planned drop point.

The conspirator(s) break out jumpsuit(s) and parachute(s), then parachute[s] from the plane over a coordinate where a previously anchored a small boat awaits.

The plane flies on into the night, eventually crashing into the sea.

SCENARIO THREE: similar to two, but with passenger hijackers.

Hijackers demand that the plane turn around and goes to Australia. They have thought ahead enough to demand headings that will take them around radars, but not far ahead enough to know how far they can get at what altitude with the fuel on board. The pilots try to convince them that there is not enough fuel to do what they want, but of course the hijackers don't believe them.

When it turns out the pilots were correct, they attempt a landing in the ocean, which is far too rough to handle such a landing.

Any of these things ends equally horribly for the people on board, but those are my crackpot theories.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Ukraine/Russia, part two: the other side of the coin

If you do a Google search on "how did russian oligarchs get so rich" the results are interesting. One, there are a great many articles answering the question with a title almost identical to the question. Two, there are a lot of answers from relatively reputable sources, and some from less reputable sources.

But the answers are interesting, and they start with the failure of the Soviet Union. Did the Soviet Union really fail, and if so, why?

Yes it really failed. It was not a coup, it was not a foreign orchestrated collapse: it failed. It failed because the only way it could keep going was to borrow money from some of the very same concerns that it's founding philosophy reviled and threatened to tear apart. This is an important point: a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Why did it need all that money? A simple answer is that the Soviet Union plowed billions of dollars worth of effort, that is man years and materiel, into building a modern society without providing increasingly valuable material incentives to the people doing the building. What does that mean?

What it means is that if one has a leaky roof and miserable food, and you give one a chance and say "hey, work for me and you can earn a fixed roof and better food", then they will work for you only if that actually happens. In many cases, that did actually happened in the Soviet Union: people got more than they had by working for the state apparatus.

But, once you have a fixed roof and better food, then the next stretch of work you do should earn you even more and better: a patio, or a bigger apartment, etc.. Thatt only makes sense: because if effort "X" pushes you five miles, then that same effort should push you another file miles, or at least close to that. If it doesn't, then you don't expend the effort. Why bother?

Once they saw that that next five to ten miles was going to be very hard, the Soviet state put huge amounts of effort into telling people that the things they had were enough, and not to look at the things people in the West had as desirable, while at the same time all Soviet plans revolved around making the Soviet state have everything and more than the West had. It couldn't, because it wasn't realistic, and things that are unrealistic become unreal. So the Soviet union collapsed.

I didn't mention anything about corruption, because it is a term that implies a certain context. The context is that there is a society which values rules based on the rules' intrinsic value: you are honest because it is a virtue, because truth is highly valued, because truth is what lies at the basis of all advancement and knowing. This is a belief system, you can ascribe to it or not. This particular society chose not to ascribe to it. There was no corruption because it was all corruption. Rules were written, there was a constitution and written documents describing rights, but there was a societal unspoken agreement that these things were meaningless: for show.  People couldn't leave the country, they simply were not allowed to unless they escaped.

Why was there such an agreement? Because people had been systematically murdered, imprisoned and banished based on being processed by state sanctioned miniature lynch mobs who decided that the accused had too many material possessions or were otherwise undesirable. So it had been established as a key tenet of the system that human life was not intrinsically valuable, therefore anything deriving from the notion that human life had intrinsic value was null and void. So the State could write these things in as flowery a language as they might like in order to impress Western idealogues, but everyone involved knew it was a fabrication: that some denouncements in the right ears could ruin a career or end a life. The only way to get ahead was to game the system, to build alliances. So people became very smart at doing that.

Back to the subject at hand: because the State did put a lot of money and effort into certain things, when it collapsed, those things still existed on a fairly large scale: paper mills, concrete plants, oil refineries, aircraft manufacturers. Because people also knew where the state started, and where it ended off. They were clever survivors, they were the industrious, they did build things, they were smart: people who wanted to accomplish things and found a way to do this despite everything else. Because they had some values that made then want to build a better world for their own pride and for their children. Because they were people who cared about learning, because truth could be found there.

But, at the time things collapsed, all of it was in disrepair, almost all of it had been mismanaged. Some factories produced aimlessly. Others were filled with betrayed and hostiled workforces.

Even so, these things were worth something. How much? and to whom?

Now, what SHOULD have happened? Wasn't all this now the property of the people? Shouldn't some sort of voucher or share system been put into place, where everyone got an equal number of shares? Then, shouldn't it have been sold off to the highest possible bidder, who would then fix it up and get it running again? Then shouldn't the people have been able to redeem their shares, or hold onto them?

Maybe. But who would make sure that would happen? Probably.But the government wasn't going to sprout a unified patrician wing overnight, if ever.

It seems like the absence of the notion of a socially active, philanthropic patrician class in Russian society is a product of its isolation. i'm not an expert, but it seems like the most notable projects to "improve the quality of Russian life" were undertaken, this was of the sort of scale and type that would further enrich the rich. Philanthropy is viewed skeptically, as a way to avoid taxes, launder money, or provide a project as means for an associate to snag a lucrative contract. It takes many years, maybe generations, of wealth and stability to produce such a patrician outlook, tempered with pragmatism, and with a certain preference for a cherished cause. You have to focus on something.

But that didn't happen because of all that had gone before. To someone in the West, it was a huge gamble to invest. Some investment occurred, and some of that was gleefully gobbled up by ex-Soviets with a grudge. Very risky, very adventurous investment that would not pay off in the short term. But, for someone in Russia, there was no capital other than state owned, which meant borrowed or "liberated" capital.

How could anyone afford anything? Well, because Soviet society was corrupt, shrewd and connected people of course did have more than others and that was that. Because the remaining society continued to be corrupt, certain clerks could be handsomely bribed to record various transactions that transferred the ownership of any number of these things that had never had ledger sheets, or appraisals, or valuations. Who could blame them? All of a sudden you are in a position where you can finally leave this ailing country that was falling down around your ears: a nice bribe under your belt would do the trick. From the point of view of the would-be oligarch, a million dollar bribe that helps close the deal on a $100 million dollar business is a huge return on investment. Theoretically, if the government is corrupt all the way up, so much the better. It's just a matter of the right amount in the right pocket.

This same sort of things happened in the 1980s in Texas in the US, although somewhat in reverse, when real estate had been artificially elevated through the machinations of government assessors working hand in hand with real estate speculators with large "extended families".  Rural real estate near booming cities could be had cheaply. They would pick some of this up, flip the land between one another, sometimes within hours, back and forth, and with each transaction the value would go up. Use the equity to secure loans to build developments on that land: a game of hyper-Monopoly that was finally unraveled when the developments didn't sell as well as projected.

Nobody is unblemished by some kind of corruption, either handed down by history or directly. But how many revel in corruption, owe their existences to it?

So, the oligarchs are really the most advanced products of Soviet society: cunning in their ability to work the crumbling Soviet system, shrewd in their choices of business alliances, quick to learn the nuances of gaming the Western system: setting up offshore holding companies where they could hide their direct association with transactions, pragmatic in their acquisitions and willing to apply ruthless, violent force if needed.

There is a saying: "Earth's Security, Human Integrity". It is true: if large scale abandonment of integrity occurs, this includes the abandonment of the discernment of the valuation of truth and the lack of courage to state it, this results in the inabilty to be true witnesses to the evidence of the real consequences of our actions, and we lose the planet.