Vague ramblings

Hillsborough: truth, class and lies

Posted in Musing, Reason by Ian Cundell on 29 April, 2016

On a December evening in 2001 at Upton Park, West Ham were drifting to a limp 0-1 defeat to Aston Villa. The clock ticked to 90 minutes and, as was our wont, the season ticket holders in the Bobby Moore Lower shuffled from our seats to the stairways in the forlorn hope of a quick exit, once the ref put us out of our misery.

Then Jermaine Defoe equalised, right in front of us. A staircase full of people surged forward in a 15-second or so flashback to watching football from terraces. You had no choice but to go with the surge and hope you stayed on your feet, a tart reminder of why terraces were such fun – and also so dangerous. It was quite, quite exhilarating.

And then it was over and we all went home.

At four minutes past three on 15 April 1989, a shot by Liverpool’s Peter Beardsley hit the Nottingham Forest crossbar in front of the Spion Kop at Hillsborough. At the other end of the ground, the Liverpool fans in the packed Leppings Lane terraces surged forward, as always happened at exciting moments. A crush barrier collapsed and, if I have read the various reports on Hillsborough correctly, this was the point at which around 10 victims died. Keep that in your mind for a moment.

This week the families of The 96 finally got something approaching justice, as a catalogue of arrogant, incompetent and grossly negligent policing was deemed unlawful and the fans declared free from blame.

And yet the pushback is not just from the Murdoch press, so culpable in one of the most disgraceful cover-ups in British history. Consider this otherwise hugely intelligent and thoughtful blog about the disaster from lifelong West Ham fan Robert Kelsey:

But Liverpool fans were noted for something else: a peculiarity if you like. It was their habit of “steaming the gate” at away matches, and particular bigger (all-ticket) games. As kick-off approached, a large enough group would gather by the gate and, indeed, force their way in. It was “something Liverpool just did” – at least according to their reputation.

It is an odd football snobbery. The Scousers may have been better organised, but I don’t know a single fan – of any team – from back in those days who did not brag at some point about bunking in, especially to big all-ticket matches. To be fair, Kelsey is stating this both to dismiss it and to set up a much more interesting point. But let’s be clear: there was a crush of around 5,000 fans outside the Leppings Lane stand 10 minutes before kick off, faced with turnstiles that had managed to admit around 1,000 fans each over the previous hour or so. The police panicked, opened Gate C and the rest is bleak history. To try to shift blame onto the fans for steaming is as stupid as would be trying to blame Peter Beardsley for the deaths caused by the collapse of Crush Barrier 144.

Liverpool’s fans did nothing that did not happen every week at every ground and were treated accordingly – and that is the point.

Football’s hooliganism problem was deep-seated and deep-rooted and this shaped the thinking of Match Commander David Duckenfield to the exclusion of all else. He sent in dogs before he sent in ambulances. But, while hooliganism is well recorded, the other side of the coin is not. As Kelsey points out, police thuggery towards fans was the norm, with beatings meted out for the offence of Being A Cockney In Manchester or any variant of “local” and “visitor”, or of police mysteriously vanishing when a local “firm” set about travelling fans.

Lord Justice Taylor, in his 1990 report on Hillsborough used the imagery of prisoners of war to describe the treatment of football fans and, at its launch, noted: “If you treat people like prisoners of war, you should not be surprised if they act like them.”

But in the 1980s this thuggery found comfort in the highest places. Thatcher’s disdain for the working classes came out as contempt for football fans and the same police force who had been her shock-troops during the miners’ strike felt it had impunity. Kelsey hits the nail on the head:

But – then – that was football. The clubs knew it. The authorities knew it. And the fans knew it. It was also dangerous and unsustainable. And one day something was going to go very badly wrong. And to make that event, when it inevitably happened, the fault of one man: Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield is – despite his lies and failings – wrong. But that seems to be where we’re heading on this.

Duckenfield is culpable, no ifs no buts. But he was the point man, promoted far above his competence. Then-Chief Constable Peter Wright set the tone and ethos of South Yorkshire Police and personally oversaw the cover up. He is a much bigger villain, but he died in 2011 and is beyond Earthly justice.

And the bigger villain by far is the ease with which the privileged, aided by a compliant and now largely foreign-owned media, can set ordinary people (let’s set aside the loaded term ‘working class’) fighting among themselves. It is stark in football, even in these sanitised days, where tribalism generates a strong instinct to find fault – even moral failing – in fans of other teams.

Normal, decent, sensible people are shockingly prone being led astray by spin. Whether it is Ken Livingstone (admittedly, too often prone to foot-in-mouth disease), a life-long anti-racist being branded an anti-Semite, or junior doctors being branded greedy; whether it is people fleeing war-shattered countries being labelled “a bunch of migrants”, or teachers being branded as addicted to long holidays; whether it’s the dismantling of the Legal Aid system, denying ordinary people access to justice, or the sterile dogma of “free markets” being used to tear down the welfare system, while blaming the poor.

Or all football fans being branded hooligans.

Ordinary people fall for it all the time.

The victims at Hillsborough weren’t “football fans”. They were factory workers, teachers, university students, school boys and school girls, healthcare workers and finance consultants, shopkeepers and carpenters, would-be computer programmers, clerks and sales reps, machinists and roofers, fork lift drivers and firefighters.

And it was not just a police and political cover up that denied them justice for more than a quarter of a century.

It was a society that doesn’t know when it is being lied to and, frankly, did not seem to give a toss.

 

Bottoms Up, Sigmoid!

Posted in Life, Personal, Reason by Ian Cundell on 28 February, 2016
Bobby_Moore_Cancer_Fund

Bowel Cancer killed Bobby Moore at the age of just 51

I can say, with a reasonable degree of confidence, that there is no sweet relief quite like the sweet relief that arrives the exact moment an endoscope is removed from your bottom.

I know because this Saturday morning was spent with said endoscope up said bottom. This was only slightly more painful than, later, watching West Ham labour to a win over – a frankly not very good – Sunderland.

It was in the name of bowel cancer screening (the endoscope, not West Ham v Sunderland) and once your age hits the magic number you get the letter. A friend cheerfully admits that when his number comes up, the letter is going in the bin. But I have reasons of family history to figure that a quick poke and a prod, to make sure all is in order, has its merits.

Quick poke and a prod.

That’s where I went wrong.

You see, many moons ago, for entirely cancer-unrelated reasons I’d had another medical device – the name of which is bleached from my brain – stuck where the sun doesn’t shine and, although it was a tad uncomfortable, I didn’t feel too humiliated in front of the two winsome medical students who observed that procedure. Lucky women.

With that initial misconception outlined, let me get this out of the way: the staff at the Endoscopy Unit at Milton Keynes General Hospital are absolutely fucking fabulous. Every bit as fabulous as the A&E staff who looked after me a month or so back. That cannot be said often enough.

The thing with a sigmoidoscopy (which is the name of the procedure used for screening) is that it relies rather a lot on the area being scoped having nothing to block the view. Now, we’re all grown ups and we know what the bowel is used for, so you can figure out what might block the view.

Enema below

There are far too many puns on the word ‘enema’ for me to be bothered, but the thing I didn’t know was that, these days, they are supposed to be self-inflicted. If this is what hippy-dippy types do as ‘colonic irrigation’, then they are utter, utter morons.

Here is where my problem started. The flushy-out kit is a squeeze-bag of some magical liquid, with a tube. I am sure you can work out where the tube goes prior to squeezing the bag. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, but unfortunately it turned out that the tube was a lot more flexible than me. I did the best I could, but the results did not seem to be consistent with those predicted in the instructions (I mean, technically yes, but not – um, how can I put this?  – as Amazonian in quantity). I suspect the problem is that my daily rhythms weren’t quite in the best sync with  the timings for my appointment.

Also, I doubt my cat will ever look at me the same way again.

the staff at the Endoscopy Unit at Milton Keynes General Hospital are absolutely fucking fabulous. Every bit as fabulous as the A&E staff who looked after me a month or so back. That cannot be said often enough.

So, one perturbed cat and an unsatisfactory-feeling cleanse, and off I toddle to MK General. I reported my cleanse concerns to the lovely young lady at reception (I really should have paid more attention to names because, as I said, these people are fabulous and deserve recognition). She said it shouldn’t be a problem.

Technically she was quite right.

After a few minutes I was called in to do the paper work and a few minutes after that was sent to a cubicle to don medical gown and the fabulously named ‘modesty pants’. They are like normal chap’s pants only the other way round (think about it). After a few minutes – which seemed a lot longer – I was called into the procedure room.

Now, from my previous experience with backdoor medical equipment, the only bit of diagnostic information I could recall was “clear to 9 centimetres”. I guess that was the standard back then and was considered an all clear. Remember that.

And so the professionals attempted to begin and, it turned out, my cleansing concerns were well founded. Before I knew what was happening I was having all sorts of liquids poured into my wrong end; as this was happening I was told that I would want to go to the loo very soon. This was true.

The problem is that the distance from the procedure room to the nearest toilet was approximately 15 miles. Coming back it was only 15 feet – space-time is funny like that when you have a colon full of effluvia generators. The Amazon flowed, as if fed by a storm of apocalyptic proportions. It was strangely unsatisfying, but this may have stemmed from the knowledge that everybody nearby knew exactly was was happening. At one point the charge nurse (I think that’s the title) tapped the door and called “Are you still alive in there?” which was very funny at the time. Nobody does gallows humour like nurses.

So, suitably effluved I now had to wait my turn, since it was busy and someone whose self-cleanse had gone to plan, rather than to pot, was dealt with first.

That’s nearly an ar… no, wait. What?!

Then the short trip back to the procedure room. Remember that 9 centimetres?

I am pretty sure I heard the consultant say “80 centimetres” at peak discomfort. You can, should you be so minded, watch the progress of the camera up your fundament, and I fully intended to until the first puff of air used to make a little room for manoeuvre. If you will excuse the expression, bugger me that smarted. That is when I remembered the gas-and-air. Whoever invented Entonox should be given a Nobel Prize for Making People Not Give A Damn.

Actually, that wasn’t why I didn’t look much. Very early on I saw something that looked polyp-y to my eye and at the same time I heard the consultant say “3 millimetres” as she excised it. After that I didn’t really want to know ‘as live’. With the Entonox in full flow, I was now very much in the realm of not giving a shit (not that I could have). The only other thing of note was hearing the word ‘diverticula’ and thinking “Oh, Mum had them”. Genetics, eh?

And then came the sweet, sweet relief, which is – so to speak – where we came in. My own ineptitude at not being able to use a squeezy bottle, combined with being too slow to hit the Entonox made for an amusing yarn at my expense (I hope you will agree) and all is good (pending biopsy). One 3mm polyp removed and three diverticula noted.

But here’s the thing.

The Endoscopy Unit was pretty damned busy this Saturday (that’ll be the 7-day NHS) and it was not just people like me getting their spot checks. There were samples handed over and people asked to wait at one end, and at the other end of the line…. Well, there was more than one ashen face, and the look of stoical grimness that only those in the midst of a really bad situation present.

In early 2001 Mum had a raft of procedures including a colonoscopy which removed a “rather large polyp”, as she said to me when I phoned to check. But over the following weeks she experienced more and more pain and finally, in early March I called the surgery in frustration to see what the hold up was with the results. Dr Khan had – literally – just opened them. Mum never knew that I knew she was dying before she did. Dr Khan thought months rather than years, but it turned out to be weeks rather than months. This kind, gentle doctor was visibly shocked at how fast the cancer progressed in this kind, gentle woman.

Don’t throw the letter away.

And if things don’t seem right down there, get it checked anyway. There is no dignified way to have an endoscope stuck up your arse. But half a day of no dignity and half and hour of sucking on the Entonox might just save your life.

Just make sure you have plenty of soft fibre in your diet.

 

 


Uncovering the darkness, using its true name

Posted in Life, Reason by Ian Cundell on 27 January, 2016

Richard Dimbleby came under intense pressure from the higher-ups at the BBC to tone down his descriptions of Belsen. He stood firm, as history now records.

Today, of all days, everybody should listen to them.

Especially people stupid enough to refer to people fleeing war as ‘a bunch of migrants’.

The heat is on

Posted in Life, Reason, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 18 January, 2015

Following on from the news that 2014 was the hottest year on record, and probably the hottest for a couple of thousand years, comes this utterly marvellous visualisation by Bloomberg (click the link and scroll down to start).

A simple idea, brilliantly executed.

Just in case you are one of those delusional fools who think global warming is a conspiracy by scientists: The brutal truth: 13 of the 14 hottest years on record were in the 21st Century. And it is our fault.

A much travelled phrase springs to mind:

We have not inherited the Earth from our parents, we have borrowed it from our children.

 

Philae and Rosetta: On the unexpected beach

Posted in Musing, Reason, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 16 November, 2014

The speeding bullet aimed at a speeding bullet

In a private corner of the internet I was discussing the ESA’s Rosetta/ Philae mission. The general consensus was – quite correctly in my view – that this is one of the finest achievements of science ever (and, let’s not forget, engineering) as well as, perhaps, the greatest single act of navigation bar none. Who would have thought that watching a group of uber-geeks staring at screens could be so damned enthralling?

But the inevitable question came up: couldn’t the €1.4bn have been spent on something more useful. What use is it?

Setting aside that this sum would only buy you about half of a modern nuclear submarine – and that a sub can’t “land on a speeding bullet from a speeding bullet” I’m not convinced by the value for money arguments, but there is much more that the small-of-vision should consider. Here are some points I raised.

When Clair Patterson set about establishing the age of the Earth – which he achieved – he also discovered a mounting environmental crisis caused by putting lead – one of the most toxic substances known to man – in petrol. It wasn’t his objective, but in looking for one thing he discovered another;

When Alexander Fleming failed to tidy up his Staphylococcus experiment, he did not know he would discover penicillin. He was working on one problem, but stumbled into a much bigger solution;

If Horace Wells hadn’t been paying attention at an exhibition, then nobody may have benefitted from him realising that a chap playing with nitrous oxide had injured himself without feeling it, thus discovering anaesthesia (he wasn’t the only one, but he was a key player).

Lack of imagination as to the benefits of seeking knowledge for its own sake is the cross to bear for the small of mind. But let’s look forward and consider these ideas that could, potentially, benefit from the Rosetta mission:

1. Celestial navigation
Parking Philae has been compared to hitting a speeding bullet from another speeding bullet. With manned missions to Mars in early planning, and OSIRIS-Rex launching next year to (potentially) explore the commercial exploitation of asteroids, the knowledge gained from this mission is incalculable (including the failures: rockets that spend 10 years in sleep mode turn out not to be that reliable);

2. The nature of threats
That sooner or later an object big enough to threaten civilisation will head towards us is inevitable. The knowledge gained in missions such as Rosetta will make an invaluable contribution to our chances of being able to park it somewhere harmless. (The Voyager probes’ discoveries about the atmospheres of the outer planets have greatly improved meteorological models of Earth);

3. Planning
The speed of light delay to Rosetta is about 15 mins. Any practice at remote operation is valuable, especially if it saves having to put people in harm’s way. It won’t be Bruce Willis who saves us from the threat in point 2 above. Further, the lessons in how to make durable equipment will surely make human space flight safer;

4. The origin of the universe
Quantum theory lies at the root of much of the stuff around you that you take for granted. Einstein – who knew a thing or two – was sceptical about it. I read today that we have no quantum theory of gravity, and that it is needed to understand the earliest moments after big bang. The physic is way (and I mean waaaay) beyond me, but the idea that such physics could contribute massively to technology isn’t;

5. The origins of life (which is what the mission is primarily concerned with)
Understanding the most fundamental nature of our existence – in particular how genetic information forms – would have profound implications for medicine, ecology, biochemistry and many other fields.

6. And then of course there’s…
Well, I can’t put it better than Professor Brian Cox did, so won’t try:

“Science is unreasonably effective. It’s generated knowledge beyond all expectation. It’s also delivered perspective. Yes, we are an insignificant speck in an infinite universe but we’re also rare. And because we’re rare, we’re valuable. So what are we to do to secure our future? We must learn to value the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake and not just because it grows our economy or allows us to build better bombs. We must also learn to value the human race and take responsibility for our own survival. Why? Because there’s nobody else out there to value us or to look after us. And finally, most important of all, we must educate the next generation in the great discoveries of science and we must teach them to use the light of reason to banish the darkness of superstition. Because if we do that then at least there’s a chance that this universe will remain a human one.” (The Human Universe, 2014)

It is as well that Isaac Newton didn’t stop at thinking “Oooh, must get some cinnamon in” when he watched the apple fall (although that may well have solved his hunger problem). Or that Columbus didn’t report,”Yeah, we rocked up on an unexpected beach. That nails it. We might as well stay home now.”

The unexpected beach is about the stage we are at with the Solar System right now. The team behind Rosetta and Philae are direct descendants of Columbus, and Cook and Halley and all the others who provide empirical evidence of a simple truth: that humanity is made up of compulsive explorers.

And we wouldn’t be here without them.

Modern explorers

AIDS to Ebola: Where’s the fairy princess?

Posted in Irritants, Life, Reason by Ian Cundell on 8 October, 2014
Ebola

Ebola

A sentence I never imagined I would write: we could do with Princess Diana right now.

In 1988 the Princess of Wales opened an AIDS daycare wing – The Kobler Centre – at St Stephen’s Hospital in London. While there – according to legend against the advice of her minders – she strode up to a patient and shook his hand, before sitting down and talking with him and others.

A reasonable case could be made that nobody did more to de-stigmatise AIDS and HIV than Diana. By confidently embracing sufferers she used her public presence and the affection with which she was widely held to help return AIDS victims their humanity.

How we could do with her like now.

Another ‘African plague’ is loose. Unlike AIDS, Ebola is horrifying in both the manner and the swiftness of its progress, and yet it is spread in strikingly similar ways: close contact and exchange of bodily fluid. It isn’t spread by rats, or birds, or the wind but in huts and hospitals where the latest biohazard precautions are simply not available. Some 10% of the victims of the current epidemic are health care workers.  And still, in Africa, AIDS is a massively bigger killer than Ebola (as are TB, malaria and many other well known conditions)

And already we have schools in Britain turning away visits because of the paranoia (Don’t ask me to grace it with the term “concern”).

AIDS paranoia happened before the era of 24 hours news and a tabloid journalism that has abandoned any pretence at reason, so it is doubtful a latter-day Diana, taking young Kofi Mason-Sesay by the hand, would be enough to prick the paranoid bubble. But somebody really needs to try, because it is all to easy to see where panic will end.

And it is very easy indeed to imagine who will be on the receiving end of that panic.

ebola


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World War 1: putting heat under the cauldron – literally

Posted in Musing, Reason by Ian Cundell on 5 August, 2014
NASA GISS: GLOBAL Land-Ocean Temperature Index - Jan-Dec : 10yr moving average

NASA GISS: GLOBAL Land-Ocean Temperature Index – Jan-Dec : 10yr moving average (Click to enlarge)

This chart plots Nasa’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies Global Land-Ocean Temperate Index data, with a 10 year moving average applied to smooth out the random lumps and bumps(1).

It shows very clearly the truth of global warming – over the course of the data, around a 0.9deg C increase in global temperatures since this record began.  That is a lot and the reason there is so much concern about climate change.

But that is not what caught my interest in this, of all weeks. Look at the run of data in the early years and see that the anomaly seemed to be falling. Despite the unfolding industrial revolution, the world economy was still, by and large, steam and sail driven. All of the parts – from Dreadnoughts to internal combustion engines – were available, but they were far from ubiquitous.

There is nothing like a war to drive the adoption of technology. From the front line, to the marshalling areas and the skies above and across the seas, the First World War was the first truly mechanised war and it was a lot more mechanised in 1918 than in 1914. In just 4 years aircraft went from small and rickety to sophisticated and large, horses gave way to tanks and trucks and entire economies were committed to the war effort. It shows up with shocking clarity in the data.

The trend continued through to the end of the Second World War as arms races drove industry and industry drove arms races, all spilling out into the wider economy. The anomaly never fell back and by the end of the 1970s – despite an oil price shock – the developing world began to play catch-up with the developed world. The results are not even slightly surprising.

But the cauldron was placed on the fire in the fields and in the skies of Flanders.

____

1. Specifically, it measures the temperature “anomaly” against a base period of 1951-1980. The nice thing about proper climate scientists is that they make all of their data available for anyone to inspect.

Cosmos: from Sagan to Tyson, children playing on the seashore

Posted in Reason, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 24 March, 2014

If you haven’t yet started watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new imagining of Carl Sagan’s 1970s documentary series Cosmos, then you are missing a marvellous thing. Seriously – get on it right now.

It is no surprise that Tyson follows Sagan in starting out on a seashore – the very same shore, in fact. The allusion to Newton is impossible to escape and patently deliberate:


I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.


Sagan’s original is not hard to find. It is more explicitly didactic than the new version, perhaps because it came from a less entitled time, when people didn’t mind having things explained to them as if they were grown-up and able to pay attention. Tyson doesn’t dodge his task, but adopts a more modern approach familiar to any writer’s group: show, don’t tell.

He shows with the story of Giordano Bruno, a 16th Century monk who asked a simple question: If God is infinite, how can his universe be so puny as to have Earth at its centre? He was burned at the stake, of course. But when small-minded fundamentalists claim to have all the answers, it is as well to remind them that a monk illustrated how stupid – and disrespectful to their God – their assertions are.

Tracey at Fairborne

Latter day Newtons, circa 1973

Then there was evolution. Nothing was dodged here and the idiotic falsehood that the eye could not possibly have evolved by accident was laid bare: we are shown – literally shown – how step by patient step, the eyesight of life improved. From just enough to help microscopic organisms avoid too much light, to the beautiful irony of an organ adapted perfectly for aquatic life being not quite so marvellous on land.

No quarter was given and the frothing outrage of creationists on the social networks was a joy to behold – while also being rather sad, as their child-like certainties provoked childish temper tantrums. It was done with a nod and wink, with clarity and with the best of modern TV technology brought to bear, including animation presumably directed by Seth MacFarlane. And it was unmerciful. It was brutal.

It was factual.

And then came the flourish, the pointing out of the one thing that sets science apart from pretty well every other philosophy. “How did life begin?” asked Tyson: “We don’t know – yet.” I have lost count of the times followers of woo – from odd religions to homeopaths to mediums – have grumbled: “Well, science doesn’t have all the answers,” as if this in some way is a criticism, rather than the highest possible praise that it is.  Incidentally, science is working on the whole ‘how did life begin” thing.

Tyson’s frequent allusions to Sagan are unobtrusive, but welcome to those of us who remember the original: they stem from a deep-rooted admiration and respect for the man, touchingly demonstrated in a moving tribute at the end of the first episode.

This is science education of the highest order, not once shouting “Yah! Boo” at the ignoramuses and charlatans peddling lies about everything from climate science to vaccinations nor even the Creationists to whom reason is a mortal foe.

Instead it explains things in a way accessible to anyone interested enough to watch. If you doubt that, read of the impact it made on one six year old.

Enjoy the show – then go back and watch Carl’s original. ‘cos, why wouldn’t you want to watch the greatest science communicator of the last century, after watching once of the finest of the present?

Then, maybe, go play on a beach for a while.


Occam’s Razor and the ghost of MH370

Posted in Musing, Reason by Ian Cundell on 17 March, 2014

There’s nothing quite like a good mystery to bring out the most annoying aspects if the British Press. While the Malaysian authorities, quite rightly, keep every possible explanation open, the British media have decided a politically extreme pilot, possibly acting with Chinese Islamists, planned a 9/11 style attack – apparently by practising on his home-brew flight simulator.

The number of assumptions and the degree of hasty reasoning needed to come to these conclusions is mind-boggling but, of course, how they get there is simple: while the professionals trying to solve the mystery, and find the plane, see new data as additive to the picture, the media sees each new fact as a new story and treats it as such. There is a big, complex picture building up that ends up like this: the search for an aeroplane-sized needle in an ocean-sized haystack. That’s not good news, not a good story.

Over the years I have found myself more than once on the websites of the US National Transportation Safety Board and the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch reading through accident reports. It isn’t morbid curiosity – their reports are masterclasses of evidence-led reasoning and their conclusions are invariably couched in terms of  “The most likely cause…”, even when the cause seems screamingly obvious to my inexpert eyes. They do not go beyond where the evidence leads. If you go looking, you may wish to steer clear of  the cockpit voice recorder transcripts – they are a tad upsetting. There are few lines more chilling than “sound similar to a mechanical movement in cockpit“, meaning the plane has broken up in flight.

Reason and the popular media are not good bedfellows: where reason demands a step-by-step sequence, revising its hypothesis with new information and weighing with care, popular media demands a headline. That is not really a criticism of the media, but its crushing need for the black-and-white means – sometimes – it becomes impossible to distinguish it from a voyeur. The Straits Times of Singapore is doing a pretty decent and non-sensational job of following the story, if you are interested.

Meanwhile, nearly two hundred and fifty very real families face the very real agony of silence.

For what it is worth – which is exactly nothing – reason and Occam’s Razor suggest to me that, sometime around the handover to Vietnamese air traffic control, hypoxia – caused by decompression – catastrophically impaired the cognitive abilities of the air crew, causing them to act in seemingly meaningful but actually haphazard and disastrous manner, before losing consciousness. This caused the aircraft to head out on an unknown, but almost certainly fatal, heading.

Obviously this view will change with compelling new information. Not that my view matters.

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