Bizarro World

Everyday when I check the news, I really think I’m having flashbacks from a different lifestyle 25+ years ago. It boggles my mind that a major news network spent two weeks doing wall to wall coverage on a plane that obviously had crashed at sea. No, it was not sucked up into a black hole, no, no one took it to wherever, etc. Wasn’t it fucking obvious they were all dead? Don’t terrorists who hijack plans either make demands or crash it into something to make a point? Wouldn’t a letter taking responsibility have surfaced? But yet CNN spent fucking days covering every preposterous angle. Of course it is a tragedy, but why do we have to turn it into speculation porn?

The major news of today is that the Supreme Court’s swing vote sociopath, Anthony Kennedy, thinks the Hobby Lobby issue is about abortion. It’s depressing enough that this troglodyte has this much power over Americans, but it is not more depressing than the fact that he is the fucking swing vote, which means that almost half the court is already so far gone that we have to worry about fucking Anthony Kennedy’s personal lady parts issues. And even worse than that is this has even gotten to the Supreme Court. That’s the most fucked up thing- we are dealing with this issue because our religious nuts are that much in control of the national debate. For me, the whole Hobby Lobby case boils down to this:


We live in weird times, and this madness won’t be undone for decades, and probably long after I am dead.

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107 replies
  1. Hill Dweller says:

    To go OT for a second(sorry, Cole), three agents from the President’s secret service detail were sent home from the Netherlands after a drinking incident. Apparently one of the agents was passed out drunk in the hotel lobby.

    This is the third(?) such incident during PO’s term. I’m starting to think they want him dead.

  2. Tbone says:

    I could personally never bother to follow the missing airplane case at all. COuldn’t give a fuck less about it, honestly. It was clear from the get go it was in the water, as John said. Sometimes Occam’s razor really does apply.

  3. Comrade Dread says:

    Meh. It’ll get fun once SCOTUS grants corporations 2nd amendment rights and they redefine “corporate warfare” and “hostile takeovers.”

    In the meantime, expect a lot of corporations to find Supply Side Jesus and claim exemptions to taxation and environmental regulations, cause God gave us dominion over the Earth, ya know.

  4. jibeaux says:

    I saw that Lizz Winstead thing today, and I thought it was about the most pithy way to put it imaginable. I just love it.

    Anyway, I was hoping for a more uptempo open thread to post this to, but I’m just going to do a quick bleg for my wonderful, nerdy, supersmart son, to go to nerdy, superexpensive 3 week residential camp this summer. He really is not only a very smart kid, but a genuinely goodhearted and kind person. Special offer for burnsie, at the $40 and up contribution level I will personally say something gracious about Coach K.

  5. 🍀 Martin says:

    Some Dem needs to introduce legislation guaranteeing workers the right to have sex outside of work without seeking permission from their boss.

  6. Hunter Gathers says:

    I feel like quoting one William Cutting:

    They vote how the archbishop tells them, and who tells the archbishop? Their king in the pointy hat what sits on his throne in Rome.

    This case will be decided by five men, whose belief that birth control is a sin is based on the fact that Catholic Church wants to become the largest religion in the world, and how the fuck can they do that if you biznatches keep taking the Pill. Pricey lawsuits involving child molesting priests don’t pay for themselves, you know.

  7. scav says:

    And to add to the OT CNN nonsense theme, two of their producers / journalists were arrested trying to break into the World Trade Center. They really seemed unusually clueless as well:

    On Tuesday afternoon, the two CNN producers had said to the officer at the main gate that if a 16-year-old was able to get in, then so should they, said Joseph Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority Police Department.

    “He had enough sense to try it at 4 o’clock in the morning,” he said of the 16-year-old. The CNN producers commenced their less successful attempt shortly after lunchtime on Tuesday.

  8. Hill Dweller says:

    Here is the link to the Secret Service story.

    Three Secret Service agents responsible for protecting President Obama in Amsterdam this week were sent home and put on administrative leave Sunday after going out for a night of drinking, according to three people familiar with the incident. One of them was found drunk and passed out in a hotel hallway, the people said.

    The hotel staff alerted the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands after finding the unconscious agent Sunday morning, a day before Obama arrived in the country, according to two of the people. The embassy then alerted Secret Service managers on the presidential trip, which included Secret Service Director Julia Pierson.

  9. FlipYrWhig says:

    I hope Anthony Kennedy’s favorite hot dog vendor converts to a religion founded on the principle that the Chosen Dog includes bird shit, rusty razor blades, and dioxin. Dangerous product? No, sorry, you can’t prosecute me for that, I have the free exercise of religion on my side.

  10. Jennifer says:

    We live in weird times, and this madness won’t be undone for decades, and probably long after I am dead.

    If it makes you feel any better, the world probably won’t be going on for long after we’re dead. We’re shitting the nest beyond the planet’s ability to repair itself; either the planet will wipe us off of it before much longer in an attempt at self-preservation, or we will render the planet unlivable.

  11. piratedan says:

    @Jennifer: I dunno Jennifer, if we have a supervolcano blow up or get hit by a meteor strike, I’m willing to let blame slide. Although I will agree that we live in times where people’s inability to get over their religious and tribal fears and the fact that we have a media that will pander to them in the name of profit does a damn sight more damage than it should.

    I can only continue to work for change locally and hope that there is a cumulative effect globally.

  12. jl says:

    Was on the road last week, so was exposed to mass quantities of random TV.

    Cole should have watched Fox News if he wanted proper information guidance on the missing plane Why are we not at war with Pakistan yet for complicity in the Malyasian airliner highjacking.? Because Obama is a weakling, obvs.

    It was funny. Every day I saw Fox News on the mssing airliner, this crackpot was slightly reducing his estimated probability that the plane was hijacked to Pakistan, but he was still very convinced. Also noticed that Fox News has more repeats. Also seemed to me that Fox News knows its demographic, since the sound always seemed way to loud compared to other channels. When I got to hotel I tested it out, and there it was. Wonder what will happen when their demo’s average age hits 80.

    I’m looking forward to the SCOTUS decision, since the four reactionaries are always useful in providing my cynicism with deeper, sounder, and more profound foundation.

  13. Emma says:

    I am so horrified and depressed. My family came to this country precisely because it promised that no one could impose their political, moral, or religious beliefs on others. Now I’m watching bastards chip away at our freedoms.

  14. tokyo expat says:

    Thanks JC and Lizz Winstead. I also can’t believe this has made it up to the SC. I cannot believe a friggin’ craft store will decide my rights regarding access to birth control. Did anybody notice Scalia’s comment about how it only involved three or four abortifacients–Not very expensive stuff. How does he get to say stuff like this given his position? How can they stay up in their little ivory tower making decisions that impact all Americans and not be forced to understand the impact of their decisions?

    Part of me hopes to see some sanity on the court and they side against HL, but another part of me hopes they contort themselves into some nutty position to find in favor and then I hope every woman and supporter of women’s rights rises up in November and nails each one of the politicians that spoke out in favor of HL. And I hope we see boycotts for every company that uses the religious exemption for whatever reason. We keep pushing back and we make it unacceptable.

    This really steams me. Why aren’t men’s bits being legislated and debated over? Would love to hear a politician answer that.

  15. Jennifer says:

    Corporations are well known for lacking souls. So it’s hard to see how they can have religious beliefs, since they have no skin in the game.

  16. Wag says:


    Wrong. The world will keep going on just fine after us.

    Humanity and 90% of life as we know it may die out, but the world survived the Permian and Triassic extinctions. It’ll survive us, too.

  17. danielx says:

    Justice Kennedy? The same douchebag who came up with this gem?

    This Court now concludes that independent [political] expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.

    Aye, the very same!

  18. Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    Hobby Lobby covers boner pills because Jesus was erected on the cross.

  19. mclaren says:

    What happened to Natalee Holloway, though?

    We need more coverage of the Natalee Holloway disappearance!!!

  20. kc says:

    Jesus, this is depressing.

    If I had Koch-level bucks, I’d dedicate myself to running Hobby Lobby out of business. Those fuckers.

  21. James E. Powell says:

    We live in weird times, and this madness won’t be undone for decades, and probably long after I am dead.

    We have this madness because it turns out to be so damn handy for the ruling class. This madness is how they make sure that the 99% remain divided in to much smaller warring factions.

  22. Eric S. says:

    I’ve been intrigued with MH370 from a technical stand point. I’ve “known” from the beginning it was at the bottom of the ocean or otherwise crashed.

    I’ve been waiting for the advanced analysis done on satellite data. I don’t know if the term is 100% accurate but it seemed obvious to me we could “triangulate” the plane’s position from the engine pings. More than one satellite had to have recorded the pings. I haven’t seen that is what has been done but it makes sense to me.

  23. azlib says:

    Good grief! How does Kennedy get to the abortion conclusion. Providing contraceptives as part of a health plan is a good way to reduce abortions. And so what, a health plan should provide abortion coverage. It is a legal medical procedure.

    Also health benefits are a part of an employee’s compensation. How an employee chooses to use their benefit (and it is their benefit) is their own business. So much for so called conservatives believing in liberty and freedom. What a bunch of hypocrites.

    As others have said, this is about the pill and other contraceptives allowing women to be sluts which is insulting and ridiculous, but that is what these morons who do not understand biology and have some really serious sexual hangups believe.

  24. jl says:

    @Eric S.: I hope to read more about it too. From one informative segment (on CNN, so there, Cole!) it appears that there were independent statistical analysis of the doppler effect of transmission times for the signals done on planes traveling different routes. The pings for the missing plane matched those from planes travelling on routes that approximated the southern arc were much better than from planes travelling other routes. They did subanalyses on just Malaysian Airlines planes and 777s.

    I distinctly remmeber that the segment was given by the meterorlogist, and he seemed to be the only CNN person in the studio who even understood what a ‘doppler effect’ is.

    Fire Cooper and all the other airheads and let the weathermen andsportscasters do the news, I say. Would probably be better.

  25. billB says:

    I welcome the supremmys doing the worst, as it will fire up the women
    of this country, [and us men who care about them] to clean house in congress. Then Nancy and Harry and O’bamma can do some serious
    azzkicking for two years, before the great Rise of Hillary the Second.
    Throw yourselves at our feet, ye fux newsers.

  26. Mandalay says:

    @Eric S.:

    More than one satellite had to have recorded the pings.

    Apparently not. The pings were received by just one Inmarsat satellite, but they knew the velocity of their satellite, and its exact position when it received each ping, so they analyzed the frequencies of the plane’s pings to determine the path of the plane.

  27. SiubhanDuinne says:


    The last sentence of the article is beyond priceless:

    It was not immediately clear if the men had lawyers on Tuesday.

  28. MikeJ says:

    @Mandalay: Unrelated to the engine pings, somebody asked the other day if the 777 FMC would automatically balance fuel tank usage. My Boeing engineer next door neighbor says yes, and the 787 (similar, but not identical) Flight Crew Training Manual says:

    The primary purpose of fuel balance limitations on Boeing airplanes is for the structural life of the airframe and landing gear and not for controllability. A reduction in structural life of the airframe or landing gear can be caused by frequently operating with out-of-limit fuel balance conditions. Lateral control is not significantly affected when operating with fuel beyond normal balance limits.

    The primary purpose for fuel balance alerts are to inform the crew that imbalances beyond the current state may result in increased trim drag and higher fuel consumption. The FUEL IMBALANCE NNC should be accomplished when a fuel balance alert is received.

  29. Redshift says:

    Don’t terrorists who hijack plans either make demands or crash it into something to make a point? Wouldn’t a letter taking responsibility have surfaced?

    Actually, according to a news report early on in this thing (can’t remember exactly who, probably someone on Rachel), in the majority of terrorist incidents, there is never any claim of responsibility. So while I agree it was pretty obvious, that’s not the reason why.

  30. 🍀 Martin says:

    @Eric S.: Actually, that’s not what they did. Their so-called ‘breakthrough idea’ was to use what any 3rd year physics student should have told them to do, which was to measure the frequency shift of the signal to determine the direction.

    They can determine the approximate range of the signal origin based on the length of time it takes to receive the signal. Communications like this are typically done by handshake – the plane sends out a ping asking for a conversation, the satellite responds agreeing to the conversation and sending any protocol information, the plane then sends the data and a hangup signal, and the satellite sends back a checksum of the data which the plane can compare to it’s own calculated checksum. If they match, then the data was almost certainly received properly. If they don’t, then the data need to be resent. The timing between these events will vary based on distance, which is reasonably far. The whole transaction is pretty quick though.

    The problem with the system is that though you can determine distance, you can’t triangulate with a single satellite. This is the very problem that astronomers face. Even with telescopes on the opposite side of the planet, they’re still so close together relative to the distance that they’re looking that there just isn’t enough parallax to determine much (they will sometimes instead use two pictures of the same object 6 months apart – the diameter of our orbit around the sun). So the technique that they use is to measure the objects velocity via red shift. Any signal that is sent between two objects will be shifted in frequency based on the relative velocity between the two objects. If they are moving toward each other, the frequency compresses. When measuring stars, you work from fixed and common frequencies that result from how photons are absorbed by specific elements (such as sodium) and you measure how far off from the known frequency they are. In the case of an aircraft with nice modern digital equipment, you’re going to measure how far off the known digital signal frequency the receiver measures. This is a very very tiny shift, and it is fairly impressive they could measure it.

    So with two measurements apart in time, you can determine two distances and calculate the relative velocity from one measurement to the other. By measuring the frequency shift of the signal, you can measure the relative velocity between the sender and receiver at each point. With those two together, you can calculate a vector and position in two-dimensional space assuming the plane is traveling in a straight line (a geodesic in the case of a plane). It couldn’t determine the planes altitude, but it could determine its position, heading, and velocity.

    There’s a bunch of assumptions you get to make in a case like this – you know the plane must be moving between a limited set of speeds, you know it can’t travel faster than a certain speed, so it can’t jump from 600 miles east of the satellite to 570 miles west of it, etc. and with the satellite moving and with the plane moving, the math is non-trivial, but the process is well known overall.

  31. SiubhanDuinne says:

    @tokyo expat:

    This really steams me. Why aren’t men’s bits being legislated and debated over? Would love to hear a politician answer that.

    Legislate the dangly!!

  32. Mandalay says:

    @🍀 Martin:

    Their so-called ‘breakthrough idea’ was to use what any 3rd year physics student should have told them to do…

    There’s really no need for you to be an asshole and belittle what they did.

  33. cckids says:


    If I had Koch-level bucks, I’d dedicate myself to running Hobby Lobby out of business. Those fuckers.

    No shit. I can’t help but think, though . . . Hobby Lobby is a craft store (that also carries lots of crappy home dec stuff). Who uses craft stores? Women. Who are they mostly pissing off with this crap?

    I know women aren’t some monolithic voting bloc, but wow. I spend close to a grand a year on craft stuff, and none of it goes to HL. Ever.

  34. boatboy_srq says:

    @John Cole @top: it’s begun to dawn on me that I went to university with wankers like the Hobby Lobby crew: all wrapped up in their Election and their Blessedness and completely blind to the idea that other people might not agree that their Book contained the Sum of All Truth (much less practical guidance for anyone not exactly like them). This especially on a campus where the male/female ration was past 2:1. Now the zealots who were busy parsing the OT for correlations to archaeological finds and the NT for cross-references for Cicero are returning to their Original Ultimate Reference to drive public policy. Not even my undergrad Theology professors were this extreme (though perhaps the Business School profs were).

    As for MH370, what boggled me was that it’s 2014 and we “lost” a jetliner! How is it possible to “misplace” something that big, well-documented and otherwise traceable? Crashing, I can understand. Missing it completely when it went off transponder and losing it in the radar clutter I have a much harder time with. And fibbing about it for two weeks (as Malaysia appears to have done) only makes it worse. “Where is MH370” was never my story: “How the BLEEP Malaysia Air Traffic Control LOST A JETLINER” has been the part that seemed newsworthy to me.

    @Hill Dweller: TABMITWH apparently applies to the Secret Service, too.

  35. 🍀 Martin says:

    @Mandalay: Look, it was only a ‘breakthrough idea’ in a context where people didn’t already know about the idea. That doesn’t make it a breakthrough. It’s fantastic that they realized what to do, and it’s actually very impressive that they were able to measure that shift, particularly because they only had the recorded information.

    I suspect that it was the media that hyped it up, because that’s what they so often do.

  36. Redshift says:

    @azlib: Yeah, it’s really annoying, the implicit acceptance of the wingnut idea that benefits (and jobs, for that matter) are some kind of gift that business owners give out, and therefore they “belong” to them.

    It doesn’t infringe on your religious freedom for you to not control what your money is used for after it leaves your hand. If it makes feel dirty to have your money going to insurance that someone eventually might use for something you don’t approve of, tough. If you really feel that strongly, then don’t offer insurance, pay the penalty. And if you still feel sorry because some of that money might, even more indirectly, go for birth control, then admit that what you’re after is the same kind of “religious freedom” the Puritans wanted, the “freedom” to impose your religion on everyone in sight.

  37. JoyceH says:

    Hey, I just had a great idea for a compromise. Corporations can get this religious exemption to deny medical treatments to their employees based on their religious beliefs ONLY if the major stockholders and corporate officers, in fact all those making these claims about their religious beliefs, agree to get ALL their medical treatment, including any major surgeries, ONLY from their pastor.

  38. Mandalay says:


    “How the BLEEP Malaysia Air Traffic Control LOST A JETLINER” has been the part that seemed newsworthy to me.

    Indeed. Our court stenographers have dutifully been reporting that planes do not regularly transmit their flight data because it is cost prohibitive. Well apparently they already have to do that on North Atlantic routes, and it looks like that claim (myth?) may receive some closer scrutiny now….

    Inmarsat said for a relatively low cost its satellites could keep tabs on flights and provide data exchanged between the air and the ground to help organise routes to save time and fuel….

    Sinnatt said on Monday that such a facility would cost about $10 per flight.

    Spending an extra ten bucks would not have saved that plane, but it would have provided a very good idea of its location very quickly.

  39. MikeJ says:

    @Mandalay: Nobody ever said it wasn’t possible to transmit that data, just that it isn’t routinely done. North American and Western European carriers usually do subscribe to telemetry services, at least for long haul routes.

  40. Mandalay says:

    @🍀 Martin:

    I suspect that it was the media that hyped it up, because that’s what they so often do.

    Really? I just searched google news for “breakthrough idea” Inmarsat and got this response:

    No results found for “breakthrough idea” Inmarsat.

    It looks to me like it is you rather than the press doing the hyping.

    Inmarsat may well be using this incident to boost their own reputation and profile, but AFAIK they deserve it, and I don’t begrudge them their moment in the sun.

  41. Gex says:

    It is beyond my comprehension that there are so many men who subscribe to the concept that women should only have sex if they are willing to have a child as a result.

    Frankly, every man who believes that should get exactly what he asks for with that attitude. Sex only when his wife is actively trying to conceive their two children.

    No wonder why conservatives have to invent the idea of “legitimate rape.” They consistently tell women to shut their legs. Meanwhile they can barely keep it in their pants. Something has to give.

  42. Mandalay says:


    Nobody ever said it wasn’t possible to transmit that data

    And I didn’t claim otherwise, but the media have been reporting that it would be expensive for the airlines without citing sources (AFAIK at least). Now we have someone on the record who is claiming the opposite: that it would only be about ten dollars a flight.

    If that claim is true it does seem astounding that this is not already being done for all commercial flights.

  43. Scamp Dog says:

    @Redshift: it’s too close to bedtime to look up a link, but the Hobby Lobby owner thinks that he’s been blessed with all this success, and now he wants to “help” his employees make the moral choice. How denying them an option helps them “make a choice” strikes me as odd, but since god hasn’t blessed me with a large fortune, I’m probably not capable of True Understanding.

  44. xenos says:

    Closely held tax-transparent corporations are not people, my friends…

    except for all those SRLs in the BVI, of course – those are definitely people, dammit!

  45. trollhattan says:


    Was poking around the PPRN forum and read this, FWIW.

    “Does the 777-200 do wing to wing automatic fuel balance/transfer?”

    No, it’s done manually. There is a fuel imbalance alarm however.
    There is no wing to wing balance system, either automatic or manual.
    Balancing the fuel is done via using one tank to feed both engines until fuel in wingtanks is equal. Then it is wingtank to engine again. You cannot transfer fuel from one wingtank to the other.

    Dunno how relevant this might be to MH370 so far as this or that theory.

  46. MikeJ says:

    @Mandalay: ACARS wasn’t working though. ACARS is the onboard system that does the communicating, either via VHF or satcom. If you turn off ACARS, nothing is going to be sent. The satcom system will still reply to pings even when ACARS is off.

    Think of satcom as your cable modem. When you turn off your computer (the ACARS) you can’t send meaningful info to the internet, but your cable company can still stalk to the cable modem. Satellite communication is ready to go, even with ACARS off, but the only thing it will do is answer a ping.

  47. trollhattan says:


    One just opened in my berg and I’ve convinced the spousal unit she and the daughter unit can just go to fvcking Michaels. Only I didn’t use the adjective.

    It’s bad enough having to bite my tongue when they do Run for the Cure.

  48. ellennelle says:

    kennedy did ask the key question today, tho:

    asking if the “rights of the employees” whom Congress promised contraceptive services would be “trump[ed]” by the rights of the religious business owners. He asked the challengers’ lawyer if axing the mandate would “put the employee in a disadvantageous position.”

    hopefully, that’s a tell. we can at least pray it is.

  49. Phoning It In says:

    “Corporations are well known for lacking souls. So it’s hard to see how they can have religious beliefs, since they have no skin in the game.”

    Agree with Jennifer, although I think sociopathy–full-blown, I-want-what-I-want-and-what-I-want-is-to-run-over-your-wants–packaged in a primate form, lacks religious beliefs also, and a soul, but can vote.

  50. Mandalay says:

    @MikeJ: Gotcha, but in that case why not just ping more often? Say every five minutes rather than every hour? Presumably if that had been done on MH370 the search area would now be much smaller. I’d heard that the current search area is still about the size of Alaska.

  51. cckids says:

    @trollhattan: IMO, Michael’s is a superior craft store; neither of them come close to the internet for all the STUFF :)

    Michael’s at least doesn’t have huge floor space devoted to Xtian home dec items. A HL opened close to my home 3 years ago, so we went; it was meh, even before they decided to lose their shit over their employee’s private lives. Do not miss it.

  52. Mnemosyne says:


    For mass market crafts, I tend to like JoAnn’s a little better than Michael’s. Michael’s store brand yarn (Loops & Threads) is pretty good. When I went to a Hobby Lobby near my mom’s house (don’t have them near me in California), I was distinctly unimpressed by the quality of their knitting supplies.

  53. xenos says:

    Didn’t Femen open a chapter in the states? HL seems to be q natural target for a topless jihad, in case they are taking suggestions:::

  54. 🍀 Martin says:

    @Mandalay: Ok, ‘groundbreaking’ then.

    How Inmarsat found MH370’s path Gauging Inmarsat’s confidence in search
    The mathematics-based process used by Inmarsat and the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) to reveal the definitive path was described by McLaughlin as “groundbreaking.”
    Experts: Flight ended west of Perth Flight ended in ocean, questions remain
    “We’ve done something new,” he said.
    Here’s how the process works in a nutshell: Inmarsat officials and engineers were able to determine whether the plane was flying away or toward the satellite’s location by expansion or compression of the satellite’s signal.

    This is how doppler radar works. Sure, it’s not been used in this context, and as I’ve said with both objects in motion it’s quite a bit more complex to work out the math, but once you have a technique, then it’s just a matter of plodding through it. I don’t consider that ‘groundbreaking’.

  55. Viva BrisVegas says:

    Can a corporation have a religion?

    If so, how does it qualify for heaven? Good deeds or good returns?

    If it does get to heaven, is the it the same heaven as people heaven, or it it more like doggie heaven?

    Once it gets to heaven, does it get tax exempt status from God? You know, like the rest of get wings.

    These are all questions which the Supreme Court MUST answer (or else go to Corporate Hell, which I assume involves Chapter 13 and forensic accountants).

  56. 🍀 Martin says:

    @Mandalay: There’s really no good reason other than industry inertia. We’ve never had to rely on satellite data like this to track a missing plane, and nobody in the policy space had the imagination to conceive of and sell a situation like this, so it simply never got implemented. There has always been the assumption that the pilot would radio about a problem, or there would be visual evidence, or the transponder would tell us what we need. It’s only recently that transponders haven’t been able to be manually disabled, mainly due to a shift in attitude finally coming about that there are some things that humans are genuinely less reliable than computers for.

    This is still an odd situation in that the pilots manually disabled most of the systems used to track the plane, gave no indication of a problem, and then appear to have deliberately steered a path that would make the plane nearly impossible to find. That’s just not something that anyone would have designed in, considering it to be so unlikely as to never happen.

  57. Mandalay says:

    @🍀 Martin:

    Sure, it’s not been used in this context, and as I’ve said with both objects in motion it’s quite a bit more complex to work out the math, but once you have a technique, then it’s just a matter of plodding through it. I don’t consider that ‘groundbreaking’.

    Your choice of the word “plodding” is a bit of a red flag. By that argument Wiles just “plodded” through the math to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem as well. If a missing plane has never been tracked in this way before then I think it’s fair to call what they did groundbreaking, but obviously YMMV.

    TBF, until the plane is actually located the quality of Inmarsat’s effort cannot be properly assessed. It would be nice if Inmarsat publish their data, or at least give it to the Chinese (assuming that there are no security concerns).

  58. Mandalay says:

    @🍀 Martin:

    That’s just not something that anyone would have designed in, considering it to be so unlikely as to never happen.

    Maybe so. Surely what is needed is tracking equipment that transmits data far more than once an hour that cannot be suppressed manually.

    A suicidal pilot is a rare but well known possibility, and obviously pilots acting under the orders of terrorists is another. No amount of great technology and clever design can prevent the plane’s destruction in those cases, but the regular tracking is certainly something that can be (easily?) addressed if industry inertia is the primary reason that it isn’t happening already.

  59. 🍀 Martin says:

    @Mandalay: Proof writing is nothing like calculation. Proof writing is the act of coming up with the technique. Calculation is not. It’s the act of implementing it. I’ve written enough proofs to know the difference.

    I don’t doubt that Inmarsat got this right. I know they’ve peer reviewed it. Like I said, the calculations would be tricky. Because the speeds are low in this case (600 kts relative to the speed of light is pretty slow) the amount of shift would be quite slight and probably within the frequency tolerance of the transmitter. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had to re-calculate the native frequency of that interface by using a previous measurement where the speed of the plane was known relative to the satellite, say when the transponders were still working and the plane was on radar. That would give a rather precise frequency for the transmitter. It’s reasonable to trust that the transmitter frequency, while maybe being a bit off of spec, wouldn’t change from one hour to the next. They then use that frequency to measure the later unknown readings. Honestly, that really is just plodding calculations. It’s complicated stuff, but you break the problem down, control your variables, and work through it. I’d probably write a fuckton of programs to help me along the way, just because the calculations are likely to be mistake-prone.

    What might be groundbreaking isn’t that part of it, but getting the signal information out of the record with enough precision to pull this off. If you knew you wanted to do this ahead of time, there’s probably a bunch of stuff you could do to help you get the best reading, but the measurements had all been taken already not intending to be used for this purpose. I’m still not sure I’d call it groundbreaking. I don’t question that the folks that did this would be exhilarated by the result. Personally, I find this kind of problem solving to be genuinely fun, especially if its for a noble cause. So I don’t mean to diminish the good work they did, but I don’t think they rewrote any rules here. In fact, this precise technique was used by US scientists to track the location of Sputnik when it was first launched, and that led to the idea of GPS. So, this technique has been used for some time to track objects, though not from this kind of satellite. And it’s good enough to tell your $99 TomTom how quickly you’re traveling down the road. Same technique.

  60. Anne Laurie says:

    @Hill Dweller:

    This is the third(?) such incident during PO’s term. I’m starting to think they want him dead.

    To be honest, I suspect there’s been incidents like this during every presidential term, because people are people. But the incidents now get “public” (press) attention because, first, the stakes are so much higher for our first African-American president; and second, could you blame the agents forced into proximity with Dubya for getting drunk & stupid?

    Let’s not start ragging on the Secret Service; given the heightened threat level over the past five years, it looks like they’ve been doing good work, which I most sincerely hope they can continue successfully.

  61. 🍀 Martin says:


    Maybe so. Surely what is needed is tracking equipment that transmits data far more than once an hour that cannot be suppressed manually.

    Agreed, and they’ve already done some of this in newer planes. It’s not a technology problem, but a policy one. Boeing isn’t necessarily motivated to do this, because it’s not their plane. The carriers aren’t motivated because they’re constantly in financial straits. Because this stuff operates mostly internationally, any standards need agreement, and a lot of countries (including our own) don’t want to burden the airlines with additional costs. Lives are only worth so much, you know. Less if you book at least three weeks early.

  62. David Koch says:

    The major news of today is that the Supreme Court’s swing vote sociopath, Anthony Kennedy, thinks the Hobby Lobby issue is about abortion.

    It’s worse than that. The transcript is out and Kennedy doesn’t know ACA was upheld by the Supreme Court. No really

    JUSTICE KENNEDY: Does that mean the constitutionality of the whole Act has to be examined before we accept your view?

    GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, I think it has been examined, Your Honor, is my recollection.


  63. Peter says:

    Trying to read how Kennedy will vote from his stance in oral arguments is a pointless affair. He knows he has the only vote in the chamber that really matters on like 99% of cases, so he throws smoke in both directions to make his position less obvious.

    As a simple matter of law it’s pretty obvious that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga should be laughed out of court. Unfortunately, that’s poor consolation with this Supreme Court, because who knows if they happen to care about matters of law that day.

    The conservative wing of the court are in a rather unique position; they are among the few US Citizens who would instantly improve the entire republic by stroking out or retiring.

  64. David Koch says:

    More Bizzaro: going though the transcript, Scalia has no idea the case involves a secular for-profit corporation. He keeps thinking Hobby Lobby is a religious non-profit (ie Salvation Army).

    It’s pretty clear the wingers didn’t even bother to read the briefs, cause the display little knowledge of the underlying facts.

    Scalia and the plainiff’s lawyer’s comments were particularity condescending towards women.

    Just sickening.

  65. David Koch says:

    At least twice, Verrilli has to tell Kennedy, this isn’t an abortion case:

    GENERAL VERRILLI: No. I think, as you said, the law now — the law now is to the contrary.

    20 seconds later, after Kennedy once again brings up abortion…

    GENERAL VERRILLI: But there is no law like that on the books. In fact, the law is the opposite.

  66. debbie says:

    @tokyo expat:

    While I’m definitely with you on the men bits vs. women’s bits issue, the real problem is that this is just one more example of how the doctrine of religious freedom has been twisted and distorted — how it’s morphed from the freedom to practice your religion without fear of reprisal to the “God-given” right to discriminate against anyone who doesn’t share your beliefs.

    This is only the latest abomination:

  67. Omnes Omnibus says:

    @David Koch: Reading the result of a case from what happened at oral argument is impossible. Judges use oral argument for many things: to get a better picture of the arguments, to make a point to another judge, to obfuscate, to entertain themselves, and so on.

    Also, and unrelated: the Solicitor General is not a general. The Attorney General is not a general. A Sergeant Major is not a major. (@DK: I know you were just blockquoting and the error is in the original.)

  68. Bob says:

    If the Court sides with HL I’m sure this will motivate the left to get off of its ass and flip the House Democrat and increase the Democrats hold on the Senate in the midterms. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  69. Robert Sneddon says:

    @Eric S.: It’s unlikely any satellites other than the Inmarsats would have picked up and recorded the signals from MH370 since the SATCOM system used on this airliner only talks to Inmarsat assets. Any other comms satellites, whether geosync like Inmarsat or low-earth orbit such as the military and Iridium constellations only communicate actively with paid customers — they all have “Good Samaritan” functions that will detect and if possible locate emergency beacons but in the case of MH370 there was never a beacon emission to work with.

    The NSA brouhaha has, I think, given folks an unreal picture of what modern tech can and can’t do. In this case the Inmarsat folks had to work with information at the very edge of detectability collected as an afterthought for maintenance purposes, frequency drift of the carrier which is normally corrected automatically by the transmitters and receivers.

    Nobody else, not even the spooks would have been listening out for these signals when the phone calls and internet traffic they’re collecting are passing through comms satellites out in plain view at high and easy-to-snoop signal levels. They especially wouldn’t be recording the error data as they’d only be interested in the actual traffic carried by the radio signals in question.

  70. MattR says:

    Late to the game and not sure it has been mentioned in comments already, but the craziest part of this whole issue to me is that Hobby Lobby’s health insurance used to cover Plan B and one of the other pills it currently objects to being forced to provide. It wasn’t until the ACA mandated that they cover these things that their religious freedom was suddenly being violated by having to do so.

  71. jpe says:

    Scalia has no idea the case involves a secular for-profit corporation.

    You’re begging the question by claiming it’s a “secular” for-profit corporation. It’s hard to see why the difference between non-profit and for-profit matters. Why would one corporation have a set of constitutional rights that another wouldn’t? Is it just because the nonprofit includes some talismanic language in its governing documents? If so, a for-profit should be able to include the same language in its documents and have the same set of rights. The for-profit / nonprofit distinction just doesn’t make much sense.

  72. jpe says:

    Hobby Lobby’s health insurance used to cover Plan B

    It was covered until they found out about it, at which they point they had the coverage removed. There’s a reason this was in Hobby Lobby’s brief, and it’s not because it undercuts their position.

  73. Hurling Dervish says:

    @ellennelle: Right. Because I imagine Hobby Libby must have insurance coverage that pays for no abortion, period. Even when the life if the woman is at risk. Since she is earning close to minimum at Hobby Libby, she can’t pay for that herself. So Hobby Lobby is dictating what procedures she can have.

    But at least the government isn’t getting between you and your doctor!

  74. MattR says:

    @jpe: I have a hard time seeing how it can be a major imposition of their religious freedom if it was so insignficant that they did not bother to check their existing policy. To me there is a major conflict between arguing that our religion prohibits us from doing X when you had not previously been concerned enough about doing X to check if you were already doing it.

    (EDIT: I guess it comes down to how long they were offering the coverage prior to the ACA. If it was something that was recently added, I have a bit of sympathy for the idea that they never noticed the addition. But if it had been years, then it seems obvious that it wasn’t really an important issue to them)

  75. Mnemosyne says:


    It’s hard to see why the difference between non-profit and for-profit matters. Why would one corporation have a set of constitutional rights that another wouldn’t?

    Because some non-profits are religiously based, and you can run into First Amendment problems. I don’t disagree that, say, a Catholic hospital should have to follow the same rules as secular hospitals, including what procedures they’ll do, but that’s not what the current law says.

  76. burnspbesq says:


    The major news of today is that the Supreme Court’s swing vote sociopath, Anthony Kennedy, thinks the Hobby Lobby issue is about abortion.

    I’m forced to assume that you didn’t read the transcript of the oral argument, and therefore are unable to put Justice Kennedy’s question in anything resembling context. Concerns about the slippery-slope nature of the relief plaintiffs are seeking actually undercut their position. Which you would know if you weren’t in your default mode of proud, defiant ignorance.

  77. David Koch says:

    @jpe: I ‘m not begging anything. I’m pointing out that Scalia doesn’t have enough respect for the bench to know the facts of the case. He asserts the plaintiff is a religious non profit, they are not.

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