Oh do fuck off you ghastly little wanker

The rebel commander blamed for shooting down flight MH17 has made bizarre claims that bodies at the crash site ‘aren’t fresh’.

Pro-Russian separatist Igor Girkin has claimed corpses near the debris died days before the plane took off.

According to rebel website Russkaya Vesna, the leader was told by people at the scene in eastern Ukraine that ‘a significant number of the bodies were drained of blood and reeked of decomposition.’

Girkin, also known as Strelkov and allegedly a former Russian intelligence agent, also suggested that a large amount of blood serum and medications in the wreckage.

Sadly there will be those who will believe this nonsense.

No doubt Max Keiser will be on the case soon enough.

176 comments on “Oh do fuck off you ghastly little wanker

  1. Does anyone know how this sort of anti-aircraft rocketry works?
    I’m guessing simple physical possession of the launcher/missile wouldn’t give launch capability. You’d still need to input release codes into the targeting electronics etc to get it to fly. Presumably these aren’t just left on a post-it-note, stuck to the console. Would they be dual-key release?

  2. I read some dicks were coming out with conspiracy theories that the plane was actually the other one that was lost in March… but they never seem to explain what happened to this one.

  3. The large amount of blood serum and medication could have belonged to the 100 HIV/AIDS experts who were on their way to a conference. Such a tragic waste.

  4. Good to see from the pictures in the papers that the ghastly little wankers have their hillbillies clambering all over the site, doubtless looting those passports, medications, cash and so on, as well as combing the wreckage for any trace of evidence that it was shot down. Meanwhile the experts are being held at gunpoint a few miles down the road, until the clean-up operation is complete.

  5. I suspect this is one of those awful crimes for which no-one will be punished. Both sides will blame each other, the evidence will disappear. After a while it will be forgotten, except by those who knew the victims.

  6. Probably not much by way of codes to prevent launch, but equally not a system that could be used without a modicum of training. It’s not a point and shoot manpad, but a multi-vehicle system that would need a few trained operators.

  7. @TomJ
    There’s talk the erector/launcher can be used autonomously. But then it can only engage using the targeting radar which is relatively short range.
    This could explain why the flight wasn’t identified by it’s transponder, because that capability requires the command & control/main radar array vehicles in the loop.
    If the system operates as a battery, the launch is initiated by the C&C. To autonomously launch, the erector/launcher must have to generate its own launch protocols.

  8. One would expect some form of action restriction because without one the system leaves itself wide open to friendly fire incidents.

  9. Dongguan John: “… but they never seem to explain what happened to this one.”

    I expect it’s in limbo with the plane that was supposed to have hit the Pentagon on 9/11 but didn’t because it was ‘really a missile’.

  10. I do wonder, though, why the ‘it was shot down by a missile’ explanation is being accepted so readily before NTSB have even examined the wreckage.

    Not even a ‘believed to have been’ in the tabloids.

  11. within half an hour Twitter was alive with conspiracy theorists saying it was an Israeli false flag operation – even Jon Snow joined in to say that Tel Aviv would use it to distract from a ramp up in Gaza.

  12. @JuliaM
    Possibly because the launch was on someone’s sensors the moment it left the rails That might be within the capability of a US AWACS aircraft loitering over the Black Sea, in Romanian airspace. Or a satellite. The rocket plume will show up on infra-red.

  13. JuliaM>

    Because there’s no doubt that the plane was shot down, although there’s some argument over the identity of the shooters.

  14. within half an hour Twitter was alive with conspiracy theorists saying it was an Israeli false flag operation – even Jon Snow joined in to say that Tel Aviv would use it to distract from a ramp up in Gaza.

    “A good day to bury bad news” springs to mind.

  15. @B(ni)S: yes, very possibly, but would the media be privy to this info? Seems to me they are usually rather cagey on these things.

  16. Julia-

    Me too. If there were positive evidence of a missile, they’d have said so. It’s all a bit odd.

  17. “even Jon Snow joined in”: now there’s a fucker who’d be name the waur o’ a hanging.

  18. Gherkin (sic–and he is) seems to have got his “plane-full-of-already-dead-people” theory from the BBC. To wit episode 4 of “Sherlock” which has a jetliner full of already dead people being shot down as a Western intelligence ploy.

  19. Dave-

    Do we know it was shot down? is the question. So far as I can tell all that is yet known is that the plane failed catastrophically in flight. I daresay it probably was shot down, but that’s not the same as knowing for sure. I don’t know anything of course about aircraft engineering. But here’s one at random that broke up catastrophically-

    “Consequently, after repeated cycles of depressurization and pressurization during flight, the weakened hull gradually started to crack and finally broke open in mid-flight on 25 May 2002, exactly 22 years to the day after the faulty repair was made upon the damaged tail. An explosive decompression of the aircraft occurred once the crack opened up, causing the complete disintegration of the aircraft in mid-air”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_Airlines_Flight_611

  20. <blockquote.Does anyone know how this sort of anti-aircraft rocketry works?

    Yes.

    I’m guessing simple physical possession of the launcher/missile wouldn’t give launch capability.

    Guessing – it’s a mug’s game.

    You’d still need to input release codes into the targeting electronics etc to get it to fly. Presumably these aren’t just left on a post-it-note, stuck to the console.

    There is probably a physical arm key. This is normally issued to the vehicle commander. I would note here that I am no expert on Russian Tac AA weapons – if I was, I probably should be posting. If the Rus gave the separatists the weapons – or the separatists captured the weapons from the Ukrainian mil, then they will have captured the keys too.

    Would they be dual-key release?

    No. Unlike some of the SA-2 and (reputedly) SA-4 weapons which were nuclear armed. Although those would probably have just one key for the missile launcher and a separate key to initiate the warhead arming sequence.

  21. Why the fuck would you want nuclear-armed surface-to-air missiles? Isn’t that massive (also inflammatory) overkill? Or were they spectacularly imprecise weapons?

  22. As this blog is rabidly anti EU, it is hard to see why there is such thorough suspicion of anti-EU separatists in Eastern Ukraine who prefer to remain loyal to more traditional constitutional and economic arrangements with Russia..

  23. Why the fuck would you want nuclear-armed surface-to-air missiles?

    Penis-waving contest substitute? You knew your designers were lying to you about the accuracy of the weapons? Big bangs are just ‘fun’?

    Both the Sovs and the Yanks had them. Yanks had Nike Hercules, which was nuclear armed by default, and Talos which had nuke and non-nuke variants and ended up being (to abuse a more modern IT phrase) “warm-swappable”. And others. As, I expect, did the Sovs. It was the era of big nuke-armed bomber fleets – Dr Strangelove as reality not as satirical comedy.

  24. it is hard to see why there is such thorough suspicion of anti-EU separatists in Eastern Ukraine who …

    … shoot down civilian airliners.

    Is it? Really?

    You are troll.

  25. There are still bunches of cunts in the west who readily believe the Soviets were right to shoot down KAL over Sakhalin in the 1980s because it actually was on a spying mission.

    It is pretty clear that this one was shot down – the wreckage tells you that, and the likelihood of a plane disintegrating sue to mechanical failure over a small area where 2 planes have been shot down recently is negligible – and I would be amazed if the rebels were allowed to operate these kind of weapons without coordination and permission from the Russians. The Russians need to pay heavily for this. What a bunch of cunts.

  26. They wouldn’t. They’d want to shoot down a Ukrainian military plane but are too damned feckless to put in place the necessary steps to ensure they don’t shoot down a Malaysian passenger jet instead. Such steps include *not* allowing mouth-breathing thugs to operate advanced weapons systems along their borders with their blessing. It was a matter of time before a fuckup like this happened.

  27. Ian>

    Such catastrophic disintegration events are vanishingly rare. What are the chances one took place at the only point where the plane could have been shot down?

  28. Dave,

    That’s the problem. Coincidences are by definition very unlikely, otherwise they aren’t coincidences.

  29. Tim N-

    and I would be amazed if the rebels were allowed to operate these kind of weapons without coordination and permission from the Russians.

    That seems to me to be implying the Russians ordering this. I can imagine a bunch of poorly trained rebels shooting this plane down by mistake (thinking it was a miltiary target) or just going off half cocked. I’m having more trouble imagining Putin wanting them to.

  30. That seems to me to be implying the Russians ordering this. I can imagine a bunch of poorly trained rebels shooting this plane down by mistake (thinking it was a miltiary target) or just going off half cocked. I’m having more trouble imagining Putin wanting them to.

    There is no way the control freak Russians would allow a rebel force to operate such weaponry on their borders without coordination with the Russian military in the area. This coordination might even extend to a “permission to fire” request. The rebels had already shot down two Ukrainian military aircraft, almost certainly with the knowledge and blessing of the Russians. They thought they were shooting down a third, and fucked up. The intercepted radio transcripts, if genuine, would appear to support this.

  31. Yes, those Strangelove nuclear bombers. It is always amusing to see the Russians flying one of their cold war-era sitting ducks to12.1 nautical miles of the Scottish coastline. And I can see now why it’s cleaner to take out 15 of them with one girt big bang than (a) run out of missiles, or (b) miss one or more.

    I wonder how the post-independence SSAF(Scottish Salmond Air Force) will do on air defence.

    Incidentally, do the conventional missiles use shrapnel-type stuff to put holes in the target, or do they rely on getting the explosion close enough to the target to break bits off the target directly and render it uncontrollable? Either way, I guess the wreckage will have several tell-tale signs of an external explosion, as opposed to a bomb on board or mechanical failure. That, presumably, is why the rebels want to do a thorough clean-up and delay the Ukrainian authorities/international investigators access for as long as possible.

  32. So it would be a mistake then, like the US shooting down Iran Air 655?

    “The Americans need to pay heavily for that. What a bunch of cunts”. Etc.

  33. Plane shot down by missile, 290 people on board including children die. The country that did it faced criticism but never apologised. Iran flight 655 July 1988, shot down by a US ship.
    Now that same country is having a go at another country for another flight being shot down and saying they should apologise, accept responsibility etc… pot kettle black comes to mind.

  34. This murderous bastard is probably familiar with blast injuries: These can vary from bodies in bits, bodies looking like one vast bruise, to bodies seemingly untouched, but equally dead.

    However, explosive decompression follows standard physical PVT laws.

    I doubt that the gradient is sufficiently high to have flash freezed the victims. So air in saturation in the cells would have turned into gas, rupturing the cell walls. All organs with an orifice (lungs, gut, ear, eye) will have partially or wholely inverted.

    Death would be instantaneous and soft tissue more damaged than, for example, skin (which does blood sharing so may be less saturated).

    You then have a dead body at 30,000 feet where the temperature is minus 30C at least. Frostbite breaks down exposed body tissue.

    As the body falls to earth you have the reverse PVT effect and it warms due to increasing pressure. This is comparatively slow, taking several minutes. Some body parts may be covered with burning kerosene.

    So advanced decomposition from an event like this is to be expected, due to the physical and physiological laws involved. It’s not remotely mysterious.

  35. Incidentally, do the conventional missiles use shrapnel-type stuff to put holes in the target, or do they rely on getting the explosion close enough to the target to break bits off the target directly and render it uncontrollable?

    Older (non-nuke) missiles tend to use expanding rod warheads – designed to cut the wings off large bombers on a head-to-head or head-to-stern attack pattern. This was part of the problem with Sea Dart in the Falklands War – it accurately targeted the Exocet missiles which then flew, usually undamaged, through the detonation (being much smaller than a Bear, Badger or Backfire, or even the Kelt, Kingfisher and similar large Soviet anti-ship missiles.)

    More modern missiles use ball bearings (or similar) embedded in the explosive to ensure some form of damage.

    Sea Wolf, of course, actually tries to (and often does) hit the target if the system works (hence it, and the land version, Rapier, being described by BAe as ‘hittiles’). The important question there is “how regularly does the system work?”

  36. Anybody who has ever had dealings with Russians will know that their capacity for stupid reckless behaviour after a couple of bottles of vodka is practically unlimited. Even in a serious business meeting I have experienced a 500ml ring-pull can of vodka being cracked open as early as 0830 for ‘hospitality’ purposes. Every single Ivan present was singing their equivalent of “I belong to Glasgow” by 0900.

    The moral of my story being, never attribute to conspiracy what is easily achieved by stupidity. Drunks with advanced weaponry are a potent combination.

  37. So it would be a mistake then, like the US shooting down Iran Air 655?

    “The Americans need to pay heavily for that. What a bunch of cunts”. Etc.

    Pretty much, yes. Although there is one crucial difference, and that is one of the US military *itself* making a fuckup and the Russians arming and supporting a group which, sooner or later, is far more likely to make a fuckup.

    I would have been very surprised if the Russian military itself shot the plane down, as the Russians are generally more competent than that. But the Russians have allowed their mates in Ukraine to play with advanced weaponry beyond their competence levels. The equivalent would be if a proxy of the Americans (the Northern Alliance, say) were permitted to obtain and use high-tech weaponry and they brought down a plane. A subtle but important difference from a standard military fucking up.

  38. Plane shot down by missile, 290 people on board including children die. The country that did it faced criticism but never apologised. Iran flight 655 July 1988, shot down by a US ship.

    Now wouldn’t you just love that to be true, eh? But here’s what Reagan said at the time:

    “I am saddened to report that it appears that in a proper defensive action by the U.S.S. Vincennes this morning in the Persian Gulf an Iranian airliner was shot down over the Strait of Hormuz. This is a terrible human tragedy. Our sympathy and condolences go out to the passengers, crew, and their families. The Defense Department will conduct a full investigation.

    We deeply regret any loss of life. The course of the Iranian civilian airliner was such that it was headed directly for the U.S.S. Vincennes, which was at the time engaged with five Iranian Boghammar boats that had attacked our forces. When the aircraft failed to heed repeated warnings, the Vincennes followed standing orders and widely publicized procedures, firing to protect itself against possible attack.

    The only U.S. interest in the Persian Gulf is peace, and this tragedy reinforces the need to achieve that goal with all possible speed.”

    Not the best apology, and too much making excuses, but an apology nonetheless.

  39. And yes, it is instructive to witness the people on here who firstly start questioning whether the plane was brought down by a missiles, then whether there was Russian involvement, and then whether the Russians are actually any worse than the Americans. John Pilger would be proud.

  40. Sadly there will be those who will believe this nonsense.

    And sadly, a not insignificant chunk will come from those who are perceived as our fellow travellers.

  41. Tim N-

    I questioned the issue of certainty because, as I’ve said in other threads, I’m an evidence kinda guy.

    I brought up the American shooting down of Iran Air 655 because I am, as also revealed in other threads, deeply suspicious of moralists and moral arguments. They are generally deployed to stir emotion, not reason, and are generally deployed asymmetrically, such that when “we” do something, that’s minimised whereas when “they” do something, it is maximised. Because they are beasts and we are the good guys, you know.

    If you want to be a stern moralist, at least be consistent about it. If shooting down civilian airliners is an outrage, it is whoever does it. If arming undisciplined rebel forces is a moral responsibility because they’re bound to do bad things, that’s true of anyone who does it. The “West” has done its fair share of that.

    Of course, to the partisan, any suggestion of applying equal standards to all is denounced as moral relativism or even disloyalty. Well, whatever.

  42. I brought up the American shooting down of Iran Air 655 because I am, as also revealed in other threads, deeply suspicious of moralists and moral arguments. They are generally deployed to stir emotion, not reason, and are generally deployed asymmetrically, such that when “we” do something, that’s minimised whereas when “they” do something, it is maximised. Because they are beasts and we are the good guys, you know.

    So in order to avoid a moral argument over the shooting down of the Malaysian jet you brought up a totally unrelated albeit similar event? Why the hell would you mention it if not to stir emotions? You’ve engaged in moral equivalence in the process of supposedly trying not to. That takes some effort.

  43. No, I’m just pointing out that it doesn’t mean the government (possibly) responsible for what is probably a fuck up are “a bunch of cunts who must pay” i.e. that this is proof of some special evilishness. When there are weapons about, invariably bad things happen. Plane gets shot down, bomb hits hospital, etc etc.

    a totally unrelated albeit similar event?

    What relates them is that they are similar.

  44. Countries (not including rebel armies) which have shot down civilian passenger aircraft include (Communist) Bulgaria, (Communist) China, (Nazi) Germany, Israel, Ukraine, USA, and USSR. Only Bulgaria and China managed to make anything recognizable as an apology.

  45. No, I’m just pointing out that it doesn’t mean the government (possibly) responsible for what is probably a fuck up are “a bunch of cunts who must pay” i.e. that this is proof of some special evilishness.

    Yes, we’ve established that you don’t think the Russians have done much wrong. Me, I think if you hand a set of car keys to a teenaged retard and allow him to go and have some fun on the motorway and he ends up killing somebody then it is a big fucking deal, and more of a big fucking deal than if an adult fucks up and kills somebody while driving down the motorway. But feel free to defend the Russians here, you can enjoy the company of the bloke in the original post.

  46. The Krauts bombed our cities and civilians, then we bombed theirs. More. But weren’t we the goodies?

    As it happens, i think our declaration of war in 1939 was folly at best. But i don’t have a problem with the proposition that we were the goodies. No skulls on our forage caps, for one.

  47. Hmm… I can’t think of a good argument… this gives me a bad feeling inside and… hmmm… I know, I’ll denounce the other guy! That’ll work!

    *punches air triumphantly*

  48. IanB
    You started off on the usual denialist / conspiracist trope. (Do we know it was a missile? Do we know who fired it?)

    And you end up on the usual tu quoque.

    Make your mushy mind up before beginning to post. Changing horses midstream doesn’t look good to the readers.

  49. Wouldn’t it be quite a coincidence that the chief nutcase on the ‘separatist’ side tweeted triumphantly that they had shot down a plane at exactly the same time as an airliner breaks up at 33,000ft?

    It isn’t clear whether the nut jobs were given this gear by Moscow or they captured it from the Ukrainians, but suddenly Putin doesn’t look like a geo-political genius anymore. In fact he looks like a cunt.

    Was it too short notice for the “Stop the West Coalition” to march in protest this weekend? Perhaps next Saturday instead. I’m sure they will be outraged as anyone by this massacre.

  50. I have some knowledge. The SA-11 has a big 150 lb warhead. Its proximity fuse detonates at close range to fire a mix of shrapnel along carefully designed airframe-killing trajectories. (SE’s ‘hittiles’ are used in air-to-air missiles with much smaller warheads & aim for the cockpit area to kill the pilot).
    The massive fragmentation makes this almost certainly an SA-11 kill.
    The US will know this for sure since it has satellite assets that will have tracked the launch and kill in real time. It should also have imaged the deployment of the launchers, in particular if they came from Russia; or were deployed by the Ukrainian air defence force (for which the SA-11 is standard equipment); or were captured from the Ukrainian ADF by separatist militia.
    The SA-11, like all weaponry, is designed to be operated by competent conscripts & the separatists will likely have ex-Ukrainian army people with the necessary training.
    The SA-11 system has a battle management radar that’s used to track & prioritize multiple targets. This hands targets to individual launchers, which have their own engagement radar. A single launcher could have taken down this plane without guidance from the BM unit. In fact the BM unit would normally have IDd this airliner as not a threat given its flight path & so not directed a shoot down. A single launcher would not have threat assessment and so would have just fired (usually 2 missiles).
    Probably the separatists did this in the fog of war (they’ve been under sustained air attack for weeks). But that would have required a huge cock-up by the US, since as soon as it saw the separatists had the weapon it would have told the Ukrainian government to close its air space to civilian traffic & start using jammers in its air attacks.
    So probably two huge cock-ups.

  51. BiF

    I’m not a “denialist” of anything. I was just asking what we actually know. I then simply pointed out that people shooting down airliners by accident in a war zone is not unknown, and in a more general sense I’m heartily sick of people leaping on bandwagons of moral indignation in an inconsistent manner.

    Here’s what Cameron said-

    “We must establish the full facts of what happened. But the growing weight of evidence points to a clear conclusion: that MH17 was blown out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile fired from a rebel-held area.”

    So, we don’t know for sure then yet.

    Here’s what the Defence Secretary said-

    ‘We have to make it very clear if there is any more interference like this – and it turns out he was behind it – there will be repercussions. It is sponsored terrorism as far as people of east Ukraine are concerned. We don’t know if somebody said, ‘let’s bring down a civil airliner, wherever it’s from’, – but we need to find out.”

    So, we don’t really know why it happened either, assuming it was shot down.

  52. Was it too short notice for the “Stop the West Coalition” to march in protest this weekend?

    No, it’s just that they were wearing their “SAVE GAZAN BABIES FROM ISRAELI NAZIS” hats today.

    Maybe next week, though?

    Saying that, I’m still waiting for them to schedule a decent march in protest of Sudan and Yemen. Or does someone else march for them?

  53. I’m also still chuckling at the topsy turvy world where suggesting a plane crash might be an accident is “conspiracist”.

  54. No skulls on our forage caps, for one.

    Don’t let the Queen’s Royal Lancers know!

  55. IanB: “I’m also still chuckling at the topsy turvy world where suggesting a plane crash might be an accident is “conspiracist”.”

    Not even suggesting, but merely remarking on the amazing haste with which the media have decided cause & removed their usual Cautious Hats..!

  56. At least the BBC Radio Two news this morning is using the term ‘the apparent shooting down of..’ So that’s something.

  57. Anybody who knows the slightest think about plane accident statistics would be able to very quickly dismiss the likelihood of a plane crashing of it’s own accord in a tiny conflict area where two planes have been shot down in the preceding weeks. For the plane to have disintegrated mid-air in this same region would be reducing the likelihood – already negligible – by another one or two orders of magnitude. The plane was shot down, we simply don’t need to be playing right into the hands of the cunts that did it by engaging in stupid sophistry along the lines of “Oh, but we can’t be absolutely sure…”, sophistry which would likely continue even if the missile was shown on a live fucking feed with Putin giving background commentary.

  58. Ian, its not a non-argument. Take another example. Two defendants, both convicted of identical offences of violence. One has lived a blameless life before committing his folly, the other is a career criminal who does this sort of thing all the time. Which of them should get the stiffer sentence?

  59. The QRL are an amalgamation of the 16th/5th Lancers (The Vulgar Fractions) and the 17th/21st Lancers. They inherit the 17th Lancers skull and crossbones cap badge (although they’ve stuck a couple of lances behind it to soften the “oh, didn’t know the SS had a British cavalry regiment” impact) and motto “Death or Glory”.

    Cap badge image as Timmy doesn’t allow embedded images in comments.

  60. How come everyone on here, with the honourable exception of Ian B, knows exactly what happened when all the Heads of State say the facts aren’t in ?

  61. TimN, so because Regan apologised and said that Iran Air 655 was hit during a conflict it was just an accident and therefore OK? What’s the difference with MH17? It was hit by accident during a conflict too. Because one was shot down by a soldiers following orders in the fog of war and the other was shot down down by soldiers in the fog of war makes a difference?

    For the avoidance of doubt, I believe that MH17 was shot down by a missile and the Russians are at fault.

  62. @DBC
    Because Heads of State are playing a game called ” Don’t put your self in a position you’re obliged to start WW3″

  63. All right, IanB. Innocent until proven guilty and all that.
    TimN and I have no doubt disqualified ourselves from jury duty at the Hague. But your stance, as the evidence piles up, looks like pendantry.

  64. @DBC
    Because Heads of State are playing a game called ” Don’t put your self in a position you’re obliged to start WW3″

    Exactly. We’re commentators on the internet, not heads of state. As such, we can draw conclusions and speak our opinions more freely. But I doubt there is a single head of state who is still considering the plane crashed of its own accord.

  65. TimN, so because Regan apologised and said that Iran Air 655 was hit during a conflict it was just an accident and therefore OK?

    No.

    What’s the difference with MH17?

    I answered that already:

    “Me, I think if you hand a set of car keys to a teenaged retard and allow him to go and have some fun on the motorway and he ends up killing somebody then it is a big fucking deal, and more of a big fucking deal than if an adult fucks up and kills somebody while driving down the motorway.”

    A military fucking up is one thing. A government arming and supporting a bunch of undertrained, incompetent thugs with no clear legitimacy or command structure and allowing them to play with high tech weaponry with gay abandon is quite another.

  66. Also, a crucial difference between MH17 and the Iranian airliner is that the US never denied shooting it down. They might not have apologized properly, but they did not deny they made a mistake. Thus far, the Russian state media is peddling a story that the Ukrainian government shot it down while targeting Putin’s plane. How anyone can equate the behaviour of the US with the Russians is anyone’s guess, but as I said, Pilger would be proud.

  67. You can draw analogies with the Iran Air 655 shoot-down if you like, but you need to be careful where that leads.
    The Ukrainian separatists are not in a position to administer civilian airspace over their territory, so one can make a case, the onus of responsibility for the MH17 incident rests, to some extent, with the Ukrainian authorities for permitting it into an area where they were engaged in hostilities. For that matter, as the flight routing would seem to have been intended to take it into Russian airspace, some blame would lie there. as well.
    But the same logic applied to the Flight 655 incident, the civilian airspace in question was controlled by the Iranians. Not the US Navy. The Iranians were conducting hostilities in the area. So sending their own flight into the area puts the onus of responsibility for the shoot-down at least partially if not largely on the Iranians.
    Not a conclusion, maybe, you’d wish to draw.

  68. @PaulB no, Reagan’s was an apology – it was just mixed in with an explanation.

    Truth is, if the captain of the Vincennes truly believed the Iranian Airbus was actually an Iranian F14 then he was right to shoot.

    In the same way, if whoever shot down this Malay Boeing thought it was a threat to them or others, it was a fair shot.

    The key questions in both cases are as to the reasonableness of those beliefs.

    In both cases, it seems to me that the shooters made serious errors of judgment and that their decisions to shoot were unreasonable, but more so in the latter case than the former.

  69. In both cases, it seems to me that the shooters made serious errors of judgment and that their decisions to shoot were unreasonable, but more so in the latter case than the former.

    Yes, but the crucial difference is that the Americans put their weapons system in the hands of those who they had trained to the best of their knowledge, sufficiently in it’s operation to minimize the chances of such errors. Obviously the incident showed the training and procedures were woefully inadequate, but it was not negligent to allow the US Navy to operate the system.

    What the Russians have done is the equivalent of the US handing the Vicennes over to a rag-tag local militia and coordinating and supporting them in their use of it. The closest the US has come to this level of negligent stupidity is dishing out Stingers to the Mujahadeen, but all least they had the effect of turning the war and to date none has shot down anything other than a Soviet helicopters.

  70. TimN, if a kid or an adult kills someone whilst driving on the motorway there is no difference in the fucking deal. Both are bad. The adult giving the key must take some responsibility but the kid should take a lot too. Just as much as the adult killer. There is no difference.

    The US couldn’t deny shooting down 655. The problem with 17 is that the situation is not as organised and is just about pure chaos. The US did try and deny responsibility for shooting down 655 by claiming ‘scenario fulfillment’. That’s probably the same excuse for the pro-russian seperatists. In both cases those who pressed the button believed in something which the facts prove otherwise.

  71. TimN, if a kid or an adult kills someone whilst driving on the motorway there is no difference in the fucking deal. Both are bad. The adult giving the key must take some responsibility but the kid should take a lot too. Just as much as the adult killer. There is no difference.

    Yes, the kid should take a lot of responsibility too. But in this instance some are busy pretending the adult who gave the keys to the kid are no worse than an adult who fucks up on his own. One fucks up, the other is criminally negligent.

  72. Anyway. I’m sure Putin and his supporters are delighted to see sections of British society have shrugged their shoulders and immediately said “it’s a tragic accident, but no worse than what the Americans have done”. If this keeps up, they’ll not need to keep funding useful idiots on the left.

  73. I’m no supporter of Putin, nor of his useful idiots in Greenpeace and FoE and those who appear on RT. But I would like to see some balance. The US in fact awarded the commander of the Vincennes medals for his performance even though his team fucked up.

  74. I’m no supporter of Putin, nor of his useful idiots in Greenpeace and FoE and those who appear on RT. But I would like to see some balance.

    Actually, you are a supporter of Putin, you just don’t realise it. People calling for “balance” in the aftermath of a Russian-backed militia downing a commercial airliner – with both the militia and Russia denying any involvement – is precisely what Putin and co. are hoping for. Coupled with ready comparisons with the Vicennes to imply the Americans do pretty much the same is music to the ears of most Russians.

  75. Tim N-

    Anybody who knows the slightest think about plane accident statistics would be able to very quickly dismiss the likelihood of a plane crashing of it’s own accord in a tiny conflict area where two planes have been shot down in the preceding weeks.

    Anybody who understands probability will very quickly dismiss this argument.

    Anyway. I’m sure Putin and his supporters are delighted to see sections of British society have shrugged their shoulders and…

    “You are with us or you are with the terrorists…”.

    Sigh. For the record, I would be saying precisely the same things if it were, say, British troops in the frame. Let’s get the facts in. Let’s be calm about it. And let’s start from the reasonable assumption that nobody wanted to deliberately shoot down a civilian airliner.

  76. Anybody who understands probability will very quickly dismiss this argument.

    I calculate industrial risks for a living, fella. So that statement is bollocks right off the bat. No doubt if there is an explosion in a refinery you’d insist on meteor impact not being ruled out.

    And nobody – nobody – is saying anyone wanted to shoot down a civilian airliner. If somebody has, please quote them.

  77. And nobody – nobody – is saying anyone wanted to shoot down a civilian airliner. If somebody has, please quote them.

    I didn’t say you have. I was simply applying the same judgement to the American situation, which would be that nobody sane would think the Americans wanted to shoot down a civilian airliner. So it’s fuck up rather than deliberate evil territory.

    I calculate industrial risks for a living, fella. So that statement is bollocks right off the bat. No doubt if there is an explosion in a refinery you’d insist on meteor impact not being ruled out.

    You really don’t understand probability. That’s quite frightening.

  78. You really don’t understand probability. That’s quite frightening.

    No, I do. Really I do. And although an investigator needs to assemble facts, for a layman commentating on the internet the likelihood of a mid-air disintegration of a major airline over a tiny, volatile region where 2 planes have been shot down in previous weeks can be instantly dismissed on the grounds of probability alone. The scenario you describe is statistically negligible, in monkeys with typewriters producing Shakespeare territory.

    But I suppose a porn cartoonist is better placed to judge my understanding of probabilities in the context of accidents than my employer who bizarrely pays me a lot of money and houses me in Paris to, amongst other things, calculate risks.

  79. When the US Navy shot down the Iranian jet yes it was an almighty fuck up but… the ship had one of its helicopters attacked and was chasing the Iranian ship into Iranian waters. Expecting to be attacked was quite reasonable. These Russian/Ukranian thugs it appears thought they were shooting at a cargo plane which is obviously no immediate threat. Plenty of time to hold fire and check it out. It’s not remotely the same as thinking a Tomcat is on an attack run.

  80. I’m still coming to terms with the skulls on our forage caps thing. The seat of my reason is shaking on its foundations. I mean, were we the baddies, after all?

  81. But I suppose a porn cartoonist is better placed to judge my understanding of probabilities in the context of accidents than my employer who bizarrely pays me a lot of money and houses me in Paris to, amongst other things, calculate risks.

    Who is your employer? They need warning that their “probability expert” doesn’t understand probability before somebody gets hurt.

  82. For the sake of anyone who is still interested, the probability of dying in a plane crash with a major airline is about 1 in 5 million. I don’t know how they’ve calculated this from the probability of a major airline crashing (not quite the same thing) but that’s the order or magnitude we’re in.

    Mechanical failure accounts for about 20% of plane crashe, but the occurrence of mid-air disintegration (which IanB wants us to consider) is so rare that we’re probably talking less than 0.1% of plane crashes. So let’s be generous and assume this figure, which is 1 in 1000 crashes occur in this manner.

    You then have a 1 in 50m chance of dying in this manner with a major airline. But if we consider how many major airlines fly over this tiny area of Ukraine in terms of flying hours, it’s probably in the order of 1/1,000th of all flying hours globally (and that’s probably generous). So our incident of a major airline crashing due to mid-air disintegration over east a Ukraine has a probability is in the order of 1 in 50 billion. Very rough, but that’s the order of magnitude we’re looking at.

    (By comparison, the chances of being struck by lightning are but 1 in 300,000.)

    Now if we assume 1,000 planes flew over this region in the last few weeks (don’t like that? Okay, 10,000) and 2 got shot down, the rate of shot down planes is 1 in 5,000.

    So when a plane goes down in East Ukraine, and we know it has come apart in the air, we can reasonably conclude using probability alone that it was shot down. This saves us having to wait a year for the official report.

  83. No, IanB, it’s you that doesn’t understand statisitcs.
    You imagine that if you stir some alternative scenarios into the mix you get the idiot gunmen off the hook.
    In fact, the sum of false flag provocateurs, Catherine Ashton’s shock troops, a dodgy maintainance man at Schipol, disgruntled interns in the German chancellery etc add up to the sum total of fuck all.
    So it is a fuck up by the separatists, and it is a war crime.
    Bring them to court and let’s hear the evidence.

  84. Just to be specific rather than snarky, you’re deploying the Prosecutor’s Fallacy, Tim.

  85. Who is your employer? They need warning that their “probability expert” doesn’t understand probability before somebody gets hurt.

    I’d tell you so you could warn them in person. Only I’m not sure they’d take the opinions of a porn cartoonist speaking in matters related to probability very seriously.

  86. BiF-

    None of what you said applies to any of what I said.

    As to whether an accident is a war crime, that’s debatable. Would it apply to us if, in good faith or the fog of war, our troops targetted a childrens’ hospital in the mistaken belief it was a military installation? I don’t think that is actually in war crime territory. I think you have to be deliberately targetting non-combatants for that. But then IANAL and all that.

  87. Just to be specific rather than snarky, you’re deploying the Prosecutor’s Fallacy, Tim.

    We’ll chalk that up as something else you don’t understand, shall we?

  88. Tim Newman, you do know what an ad hominem is? Currently you seem to know as little about that as about the difference between calculating risk and judging a single event by probabalistic methods.

    If the chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, that doesn’t actually tell you whether the creatures on Horsell Common are Martians or not.

  89. If the chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, that doesn’t actually tell you whether the creatures on Horsell Common are Martians or not.

    Right, but it is *you* who is claiming they might be Martians, as opposed to rabbits. And if we have a credible scenario whereby they are rabbits (I.e other rabbits have been observed there), but you are relying on a 1 in 50 billion theoretical event to conclude they are Martians, you are going to get laughed at.

    And yes, I do know what ad hominem is. If you want to avoid them, don’t mount such stupid arguments.

  90. Ian why don’t you explain why you think Tim is wrong. Simply saying “you’re wrong’ etc makes you sound like Richie. As far as I understand the chances of a modern aircraft owned by a major airline just disintergrating mid air are fucking remote. The fact it happened over an area where several planes had been shot down in the last few days makes it practically certain it was shot down.

  91. Your calculation is also total bunk, by the way. You’ve multiplied several an apple, an orange and an orangutan and got a number, whoop do doo.

    The actual calculation you might want to do would be the probability of any aircrash occurring in a particular location, which crudely would mean taking the total area of the Earth overflown by airliners, adjusted for the number which fly over each area, then dividing it by the area of this region.

  92. Dogguan John-

    Think of it as the old “if the Tunguska meteorite had struck during the height of the Cold War, it probably would have triggered World War III” problem.

    Tim Newman would have been leaping up and down all red faced and screaming that the chances of a big explosion in that particular region of Siberia at random are so remote that it must be a nuclear attack.

  93. Your calculation is also total bunk, by the way. You’ve multiplied several an apple, an orange and an orangutan and got a number, whoop do doo.

    I’ve multiplied very rough probabilities. If you want to arrive at the probability of a combination of events occurring, you multiply them. This is how it works.

    The actual calculation you might want to do would be the probability of any aircrash occurring in a particular location, which crudely would mean taking the total area of the Earth overflown by airliners, adjusted for the number which fly over each area, then dividing it by the area of this region.

    I took this into account by assuming that 1/1,000th of the flying hours on which the overall crash statistics were based took place over the area in question. It’s imperfect, but if you knew what you were talking about you’d see that I had factored in the very thing you are saying I left out. But I’m guessing quips about apples and orangutans distracted you.

  94. Tim Newman would have been leaping up and down all red faced and screaming that the chances of a big explosion in that particular region of Siberia at random are so remote that it must be a nuclear attack.

    No, I wouldn’t. But if there had been two nuclear strikes on that region in the preceding weeks, I’d not have leapt to the conclusion it was a meteorite.

  95. I’m sorry Tim, I was distracted by how badly you’d gone wrong in the rest of the calculation. When 90% of an argument is wrong, that’s proof that the other 10% is. I learned this from a probability expert called Tim Newman.

  96. No, I wouldn’t. But if there had been two nuclear strikes on that region in the preceding weeks, I’d not have leapt to the conclusion it was a meteorite.

    Neither would I, but I would know enough to know that the two previous nuclear strikes do not affect the probability of a meteorite strike.

  97. And I will also remind you that I am not claiming an accident. I am saying that it might be, so let’s just make sure.

  98. I’m sorry Tim, I was distracted by how badly you’d gone wrong in the rest of the calculation.

    Care to elaborate? Or are you doing a Ritchie?

    When 90% of an argument is wrong, that’s proof that the other 10% is. I learned this from a probability expert called Tim Newman.

    The fact you think anyone who can handle this level of probability calculation is an expert speaks for itself. This is about as basic as it gets, and whilst you can argue with the numbers I’ve used the methodology is sound and is learned in week 1. But you appear not to even know that probabilities are multiplied in chain events such as “plane crash + mid air disintegration + over east Ukraine”. Little wonder you’re a bit awestruck.

  99. Neither would I, but I would know enough to know that the two previous nuclear strikes do not affect the probability of a meteorite strike.

    No, but they do increase the likelihood of the next loud bang over Siberia being a nuclear explosion and not a meteorite. Hence when the bang occurs, people assume a nuclear blast a the most likely explanation, and weigh the probabilities against competing explanations. All standard stuff, really.

  100. No, but they do increase the likelihood of the next loud bang over Siberia being a nuclear explosion and not a meteorite.

    They really don’t Tim. This is basic probability 101 here. Heads last time does not affect whether I get heads or tails this time.

  101. Ian, if the Tungusta meteorite had hit during the cold war the first thing I would think is why the hell did the yanks pointlessly nuke a remote region of siberia! But, had the meterorite hit Moscow during the Cuban missile crisis then it would be perfectly reasonable to think it was a nuclear strike.

    The chances of a plane just breaking up midair at this particular time in that particular region are just so remote compared with the chance that it was shot down.

  102. The fact you think anyone who can handle this level of probability calculation is an expert speaks for itself.

    You know what sarcasm is, Tim?

  103. And I will also remind you that I am not claiming an accident. I am saying that it might be, so let’s just make sure.

    We will make sure. That you can count on. But I see no reason to sit on our hands keeping all discussion to neutral “wait and sees” whilst the “shot down” explanation is a few million times more likely than your accident hypothesis.

  104. Ian, if the Tungusta meteorite had hit during the cold war the first thing I would think is why the hell did the yanks pointlessly nuke a remote region of siberia!

    Some argued that the first nuke on Japan should be exploded somewhere it wouldn’t hurt anyone much, as a final threat, for humanitarian reasons. Or, it could be a missile that went off course. Etc.

  105. They really don’t Tim. This is basic probability 101 here. Heads last time does not affect whether I get heads or tails this time.

    Jesus wept! You’re seriously saying that multiple nuclear strikes in the same region have a random occurrence like heads or tails in a coin toss?!

  106. Ian… you’re missunderstanding probability. Yes, heads last time makes no difference to the probability of the next coin toss.

    The fact that two planes were shot down this week in east Ukraine makes no difference to the probability of another planebreaking up midair in that area.

    However, when a plane does break up midair over east ukraine the probability of it just happening remains at 50 million to 1 or whatever. But the probability of it being shot down is about 0.9999999 in 1 . So it’s safe to assume it was shot down.

  107. But I see no reason to sit on our hands keeping all discussion to neutral “wait and sees” whilst the “shot down” explanation is a few million times more likely than your accident hypothesis.

    Here’s a reason-

    “Mr Hammond said that Britain should be prepared to go ahead with financial sanctions even if they have a damaging effect on the City of London.

    He said: “Of course we should be prepared to accept as part of comprehensive sanctions measures that will impact on London.”

    Jesus wept! You’re seriously saying that multiple nuclear strikes in the same region have a random occurrence like heads or tails in a coin toss?!

    Jesus wept. I’m saying that in a situation where the question is whether an explosion is a nuclear strike or a meteorite, the fact that a previous explosion was a nuke does not affect the probability of another explosion being a meteorite.

    Addtitionaly, my original point was that a single meteorite without prior nuclear explosions at a time of heightened miltiary tensions would have been likely to trigger an assumption that it was a nuke, using the flawed reasoning you have deployed in this thread.

  108. TimN “No, it’s not a fuck up. It’s unforgivable negligence.”

    The balance I’m looking for is that I want Putin to apologise and I want the pro-Russian separatists to apologise and I want the Ukrainians to apologise. Just as much as I want the Americans to apologise for IranAir655. Though I don’t expect my voice to carry any weight at all.

    I’m not equating MH17 with IA655 to try and benefit Putin but I do want the western nations to acknowledge that IA655 is just as bad a case as MH17. Both were due to negligence. And yes, both due to fucks up too because of the negligence. So if we all call MH17 a total disaster and a crime against humanity then IA655 is just the same.

    Dongguan John @1:12 pm – The pro-Russian separatists had recently come under attack by Ukrainian fighter jets so they could have been under the mistake impression that MH17 was one of those.

  109. SBML, evidence (the radio recording) suggests they believed they had shot down a cargo plane. I’ve heard nothing to suggest they thought it was a fighter.

  110. Jesus wept. I’m saying that in a situation where the question is whether an explosion is a nuclear strike or a meteorite, the fact that a previous explosion was a nuke does not affect the probability of another explosion being a meteorite.

    Huh? Seriously fella, give up now, please. Nuclear explosions are *not* random events like coins coming down heads or tails. Therefore their previous occurrence and frequency are of *crucial* importance.

    Addtitionaly, my original point was that a single meteorite without prior nuclear explosions at a time of heightened miltiary tensions would have been likely to trigger an assumption that it was a nuke, using the flawed reasoning you have deployed in this thread.

    No, because without prior nuclear explosions such a defining probability would not arise. But two planes *have* been shot down in the last couple of weeks – and these are *not* random events – hence the most statistically likely explanation is MH17 got shot down. Obviously if it came down over Hyde Park nobody would be suggesting it got shot down by a missile, but – and I cannot stress this enough – two fucking planes have already been shot down! That has a *huge* effect on the probability of *another* being shot down, and is independent of other, unrelated scenarios.

    Again, basic stuff.

  111. I’m not equating MH17 with IA655 to try and benefit Putin but I do want the western nations to acknowledge that IA655 is just as bad a case as MH17. Both were due to negligence.

    No, they’re not “just as bad”. It’s the difference between the British Army shooting down a plane and the Chelsea Headhunters shooting down a plane having been allowed to play with high-tech weaponry with the blessing of the British Army.

    As I said, this will be music to the ears of Putin’s supporters. Within a week the Kremlin position will be “yes we did it, but so did the Americans” now let’s move on.

  112. I’m still coming to terms with the skulls on our forage caps thing. The seat of my reason is shaking on its foundations. I mean, were we the baddies, after all?

    “Death or Glory”. It’s a cavalry thing. It’s not just posh teenage girls whose brains dribble out of their fundaments as soon as the aforesaid fundament is sat on a horse. This lot still laud their part in the Charge of the Light Brigade which, amongst the less easily excitable, is pretty much symbolic of the endemic incompetence of British military middle-high command.

    Germanic use of the Tottenkopf started in the early to mid C18 with the Prussian Hussars. Swedish, Portuguese and Polish cavalry types also used it – like I said, it’s a horsey person bit of WTF?

    Like the swastika, it is another symbol (admittedly, a somewhat less morally undeserving one) tainted by its adoption by bits of the NDSAP.

  113. Nuclear explosions are *not* random events like coins coming down heads or tails.

    And yet you insist on using a probabilistic analysis. lol. That’s you, not me, remember.

    Anyway. A meteorite strike is a probabilistic event. So is an air crash. So what we’re trying to judge is whether a probabilistic event has occurred. In which case, the previous non-probabilistic events simply don’t apply.

    Either way, you’re wrong. There are all sorts of scenarios in which a coincidence can appear to be part of a pattern. Crime fiction loves them. That’s why we ought to be cautious.

  114. I think Ian is struggling with human behaviour being an element in probability.

    Take a game of poker for example. A hand is dealt. Your opponent has an equal probability of any two particular cards. He limps in pre flop. Then three hearts come up, suddenly he bets big. Remove his bet from your calculation he still has an equal probability of any two card (except the 5 of which you know) but you calculate a high probability of him having two hearts.

    Similar here… the probability of the plane just breaking up remains the same but given the history of recent human behavour in east Ukraine at this particular time makes the probability of the plane having been shot down almost certain.

  115. Anyway. A meteorite strike is a probabilistic event. So is an air crash. So what we’re trying to judge is whether a probabilistic event has occurred. In which case, the previous non-probabilistic events simply don’t apply.

    All events are probabilistic. Only you seem to be conflating random events, such as coin tossing, with non-random events like repeated nuclear strikes on the same target. This is because, as has been clear from the beginning, you don’t understand how statistical analysis works. So no wonder you reject it in favour of neutral uncertainty.

    Either way, you’re wrong.

    Hi Ritchie!

  116. A meteorite strike is a probabilistic event. So is an air crash. So what we’re trying to judge is whether a probabilistic event has occurred. In which case, the previous non-probabilistic events simply don’t apply.

    Yes, they do. The presence of undisputed non-probabilistic potentially related events, compared to a rare probabilistic event skews the likelihood away from the probabilistic event.

    That’s, of course, without the Ukrainian separatists publicly crowing about having caused the event before they realised what a colossal fuck-up it was. (And, yes, I know. Just because they claimed to have caused it doesn’t mean that they did actually cause it. However, it is another finger of the green-eyed Lady on the scales of being effed-around by reality.)

  117. Meteorite strikes are a “coin toss”, Tim. One hit a Russian town recently. If that happened at a time of heightened tensions, those heightened tensions would not affect whether or not it was a meteorite or nuclear strike.

    You’re confusing risk analysis with singular events. If a disease is extraordinarily rare (e.g. 1 in a billion), you cannot say that somebody with the symptoms “cannot have that disease because it is so rare”. If we calculate that the probability of a plane crashing over Ukraine at this time is, say, 1 in 1000, you can apply that if there are very many plane crashes. You can say that 999 out of 1000 of them are going to have been shot down. But it tells you nothing about a single event. It could be the 1 in 1000. You just don’t know.

    This really is basic stuff, Tim.

    Look, humans are over-enthusiastic pattern spotters. Our brains developed to jump to conclusions because, overall, it’s a good strategy. It enables action on insufficient evidence because most of the time there isn’t a chance to do a proper sampling with a control group. If you just saw Uggo eaten by that big saber-toothed animal, jumping to the conclusion that that is what saber-tooths do is a good survival trait.

    But this lets us down badly in partiuclar instances, particularly if the stakes are high. That’s why science and the law (at its best) both use systems that prevent jumping to conclusions.

    I myself think it very unlikely that the plane just crashed. But I do not know. And no diddling with probability calculations is going to tell me. Or you, either.

  118. I myself think it very unlikely that the plane just crashed. But I do not know. And no diddling with probability calculations is going to tell me. Or you, either.

    But probability calculations can never tell you the cause (or outcome) of any individual event. For all we know, the plane could have crashed because the pilots spontaneously combusted. It is very^n unlikely* that this was the cause but this could be the one time, in the entire space-time plot of the universe** that a flying machine was brought down in this manner.

    However, the probabilities are as follows, in descending order:

    1. Shot down by the Ukrainian separatists (or Russian military actively assisting and probably embedded with them.)

    2. Shot down by the Ukrainian military.

    3. Shot down by the Russian military massing on the border.

    4. Strangely co-incidental accident.

    5. Simultaneous spontaneous combustion of the cockpit crew.

    * Where n is a rather large number.

    ** Where “universe” has re-adopted the previous meaning of “everything” and is now (again?) bigger than “multiverse”.

  119. Thing is Ian, the chances of a plane crashing on are vastly less, by several orders of magnitude, than 1000:1.

    The crash happened, of that we all agree. So, the probability of that on Thursday night a plane did crash in east Ukraine is 1.

    Now divide that probability of 1 into it just happening because of a mechanical fault or because of being shot down taking the location and time in to cosideration. Then decide if you want to entertain the idea it was a mechanical failure.

  120. You’re confusing risk analysis with singular events. If a disease is extraordinarily rare (e.g. 1 in a billion), you cannot say that somebody with the symptoms “cannot have that disease because it is so rare”.

    Great, but nobody is saying that. What have here is somebody with symptoms that could be scarlet fever (high probability, based on observed frequency) or your rare 1 in a billion disease. First assumption will be scarlet fever, your disease will not even be considered unless something *further* is observed to show the assumption is wrong.

    If we calculate that the probability of a plane crashing over Ukraine at this time is, say, 1 in 1000, you can apply that if there are very many plane crashes. You can say that 999 out of 1000 of them are going to have been shot down. But it tells you nothing about a single event. It could be the 1 in 1000. You just don’t know.

    This is not how accidents are analysed in the early stages. You look at the likely scenarios and move forward on the basis of the most probable, especially if one has an observed frequency in the last few weeks and the other is statistically negligible. If evidence is discovered which makes you change your most likely scenario(s) then you do so, but you don’t sit on your hands doing nothing whilst you contemplate billion to 1 scenarios.

  121. First assumption will be scarlet fever, your disease will not even be considered unless something *further* is observed to show the assumption is wrong.

    In which case, you might give the wrong treatment- as indeed often happens in medicine. Most people feeling tired haven’t got cancer, it probably isn’t cancer, hmm, oh, it is cancer, pity we didn’t check for that when the patient first presented…

    So there’s your problem. The more important it is, the more caution you need to exercise.

  122. The more important it is, the more caution you need to exercise.

    Hence why we mere bloggers are commenting on by far the most likely cause of the plane “crash”, whereas Heads of State are sort-of waiting for a significant degree of proof.

  123. For all we know, the plane could have crashed because the pilots spontaneously combusted.

    No, we actually know that that never, ever happens. It isn’t one of the possible scenarios. See also “brought down by a legion of demons” and “shot down by a flying saucer” and “a wizard did it”.

    Nice try at denying the possible via the introduction of the impossible, though.

  124. whereas Heads of State are sort-of waiting for a significant degree of proof.

    Indeed. I’m actually kind of glad we’ve got Obama in the White House at the moment.

  125. Looking around a couple of the “defence” websites, it appears the belief in a shoot-down comes from intercepted communications between the pro-Russian rebels rather than any direct observational evidence (radar telemetry, etc). That’s not to say there isn’t such evidence, just that none has come to public light yet.

    I don’t think any serious person doubts that MH17 was shot down – even Putin is calling it a crime (by Ukraine).

    The SAM system involved is capable of targeting and launching autonomously, but the information available to the crew is limited compared to the full three vehicle mode. Crucially, the single vehicle mode is only able to identify a plane as friendly or not. It cannot distinguish between enemy and civilian.

    Just as the whole Crimean annexation thing went quiet, I expect the political / media heat to be taken out of this issue as soon as possible. The West’s reliance on Russia for the essential northern routes to and from Afghanistan (especially from this year) is the elephant in the room that all the huffers and puffers are studiously ignoring.

  126. In which case, you might give the wrong treatment- as indeed often happens in medicine.

    Yes, but you would almost certainly have let your patient expire whilst you contemplate whether they might have Dutch Elm Disease. The standard practice is to take an educated guess – based on probabilities and frequencies of observed events – and proceed with caution, keeping an open mind. I don’t know about your industry, but I learned this in mine within my first year.

  127. Like I said, dpeends what you’re intending to do. In many cases, taking action is not easily or at all reversible. In this case, we have international conflict. Escalation is hard to reverse, because a reversal is seen as a defeat, as weakness, etc. Indeed this is true of politics in general.

    So getting your first response right is important.

  128. Ian B has got a fraction of a point here: the relevant question is not simply how likely it is that a plane would break up over Eastern Ukraine: what we need to know is the probability of such a break up having happened given that a plane has in fact fallen out of the sky there.

    Given that a plane has in fact fallen out of the sky, what are the possible causes? I can think of catastrophic mechanical failure, detonation of an explosive device, and shooting down. I’d say that, in current conditions, these are roughly equally common events (say about once each in ten years globally). So if all we knew was that a plane had fallen out of the sky without warning, we might estimate the probability that it had been shot down as about one third.

    However, as Tim N emphasizes, this failure happened over a war zone where rebel forces might be shooting at civilian passenger planes. Since most of the shootings down are likely to happen over war zones, which occupy maybe 0.3% of the earth’s surface weighted by plane density (Eastern Ukraine is about 0.03% of the earth’s surface), we can say that over war zones we might expect a shooting down every 15 years, and an explosion or spontaneous break-up each every 330 years. That makes the probability of the plane having been shot down about 100 to 1 on. (These are very rough numbers.)

    Tim N argues that we should estimate a much higher rate of shooting down planes, because two other planes have been shot down by the rebels. I mostly disagree with that: obviously the airlines didn’t think there was a high risk or they wouldn’t have been flying there. And until recently, the attacks have used shoulder-launched rockets fired at planes flying at lower altitudes. But there was another shooting down six days ago, at higher altitude, for which Ukraine blamed Russia directly. If the rebels were responsible for that one, it would make it much more likely that they shot down MH17.

    Wouldn’t it be quite a coincidence that the chief nutcase on the ‘separatist’ side tweeted triumphantly that they had shot down a plane at exactly the same time as an airliner breaks up at 33,000ft?

    It wouldn’t be at all a coincidence that the chief nutcase boasted that they’d shot down a plane shortly after a plane came down. But it wouldn’t necessarily mean that he was telling the truth.

    Reagan’s was an apology – it was just mixed in with an explanation.

    To me, a statement of the form “we regret the consequences of your actions” is not an apology.

  129. So getting your first response right is important.

    So do we pore over maintenance records from KL and Schiphol or pressure the Russians to get the separatists to reveal the whereabouts of their BUK missiles?

  130. Looks like the reliable Ian B is losing his way somewhat.The questions are: what is the probability of rebel separatists deliberately downing an airliner; what is the probability of getting a criminal conviction if they appear to have done it by mistake?

  131. Tim N argues that we should estimate a much higher rate of shooting down planes, because two other planes have been shot down by the rebels. I mostly disagree with that: obviously the airlines didn’t think there was a high risk or they wouldn’t have been flying there.

    The very fact that a plane has been shot down means that their risk assessment of the area was wrong. In hindsight, they should have avoided the area after the recent shootings. I expect that will be of the findings of the enquiry.

  132. DBC Reed questions we can trivially answer:

    what is the probability of getting a criminal conviction if they appear to have done it by mistake?

    None whatsoever. Okay, under some circumstances a scapegoat might be handed over but we’re not going to get the actual person or people responsible.

  133. DBC,

    I don’t think anyone thinks they shot it down deliberately, so I can’t see any (war crime?) conviction being possible. Mistakes are mistakes.

  134. Comments on SE’s list: rather than incredible spontaneous combustion I’d suggest bombs placed on board at Schipol. They’d have to be a bit bigger than the Lockerbie bomb to get the apparently greater structural fragmentation but the mechanical and human debris field would look like the published photos.
    I’d use Cui Bono to assign probabilities, and that points the finger at the US and EU administrations and their Kiev satraps. In particular, the latter only yesterday revealed that the An-26 shot down on July 14 was flying at 21,000 feet (see WSJ today)! That height meant the separatists had a full scale anti-air, not just shoulder launched MANPADs good for 11,000 ft max.
    Given that and the continuing Ukrainian air assault on the separatists, the EU, US, and Ukraine should have immediately closed the airspace over the battle area.
    Another oddity is Obama’s claim that he has intel that the Russians supplied the antiquated version of the SA-11 shown in the leaked photos. The Russian version has a quite different AESA radar and packaged missiles, so that’s quite unlikely. Plus of course Obama is an habitual liar who has subverted the US executive arm, so we have to take his claims and those of anonymous administration officials with a pinch of salt.
    For this reason (and lots of other odd bits of data too boring to list) I think the most likely cause was an incompetent separatist shoot down using a captured (or accidentally-on-purpose donated) Ukrainian SA-11 unit, with the target set up by the US/EU/Kiev with the intention of destabilizing Putin & the separatists.

  135. SE, you’re forgetting recklessness, which in English law can of course provide a conviction.

  136. IanB
    “I don’t think anyone thinks they shot it down deliberately”
    What part of aim – fire do you not understand.

    TG
    Nice try
    Bollocks

  137. In particular, the latter only yesterday revealed that the An-26 shot down on July 14 was flying at 21,000 feet (see WSJ today)!

    Then the BBC must have used a time machine to write its report on the 14th “Ukrainian officials say … the An-26 plane was hit at an altitude of 6,500m (21,325ft)”. Unless of course it got the information from the Ukrainian government.

  138. I think the most likely cause was an incompetent separatist shoot down using a captured (or accidentally-on-purpose donated) Ukrainian SA-11 unit, with the target set up by the US/EU/Kiev with the intention of destabilizing Putin & the separatists.

    If you’d limited it to the US and Kiev, it might have just been good enough to get rejected as a storyline for a Hollywood handwringer starring Matt Damon. But the inclusion of the EU is the shark jumping over Fonzie.

    Pathetic.

  139. BiF-

    Bad wording, my bad. I meant, the general consensus seems to be they didn’t intend to target a civilian airliner so it was some form of misidentification. Clearly if they shot at it, they meant to shoot it down. Just not the “it” it actually was. In the same way, again, that the US navy didn’t mean to shoot down a civilian airliner when they shot down 655.

  140. IanB
    Since the interweb is frothing with conspiracies (it’s the EU? FFS) here’s another.
    It’s not a false flag it’s a red flag. The separatists are losing ground so they deliberately foment an international outrage to draw Putin into putting troops on the ground…
    Let’s hope Putin has more sense.

  141. Edward,

    I’m sure, if the right people ever end up in a reasonable court (those of Russia and the sort-of-separate-maybe-Eastern Ukraine not counting as such) there is all sorts of stuff we might get them on.

    But, as we aren’t going to see the right people in front of the right sort of court (and, unless I am accused of Putin-o-phobia, this is exactly what we saw with the Yanks in the investigation in to the 28 Mar 2003 ‘friendly fire’ incident – wouldn’t even let them give evidence to the coroner’s court), we don’t need to worry about your, undoubtedly correct, description of various pertinent aspects of English law.

  142. SE, did you ever listen to the recording of the exchange between the aircrew and ground staff in that incident? I thought the sound of the pilot sobbing was very telling.

  143. Tim Newman: “As I said, this will be music to the ears of Putin’s supporters. Within a week the Kremlin position will be “yes we did it, but so did the Americans” now let’s move on.”

    You think the Russians need to trawl blogs for potential excuses..?

  144. PaulB
    I missed that – never read the BBC – but you miss my point. The Kiev bunch bombing the separatists & the latter having heavy metal SAMs (they shoot to 80,000 feet), the airspace above the battle was absolutely unsafe. The aviation authorities knew that on July 14 but did nothing.

  145. Oh God, this is going to turn into somebody having an inquiry that concludes that “lessons must be learned”. I hear that Baroness Butler-Slosh is free for a gig.

  146. I wonder if our esteemed host ever plays a game with himself, trying to imagine the direction in which the comments will hare off, or which posts will generate more than 20 comments. I like to imagine him, a benign buddha-like figure, fingers entwined and resting on his tum, groggy on grog, as he reads these impassioned pleadings.

    mind you, i like to imagine myself in a formula one car hours before being thoroughly serviced by a couple of Asiatic harlots skilled in the sensual arts.

  147. The very fact that a plane has been shot down means that their risk assessment of the area was wrong.

    Shortly after lunch the bookies had England odds on to win the second test. And then India won. Does that very fact mean that the bookies got the odds wrong?

  148. I have discovered that the line I have been struggling to make has been expertly developed by Peter Hitchens in the Mail: he correctly sees the start of the crisis in the advance of EU “Association” into Ukraine.
    Not a person I would normally read but then his wildly contrarian attitude to American involvement in WW2, which he sees as having a large anti-British component, is a welcome blast from the past when radicals on the left and right (partic Enoch Powell) took the same view.

  149. This morning’s Telegraph is reporting Cameron “comparing Russia’s aggression to that of Nazi Germany.”
    OK. Ethnic Russians & ethnic Germans & Czechoslovakia but is this bloke totally barking? Russian views on the Great Patriotic War are embedded in the DNA. To most of them, they’re not even sure which side the UK was on. If Cameron wanted to put the collective Russian backs up & garner absolute support for Putis adventures, he couldn’t have done better

  150. Shortly after lunch the bookies had England odds on to win the second test. And then India won. Does that very fact mean that the bookies got the odds wrong?

    Risk assessments are not the same as bookies’ odds. This is one of the most fundamental errors people make when talking about risk calculations, assuming betting on sports works the same way. It doesn’t.

    When calculating the probability of an event occurring, historical data is *always* used if available. Indeed, the left hand side of a standard risk matrix asks the very questions “Has this event occurred in the facility?” / “Has this event occurred in a similar facility?” / “Has this event occurred in the industry?” If the risk assessments of overflying east Ukraine were not updated to reflect the previous two shootings, then the risk assessments were wrong.

    By contrast, bookies’ odds are largely determined by bets already placed and don’t have much to do with probability of a particular result.

  151. Tim N: thanks for the thoughtful reply. I’m well aware of questions of probability measure, but I was hoping to avoid getting technical about it on this forum. My point was that an event’s actually happening does not prove that any (non-zero) probability assigned to it a priori was wrong.

    The risk assessment over Eastern Ukraine was updated on 14th July, imposing a 32,000 ft minimum altitude. I don’t know whether that was proportionate given the information then available.

  152. My point was that an event’s actually happening does not prove that any (non-zero) probability assigned to it a priori was wrong.

    In terms of probability, perhaps not. But in terms of risk, if the risk is assessed correctly and the necessary prevention and mitigation measures put in place to reduce the residual risk to as low as reasonably practicable, then an event happening would either indicate extremely bad luck or an incorrect risk assessment. In every industrial accident that I have been taught about in my line of work, and there are lots of them, the risks had not been assessed properly. The usual reason for this is a change – often temporary (e.g. maintenance, quick repair, etc.) – has not been properly considered.

    In the context of flights over east Ukraine, it is not beyond the realms of practicability to divert all flights around the area (indeed, they’ve done that now) and the consequences would have put the event into one of high risk as soon as the probability of occurrence rose above “never occurred here before”. There are reasons why the airlines didn’t update their risk assessment of the area, but I am certain that the procedures will change as a result of this.

  153. Not updated because where do the risks stop? Having looked out of plane windows on to Tora Bora, Warziristan, ISIStan and other less than 100% stable places on a few occasions, I wonder what the consequences for time and cost of air travel would be to avoid all of them. Is is more than a calculated guess that terrorists don’t have any of this kit? Does anyone know for sure that there is no one in Afghanistan with kit to shoot down a passing airliner? And do we have better proof for that than “it would have happened by now”?

  154. That almighty pillock Charlie Wilson lived in fear that a Stinger missile he’d helped to supply to the mujahidin in Afghanistan would bring down an airliner.
    Seems unlikely given this missile’s range of about half the altitude of an airliner but then brains were not his strong point: encouraging the mujahidin helped unloose militant Islam on the West via Bin Laden who made a bee-line for Afghanistan where the yanks (old rhyming slang apparently)
    were hoping that the likes of him would push out the Soviets who were spending vast amounts of their own money putting infrastructure into the country.
    Quite likely with the development of hydro electric and mineral extraction infrastructure, Afghanistan would have become a modernised state with which “we could do business.”
    Anyhow the country would have been their problem not ours.
    Lets hear it for good old Charlie Wilson, all American fuckwit.

  155. “Seems unlikely given this missile’s range of about half the altitude of an airliner but then brains were not his strong point…”

    As all members of the dreary British left know, airliners always stay at high altitude – even when they’re landing and taking off; and Stinger missiles are so big and cumbersome that none could possibly be smuggled to anywhere with an actual airport.

    Nope, no danger at all.

    (Jeez…)

  156. It all depends on the tribesmen. Not all mujahidin were rabid bastards, but those who survived the Soviet withdrawal, US abandonment and Pakistani controlled invasion mostly were.

    Likewise in Gaza, where now the supply of virtually anything will be used to kill civilised people. Watch this gore-free clip to see why so many children are being killed by Hamas / their-own-parents, using the IDF as the murder weapon:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOPuFlQ1_3U&feature=youtu.be

    Result? Wailing and handwringing propaganda by the left – right tag team of the Jew-hating British establishment.

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