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2024-06-10 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Corruption , 313 references
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Oh look what we have here!

In a dramatic turn of events that could have far-reaching implications for renters nationwide, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted an unannounced raid on Cortland Management’s headquarters in Atlanta on Wednesday, May 22. This action is part of a criminal antitrust investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) into allegations that Cortland has been involved in a conspiracy to artificially inflate apartment rents. This raid is more than just a legal drama; it’s a significant development that could impact millions of renters, including those in Rhode Island, who have been grappling with soaring rental prices.

The allegations in this article are damning; the goal is allegedly to prevent landlords from "undervaluing" their properties.

Its a felony to collude between providers to restrain trade or fix prices.  Even the mere attempts counts; you don't have to succeed.  This is not a "fine" style offense either; it is a criminal felony carrying hard prison time.  You could be excused if you didn't know this in recent years since virtually nobody in the corporate world is ever prosecuted for this conduct over the last several decades -- but that law has been on the books for over a hundred years, and was put into place during the time of Standard Oil and other monopolists.

There are some economists who have claimed that cartel-like behavior is basically impossible to police in that someone will always defect and take market share by doing so.  That's a convenient fantasy unsupported by the facts.  Find me, for example, a hospital or doctor's office that takes said approach and forces the others to match their pricing or go out of business for lack of customers.  I certainly did in the 1990s with MCSNet and spent a lot of my time and mental firepower trying to figure out how to undercut competitors and most of that focus was on how to do more with less internally; that is, to advance productivity.  But that's hard -- it requires a lot of effort and of course its pretty easy to be wrong when you go down a path you believe will lead to lower costs -- and it doesn't.

What's interesting here is that the conduct in question dates back to well before the pandemic, allegedly originating in 2015, and the allegation appears to be linked to a private equity firm that also bought up and combined a competitor to RealPage's management and pricing systems.

Algorithmic pricing systems are nothing new and are legal as long as they're constrained to a single supplier.  There's nothing wrong with a vendor deciding to use such a system as "yield management" (as is often done by airlines or a trucking company) but when extended over more than one competitor it raises serious legal questions.  Our government has flat-out refused to look at obvious areas where this sort of collusive behavior is in clear evidence (health care being the most-outrageous, but hardly the only place) but apparently the runaway cost of housing and political backlash from it has finally overcome glad-handing refusal to enforce long-standing law.

Now if we could just get the FBI to be equally-interested in similar collusive practices between hospitals and insurance companies, or the buying up of doctor and dental practices by both hospitals and private equity firms that also lead to price escalations that are even more egregious than in the rental market.

After all you can move somewhere else but its quite a bit more-difficult to decide to shop around for a hospital while having a heart attack, isn't it?

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2022-06-18 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Corruption , 670 references
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A reasonable postulate for virtually every thing that is wrong in the US -- and much of the rest of the world -- can be stated as "selective prosecution has ruined the world, and cannot be fixed until the people enforce equal application of the law."

"ESG", which in the vernacular is "Environmental, Sustainability and Governance", all are externally-imposed costs on corporations, specifically public corporations.  Unlike laws, which are also externally-imposed costs, these costs are imposed by a cartel, and cartels under penalty of being "disinvested" or even having your leadership ejected by force.

Cartels are illegal in the United States, with few exceptions:

Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $100,000,000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $1,000,000, or by imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

This law (Clayton, which is the second of two, the first being Sherman which criminalized the act while Clayton was rapidly passed to criminalize the attempt irrespective of success) dates to 1890.

It does not just impose a fine (of up to $100 million) but also 10 years in the pokey in the form of a criminal felony conviction for each person involved.

So if you and I get together, agree to impose cost by coercion on other people and in doing so our intent is to do so in a cohesive fashion such that competitors must all comply we have committed a criminal felony.

Cost is cost no matter how it works or what sort of cloaking and greenwashing you do with it.  If myself and three other large Internet providers in a given area all get together over some beers, lament that now we can't get people to work because the government has turned into a free-money fest for them and decide together to all raise prices by a dollar on our customers so we can all offer our employees a nice fat raise we have committed a serious federal offense.  When I ran MCSNet I wouldn't even contemplate having lunch or beers with one of our serious competitors in my market lest the conversation go in that sort of direction and I've now done something that could, quite-reasonably, lead to me doing 10 years in the federal slammer.

Corporations must comply with the law and to the extent that some organization or group lobbies to get laws passed, which all comply with, that's not a felony. 

But absent law such coercion is a felony.

Why?

Because without coercion one or more of the competitors in a market will tell said "ESG" people to pound sand.  That firm will have lower operating costs and as a result will tattoo those who do enact said policies.  This is called competition -- and, to be precise, productivity and it is productivity, doing more with less, that is responsible for every bit of our standard of living in the modern world.

In 1890 we, through our representative process, declared such coercion by other than law imposed evenly on all a felonious act.  There is no exemption for "investment companies" like Vanguard, Blackrock and similar to these laws.  None.  Yet here we are, and just like in 2008 when nobody committed any crimes (to directly quote Gary Johnson who was at the time running for President as a Libertarian, and was lying like a bearskin rug) we are facing record-high gas prices and inflation to a large degree precisely because we are not prosecuting acts that, under the law, are declared as crimes.

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2020-06-10 07:29 by Karl Denninger
in Corruption , 719 references
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Are you done yet?

Probably not.

Who is Christine Grady?

Why.... she works at the NIH.  She's a medical type - well, sort of.  She's got a BS in nursing, and went on to get a PhD in philosophy from Georgetown.

Notice that she's claimed, on the NIH site, to be a "Doctor."  That's an intentionally misleading claim.  She does not have a doctorate in medicine.  She's a nurse, from a medical perspective.  There's an argument that anyone with a PhD is a "Doctor" but when you say "doctor" in the context of medicine you're not talking about holding a PhD in philosophy.  Don't get me wrong -- nursing is a great profession and nurses have a decent amount of medical knowledge, obviously -- but they're not doctors.

She serves as the chief in charge of "bioethics."  In other words, the person who gets to make decisions on exceptions to the FDA rules when it comes to things like drugs and *******s, along with other exceptions to the normal, allegedly-transparent process that is supposed to take place before drugs and other things get into the American marketplace.

If you read her NIH page you will also find something quite-curious.  There's no mention of her personal life.  That, standing alone, is not uncommon among professional listings.  After all, one's personal life isn't really connected to professional credentials and achievements -- most of the time.

But in this case, the omission appears to be rather intentional.

You see, according to reports, which are now circulating around social media, she's Anthony Fauci's wife.

Who is the director of NIAID, a division of the NIH.

Who was appointed to said position in 1984.

Approximately one year before he married the person who now gets to make exceptions to the rules and transparency, who works for the same government agency that he works for, and from which position in said government he "advises" people, including now President Trump, on the path "forward" where and when such transparency and required scientific proof can be exempted.

Gee, why do I hear echoes of Vader with his hand out talking about "father and son", except this time it's "husband and wife"?

Exactly how much attention has this received in the media and Congress again and exactly how did all that happen?

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2019-04-17 10:46 by Karl Denninger
in Corruption , 770 references
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I'll make a prediction: There will be more crashes.  The next one, post "retrofit", will end the company.

(Reuters) - A review by a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration panel into Boeing Co’s grounded 737 MAX aircraft found a planned software update and training revisions to be “operationally suitable,” the agency said Tuesday, an important milestone in getting the planes back in the air.

You can't fix the problems the 737Max has with software alone.

First, the limits of authority for the MCAS system are entirely inappropriate.  An aircraft that needs an "anti-stall" feature that can consume half of the stabilizer trim authority with one actuation is horribly unbalanced.  The design is dangerous.

The 0.6 degree original design is reasonable; the revision to 2.5 degrees is not.  Rather than find the reason(s) for the requirement to quadruple that authority and correct them in the design so the 0.6 degree authority is sufficient Boeing intentionally concealed that authority change from the FAA.

This is the root of the issue.

When you're off by 400% in your engineering predictions, as disclosed by testing, you have a dangerous situation.  The correct thing to do in such a circumstance is to go back, figure out why that happened and change whatever you need to so it doesn't happen anymore.  That would have meant a redesign of material components of the 737MAX (likely involving flight surfaces such as the wing geometry itself, where it's attached to the aircraft, etc) which Boeing was unwilling to do for time and cost reasons; today it would likely mean literal scrapping of all the existing hulls and starting over.  That's not going to happen either as today it might well bankrupt the company.

The reason for this set of facts is quite simple -- there is a set of both probabilities and outcomes that either fall into or outside of the window of acceptability for a transport aircraft.  A failure will lead to discomfort but not death (of anyone) is one you can accept occurring, since nobody dies and at worst it causes inconvenience.

One that could kill some number of people (but not crash the airplane) is much more-severe.

One that can crash the airplane is the most-severe.

The problem with all of these as the FAA defines them is that there is also a probability table associated with them.  This is a fundamental ****-up in the FAA's legal mandate and it must be changed.

Let me give you an example of the complete horse**** that MTBF and "error rate" figures present to people:

Furthermore, Deskstar NAS hard drives incorporate a rotational vibration sensor and achieve reliability of 1M hours MTBF.

One millions hours MTBF (that is, the mean time between failures) is the common specification for computer hard drives.

There are 8,760 hours in a year.  This means that if you have one such disk you should expect it to last, on average, 114 years, far longer than you will.

This abuse of statistics is utter and complete horse****.  First, a disk drive is a mechanical thing.  Like all mechanical things that have moving parts in it the parts wear when used.  Specifically, the mechanism that positions the heads has moving parts that can wear (get "sloppy") and so does the motor that drives the platters (the "disks" inside.)  Neither will last 114 years while operating under any rational set of conditions, ever, period.

So let's say you have 100 of these drives.  Well now, see, the probability isn't that each will likely last 114 years.  No, and no.  It's that the manufacturer predicts that if you have 100 of them you'll lose about 1.1 of them every year.  And guess what -- most of these fail at somewhere around, or perhaps a bit better, than those numbers. Nobody seriously expects the one disk you buy to last 114 years, and it won't.  You can count on that.

1 in a million is 1 x 10^-6.  This sounds very improbable but in fact as you can see it really isn't at all.

There's a lot of engineering judgement that goes into these analysis and the severity that will follow.  The original MCAS design was permitted because with only 0.6 degree of authority it was judged that if it failed it would not crash the plane.  Quadrupling the authority without re-analyzing the outcome was intentional -- even if by omissions -- because under the rules any modification that may impact severity must be re-analyzed.

Making the system less-likely to make a mistake (e.g. by forcing the use of both AOA sensors, for example) does not solve the problem in the general sense -- because it can't.

This is the comment I have just transmitted to the FAA on their coddling of both Boeing and willful dereliction of duty and disregard of the FARs governing transport aircraft by proposing to "accept" Boeing's changes:

Gentlemen;

The 737MAX "software revision" is, as has been described in publicly-available documents, insufficient as a fix for the root cause of the two crashes and loss of more than 300 lives that occurred.

During the original design of the MAX it has been disclosed that the MCAS system was implemented into the flight control "law" software to alleviate a materially-larger "pitch up" moment that could arise as a result of the larger, higher-bypass engines fitted to the MAX series of aircraft.  The original specifically called for this software to have 0.6 degrees of stabilizer trim authority and the failure consequences and probabilities were analyzed on that basis.

Flight testing before certification disclosed that 2.5 degrees, or approximately half of the total range from neutral to the stop in either direction for the stabilizer trim jackscrew, was actually required for MCAS to perform the desired function.  In addition the data recorder graphs from the Ethiopian crash appear to show that MCAS is capable of, and does, drive the jackscrew at roughly double the rate of a yoke command from the pilots, making its application of negative ("nose down") trim extremely violent on a comparative basis with that applied by the pilots.

This change was not reflected back into the design documents and failure analysis, including both probability and outcomes from failures, was thus not performed with this 400% increase in automated command authority.

Had that analysis been re-run it would have disclosed, as we now know from the two hull losses, that an unrecoverable aircraft attitude at moderate altitudes (< 10,000 AGL) could occur due to erroneous activation of the system.  Two such failures did occur and in at least one, it has been disclosed that the checklist was run for that failure by the pilot and first officer and failed to restore the aircraft to controllable flight.

Patching the software, assuming the 2.5 degree limit of authority remains as it is required for the MCAS system to function, cannot resolve the root issue.  While improving the reliability of sensor input (e.g. by requiring both sensors to be "always hot" and, if there is a disagreement, not engaging MCAS) at first blush appears to be sufficient to remove the failure mode, it is not and accepting same as a sufficient remedy must not be allowed.

The 737NG, from the published manual pages and block diagrams I have been sent copies of, appears to show that all flight computer access to the stabilizer trim runs through only the right side disconnect switch for stabilizer trim.  The 737MAX emergency procedure that the pilots in the Ethiopian Air crash used, however, specifies that both switches are to be pulled in the event of a runaway and remain off for the remainder of the flight.  This strongly implies that on the MAX aircraft computer trim authority can be exerted if even only the left-side, or "master", stabilizer trim power switch is on.

Since we have had demonstrated twice that loss of ability to operate stabilizer trim can and will result in the loss of the hull and significant or all life onboard it is not acceptable for there to be any operational part of the flight envelope, where the aircraft remains intact and controllable, that leaves the pilots with no means of adjusting stabilizer trim without an outside direction, in this case an insane computer irrespective of the root cause of the machine's insanity, overriding their input.

Ethiopian's crash documented by the CVR that the checklist procedure, which called for the handwheel operation of the trim in the event of a runaway, was inoperative due to aerodynamic forces the pilots could not manually crank against.

This is not acceptable and software fixes cannot resolve a hardware problem.

Assuming MCAS or any other part of the flight computer complex requires sufficient stabilizer trim authority to place the airframe in jeopardy should it malfunction it must be able to be disconnected from said system.  Since functional stabilizer trim adjustment is required for the aircraft to be airworthy under all conditions of the flight envelope there must always be two operational means of changing same.  MCAS is by no means the only possible failure in said flight control system; not only is that software highly-complex and has other stabilizer-trim functionality (e.g. mach variation, autotrim related to flap position, etc) it has both sensor input and physical output (e.g. power FETs to drive the output circuits, contractors, etc) which can fail as well, some of which are single-path failure points.

Therefore, at minimum the following is required:

1. The flight control computer, including but not limited to MCAS, must be able to be disconnected from the stabilizer trim electrical drive circuit without impacting the electrical trim switches on the command yokes.  The NG block diagram appears to show that this is the case, while the MAX emergency procedure strongly implies otherwise.  Either the MAX procedure is wrong and must be corrected or the physical wiring in the MAX must be modified so that the flight control computer can be positively severed from stabilizer electrical trim control by disconnecting the right-side switch, leaving the master enabled and the yoke switches available.

2. Due to the fact that stabilizer trim must always be able to be modified at all times in the flight envelope under pilot command for the aircraft to remain controllable a condition where the manual trim wheels are inoperative due to aerodynamic loads is unacceptable.  Therefore a second minimum change is for the gearing ratio to be modified such that under any set of flight conditions where catastrophic hull damage has not yet occurred the hand cranks must be able to be actually operated by any person of sufficient physical capacity to have either a pilot or first officer flight certificate.

To return the 737MAX to certified status before both of these changes are implemented is, in my opinion as a person who has been writing software for approximately 30 years, including embedded software that controls potentially dangerous machinery, unwise and appears to be in violation of the FARs governing transport aircraft.  Such a decision is, in my opinion, likely to result in additional lost hulls and loss of life.

I have no faith that the FAA will in fact insist on the above two changes, as both cost money and involve physical, not software modifications.  However, absent both the 737MAX will remain 100% reliant on its flight control computer never suffering insanity irrespective of cause, failure of which has a high probability of killing everyone on board.

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2019-03-23 11:15 by Karl Denninger
in Corruption , 193 references
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Oh do **** off you old coot.

At the wreckage near Bishoftu in a small pastoral farm field and in the Java Sea off Indonesia lie the remains of the early victims of arrogant, algorithm-driven corner cutting, by reckless corporate executives and their captive government regulators.

You know, that something is 50+ years old in basic design doesn't make it bad, especially when it hasn't failed a bunch of times in those 50 years that could be pinned on some inherent vice.

To the contrary.

Nader had a use at one time.  Then again my family owned a Corvair in my youth and we didn't die.  In fact it was my mother's daily driver, so you can bet I rode in it as a kid more times than I could count, more than a few of them without any seat belt on too.  And she wasn't all that good of a driver either -- certainly not up to racing standards.  Can I tell you about the time she hit a bridge?  No, really, she did.....

Don't get me wrong -- as my other articles point out there's plenty of finger-pointing to do with the 737MAX, with most of it aimed at the MCAS system and its poorly documented characteristics.

I'll even go so far (and have) as to call five-alarm bullcrap on allowing a 0.6 degree control authority to turn into a 2.5 degree one without the entire fault and risk analysis being re-run up and down the line, including the impact on CG and cargo carrying capacity.  After all it's not the authority the pilot may require at cruise altitude and speed (he probably has enough to rip the tail off the plane if he could use the whole thing rapidly there) -- it's down low and slow when that's going to matter.

I can also raise a big stink about the fact I'm quite sure (although I don't have a flight or system manual for the plane) that there are multiple other sources of imputed attitude (angle-of-attack) data available, and as a result it shouldn't be all that hard for the flight management system to know that a sensor is full of crap in short order -- including on the ground at power-up when the angle of attack is (obviously) not some wildly-divergent figure.  Not doing that right up front -- and charging extra to compare data in the air is IMHO flat-out culpably wrong.  Digging back into why the system didn't cross-check as a matter of routine (that is, why someone or a bunch of someones thought it was not necessary or didn't consider it, and whether that was a pure revenue play with excuses paving the road) is something we deserve answers to, because it's something I would have thought of -- and I don't do flight control computers.

And I can make a stink about the fact the the previous generation 737 aircraft (from what I've been told by a couple of people who drive 'em) apparently disconnected auto-trim on a converse manual control input and this one does not (which makes sense; if you go the opposite way the computer has clearly gotten it wrong) so if the pilots (and carriers) were told this plane flies exactly like the old one and relied on that, well, no it doesn't.

I can take an even bigger beef with statistical models used to "predict" failure rates.  I love those lines of BS that are commonly run in the computer world; 1x10^-14 or -15 bit-error rates, for example, or "2 million hours MTBF" that sound like "oh you mean that never happens" -- and since you believe that you never need to make known-good backups too.  Let me know who you are if you buy that bullcrap so I can prepare to bill you at $1,000+/hour to try recover your general ledger and all the data that went into it (never mind the rest of your business data) when you lose it, because you eventually will.  Oh, and may I remind you up front my odds of complete success in that circumstance -- that is, you lose little or nothing and at the end you're mostly ok business-wise -- are about one in five?

Or the reality of computers generally, which is that they run on electrons being stored, moved around and compared, and guess what -- there are these things called cosmic rays that can flip bits without warning in same.  Happen often?  No.  Does it happen?  Uh, yeah, it does.  Can this be guarded against?  In some cases (e.g. ECC memory) but not all (e.g. same hit on a logic gate in a peripheral, etc.)  Do aircraft systems shield against this?  I'm sure they do; military systems do, but is that shielding perfect and are defenses like ECC perfect?  I hope nobody's counting on that to keep them from making smoking holes in the ground.....

None of this, however, changes that a human pilot had quite some time to figure out what was going on or simply decide all the computers are full of crap, I'm turning them off and flying the plane.  At what point was that the right call?  Obviously before the ground was hit, but also obviously neither crew did it.  Is this human-factors engineering, people too damned reliant on technology, ****ty training or.... something else?  Hellifiknow but don't you think we better figure it out before we make more smoking holes?  For all we know the second auger job might have ended the same way but not started the same way and there's some evidence of that (e.g. reports of an abnormally high take-off speed; unsubstantiated at this point since the data is not yet available from the FDR.)

And then there's what drove this entire thing, which was carriers demanding "same type" so they didn't have to spend much if any money on retraining and such -- and not just for pilots either, but also for ground crews and related things.  There's a hell of a lot more than just a plane involved in flying a plane, in short, as anyone who has ever been to an airport knows.

Finally whatever you think of the professionalism of the crews involved (that is, are the carriers outside the US hiring competent people, in the main) there's one glaring fact -- Lion Air, the first 737MAX to go down, had a similar fault to what appears to have crashed it the day prior and for inexplicable reasons the aircraft was not immediately put on the ground, the problem reported, including up the line to Boeing and the aircraft tagged out (grounded) until the cause was found.

Might that have led to a resolution path before anyone got killed?

Maybe, maybe not.

But it didn't happen, and that one's not on Boeing since that flight did land safely.

Or is it on Boeing?

This much we do know -- modern aircraft engines, at least, send a lot of data in real time to manufacturers and so do modern aircraft avionics and flight management systems.  Malaysia's lost hull in which we have had reported said system was intentionally disabled, anyone?  So..... was the data sent, to whom was it sent, who if anyone got it on the previous day's flight with Lion Air when they had the computer go crazy but they lived and if someone did get it why didn't they instantly go ape**** when they got it and ground the damned aircraft?

I want an answer to that question too because again -- but for that, if the data was sent and someone got it 300 people would be alive.

Finally don't be so sure US crews are that "vastly" superior.  We now know that a United Express plane missed the runway entirely in Maine.  The original report was that it "slid off" the runway in icy conditions; that turns out to have been wrong.  On the first attempt they went around on a missed approach but on the second they landed between the runway and taxiway on what was probably (if there hadn't been snow!) grass, ripping the gear off the aircraft.  Oops.

So let's do get to the bottom of this and let's not just change the software and call it a day.  Specifically, let's make damn sure that if the MCAS system retains it's 2.5 degree trim change authority that all of the calculations and fault analysis related to that are run with that figure and the 0.6 degree figures are voided, meaning that until that's complete the plane doesn't fly again.

What falls out of that does; it might be nothing, it might be something.  It might even be a bad something, force MCAS to basically go away and with that all the retraining and certification issues come back with the cert as an entirely different type.  Or maybe something less is required -- but let's have the formal verification re-run and know its right.

What I've said before and will say again is that the sort of rot that leads to these incidents doesn't happen in a day or a week.  It takes years, even decades.  Likewise it can't be fixed in a day or a week either.

Thiokol, if you remember, ignored multiple engineers who had told them that the seals on the shuttle booster rocket were unsafe at low temperatures.  But their warnings were ignored, and despite a director for Thiokol refusing to sign the launch recommendation -- he believed the concerns were valid -- NASA launched anyway.  Challenger was destroyed along with everyone aboard.

I suspect there's a decent pile of crap sandwiches to be served here, as I've said before, and I can't come up with any good reason for that control authority deviation to not be run back through the full set of analysis.  That not being done, along with the reset behavior not being part of the analysis, and it appears it wasn't, is inexcusable.

But then again so is not grounding a plane when everyone on board damn near dies and only because there was a competent pilot in the jump seat did they figure it out and successfully complete the flight -- then the same apparent fault kills everyone on board the next day.

Figure it out and nail the responsible parties to the cross -- Nader-style scaremongering garbage serves nobody.

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