About Jamie Kenny

Jamie is a journalist from the UK.

far from original heading

In the wake of the mysterious disappearance of Ballardian Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 to the East or possibly the West of the Malaysian peninsula,  here's an interesting account of all the ways civilian airliners keep in touch with ground control in the various territories they cross over. It reveals that quite a lot of the time they're not actually in touch at all. Those reassuring blips on the screen are sometimes just flight path projections, as they appear to have been in this case.

It's shocking – and fascinating in a morbid way – that you can just lose an airliner full of people, as though it was a collective Amelia Earhart. But maybe its not so surprising. It's not just that ground coverage is incomplete. There are more flights than ever before, flying from and between places where perhaps the staff are not too well trained, funded or attentive, over vast expanses of ocean, desert, tundra, jungle and ice. Perhaps the surprising thing is that it doesn't happen more often. I speak as someone who has flown over the arctic with this on my mind. Anyway:

This incident (frankly, we’re not even 100 percent sure it is a crash) is different. So far, no debris field has been found, the Pentagon reports that it detected no midair explosions in the area, and Malaysian authorities have issued contradictory statements about what primary-radar tracks they may or may not have observed. Based on the vast search area, it appears that authorities believe that the plane may have been deliberately flown far from its original heading. If that’s the case, then whoever redirected the plane might well have timed its abduction to coincide with the period when it would have slipped out of sight of the air traffic control system anyway.

The search for flight 370 is also hampered by the fact that the relevant sea lanes are literally full of crap. The almost certain bet is catastrophe in the air compounded by incompetence on the ground, but the resonances of the case are so strange that you wouldn't be surprised to discover that, 20 years on, some mad visionary pilot had taken his passengers to  - say – sojourn among the Wa for urgent but incomprehensible reasons. After all, if the pilot was just intent on suicide/murder, why wait until he was out of contact?

untouchable tender mafias

A nice piece on the re-emergent Julia Tymoshenko which gives us a clue as to why Yanukyovich became unsupportable:

Vyacheslav Konovalov, a criminology researcher, explains that “the initial idea behind ‘Dear Friends’ was a transparent system for monitoring public finance in place of the Soviet model. To do so, a system of tenders and a tender chamber were set up. Specially “favored” people with Western degrees were appointed to control the system. Soon enough the initiative produced many thirty year old ministers and deputy ministers, dubbed at the time ‘Kinder Surprises.’” They are an “untouchable tender mafia” presiding over a system where brokers enjoy kickbacks of thirty, fifty, up to seventy percent.

The tenders made it easy for Yulia and her allies to enjoy luxurious lifestyles without actually owning anything on paper. According to court documents, by the end of her trial, the only property they could confiscate from Yulia was a modest apartment in Dnepropetrovsk. But Yulia, as many others political elites in Ukraine spent much of her time in police-protected, luxurious villas.

"Untouchable tender mafia" is such an excellent phrase, even if the sense is just 'contracts'. Amusingly, Y and his people couldnt get her on any of these things because they were too involved  themselves, so they had to semi-fabricate charges against her, which in turn helped the gas queen reinvent herself as a martyr. Anyway, Yanukyovich:

The Yanukovych family has gone even further on a larger, more grotesque scale. According to the PEP Watch anti-corruption center, the net-worth of Yanukovych’s son Oleksandr has gone from 7 to 510 million UAH since 2010. His dacha in Mezhyhirya, showed off to the public on February 22nd, was a rude awakening. Luxury cars, gilded toilets, a lakeside galleon, and a private zoo were found. Acres and acres of tasteless, overpriced junk that cost millions of dollars.

So under Yanukyovich, the system reverted in Mancur Olson style terms from stationary to mobile banditry. He stole with both hands and spent money which had actually passed through his own mucky paws on his absurd country retreat. Apparently he also robbed his own support base blind, which is why backing for him from that sector and from across the general apparatus of state seemed remarkeably soft. The downside of that is that it  allowed fascist street muscle to play an overly prominent part in his ouster. Still, at least the crowds at the Maidan seem to have caught on to Tymoshenko

sapiens to be homo

Transport for London have intervened to block advertisements promoting ‘gay conversions’ that were due to run on the side of London’s buses next week.

The adverts were part of a campaign by fundamentalist Christians to promote ‘reparative therapy’ which they believe can ‘cure’ people of homosexuality.

One thing about the gay gene conjecture I don’t like is that it makes for weedy politics. The essential proposition is ‘don’t blame me, I can’t help it’. It is, I suppose, suitable for a movement which now aspires to nothing more radical than the right to get married like everyone else.

There’s clearly no obligation on anyone to be any more radical than they actually are just because they ride the other bus, and, if female, get off at Hebden Bridge. On the other hand, this is one of those occasions when a bit of radical vim and vigour might do some good because it’s one of those issues where more speech could be the answer. Let the evangelicals put their ads on buses. And let the gays go unto the lamaseries of the evangelicals and proseletize under the slogan ‘we’re gay because we want to be and it’s fucking great’ or something equally suave, and perhaps hand out illustrated leaflets. By the time the dust settled I bet you’d have far more transfers from the Jesus column to Sodom than vice versa.


So, it's parenting that's responsible for last year's riots. Speaking in that capacity, there's a pretty good chance I'd have been proud of a kid of mine who took part in the 1981 riots. Last year's riots, not so much. But then I don't really know. Maybe the political aspect of 1981 seems good to me now because I'm missing my youth, and maybe the greed and  violence shown last year seems that way as a function of my middle age. Such is the condition of being a parent.

Having said that, after seeing the justice on offer after last year's riots there is absolutely no way I'd give my kid up to the cops if I knew he was involved last year, provided his involvement was limited to potential property crime. You have a responsibility to make your kids face justice, but also a responsibility to protect them from revenge. It is, in fact, the same responsibility.

green jerboa

Preparations for the fourth test were proceeding — named “Gerboise verte” or “Green jerboa” — when four French generals, unhappy about steps toward Algerian independence, launched a coup against the government of Charles De Gaulle. French scientists, the story goes, rushed the detonation of the device before the Revolt of the Generals acquired a working nuclear weapon. The putsch, of course, eventually failed.

It didn't quite work out like that. But read the whole thing.I like the detail that the bomb – the 'physics package' was transported to the site of the test in one of the scientists 2CV in case the official column got ambushed.

worse than a blunder

I’ve said before here that Crumpsall, where I live, has a relatively low rate of unemployment for Manchester but the highest rate of underemployment in the city: lots of families with two part time jobs or one low paid full time and one part time. I mentioned this in connection to the payday loan storefronts that have proliferated locally since 2010 and the sense they gave of a neighbourhood circling the plughole.

One thing that hasn’t been much mentioned in budget coverage are the cuts in working family tax credits announced in 2010 but due to take effect this April. It’s these in particular which are really going to get the drain gurgling round here, especially since the raising of the tax threshold will dump more people into an income level where far more money will be taken from them because they’ve gone over the trigger limit. Being a cynic, I wonder if that wonderful measure was done partly in the expectation that this would happen. Well, the local Peacock’s clothing store shut down a few weeks back, so there’s another storefront available for our lovable local vulture lenders.

 It’s different from living in Hulme: that was a neighbourhood that had already hit bottom, and there was a kind of resilience, even the occasional bout of optimism, available from knowing things couldn’t actually get any worse. We’ve gone to the dogs. And here they are: the dogs. Nice doggie. Woof. Of course those were the days when it was believed that jobs were created through the concentration of capital in the organisation of the firm or through state agency. In the absence of those things, you got the dole. These days, it’s fashionable to believe that jobs are created by goading the jobless into spectacular acts of willpower and performative humility: so I guess the folk down in M15 are being shovelled wholesale into the maw of A4E these days.

But it’s something else living in a working neighbourhood, which in normal times flails along with its collective head just above the water, being gradually and through the systematic application of government policy suffering a kind of collective punishment; and the organic commerce which had evolved to serve it beginning to go down with it. The top end of Cheetham Hill Road was always low-margin.  Shops would come and go, but there always seemed to be somebody else ready to have a try. These days it’s looking more than a bit gap toothed.  It’s an odd feeling watching financial repression happen around you; like living in the middle of a crime in progress.

pulling a Johann, Foxconn edition

So US public radio put out a documentary in January featuring an imaginative fellow called John Daisey, who produced a hard hitting report on conditions at the Foxconn plants that make various Apple devices, among other things (for the record, the group of employees in Wuhan who threatened mass suicide recently were making Xbox 360s). Anyway, it turned out to be the most popular episode ever, went viral, inspired all sorts of activism, all that good stuff. But:

Daisey's interpreter Cathy also disputes two of the most dramatic moments in Daisey's story: that he met underage workers at Foxconn, and that a man with a mangled hand was injured at Foxconn making iPads (and that Daisey's iPad was the first one he ever saw in operation). Daisey says in his monologue:

He's never actually seen one on, this thing that took his hand. I turn it on, unlock the screen, and pass it to him. He takes it. The icons flare into view, and he strokes the screen with his ruined hand, and the icons slide back and forth. And he says something to Cathy, and Cathy says, "he says it's a kind of magic."

Cathy Lee tells Schmitz that nothing of the sort occurred.

This chap never appeared on film. Maybe it was because he thought the camera would steal his soul. I don’t think you need any more than an absolutely rudimentary awareness of China to find that incredible. By rudimentary, I mean knowing that it makes a huge proportion of the world’s gadgets or that it has massive levels of internet and mobile device penetration and is generally device crazy. Or that a culture in the throes of mass industrialization might in fact be quite materially aware. Above all, would you assume it was a credible assertion that someone on a production line would think their finished product was ‘a kind of magic’ if that production line was in Europe or the US?

The sad thing is that it’s probably this kind of mysticism that helped drive the appeal of the programme: people pretty much like us in most material particulars wanting to earn a decent living’ doesn’t seem to excite much in the way of solidarity. ‘Hands off the munchkins': that’s the way to go.

In fairness, the show has put out a detailed, almost grovelling retraction, which identifies failures in fact checking as the main cause of the problem. I'd say it was more a matter of assumption checking.

i never noticed them before they became infrastructure

“As you wonder (sic) between locations murmuring to your coworker about how your connection sucks and you can’t download/stream/tweet/instagram/check-in, you’ll notice strategically positioned individuals wearing “Homeless Hotspot” T-shirts. These are homeless individuals in the Case Management program at Front Steps Shelter. They’re carrying MiFi [short-range mobile wireless hotspots] devices…We’re believers that providing a digital service will earn these individuals more money than a print commodity,” wrote Saneel Radia, BBH Labs director of innovation.

The BBH is Bartle Bogle Hegarty, by the way: actually, Bartle Bogle Hegarty ‘Labs’. This ‘Lab’ employs people who can’t spell ‘wander’ to dream up the idea of using the homeless as human plug ins, paid a suggested eight dollars an hour pro-rata. I can just see some semi -autist saying ‘I only used 13 and a half minutes’ and calculating the exact sum owed. ‘I can’t give you any more. That would violate the terms of service’.

Aside from the specific humiliations involved in this for both transactors, it does point to a huge structural economic dysfunction: Chronic homelessness. Semi-illiterates employed in ‘Labs’ producing reams of bullshit. The second feeding off the first.

Perhaps relatedly, sandwich men still thrive, if that’s the term. These days they’re known as human directionals.

Leveson tangent

Politics drifts back into the frame. It was always suggestive that Andy Coulson was appointed head of communications for the Tories two years after he ran an effective spoiler on the George Osborne cocaine use allegations, despite losing his job in the interim period because of the original Royal hacking affair back in 2006.

Now we have the issue revisited in the light of Bob Quick's revelations this week, and the news that Muclaire, at Coulson's request, was regularly hacking the phones of senior editors at Mirror Group, to whom Natalie Rowe originally took her story. 

How much did they know about how their Mr Fixit (Coulson) fixed things? If the Leveson inquiry is supposed to clean up the press and its relation to politicians, then our two most senior ministers should answer these questions under oath.

Sounds good to me.

Trotsky on workfare

The very principle of compulsory labor service is for the Communist quite unquestionable. “He who works not, neither shall he eat.” And as all must eat, all are obliged to work. Compulsory labor service is sketched in our Constitution and in our Labor Code. But hitherto it has always remained a mere principle. Its application has always had an accidental, impartial, episodic character. Only now, when along the whole line we have reached the question of the economic re-birth of the country, have problems of compulsory labor service arisen before us in the most concrete way possible. The only solution of economic difficulties that is correct from the point of view both of principle and of practice is to treat the population of the whole country as the reservoir of the necessary labor power – an almost inexhaustible reservoir – and to introduce strict order into the work of its registration, mobilization, and utilization.

You'll note that this is much more systematic than Chris 'Lev Davidovich' Grayling's current plan to help out his Party's business mates by giving them free labour underwritten by the taxpayer. On the other hand, Leon and friends did pay his conscripts, at least nominally.