All posts by Number9

Dispute among U.S. officials; IRG Terror Designate? Trump administration Iran arms control report

(Reuters) Exclusive: Dispute flares among U.S. officials over Trump administration Iran arms control report. Quoting

The report’s publication follows the administration’s formal designation on Monday of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran’s elite paramilitary and foreign espionage unit, as a foreign terrorist organization.

The case that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism has the very respectable General James Mattis attached.  Quoting from General Mattis; Iran continues to sponsor terrorism; Iran, Iran, Iran,

“At the time when I spoke about Iran I was a commander of US central command and that (Iran) was the primary exporter of terrorism, frankly, it was the primary state sponsor of terrorism and it continues that kind of behavior today,”

At the time I argued with use of the word:

I agree with all but the choice of words. Iran is in an expansionist, revolutionary phase, not unlike the early years of the Soviet Union. Unlike any other state adversary extant, it also exports an ideology, with the gleam of the caliphate, something we were hoping would not recur since the downfall of communism.

Iran has at times lead the world in assassinations on foreign soil, and continues to have a very active program. But so does Russia.  Particularly hateful to Mattis is the slaughter of Marines in the Khobar Towers bombings in 1996. The principal  Iranian controlled agent, Ahmed al-Mughassil was captured in 2015. (Brookings) Captured: Mastermind behind the 1996 Khobar Towers attack. Some say the Iranians deliberately betrayed him. This is possible, since at the time the moderates were ascendant.

The domino theory, so popular during the Cold War, is alive again. I might be one of the proponents, but unlike those who justified the Vietnam war with the fear that North Vietnam would take over Southeast Asia, I have no solution. If there is a row of dominoes, Iraq is first in line. This proposition is partly indexed in Trump wants U.S. military in Iraq to ‘watch Iran’: CBS interview. The blog search for Sistani brings up all the pieces.

The gist is that Iran, several times the center of an empire, will, with a certain degree of inevitability, swallow its politically weak neighbor. Complicating any U.S. effort to prevent this is the prediction that Iraq will in a few years become inhospitable to any U.S. presence. (2/4/2019 NY Times) Trump’s Plan for U.S. Forces in Iraq Met With Unified Rejection in Baghdad. Quoting,

President Trump’s unexpected announcement that he wanted American troops in Iraq to stay there to “watch Iran” achieved a previously unattainable goal on Monday: unity in the Iraqi political establishment….The unity was a collective rejection of his proposal, and added momentum to proposed legislation that could hamper American troops’ ability to operate in Iraq.

The Trump administration has innovated a number of aspects of U.S. foreign policy in positive ways. This is not one of them. As an author of the idea that Iran will absorb Iraq,  I would certainly like to avert the event. But Pax Americana is done with, and we have to pick our battles. To declare the IRGC a terrorist organization offers advantages with respect to sanctions and rules of engagement, but not enough to overcome the hostility of a whole region, including the part to be defended.

Talk loudly and carry a small stick? Talleyrand (if you like him), or a Kissinger (whether you like him or not), were successful at statecraft in a world of diminishing influence, which Kissinger actually anticipated  by 40 years. Both understood force, diplomacy backed by force, and had the bargaining skills of a union organizer. They also knew how to fold most advantageously.

Of choices to be made, with limited resources, I  prefer Venezuela.

 

 

(CNN) North Korea tests ‘tactical’ weapon; Kim’s Panzerfaust / Davy Crockett

(CNN) North Korea tests ‘tactical’ weapon, report says. Quoting a South Korean assessment,

A South Korean government source with military knowledge told CNN that weapon was likely a piece of long-range artillery “likely to be a multiple rocket launcher.” At the time, South Korean Unification Ministry deputy spokeswoman Lee Eu-gene downplayed the significance of the 2018 event, saying Kim had been continuing his inspections in the military sector “intermittently.”

The downplay could reflect the actual state of affairs. But there is a worrying alternative, made possible by the participation of physicists from the former Soviet Union. In the past few years, the North’s nuke program, formerly glacial, has produced a torrent of results.

Quoting,

No missile launch was detected by US Northern Command and Strategic Command, according to US Department of Defense officials.

The absence of a missile launch detection, if not a very small missile, still allows a weapon like the nuclear Davy Crockett M-28, which resembles an upsized Panzerfaust antitank weapon from World War II. The recoilless rifle design consists of a launcher tube containing a powder charge that acts against a stick  within the barrel. At the forward end of the stick is a bulb that contains the destructive device. The Panzerfaust contained a conventional shaped charge. The Davy Crockett contained a version of the W54 nuclear warhead.

Is Kim inviting us to fill in the blank after “tactical” with “nuclear”? An assessment  could center on the shape of the plutonium pit in the “primary” of a warhead. Two practical choices exist: round, or like a football (elliptical)/ linear implosion. Round is most efficient, and requires the least fissile material. Elliptical/ linear implosion is the choice of space limited applications, like a skinny MIRV warhead,  a nuclear artillery shell, or a Davy Crockett.

In flight, the Davy Crockett is a skinny stick with a bulb on the front. The fatter the bulb, the less aerodynamic it is. The greater yield of the round design is of no value with very short range, as some distance is required to survive even a very small nuclear explosion.

Although the U.S. makes wide use of linear implosion primaries with elliptical pits, a publicity photo of a happy Kim with a North Korean  “physics package”  goes against this design. Missile warheads are more sensitive  to weight and yield than to shape. Linear implosion requires more fissile material, with greater weight for a given yield than a “round” design.

Should we look for evidence of linear implosion to rule in/out a battlefield weapon of Davy Crockett ilk? This risks captivation by the U.S. approach to weapons design, which aims for best-in-class. North Korea’s iffy rockets  dispose of this.

A battlefield tactical nuclear weapon could be astonishingly primitive yet still deliver the goods. A sufficiently vertical trajectory, as with a mortar, can optimize the range of the most awkward projectile.   Similar astonishment comes with Russia’s Hypersonic Missile; Reverse Engineering Secrets of Avangard.

However primitive, resumption of nuke testing is implied, to optimize a physics package to fly on the front of a stick.

They know how to do it at Warwick Castle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khalifa Haftar Attacks Tripoli; Physical Illness?

Khalifa Haftar’s assault on Tripoli is described in some circles as a massive  failure of judgment,  a rash strategy breaking from previous   tactical brilliance. This point of view is supported by reports of uncoordinated moves by small units of the LNA, resulting in ambushes and captures of some LNA units by the defenders.

Explanations  for Haftar’s  risky assault  center on alleged defects or new facts of character, based mainly on anecdotes and interviews. To break with one’s own established character is a privilege of free will, but a theory that relies upon it is weak.

At the cost of one more hypothesis, we can avoid this. The hypothesis: Haftar is physically ill. Critical condition is not required; all that is required is a chronic sign of mortality, a signal that he may not have the half decade or required required to finesse all the opposing elements.

Haftar was  hospitalized in April 2018 with what was claimed by some sources to be a stroke. Given his short hospitalization, the most likely event is a TIA (transient_ischemic_attack). Other possibilities include the mass effect of a benign tumor, a low grade malignancy, or an early-stage neurodegenerative disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease.

Most neurological disorders in the elderly leave constant reminders of their presence. Sometimes the symptoms are unapparent to others; they may progress in ways that interfere with the image and reality of power.  Physical illness requires Haftar to act with haste.

Absent a medical history, Occam’s Razor discourages the addition of this hypothetical to what is known, in order to solve the problem of Haftar’s behavior. But the hospitalization supplies the predicate.

With the predicate, we can disregard Haftar’s hyperbolic speech, which cannot be reliably distinguished from showmanship.

 

 

 

 

Guide to Bob’s Solo Manhattan Art Show

School of Visual Arts Link:   Project Space.  Through April 29. For hours and locations see  Bob’s Manhattan Art Show; Burning Man.

Exhibit Guide

At 209 E. 23rd:

I’m Inna Shower. Acrylic on canvas.

Fish Eye. Acrylic on Canvas.

Portrait of a Spaceman. Oil on canvas.

Generations. Oil on canvas.

The Devil of 7th Avenue. Sumi ink and oil pastel on paper

How Will They Remember Us? Commentary on the Technological Singularity . Oil on traditional gessoed panel.

Burning Man. Oil on canvas.

At 380 2nd Ave. 8th floor:

Paintings in Acrylic

Uber Ride Times Square

Jacob’s Ladder

Oil Painting

Joe and Mary Six Pack Admired by Their Miraculous Baby

Relief Paintings with Molding Paste

George Washington Cracked

Abraham Lincoln

A Day at the Beach

The Monuments of Mars

Bob’s Manhattan Art Show; Burning Man

You are cordially invited to view my art, now on display at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, as a solo show, in two location, through April 29. Open to the public at no charge.

Burning Man (click to enlarge)

  • Location #1:  SVA Gramercy, 209 E. 23rd Street, north side, between 2nd & 3rd, ground floor hallway off lobby.  Open 8 a.m – 10 p.m, 7 days/week.
  • Location #2: 380 2nd Avenue, 8th floor, SE corner 2nd & 22nd, 8th floor, opposite guard desk. Open 8 a.m – 10 p.m., weekdays only.

This solo show includes oil and acrylic paintings, and relief sculpture, a kind of hybrid between painting and sculpture.

This is a MUST SEE for all hackers, spies, station chiefs, and news reporters (Take note, CNN and Reuters, it’s only a brisk walk from your HQs), for whom Intel9 is the blackest of mysteries. Practice your brush-passes, exchange microdots and secret handshakes while you look for steganographic codes in my paintings.

If you find any hidden meaning, let me know. This is, after all, the essence of modern art. But is there a hidden agenda? Consider (Independent) Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’.

See the art. Then make your report.

Juan Guaido Watch Your Back; Trump says ‘Russia has to get out’ of Venezuela Part 2

Mr. Guaido, watch your back. The new Russian presence in Venezuela is a personal hazard to your life. We can trace the roots of the hazard all the way back to Sergey Kirov, a prominent early Bolshevik.

Joseph Stalin said, “Death solves all problems. No man, no problem.” The killing of Sergey Kirov has not been solved in a way that defines it as a political assassination. But viewed as a plot of technical perfection, it has served as a blueprint for political murder into the modern period. At Kirov’s funeral, Stalin was one of the coffin bearers. We do not need to solve this crime, or attribute it to Stalin, for it to be useful to us now, because it serves as an illustration, like a pen-and-ink drawing. Of note,

  • Kirov was a political rival. Of rivals, Stalin was to show less-than-zero tolerance.
  • Kirov was popular. Like Guaido, he was charismatic, attractive, and energetic.
  • Kirov was a prominent member of the “Leningrader” party clique. Based in that most sophisticated Soviet city, the Leningraders, like Guaido’s adherents, had the potent ability to interpret and elaborate Bolshevik ideology. They were a genuine political alternative.

The elements of the killing, so novel at the time, were;

  • A disgruntled individual, Leonid Nikolaev who could be manipulated or allowed to commit the killing.
  • Apparently innocent actions to expose the victim to the assassin.
  • A result of perfect deniability, facilitated by swift executions.

Quoting from (Wikipedia) Leonid Nikolaev,

Borisev, one of the first to come upon the scene, was immediately arrested; he died the day after Kirov’s assassination, allegedly as the result of a fall from a truck in which he was being transported by the NKVD. On December 28 and 29 1934, Nikolaev and 13 other people as members of the “counterrevolutionary group” were tried by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR under Vasili Ulrikh‘s chairmanship. At 5:45 AM, December 29, all of them were sentenced to death and executed by shooting an hour later.[5][6][7]

Regardless of whether Kirov’s killing was in fact a political assassination, it’s a blueprint, subsequently modernized. With a shortage of crazy yet reliable assassins, the deniable means is now poison. Death is not always necessary, or even desirable. Recent uses of poison include

These are known to high certainty. With less supporting evidence,  The New Yorker adds Yuri Shchekochikhin and Anna Politkovskaya, poisoned two years before she was shot to death. The Wikipedia article on Shchekochikhin adds Roman Tsepov (possible polonium) and Lecha Islamov (possible polonium). This is a very casual count of 8  poisonings with political motive. It’s a pattern.

Mr. Guaido, you may feel protected by your offer to repay Russia the funds which Maduro squandered. But you are a pawn in a greater game. Russia’s overarching foreign policy strategy is balance-of-power. Since the U.S. is considered to be the strongest power, Russian strategy is to erode that power. Venezuela as a client state is worth more than the money owed. It’s worth more than your life.

The 15 year ban on political office is likely a red herring, to make you feel safe from the real sanctions you face.

Can you protect yourself? Unfortunately, the bungled Skripal job is not likely to be repeated. In the UK, the first requirement was disguise of the murder weapon to be smuggled in; hence the use of a perfume bottle to contain the poison, which (Guardian) later killed  Dawn Sturgess. Much earlier, the Soviets possessed sophisticated gun-like weapons that administered poison from a distance, either as an aerosol, or a minute dissolving dart, made of something as simple as sugar.

There is always the possibility of a Kirov-style assassin, paid handsomely, who does not live long enough to enjoy his reward. But poison is the neat,  deniable alternative.  Either way, you die in a Caracas hospital that denies access to Western specialists.

In the aftermath, Russian expertise with propaganda and internet control will corrode the will of the opposition. Mr. Guaido, will you receive a state funeral or become a non-person? I leave that to the experts. Either is possible, even both at the same time.

The above may seem excessively dramatic. By anticipating a future, it may be possible to avert it. I would prefer to be wrong.

The history of Western interventions includes similar stories,. Of particular note, academic studies of the (Guardian) attempted or actual assassination of Patrice Lumumba reveal all the shades of gray and black; of actual murder, or merely delivering someone to his enemies. Poison is included.

Mr. Guaido, in dramatic flourish, a  kiss  on both cheeks.

 

 

Trump says ‘Russia has to get out’ of Venezuela

(CNN) Trump says ‘Russia has to get out’ of Venezuela. and (CNBC) What next for Venezuela? Guaido calls for final push to oust Maduro after Trump reaffirms support.

I’ve written extensively about revolution in Venezuela; see Venezuela articles. Now the natural course of events has been interrupted by the nascent military intervention of Russia, which will expand to a Cuba-style presence unless nipped in the bud. This is the most certain prediction that can be made; a U.S. response is complicated.

There was a time when it was simple; the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 was the colonial equivalent to the spheres of influence. In practical effect, it was supplanted by the Truman Doctrine of 1949, which countered the growth of Communism.  The Cuban Revolution of 1959 punched a hole in it, establishing a Russian client state only 90 miles from Miami, but the approach remained operative until Ronald Reagan’s speech of March 4, 1987, when he took full responsibility for the Iran-Contra Affair. This idea finally ran its course with the undoing of the  infamous Yalta agreement, with the disintegration of the Iron Curtain in 1991.

The Monroe and Truman Doctrines were the basis for many unseemly interventions into Latin America. Although I agree with Henry Kissinger that the U.S. was not responsible for the overthrow of Salvador Allende (whose Wikipedia article is so misleading I will not quote), the patterns of U.S. influence in Chile, revolving around ITT Inc., typify the old U.S. approach towards the region. The history of the United Fruit Company, now Chiquita, gave rise to the term “banana republic”.

The patterns imitate those of classic colonialism, brought to perfection in British India. To the credit of the British, the princely states they so successfully suborned were, after a turbulent period of cultural transplantation, replaced by the world’s largest democracy. No such credit is due the U.S., which contributes to the current problem.

(Wikipedia) United States involvement in regime change in Latin America lists 12 countries in which the U.S. intervened. I suggest that the reader regard the article  as a mix of fact and fiction. Guilt is sometimes equated with guilt by association.  In the murky world of covert action, political elements get to tell their stories first, establishing the “conventional truth.” This is so with Allende, described in print as a “democratic Marxist”, but  really an aspiring dictator, whose overthrow and death lead to brutal right-wing repression of the regime of Augusto Pinochet. In comparing two evils, one must avoid the temptation to find a false good.

The U.S. role cannot be whitewashed.  The tentacles of U.S. influence, many of them corporate, cannot be denied. In some cases, the interventionist hand is clearly visible in unbiased history.  The assassination of Chilean Orlando Letelier in 1976 typifies the grayness; the U.S. knew of the impending plot, and failed to act to stop it. This implies elements within the U.S. in deep sympathy with Pinochet, if only as a “bulwark against communism”. The difference between guilt, and guilt-by-association, becomes miniscule. It is no wonder that those who blame the U.S. for the 1973 overthrow of Chilean democracy own the narrative.

This is the background, the obstacle to U.S. intervention. But have a look at the map of U.S. interventions. Colombia, Paraguay, and Venezuela are blank; they have experienced only the gentle side of U.S. imperialism. Venezuela’s misery is entirely an indigenous creation. Colombia owes its current stability to U.S. support of genuine democracy.

Hence, possibilities. To be continued shortly.

 

 

 

Why Trump suddenly says public should see Mueller’s report

(CNN) Why Trump suddenly says public should see Mueller’s report.

Reporter

Since my concentration is not domestic politics, which is excluded from this blog, I would probably miss some of the reasons on Collinson’s list. But I would add another reason, outside his concentrated gaze,  but in the center of my field of view.

Hypothesis: Trump has been warned that the near-final report has already been obtained from D.O.J. computers.

The computers used for the Mueller investigation are doubtless on an air-gapped network. If you want to transfer information between one air-gapped network and another, the standard method is to print it  out and scan it in.  Since USB memory sticks are a common malware vector, USB ports are frequently disabled. Unfortunately for security, many attacks are possible on air-gapped networks. (ZDNET) Four methods hackers use to steal data from air-gapped computers is just an intro. The U.S. intel community possesses the requisite expertise.

There are many other methods, both ancient and modern, that will not be detailed here.

There is some risk to those who use the tools. But the wide support for release of the report may mitigate this risk, since a leak or a hack may be viewed as a patriotic act.

How probable is  a leak? The human factor figures in both compromise of an air-gapped system, and leaking the hacked info. James Comey mentioned his fear of leaks in his decision of October 28, 2016 to announce the resumption of the Clinton email probe.  Comey’s decision gauges the risk of a Mueller report leak.

All news organizations need to guard themselves from rut-based thought.  Collinson’s list is detailed and useful, but it is contained by “legitimate politics.”

CNN is not the only news organization afflicted by rut-based thinking. It’s probably universal. It respects no subject. The flaw also occurred in reporting the 737 Max crashes, where valuable clues were ignored to “go with the flow.”

Lewis Mumford wrote on how equating politics with “everything” afflicted and stunted the development of Greek cities in the Golden Age of Greece, with the advent of modern politics.

It’s no coincidence.

 

 

US Air Force, Boeing has ‘severe situation’ , Safety Culture

(CNN) US Air Force says Boeing has ‘severe situation’ after trash found on refueling planes.

This is not  about neatness.  Quoting,

Boeing will now have to conduct spot inspections on the aircraft during production, including specific areas of the planes that may be sealed as part of the production processes…Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, made clear his concerns after visiting Boeing’s Everett Washington plant where the plane is assembled…

…Roper  emphasized to reporters that while the issue of the material and objects — known as Foreign Object Debris, or FOD — being left inside an aircraft as it comes off the production line is not a design or safety risk [boldface mine], it is a matter of great concern to the military.

Oh yes it is. Roper engages in double-speak. Maybe he doesn’t want to bash Boeing when they’re down.

“FOD is really about every person, everyone in the workforce, following those procedures and bringing a culture of discipline for safety,” Roper said.

More double-speak.  In the first paragraph, it’s not a safety risk. In the second paragraph, it’s about safety. Since Roper seems to be editing himself, I’ll explain. An airplane contains many voids that are sealed, or baffled from direct view by welded metal. Tools left in  voids are as dangerous as surgical clamps left in a patient. Follow this chain:

  • The tanker plane is made of aluminum. Aluminum is a soft metal, with finite fatigue life.
  • Aircraft tools  are made of extremely hard molybdenum alloy, with infinite fatigue life.
  • In the high vibration environment of an aircraft fuselage, a tool left in a sealed void for years  bounces around, fatiguing the aluminum, accelerating crack growth, and scratching off anti corrosion coatings.
  • Moisture in the air, and condensation, combined with the dissimilar metals of steel and aluminum form a battery, resulting in galvanic corrosion.
  • What happens if the tool spends years banging against a cold-bond (glued aluminum) lap joint? You could have something like an Aloha Flight 243.

As an airplane ages, the wiring deteriorates as well. Trash left in a void could combine with a minor electrical flaw to cause a fire.

So this is not about delivering tidy planes to the Air Force. Wherever feasible, voids of KC-46 planes already delivered should be imaged, to avert possible future catastrophes.

But what can be done to instill pride in  a workforce that thinks this way?

 

 

 

 

 

Boeing, FAA, Space Shuttle Challenger, Richard Feynman, and Safety Culture

Maybe it’s universal: In any organization, safety culture is the first thing to rot, because it pays no dividends.  Safety rot can cut future dividends, but paying it forward has always been a weak motivation.

The early reports of witnesses indicated a catastrophic mechanical failure, evidenced by fire, smoke, and a hole in the airplane. The pitch control problem, based in software,  which flies a Max nose-first into the ground, has no direct connection with these symptoms. The loss of pitch control could have easily resulted from severed hydraulic lines.

So the FAA concluded that two hull losses within 6 months were probably not related. In a classic wrong decision, the FAA initially chose not to ground the Max. When vertical flight profile data became available, it provided a  smoking gun: the pitch control anomaly was active in the Ethiopian crash.

Yet it may not be THE smoking gun. The first cause of the Ethiopian tragedy seems to be an engine failure, which the crew might have successfully handled, had there not  been the fatal distraction of a pitch control problem. Failure to anticipate means deficient safety culture. At the minimum it must include:

  • Exposure of pilots without specialized training  to every conceivable scenario.
  • Supervision  by a very antagonistic tiger team.
  • Prodding by a very antagonistic team of statisticians.
  • Glasnost from everybody.  We’re not Russians!

Boeing doesn’t have this culture. Riding herd on Boeing is the FAA, staffed by the revolving-door, with  deep love for companies, airplanes, and  legend. It isn’t enough. It may even be a negative. Passing FAA scrutiny may have assured the weak-minded at Boeing they are doing the right thing. With safety culture, the only efffective adversary is yourself. Question, question, never stop!

Only 6 years ago, Boeing experienced a similar lack of safety culture with the 787 batteries. The 787 uses lithium ion batteries, which cannot be made fail safe. (Refer to the previous post.) Quoting (Wikipedia) Boeing 787 Dreamliner battery problems,

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report on December 1, 2014, and assigned blame to several groups:[3]

    • GS Yuasa of Japan, for battery manufacturing methods that could introduce defects not caught by inspection
    • Boeing’s engineers, who failed to consider and test for worst-case battery failures
    • The Federal Aviation Administration, that failed to recognize the potential hazard and did not require proper tests as part of its certification process

When I learned Boeing was using lithium batteries, long before the fires, I got a chilly feeling. Boeing was relying on the same judgment Sony had made about the ancestral 18650 lithium cell. In the lab, these batteries are resistant to trauma. But with the right kind of manufacturing defect, they become little bombs. So here’s another safety culture rule:

  • Assume every part is potentially defective, and see what happens.

I wondered why Boeing chose not to put the batteries in fire-proof stainless steel cases, venting to the outside. (Eventually, after 5 battery fires in one week, they did.)

The perverse reason: An airplane cannot be made fail-safe. To install 787  batteries in an effectively fail-safe enclosure would be overkill, because there are too many other things that can bring a plane down. The logic: If you can make 1% of the single-point-failure gadgets in an airplane fail-safe, while the other 99% rely on redundancy, there is no measurable benefit to passenger safety.

The pattern:

  • Reliance on lab tests of parts that do not reflect manufactured defects and real-world consequences.
  • Since an airplane cannot be made fail-safe, belief that a part can be made too safe.
  • A safety culture heavily based on badly applied statistics, without effective oversight and challenge.

The buck stops at the Boeing executive suite, which means sales. Sales are the lifeblood of a plane company, contingent on geopolitics, backslapping, trade deals, technology transfer, and maybe even greased palms.  Safety does not make the list.

Senile safety culture is a disease of for-profits. But how about non-profits? NASA holds a special place in our culture, achievement for the sheer joy of it. A lot of people would take a pay cut to work for NASA. And yet, it happened at NASA, on January 21, 1986, with the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman, already fatally ill, was appointed to the Rogers Commission. He found the cause, which he demonstrated In a simple, yet dramatic demonstration involving  a C-clamp, a glass of ice-water, and a piece of o-ring  rubber.

America needed a hero to investigate the heroic. Feynman filled that role, but his account varies from the myth. According to Feynman, individuals volunteered the necessary information, organized in away to lead him to the conclusion. Feynman said he never would have found it on his own.

They knew the answer before Feynman.  (Wikipedia) Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, shows that at the engineering level, there was a vibrant safety culture, cognizant of what Feynman eventually discovered, that failed to influence management.

Even within enlightened NASA, there was no one to tell. Even though NASA occupies a special place in the American mind, something prevented  Feynman’s helpers to make known what they knew. Feynman filled the gap with his fame. With his ingenuity, on-camera with a glass of ice water, a C-clamp, and a piece of rubber, Feynman gave us common sense.

Feynman discovered that in calculating the safety of the Space Shuttle, NASA had misused or ignored basic statistics, the kind that would flunk you out of a 2nd year stat course. He showed that the chance of a Space Shuttle disaster was 1 in a 100, not 1 in 100,000. With similar faulty reasoning, the FAA chose not to ground the Max.

Common sense said ground the plane. The FAA said no to common sense, because they don’t understand this simple equation from Decision Theory:

Average Cost of a Decision =  

(Chance of Getting it Right) X (Cost of Getting it Right) 

+ (Chance of Getting it Wrong) X (Cost of Getting it Wrong)

The cost of getting it wrong is 300 lives.

It’s time to ground the FAA.