The Circumlocution Office is Alive and Well
Duncan Steel, 2014 May 06.
I was intending to put up a post here simply so as to enable a new thread of discussion, due to the huge volume of comments and replies that have made my preceding post unwieldy. I had failed to put up a new post for while not so much for a lack of anything to say, but rather the lack of time to say and write it whilst travelling and attending to a range of other matters; my apologies for this.
So, I was going to put up a post with a title saying simply “Here’s a new post you can file comments under” but I wanted to convey the spirit of the investigation, and therefore came up with The Circumlocution Office. This wonder (and all-too-common feature) of government had its name invented many years ago by Charles Dickens, in his book Little Dorrit, although it was by no means a new phenomenon in the middle of the nineteenth century. Dickens introduces it with this paragraph:
The Circumlocution Office was (as everybody knows without being told) the most important Department under Government. No public business of any kind could possibly be done at any time without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong without the express authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the parliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office.
In the century-and-a-half since Dickens introduced the world to its existence, in a formal sense, The Circumlocution Office has grow’d like Topsy so as to have sub-branches and sub-sub-branches in every department of every level of government.
On Monday I sent the following email message to the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACCmedia@infrastructure.gov.au) in Canberra, Australia (a nation of which I am a citizen):
Dear Sir or Madam,
In the mass media today there have been various reports regarding a meeting of those investigating the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, to occur on Wednesday in Canberra. For example, the following appeared in The Guardian (London):
Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said: “We’ve got to this stage of the process where it’s very sensible to go back and have a look at all of the data that’s been gathered, all of the analysis that’s been done, and make sure that there are no flaws in that.”
Might I ensure that you are aware of the analysis by a variety of people with knowledge of both the space/satellite sector and also the avionics and communications systems, all available on my website: duncansteel.com
As an example, on April 2nd I posted an analysis that indicated that the Inmarsat modelling of the satellite-derived information appears to be incorrect in that a northern path for MH370 cannot be excluded: http://www.duncansteel.com/archives/507
I have already discussed and critically reviewed this analysis with a wide range of colleagues, including aeronautics/aviation staff at NASA-Ames Research Center, where I work part of the year.
The following is the complete (obviously pro forma) reply that I received:
The ATSB’s MH370 search group has been established since Australia’s involvement in the search for MH370. The group initially based at AMSA is now at the ATSB.
This group has been working closely with the MH370 joint investigation team of experts and in particular, the satellite communication subgroup, who will be visiting the ATSB this week to continue the review of information that will assist in progressing future underwater search planning. The work of the groups will be ongoing in the coming weeks as the underwater search planning progresses.
The satellite communication subgroup comprises experts from the ATSB, UK Air Accident Investigation Branch, the US National Transportation Safety Board, Inmarsat and their respective technical advisers.
Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC)
Apart from telling us that The Circumlocution Office is alive and well and has been transported to the Antipodes, the above reply is not entirely devoid of information: it mentions only “underwater search”, apparently confirming that the view remains that the MH370 flew south, regardless of any review of the satellite data. Perhaps such a review will indeed demonstrate beyond doubt that the aircraft flew south.
Almost precisely a century after Dickens named The Circumlocution Office, in 1955 Cyril Northcote Parkinson introduced his eponymous law. It has various forms, and corollaries, but the commonest is perhaps that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Unfortunately its application in the sorry case of MH370 is that there is no known time limit for the search for the last resting place of MH370, and so myriad public servants [sic] will continue to be paid to do worthless, obscurantist pseudo-work until such time as the aircraft is found, and then they will find something else to do that is both time-filling and self-serving, so as to continue to waste the public’s money.