Mumbai Massacre

The terror attack on Mumbai is an outrage, of course; it’s India’s 9/11 and 7/7. The terrorists attacked India’s most open city, entering by boat and killing random people at locations carefully chosen for traffic and impact. Indian security forces and heroic hotel service workers put down the terrorists, restoring order in a few days. This was kind of personal for me, since I’ve been through Mumbai (or “Bombay,” as we used to call it) something like 50 times over the years, occassionaly staying in the hotels that the terrorist scum attacked.

The press reports are now saying that the terrorist attack squad consisted of a mere 10 people. That’s a pretty small number to kill 200 people over the course of three days, so they must have had some local help. I’m waiting to see the rest of the story unfold.

Twitter played an essential role in increasing the terror and the confusion over the attack, as it served as the amplifier for every bogus rumor in circulation and offered exactly zero help with the fundamentals of the “story:” who, where, and why. Nonetheless, the “citizen media” crowd is crowing about the greatness of Twitter-enabled mobs. Sad. The Economist that came in the mail Friday was more authoritative than Twitter as to what actually happened in Mumbai and why.

The appropriate response to this massacre is to take a trip to Mumbai, and failing that to at least go eat at an Indian restaurant. The latter is symbolic only, but if that’s all you can do, at least do that. The civilized world has to hang together in the face of religious-fanatic barbarity, or surely we’ll hang separately.

And yes, I do believe that the Pakistan ISI had a hand in this attack.

The interviewer’s name was Charlie

Sarah Palin scored points for knowing her interviewer’s nickname, but didn’t do so well on the actual questions. Most notably, she went all “moose in the headlights” when asked about the Bush Doctrine. Jim Fallows explains why Palin’s ignorance is troubling:

What Sarah Palin revealed is that she has not been interested enough in world affairs to become minimally conversant with the issues. Many people in our great land might have difficulty defining the “Bush Doctrine” exactly. But not to recognize the name, as obviously was the case for Palin, indicates not a failure of last-minute cramming but a lack of attention to any foreign-policy discussion whatsoever in the last seven years.

Fred Kaplan’s recap in Slate is excellent:

The other spine-chilling moment came when Gibson asked about her recent comment, in a speech at her church, that the war in Iraq is “a task that is from God.” (ABC then showed a YouTube clip of the speech.) Palin tried to finesse the question, saying that her remarks were only “a repeat of Abraham Lincoln’s words” that we should pray not that God is on our side but that we are on God’s side. Gibson didn’t back down, noting that she had in fact gone on to say, “There is a plan, and it is God’s plan.” To this, Palin replied:

I believe that there is a plan for this world and that plan for this world is for good. I believe that there is great hope and great potential for every country to be able to live and be protected with inalienable rights that I believe are God-given, Charlie, and I believe that these are the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That in my worldview is a grand—the grand plan.

Two things came to mind upon hearing her say these words. First, they sound like the earnest answer given by a contestant in a beauty pageant when the M.C. asks her about world peace. (Sorry to seem sexist, but it’s true; read it again.)

Second, and more to the point, do we want someone a heartbeat away from the presidency—and a 72-year-old cancer survivor’s heartbeat, at that—to possess both impetuousness (“You can’t blink”) and holy certitude? Isn’t that what we’ve had, actually in the Oval Office, the past eight years?

Robots are wired to react a certain way, but people are required to think.

Here’s the bonus beauty queen interview for comparison:

In other news, Lorne Michaels Wants Fey for SNL’s Palin:

Saturday Night Live creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels said the show is talking with Tina Fey about playing Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin at some point this season, possibly as soon as this Saturday’s season premiere.

This would be superb, of course.

Something for everybody

I’ve got to see the latest bin Laden video, it sounds seriously funny:

An address that contains less than 2,500 words mentions “large corporations” eight times, and blames all the ills of the world on them and the “capitalist system” they represent. The warmongers killed Kennedy for trying to end Vietnam and they’re keeping America in Iraq, he claims. Capitalists are melting the polar ice caps, miring hard-working Americans in debt, and have even got the Democratic Party in their deep pockets, he suggests. And the only one who’s crying wolf in America is, according to bin Laden, American linguist and left-wing political activist Noam Chomsky.

Swings For The Stands

At this point — with 95 percent of the American public hopelessly lost in his video address — bin Laden the anticapitalist unveils the only solution that could possibly alienate the remaining 5 percent: religion. Your mistake, he tells Americans, is that “you have separated church and state.” The way out of this problem is conversion to Islam.

Here, bin Laden swings for the stands of transpartisan weirdness and connects, combining in a single sentence religious fundamentalism, anticapitalism, and a nontax flat tax: “Islam will deprive [the war profiteers and owners of large corporations] of the chance to swindle the people out of their money through arms deals and such, for Islam has no taxes and only limited alms that stand at 2.5 percent.”

There’s something for everybody in this: low taxes, anti-capitalism, and religious fanaticism. What a deal.

Enlightenment fundamentalist

The latest criticism of Ayaan Hirsi Ali is that she’s an “enlightenment fundamentalist:”

Having in her youth been tempted by Islamist fundamentalism, under the influence of an inspiring schoolteacher, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is now a brave, outspoken, slightly simplistic Enlightenment fundamentalist. In a pattern familiar to historians of political intellectuals, she has gone from one extreme to the other, with an emotional energy perfectly summed up by Shakespeare: “As the heresies that men do leave/are hated most of those they did deceive.” This is precisely why she is a heroine to many secular European intellectuals, who are themselves Enlightenment fundamentalists. They believe that not just Islam but all religion is insulting to the intelligence and crippling to the human spirit. Most of them believe that a Europe based entirely on secular humanism would be a better Europe. Maybe they are right. (Some of my best friends are Enlightenment fundamentalists.) Maybe they are wrong. But let’s not pretend this is anything other than a frontal challenge to Islam. In his crazed diatribe, Mohammed Bouyeri was not altogether mistaken to identify as his generic European enemy the “unbelieving fundamentalist.”

Christopher Hitchens disputes this charge:

In her book, Ayaan Hirsi Ali says the following: “I left the world of faith, of genital cutting and forced marriage for the world of reason and sexual emancipation. After making this voyage I know that one of these two worlds is simply better than the other. Not for its gaudy gadgetry, but for its fundamental values.” This is a fairly representative quotation. She has her criticisms of the West, but she prefers it to a society where women are subordinate, censorship is pervasive, and violence is officially preached against unbelievers. As an African victim of, and escapee from, this system, she feels she has acquired the right to say so. What is “fundamentalist” about that?

I would embrace the “enlightenment fundamentalist” label. There’s no shame in being a fanatic for tolerance, secular democracy, science, and reason, and these are the fundamental values of Western civilization. Or were, once upon a time.

BONUS FEATURE: For no extra charge, see today’s Opinion Journal on Ms. Ali:

This worldview has led certain critics to dismiss Ms. Hirsi Ali as a secular extremist. “I have my ideas and my views,” she says, “and I want to argue them. It is our obligation to look at things critically.” As to the charges that she is an “Enlightenment fundamentalist,” she points out, rightly, that people who live in democratic societies are not supposed to settle their disagreements by killing one another.


No good deed goes unpunished

Ayann Hirsi Ali is a hero to many who want to see the war on Islamic terrorism end in a victory for the West. But every hero has her critics, and Ali is no exception. For some of the most mind-bending perverse logic you’ve ever seen, check the Newsweek article attacking Ali from the pro-Muslim and pro-feminist (!) point of view:

Other Muslim women interested in reform aren’t exactly in step with Hirsi Ali. “I wish people had been nicer to her,” says Muslim author and feminist Asra Nomani. “But I don’t blame Islam. I blame really messed-up people who’ve used religion to justify their misogyny.” As staunchly patriarchal strains of Wahhabi Islam infiltrate Muslim cultures outside the gulf region, many modern female followers are wondering how to embrace their religion without succumbing to its more sexist demands. And they’re coming up with answers that don’t require them to abandon either their religion or their culture. In the Middle East and South Asia, a strong majority of Muslim women recently polled by Gallup believed they should have the right to work outside the home and serve in the highest levels of government. Here in the United States, dozens of scholars like Ithaca College’s Asma Barlas, Harvard’s Leila Ahmed and Notre Dame’s Asma Afsaruddin have challenged widely accepted interpretations of the Qur’an. “They are Islam’s Martina Luthers,” jokes Nomani. “They are my heroes.”

It’s not clear what “being nicer” would have meant: no clitorectomy, fewer beatings, and a better arranged marriage, or not being disowned? Some people are just so hard to please.

Linklove to Roger L, Simon.

A question and an answer

Dan Gillmor asks a question about the case of the Brooklyn Bridge bomber:

Why are journalists not screaming bloody murder about this case? Sloth no longer suffices to explain our negligence?

My answer: The man (Mohammed Rauf) copped a plea. Criminals do that every day, and it’s not a story.

Next problem?

Via A-list blogger (heh heh) Jeff Jarvis.

Silicon Valley and the war

Does Silicon Valley have a split personality in the war? The Frisco Chronicle thinks we do, because we produce high-tech weaponry but harbor a boatload of anti-war sentiment. Wind River’s president Jerry Fiddler’s not confused:

“This war is a catalyst that is shining light on a military that is always strong and present and here for one reason — to keep us safe,” he said in an e-mail. “The world today is a safer place because of American military capabilities. We’ve seen those capabilities used to end conflict recently in Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda and elsewhere. We owe a debt to our soldiers.”

And neither was former deputy secretary of defense David Packard.

But others are: Bob Taylor, ex- of Xerox PARC, Lee Felsenstein, once a personal computer pioneer of sorts, and a number of the elf bloggers, like Marc Canter, David Weinberger, Howard Rheingold, Lisa Rein, Meg Hourihan, Steve Kirsch, Joi Ito, et. al. Generally, the techies who oppose the war — and implicitly support a status quo that leaves Saddam Hussein in power — are not engineers, but “social implications of technology” people, self-appointed visionaries, dot-commers, and marketeers. The reality-based thinking that engineers practice doesn’t leave room for coddling dictators and sanctioning torture, so we want regime change. Besides, many of us have worked for managers who remind us of the Butcher of Baghdad, so we naturally sympathize with the oppressed.

Hollywood’s a different story, of course, because it’s full of the fuzzy-minded, who tend to have the same tunnel-vision we find in the Valley’s paratechnicals.

High-tech weaponry

This column by Walter Williams reminded me why the Soviet Union folded:

There were some highly classified equipment, operations and questions one of our hosts, Dr. Ace Summey, couldn’t show or discuss with us, but that which we saw convinced me that Saddam Hussein can only expect a zero to no chance of a successful battle engagement with our military. I was also convinced that CSS had given additional meaning to General George S. Patton’s admonition, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”

He discusses multi-spectral radar, Landing Craft Air Cushion and unmanned underwater vehicles, all nice arrows in the quiver in the war against terrorism.