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.

John Doerr’s CTO recommendation

I see in the BITS Blog that John Doerr is recommending a partner to become Pres. Obama’s CTO:

Barack Obama wanted to know whom Mr. Doerr would recommend for chief technology officer of the United States, a position that Mr. Obama has promised to create. Mr. Doerr’s first choice was Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, in which Mr. Doerr invested early on. Mr. Joy is now a partner at Mr. Doerr’s firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Mr. Doerr said it would be a sacrifice to lose him to the Obama administration, but that “there is no greater cause.”

I can’t go along with that. Bill Joy is certainly an interesting guy, but he’s too much a creative mind for a government job like this one. He’s certainly done a lot of important work, what with vi, BSD sockets, and championing nfs and Java (and, as Wes Felter points out, Jini and Jxta,) but I think he tends to look a bit too far off into the future and tends to get burned on the practical side of things. I went to a talk he gave in Singapore back in ’86 in which he predicted the imminent demise of Microsoft. A talent for wishful thinking isn’t good in a bureaucrat. See: War, Iraq.

UPDATE: And more recently, Joy wrote this embarrassing piece from Wired about the danger of technical progress, which even Glenn Reynolds finds alarming. Doerr is a strong supporter of the “net neutrality” regulatory model, having co-penned an Op-Ed on it with Reed Hastings of Netflix. Protecting your portfolio is an understandable aim, but it’s not a good guide for national (and international) policy.

I hope Julius Genachowski isn’t swayed by the fact that these folks jumped on the Obama bandwagon (after their girl lost the nomination, actually.) The vast majority of the tech community supported Obama, and most of us are brighter and more sensible than the prominent figures from law and unsavory advertising who’ve made the most noise in support Google’s regulatory capture of the FCC. More on that later.

Christopher Hitchens at this best

In Slate, see The GOP ticket’s appalling contempt for science and learning

This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just “people of faith” but theocratic bullies. On Nov. 4, anyone who cares for the Constitution has a clear duty to repudiate this wickedness and stupidity.

Quite so.

Obama’s CTO short list

According to Business Week, Obama’s CTO will be one of these guys:

Among the candidates who would be considered for the job, say Washington insiders, are Vint Cerf, Google’s (GOOG) “chief internet evangelist,” who is often cited as one of the fathers of the Internet; Microsoft (MSFT) chief executive officer Steve Ballmer; Amazon (AMZN) CEO Jeffrey Bezos; and Ed Felten, a prominent professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University.

I can’t see Ballmer taking this job when he’s having so much fun, but I imagine any of the others would bite. Trouble is, they’re mostly business guys rather than tech guys, so it’s not an elite group. I’d have to go with Felten, for the fact that he has actual technical knowledge as well as a blog. I’ve debated him about net neutrality, of course.

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The best in women’s wear

Y’all should go read about this amazing dress designer, Miranda Bennett, in Time Out New York

A very feminine and elegant woman’s line with a little edge and a lot of versatility. “For my current collection, I imagined a really well-packed suitcase,” she explains. “I wanted the pieces to function together and fit a woman’s daily transition as she leaves the house in the morning, goes to work and goes out afterward.” Utilizing a casual wool fabric, Bennett innovatively creates jumpers; soft, flowing dresses; and flattering tops that look chic in any setting. And, unlike most multipurpose items, each piece has a surprising touch, like hidden pockets or a cozy silk lining. “I like to give the wearer a hidden luxury—it’s a nice secret for her to have.”

She does really amazing things with the cloth, like this:

Miranda dresses
a Miranda dress

Go forth and purchase.

Time for Palin to Step Down

Kathleen Parker offers Sarah Palin some sage advice:

Palin didn’t make a mess cracking the glass ceiling. She simply glided through it.

It was fun while it lasted.

Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.

Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there’s not much content there. Here’s but one example of many from her interview with Hannity: “Well, there is a danger in allowing some obsessive partisanship to get into the issue that we’re talking about today. And that’s something that John McCain, too, his track record, proving that he can work both sides of the aisle, he can surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed to deal with an issue like this.”


Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

Do it for your country.


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.

Sarah Palin, Abuser of Children

Newsweek has some interesting back story on Sarah Palin’s Troopergate scandal. Three years ago, the Alaska courts found she had engaged in a form of child abuse and told her to stop:

Court records obtained by NEWSWEEK show that during the course of divorce hearings three years ago, Judge John Suddock heard testimony from an official of the Alaska State Troopers’ union about how Sarah Palin—then a private citizen—and members of her family, including her father and daughter, lodged up to a dozen complaints against Wooten with the state police. The union official told the judge that he had never before been asked to appear as a divorce-case witness, that the union believed family complaints against Wooten were “not job-related,” and that Wooten was being “harassed” by Palin and other family members.

Court documents show that Judge Suddock was disturbed by the alleged attacks by Palin and her family members on Wooten’s behavior and character. “Disparaging will not be tolerated—it is a form of child abuse,” the judge told a settlement hearing in October 2005, according to typed notes of the proceedings. The judge added: “Relatives cannot disparage either. If occurs [sic] the parent needs to set boundaries for their relatives.”

The emotional abuse of children suffering from their parents’ unpleasant divorce is a very serious matter, one that casts doubt on the mental stability and judgment of the adults involved. Given that Palin acted this way from one step removed – it was her sister’s divorce, not hers – makes this behavior even more troubling. If I hadn’t already decided not to vote for Palin because of her lack of intellect and experience, this would have turned me around. We don’t need any child abusers in the White House.

Castro Resigns

Now here’s an earthshaking event:

MEXICO CITY — Fidel Castro stepped down Tuesday morning as the president of Cuba after a long illness, ending one of the longest tenures as one of the most all-powerful communist heads of state in the world, according to Granma, the official publication of the Cuban Communist Party.

This can’t bode well for the Republican Party in South Florida, driven as it is by the need to fight the nearby demon. Whether it really signals any change for Cuba remains to be seen, but a Cuba without Fidel could be as remarkable as an America without a Bush or Clinton in the White House.