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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Poor Juan Williams

Okay, the reason I have been silent so long is that I got the flu, and then the Chief got the flu from me, and I couldn't really get over the flu because I was fighting to keep the Chief in bed. He tends to try to outrun viruses. It's as if he somehow believes that if he picks up enough velocity, a relativistic phenomenon will occur and abruptly he will find himself going back in time to BEFORE THE CONTAGION.

Plus, poor SuperDoc is being audited by a bunch of Medicare Advantage providers. I suspect it is because he is daring to treat his patients, and he gets a lot of them with weird or complex illnesses. I have an ocean of work in front of me.

In the comments below I see that Angry Saver is insisting that debt owed to oneself is money. I will take up that fallacy later. Tonight, I just want to tell a story on myself that may generate some compassion for Juan Williams.

But before I tell that story, I noted that the head of NPR said that Juan Williams should keep his opinions between himself and his shrink, so of course I burst out laughing and raced over to the Shrink's place, and he has duly written a post regarding the Fox Faux Pas.

On to my story:

Regular readers know that I have a neurological disease. Although mostly better now, for the vast majority of adult my life I have been subject to sudden paralysis. This most often occurred whenever I was hot for a while, with plenty of blood pumping through my muscles, and then suddenly was cooled down. And it could be utterly crippling.

So, as a consequence, I am one of the most modest dressers in warm weather you will ever find. In particular, if I am going to have to be somewhat immobile in an air-conditioned space, you will find the M_O_M creature wearing head-to-toe loose layers. This is especially important when traveling, because there is nothing worse than charging through a 100 degree parking lot and then being trapped for several hours in an airline seat, immobile, with drafts blowing on your bare skin.

Although in my case this is not a religious practice, I am sometimes mistaken for a Muslim by Muslims because of it. Non-Muslims might think that the Koran requires the burka, but it doesn't. It does, however, dictate covering up and loose clothing. Therefore western Muslim women and I have a somewhat similar dress code, which is only likely to be perceived by Muslims as being typically Muslim.

It is possible that TSA training is better than most think it is, because I also find myself being yanked out for the body searches quite a bit at airports now.

A few years back, I was waiting for a plane to Jacksonville, FL, garbed in my normal layered look, and while I waited, I prayed the rosary. I often pray the rosary, but when I do it in public I tend to do it inconspicuously. I usually have the rosary in my lap or sort of in my pocket, and I do not speak the prayers aloud. I mouth them to myself.

I noticed that I was being stared at by a dark man while we were boarding the plane.

As luck would have it, it turned out that the dark man and I were sitting next to each other in a set of seats next to an emergency exit. I had requested the window seat and chosen an exit row, because they are roomier. He appeared somewhat startled and nervous, and offered to change seats with me. I declined politely, because I really like to look out the window when I fly.

He appeared consistently nervous, and I became concerned and asked if he were all right. He was sweating and glancing around, and I was wondering if he might either be ill or perhaps feeling signs of an incipient heart attack. That seemed to thaw him a bit - he disclaimed any illness, and we began talking.

He began to ask me a bunch of questions, and it turned out that not only were we in similar lines of business, but that we had even worked for the same large international consulting firm at different times. It ended up being the most enjoyable flight I had ever had, since we were chatting about business and got into hilarious management misadventures.

I also found out why he had been so concerned.

He was Muslim (originally from India, naturalized American). He thought I was Muslim. He was concerned by my behavior in the terminal, and then appalled to find himself sitting next to a possible terrorist fanatic who was probably going to rip the emergency door open in flight, or perhaps set off a bomb to cause an explosive decompression. The eye-rolling and sweating and glancing around was probably him trying to figure out what to do. If he had seen an air marshal, I'm sure he would have tried to get the marshal to take me into custody.

So, let's just have a little compassion for poor Juan. It is not only non-Muslims who are concerned about Islamic terrorism. It is, after all, mostly Muslims themselves who have been in the middle of the violence, and most of them are not anxious to disappear in a cloud of bloody particles.

The man I unwittingly scared half to death was a frequent traveller. I suspect he and Juan Williams might have a very interesting conversation if they ever find themselves seated together on a plane. I do not think Williams is a bigot for saying what he thought. Nor do I think his thoughts themselves are bigoted. My travelling companion that day wasn't a bigot. He was merely an innocent man who wanted to live.

It would be bigotry if Williams wanted Muslims to be prevented from travelling. It would be bigotry if Williams thought Muslims should all be thrown out of the country. It is not bigotry to simply be concerned about a genuine danger.

I am laughing too hard to continue, but read the Shrink's post.

Comments:
Would it be better to weep than to laugh?
 
NO, because anyone who really understood this story and started crying would never stop.

I laugh because the look into Amaterasu's mirror is a knife of awareness so hot and so sharp that it cuts clean - it sterilizes even as it cuts.
 
I have a travel story that entails similar fears. On a cruise to the Baltic we stopped in Copenhagen. My wife and I signed up for a boat tour of the canals that weave through Copenhagen. The boat was parked at the pier near the Cruise ship. There was a line of about one hundred tourists lined up waiting to board the tour boat.

A new VW van pulled up and two men dressed in Muslim garb got out. They then removed fishing tackle from the back of the van. The tackle was all sparkling brand new stuff and the two men looked very out of place with their fishing gear as they hustled away from the van. I was immediately suspicious - this was 2006. I contemplated going back to the cruise ship just to get away from the van, but thought maybe I was being too paranoid.

The Muslims were about 1/4 mile down the pier moving to who knew where, when a police car pulled up. A policeman asked people nearest the van if they knew who the van belonged to. I saw them pointing toward the two men. The police raced down the pier and collected the two. They brought them back to the van and they were soon on their way. It was apparent that no unauthorized vehicles were allowed to park there and someone was watching. (Good on the Danes!)

I have to admit I was very relieved to see that van out of there. The men may have been innocent beginner fishermen, or.........they may have been doing a test run or it might have been a real mission. I'll never know. It would be an easy way to bag a bunch of infidels and maybe shut down the cruise ship pier in the bargain.

Since 2001, can any sentient human be unaware of possible danger in situations like that? Apparently some of the brass at NPR can.
 
Yikes, M_O_M. Your story is terrifying to me, for a very specific reason.

When I heard about Juan Williams' fear of men in traditional Muslim garb, I thought it was just silly. After all, why would a would-be bomber advertise himself that way? I do watch people's behavior while they are waiting to board, and on while on board to the extent possible. Perhaps your behavior would have set off my alarm bells, too. But traditional clothing is neither here nor there.

But an Indian-born Muslim likely knows more than he wishes to about terrorism, and the sorts of people who commit such acts. If he was afraid, then perhaps he knows something I should know!
 
I lived in England during the period when the IRA was setting off a lot of bombs in London. There were signs posted in public spaces warning folks to look for suspicious packages or bags. And I did. I still do, nearly 30 years later. If I see bags, or a pile of boxes, or a suitcase in a place where they don't belong, I get suspicious, and I'll point it out to someone in authority.

I also think we should hire retired police to be at security checkpoints. They can just observe. Career cops spend so much time dealing with suspicious behavior that they can spot troublemakers at a glance.
 
Neil - anyone with any sense would be concerned, and yes he did know something you and everyone else should know.

Gordon - sure, everyone should look for odd behavior.
 
I don't think you can open an emergency door in flight. The outside pressure keeps the door from opening. Please note i'm not 100% sure about this, so don't attempt it.
 
cf,
It's the inside pressure that keeps the door from opening in flight. The cabin is pressurized and the outside atmospheric pressure is much lower than in the cabin. My knowledge comes from 25 years as an airline pilot.
 
JJ; Thank you. As a Bond Trader for 25 years nothing makes me happier than being right for the wrong reason.
 
Wasn't there some incident with loss of a door or window panel? I seem to remember something along that lines.

They survived.

Believe me, CF. I am greatly in favor of all the little pieces of the plane remaining together while I am anywhere around it. In fact, I am even strongly in favor of the same when I'm nowhere near it.
 
M_O_M,

I seem to remember an incident with a Hawaiian Air B737 that lost a goodly chunk out of the upper section of fuselage back before micro-fractures due to fatigue were well understood. One poor flight attendant fell or was sucked out (I don't remember exactly), but the plane landed safely with everyone else aboard.

I'm guessing that loss of an emergency door would make for an uncomfortable flight, but wouldn't be much of a terrorist attack.
 
A UAL 747 headed from Honolulu to Tokyo had a cargo door (hinged at the top and latched at the bottom) that was improperly latched blow open at about 25,000 feet as the plane was climbing. The cargo hold is also pressurized, so the door blew upward and tore off a section of fuselage above the hinges. Several passengers were sucked out of the hole by the pressure as high pressure air flowed out of the cabin. The two engines on the starboard side were were damaged and caught on fire. Once the pressure between the outside and inside was equalized there was only a lot of noise and cold air. They also had to use oxygen masks until descending to below 10,000 feet. The engine fires were extinguished and the plane turned back to Honolulu.

A disaster? Yes! Did the airplane crash? NO! Amazing skill and luck allowed the crew (one of whom is a good friend of mine) to limp back to Honolulu for a safe landing.

Several British Air Comets mysteriously crashed when passenger jets were in their infancy. It was discovered the fuselages were not strong enough to withstand the enormous pressure differentials when they got to altitude.

With all that you are still safer flying in a commercial jet than on the drive to the airport. It does pay to pay attention to the safety briefing. Passengers on U.S. Airways 1549 will vouch for that.
 
Wasn't it about 28 years ago that a DC-10 crashed near Paris due to a pressure-differential caused problem? As my dimming memory recalls, the lower rear cargo door had a design problem: it was possible to close the door so it looked locked, but in fact was barely latched. When the -10 climbed out, the higher pressure caused the door to blow out. The pressure differential between the now unpressurized cargo hold and the passenger cabin caused the floor of the cabin to collapse downward. This severed the control cables, and the pilots were unable to control the rudder and tailplane, and about 300 folks died.

Overpressure is a powerful thing. A couple of pounds of difference on two sides of a wall can cause a collapse.
 
Neil,

I'm guessing that loss of an emergency door would make for an uncomfortable flight, but wouldn't be much of a terrorist attack.

Here's some physics to show why you are underestimating the effect of a missing passenger door.

747 Door Opening Size

42 BY 76 IN

That's 3,192 square inches.

Altitude of a Commercial Jet

30,000: Cruising altitude of a commercial jet.

Air Pressure and Altitude above Sea Level

14.43 psi at 500'.
4.37 psi at 30,000'.

Difference is about 10 pounds per square inch. Therefore, if the plane's passenger area was fully pressurized at a crusing altitude of 30,000 feet, it would take roughly 31,920 pounds of effort to get that door open. That backs Jimmy J's claim that the door is NOT going to open in flight without some serious help.

However, if that door did open (or suddenly vanish), it could very easily cause extensive damage to the rest of the plane.

Explosive decompression is extremely dangerous to airplanes. It would definitely be worthy of a terrorist attack description.

The link also mentions why airplane doors open inward and once again backs Jimmy J's claim.

Cabin doors, including the emergency exits, but not all cargo doors, open inwards, or must first be pulled inwards and then rotated before they can be pushed out through the door frame because at least one dimension of the door is larger than the door frame.

As seen within that link...

United Airlines Flight 811

In the business-class section, a grinding noise was heard, followed by a loud thud which rattled the whole aircraft — 1½ seconds later the forward cargo-door blew out abruptly. The pressure differential caved in the floor above the door, causing two rows of seats (8G-12G and 8H-12H) and an individual in 9F to be ejected from the cabin, resulting in nine fatalities and leaving a gaping hole in the aircraft.
 
Gordon,

Turkish Airlines Flight 981

Turkish Airlines Flight 981 was a McDonnell Douglas DC-10, registered TC-JAV and named the Ankara, that crashed just outside Senlis, France, on 3 March 1974. Known as the "Ermenonville air disaster", from the forest where the aircraft crashed, the accident resulted in the deaths of all 346 on board. The crash of Flight 981 was the deadliest air disaster of all time before the Tenerife Disaster event of 1977, and remained the deadliest single-airliner disaster until the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123 in 1985. Flight 981 has the highest death toll of any aviation accident in France and the highest death toll of any accident involving a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 anywhere in the world.

The crash resulted from the failure of the rear cargo hatch latching system, which allowed the hatch to blow off in flight. The resulting decompression of the cargo hold caused the cabin floor above the hatch to collapse....

 
Mark, You do good research. I guess I should have shown some links to back up my claims.

The UAL 811 flight was the one I referenced. I was just writing from memory, which, while not completely gone, is less than optimal.
 
This is a nerdfest, not that I am not enjoying it thoroughly. Thank you all very much for the details. The Honolulu flight was the one I was recalling.

However let us be careful not to stray into comments on how more successful terrorist attacks could be made.

Nerds. They like to consider and solve problems. Terrorists - not the brightest bulbs in the ummah. May the twain never meet. I think the Israelis finally got the one successful engineer nerd terrorist, and the Palestinians have apparently been trying to cultivate themselves a new nerd ever since.
 
MOM (& Jimmy J),

I am a definitely a nerd! I found the physics behind an airplane plane door thoroughly entertaining.

"However let us be careful not to stray into comments on how more successful terrorist attacks could be made."

One would think that reading the complete works of Darwin would help, but fortunately the terrorist mind just doesn't seem to work that way.

Check this out.

Fanatic Wanted Still More Darwin Programs

It was both scary and pathetic at the Discovery Channel in Maryland today when an environmental terrorist took hostages in an attempt to force the television network to show more programs on Malthus and Darwin and to rail against over-population and global warming.

No hostages were killed. The environmental terrorist (James Lee) was shot and killed. Talk about ironic!
 
I am sometimes mistaken for a Muslim by Muslims because of it.

MaxedOutMama's pro-Islamic (and thus anti-Western) viewpoints may make people mistake her for a Muslim regardless of what she's wearing.

It would be bigotry if Williams thought Muslims should all be thrown out of the country.

That wouldn't be bigotry at all. It would just be common sense (which obviously isn't so common after all). But for a pro-Islamic person like MOM, it is considered objectionable.
 
Anonymous,

"That wouldn't be bigotry at all."

Bigotry

"A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance, irrationality, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs. The predominant usage in modern American English refers to persons hostile to those of differing race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, various mental disorders, or religion."

One would think (using "common sense" of course) that if a person was SO intolerant and SO hostile of another religion that he would wish to throw ALL those who believed in that religion out of his country then that person would in fact be a bigot.
 
One would think (using "common sense" of course) that if a person was SO intolerant and SO hostile of another religion that he would wish to throw ALL those who believed in that religion out of his country then that person would in fact be a bigot.

That might have been a reasonable argument if we weren't talking about Islam. Since we are in fact talking about Islam, which is in no way comparable to religions in general, the above doesn't apply, which would have been obvious if common sense were in fact more common.
 
Anonymous,

It was a reasonable argument for non-bigots. The definition of "bigotry" I offered includes the word "irrationality" though.

You can prove you are neither a bigot nor irrational of course. Simply show us the proof that ALL Muslims are terrorists as a valid reason to throw them ALL out of our country.

I don't know if you've heard this before, but American citizens actually have rights. We can't just throw them out of our country based on hunches or feelings. I would have thought that too had become "common sense" by now.

For what it is worth (not much to a bigot no doubt), I do know a Muslim. He's married to my girlfriend's friend (who is not Muslim). I do not cringe in fear that he will commit a terrorist act. My life is not in danger being near him.
 
I would also add that although his Muslim parents did not approve of his decision to marry a non-Muslim woman, the wedding did occur.

It would seem that all Muslims are not extremists. We already knew that of course. Roughly 20% of the humans on this planet are Muslim. If they were ALL extremists "common sense" would suggest there would be far fewer than 6 billion people as 1 in 5 comtinually committed acts of terrorism.
 
Simply show us the proof that ALL Muslims are terrorists as a valid reason to throw them ALL out of our country.

We have to assume that all Muslims might be terrorists, simply because we do not possess any reliable method of distinguishing the harmless Muslims from the dangerous ones. Because Islam commands its adherents to wage war on unbelievers (that's me and you), and because of Islamic phenomena such as taqiyya, any apparent moderation may indeed be turn out to be outright deception, and so the only way to be safe from Islam is to expel ALL Muslims.

Again, this is not bigotry, nor is it in any way irrational, it is (or should be) common sense.

The blogger Hesperado has written a few essays about this that should be required reading, especially for people who have a knee-jerk tendency to yell "bigot!".

For what it is worth [...], I do know a Muslim. He's married to my girlfriend's friend (who is not Muslim). I do not cringe in fear that he will commit a terrorist act. My life is not in danger being near him.

Oh, the good old "I know a Muslim who's a nice guy" anecdote. Utterly insignificant, except perhaps in the sense that it might explain the naivete and the name calling somewhat.
 
It would seem that all Muslims are not extremists. We already knew that of course.

This fact is rendered moot by the fact that, as I pointed out, we don't have any reliable way of knowing who is an "extremist" and who is not (indeed, an apparently harmless Muslim may at some point reveal himself to be an "extremist").
 
Anonymous,

"This fact is rendered moot by the fact that, as I pointed out, we don't have any reliable way of knowing who is an "extremist" and who is not..."

Using your logic, we clearly should throw ALL Americans out of America. We can't trust any of us. There's just no way of knowing which of us might be extremists. For example, some of us (an extremely small minority perhaps) might still believe that the Spanish Inquisition and burning people at the stake is a pretty good idea (and continue to wait patiently for their opportunity). Or perhaps some today might wear hooded white robes and burn crosses on lawns under the cloak of anonimity. There's just no way to know for sure.

It's just common sense of course. Where do you propose we all should be sent?

Here's a crazy idea. We can all be placed on boats several miles offshore. We'll then all head to the nearest vacant land mass (presumably somewhere between Canada and Mexico). Once we're settled we'll create a document that separates government and religion so we don't end up repeating our mistakes. We won't persecute people over their religious beliefs. We'll call it America II.
 
To the Anon who is convinced that only declaring jihad on Muslims and expelling them all will work:

A) A Muslim is allowed to lie about his or her religion if it is done in context of a religious war. By definition we would be involved in such if we were to attempt to expell all Muslims. Therefore there is no way to even know who is Muslim if we were to try to follow your theory in practice.

B) The Constitution does not allow it. Therefore we would have to junk the Constitution.

C) The founders (those who wrote the Constitution and the generation which required the Bill of Rights in order to achieve ratification) had plenty of experience with religious extremism of this sort. They feared it, with good reason. You are that reason.

D) Your argument presumes the definition of Islam, but many people who are Muslims do not agree with your definition of Islam and in fact do support the Constitution. So your argument must be off-base.

E) The last time I read anything like your argument was in Mein Kampf. Think twice. This does not bode well.

F) Since you are the one arguing for junking the Constitution, aren't you the enemy of the West? Think thrice. It is never wise to attempt to achieve victory over your opponent by cutting off your own heads before your enemy manages to achieve that goal - unless you have already lost.

The US, at least, is winning this war, and the only way it can lose it is to kill itself off. Muslim extremists are so violent that they are generating a backlash and an reevaluation of the more fundamentalist doctrines in the "in-betweeners".

Anyone who knows any history understands that Christianity evolved into an extremely Shariah-like doctrine and then evolved out of it (basically regressed to the prior point). Judaism appears to have done the same. Therefore there is little point in labeling a religion. Christianity started as an extremely pacifistic doctrine. Common understanding slowly mutated that doctrine toward a theocratic and very controlling doctrine AGAINST the original precepts.

The tragic failures of fundamentalist Muslim societies will rebut the more bizarre forms of this doctrine for us. The God of History is MOST unforgiving. Every time you shoot yourself in the foot or light your balls on fire it really hurts.
 
Test comment
 
Stagflationary Mark:
Using your logic, we clearly should throw ALL Americans out of America. We can't trust any of us. There's just no way of knowing which of us might be extremists.

No, that's not using my logic at all. My logic takes into account the nature of Islam as well as the potentially fatal consequences of being wrong about the apparent harmlessness of individual Muslims. The quote above is merely a knee-jerk response which disingenuously fails to distinguish between the nature of America and the nature of Islam.
 
MaxedOutMama:
Therefore there is no way to even know who is Muslim if we were to try to follow your theory in practice.

In this day and age of information technology it wouldn't be possible for Muslims in general to hide an entire lifetime of practicing Islam and being involved in Islamic activities. Of course, taqiyya could complicate matters - that's what it's designed to do, after all - but it shouldn't be an excuse to give up fighting Islam.

The Constitution does not allow it. Therefore we would have to junk the Constitution.

The Constitution would probably need an amendment, there's no reason it would have to be "junked".

The founders (those who wrote the Constitution and the generation which required the Bill of Rights in order to achieve ratification) had plenty of experience with religious extremism of this sort. They feared it, with good reason. You are that reason.

Since I am anti-Islam, it follows that I am against religious extremism (of which Islam is the prime example), and not a proponent of it.

As for the founders, their mistake was failing to anticipate the influence of Islam in America and put in place safeguards against it. We can either choose to be slaves of their shortsightedness in this particular regard, or we can seek to strengthen the Constitution so that it does not provide a loophole for totalitarian ideologies like Islam to destroy America in the name of religious freedom.

Your argument presumes the definition of Islam, but many people who are Muslims do not agree with your definition of Islam

Since Islam is what it is regardless of what Muslims may agree with me about, this does not matter. Besides, any apparent disagreement voiced by a Muslim may be taqiyya, so it's a moot point anyway.

The last time I read anything like your argument was in Mein Kampf.

I can't be bothered to discuss the mandatory Hitler reference (which is ironically enough coming from someone who's defending the intrinsically anti-Semitic religion of Islam, who is thus potentially contributing to the increasing influence of Islam and thus the increase of anti-Semitism in America, and who apparently has no problems with that).

Since you are the one arguing for junking the Constitution, aren't you the enemy of the West?

I've never argued for junking the Constitution, hence the question is irrelevant.

As for the ego quoque argument about Christianity and Judaism, suffice to say that Islam is in its essence completely different from both, and therefore comparisons are meaningless except for obfuscation purposes to Islam's advantage (and that's all I'm going to say on the matter, lest this predictably becomes a digression about Christianity).

(I have to leave this discussion for now, as I don't have the time to follow up any responses during regular weekdays.)
 
Anonymous,

I'll pass on your ideas of creating a land of the freedomless and the home of the cowardly if you don't mind.

You see 20% of the world's population as a direct threat to you. You picture every Muslim in our country as someone out to get you. You feel that the one Muslim I know is secretly planning harm against me and you think me naive for not understanding the threat he represents.

He's not the threat. You are. By threatening the freedoms of any American citizen you are also threatening the freedoms of all American citizens.

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself. - Thomas Paine
 
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