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Belmont Club

East of Suez

March 9th, 2014 - 8:24 pm

The line between tragedy and farce is difficult to explain. The best way to to distinguish them is to say “you’ll know it’s tragic if it is.” In 1998 Eugene Volkh wrote an article titled “How the Asians Became White”.  That was farce. In Malaysia this transformation literally happened.  The results might prove to be tragic. The passengers holding stolen Austrian and Italian passports who boarded MH370 had “Asian faces”. Reuters reports:

Malaysia’s state news agency quoted Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying the two passengers using the stolen European passports were of Asian appearance, and criticizing border officials who let them through.

“I am still perturbed. Can’t these immigration officials think? Italian and Austrian but with Asian faces,” he was quoted as saying late on Sunday.

Of course anyone who said the same thing in the West would be decried as racist.  But Chinese, never having heard of PC,  are not amused. They have taken a dim view of Malaysia’s handling of the entire affair. “China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, appeared to flash impatience in a phone call reported on the ministry’s website.”

“The Malaysian Airlines flight has been missing for close to 40 hours,” he was quoted as telling his Malaysian counterpart, Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.

“The Chinese government is treating this very seriously, and the Chinese people are extremely anxious.”

He asked that Malaysia “constantly” provide updates on the situation, the global daily reported.

It noted that in a series of briefings, Malaysian officials refused to answer any questions relating to what they described as “security matters”.

Not discussing “security matters” might be another way of saying “we’re are afraid to tell you how badly we screwed up.”  Now the situation has taken an even more dramatic turn. The description of the interlopers has changed. They are now black. ABC News says: “One of the passengers who used a stolen passport to board the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was a black man, a Malaysian official indicated today.”

When asked about the two men who used the stolen passports, Rahman replied, “We confirmed now they are not Asian looking males.”

When pressed to describe them, he said, “Do you know a footballer by the name of Bartoli? Do you know what he looks like?”

Reporters corrected him asking, “Mario Balotelli?” and asked whether the man with the stolen passport was black. Balotelli, who is black, is an Italian soccer player.

“Yes,” Rahman replied.

Rahman refused to further describe the two men.

Don't you mean Bertolli?

Don’t you mean Bertolli?

If the passengers weren’t exactly who the authorities thought they were, the airplane may not have been on its course either.  The 7th Fleet says it now searching the northern  Straits of Malacca, even as it added another Burke class destroyer, the USS Kidd, to the search.  The 7th Fleet Facebook page says:

• The Navy MH-60R helo will have about 10.5 hours of search coverage today in the Eastern search area (Gulf of Thailand). If needed, the helo is capable of nighttime searching – it flew last night using its Forward Looking Infra-red (FLIR) camera.
• Today the Navy P-3 will search an area west of Malaysia in the northern section of the Strait of Malacca. The P-3 can cover more than 1,500 square miles every hour (about 4,000 square kilometers)
• US Navy aircraft have not seen any debris associated with commercial aircraft wreckage. Our aircraft are able to clearly detect small debris in the water, but so far it has all been trash or wood.

The USN is no longer taking the assumed track of the airplane as given.  They are now searching 90 degrees to either side of the reported track of the MH370.

Earlier, Interpol complained that few countries — not Malaysia at least — had bothered to use their database of stolen passports.  Only a few countries, he said actually used it.

“It is clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol’s databases,” Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said in the statement.

Kip Hawley, a former administrator of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, said the stolen passports and the prospect the plane crashed into the Gulf of Thailand “makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.”

The measures put in place since September 11 have occasionally been described as “security theater”. It looks impressive, but at least in Malaysia it does less than you would think.

And terrorists think. They know that Southeast Asia, home to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, is a region where, with the right connections, anything goes. For this reason, the precursor to the the 9/11 attacks, Operation Bojinka, was rehearsed mostly in the Philippines. It was uncovered only by accident.

Despite his careful planning and the skill of Ramzi Yousef, the Bojinka plot was disrupted after a chemical fire drew the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) attention on January 6–7, 1995. Before the plot was disrupted, Yousef detonated test bombs in a mall and theater, injuring scores of people, as well as Philippine Airlines Flight 434, killing one person and nearly causing enough damage to lose the entire aircraft.

Bojinka planned to kill the Pope, blow up airlines simultaneously the world over and crash an airplane into CIA headquarters. They tested out their plans in the Philippines because they knew they could hide in the ambient chaos.  Nor is Malaysia perhaps that much better. A Malaysian friend of mine described the officialdom in his former country as leaving something to be desired. And so perhaps the men were let through less out of tolerance than carelessness.

But why should we blame the passport officer who sees the face but follows the passport?  The days when you asked “who won the World Series” when challenging identity are over. The primacy of documentation means one is who the database says.  You may not speak the native language. You may even be fighting for the other side. But if that’s what the passport says, that’s who you are.

The press routinely reports ‘Westerners’ as fighting in Syria or joining the Taliban. And that is factual even if it is not. Somehow it has become possible to both fight against your nation and simultaneously claim its protections. Of course it would be if the database says so.

Identity is entirely a matter of having papers that are in order. There is some irony to the circumstance that uprisings in the world today are being waged by those want their identities back. The Uighurs, Ukranians, Russians — to name a few — aren’t fighting to be absorbed, but to be distinct.  They want something beyond the supremacy of papers. And they are willing to use everything, including the weaknesses of the papers themselves, to reach their goal.

But for the meantime papers are what the authorities say they are, however that may be.


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Top Rated Comments   
One can hope this doesn't sound too Marxist, but anti-Americanism appears to be a matter of class warfare. Take England, for example. The working class tends to be pro-American. The lower middle class tends to be pro-American. The titled nobility tends to be anti-American, and the upper middle class (which tends to serve as lackeys to the titled nobility) tends to be rabidly anti-American. There is a massive difference between the attitudes of Liverpool supporters and Cambridge professors.

This pattern, which explains English sentiments during the American Civil War, appears to replicate itself all over the world. People who desire opportunity and a better life for their family tend to admire America, while people who desire to act as petty tyrants ferociously loathe America. What the Communists don't understand is that they constitute a class. Although Milovan Djilas called them “The New Class”, they aren't new at all – Communism merely became a renovated form of feudalism.

One wonders if the reason why so many leftists feel an affinity for terrorists of any persuasion is because they share the same class affinity – what is a “vanguard” but a self-styled “aristocracy”?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
We have people assume the appearance of or the names associated with genders as an act of artistic expression.
On the other hand, the race-obsessed Left tries to label persons who practice another culture's form of artistic or athletic expression as "appropriators." As in the following rant du jour from Salon: "Why I can’t stand white belly dancers: Whether they know it or not, white women who practice belly dance are engaging in appropriation. . . . Women I have confronted about this have said, “But I have been dancing for 15 years! This is something I have built a huge community on.” These women are more interested in their investment in belly dancing than in questioning and examining how their appropriation of the art causes others harm. To them, I can only say, I’m sure there are people who have been unwittingly racist for 15 years. It’s not too late. Find another form of self-expression. Make sure you’re not appropriating someone else’s."

Suppose I were to call Japanese baseball players (and their fans) "appropriators" of the "American" pastime and ask them to "find another form of self-expression"? Baseball is presently "the most watched and played sport in Japan. . . . Japanese baseball is also highly regarded outside of the country as Japanese teams continue to perform well in international competitions. Several Japanese players are also playing successful careers in the American Major Leagues and enjoy great popularity and media coverage in Japan. Their games are often broadcast on television with special highlights of the Japanese players."

(show less)
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
If a man with a long beard and a white robe and grey pants and an off white vest walked up to Nancy Pelosi's door and said that he was either Mr Lars Anderson of Stockholm or Mr Mustafa Jihadi would he be admitted? By what standard would Ms Pelosi's security stop him? If the same person came up to Ted Cruz's door or yours or mine and was told "No. Go away and we are calling the police." would Nancy Pelosi join in condemning us as senseless bigots?

One hundred years ago almost anyone could be expected to look like their passport's "nationality." Americans had a few blacks who might have traveled and been seen outside the country but even that would have been rare. Over the next half century it became more likely that a US passport could be carried by a person of any race creed or color. The number of people traveling on British passports also became more diverse. Even in those cases it remained generally easy to match appearances with the names presented. Only in the last half century have the names and cultural ancestry and the physical appearances of people become unlinked. We now have Germans and Scandinavians whose ancestry would have earned a rubber stamp of approval from Himmler affecting the appearance of the Taliban. If you use that to question them until the moment they commit violence, even if they advocate violence, then lawyers will scream. We have people assume the appearance of or the names associated with genders as an act of artistic expression.

The passport no longer means that the bearer is a representative of a nation whose authority requests the assistance of another nation and authority. It merely identifies a tax unit of no loyalty expressing its autonomy as it travels. Under those conditions how can security people screen? The Chinese are genuinely unable to grasp what has happened.

There could be a business opportunity for competent professional transportation that can offer a higher degree of safety. Would the government of Malaysia consider allowing El Al access to their trade?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (35)
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A pilot today noted that a No. Korean missle almost hit another plane- was that on the same day?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The media is making a big deal out of a course change from 020 to 040. But that is because they have no clue about using waypoints to set straight line segments that describe a great circle course.

Gradually, it is coming out that the normal course from this flight uses the same waypoints to make these progressive changes in heading. The previous trips did exactly the same thing. That gives the searchers a base line from which to add drift to create a search block.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. Fernandez,
Sometimes current events are best observed on TV, cyclones and so on, but many times the Internet, and the Belmont Club in particular allow us to follow events more intelligently. Your telling details contrasting the Searchers over the shallow seas (1,500 Sq. Mi. per Hour!) and the practice of onshore security enabling Bojinka-style ops … thank you for following this story as much faster speed and much more depth than TV seems to be capable of, with all their news sources, readers and analysts. Thanks Wretchard.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Daily Mail is printing rumors about a mysterious “Iranian businessman” called “Mr. Ali” who is said to have booked tickets for the passengers with stolen passports.

Various nations are sending ships to investigate the situation. It is almost as if the nations with the most resources dedicated to sea rescue in the Gulf of Thailand and the West Philippine Sea become the nations with the strongest territorial claims over the Gulf of Thailand and the West Philippine Sea.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr Azharuddin said the search includes northern parts of the Malacca Strait, on the opposite side of the Malay Peninsula and far west of the plane's last known location. Mr Azharuddin would not explain why crews were searching there, saying, "There are some things that I can tell you and some things that I can't."
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
That appears to be related to the possibility that the last radar return showed the airplane turning around. But they admit that at that extreme range the radar is not that reliable in showing heading data.

Of course, if it had turned around you would think it would come back into radar range, too. So I guess that might indicate the aircraft headed west and was still beyond radar range but did not continue along its planed flight path.

We still do not know if it was possible for the flight crew to manually turn off the radar transponder, as supposedly cannot be done with US airliners now. Of course I can still turn mine on and off but nobody much cares if an 830 lb airplane gets hijacked. And if that does occur, I'll do a roll and solve the problem.

One thing that strikes me as extra funny is that if the airplane was lost or hijacked, why there apparently were no calls placed by passengers using the airphones that I presume were available. I think the airphones use satellites. Even if a hijacker forbade it, keeping all those people from accessing the phone that is right in front of their face would be very difficult.

We have nobody screaming "I'm not trying to order a pizza, you idiot!" over the airphone.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
In a story in the WSJ yesterday they had a map which showed the planned route and the location of the reported oil slicks and today written descriptions of the location of some debris as 50 miles SSW of Tho Chu island. Both would be west of the supposed route. The map however is now gone from the web site but still in this cache version for now. I hope the long link posts.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ukraine, MH370, Libya, Fast and Furious, IRS, Snowden, Nork, and on and on. Sometimes I suffer from Event Fatigue...

Event it dulls my ability to respond; speculate, investigate, the choir.

This is how the b**st**ds mean to wear us down.

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
If the disappearance of the plane is due to an accident -- well then, it is a random accident.

If the disappearance is due to a deliberate act -- then cui bono?

What with disappearing planes and Crimea and all, nobody much is talking about the evolving Obamacare disaster anymore. Let alone IRS criminality, NSA spying, Benghazi, Fast & Furious ... or even the meltdown of socialism in Venzuela.

Some guys are just lucky. Get to go to the best schools, wander into high-paying jobs, run campaigns against losers. Really lucky. Or ....
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The credibility of Malaysian authorities at this point may be in decline. They are "preparing" to release the pictures of the two fake passport holders. They are sending "intelligence experts" to get to the bottom of the 5 passengers who checked in their luggage but never boarded. They are haring after flotsam.

The expansion of the search area suggests that a radical rethink of the last position of MH370 is now conceivable.

RWE: "And what's the point of a hijacking that is not announced?"

Well suppose it was announced and the Malaysians don't want to admit it?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Even if the Malaysians knew and did not want to tell, you would think that a terrorist leader, Hans Gruber or somebody else, would have announced it. Unless the terrorist was an Army of One like the Egyptair pilot.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think people are underestimating the difficulty of finding small bits in a very big ocean.

I have seen people have difficulty finding an 18" diameter, international orange ball used as a sailboat racing mark half a mile away. The difference between being up sun and down alone is enormous. Your Mark 1 eyeball responds to the reflected light. There are good reasons why survival kits include high intensity flares and/or mirrors.

This could be a long search.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
“There is some irony to the circumstance that uprisings in the world today are being waged by those want their identities back…”

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

Give my Obama Phone to Me!

And let me remake this storied land
Whittled image of my father’s hand

Asgard, Valhalla, Shangri La!
Uighurs, Ukranians, Americans all!

Let us make America in our image, after our likeness. And let Us have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creepy thing so let them cede to the creeps on earth, those that they suffer to rule.

Cast all your anxieties on Obama, because he cares for you.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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