March 16, 2014

The Flight 370 pilot, "Zaharie Ahmad Shah was an ‘obsessive’ supporter of Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim."

"And hours before the doomed flight left Kuala Lumpur it is understood 53-year-old Shah attended a controversial trial in which Ibrahim was jailed for five years...."

Copying the URL to make that link (to The Daily Mail), I was surprised to see it contained the word "sodomite": Doomed-airliner-pilot-political-fanatic-Hours-taking-control-flight-MH370-attended-trial-jailed-opposition-leader-sodomite. That must be an aspect of The Daily Mail's highly successful traffic-pulling game. It's not entirely unsupported by the text. Scrolling quite far down, there's the detail that the charge against Ibrahim was "sodomy."

Now, political supporters of Ibrahim see it as political persecution, and I would assume it is. Of all the sodomites in Malaysia, why is an important political leader imprisoned?

Whether or not Shah is the demon we now suspect, if you knew the facts about him we now know, would you get on a airplane he piloted? Knowing that you don't know anything about your pilot — or maybe he tells you his name once you are in the air under his complete control — how can you stand to get on any airliner? I guess the favorite answer to that question is: You're always only playing the odds, whether you get in a car or an airplane.

You could be "safe" at home when your building blows up. When your number comes up, it's up. Live for the day. Live while you can.

57 comments:

Scott M said...

A man I once worked for was killed on the interstate when the rim came off an eighteen-wheeler traveling in the opposite direction, went through his windshield, almost taking his head off.

Given the physics involved in that unlikely collision, had he done ANYTHING...stopped to tie his shoe, dropped his keys when unlocking his car...The hunk of metal would have missed him.

When your number is up, it's up.

The Crack Emcee said...

"You could be "safe" at home when your building blows up. When your number comes up, it's up. Live for the day. Live while you can."

Ahhh - tempered optimism! Now that's more my style.

I rarely, if ever, have felt "safe" - being snatched from your parent's arms will do that. Nothing seems settled, in the way others appear to fool themselves it is. I've never had to be told to "Be Here Now" because there was never anywhere else to be.

Except trying to be safe,...

jimbino said...

I try to live for today, and take no thought for tomorrow, but the gumming keeps taxing me to guarantee clean air, water and energy for the yet-unborn kids of the breeders, who get gumming support for their breeding.

Michael P said...

I am shocked, shocked to find that government investigators took an entire week to find a possible link between a disaster and the political opposition.

Of course, I don't know anything specific about these investigators, or how impartial Malaysian investigators generally are, but this is a rather convenient angle for a government that probably does not want to talk about the competence of the investigation in general.

Lucien said...

Of course, if you knew ahead of time that your pilot's name was, say "Tim McVeigh" you'd feel perfectly safe.

Ann Althouse said...

"I am shocked, shocked to find that government investigators took an entire week to find a possible link between a disaster and the political opposition."

When they found out and when they told us are 2 different things.

What else haven't they told us?

And who else flying planes right now how facts like that, known by the governments?

Don't stop flying or the terrorists have won.

Your ignorance and complacency is rebranded as vigilance and fighting strength.

Step into the aluminum cocoon.

Roger Sweeny said...

I used to live in this building in East Harlem ...

Ann Althouse said...

And I dreamed I saw the 777s riding shotgun in the sky, turning into butterflies above our nation...

Fritz said...

When you say that, do your hear Joni or CSNY?

TarHeelMaster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

The pilot is the first to arrive at the scene of any accident, is the usual rule.

richlb said...

Is this more justification of your "anti-travel" stance?

Megaera said...

Isn't it just a matter of letting the public exercise its own judgment with accurate information so it can reasonably calculate risk? Even the kid who free-climbed that cliff-face wouldn't have done it if it had been freezing and sleeting -- he isn't suicidal, he just has a more accommodating risk window than most. So now the calculation is seemingly going to have to involve whether your airline flight has M-word flight- and cabin-crew members (main AND secondary -- remember Egyptair Fl 990?) at the very least. Make the airline state it, if so, in advance then let the traveling public choose whether they choose to take the apparently-increasing risk of flying on a flight so crewed. Simple risk planning with penalties for any misrepresentations. Any last-minute crew changes adding a member of the Religion of Peace allow all passengers free ticket changes without penalty of any kind.

Dan Beaver-Seitz said...

"Knowing that you don't know anything about your pilot — or maybe he tells you his name once you are in the air under his complete control — how can you stand to get on any airliner?"

I make a Bayesian inference based on the prior probability of pilots intentionally killing their passengers (very, very low). If this plays out as it's looking like it could, it seems like the very definition of a black swan event.

Michael K said...

If they keep doing this, Allah may run short of virgins.

Sorun said...

Stating the race, sex, national origin, and religion of the pilots to see if it affects flight reservations would be a fascinating study. It would be just as fascinating in Malaysia, Norway, Japan, and Nigeria as in the US.

Lucien said...

@Michael K: Sometimes I wonder whether the whole martyrs in paradise scenario doesn't have the unintended consequence of giving Muslim women the incentive to make sure they don't dies as virgins.

Who would want to spend eternity with some nut-job who wore a suicide vest?

Michael said...

Love the anti-travel references in the professor's topics today. But I believe she and her husband must love travel or why else would they drive across (or down) the gut of the American landscape for hours/days on end? Fear of flying, of course. Otherwise the anti-travelers could be in their destination in a few hours suffering the not-home place stoically.

lgv said...

I don't believe the pilot was in on it. Terrorists were given a shoe bomb. One of the terrorists was a pilot. If Shah was in on it, they would successfully flown it into a building.

Searching the pilots homes is routine investigative procedures. His whole life did not fit the terrorist profile. Supporting the opposition party isn't exactly a tell. The opposition wasn't exactly the "Al Queda in Malaysia" party.

If anything, he may be the reason we don't know what happened. It's all speculation of course.

jacksonjay said...


Like law school candidates at UW, these pilots were both accomplished and "interesting"!

SteveR said...

If you travel in Muslim countries, on airlines staffed with Muslim pilots, your number may come up quicker. You still have some control.

Gahrie said...

I rarely, if ever, have felt "safe"

Somebody give Crack a hug.

Then your wallet and an apology for your ancestors....

Larry J said...

The average American has a greater chance of having his life destroyed by a lawyer than by an airline pilot, especially American men. Perhaps we need to shut down some of the breeding grounds for lawyers.

Every year, over 30,000 people are killed in auto accidents in the US alone. That's actually a dramatic improvement over years past when the annual toll was over 50,000 lives lost. Since October of 2001, countless millions of Americans have flown and less than 60 have died, and those were in minor carrier (commuter) airlines.

Yastreblyansky said...

Just by the way: Anwar (Malay people don't use surnames but patronymics, so "Ibrahim" refers not to him but to his father) is certainly a victim of political persecution since 1998. A useful primer is at Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anwar_Ibrahim_sodomy_trials

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Crack said . . I rarely, if ever, have felt "safe"

The feeling you should feel the most, is gratitude. For the good fortune of finding yourself, of all possible places on earth, in the United States of America.

Doesn't get much luckier than that.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Michael said...

Love the anti-travel references in the professor's topics today. But I believe she and her husband must love travel or why else would they drive across (or down) the gut of the American landscape for hours/days on end? Fear of flying, of course.


Flying sucks, unless speed is the main criteria - which it should rarely ever be.

Often, the journey is more interesting and fulfilling than the destination, and "by car" is about as good as it gets.

YoungHegelian said...

When your number comes up, it's up. Live for the day. Live while you can.

Sha-la-la-la-la, live for today.

EDH said...

Constitutionally, this reminds me of one of those DirectTV commercials with the absurdly attenuated causation scenarios:

"When your supreme court finds 'rational basis' for anti-sodomy laws, opposition leaders are unjustly imprisoned.

When opposition leaders are unjustly imprisoned, your Boeing 777 airplane pilot hijacks the airliner full of passengers to an unknown location.

Don't let your airliner full of passengers be hijacked to an unknown location... find no 'rational basis' for anti-sodomy laws."

Brian said...

I'm not sure if an atheist ever crashed a plane into a tower killing thousands, or to the ground while repeatedly muttering "I rely on God," killing hundreds (EgyptAir, Flight 990, 1999) or diverted a plane for some nefarious purpose, which is what it increasingly looks like happened here.

I wish you God people would cut it out already.

openidname said...

If I also knew (as has now been reported) that his wife and kids left hims the day before, I'd sure as heck think twice about getting on that plane.

R. Chatt said...

27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid, second in command pilot of the aircraft, described by his grandmother as very "devout" Muslim. He had access to the plane and could have stashed weapons aboard.

Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad and Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza, booked by an Iranian agent into first class seats under false passports. If they wanted to go to Europe why fly to China? Especially if you are going to visit your mother in Germany.

Dr Yuchen Li a Uighar (Muslim) with a doctoral aeronautical engineering degree from Cambridge University. He had recently married and was on his way to a job in China, but his wife was not on the plane.

What do they all have in common? What's the motive? All young devout Muslims who believed that jihad is a religious obligation and an immediate ticket to eternal paradise? That's a powerful motivator.

A possible scenario: Hamid invited Li into the cockpit, Mehrdad and Mohammadreza rushed in to overpower and eliminate the first officer. They immediately went to 45K feet and rendering the passengers unconscious. When the passengers came to they were shown the body of the pilot as evidence they should not resist.

What I have noticed is that the Malaysians went out of their way, gave false leads, etc., to avoid any suggestion that this was a crime and Islam has anything to do with this. Not surprising in that high positions and university spots in Malaysia are given to Malay (Muslim) nationals rather than Chinese or Indian residents. see: http://www.theedgemalaysia.com/commentary/245601-my-say-the-preferential-treatment-dilemma.html

Revenant said...

Thanks a lot, Brian, now we'e going to have to listen to a few dozen posts of people blaming Stalin and Mao's atrocities on atheism instead of Communism. Stop poking the bear.

On a side note, is it appropriate to call it a "doomed flight" when we don't know what happened to it yet?

Brian said...

I'm not sure if anyone will read my trolling effort a few posts up, but in any case, the case of Egyptair's flight 990, in which a co-pilot did utter "I rely on God" several times before the plane crashed to the ground, is more complex that I thought.

It looks like that guy did deliberately bring the plane down; however, subsequent investigation didn't reveal him to be particularly religious.

Here's an Atlantic article about it:

http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2001/11/langewiesche.htm

The Cracker Emcee said...

Alright, cute true story time. One of my brothers is a pilot for Southwest and my parents were traveling on one of his flights. My Mother mentions to the little girl sitting next to her that the pilot is her son. The little girl gives Mom a wide-eyed look and says, "Aren't you scared?".

Sorun said...

"Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad and Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza, booked by an Iranian agent into first class seats under false passports."

Where does this "first class seats" assertion come from?

"If they wanted to go to Europe why fly to China?"

Maybe it was cheaper.

R. Chatt said...

I read that detail about the Iranians somewhere online but can't find it today. Still, even if they flew in cheap seats flying from Iran to Malaysia and then to China can hardly the least expensive way to get from Iran to Europe.

R. Chatt said...

It cost about $800 to fly from Iran to Malaysia and about $700 to fly from Iran to Germany.

KLDAVIS said...

This is not a black swan. This is the very obvious iteration of turning the flight deck into a sanctum sanctorum. Armored cockpit doors were an unnecessary, and in fact counterproductive, post-9/11 change. Now instead of overpowering passengers and crew, a would-be terrorist need only infiltrate a middling profession and subdue one individual (or wait for their bio break).

cokaygne said...

Driving from WI to CO is way riskier than flying.

Scott said...

In Malaysia, there is an ongoing tension between the more socially liberal urban Muslims in Kuala Lumpur and the much more conservative ones in other parts of the country.

For the Malaysian government to characterize the pilot as an "obsessive" supporter of Anwar Ibrahim doesn't suggest that he would ditch the 777 as some kind of political statement -- far from it! Rather, that characterization is likely fabricated for domestic consumption, for the rural Malays, to "otherize" the pilot and deflect criticism of the government. The tired old sodomy rap against Anwar is also a part of that.

It remains to be seen whether the Malays in KL and Selangor buy that bullshit. I don't think they will.

Michael K said...

"Here's an Atlantic article about it:

http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2001/11/langewiesche.htm"

Oh, if the Atlantic says so….

Larry Nelson said...

"When your number comes up, it's up. Live for the day. Live while you can".



Four or five years ago, I was loading my gear into a Cessna for flying into the Alaskan bush with a very young Alaska Native pilot, in very bad weather.
After getting into the front seat next to him, I asked how old he was.
He said "21".
I asked him how long he had been flying.
He said "About 10 years".
Turns out he was a damn good pilot.

Harold said...

http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2014/03/suspect-iranian-passenger-with-stolen-passport-has-active-facebook-page/#! was posted March 11, within 72 hours of the news. My facebook comment: "Can you add two and two and get four? If so, you can read this and figure out what happened to the missing Malaysian airplane. My question is- Did the pilot deliberately crash to avoid having his plane turn into a weapon or was it blown up? 50-50 at this point is all I would guess."

At that time, there wasn't any thought the flight crew might be involved. Let's be honest. If you are Christian or Jewish and show it by wearing Star of David or cross (or Cricifix), you should point blank refuse to be treated by any medical personnel who are obviously or even appear to be Muslim. You are betting your life if you trust them. And if you are atheist and advertise it- you're doubling down on the bet. It is never an Islamic sin to kill an atheist. It is a Koranic duty.

Dan Beaver-Seitz said...

KLDAVIS said...
This is not a black swan. This is the very obvious iteration of turning the flight deck into a sanctum sanctorum.

"Iteration" doesn't really make sense in that context, but I'm assuming you mean "outcome" or something similar (not trolling, just indicating that the comment below may be based on a misunderstanding of your point).

Per Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a Black Swan Event is characterized by being a surprise to observers, although it may be reframed as obvious in hindsight once the event has occurred.

Since this kind of event has not been an outcome of the "sanctum sanctorum" policy until now, and since there have ~10,500,000 flights since cockpits were locked down in 2003, I'm tempted to believe that it was primarily a predictable outcomes as a consequence of the massive numbers involved.

You can argue that this incident and others point to why we should consider changing policies regarding cockpit security, and I'd even be inclined to agree with you, but I stand by my assertion that this is a Black Swan Event.

----------

Megaera said...
Isn't it just a matter of letting the public exercise its own judgment with accurate information so it can reasonably calculate risk?

Because of the extraordinary rareness of this type of event, you cannot "reasonably calculate risk." See: "sensitivity" in tests, i.e., the likelihood of a true-positive (as opposed to false-positive or false-negative). There is no way to calculate this risk based solely on religious faith of the pilot that would yield anything but a vast sea of false-negatives. As a test of the likelihood of death, it fails utterly. (More information on this concept: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=11015)

Megaera said...

Um, "extraordinary rareness"?. So far we know of FIVE passenger jets with Muslims at the controls that resulted in deliberate, cold-blooded mass murder. This may be the sixth. THAT WE KNOW OF. After all, the Egyptians, when they realized where the investigation into the 990 crash was leading, went to extreme cover-up mode and tried to take the process away from the NTSB -- who's to say there haven't been more incidents that just weren't fully investigated and reported? Obviously this incident is still unresolved, may never be resolved, but circumstances right now most strongly implicate the 307 flight crew. So, with Muslims in the cockpit demonstrating on arguably 6 occasions the mens rea for mass murder, and no similar quantities of demonstrations for, say, Buddhist, atheist, Christian or Brahman flight crews, it seems to me that there is a perceivable risk that the flying public ought to be entitled to weigh as it chooses, given the chance. Six incidents seems to me to be moving WAY out of Black Swan territory.

Megaera said...

Um, "extraordinary rareness"?. So far we know of FIVE passenger jets with Muslims at the controls that resulted in deliberate, cold-blooded mass murder. This may be the sixth. THAT WE KNOW OF. After all, the Egyptians, when they realized where the investigation into the 990 crash was leading, went to extreme cover-up mode and tried to take the process away from the NTSB -- who's to say there haven't been more incidents that just weren't fully investigated and reported? Obviously this incident is still unresolved, may never be resolved, but circumstances right now most strongly implicate the 307 flight crew. So, with Muslims in the cockpit demonstrating on arguably 6 occasions the mens rea for mass murder, and no similar quantities of demonstrations for, say, Buddhist, atheist, Christian or Brahman flight crews, it seems to me that there is a perceivable risk that the flying public ought to be entitled to weigh as it chooses, given the chance. Six incidents seems to me to be moving WAY out of Black Swan territory.

Harold said...

What Megaera said........ Not black swan territory. I knew of the other incidents, she looked them up for us.

TarHeelMaster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Beaver-Seitz said...

Megaera said...
Um, "extraordinary rareness"?. So far we know of FIVE passenger jets with Muslims at the controls.

Could you list all five please? I'm noticing that you never said "five plans piloted by Muslims" or "five pilots crewed by Muslims," which would be the nature of the incident we're talking about here and what you said you wanted to use your strong analysis skills to avoid. This would also help establish the timeframe so we could know just how many flights had taken place during that time.

It's likely impossible to find just how many flights have at least one Muslim pilot or flight attendant, but given what we do know-that there are about 1,000,000 commercial flights/year, that the average 747 flight has about 5 crew members (2 pilots and 2-3 flight attendants), and that nearly a quarter of the world's population is Muslim-the number is likely very large, so yeah, I'm sticking with my "extraordinary rareness."

If
*Only 1 flight in 10 has a Muslim crew-member, which seems very low given the above,
*the five flights number you mentioned doesn't include any incidents where non-crew terrorists have taken control of the plane (since those would be irrelevant to whether Muslim crew members are a significant risk factor), and
*the relevant timeframe is since 9/11 (rather than, say, the entire history of commercial air travel)
we're talking about something in the neighborhood of 1 in 250,000, so an individual's capacity to perform a risk-analysis with any sensitivity/reliability based on one data point (i.e., whether a flight is crewed by a Muslim) is functionally non-existent.

If any of my assumptions in here are incorrect, please let me know, but please share details on the five flights you mentioned.

Scott said...

In the absence of any other information, I don't think that the religion of the pilot IN AND OF ITSELF is a factor.

Moreover, the fact that the pilot was a supporter of Anwar Ibrahim suggests that his values would probably NOT impel him to ditch the plane on his own initiative as a political statement. Supporting Anwar means supporting a more socially liberal Muslim society. If the plane was commandeered, the perp was probably somebody else.

Scott said...

Here is a Slate article that makes my point better than I could.

timkb4cq said...

>> When you say that, do your hear Joni or CSNY?

I hear Matthew's Southern Comfort. It was years later before I heard the other two versions.

Cedarford said...

Maegara - " to avoid any suggestion that this was a crime and Islam has anything to do with this. Not surprising in that high positions and university spots in Malaysia are given to Malay (Muslim) nationals rather than Chinese or Indian residents."

1. SE Asia had the same problem that other civilizations have grappled with...an aggressive money-oriented immigrant people arriving and soon dominating the economy, choice university slots, the professions, banks, media, and landholder class.
In SE Asia, the growingly unpopular immigrants "in control" happened to be Chinese. On top of other reasons for friction, they soon were involved in attempts to seize control of the host countries through political revolution (mainly communist) and Lawfare.
The result was the locals dealt with it as a post-colonialist situation, with the Chinese in the role of the colonists vs. the natives.
Sovereignity was reasserted by the natives. Laws were passed to block disproportionate wealth, inflence, power by the Chinese in countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, certain Pacific Islands the Chinese sought control of. If that was insufficient, then the Chinese were booted (Vietnam's 'boat people') or killed (Indonesia 1965).

The 'Asians' (India, Pak, Bengali) were more a problem in Africa - where natives considered the Asians trying to grab control of lands Euro colonists imported them into as the same as the Euros. To assert native sovereignity, the outsiders had to be cast out of positions of wealth, power, influence.

Of course, others in the same role have had the welcome mat rolled up on them too when they threatened to become an aristocrat class over the host natives. Jews of Europe, mainland Chinese that fled to Taiwan, etc.

2. Malaysia is a Muslim land. But just because of that you cannot tie all crime and depredation to Islam , that happens there...anymore than present day Chinese misconduct has atheism as the root cause of everything nasty the Chinese are doing.

Dan Beaver-Seitz said...

On the basis of Megaera's statements, I have come to the sad conclusion that all passengers should be alerted when a flight is piloted by a man. In my research so far, it seems every flight that resulted in deliberate, cold-blooded mass murder was piloted by a man. Ergo...

Bill Reeves said...

What's ironic about Anwar Ibrahim being brought up on Sodomy charges is that the culture of the Malay/Indonesian world has historically been very tolerant of male transvestites in the guise of bancis (ban-cheese) who are young male prostitutes. You used to see them on Bugis street in Singapore and at the huge prostitute markets in Jakarta all the time. (I drove by the market going to school. I was not a patron).

Bill Reeves said...

What's ironic about Anwar Ibrahim being brought up on Sodomy charges is that the culture of the Malay/Indonesian world has historically been very tolerant of male transvestites in the guise of bancis (ban-cheese) who are young male prostitutes. You used to see them on Bugis street in Singapore and at the huge prostitute markets in Jakarta all the time. (I drove by the market going to school. I was not a patron).

fallguy said...

Shah had problems controlling things. His wife, his mistress, and the Malay government. The one thing he could control was the Boeing 777. You might say he was a freak about controlling it to the point he had a simulator. I'd say the FBI has already profiled this about Shah and he controlled the plane to its final resting place with a finely controlled water landing over deep water where it will be nearly impossible to find. And his ultimate goal of embarrassing the Malays is accomplished.