Hard News by Russell Brown

Some week ...

Tze Ming raises a good question when she ponders the relative silence of the Anglophone blogosphere after the atrocity in Mumbai this week. I thought about that too. The most trivial reason for me is that I've been caning my brain through the gears all week on paying work. You may have noticed more than the usual degree of whimsy in Hard News.

More significantly, I'm not sure what to say and I suspect I'm not the only one. On the ground, Islamists and Pakistani nationalists might not look very different, yet they represent two very different scenarios. One is the familiar enemies of freedom murdering the innocent; the other is an ally in The War on Terror.

Moreover, I don't have a mental map of Mumbai. I don't know how it looks, where people go and how horror might appear. I've walked around New York, I know how it smells and how the people are. I even know a little, vicariously, about Baghdad: the names of neighbourhoods, the Green Zone, the writings of people who live there. And when the bombs blew last year in London, almost my first response was to map out the locations. I know what it is to be a Londoner (part of me still is) and I easily guessed the destination that bad morning: The Pub.

UPDATE: Reader Peter Lees has provided a description:

I do know Mumbai having visied many times over last 30 years, and have many business friends there.

It is a series of Islands joined together in a long strip of land about 50kM long, with the train line down the middle.

You live either on West or East Mumbai, depending on which side of trackyou are.

And most go to work on the trains and/or buses. Motor Bikes are popular too, as few can afford cars.

The 13 million plus people come from all over India, all Castes, all Religions, all Colours and mostly get on with each other.

They work together, travel together on buses and trains, and the problems between different groups that occur elsewhere in India, are generally absent.

That is why Mumbai people are shocked at these bombings etc - they could understand if they occurred in Delhi, or other places, but the idea of this strife in Mumbai is totally foreign to them.

As an example, an office I know well with 25 staff has Hindu (all castes) Muslim, Sikh, Christian (mostly Catholic) - they all work in harmony, meet after work, and some car pool.

There's some other stuff on too, of course: notably Israel's psychotic over-reaction to the capture of a handful of uniformed soldiers. Some grim humour might be found in the fact that those members of the commentariat who hailed the "cedar revolution" - at last, Lebanon had a government free from the yoke of Syrian tyranny! - have been doing double-time in the search for rationalisations for Israeli forces entering that shining sovereign state and killing people. The doublethink specialists at Powerline have come up with a goodie: the uniformed Israeli troops who were captured aren't troops, they're children. And the 15 children killed in Lebanon in the past couple of days? Terrorists, obviously. Meanwhile, Associated Press has also passed through the looking glass and has taken to describing the 14-year-old girl raped and murdered by US troops in Haditha as a "woman".

Meanwhile, reality was not so much warped as turned inside out and given a thorough rogering at the funeral of former Enron CEO Ken Lay, where the dead corporate criminal was compared to Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King, as well as James Byrd, the black man dragged behind a car till he died by racist thugs.

Couple of important pieces of commentary: historian Andrew Bacevich's What's An Iraqi Life Worth? and Alan Wolfe's Why Conservatives can't Govern. See also John Dean interviewed on The Daily Show about Conservatives Without Conscience.

Closer to home, both DPF and No Right Turn blog the unhappy results of this week's report on the living standards of the poorest New Zealanders. The short version seems to me to be: although many fewer people subsist on benefits now, those who do are increasingly being left behind. Stop wittering on about throwing-money-at-the-problem and throw some money at the problem already. Not enough to live on is not enough to live on.

More on coins: several Hard News readers have noted that the outgoing 10 cent pieces work like quarters in many US vending machines, and Paul Campbell says "the old 1c piece is also roughly the same size and weight as the US dime - back in the 80's when we were living in the US we'd periodically have visitors descend upon us with pockets full of 1c pieces - the bank at Auckland Airport must have had people changing $5/10 at a time into them every day - at the time a dime was worth about NZ20c."

And, finally, if you think life's been a little rugged lately, check out what Matt Nippert's been through. All Matt's friends have been very glad to see him again, and I'm looking forward to him becoming an Aucklander again next week. Dude: my place, the rugby, lamb shanks …