"To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?" -- C.S. Lewis

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Bin Ladenstan: National Geographic writer Tim McGirk has labeled a wild, mountainous region the size of Ireland between Afghanistan and Pakistan--Bin Ladenstan. There are all sorts of theories regarding Osama Bin Laden's hiding spot(s)--some place him in Yemen, others, perhaps more outlandish, on a beach in Costa Rica. But, based on the terrain in most of his recent video releases, it's a decent bet that he's still in the Bin Ladenstan region.

Tim McGirk's December piece on the hunt for Osama isn't available in its entirety on the National Geographic Web site. But his background info on the Pashtun, the array of tribes and clans who live in Bin Ladenstan, is well worth transcribing here. You see, the Pashtun adhere to an ancient code of honor, nanawateh--or sanctuary:

It means that every Pashtun is duty bound to help anyone who comes knocking at his door seeking refuge, even if it's his worst enemy. A Pashtun is expected to give his life defending a guest, and many have done so.**

McGirk goes on to quote Col. Mohammad Yahya Effendi, a leader of the Afghan rebels of the 1980's:

The Pashtun "can act with nobility and yet be absolute rascals. They'll do all sorts of treacherous things--even betray their fathers. But they're bonkers when it comes to giving sanctuary. It's like a sacred mission ... whoever betrays [Bin Laden], why, his life wouldn't be worth an onion."**

There you have it. Nanawateh. Bin Laden's ace in the hole--thus far.

** ("Tracking the Ghost of Bin Laden." National Geographic Dec. 2004: 11)

Friday, December 10, 2004

Good Vibrations: At first, there were no plans to produce a single from Brian Wilson's "SMiLE" CD. Now a non-album version of Good Vibrations has hit the UK. Overall, this is good news for Brian Wilson fans--especially as a contribution to the memorabilia collection. But the crowned jewel of "SMiLE" is, and always has been, Wonderful. There's your single.

Really, the "SMiLE" version of Good Vibrations is the only let down on the album. I understand that it had to be included, but that song belongs to Carl Wilson, the late. Brian's lead vocal, though necessary, is out of place.

The single should've been Wonderful.


Thursday, December 9, 2004

The Voice: If you keep up with movie production news, here’s a good tidbit. The voice of Aslan has been chosen for the upcoming adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.”  The scheduled release date is Dec. 9, 2005.

Staying Relevant:
During the presidential campaign, Ralph Nader wrote an open letter to President Bush (and cc’d John Kerry), asking for full disclosure of the U.S. casualty toll in Iraq. Neither Bush nor Kerry responded.

Now, Nader has inked a follow-up. His request is perfectly reasonable: Let the American public see a break down of what’s killing and maiming our troops in Iraq. Disease? Mental trauma? Suicide? And how many soldiers have been wounded or killed in non-combat situations? How about a firm number on injuries and fatalities incurred by corporate contractors operating in the Iraqi war theatre?

Nader’s summation to Bush: “What’s your problem here?”

Right. It’s time for a bit more freedom of information.

Speaking of…:
Freedom of Information. A past success is recognized.


Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Future Landscapes of Terror: I've been waiting for a progressive (or anyone, really) to shine some light on Pakistani president Perez Musharraf. It's been quite fashionable to criticize the United States' former support of Saddam Hussein's regime. But there's never much acknowledgment of the Cold War's role in making that relationship seem necessary at the time. The facts are often more complicated than the politics of expedience would allow. And, more often than not, our choices in this world are between "evil" and "slightly less evil."

Today, we find the U.S. in a similar predicament. The War on Terror requires an "ally" on the border of Afghanistan. Enter Pakistan.

And, of course, I believe the U.S. should be working with Musharraf right now. But Robert Scheer is right to call a spade a spade:

Bush is so eager to cater to Musharraf that he is even championing the dictator as key to the creation of a democratic Palestinian state "that is truly free. One that's got an independent judiciary; one that's got a civil society; one that's got the capacity to fight off the terrorists; one that allows for dissent; one in which people can vote. And President Musharraf can play a big role in helping achieve that objective."

What balderdash. None of those conditions of a free society exist in Pakistan.

So will anyone be surprised if, in five or ten years, Musharraf's Pakistan has morphed into something resembling 1990 Iraq? I certainly won't be.

Thumbs Down: When I found this story on Drudge yesterday, I thought it must be a link to an Onion parody. But, no jive, it's real: Powell Pans Formulaic James Bond Plots.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

19th Century Hashish: In November of 1883, a Harper's Magazine reporter ventured into New York's hemp-smoking underground. H.H. Kane, accompanied by a friend-in-the-know, sought and found "Hashishdom":

Gradually the room and its inmates faded from view; the revolving dragons went swifter and more swiftly, until the flaming tongues and eyes were merged into a huge ball of flame, that, suddenly detaching itself with a sharp sound from its pivot, went whirling and streaming off into the air until lost to sight in the skies. Then a sudden silence, during which I heard the huge waves of an angry sea breaking with fierce monotony in my head.

The stilted language, combined with the subject matter, makes this one of those links you'll forward to all of your friends. And the "friend-in-the-know" is quite a character:

"...to keep you company, I will also smoke tonight. Have no fear. Smoke four or five pipefuls of the gunjeh, and enjoy the effect. I will see that no harm befalls you."

There's not much else to say, except, "Enjoy."

Monday, December 6, 2004

Starr-tled: Yes, I'm going to say the media are seemingly "Starr-tled" that Ken Starr says he should never have led the investigation of the Lewinsky scandal. As Starr points out:

There was a sense on the part of the country that my (Lewinsky) effort was an effort somehow to expand the (Whitewater) investigation, when it was separate.

True. Rather than create another independent investigator, it was Janet Reno's decision to place Starr in charge of the Monica Lewinsky revelations. It was then the Clinton White House that spun the story to read that Starr was charging like a mad bull in all sorts of random prosecutorial directions--hence, "the sense on the part of the country."

If you followed the Lewinsky scandal even semi-closely at the time, then it's not news to you that Ken Starr took the Lewinsky information to Janet Reno very early on and was told to pursue that separate investigation himself.

Incidentally, the above AP story on Starr indicates that Whitewater resulted in three convictions. In fact, there were fourteen. Innocent carelessness, right?







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