Nota Bene #121: Birds of an Ancient Feather

“Television is an invention whereby you can be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your house.” Who said it? The answer is at the end of this post. Now on to the links! Continue reading

Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

The Death of Shahzad: leave it to the ISI to make al Qaeda look tame in comparison

Shahzad with Taliban(Pictured: Syed Saleem Shahzad with Taliban fighters.)

Some initial impressions on the murder by beating — torture — and gunshot of Asia Times Online reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad: Something of a legend in his own time, his access to al Qaeda and Taliban was light years beyond that of any other journalist.

The central irony of his death is that he was even once detained by the Taliban for a week, but in the end it looks like it was Pakistan’s largest intelligence apparatus, the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence Service) that did him in. Or as Pakistani journalist Umar Cheema, who, as Ron Moreau of the Daily Beast reports, was abducted last September and beaten by individuals he believes were the ISI, said:

But if it’s not the ISI then they [the ISI] need to locate the people who did this, because they certainly can. Continue reading

A fool's errand

Some time ago, an idea to save Afghanistan floated on a few editorial cycles.  Afghanistan grows some of the world’s best pomegranates, coincidentally the “nature’s miracle” of the moment.  If we could just get Afghans to grow pomegranates instead of poppies, they would become wealthy by exporting fruit to the “developed” world.  Peace would follow economic stability and democracy would follow peace…or something like that.  There are countless plans to “get Afghanistan right”, but they all follow the basic path of the Great Pomegranate Plan.

They all stumble into similar failings too.  It’s hard to get delicate fruit out of a country without significant transport infrastructure.  Not many health-food companies will be overly keen to set up processing facilities in the region.  The plan will only remain successful so long as the pomegranate is not usurped as the king of live forever foods and customers in the developed world can afford to splurge on wildly expensive health food.  Oh, and the fact that huge tracts of mature pomegranate orchards were cut down and replaced with poppies over the course of the good war.

We’re not getting Afghanistan right, and nothing in the latest plans suggest that we will get it right any time soon.  Are we even sure what it is we hope to accomplish or even why we’re trying to accomplish it?

Continue reading

Pakistanis offer their two cents on catching Bin Laden

At the rate we’re going, we won’t apprehend Osama Bin Laden until he’s an octogenarian. We’ll drag this broken old man, dialysis wires trailing behind him, out of his cozy bungalow near Peshawar.

Haven’t we seen this before? Oh yeah. Remember how we used to drag Nazi war criminals out of the dens of their houses in towns like Ypsilanti, where they were working at jobs like church custodian. Even though it’s imperative that criminals of the magnitude of Nazis and bin Laden be caught, capturing an individual of advanced age who’s been harmless for decades doesn’t make for a lot of p.r. bang for the buck. Continue reading