A Dangerous Place

From the perspective of an armchair in the middle of the United States, it is hard to know what to think about Pakistan. There seems to be so much going on, and sometimes the stories seem contradictory. Is the Taliban advancing or retreating? Are the average citizens in Pakistan generally supportive of the Taliban, or frightened by its activities and opposed to the imposition of sharia? And, to top it all off, it seems that Pakistan is experiencing unrest due to food prices.

About the only thing that seems clear is that the United States should be very concerned about what is happening in Pakistan. When the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan, they provided a safe haven where terrorists could train, plot, and execute attacks. Their recent activities provide no basis for believing that they have changed their views or become more civilized. Terrorist groups already are apparently operating in the remote tribal areas of Pakistan where the Taliban is in ascendancy. What could those terrorists accomplish if the Taliban gained control of larger portions the country? After all, Pakistan differs from Afghanistan in at least one crucial respect — Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons. Would leaders who do not hesitate to ruthlessly flog women who are accused of violating a medieval code of conduct hesitate to use nuclear weapons?

Draft Day Dread

Tomorrow the NFL draft begins. Many pro football fans look forward to this event. As a Cleveland Browns fan, I approach Draft Day with a mixture of disgust and dread. The disgust comes from the fact that, in recent years, the Browns have had high picks in the draft because they have been pathetic. The dread comes from the fact that the Browns have had a remarkable record of futility with their first-round picks and, more generally, with the players they have drafted. If you review the Browns’ first-round picks since the franchise returned to the NFL, you see that most made no significant positive impact and, indeed, most are no longer with the Browns or even in the NFL. The Browns have spent enormous amounts on their first-round picks — the sums paid to those picks are staggering — and have precisely one playoff game to show for it. The once-proud franchise of my childhood and young adulthood has been reduced to a laughingstock.

So, I’m not one of those people who is excited about Draft Day. I won’t be watching. Instead, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the latest Browns regime doesn’t do something colossally stupid that dooms the franchise to even more years of crappy football and failure.

Scotch Night

Last night, courtesy of my friend John, I attended Scotch Night at Rocky Fork Hunt and Country Club, which is a bit strange because I do not care for the smell or taste of scotch. The evening was presided over by a “Whiskey Master,” who described six different scotches that were served as different courses were served. Given my preferences I didn’t drink the scotch, but did taste it and try to detect subtle differences in appearance and flavor. I couldn’t. My palate simply is not capable of determining whether a particular scotch is prepared with orange peel or damper peat. It all smelled and tasted like scotch to me, and seemed to differ only in the strength of the scotch taste and smell.

However, the food was terrific and the company at our table was even better, and we learned the kind of extraneous, often unverifiable facts you learn whenever you go to a presentation about a particular topic. We learned that there are only 13 Whiskey Masters in the world, and how scotch is prepared, and that the cumulative value of the barrels of different scotches used to blend Johnny Walker Blue is greater than the total assets of the Bank of England. (I knew England has been hard hit by the economic downturn, but that seems ridiculous.) One useful bit of information was that, when you drink an alcoholic beverage, if you leave the drink on your tongue and breathe out, the warmth from your mouth will cause some of the alcohol to vaporize and be blown out, making the drink milder and about 20% lower in alcoholic content. This will be handy information the next time I drink something other than scotch.