February 18, 2009

Long Judicial Nightmare Finally Over

Well, that was fun.  I reported for jury duty on 6 Jan.  I finished today.  So just keep that in mind the next time Phil Carter tells you something is your "civic duty."  The bastard.  (He's now doing his civic duty as a Pentagon DASD.  Maybe that'll learn him.)

I'm working on a longer post on "what jury duty can teach you about counter-insurgency."  It revolves around the following observation:  prosecutors believe about 50 people witnessed the "urban gun battle" at the heart of the case I sat for; *3* eyewitnesses ultimately testified, all of whom had to be relocated due to concerns expressed about their safety.  The long arm of the law doesn't even extend the five miles from the US Capitol to Anacostia.  Something to think about when establishing the "rule of law" in Kandahar and Kabul.
One thing jury duty is good for is reading.  There's a lot of hurry up and wait (especially when you're dealing with 2 AUSA's and 3 defense attorneys).  
First up was Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux.  It's ostensibly a travel diary of his overland trip from Cairo to Cape Town.  That would probably be worth the price of purchase itself.  But really it's a seering indictment of the "aid culture" that permeates Africa, and African cities in particular.  Now, Theroux is a cantankerous old dude.  But his observations speak to a crisis of learned helplessness makes me question the whole aid enterprise.
Next was David Sanger's The Inheritance.  Since Ex nicely summed up The Gamble, you can save your money and get Sanger's book instead.  (If you read this blog, you probably know 80% of what's in The Gamble anyway.  Sorry, Tom.)  The Inheritance focuses on all the things we missed while obsessing over Iraq.  The Iran and North Korea chapters read best; Sanger's discussion of AQ Khan and Pakistan is chilling.   A great primer on the interrelated Iranian-North Korean-Pakistani nuclear programs--it even has footnotes!  One note of caution however:  that shit will keep you up at night.
And if Sanger doesn't offer you enough Pakistani intrigue, then see about finding yourself an advance copy of Nick Schmidle's new book To Live or to Perish Forever.  You could file more than half the chapters under "you can't make this shit up."  But Nick has more than just derring-do on offer here.  It's a portrait of a critical time in Pakistan--the collapse of the Musharraf government.  I'm no where near enough of a Pakistan expert to speak to its veracity, but it's worth tracking down when finally published later this Spring.
Now I gotta find some serious trash to read.  Or maybe just a beach to read it on...