From the Gonzo

. . . somewhere near the event horizon.

Monday, March 06, 2006

New address

From the Gonzo has moved. UPDATE your bookmarks or don't.

New addy:

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The changing of the blogs?

I am still of the mindset that I would like to switch this blog over to WordPress. If you have not voted down below, in the sidebar, do so. Input would help.

Check out the new format before you vote at:

I think its pretty slick and unless a lot of people tell me they don't want me to switch I probably will. So change your bookmarks now I suppose, for the time being I will still cross post on both interfaces.

The grand Iraq failure

It has been awhile since I have written about the disasterous war in Iraq. (Rest assured, it is a disaster).

Since I looked at the Strategy for Victory in Iraq the situation on the ground has continued to evolve. A wave of sectarian violence is sweeping the country (see news story about one of many events) following the destruction of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

Many in the media and in the military openly speculated about the possibility of a civil war erupting. A danger that has lurked in the shadows since day one of the conflict anyway. The upsurge in violence has many, including me, wondering what this is all going to accomplish.

Thus far I can see one major success in a downward spiral of failures. The capture and deposing of Saddam Hussein's government.

Meanwhile, a conflict that was supposed to cost the American taxpayers only $1.7 billion has surged in cost to nearly $250 billion. American casaulties continue to mount (over 18,000 so far), slowly but surely. The government we have managed to install is predominantly pro-Iranian Shite Muslim. Somehow we invaded Iraq and managed to turn one of the most strategic regions in the Middle East into a hot bed of anti-American insugency, which shows no signs of abating despite consistent insistances from Administraion officials that it could not possibly pesist for long.

No WMD, the whole justification for invasion in the first place, have been found, another colossal failure. American military might is stretched thin, the Guard and Reserves have assumed a large responsiblity, so large that the part-time force is near the breaking point.

For all the operational success commanders acheived in battles in Fallujah and other towns, the insurgents have simply moved elsewhere. Often into small towns, where they are able to control the population much easier than in a major urban area with millions of people.

This means that troops on the ground are dealing with a constant threat and some commanders have even openly talked about a major insurgent move into Baghdad itself.

Read this excellent story from Feb. 26 Washington Post, it really puts a perspective on what is happening at the loneliest fronts in the Iraq War.

Now, our troops are stuck in Iraq for an indefinite period of time. No one really knows what this war will cost, be it financially, politically, or in human lives.

It took nearly three years for the Bush camp to acknowledge that the Iraq war was not going in the direction they intended, which was around the time they released their strategy for victory. A strategy they claimed has been implemented all along.

I don't know about you but I won't be fooled again (video clip).

Friday, March 03, 2006

Kava time

Oceania has always been a land of enchantment in my mind. My stumbling upon Jon Frumism just played right into that image.

I think it all goes back to the first time I heard about the mysterious statues on Easter Island, or maybe the annual Christmas Island crab migration. Something about the South Pacific just captures my imagination.

A big part of the Melanesian culture (which includes Vanuatu--think Jon Frum) is a psychoactive pepper plant called kava.

Kava has long held a place in the cultures of the South Pacific, it is well known as an herbal remedy and ceremonial substance. Islanders grind the plant into a brownish liquid with water and it is usually drank from a traditional bowl.

The author of the article I referenced the yesterday, in Smithsonian Magazine, writes of his experience with kava in Vanuatu in that piece. Its social significance in the culture has been displayed when it used to welcome prominent guests to some of the island nation. Among dignitaries said to have consumed kava on official visits, Pope John Paul II and Lady Byrd Johnson.

In recent years agencies within the U.S. government (mainly the CDC and the FDA) have raised concern about the safety of kava consumption. Studies have been produced linking kava to liver damage as well as studies which say the herbal remedy flat out does not work.

Australians seem to be particularly concerned. In the Northern Territory it is tightly regulated, much like alcohol, the above link claims some pretty negative and startling side effects of kava consumption. In fact, for a time in the 90s, kava importation was illegal in the NT.

In the United Kingdom a ban on importation was implemented, making the nation of Fiji none too happy. Fiji counters the claims made by the FDA and others, since 2002, that kava has been linked to liver toxicity and even death.

Kava can be found in herbal supplements, purchased as roots, or even grown. It is not illegal in the United States, although as I said, their are fairly stern health warnings regarding its consumption.

Medicinal benefits attributed to kava include pain relief, stress and anxiety relief and some have even claimed it effective in combating cancer cell growth. Alternatively, kava is said to produce a numbness of the mouth and tongue, euphoric sense of well-being, and relaxed muscles among other psychoactive effects.

Photos: Photo 1: A kava plant (Piper methysticum). (Credit: USIP-CAMI) Photo 2: A sign showing a "Kava licence area" at Yirrkala, in the Northern Territory of Australia. (Credit: Wikipedia)

Related Post: The cult of a man named Jon

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The cult of a man named John

Next Feburary 15, take a look around you, while nothing about the day is inherently special (other than the fact you may be nursing a post Valentine's Day chocolates stomach ache) this day is sacred to a small band of South Pacific islanders in Vanuatu.

Februrary 15 is Jon Frum Day in this tiny island nation.

Who is Jon Frum? Why does he have a day? What the hell is going on in Vanuatu?

The answers, in short, no one really knows, I tell you, and, again no one really knows.

The religious cult in Vanuatu, these people actually worship an American GI named Jon Frum, has had a strong following and is one of the world's few remaining "cargo cults." Cargo cults were a result of European colonization for the most part. As vast stores of supplies and items never before seen arrived to once basic cultures they could only assume that the items were coming from some divine source. Thus, some cultures began to worship the icons of European imperialism in the hopes that they would return with "cargo."

The same thing happened during WWII as vast amounts of military resources deployed to remote and sparsley inhabited regions worldwide. This is how the cult of Jon Frum was born.

This is seriously real stuff. A sect of the cult broke off a couple years back and it culminated in a violent clash with axes and knives, 25 people were hospitalized with injuries after the melee.

Related Links:
Smithsonian Magazine (Feb. 2006) story- "In John They Trust," by Paul Raffaele
Cargo Cult Wikipedia entry
Jon Frum Site


Make sure you check out the new From the Gonzo at WordPress and let me know if you like it better, it's growing on me. For now I will be posting on both until I get a little feedback. There is a poll about the switch in my sidebar, vote.