Posts Tagged ‘zainyjee’


Self Destruction – Pakistan at the Cricket World Cup 2015

February 21, 2015


I’m crestfallen, but not surprised by team Pakistan’s performance today against the West Indies in the World Cup. By showing up to International Crickets biggest tournament with apparently very little preparation, one shouldn’t have expected anything different than what’s happening.

Truth is, the teams they have lost to so far are not playing spectacular cricket, rather, Pakistan lacks the basic components of a world class team:

1. No Specialist Wicket Keeper. Pakistan is essentially playing without a wicket keeper and I wonder if that has ever happened in the history of the World Cup. Also, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a specialist wicket keeper must also be a spectacular bat as a requisite in one day international cricket in the past 20 years: think Australia’s Adam Gilchrist, Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara and India’s M.S. Dhoni. Yet, selectors (PCB), commentators (Ramiz Raja) coaching (Waqar Yunus) refuse to address why specialist wicket keeper and in form batsman Sarfaraz Ahmed is not on the team now. And with every Akmal butterfingers drop, Sarfaraz’s absence is sorely missed. Yahoo Sports puts it well:

Surprisingly, regular wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed, who had scored prolifically against Australia and New Zealand in last year’s test and ODI series in the UAE, is yet to get his first Cricket World Cup match.

2. Zero Team Leadership: Starting from the top with mind boggling selections of the PCB, to Waqar Younus as a clueless coach and Misbah ul Haq as a most lackluster, demoralizing captain. Waqar consistently baffles everyone with his selection of bowlers and his misplacing batsman in the order (i.e. consistently selecting or opening with Younus Khan or putting him at the most valuable #3 spot, or not playing spin bowler Yasir Shah against the Windies who have trouble with spinners, but playing him against India who traditionally does okay with spinners). Then, Misbah who is the only captain out of every team i’ve seen, including the minnows who seems incapable of competitive, encouraging positive athletic leadership– which is a requisite of a captain for any sport! Battling legend Javed Miandad summarizes Misbah’s leadserhip succinctly

Cricket World Cup: Misbah-ul-Haq’s ‘weak’ leadership is not helping Pakistan, says Javed Miandad

This is aside from the fact that Misbah’s field placements CONSISTENTLY cost us matches (i.e. putting one of our least mobile fielders, Mohammad Irfan at mid wicket and long on), one is left scratching their head — what on earth is Misbah’s strategy, let alone rationale for winning?

Shoaib Akhtar agrees, he scathingly commented today “We are heading for disaster. I have never seen a more selfish and coward captain like Misbah,”

Remember Shahid Afridi as captain of Pakistan’s 2011 world cup team? THAT was world class leadership: Afridi led an inexperienced side that was underestimated by all, from the front, and launched them to exceeding all expectations. He was positive, motivational, competitive and strategic — Misbah doesn’t compare, and his captaincy is costing Pakistan win after win 😦

Shahid Afridi's Pretty Chiseled

Shahid Afridi’s Pretty Chiseled

3. No Batsmen Groomed for the World Cup: Shame on the PCB: Pakistan it seems is the only team who squandered the past 4 years without grooming enough batsmen for this tournament.

Inventor of the deadly “doosra” delivery, former master spinner Saqlain Mushtaq explains  “The whole nation feels let down and is understandably angry. You don’t expect such unprofessional decisions from a professional management,” he said.

Constantly yanking batsman with in form, winning performances like Fawad Alam, refusing to play Mohammad Hafeez when he insists he is ready, and wasting world class batsman like Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi as lowest order players and instead playing non performing batsmen who consistently cost us key matches, like Younus Khan, Pakistan has yet to have a reliable opening duo, let alone stable batsmen to follow. And with Waqar Younus as coach admitting he’s still “experimenting” with the order (with dire results), Pakistan is painfully unprepared for the World Cup 2015.

Don’t expect major wins from a team that lacks the most basic components for crickets biggest tournament. I’m looking forward to tomorrows South Africa vs. India game. A.B. de Villiers, Hashim Amla and company — now that’s a team to be excited about.


Would Imran Khan call Ron Paul to Bat?

January 9, 2012
American Congressman Ron Paul

Ron Paul speaks during the Republican Leadership Conference: 2011

Is it just me, or are seemingly incessant GOP debates the past few months allowing President Obama’s lack of public exposure to seem more and more like solid leadership? The Republican lineups simplistic, square and reactionary focus on “Anti-Obama” rhetoric especially on foreign policy has highlighted a resoundingly hawkish stance on Iran with little attention to our current engagements in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And while it may be expedient amongst a certain political base to try and one-up each other in aggressive foreign policy talk, only Ron Paul challenges the party line on Americas role in the world.

When it comes to Pakistan, compared to Democrats Republicans have a consistent history of preferring to work closely with the military establishment in Islamabad. While there is a level of bipartisanship post 9/11, (case in point is Obama’s continuation of Bush era drone use with little debate), Republicans have through the Cold War and beyond preferred dealing with the military establishment rather than focusing on democratic, or liberal institution building. Which is not necessarily an entirely erroneous  policy; part of the rationale is that state building is expensive in blood, toil, time and treasure and rarely feasible. Further, there are an endless number of constraints and uncertainties that profoundly hinder institution, or democratic state building in a place like Pakistan, rendering Republican policies simply pragmatic.

Which brings us to current policy: the bipartisan endorsed “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act” (S. 1707)  enacted in 2009 has yet to bear tangible fruit. Granted the aforementioned that institution building is time exhaustive, the fact remains that Pakistan has deteriorated politically, in the realm of security and economically. And having watched everyone from Gov. Romney, Sen. Santorun, Gov. Perry, Rep. Bachmann and yes even the soft spoken Gov. Huntsman, reiterates hawkish foreign policy while refusing to acknowledge a need for meaningful improvement. In the Republican camp only Rep. Ron Paul’s extreme calls for an isolationist posture offer some semblance of change. And because his prescriptions have yet to be tried, the utility of his ideas have yet to be tested. And now may be a time to consider his stance since they call for exactly what the Pakistani public wants right now.

Referring to our policies to Pakistan as nothing short of “Bombs for Bribes” Ron Paul acknowledges the nobility, yet inherent futility in calling for democratic institutions in places of strategic engagement. He understands that we are already engaged in “130 countries” with “700 bases around the world” and in this speech against the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, he bluntly explains:

the way we treat our fellow countries around the world is we tell them what to do and if they do it, we give them money. If they don’t we bomb them. Under this condition we are doing both. We are currently dropping bombs in Pakistan and innocent people get killed. If you want to promote our good values and democratic processes, you can’t antagonize the people”

He goes on to suggest dialogue and trade as alternatives to current policy. And although his statement is simplistic and was made in 2009, it highlights Ron Paul’s isolationist, more economically focused prescriptions on foreign policy that seek to reduce our military footprint abroad based on pragmatic constraints, like military and fiscal overstretch. And these calls seem more reasonable than before, especially when it comes to Pakistan and the fact that our aid has yet to yield satisfactory results. So while the Obama administration continues engagement and GOP candidates refuse to acknowledge much concern over current policy to Pakistan, can Ron Paul really be the only alternative available?

Someone once considered completely out of left, excuse me, right field, could be the reminder we need to moderate our engagement with countries of interest. Because what is interesting is that current rhetoric in Pakistan is very much in line with Ron Paul’s ideas. Ron Paul isn’t touting conspiracy theories, nor does he echo far left foreign policy thinkers like Noam Chomsky. Rather, his past statements on our engagement in Pakistan as “inadvertently causing chaos” and “violating security and sovereignty” are exactly what the average Pakistani seems to feel and hears about in their mainstream TV, and print media. Takeaway for us means, it’s a perception the is realistic; perhaps more so than current policy reflects.

In fact, legendary cricket star turned politician Imran Khan’s recent surge in popularity is in large part due to his highly critical foreign policy rhetoric that vociferously calls for D.C. to adopt a more isolationist stance so Pakistan might reclaim lost autonomy. Imran Khan steadily built support for his party on the continued observation that America’s “War on Terror” has intensified insecurity and his subsequent promises to curtail American involvement is a first step in alleviating Pakistan’s problems.

He underscores Ron Paul’s sentiment that perceptions urgently matter in a climate where American intervention is increasingly received hostilely.  Both politicians insistence on winnings hearts and minds renders Ron Paul’s foreign policy prescriptions worthy of consideration. Imran Khan’s recent ascendency and Governor Paul’s gradually increasing support marks a convergence in shifting to a direction of a less militarized approach to Pakistan. Two men once considered out of the realm of politician viability now increasingly resonate in their respective publics; policymakers ought to take note.




How Old Was Cinderella & Prince Charming?

May 3, 2011

In kindergarten the last thing we did before going home was have story time. And I best recall Cinderella in particular because I interrupted Mrs. Woods twice during her reading: first because I didn’t understand why the glass slipper didn’t change back to Cinderella’s original shoe when everything else did at midnight, and then I wondered why out of all the girls in the land, how could that slipper just not fit anyone else?

Suffice to say, Cinderella didn’t add up when I was 5 (for some odd reason, Alice in Wonderland did, but that’s another matter altogether). Then in high school and undergraduate Women’s Studies and Sociology classes we deconstructed seemingly endless dangers of these fairy tales with their adverse impact on female agency (or rather, a complete omission of it), which certainly didn’t help the skepticism I already had for this princess. But Maureen Dowd asks us to revisit her in an article on Sunday. Yes, I will grant that the whole damsel in distress cliché in fairy tales (and to a large extent in Hollywood to this day) did little to empower women, but in light of this weeks Royal wedding, Dowd describes a redefinition of Cinderella:

“Teaming with the spirit of her dead mother, Cinderella cleverly rescues herself from servitude, conjures up her own glittery makeover and then saves the prince from the same torment she endured living with her hideous stepsisters”

Was Cinderella more clever than my volumes of feminist theory posited? And in that light, can we credit the new Duchess, Kate Middleton as being an empowered woman with agency who married a Prince but is actually the leading heroic figure in their tale? Dowd likens her to Cinderella given their so called, “commoner” background and the solemn image of a deceased mother figure (Princess Diana) that looms large in their pasts:

“You could sense a collective prayer among the spectators that Kate, with her Cinderella coach, Cartier tiara and satin slippers, was not a lamb being led to slaughter. Many assured the invading celebrity journalists that Kate was older and more grounded than the virginal and high-strung 20-year-old who married an older man who loved another woman”

And therein we find agency, in a place no one ever encourages you to look: in a females age. The fact that Kate is nearly 10 years older than Diana at the time of her marriage changes the story completely. Testimony to this are a string of articles in the past couple years describing an increasingly buffoon like modern day male, painfully complacent in his inability to think or act for himself, versus an increasingly assertive, confident and successful modern female. The result is that both sexes converge in delaying marriage and other markers of adulthood more than ever before. Not that the Prince is any way buffoon like, or Kate a high strung, domineering partner, but they are entering into a relationship that seems much more complementary than what William’s mother entered into. And that might have much to do with age and this delayed experience of adulthood that has ironically given girls a chance to be girls longer, but simultaneously offers greater opportunity to discover, and attain our interests. Couple this girl with a guy who evades the buffoon like existence and you’ve probably got a happy ending.

So, we go back to Dowd’s question: did Cinderella and Kate “marry up” or was it the other way around? Well, I suppose it’s both. Because whether it’s the new Duchess and Duke of Cambridge or Cinderella and her handsome prince, there’s a very interesting balance that each person found by acting with keen self-awareness, and taking time to thoughtfully determine a plan independent of external pressure which they then executed with utmost confidence and presentation. Go figure: fairy tales wound up being more pragmatic in adulthood than in kindergarten 🙂


America the Resilient

May 2, 2011
President Obama & CIA Director Leon Panetta
President Obama & CIA Director Leon Panetta

9/11 changed the face of US hegemony and after 10 years of what began as a sweeping War on Terror, that face changes again tonight as America prevails proud, resilient and rejuvenated. President Obama’s address confirms Osama bin Laden has been killed and his body is in U.S. custody.

Special forces brought bin Laden to justice and our President thanked those who served us in the military, in counterterrorism and intelligence officials who had been watching the compound and gathering actionable intelligence that ultimately took out enemy number one in a firefight.

It’s a proud day for America, but questions already abound regarding relations with Pakistan: “Osama bin Laden was not in a cave, he was in a city in Pakistan” as one analyst on ABC news reported which had Christian Amanpour then raise the question “whose been protecting him?”

But before entirely implicating Pakistan for harboring the worlds most wanted man, it’s important to recall Obama’s increased intelligence operations in Pakistan since he took office. As the war shifted to Pakistan, so did ISI CIA collaborative operations. With closer collaboration came butting of heads where U.S. intelligence speculated if Pakistani intelligence was doing enough and such rifts peaked last week when Admiral Mike Mullen voiced harsh criticism of the ISI.

But the President’s comments and ongoing reporting indicates that today’s victory that comes after 10 long years of war, struggle and sacrifice, was a joint operation with Pakistan on the ground. GEO News in Pakistan confirms most of the information we’re hearing here, save some reporting that 1 American helicopter was shot down. Nonetheless, Peter Bergen on CNN says Elite Black Ops and Paramilitary CIA who were the likely heroes, operated with cooperation of the Pakistani government. Yet this success does not negate or allow us to ignore the concern of who, or at worst, what elements of the Pakistani government knew of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Today prompts us to reassess and revamp relations with Pakistan, who once again has proven itself as an effective ally at wartime. This victory is an opportunity to foster a fresh relationship that can be something more than transactional and more transparent. Skepticism of one another in both states is beyond a misalignment of interests, it’s a misalignment ofconceptions of one another. Perceptions matter and it is no secret that anti Americanism can be formidable fuel to our enemies abroad. U.S. Intelligence amidst constant rhetoric of “Blowback” is redeemed today; the Intelligence agencies are heroes to Americans everywhere, and in this instance, even for Pakistani’s who suffered tremendously since 9/11. With an ever crippling economy, and a seemingly endless barrage of violent onslaughts from Al Qaeda suicide bombers in the past 10 years, Pakistani’s along with American’s should rejoice at today’s victory while policymakers in both countries take time to capitalize on this game changer and move forward anew.

Step 1, halt the drones.



Gadaffi Makes Ahmadinejad Look Reasonable & Osama Bin Laden Seem Rational

February 24, 2011
How Can you Not Chuckle at This? - Libya's Dictator M. Gaddafi

How Can you Not Chuckle at This? - Libya's Dictator M. Gaddafi

It’s week 8 of a 10-week quarter in graduate school and suffice to say in such a system one is inevitably swamped from the onset. Despite my itching to write about Imran Khan’s talks since Davos on counterterrorism and the Cricket World Cup , I simply haven’t had the time or energy.

However, a friend came over this evening and we watched CNN coverage of Libya (more like CNN spotlight on “Crazy Gadaffi”) and I just couldn’t help but jot down some thoughts. At one point Wolf Blitzer had the former House Intelligence Committee Chair in the Situation Room and commented:

Is Gadaffi on drugs, there’s always been something off with him. He must be on drugs”.

The Congressman responded You know, two out of three times I met him, he was rational and completely in his senses. That third time though you could tell something was off. (this is paraphrased)

Hilarious. Hilarious  because this comedy was not the least bit intentional, it was prime time news. CNN went hours today with repeated images of Gadaffi in overwhelmingly monotone attire: this dreadful toasted camel tone, from head to toe and on that head was his 1984 curly mullet. It was too much. My friend and I laughed at the video clips and talked about a recent article in Vanity Fair entitled “Dictator Chic” depicting what was clearly portrayed as catastrophic fashion choices over the years. We laughed at a notion of giving Gaddafi a makeover as an effective means of American Intervention, but as students of International Relations/Security Studies that was all the segue required to transform our down time into a serious debate on shady men in international politics who manage to command the worlds attention for decades on end.

My friend (who is sure to be an expert on Iran who we’ll see on CNN one day) commented

It’s funny there are similar protests in Iran right now with crackdown on protestors but Ahmadinejad still publically calls for other dictators to hear peoples requests”.

I said, “Dude, Gadaffi makes Ahmadinejad look reasonable”.



We laughed in agreement, but got quiet for a second afterwards in serious thought.

She asked So…..Gadaffi, or bin Laden….whose more irrational?

I didn’t pause to reflect and immediately reacted “Bin Laden. He calls for establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Bin Laden is operating from a premise of ideology rather than rationality”

We looked at each other for a half a second, before I realized two things: One rationality and ideology need not be mutually exclusive in all situations, and secondly: if rationality in International Relations is understood (in a super simplistic nutshell) as a cost benefit analysis determinate of behavior, then my initial thought is incorrect.

I realized this and retracted, “Wait. Bin Laden has very real political objectives. He wants U.S. troops withdrawn from Saudi Arabia and an overthrow of the current Saudi regime. And whether we find that objective absurd or not, they are, according to his calculations attainable political objectives that he thinks are worth the costs he invests in terrorism”.

She was of my initial mindset and countered “No. I think he initially started off that way but has since called for overthrow of all Arab regimes and is so angry at what the west has done in the Muslim World that he would not have Al Qaeda stop targeting America for all that its done over the years

I responded “So the four biggest grievances Bin Laden has regarding the West in the Muslim World are troops in Saudi and Afghanistan being the top two. Next on his list is our military presence in Palestine and Iraq. Let’s assume all four of these, which he finds are legitimate grievances, are miraculously altered in his favor, I don’t think he would then continue to attack American targets

She smiled, and said “Solving those four eh? Now that’s hopeful!

We laughed and I continued, Because if we can agree that Bin Laden sincerely believes both that these objectives are legitimate grievances and his tactics can be effective, then he’s acting rationally. And if those grievances get solved, why would he bear the costs of investing in terrorism afterwards? It requires, money, organization and is very high risk. He would have to begin from scratch in rallying a support base with new objectives. Because he would no longer have reason to wage what he thinks is “jihad” if there were nothing to gain from it”.

She stopped for a moment, then thought about it aloud “So, then Osama Bin Laden does act rationally

It was a disturbing sort of conclusion we both very hesitantly came to. Because it’s immediately easier to assume our enemy is an irrational mad man, (a la the images of Gadaffi on CNN) than understand, recognize and deal with the root causes of their actions. Which has led me to expand focus from solely military forms counterterrorism in my studies. When the crux of the issue is one of grievances over U.S. troop presence in the so-called “Muslim World”, an amplified U.S. presence in response is increasingly seen as counter productive. It’s among the main reasons our initial target of obliterating the Taliban in Afghanistan at the onset of Operation Enduring Freedom has shifted instead to finding ways of negotiating with the group.

Although the United States policy of non negotiation with terrorists on the grounds that concessions reinforce and empower terrorist activity is reasonable, an over reliance on military means simply has not been sufficiently effective into our 10th year of engagement in Afghanistan, and as a dire result, now in Pakistan.

Pakistan is a prime example of how negotiations in tandem with diplomacy supported by military coercion is key to combating terrorism today. Spillover of Al Qaeda and radical militarization of Taliban among other terrorist groups has proliferated in direct correlation with our military operation in Afghanistan since 2001. Bridget Nacos of Columbia University in her work “Counterterrorism Strategies: Do We need Bombs over Bridges” describes a main reason for this:

As the Iraq war demonstrated, massive military force can result in a recruiting bonanza for terrorists. And as ground and air operations against Al Qaeda and Taliban figures in Pakistan’s tribal region showed, such strikes can trigger further waves of Terrorist attacks

Where does that leave us? The aforementioned point of negotiations with the Taliban is a fair starting point. No matter how unpalatable and in stark counter to international norms on human rights the Taliban seem, they were not engaging directly in terrorist activity prior to Bush’s “War on Terror”. The Taliban’s objectives were intrastate, domestic ideological goals of imposing their radical, warped brand of Islam on Afghani’s. In fact, Fawaz Gerges, scholar and author of “The Far Enemy: Why Jihad went Global”  explains while allowing Al Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan, the Taliban was actually at odds with them over their ambitions to wage attacks against American targets, or the “far enemy” if you will.

So, negotiation with groups by attempting to understand their grievances rather than ideology is key. Negotiations attack the support base of terrorist groups, whereas military means have shown to radicalize them in recent years. Groups whose ideologies, and constructed identities are repellent to us, may still be brought back into the fold of non-violence and retreat back into not targeting the United States. This is important because these very groups have aligned with terrorist organizations and made the past few years for our troops the deadliest ever and with General Patreus predicting an even worse situation for 2011, new strategies are essential.

Understanding that terrorism carried out by Al Qaeda is not entirely irrational, but rather calculated, orchestrated and heavily invested in to achieve what they feel are legitimate political grievances is critical in counterterrorism, especially efforts aimed at the spillover and expansion of attackers. An accurate assessment of not only the enemy but also potential sympathizers and supporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan requires immediate and preventative measures. Nacos suggests robust diplomacy through traditional channels, and engaging media and general public. It’s a fair argument, and given the deteriorating situation, her recommendations are very worthy of consideration.

Republished @ The Foreign Policy Association


Fattening America

January 9, 2011


It’s not Americans fault for being fat.

I’m in my second quarter of classes and I get the funny feeling I spend more time between the kitchen and Yoga studio than anyone else here. Plainly put, I’m not fulfilling any stereotypes of American chicks in grad school.

My friends have been going out to dinner the past couple nights and the mere thought of more than abundant portions of overly salted foods cooked in processed ingredients is less than appetizing. But, it’s my first week back and spending time with friends is important, and its far more convenient to eat out than cook given our schedules. Plus I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can dine mostly anywhere and at the sake of mildly annoying waiters & waitresses and getting puzzled onlookers, I can specifically order a Red-tip, Arugla, Butterleaf, Spinach, Swiss chard or Romaine lettuce salad, with dressing on the side, and request to hold the hormone laced tomatoes. Except at most South Asian restaurants, where “salad” more often than not means you’re getting a bread plate of sliced tomatoes, onions on a bed of …**shudder** Iceberg Lettuce, (the Snookie of all lettuces, if you will. I’m not one to hate, but Iceberg lettuce is to lettuce, what Snookie is to brunettes).

So, that’s what i did on Thursday night when I went out. I ordered a Wasabi, Seared Ahi Tuna salad, which although salty, was quite delicious. Downside: it wasn’t originally a salad! The Tuna was supposed to be covered in creamy potatoes until i said, please hold the mash and give me extra veggies. Bigger downside: I ended up paying as much as the guy next to me who ordered a 3 course dinner. Then on Friday night we went out, and I was exceptionally hungry so, I passed on the salad and ordered a saffron broth based stew of boiled calamari, artichokes, crab leg, mussels, and whitefish (request to hold the pasta). But it happened to be the priciest entree on the menu.

What’s wrong with this picture? First, the fact that eating healthy in America is far more expensive than eating junk (you’ll find the same phenomenon if you visit any grocery store). Which brings us to the second, larger problem of defining the concept of “eating healthy”.

In the 1980’s we were bombarded with advertisements for “low fat” diets that had Americans consuming highly processed packaged foods and condiments that were loaded with added sugar and starch to compensate in taste for the lacking fat. Then in the 1990’s as people realized the increased sugar intake was making them fatter, Atkins and other high protein diets re-emerged with everyone touting Dr. Atkins 1972 proclamation “The High Calorie way to Stay Thin Forever!“. Sure, until most found it’s disgusting to live on a staple diet of meat and eggs minus any grains. Not to mention such diets are almost diametrically opposed to the FDA’s Food pyramid, which is just as ridiculous as the Atkins diet (even the recently modified one).

Are you Kidding me? The FDA wants us to eat more pasta & cereal rather than fresh produce?

And in this past decade as Americans break their backs in a perpetual professional rat race and hit the gym far more than our European counterparts (who mind you work less and are far thinner than us), studies confirm Americans continue to grow fatter.

Suffice to say, most everything recommended thus far has  been counter productive. And amidst this continual trial and error, (which has apparently been a long series of errors), Americans ought to finally catch on.

There’s an article this week in the Irish Times about Michael Pollan’s book In Defence of Food, where a solution is put quite elegantly: “EAT FOOD. Not too much. Mostly Plants”.

Beautiful. It’s streamlined, sensible and hard to refute. Yes, it turns the entire western diet upside down on its head, but that’s exactly what’s needed as Americans are plagued by heart disease, and obesity. Pollan suggests the western diet” that arose with the industrialization of food in the 20th century is characterized by lots of processed food, meats and refined grains, lots of added sugar and fat, but few vegetables, fruits and whole grains

In fact, go to any grocery store and try to follow the FDA pyramid of loading up on “grains” and even the well informed, yet time pressed American will fall for the sham that are breads, pastas, crackers and cereal laced with additives including fructose (sometimes the infamous high fructose corn syrup), starches (namely enriched corn starch) and even sodium.

We Might as well have Cake for Breakfast

We might as well just have Cake for Breakfast

Prime case in point – Added salt and sugar in cereal clearly manufactured to appeal to children. I mean that is just diabolical.

So, I’ve come to accept the general rule of thumb that buying anything in a package at an American grocery store (including places like Whole Foods and Trade Joes) will most often come processed sugar, and salty “preservatives”. Which leaves us with an option to purchase raw foods that one prepares themselves, bringing me back to my concern with being the odd man, er, woman out here in grad school.

But at the expense of being that girl who does a lot of cooking and Yoga, I’ve found what Pollan says is true. He advises we eat fresh foods that are not processed or enriched with additives. He refers to this as “what our grandmothers would recognize as food”. That sounds about right.

In addition to the problem with highly processed foods, Pollan provides a critical look at the “Reductionist” nutrition ideology in America that has convinced us of Three myths:

  1. Food is only a carrier of nutrients, and it’s the nutrients that matter, not the food
  2. We need experts to tell us what to eat because nutrients are invisible and mysterious to everyone but scientists
  3. Entire purpose of eating is to promote a narrow concept of physical health

I think he’s right and these myths are key in why Americans keep getting fatter. Let’s go back to the Federal Food and Drug Administration that recommends we get a ridiculous amount of bread, cereal, crackers and pasta in our diet, and advises we make sure at least 3 servings are “whole grain”. Take a box of Cheerios, the seemingly most healthy Cheerios: the ones in the yellow box titled “Toasted whole Grain Oat Cereal” which at the top proclaims “Whole Gain guaranteed!” and toward the bottom declares “Big G Cereals are America’s #1 Source of Whole Grain at breakfast”. It has such a wholesome image of red heart shaped bowl filled with the product and at the bottom reminds us that “3 grams of soluable fiber daily from whole grain oat foods, like Cgerrios cereal, in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease”.Looks great, until you actually read the nutritional label and ingredients list.

There’s modified corn starch, sugar and worst of all, sodium added to each box. And at 160 grams per serving of sodium and just 1 gram of Sugar, Cherrios are actually among the most healthy of American cereals.

This is despite the fact that The American Heart Association specifically warns against the increased risk of hypertension, subsequently heart disease and stroke that comes with added sodium in ones diet. The association ultimately recommends exactly what Pollen does: eat Fresh.

I mean, why can’t I just get a box of unsalted oats. I like oats. What’s wrong with plain oats? If i want them salty, I’ll add salt myself. Or I could opt for foods with significant amounts of naturally occurring sodium content, like beets, or chickpeas, or spinach. And if I want sugar, I can have any number of fruits. Modify Corn starch? Why, so we can mass produce thicker jelly that preserves Twinkies for years on end? Pollan is right: the western diet is so far removed from natural foods that humans have simply not been able to adapt to it. And the American food industries have rendered it too convenient to be unhealthy, bombarding us with aisle after aisle of grocery store processed excuses for fresh food. I’d really love to see some long term studies that collect data to weigh the costs of producing these foods vs the increasing obesity and heart disease rates, including the cost of prevention and treatment.

So I suppose even if cooking takes up a chunk of my time between studying, socializing and Yoga, eating fresh has helped me maintain a BMI under 20 and capacity to jog a couple miles in the Denver altitude. And the peripheral benefits of wellness are something one cannot put a price on.

I periodically indulge in a ridiculous amount of double stuffed Oreos, Cupcakes, Full Fat Milk and South Asian “mithai”.


Pakistan’s Silent Superstar

November 1, 2010

It’s said that Chuck Norris has no fear. Fear has Chuck Norris”. Funny, but that’s mythical. Real fear comes from Pakistan’s all rounder Abdul Razzaq, a silent Cricketing stalwart whose rightly deemed the “Danger Man’. Without Shahid Afridi’s brazenness, Shoaib Ahktar’s offensive aggression, or Inzamam’s star power, Razzaq has quietly, and consistently wrecked havoc on world class teams. Suffice to say his dangerousness runs deep, but it could only have been concealed for so long. Trending on Twitter since yesterday, he stunned the cricket world in what a BBC Sports Blogger tweeted: 109 not out off 72 balls with 10 sixes, Razzaq pulls off one of the great heists in ODI history” J

Heist is right. Because Razzaq robbed South Africa blind in yesterday’s ODI. Just as South Africa’s victory seemed inevitable with Pakistan 5 wickets down for 136 in the 30th over chasing a massive total, the Danger Man serenely stepped to the pitch. Without flinching at only 20 over’s with which to make 250 runs requiring a massive 7.5 run rate, Danger Man began his attack.

Devising not a slogging onslaught, but a strategic, carefully developed batting ambush only Razzaq could execute,

he began with the support of rookie batsman Fawaad Alam. They maintained a steady run rate of 6.5 bringing them to a respectable partnership of 88. But in comes rookie middle order batsman/wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider. There’s gotta be better players to choose from in Pakistan than this guy who gets run out for a score of 6. Nonetheless, Razzaq calmly takes the setback in stride and with only tail enders left, he remains the last batsman standing to chase 60 runs in 6 overs. But he anticipated that.

With a half century under his belt, he picks up the pace: smashing 26 runs in the next 3 overs. But just before he tries to get the strike back at the end of the 46th over, bowler Wahaab Riaz is run out, and 3 balls later, another man falls. Nine wickets down, one more out and the game is over. South Africa’s crushing triumph over Pakistan in this series seems inevitable. Razzaq is the only man standing with 2.3 over’s remaining and 29 required for victory.

Classic Pakistan. And Razzaq knows it. He anticipated it the moment he began to bat, thus taking the match into his own hands, and becoming Danger Man.

Well aware that Shoaib Akhtar is the Worlds Fastest bowler,  not the greatest batsman, Razzaq undertakes full responsibility. In the last 2 overs, he safely but skillfully hits 4-5 balls into the gap when Akhtar reasonably began to run for the single’s & doubles. But Razzaq confidently instructed otherwise. Now that’s scary. If I was South Africa, I’d fear a man needing near 30 runs to save any face in a series with less than 3 overs left yet still tells his partner not to run. That’s intrepid. Razzaq was sending a message to everyone: “Stay. I got this”

Pakistan's Danger Man - Abdul Razzaq Conquers South Africa in Abu Dhabi 2010

Pakistan's Danger Man - Abdul Razzaq Conquers South Africa in Abu Dhabi 2010

Talk about presence. Fearing why he’s NOT scrambling to make these last runs, South Africa had to wonder what the heck this guy had up his sleeve and tremble at his audacity.

In preventing Akhtar from risking a wicket to take seemingly critical runs, Razzaq upped his own responsibility, demonstrating tremendous leadership, strategic thinking, confidence and damn powerful cricket. For me this command and control was the highlight of the game. He took the colossal task of rescuing Pakistan from humiliation in the series solely upon his own shoulders.

He maintained confidence, composure and leadership in seeing the ball well, skillfully directing the ball, and meticulously assessing the match at each interval. Knowing how to make everything go off the middle of the bat, he was conquering South Africa despite their weighty total and floundering Pakistani batting.

In fact, come the last three overs Akhtar only sees 1 of those 12 balls, because Razzaq just didn’t let him take strike. Taking complete responsibility upon himself rather than risk loss, he allowed Akhtar to run once for a single just before the last over. Shoaib dot balled it, returning strike to Razzaq.

Decisive final over. Pakistan needs 14 runs off 6 balls.

After smashing another six, Danger Man is at 99 runs and doesn’t flinch. Just smashes another one one for 6. Catapulting him to 105. There’s no celebration: he simply raises his bat, promptly brings it back and focuses on his strategy and the larger task at hand.

Then there’s a dot ball. 2 runs needed off the last 3 balls. And that’s when the South African skipper worries. The fact that Danger Man didn’t celebrate 105 off of 70 balls again had to leave them wondering who the heck this guy is and what he’s going to pull next. South Africa unsuccesfully appeals on a caught behind for Razzaq. But Danger Man unfazed with just two runs required won’t even need to run: he hits the next ball for a boundary and jumps up and tosses his bat in the air.

With two sixes to seal a win in the last over, it marked his his 10th six in the game. Danger Man scored 63 of the whole teams last 65 runs to overcome the weighty chase. It was all Abdul Razzaq. Not even a wide or no ball to help him, South Africa cut him no slack and he single handedly achieved the Pakistan victory in this series.

He’s always been my favorite. It’s this Danger Man that should forever instill fear in anyone who plays against Pakistan with him in the lineup. No win is certain so long as Abdul Razzaq’s around 😉

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