Two Books Cover 20 Years Of Convoluted Relations Between CIA/FBI & Muslim Radicals


After reading the last riveting page of “The Looming Towerâ€? [Knopf: 2006] by The New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright, something tugged at my memory. One of those annoying nudges that won’t let go—so I was relieved when I remembered it was a book I had read a few years earlier.

That book was called “Charlie Wilson’s Warâ€? [Atlantic Monthly Press: 2003] written by veteran 60 Minutes Producer George Crile. (I have since learned that Charlie Wilson’s War is going to be a major motion picture, starring Tom Hanks, with a release date of 2007. I don’t know if the fact that Hollywood is weighing in diminishes my little book review but I thought I should tell you that).

“Charlie Wilson’s War” and “The Looming Tower” should be read together. They are parts of a whole or maybe a partial whole if such a concept exists.

“Charlie Wilson’s War” tells the truly incredible story of a womanizing, hard drinking, partying US Congressman and the huge role he played in “the CIA’s secret war in Afghanistanâ€?. That congressman was Charlie Wilson—and this very tall Texan with a booming voice became enthralled with the idea of the colorful mujahideen, who, armed with ancient weapons, risked their lives to fight off the Soviet superpower that had invaded their country in the 1980s.

See why it has all the makings for a movie with Tom Hanks?

Wilson sat on the powerful Defense Appropriations subcommittee and with one phone call was able to increase funding to the mujahideen but a great deal more money was needed and that’s where the CIA comes in. At the time, according to author George Crile, the CIA was backing anti-communist causes in Central America, like the Contras—in fact, until Wilson convinced them to focus on Afghanistan instead, the CIA believed Central America was the focal point of the Cold War.

Once on board, the CIA came to believe that Afghanistan was an excellent project for them– and by focusing on the mujahideen, the Muslims might forgive the US for having supported the Shah of Iran and, of course, continued support for Israel.

Wilson’s influence and role is so big that when the Soviets are booted out of Afghanistan and the Cold War is officially declared dead, the 6’8â€? Texan was honored at CIA headquarters— a hallowed place where outsiders are rarely welcomed.

While Crile’s book echoes the role of the CIA in Afghanistan, Lawrence Wright’s “The Looming Tower”* talks about the rise of radical Islam and gives a lot of credit to the FBI for their anti-terrorism activites.

Most intriguing is the description of the Egyptian educator Sayid Qutb, who attends a university in the American Mid-West, appears to like the school and the people, when he actually despises everything about what he views as the superficiality of American culture. After leaving the US and returning home to Egypt, Qutb becomes famous as an intellectual writing about what later became well known as Islamic Fundamentalism. His work attracted many followers, who in turn became more and more radicalized—finally interpreting as moral, the killing of anyone who is not a true Muslim, the present definition of a Muslim terrorist.

Given an understanding of the roots of modern Islam, the author Lawrence Wright moves on to terrorist bombings including two American consulates in Africa, the bombing of the Cole, the ultra modern naval vessel that was refueling in Yemen, and the 1993 bombing of the Twin Towers.

These events bring in John O’Neill, the FBI chief of counter terrorism and his futile attempts to find and charge all of the major terrorist culprits.

(John O’Neill and Charlie Wilson share many personal traits: both were larger-than-life characters, womanizers, spending more money than either had.)

Author Lawrence Wright makes it clear that the FBI’s John O’Neill’s efforts are continually frustrated by the CIA– by the wall of silence that falls between the FBI and this other powerful spy agency. O’Neill, after resigning from the FBI, went on head up security in the Twin Towers where, ironically, he died on 9/ll.

*I have just learned that ABC-TV will be airing “The Path to 9/11” a miniseries, with Harvey Keitel starring as FBI counter terrorism chief John O’Neill.

Marion & Bill Miramontes Interview (1980) Part III

In Part 2 Bill Miramontes was telling me about the rise & demise of the Ocean Shore Railroad– that the main reason for its failure was the stiff competition from cars and trucks (that could transport vegetables from Half Moon Bay to market in San Francisco faster).

Bill: The train just ran out of passengers and freight because it was so much better to buy fresh vegetables picked the same day and have [the produce] at the market the next day. If they put the vegetables on the train they had to pick it, sort it and then bring it down to the train and it would stay there one or more days on the tracks. It could be three or four days before it got to the market.

Bill: When they got solid tires, trucks were better than cars. They were slow, even 8-10 miles per hour but they’d leave at 10 and get to San Francisco at 1 or 2 in the morning.

Bill: The artichoke was a big item in those days, fresh and green. When shipped by the train artichokes would be–after you pick them–and they sit for 2, 3, 4 days–they get kind of withered and dark.

Bill: People started buying Fords or cheap cars and they’d go to San Francisco in an hour and a half. On the train it would be an all day trip. The Ocean Shore Railroad ran out of passengers and that’s why they failed.

…To be continued…

Babaji Comes To The Coastside (1975) Part III

According to Miramar Beach kayak enthusiast and photographer, Michael Powers, most of the Coastsiders “were curious and interested” about Babaji’s visit to the farm at San Gregorio.

What he captured on film were “a lot of kids and ‘flower children’ running all over the place. Fresh fruit and blossoms were placed at the master’s feet,” said Powers. “It was theatrical and wonderfully staged. There was a genuine feeling of generosity, of spirituality.”

One Coastside source–who recounted her experience on the condition that I not use her name–said she wore a leaf green tunic with rust-orange stripes and white muslin pants. “I wanted to wear something loose and comfortable,” she told me. “I had seen many photos of the Beatles and the Maharaja and I based my outfit on that image.”

Then a resident of San Gregorio, this source also recalled meeting Babaji as he ascended the hill.

“I was introduced to him,” she recalled. “The white robes told me he was someone to be revered. I wondered if it was good luck to shake his hand. It put me in a good mood.”

When Babi Hari Dass arrived, he was accompanied by some 50 of his followers from Santa Cruz, all of them wearing white and ecru gauzy fabrics. Some of them held strands of sandalwood beads. Michael Powers noted that the followers tended to be “fanatic and committed.”

With a peaceful smile on his face, Babaji sat cross-legged on the Indian rug beneath an orange parachute. All eyes turned to watch the tanned and barefooted young woman in the green and white sarong drop a fresh bouquet of wildflowers at the master’s feet.

…To be continued…

Note: I have misplaced a lovely color photo of Babaji taken at the San Gregorio Farms event.I’ll post it when I find it–the photo really helps define the story.

The 3rd Avenue Library: San Mateo’s Sparkling New Jewel

Most cities are broke and their highways aren’t being fixed and their schools are falling apart– but San Mateo has a library–there might not be half a dozen libraries in the entire world that compare with this new library on 3rd avenue that takes up almost an entire square block.

Every donor’s name has been permanently engraved in steel plaques. I recognized many of them–Ken and Sherrilyn Fisher, the T.J. Fosters, Franklin-Templeton, Oracle, Genetech–

If you haven’t seen it, you gotta go. It was closed today, Labor Day and I just admired it from the outside. There are not many really pretty buildings, public or otherwise, and this one is just smashing.

I walked around the entire building and peered into the windows, some of them round like giant portholes. There are sculptures and benches and the inside (which I hope to see soon) looks cutting edge, worthy of the county where high-tech was born.

It’s certain to be a touristy place to go–this library is one we can all be very proud of.

Now if only we could get private funding for an exceptional new Coastside library.

(When I’m over there tomorrow, I’ll take a pix)

“Babagi” Comes To The Coastside (1975) Part II

The Astanga Yoga that he practiced also embraced meditation, posture discipline as well as a vegetarian diet. Santa Cruz resident Peggy Bazarnick, an ardent follower for 15 years, told me in 1993 that Babji “stresses the right way of living. That means not harming anyone, caring for the body, while not being attached to the body.”

Peggy added that during private interviews “he never tells anyone what to do. He knows everything; he looks right through you and knows all. He will offer you options but he will never tell you what you should do.”

In 1971 the Hunuman Foundation, a California group, made the arrangements which brought Babi Hari Dass from India to Santa Cruz where he settled.

Not everyone in the tiny village of San Gregorio was pleased about the coming of the spiritual teacher.

“Dick the Gardener”, the tall, reclusive, awkward young man who lived on the worm farm, grumbled bitterly when the lower field was plowed for the festivities. A Cornell University graduate, he dropped out of the academic scene to pursue an alternative lifestyle.

“Dick the Gardener” leased a patch of land became locally renown for the quality of the organic tomatoes, squash and garlic that prospered under his care.

He was cynical about the event; he felt certain that the outsiders would trample and destory his precious new tomato crop.

…To be Continued…


(Might contain “spoilers”).

We watched “The Matador” (2006) starring Pierce Brosnan on the tele last night.

You know Pierce Brosnan is still identified with the sophisticated, high-tech James Bond, the British MI5 agent whose victims are very evil–and whose women are ooh la la.

But the star of the darkly humorous film Matador is Julian, a crudely unsophisticated Brosnan (but still handsome, I think, even when he reveals his teethy teeth)–a stark contrast to the polished Bond with the proper English accent.

So turn everything you know about the celluoid Bond upside down, inside out and round and round you go and you get Julian, an assassin whose assignments are passed to him by an unseemly agent on the streets of the world’s cities where Julian is eyeing “illiterate teenage girls”–he is a womanizer, who instead of making love with a gorgeous model at the Ritz in Paris, is found cavorting at the low-end bordello.

There are only 3 main characters in this darkly funny film. Greg Kinnear plays Danny Wright, the Denver-based “loser”–a traveling businessman who is seduced and corrupted by the deliciously amoral Julian. Most of the movie takes place in foreign cities but the final scenes unfold in Denver at Danny and his wife “Bean”‘s home (with Hope Davis perfectly playing “Bean”, a young numb matron ready to swing).

You may find it hard to identify with Julian but I loved him. Julian rationalizes his sordid “gigs” to an innocent Danny by telling him his victims are generically bad.

Danny is so sucked into Julian’s web that he becomes an accomplice in Julian’s “final” assignment.

What is really irrestiable about this movie is that Pierce Brosnan turned an original character that was was just a typed decription on a computer screen into a real, believable person.

Written by June Morrall & Burt Blumert

“Babagi” Comes To The Coastside Part I

In June of 1975, Babi Hari Dass, a spiritual teacher from India visited the Coastside. His appearance was later called “a visual spectacle, comparable to a scene from the movie, ‘Ghandi'”.

The “happening” took place in the lower field of what the locals called “the worm farm” at San Gregorio.

The “worm farmers” (who had traded the glitz of Los Angeles/Beverly Hills for the Coastside’s rustic serenity) were raising earthworms commercially in long, narrow, custom-built redwood planters in a small corner of the several hundred-acre ranch.

Not far from where the earthworms were burrowing in their special soil mixture in a scooped-out section of earth beside a creek, someone had unfurled a bright orange parachute. The colorful covering was protection for the 100 expected guests–a contrast of locals and devoted followers of Babi Hari Dass. They would sit on bales of hay or on pretty Oriental carpets that had been placed on the ground.

A statute of the goddess Kwan Yin, with one palm extended and open, the joined forefinger and thumb forming a circle on the other hand, conveyed a peaceful spirit among the pots of pink and white Sweet Williams.

Special care was taken by all to avoid treading on the large Indian rug, centrally located and reserved for the 51-year-old spiritual guest of honor.

Along with other Coastsiders, I was invited to meet and ask questions of “Babaji” (a term of respect). He was a short, kind-faced, bearded man wearing a long white robe. What was most unusual was that as a practitioner of Astanga Yoga, he had not spoken a word to anyone for 25 years.

“Babaji” communicated by writing on the little chalkboard strung around his neck–or when more words were necessary, he used the larger, portable chalkboard strung around his neck–or when even more words were necessary, he used the large, portable chalkboard that he carried with him.

…to be continued…

“I Like To Drive….”

If This 1957 Chevy Is El Granada Mike’s “Other Car”: Just Imagine How Pristine His Vintage Corvettes Are…

57 Chevy 10004.JPG

57 Chevy 20005.JPG

57 Chevy 20006.JPG

*Note: If you’re wondering what Mike’s wife drives, he says “Hondas”.

BTW: How come my old high school boyfriend’s dark green ’57 Chevy didn’t look this good in 1963?

P.S. This car was also photographed for a calendar–has anyone seen it? Mike didn’t get a copy. Please send him one.