“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just another day and another year in Afghanistan

Afghanistan Hit by Attacks Ahead of Election

NY Times

Published: August 18, 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan — Several NATO troops and civilians were killed in a suicide car bombing in Kabul on Tuesday, and other violence rocked the country in what seemed to be further indications of Afghanistan’s precarious security situation just two days before presidential elections.

A statement from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said a military convoy had been attacked on the road leading east to Jalalabad, but it did not say how many people had been killed. A statement from Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said seven civilians were killed and 50 wounded in the attack.

The United Nations confirmed that two of its Afghan staff members were among those killed, though it was unclear whether they were included in the Interior Ministry’s count.

The area near the presidential palace also came under attack Tuesday.

“We understand that two mortars or rockets — as we call it, indirect fire — hit somewhere in the vicinity of the presidential palace and the Ministry of Defense,” said Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The deputy presidential spokesman, Hamid Elmi, who spoke to The Associated Press, said the palace was not seriously damaged and President Hamid Karzai had not been hurt.

In another attack Tuesday morning, in Oruzgan Province, in southern Afghanistan, a suicide bomber walked up to an Afghan National Army checkpoint and detonated his explosive vest, killing three soldiers and two civilians, according to the provincial police chief, Juma Gul Himat.

The violence has come despite efforts to secure the country, especially the restive south, so that voters can head out to the polling stations. In recent weeks, American and NATO forces have been moving against the Taliban, mounting a major offensive in southern Helmand Province designed to thwart an insurgent threat to disrupt the elections.

But NATO forces said Tuesday they would suspend offensive operations on election day, deploying coalition and Afghan troops to protect voters, election monitors and polling stations.

“In support of the Afghan National Security Forces who lead the security efforts during the electoral process, only those operations that are deemed necessary to protect the population will be conducted on that day,” the NATO-led coalition said in a statement.

The Afghan government had earlier called for a truce during Thursday’s voting.

Mr. Karzai, who is running for re-election to a second five-year term, said that his principal goal is to bring peace and security to the country and has promised to double the size of the Afghan police and army by the end of his next term.

But violence has been increasing, and the security situation from Kabul to the provinces remains tense and fragile.

In southern and eastern Afghanistan, in the heavily Pashtun areas where the reach of the Taliban is particularly strong, many Afghans have been unable to register to vote. Some places in the grip of the insurgency will have no polling stations at all.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a bombing of NATO headquarters in Kabul last Saturday. A suicide car bomber struck the front gate of the NATO compound, where the top American commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, is based. Seven people were killed and 91 wounded.

Nine days ago, Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers seized a five-story building in Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Logar Province, south of Kabul. The militants battled Afghan and United States troops for several hours in a firefight that left at least four people dead.

Abdul Waheed Wafa reported from Kabul, and Mark McDonald from Hong Kong. Taimoor Shah contributed reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan.


  1. oh, my, you just cited the NYTimes and now rufus and gag will argue it can't be true.

    "Bribes and backroom deals: Inside the Afghan election

    A few months ago, a dozen leaders from Kandahar's most influential Pashtun tribes called a meeting to decide whom to support in this presidential election.

    They did not waver: Fed up with years of violence and corruption under Hamid Karzai's government, they chose to throw their support behind Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister of mixed descent, who has emerged as a serious contender.

    In Kandahar, it proved a difficult decision. The Karzai family wields enormous power in this Pashtun heartland, which is effectively ruled by his half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who heads its provincial council.

    So the tribal leaders travelled to Kabul for a secret meeting with Dr. Abdullah, who, pleasantly surprised, gave them $15,000 to open a campaign office in a small rented house in Kandahar city. A few weeks later it was shut down.

    “Wali called them to his compound,” a tribal leader with intimate knowledge of the meeting told The Globe and Mail.

    “He gave them $20,000 and said, ‘change sides,' so they did.”

    Such is the state of affairs in Kandahar province, which has emerged as the key to Thursday's presidential election."

    geeeze, see, sounds just like politics in good ole US of A.

  2. Speaking of BC, this little exchange (pulled exactly as it occurred) pretty much sums up the place for me:

    "5. Mark Razak:

    #4 maineman,

    “. . . elderly, largely conservative portion of the population is about to be classified as expendable . . .”

    Yes, and then after the Left has killed them these vampires will proceed to steal every piece of property and every dollar the elder have amassed over decades of hard work and then distribute the plunder amongst themselves and their collaborators.
    Aug 18, 2009 - 6:29 am 6. herb:

    Forget not two things:

    1. The federal government has the (legal) right to use guns to enforce its will. It has the infrastructure and the means to do so. I think this regime has the will.

    2. Less than 20% of the people supported the American Revolution. The rest ranged from opposition to passivity. I dont think much has changed.

    America is a social contract. Its violation may be nearer than we think.

    Thats why “Howard Dean’s sense of destiny” is spooky.

    This is NOT about health or healthcare or health insurance. Its about power and control.. The have a lot and want more and will not quietly give up what they have. Its in the nature of fascists to crush opposition."

    Bat-shit crazy wingnuts!

  3. Steve Emerson says folks on the ground say it's ten times worse than what we read.
    Michael Rubin says Karzai and a bunch of others are running against the USA in their campaigns.

  4. The Kopp-Etchells Effect
    Michael Yon
    17 August 2009
    Sangin, Afghanistan

    The roads are so littered with enemy bombs that nearly all transport and resupply to this base occurs by helicopter. The pilots roar through the darkness, swoop into small bases nestled in the saddle of enemy territory, and quickly rumble off into the night.

    A witness must spend only a short time in the darkness to know we are at war. Flares arc into the night, or mortar illumination rounds drift and swing under parachutes, orange and eerily in the distance, casting long, flickering but sharply defined shadows. The worst that can happen is that you will be caught in an open field, covered by nothing and concealed only by darkness, when the illumination suddenly bathes you in light. Best is to stay low and freeze and prepare to fire, or in the case of a writer, to stay low and freeze and prepare to watch the firing.

    Explosions from unknown causes rumble through the cool nights while above drifts the Milky Way, punctuated by more shooting stars than one can remember. The Afghanistan nights will grant a wish to wish upon a shooting star. And while waiting for the next meteor, the eyes are likely to catch tracer bullets.

    The ramp lifts in preparation for takeoff and the halo begins to rematerialize before the helicopter lifts into the darkness and disappears. Soldiers call the medevac flights to Camp Bastion, “Nightingales” or “Nightingale flights.” Shortly after sunrise on the morning of 13 August, an element from this unit was ambushed nearby, killing three and wounding two others. Despite the immediate danger, the helicopter came straight onto the battlefield.

    After the initial ambush, and another successful ambush during the evacuation, the British soldiers did not return to base but continued with the mission. Later that evening they were twice ambushed again, sustaining more fatalities as two interpreters were killed. Soldiers asked me to go on that mission but I was busy assembling this dispatch. One of the killed soldiers, shortly before the mission, had looked over my shoulder as I selected the photos. Captain Mark Hale was killed while aiding a wounded soldier. Mark had particularly liked the next three images:

    The following men and women sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan since the time that Benjamin Kopp and Joseph Etchells passed on. I am told that more names will soon be added to the list:

  5. If that was the drivel I found entertaining, ash, I'd go read it, myself.

    I'd suggest finding a lawyer and constructing a Trust, to anyone that was afraid that their assets were going to usurped, by the Government, at the time of their death.

    Though usurp may not be the correct word, as the Government has the "Right" to the property, both real and personal, both during life and after it.

    The line that was the most informative, from the CNN piece about the weapon toting "Person of Color" outside the VFW meeting, in downtown Phoenix. (the guy had short but 'nappy' hair)

    A venue is considered a federal site when the Secret Service is protecting the president ...

    Where the President stands, that is a Federal venue, when ever, where ever. If there were seen to be cause, then all those "Town Hall" venues could be Federalized and controlled. What applies for the President could easily be extended to every Federal, elected or appointed.

    All the tools of oppression exist, have for years of tears. No one at the BC cared, when it was "their guy" at the helm. But now that the 'other' has the bridge, well, the NAZIs are on the march, again.

    Bush/Hitler = Obama/Marxist

    Neither being grounded in any form of real reality.

    Both Mr Bush and President Obama are Federal Socialists, that is true enough, protecting and extending the status que of Federal control.

    But both operate with in bounds of the American System. Their movements and compromises easy to chart and even to predict.

    The "Public Option" is dead, but "Non-profit, Federally Chartered Co-Operatives" live.

  6. Yeah, it is sounding like a high five inducing coup for the health industry. Imagine that, forcing everyone to purchase "a plan" - a "free market" where you are forced to buy.

  7. "But both operate with in bounds of the American System. Their movements and compromises easy to chart and even to predict."
    Both have made a mockery of the Constitution.
    Not to imply that W = BHO

  8. A "mandate" is just a euphemism for "tax", ash.

    Though if there is a "standardization" of coverage, it'll be a step forward.
    At least as far as disempowering the scoundrals operating corporate Death Panels is concerned.

  9. I don't see how the Corporate death panels will be denuded. The insurance companies (well, primarily one company underwrites the whole dang mess I've read) will still operate profitably on "margin" with a vested interest in higher prices (because 10% of a billion is more than 10% of a million). Heck, the poor and sick can go on Medicare while the rich and healthy can have private.

  10. Yes, and a "mandate" is a tax only it isn't paid into the government coffers.

  11. The "Public Option" would disempower the tort lawyers.

    Can't be suing the Federals, so the idea that the hospitals and health care providers would ever have been "Federalized", that never passed the smell test.

    No, the end game has been visable for quite a while, another layer or two of Federal control laid over the existing status que.

    No Tax Reform, no Tort Reform.

    In the end, mandates and subsidies placed upon employeers and residents, with a standardized minimum coverage built into all the approved policies.

    A tort lawyers nirvana.

  12. and what better way to protect yourself from lawsuits than to recommend the bestest and most expensive test and procedures available. "See, malpractice lawyer-person, I did everything possible to achieve the best outcome".

  13. duece may have a better feel for it, but from afar, I'd say that this is the PA match up, in 2012.

    Toomey is viewed favorably by 54%, Sestak by 40%. However, opinions of both men are quite soft. Just 13% have a Very Favorable opinion of Toomey, and only eight percent (8%) say the same about Sestak. On the negative side, 11% have a Very Unfavorable opinion of Toomey, and an identical number are that negative about Sestak.

  14. Man's as pure as the driven snow,

  15. The irony, Doug, is that it is the GOP and Blue Dog Dems forcing the nation down this path.

  16. Have no idea what that means, Ash.

    Stymied Warriors Steven Emerson

    Yet other than for training exercises like the one in the desert, they may never get the chance to use them. For, despite the effort and money that have been spent on these finely honed forces, they face logistical, bureaucratic and political obstacles that have repeatedly kept them out of action, and may insure that they never actually carry out their primary mission - rescuing hostages. The commandos have been thwarted by breakdowns of aircraft meant to carry them into target areas; by a bureaucratic system that requires them to rely on another military unit for intelligence; by a lack of response from the White House at key times; by interference from other agencies, and, ironically, from high-ranking military officers in the Pentagon whose mistrust of small, elite forces is deep-seated.

    "Our capability to launch a long-range, Iran-type mission today is worse than it was in 1980," says Noel C. Koch, who was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in charge of the Pentagon's special operations and counterterrorist units from 1981 to 1986.

  17. guys like you, doug, howling about the 'government running health care', 'government death panels', and 'socialism' are the ones responsible for stripping out what little protections there were against the industry exploiting the customers, like the public option.

  18. If the mandates are a "tax," then I guess you'd say, healthcare has always been a "tax;" mandates just force the "freeriders" (also known as "mooches") to pay their fair share of the tax.

    Mandated auto liability insurance, I guess, is a "Tax," also; but most of us are glad it's there.

  19. As I've said, time, and time, again, "Iraq was Never "Vietnam." There was a reason to be there (Oil.)

    Afghanistan was ALWAYS "Vietnam."

    I think, even dumb-ass Bush figured That out.

  20. you can always opt out and not drive a car rufus but if you think the health biz is gouging you - too bad. Forcing everyone to pay to play without any controls on the playing field makes the health industry haaaapppy!

  21. Actually, Afghanistan is MUCH WORSE than Vietnam in the fact that the Vietnamese were very "Capitalistic," and very much wanted to enter the 20th Century.

    They could fight, but they were much more inclined to make money, and screw. They were, actually, a lot of fun to be around (if they weren't busy trying to kill you.)

    Afghanistan has ended miserably for every empire that got involved, there. It will for us, also. Either This year, Next year, or whenever.

  22. Horseshit, Ash. This is America. 99.9% Can NOT "Opt out, and Not drive." At least, 99.9% of WORKING Americans can't.

    Ash, you're Canadian. Why are you so bound and determined that "We" have a Communist healthcare system? I don't get it.

    It's to the Canadians' interest that we continue as we are. We'll invent the new drugs, and new procedures; and your government will continue to get "large group discounts," and make a lot of money manufacturing "generics."

  23. You look at that soviet video and you can imagine the smirk on Putin's face when he gave permission for US military supplies to overfly Russia, muttering the Russian phrase for "eat shit and die."

  24. First off, I am not a "Canadian", I am an American who lives in Canada. Why am I interested in the health care system in the US? One, it is personal - if I should choose to return to the US as a self employed aging businessman it has real implications for the viability of such a move. I'm also interested because the success of the USA is important to me and a society that has such a screwed up Health system that commands such a large proportion of dollars in the economy and distorts the economy so greatly is bad for the US and bad for us all.

  25. I thought you were Canadian. Mea Culpa.

    Why do you live in Canada?

    Well, as an aging, Wealthy, retired businesssman you'll be fine (as long as Pre-existing Conditions are Covered.)

    Will you be eligible for "Medicare" when you come back? Have you been paying into it? What about Social Security?

  26. As a US citizen I have to report my world wide income to the IRS but other then that I don't believe I'll be eligible for SS or Medicare (I don't really know the details of the qualifications)

    As to why I'm in Canada - my family moved here when I was a youth and I've founded a business gotten married and had kids. I still have family in the US and I visit regularly but my life is here.

    I wish I were wealthy (estimations of wealth being personal of course) but with each year I age I figure the insurance companies will charge me more as a new 'entrant' to your system. I know a number of people that have retired who live down south but either fudge their Canadian residency requirements or split their life so that they put in the minimum 6 months 'in province' to qualify for the local health care. Really, what would be the tab for a 65 year old moving to the States for the first time?

  27. Besides, Toronto is a really great city!

  28. Many, many folks do not drive automobiles, rufus.

    Urban dwellers, that have mass transit, bus, train and taxi at their disposal for either local or long distance travel.

    It is a lifestyle choice.
    One that many of our residents choose.

  29. Driving, being a privilege, not a right, rufus.

    A government mandated purchase of insurance is a tax.

    No two ways about it.

  30. Ah, you've lived among those old, retired farts too long, Rat. Out in the "Real" world where people have to "Make a Living," they have to "Drive."

  31. Not at all, rufus, the Walmart employee profile that I've been formulating does not jive with your thinking, even here, in the Valley of the Sun.

    While at least 60% drive themselves there are many, 20% or so, amongst those that arrive by car, that are not drivers, but drop offs. Bicycle and bus, seems to be the method of transportation by about 20% of the informal survey. Of all ages and ethnicity.

    Here, the insurance covers the vehicle, not the driver. There are many folks that may have a drivers' license, but do not pay auto insurance, since they have no vehicle to insure.

    So the SR22 comparison falters on the very face of first analysis.
    We do not mandate Drivers Insurance, no indeed, we mandate Auto Insurance.

    Auto Insurance part of the social price to be paid for the privilege of using a vehicle on the publicly maintained roads.

    There is no "Drivers Insurance" that is in any way analogous to "Mandated Universal" Health Insurance Coverage

    While even you'd have to admit, there are not many private cars on Manhatten Island.

  32. I would posit, Rat, that the denizons of New Yawk Citee, and the Walmart workers of Phoenix comprise a pretty small percentage of the work force, overall.

    As for the "insuring the car, not the driver:" Come on; That's a "distinction" without much of a "difference," isn't it?

    Let me state it this way, "your freedom ends at MY pocketbook." If your decision not to carry health insurance means that I have to Pay, and Pay, and Pay for you to "wear out" the Emergency Room when you get sick, or have an "Accident, then I have the "right" to require you to carry insurance.

    Just like if your bad driving imperils my health, and pocketbook, I have the right to require you to carry auto insurance.

    I, absolutely, can't see a "difference."

  33. Just two more things:

    1) I'll betcha that Most of those folks you see getting on those NYC subways have a "Car" parked at home, and

    2) Just how "Productive" could you have been in your "Working" years if you hadn't had an automobile (pickup truck, etc.)

  34. As trish might say about Afghanistan, "we've been handed a s**t sandwich."

    Unlike the Russians, we will not be humiliated and driven out. How much is that worth? Time will tell.

  35. Couldn't have done it, not without a fleet of vehicles, rufus.

    I am fully in favor of a solution, but mandated policies won't be it. Not for the long haul.

    That's why the semantics of Public Option as opposed to Federally Chartered Nonprofit Cooperative is just smoke and mirrors.

    Just another version of Frannie and Fraudy Mac. Adding a layer of standardization and a subsidized minimal option. That Cooperative policy becoming the baseline for the standardization of benefits that will be the backbone of the first incremental "reform".

    Then, Amero to a doughnut, they will create a "clearinghouse" for those Standardized policies.

    They will become another form of monitized instrument, once there is Standardization of benefits.
    To be sold and shorted.

    Health Insurance developed on the mean average, mandated payments now, hope to collect, later.

    Will the value of the treatment be diminished for those paying for the "Boomers" new knees, in their later days?
    Almost guarenteed.

    The Federal Retirement package we've promised ourselves, let alone those that spent 20 years in the Federal employ, is extravagant.

    From any historical perspective.

    The cost of the Afpaki war, $77bn per year, about the same as a Public Health Care Option. The Public Option could benefit US all, the Afpaki campaign, a waste of assets on a misguided mission.

    Or so it appears to be heading.

  36. As may be seen in Iraq, the US Government can declare victory, announcing that the objectives have been obtained.

    Whether the goal posts have moved, or not, barely mentioned if remembered.

    The initial goals long forgotten.

    We just have to arrange for a tickertape parade.

    Though today it's shredded paper, not tickertape that's spread from the building tops, as the windows of the modern cityscape buildings do not open.

  37. From a "Probablistic" standpoint, that's probably about what's going to happen with "healthcare," Rat.

    About as Good as could be expected.

    Afpakistan will last until the fall of 2011, at the most. Then, starts the Presidential Campaign.

  38. Rufus said:

    "your freedom ends at MY pocketbook."

    Actually said!

    Be still, my beating heart!