“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, December 18, 2012

How is the empire doing in Afghanistan? Have we brought freedom and democracy yet after 11 years?

Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest countries, has reportedly seen travelers taking large quantities of gold out of the country, mostly to Dubai. Heroin money laundering and sanctions evasions by Iran are the rumored causes.

The surge in gold trafficking began this past summer, the New York Times reported. Passengers carry bags full of gold on commercial flights leaving Kabul, most of them to Dubai.

One passenger reportedly boarded a morning flight in mid-October with 37 kilograms of gold bars. The load was worth more than $1.5 million. Over the last two weeks of October, more than 250 kg of gold – worth $14 million – left the country through the airport.

The gold is fully declared and legal to fly. Some of it, if not most, is being sent by gold dealers seeking to have jewelry refashioned by craftsmen in the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the region, an Afghan official said.

But Noorullah Delawari, the governor of Afghanistan’s central bank, acknowledged that the spike in gold transport was suspicious. “I don’t know where so much gold would come from,” he told the New York Times. Delawari said that an investigation into the issue is underway, and that Afghan authorities are prepared to intervene if they find evidence of money laundering.

Establishing the truth may prove difficult, as Afghanistan’s economy operates with little oversight. Nearly 90 percent of financial activity is done outside of formal banks. Written contracts and bookkeeping are rare, leaving Afghan officials unable to track down how much gold is taken out of the country – or how much comes in.

Money laundering in the country often serves corrupt officials, drug lords and even the Taliban’s taxes collected from the territories it controls. Much of it involves the smuggling of bulk loads of paper bills. Afghanistan’s central bank estimated that roughly $4.5 billion worth of bank notes of different currencies exited the country last year through the Kabul International Airport. Gold is speculated to be an alternative to these plots.

“Right now you’re stuck in that situation we usually are: Is there something bad going on here or is this just the Afghan way of commerce?”
a senior American official who tracks illicit financial networks told the New York Times.

Dubai is a popular destination for both cash and gold. The emirate's lax oversight standards allows well-to-do Afghans park their wealth there, especially as tensions rise over the planned US withdrawal in 2014. The surge in gold trading may be evidence of rich Afghans taking precautions against the Taliban retaking the country.

Other speculation points to Iran, which may be trafficking in gold to circumvent US and EU sanctions. A dealer in Kabul told NYT that Afghan gold dealers exchange Iranian gold for oil or the Iranian rial, and then sell it in Dubai for dollars. The money is then allegedly transferred to China and used to buy goods, or is funneled back to Iran.

An airport customs official who spoke with the newspaper on the condition of anonymity cryptically said that one day he would share “the real story of what is happening to the gold.”

The phenomenon is more geographically widespread than the report indicates, political analyst and former Afghan MP Daoud Sultanzoy told RT.

“Not only Dubai, but India also is a destination for gold. No one knows how much gold is going to India. This is just one avenue that they’ve discovered; there are many other places that gold would go to,” he said. Sultanzoy claimed that the gold is most likely used to launder profits from illegal drug and arms trades, and other criminal activities.


  1. An Army sergeant from Long Island whom relatives remember as a talented, outgoing patriot died on duty in Afghanistan, officials said Monday.
    Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Lipari of Baldwin was serving in Logar Province as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The cause of death is under investigation.
    “People liked being around Kevin, he was so personable,” Lipari’s aunt, Marie Lovenheim, said of the soldier who studied communications at SUNY-Oneonta.
    Lovenheim said her 39-year-old nephew was a charismatic showman and natural entertainer. She said Lipari’s dad, Chuck, was a regular on cruise ships, and Kevin occasionally tagged along.
    “The two of them would get on stage and sing and have a great time,” she said. “They loved to spread cheer.”
    Lipari, who attended Oceanside High School, excelled at baseball and hockey. His success carried over into the Army, where he was quickly promoted to paratrooper. A parachuting accident left him with broken vertebrae that led him to become a satellite communications specialist.
    “He liked the camaraderie,” said Lovenheim, 57. “He saw it as an opportunity to learn more skills.”
    She said Lipari’s fellow soldiers found him slumped over his computer and unresponsive in his quarters on Dec. 14.
    The married soldier was assigned to HHC 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team out of Bamberg, Germany.
    Lovenheim said Lipari was on his final tour of duty and expected to return home in February and move to Florida, where he planned to start a family with his wife.
    “It’s very devastating,” Lovenheim said.
    Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said flags on all county buildings will be flown at half-staff to honor Lipari and other soldiers who have died in the line of duty.

    Read more:

  2. KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives targeted the compound of a private military contractor on the eastern outskirts of Kabul on Monday, killing at least one person and injuring at least 15 others, including foreigners, the police said.

    In a separate episode, 10 girls were killed in a rural district of eastern Afghanistan on Monday when a roadside bomb exploded while they were collecting firewood, the Afghan police said.

    The office of the governor of Nangarhar Province said the girls were all between 9 and 11 years old. The Ministry of Education said some were as young as 6.

  3. WASHINGTON (AP) -- A U.S. soldier killed by a suicide car bombing in Afghanistan has been identified as a 37-year-old man from Austin, Texas.

    The Pentagon says 37-year-old Staff Sgt. Nelson D. Trent of Austin died Thursday in the attack at Kandahar, Afghanistan. Officials said the Taliban car bombing near a U.S. military base came shortly after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta left. Two Afghan civilians also were killed.

    An Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman says the attacker targeted a moving vehicle near the access gate to the military side of Kandahar's airport. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack in an email, saying the car bomber targeted foreign military vehicles stopped near the airfield gate.

    Trent was assigned to the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Fort Worth, Texas.

  4. It gets worse

    One only has to read the Pentagon’s progress report on the Afghanistan war effort released last Monday to understand how pointless it is to keep 68,000 American troops there any longer.

    The mounting evidence makes it clear that they should be pulled out as soon as it can be done safely, instead of waiting until the end of 2014, the date set by the United States and NATO.

    Yet the White House is now signaling that the decision on how quickly they will come home will not be made before next year.

    The United States has spent a decade and $39 billion to recruit, train and equip a 350,000-member Afghan security force, including the army and police, that is supposed to defend the country when the Americans leave. President George W. Bush gave the effort short shrift when he shifted focus to Iraq. But even after President Obama’s considerable investment, the Pentagon says that only one of the Afghan National Army’s 23 brigades is able to operate independently, without air or other military support from the United States and NATO.

  5. Afghanistan needs an Army like a French whore needs a ukelele. What the hell is there that anyone would want? Only the stupid-assed Americans would be dumb enough to waste any time and money messing around in the place.

  6. Cut the occupation short by 3 or 4 months, and you have enough to secure every school in America.

    Utter fucking insanity.

    1. rufus, you glass plan mimics military planning - always gearing up for the last war.

  7. Hey, whatta ya mean? Obama said it was the necessary war, the important war, the one we had to win. Took the troops out of Iraq, where the government is now supporting Iran and Assad by allowing weapons transfers to Syria, and hung on in Afghanistan, that necessary linchpin of all our foreign policy.

    You voted for it. You and Obama own it.

    Having second thoughts?

  8. Our big mistake was arming Allah's freedom fighters with Stingers and such back in the day. As Doug has said, our biggest fuck up ever. The Russians might still be there. Once the Russians left, we did too, showing we had no interest whatever in an 'empire' in Afghanistan, until we got attacked. And here we are. Osama's plan has worked wonders. We're going broke too, just as he hoped.

  9. Are things getting better, or worse? According to Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature, things are getting better, because the annual death by violence back in the hunter-gatherer age was 500 deaths per 100,000 per year. In the agricultural age, it was 50 deaths per 100,000. And today, it is one to five deaths per 100,000 per year.

    December 18, 2012
    The Strategic Concentration of Modern Children
    By Christopher Chantrill

    There is probably no more mindless concentration today than the concentration of children in government schools, according to a plan that was already old in 1850.

    My guess is that in the next few years, from bitter experience, we will increasingly come to judge this strategic concentration of children as utter folly

    Article argues that we should disperse the children from these semi-concentration camp conditions in government funded schools and go back to an older model.

    It is curious that the modern rampage shootings started around the time that the best and brightest decided that the big youth problem was the education of girls -- even though it stands to reason that boys are the ones who need to be socialized away from their dawn-raid instincts, and always will.

    I have no idea if this is even close to being right.

  10. I read somewhere that Obama has exempted China and about five or six other countries from the sanctions on Iran, making the sanctions utterly worthless. Will try to find it.

    Sounds about right though. I really can't find a lick of sense in anything Obama is doing, overseas or here. One guiding star seems to be a hatred for Israel. Which is of course normal for a Moslem.

    1. U.S. Exempts Singapore and China on Iran Oil

    2. And about 20 other countries.

  11. Many in the American Jewish community are aghast to discover that President Obama is planning to appoint former Senator Chuck Hagel to serve as Defense Secretary. If you want the skinny on how Hagel has come to be known as one of the few ferociously anti-Israel senators in the past generation, Carl from Jerusalem at Israel Matzav provides it.

    If Obama's intent is to undermine the security of Israel by siding with the Arabs (and the Muslim Brotherhood) he is virtually assuring a war in the near future. Israel still has a lot of friends in Congress, but the president and his anti-Israel cabal can still do a lot of damage.

    President Peace I will side with the Muslims Prize. I don't understand why the European countries don't seem more concerned about all this. MB governments and Iranian missiles with nukes atop - certainly would concern me if I lived in the area. It concerns me, and I don't live in the area.

  12. O'Reilly on Fox makes an interesting point. Says he doesn't believe the school shooter was insane, and did know right from wrong. That is why he killed himself.

  13. The time to start getting out of Afghanistan was Inauguration Day 2009. Afghanistan, like Syria and Iraq, is a state but not a county. It is a group of tribes bundled into a state by outsiders. The loyalty of the people is to their tribe, not to their state. Why is that so difficult to understand?

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Not hard to understand, and that is why we should bust them up into tribal entities. This trying to make people live together who hate one anothers guts is not feasible.

  16. How about we just mind our own business and quit fucking with our own people and everyone else on the planet?

    The US government has intimidated every bank on the planet looking for “laundered money” and “terror funding” and oh by the way has poked their nose into the affairs of every US citizen demanding information on how and why they are spending their money.

    Instead of addressing the real problem, The US Government; people are doing what ever they can to protect their property from governmental theft and redistribution.

    1. That's what you get when you elect a Moslem commie slickster to high office. A process of empowering the MB wherever and theft and redistribution of your property. He is wanting to come after your guns again now too, since there is this new opening.

    2. He will do it too, come after your guns -

      (Reuters) - Unburdened by re-election worries and empowered by law to act without Congress, U.S. President Barack Obama could take action to improve background checks on gun buyers, ban certain gun imports and bolster oversight of dealers.

      Prospects for gun control legislation intensified in the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, as more pro-gun rights lawmakers said on Monday they were open to the possibility while Obama and three cabinet members met at the White House to discuss the subject.

      Having just won a second four-year term, Obama does not need to fear alienating voters who favor gun rights and he could press ahead without lawmakers on fronts where federal law enables executive action.

  17. This may be an out -

    Belgium welcomes French [and American?] tax exiles...drudge

    Belgium welcomes French tax exiles, minister says

  18. I just got through listening to a truly marvelous short interview on Fox with a man named Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon. He had a message of good cheer for all those affected by the school shooting. He had of late, through some malady not named in the interview, been somewhat recently in a coma for a full week, brain dead, flat lined. His neurosurgeon friends were certain that he was gone from this world. He, however, recovered, and looks wonderful, young, handsome, very well spoken, in full possession of his powers of thought. His tale is the old one, from the time of Plato and before, yet ever new, as to how he rose out of his body and entered another world, full of light, joy, love. A disbeliever is this sort of thing earlier in life, he is not a believer now either, but a knower, as one with experience. He was asked about the children. They are there, he said, fully at bliss, peace. His message was to the parents and other affected. They are at peace, and bliss. This is in line with the post a few back, it is not the dead that suffer, but the living. Why such things, he was asked. It is a slow learning experience for us all, was his reply, to learn to love, forgive, understand, value. What about the shooter? He is 'in purgatory' someone asked?; not exactly, he is having a life review, as it is called, feeling and seeing all his life, and experiencing all the pain and suffering he has caused others, was his reply.

    The 'presence' of this guy was striking, and I hope all see it on Fox today. Fox recycles their news so you might catch it.

    Myth is reality. The Hero leaves his humble hut, or glorious palace, adventures to a realm of supernatural wonder, obtains a boon, an expansion of conscious, just as our Doctor here has done, involuntarily, and returns to share the new knowledge with others, like Gautama, slowly over years, or Jesus, in a short life, or perhaps not, like some Hindu sage, who thinks, it is a waste of time, no one will believe me, and goes to sit with his begging bowl in the forest, watching the monkeys play, until his body drops off, 'like a leaf yellowing to its fall in autumn'.

    Dr. Alexander's book, Proof of Heaven, is available at Amazon.

    Having been up all night, I am now 'out'.

    1. oh lord spare us from evil:

      'My name is Dr. Eben Alexander and I have a message of good cheer for all those affected by the massacre of 20 children.

      I died and went to heaven and they were there and they are fine.

      My book, Proof of Heaven, now on sale.

      At Amazon'

  19. I think I need to do another post on Christopher Hitchens.

  20. The US has been a boon to the Afghan economy. A lot of people (throughout society) have made money. Now they're worried about what happens after NATO leaves. Many are making exit plans for Dubai and other parts of the world.

  21. What Could Fall Off The Fiscal Cliff:

    $2B to $20B - Food stamps
    $4B - Flood Assistance
    $10B - Higher Education
    $11B - Military Retirement
    $16B - Military Health Care
    $30B - Ag Subsidies
    $33B - Federal Employee Retirement Program
    $50B - Home Health Care
    $180B Subtotal (6%)

    $110B - Medicaid
    $112B - SS
    $180B - Tax Loopholes & deductions
    $250B - Medicare
    $650B Subtotal (21%)

    $950B - Bush Tax Cuts
    $800B to 1600B - Tax Reform (say $1200B)
    $2200B Subtotal (73%)

    $3030B Total

    Slide Show

    Every budget has its Big Ticket items, its 'tweeners, and a basket of miscellaneous. Prioritizing "entitlement reform" is fascist.

  22. Human life as nothing but "a teaching moment" considerately brought to you by Another World; as a vestibule outside the mansion on a hill; as a waiting room where the "doctor will see you" when he damn well feels like it - is a divine-centric philosophy that demeans whatever resides inside of each person that gets us up in the morning. I don't have the words (right now) but this fixation with the next world is wrong.

    1. It is wishful thinking at its most grotesque. Everyone who says the magic words wins the Powerball. Got it.

  23. Rat used to mention the expansion of Wal-Mart in Mexico so he might be interested in the NYTimes story:

    "The Times’s examination reveals that Wal-Mart de Mexico was not the reluctant victim of a corrupt culture that insisted on bribes as the cost of doing business. Nor did it pay bribes merely to speed up routine approvals. Rather, Wal-Mart de Mexico was an aggressive and creative corrupter, offering large payoffs to get what the law otherwise prohibited. It used bribes to subvert democratic governance — public votes, open debates, transparent procedures. It used bribes to circumvent regulatory safeguards that protect Mexican citizens from unsafe construction. It used bribes to outflank rivals. "

  24. Every war in history has involved "perimeter defense."

    We protect our "money" with various forms of security. We hire security guards to protect every little nit-shit store, and shopping center. We put security glass in banks, pawn shops, and police stations. Our asshole politicians are guarded with a virtual army of cops, public, and private. We have locks, and security systems in our homes.

    Big City Schools are virtually "airtight."

    Why in the hell can't we take reasonable security in our Suburban/small town schools? It's not particularly expensive, and it would take a lot of worry out of our lives.

    For ex: A policeman could take an hour out of his donut time to check the students in at the door before school - say from 8:30 to 9:30.

    After that, anyone wishing to enter would have to be "buzzed through."

    Shatter resistant glass in the windows, an alarm system, a few exterior cameras, and one person in the school Trained in the use of arms.

    How much would it cost? How much did Columbine, and Newtown cost?

  25. They are going to ban some "assault-type" weapons, and that is no great loss. There's hardly anything in the world more worthless than a short-barrel .223, anyway.

    And, if a Thunderbolt arrived straight from Liberal Heaven, they might even be able to close the "gun show loophole" (I wouldn't hold my breath on that one, though.)

    However, they will never be able to pass a law that would have prevented this last crazy from getting ahold of his mommas pistols, and that was all he really needed to do what he did.

    To not spend a few bucks tightening up security at the point of possible attack is just stupid.

    1. What security did you have in mind for Movie Theaters, College Classes, and Shopping Malls? How much more security (they had a buzz in system I believe in Newtown) do you think the nations elementary schools need? Bullet proof glass and cops at the door every morning sufficient do you think to ward off the threats perceived or should we include Kevlar vests and small arms for the teachers too?

    2. or *gasp* the utltimate step in additional protection - arm the kids themselves?


      I think you are barking up the wrong tree.

    3. What security did you have in mind for Movie Theaters, College Classes, and Shopping Malls?
      That would be up to the business owners themselves.
      How much more security (they had a buzz in system I believe in Newtown) do you think the nations elementary schools need?
      Resource Officers would be beneficial. We had two in my junior high school.

      I would like for my children's teachers to be packing. Who knows, some of them just might be doing that now.

  26. Here is a guy that has to die:

    Police in Tuscany have arrested a man on suspicion of breaking into the cellar of a producer of a rare and costly red wine and pouring 80,000 bottles' worth on the floor.

    Andrea Di Gisi, 39, was described by police as a former employee of the vineyard, which produces highly praised bottles of Brunello di Montalcino that sell for up to €500 (£407).

  27. More rational thought from the Islamic God Squad in Pakistan.

    Gunmen in Pakistan have shot dead six health workers associated with an anti-polio campaign in a string of attacks.

    It was not clear who was behind the shootings in the southern city of Karachi and northern city of Peshawar on Tuesday, but Taliban fighters have repeatedly denounced the anti-polio campaign as a "Western plot".

    The government's immunisation campaign against the crippling disease was suspended in Karachi following the attacks.

    Five women were killed and two men wounded in two separate attacks on health workers in Karachi on Tuesday, according to Al Jazeera sources.

    1. They do not want infidels, aka westerners, in their lands. Certainly not in any organized manner. If you as an individual wish to be there and submit, they might consider it.

      We have a few troops so deep in Indian country that they have really mind their P&Qs in what they say and do and how they act.

      What is the point in continuing along this path? We need to get out of Afghanistan leaving them the message that if we have trouble from them again, we'll make their rubble bounce. No nation building, no humanitarian boondoggles. Only terror from above if they give us any trouble.

      As far as Pakistan goes, let the India handle them however they see fit.

      Enough is enough.

  28. With adequate "perimeter protection" one or two armed (and, well-trained) personnel should be sufficient.

    The "buzzer system" is a step in the right direction, but if an attacker can just walk around back and break a window . . . . . .

    Look, I gave an example of a few reasonable steps that I think any community could afford, and that would be of significant benefit.

    If you have a better "potentially implementable" plan, please enlighten us.

    But, please, spare us any fantasy of "confiscate All 300 Million firearms in the U.S." It's not going to happen, and there's no use babbling about "well, they shoulda done it."

  29. Take money from Homeland Security(don't let them get involved, just take from their budget). Let each local jurisdiction beef up their school security and train teachers, staff and yes, some students as armed response teams.

    Also, let's look at the prevalence,implications and risks of mental illness and disorders such as Autism and Aspergers. (I agree w/DRR that these school shooting events are random and unpredictable.

    The danger as usual is that the knee jerk reactionists want to grab guns from the law abiding. Once again, the masses will have to be reminded that the 2nd Amendment is not about "hunting rights."

    1. The danger may come from judicial activists who allow Federal, State and local authorities to make legal gun ownership all but impossible.

  30. Using the Glock, and the Sig, the nutjob could have killed those 20 kids before a grown man could run from one end of the hallway, to the other.

    Having a teacher "packing heat" won't do any good if the teacher is in the adjacent building, or even on the other end of the same building.

    However, if the crazy is delayed/stopped by bullet-resistant glass, there would be time for a Trained, and armed, person to arrive on the scene.