A Modest Proposal for an Afghan Exit Strategy

The papers say the US is spending $3.1 billion per month on the war in Afghanistan. And I’m sure that doesn’t count the long-term care costs for wounded soldiers after they get home.

At $37.2 billion per year our spending is about half the Afghani GDP at purchasing power parity – or, if you prefer, about double their GDP at the official exchange rate. The population of Afghanistan is about 33.3 million persons. So we are spending about $100 per Afghani per month; call it $1200 per Afghani per year.

The average income in Afghanistan has been estimated at US$ 1,883 I suspect this is a PPP number, and quite inflated. The Asia Foundation did a study which found that The average monthly income in households where women contribute to family earnings was 10,197 Afs (approximately USD $158). By comparison, in households where women do not contribute, the average monthly income was 10,851 Afs (approximately USD $168). (Study at p. 63.) Whatever the truth may be, I’m betting the US spends more in Afghanistan than the entire earnings of at least 98% of the population.

Are we getting our money’s worth? How, if our goal were to influence Afghanistan might we put that money to work in income support (bribes if you will), building things (nation-building if you will) and creating institutions designed to keep things modern and running after the subventions stop (imperialism if you must)? We could probably do worse than just give $500 per year to every Afghan woman for starters, and wait for the animal spirits of capitalism to explode.

Previously: A Modest Dinner-Party-Based Proposal For An Iraqi Exit Strategy (Sept 27, 2003) ($3000/yer per Iraqi)

Posted in Econ & Money, Politics: International | Leave a comment

Cops Push Citizen Self-Surveillance in Plea Bargains

You might be tempted to dismiss NY: Police are blackmailing motorists into installing cellphone monitoring devices as an aberrant act by local cops were it not sponsored by an international firm that supplies the monitoring technology.

As far as I can tell, the enforcement authority pushing the so-called ‘Distracted Driver Education Program’ (DDEP) is local Nassau County, not the ‘feds’ as reported in the article. “Blackmailing” also isn’t the word I would choose here, but by any standard it’s a pretty ferocious plea bargain deal.

Even more worrying, the attempt to find ways to get people to pay to spy on themselves and on others for the benefit of law enforcement echos this incident, Police Demand Shop Install Surveillance, Give Cops Full Feed, and also Right to Ban Customers, that I blogged about a month ago.

This is a trend that bears watching.

Posted in Law: Criminal Law, Law: Privacy, Surveillance | Leave a comment

Mayor Mich Landrieu Gives the Speech of His Life

I do not often recommend long serious videos; I tend to short and/or funny.

But please consider taking 23 minutes of your life to listen to this speech by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on the removal of four confederate statues.

Spotted via Tom Sullivan at digby’s blog, who links to a transcript at The Pulse and makes a link to the US Supreme Court’s recent 5-3 decision Cooper v. Harris that struck down two racially gerrymandered districts in North Carolina.

Contrast this speech to the despicable bills passed in the last few days by the Louisiana House to protect confederate monuments statewide and the bill passed by both houses of the Alabama legislature to prohibit “the relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, or other disturbance of any architecturally significant building, memorial building, memorial street, or monument” that have stood for more than 40 years on public property. The bill also prohibits renaming schools named after people.

I confess that I don’t know much about Mich Landrieu, but if this is typical of the man, I hope he has a long future in politics.

Posted in Law: Everything Else, Politics: US | 1 Comment

Pity the Fiction Writers

You cannot make this stuff up.

This is not a photoshop, but a genuine pix released by the Saudi Press Agency, memorializing the moment when Donald Trump joined Egyptian dictator Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Saudi king Salman bin Abdulaziz at the opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. Video, if you care.

Posted in Politics: International, Politics: Tinfoil, Trump | Leave a comment

Why Miami?

One of the hazards of living in Miami is that it attracts a certain class of person. Like Matt Drudge. Or the guys who made porn videos in the back of a bus.  And now it seems we get to have the second act of Milo Yiannopoulos.

Why did he have to pick Miami? Not that there are ton of places you can rent a mansion, throw a party, descend a staircase with a python wrapped around you, and then arrange to be surrounded by half-naked women you have imported to add tone to your event and attract photographers. But still, why not LA?

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Lone Wolf Journalism

So much of what I read about Trump is same-y: This is Not Normal; Is he past his use-by date?; Comey; GOP will never do what is needed; Comey; Cabinet will never do what is needed; GOP wavers; Is this the beginning of the end? and so on. I don’t myself feel any need to add to this buzz, necessary precondition though it may be before the nation leaps into the acid vat of division that is an impeachment. I don’t even feel much need to link to it, it’s so readily available everywhere.

Then there is Martin Longman’s Trump is Being Taken Apart, Step By Step; I’m not sure I agree with it, but it is at least different from the pack. Here’s a taste:

The ordinary way to minimize the damage from Trump’s leak would have been to quarantine knowledge that it had happened at all. This is for a variety of reasons. First, while there’s a fear the Russians will help ISIS track down the source of the information, there’s no certainty they will do so. Telling the whole world what happened almost assures that the informant’s life is at risk. Second, intelligence officers don’t want possible sources to know that the president can’t be trusted not to leak to our adversaries because it makes it difficult to recruit them. Advertising this makes their jobs immeasurably harder. Third, by telling the Israeli public what happened, it makes it more challenging for the Israeli government to share information with us. It would have been easier to patch things up with the Israelis if we had limited knowledge of what happened to a few key, reliable figures in their intelligence services and their cabinet. Yet, the intelligence community immediately revealed what Trump had done, and that the Israelis were the aggrieved party.

Another way of putting this is that the damage control plan from the beginning showed no signs of being an ordinary kind of plan. Every step is counterproductive. None of it makes any sense unless the real damage control plan is to remove Trump from power. If the conclusion is that the problem isn’t limited to a single blunder, but is systemic, any damage control plan that goes no further than triage and cleanup won’t be adequate.

I’ve been writing about this slow-moving coup in various ways for months now because its not well understood and it’s the most consequential thing going on in this country and the world right now.

Worth a look.

Posted in Trump | 8 Comments