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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 11/23/2008 - 11/30/2008
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving dinner, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2008


Pumpkin soup with parmesan cheese croutons
Roast pork leg with apricot, date and red wine sauce
Pork gravy
Roast pumpkin slices
Roasted potatoes
Cauliflower with cheddar cheese sauce
Steamed broccoli
Green chili corn bread
Baking powder biscuits
Apple crumble
Ice cream

Nationalities at the table:

U.S. (California, Nevada, New York, Texas)
South Africa
New Zealand

a good time was had by all...

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Thanksgiving day in Kabul


i was just walking in the door of the office here in kabul this morning when i heard the blast... needless to say, the cell phone networks immediately went gridlock as everyone was trying to find out what was going on... the mother of one of my afghan friends lives near the square where it took place and, when she first tried to call, her mother wasn't picking up the phone... it took about three tries, but then she answered and all is ok...
Afghan Police Say Bomb Explodes Near U.S. Embassy

Afghan police say a suicide car bomb has exploded about 200 yards outside the main entrance to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, killing at least one.

i had come from the hotel where i was watching the news reports on the mumbai situation, so this on top of that wasn't good news, for sure...

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Happy Thanksgiving from Kabul, Afghanistan!


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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The U.S. and the Karzai government have made such a mess in Afghanistan that the Taliban looks attractive by comparison


no small part of the reason why the situation in afghanistan is headed south...
Ramzan Bashardost drives a beat-up black 1991 Suzuki with a cracked windshield and often sleeps in a tent—habits hardly befitting a respected member of parliament.

His relatives think he is crazy. But Bashardost, 46, now running for president, said he is making a point against persistent corruption in the Afghan government. He said he has turned down free land and fancy vehicles offered to officials. He even rejected a free couch.

"In the Afghan administration now, money is the law," said Bashardost, the former planning minister. "When you have money here, you can do anything. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where corruption is legal."

Not exactly legal, but definitely rampant. Increasingly, corruption is driving a wedge between the government and the Afghan people, who are growing more and more resentful of their leaders, experts say. And that poses an enormous challenge for President Hamid Karzai and the U.S.- and NATO-led forces intensifying their efforts to defeat a Taliban-led insurgency.

Corruption is turning more people toward the fundamentalist Taliban, which is seen as clean in comparison.

The Taliban may be remembered for its harsh rule, but it also is remembered for enforcing that harsh rule. No one took bribes. Most of the country was secure. Taming corruption is seen as crucial to the nation's future, but despite Karzai's pledge to fight it, little has changed in recent years.

i can vouch for the authenticity of the information in this chicago tribune article... my good friend, abid, needed to get a meter to start electric service in his new house... the municipal power authority would sell him one for $60, only it would take him two weeks and about 70 signatures on the form to get it, and each of those 70 stops would require another palm to be greased... not only couldn't he get the time off of work to run that gauntlet, he figured it would turn out to be more expensive than paying one of the power authority's employees $600 to run the gauntlet for him... now, he tells me the meter burned out last night and he has to fork over approximately $300 to get another one... lovely, eh...? oh, btw, did i mention that all this is for the roughly one hour per week of electricity he gets in the wintertime...? the rest of the time, he has to depend on a small honda generator that can power his water pump, OR his lights, OR his washer, but only one at a time...

if you figure in all the other routine little things necessary to live anywhere - water service, drivers license, car registration, marriage license, birth certificate, etc., etc., etc. - you get some idea of just what life is like for the average resident of kabul...

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The $7.76 TRILLION DOLLAR BAILOUT - enough to gag a maggot and could pay off HALF the country's mortgages!

bloomberg is keeping score...
The U.S. government is prepared to provide more than $7.76 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers after guaranteeing $306 billion of Citigroup Inc. debt yesterday. The pledges, amounting to half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.

The unprecedented pledge of funds includes $3.18 trillion already tapped by financial institutions in the biggest response to an economic emergency since the New Deal of the 1930s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The commitment dwarfs the plan approved by lawmakers, the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Federal Reserve lending last week was 1,900 times the weekly average for the three years before the crisis.

When Congress approved the TARP on Oct. 3, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson acknowledged the need for transparency and oversight. Now, as regulators commit far more money while refusing to disclose loan recipients or reveal the collateral they are taking in return, some Congress members are calling for the Fed to be reined in.

“Whether it’s lending or spending, it’s tax dollars that are going out the window and we end up holding collateral we don’t know anything about,” said Congressman Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican who serves on the House Financial Services Committee. “The time has come that we consider what sort of limitations we should be placing on the Fed so that authority returns to elected officials as opposed to appointed ones.”

so, how does this all trickle down to you and me...?
The money that’s been pledged is equivalent to $24,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. It’s nine times what the U.S. has spent so far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Congressional Budget Office figures. It could pay off more than half the country’s mortgages.

and, ferchrissake, they won't even tell us WHO'S GETTING THE GODDAM MONEY...!
“Some have asked us to reveal the names of the banks that are borrowing, how much they are borrowing, what collateral they are posting,” Bernanke said Nov. 18 to the House Financial Services Committee. “We think that’s counterproductive.”

The Fed should account for the collateral it takes in exchange for loans to banks, said Paul Kasriel, chief economist at Chicago-based Northern Trust Corp. and a former research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

“There is a lack of transparency here and, given that the Fed is taking on a huge amount of credit risk now, it would seem to me as a taxpayer there should be more transparency,” Kasriel said.

if it feels suspiciously like we're getting screwed big-time, i would have to say, a la sarah palin, "YOU BETCHA...!"

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Another HUGE bank bailout - Citi - goes down while the autoworkers get thrown to the wolves

yeah, i think my original take on why the super-rich elites are so vehemently opposed to bailing out detroit turned out to be more than prescient... if the automakers are forced into bankruptcy, the first thing they will do is go in front of the bankruptcy judge and seek massive union concessions, amend contracts and generally toss the unions out on the street... the second thing they will do is to declare themselves unable to meet their pension liabilities and shove them over to the pension benefits guaranty corporation in yet ANOTHER taxpayer bailout... this entire scenario was written in first draft by ronald reagan when he broke the back of the air traffic controllers union, and was refined during the spate of airline bankruptcies following 9/11...

ask yourself, why is it so easy for citi to get a bailout and so hard for the automakers...? what other rational explanation is there...?

what a crock o'shit...

Federal regulators approved a radical plan to stabilize Citigroup in an arrangement in which the government could soak up billions of dollars in losses at the struggling bank, the government announced late Sunday night.

The complex plan calls for the government to back about $306 billion in loans and securities and directly invest about $20 billion in the company. The plan, emerging after a harrowing week in the financial markets, is the government’s third effort in three months to contain the deepening economic crisis and may set the precedent for other multibillion-dollar financial rescues.

and the crock o'shit do overfloweth...
The senior Republican on the Banking Committee said Wednesday he doesn't believe there will be a turnaround in the troubled U.S. auto industry until its top management is ousted and its manufacturing operations are revamped.

"I don't think they have immediate plans to change their model, which is a model of failure," Sen. Richard Shelby said, a day after the top executives of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler came to Congress to plead for a $25 billion "bridge loan" to avert layoffs and plant closings.

"I think a lot of it will be life support," Shelby, R-Ala., said. "I believe their best option would be some type of Chapter 11 bankruptcy ... These leaders have been failures and they need to go."

and, why, i ask you, shouldn't the top management of citi ALSO have to go...? what, pray tell, is the difference between the super-rich elites who control the u.s. auto industry and the super-rich elites who run the banking industry...? the former has unions and the latter doesn't, that's what... if the automakers go bankrupt, those super-rich bastards calling the shots will still come out whole, the auto industry will still lumber along, but the back of the auto workers union will be broken which, after all, is the fundamental goal of this despicable continuing effort to pound the blue-collar american worker into senseless, silent, obedient servitude...

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

A former leader of the Soviet struggle in Afghanistan looks at the U.S. experience and sums things up in a nutshell

as i sit here at my desk in kabul and ponder what i have seen, experienced and learned over my two visits to this tragic country, i can say unequivocally, truer words were never spoken...
Retired Lt. Gen. Ruslan Aushev served for five years in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union's nearly decade-long battle with mujahedin there.


Neither under you nor under us did an ordinary person get anything.

so, what should be done...?
First, create statehood. Set up a popular authority that would deal with corruption and social issues. Second, a combat-able armed force should be created in Afghanistan. And an economy should be created to help people. If you deploy 200,000 troops there, daytime is your time, you're in command. At night, the Taliban comes and they are in command.

and the taliban...?
No matter what, you won't get away from the Taliban. You need to talk with the Taliban, come to terms. The Taliban should be engaged by the organs of power, they should take part in negotiations. You should find common points with them.

i would add one critically important piece - infrastructure... without roads, electricity, clean water, sanitation, health care, education and employment, there is nothing left but for things here to continue to deteriorate...

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