Let’s Play Monopoly!

Today, God sought to distance Himself both from Mourdock and from the entire right-wing, fundamentalist Christian movement in response to inflammatory remarks made by Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock.

It looks like John Freshwater has filed some more wacky pleadings with the Ohio Supreme Court. I’m still sooo sure God will make him win his case.

A Mayan leader wishes all the ignorant norteños would knock off with the stupid “Mayan Prophecy” bullshit and just lock themselves in their doomsday bunkers until their stockpile of tuna fish and peanut butter runs out.

Why was a “Pot Doesn’t Cause Cancer” study ignored? The annoying thing about science—as Richard Nixon learned when he ordered an investigation of marijuana risks back in 1972—is that sometimes it tells you things you don’t want to hear.

People shrug and believe harder when prophecy fails. Why do they react so differently when Science tells them what they don’t want to know?

Why isn’t the war in Afghanistan over yet? We’ve been stuck there for over a decade now. The “good news” has been that the Pentagon announced last February that the cost of staying in Afghanistan was only $USD 5.3 billion a month for this fiscal year, down from $USD 7.8 billion a month for the previous fiscal year.

One factor is that the Taliban has a steady stream of funds from the opium trade, for brokering the trade and providing “protection” to farmers and smugglers. Afghanistan grows on the order of 90% of the world’s supply.

Why are poppies the go-to cash crop in Afghanistan? Well, according to a joint U.N./Afghanistan government report, there’s a lot of poverty, opium makes lot of profit,  it provides good returns for small plots of land and raw opium is compact and keeps well in a region with poor transportation. With dry opium fetching $USD 250/kilo (compared to $1.20/kilo for rice), it isn’t hard to see why it’s such a preferred crop. The only crops that even get close in that region are pomegranates, almonds and trellised grapes, all bulky, water intensive and hard to transport.

Eradication efforts are hampered by widespread corruption and a weak central government. The U.S. spent $USD 4.7 billion on futile eradication efforts between 2001 and 2009, before giving up and concentrating on “alternative livelihood” programs, instead. The late Richard Holbrooke, the former US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, called the U.S. counter-narcotics efforts there “the most wasteful and ineffective program I have seen in 40 years in and out of government.”

Afghanistan’s farmers earned just $1.4 billion from opium in 2011, about 9% of the country’s GDP. That’s what we spend on three days of our war effort there. Maybe we should look at the approach suggested by Dan Morrison: just buy the opium ourselves. We could corner the market in Afghani opium for the price of a couple of very crummy days at war, less than $USD 2 billion at the farm gate (that’s equivalent to four Big Birds, for you Republicans out there). Displacing the Taliban as the “money man” to Afghani farmers would put us in a much better light than just being “foreign devils”, would effectively cut off funds to the main opposition and put our “produce buyers” in a much better position to suggest or subsidize alternative crops and guide infrastructure projects to boost legitimate agriculture and strengthen the economy overall.

If a little opium happened to find its way to the illicit market it would be fetching top dollar, maybe even subsidizing efforts to build up civil society for a change.  I mean, hey, the same sort of thing worked for the Contras, and I’m always more in favor of doing things that work rather than things that don’t.


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