Mar 19, 2009

Prince of Disco - Afghanistan's Change Candidate

Could we do worse than Karzai? Probably.

THE great-grandson of Afghanistan's legendary Iron Amir – who forced rogue courtiers to eat each other – has joined the race to be the country's next president.

Prince Abdul Ali Seraj, who opened Afghanistan's first nightclub in the 1970s, said it is time to launch "psychological warfare" against the Taleban and reclaim Islamic law from the extremists.

The royal insists Afghanistan needs a "change candidate" because President Hamid Karzai has failed. His great grandfather Abdur Rahman Khan ruled from 1880 to 1901, massacring tens of thousands on the battlefield, while executing and torturing hundreds more whom he suspected of dissent.

He made slaves of an entire province, yet he is fondly remembered inside Afghanistan as one of the few rulers in the last 250 years ever to unite country's various tribes and ethnic groups.

Prince Ali fled Afghanistan in 1978 after a communist coup, disguised as a hippy. He returned in 2002 after the Taleban collapsed, and says Abdur Rahman is his hero. "Afghanistan needs a strong leader," he said. "Afghan people have never rallied around policies; they have rallied around people."

He owes his life to a bunch of stoned Australian hippies who agreed to help smuggle him out of the country in their overland "love bus".

They even gave him a guitar, to disguise him, when secret police boarded the bus close to the Khyber Pass, at the border Pakistan border. "I had no idea how to play a guitar," he said. "But they just told me to strum it whenever they did, so I did."

He left behind a string of businesses including Kabul's first disco, called 25 Hours, a bowling alley and a Chinese restaurant.

Prince Ali describes himself as a child of the Sixties, but insists Afghanistan needs tough love, instead of free love. Echoing his great grandfather's nickname, he said the president needs an iron fist.

"Afghanistan needs a ruler with two heads," he said. "He needs compassion for 95 per cent of the people, and an iron fist for the other 5 per cent – the terrorists, al-Qaeda and corrupt officials."


Mar 17, 2009

Film Piracy, Organized Crime, and Terrorism

In case you are interested, RAND just published the following:

Film Piracy, Organized Crime, and Terrorism
[182-page pdf]

This report presents the findings of research into the involvement of organized crime and terrorist groups in counterfeiting products ranging from watches to automobile parts, from pharmaceuticals to computer software. It presents detailed case studies from around the globe in one area of counterfeiting, film piracy, to illustrate the broader problem of criminal — and perhaps terrorist — groups finding a new and not-much-discussed way of funding their activities. Piracy is high in payoff and low in risk, often taking place under the radar of law enforcement.

The case studies provide compelling evidence of a broad, geographically dispersed, and continuing connection between film piracy and organized crime, as well as evidence that terrorist groups have used the proceeds of film piracy to finance their activities.

Counterfeiting is a threat not only to the global information economy, but also to public safety and national security. Cooperation among law enforcement and governments around the world is needed in the battle against intellectual-property theft, and meaningful progress will require increased political will, strong legislation, consistent enforcement, deterrent sentencing, and innovative solutions. The report lays out an agenda of measures.

Increased global intelligence-gathering and sharing is needed to further illuminate the scope and nature of the connections between piracy and organized crime, and policymakers and law enforcement worldwide should reexamine the common but erroneous assumption that counterfeiting is a victimless crime.