Talking us all in deeper. The tragic deaths in Afghanistan of Australian servicemen keep coming and with every one of them our politicians keep talking us into the situation where there will be more of them.

The leaders of both Labor and the Coalition find it necessary to accompany their statements of regret at every casualty with a commitment to “see it through” and continue with the country’s involvement. They all avoid like the plague any suggestion that the loss of life might actually have been in vain.

The merest hint that war in Afghanistan will end up achieving nothing worthwhile for Australia and its allies is deemed disrespectful to those already killed. And so the war, already over 10 years long, will go on. The young men will keep dying. The politicians will keep expressing regret …

The toll of “Operation Enduring Freedom” so far as measured by

And the latest statement of “appreciation” for those efforts by the President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai demanded Tuesday that NATO refrain from airstrikes on residential compounds, marking a sharp escalation in his long-running feud with Western commanders over the issue of civilian casualties. He apparently wants veto power over specific targeting decisions made in the heat of battle.

The Afghan leader has similarly demanded, reports the LA Times, an end to night raids by Western special operations forces, which have resulted in the deaths or capture of thousands of insurgents, but those attacks have continued.

And a couple of examples of the “enduring freedom” all the fighting is to preserve as reported overnight by the BBC:

The BBC Afghan service has acquired recently-shot video evidence of a man being publicly whipped by a judge as a punishment for drinking alcohol. The lashing was carried out inside a courtroom in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan. Such punishments are legal under the Afghan constitution but are rarely implemented.

In January the authorities pledged to bring to justice a group of men who stoned a couple to death in north Afghanistan after footage of their killings came to light. The man and woman were accused of adultery in the district of Dashte Archi in Kunduz province — an area still under Taliban control — last August. Hundreds of people attended the stoning, but no-one has yet been charged over the incident.

Another drug report for governments to ignore. A privately funded commission that includes former heads of state and a former U.N. secretary-general has just released a report asserting that the global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy concludes that 50 years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.

As the 19-member commission includes former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S. official George P. Shultz, who held cabinet posts under U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia and the current prime minister of Greece its findings should have some impact on drug policies around the world. Should – but given recent history, probably won’t.

In its executive summary the commissioners say:

“Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption. Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers.

“Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalities and other harmful consequences of drug use. Government expenditures on futile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace more cost-effective and evidence-based investments in demand and harm reduction.”

Recommendations in the report include ending the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others. Challenge rather than reinforce common misconceptions about drug markets, drug use and drug dependence.

The full executive summary of the report, along with a list of Commission members, is on Crikey’s The Stump blog.

Environmentally beneficial taxation. As taxes are inevitable there can surely be nothing wrong with choosing forms of taxation that achieve some other good apart from providing governments with their necessary dollars. Perhaps that’s the context in which the Australian Labor Government should have been putting its planned carbon tax for really the principle involved is no different to the “great big tax” that governments have been levying via the fuel excise on one form of CO2 emissions for years.

That partial carbon tax currently puts Australia, according to a recent International Monetary Fund paper, in  the middle of the international pack when it comes to raising revenues from environmentally related taxation:

The IMP paper “Reforming the Tax System to Promote Environmental Objectives: An Application to Mauritius” argues that Fiscal instruments are potentially among the most effective, and cost-effective, options “for addressing externalities related to poor air quality, urban road congestion, and greenhouse gases.”

It takes a case study, focused on Mauritius (a pioneer in the use of green taxes) to illustrate how existing taxes, especially on fuels and vehicles, could be reformed to better address these externalities.

It discusses, in particular, an explicit carbon tax; a variety of options for reforming vehicle taxes to meet environmental, equity, and revenue objectives; and a progressive transition to usage-based vehicle taxes to address congestion.

Well worth a read.