All In The Karzai Family

What are we fighting for again?

Corruption fighting, Afghanistan style

Just how corrupt is the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan? It should be clear by now that President Hamid Karzai doesn’t want us to know. He’d prefer that we just keep sending our troops and our dollars, and not ask too many questions.

Karzai’s government announced this week that American and allied advisers, dispatched to Kabul to help investigate massive and endemic graft, will no longer be allowed to do any actual investigating. Karzai’s chief of staff told The Post that the government is still determined to eliminate corruption, but intends to do so “within an Afghan framework.”

And what a framework it is. Karzai is evidently upset that foreign advisers helped build a case against one of his high-ranking aides, Mohammad Zia Salehi, who is charged with soliciting a bribe — $10,000 plus a new car — from a money-exchange firm. In return, according to the charges, Salehi was supposed to derail an investigation into allegations that the company, called New Ansari, had illegally shipped $3 billion in cash out of the country. Most of the funds ended up in Dubai, where many of the wealthy Afghan elite have settled.

Salehi was arrested, but Karzai intervened to have him released from jail just seven hours later. Karzai has said that the use of wiretaps to build the case against Salehi was a violation of “human rights principles.” I wonder what other standard investigative techniques don’t fit within the “Afghan framework.”

A serious, sustained probe of high-level Afghan corruption might hit even closer to home for Karzai and his family. His brother, Mahmoud Karzai, is one of the major shareholders in Kabul Bank, the nation’s largest financial institution, which almost collapsed this week amid allegations that it was essentially being looted by politically connected insiders. Mahmoud Karzai lives in what the Financial Times describes as a “beachside villa” in Dubai.

President Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is the most powerful political figure in the Kandahar region — and also, according to persistent allegations, a major player in Afghanistan’s illegal drug trade. He denies any involvement in the opium business, and Hamid Karzai vouches for him, so that’s that. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

See also:
U.S. effort to help Afghanistan fight corruption has complicated ties
Kabul Bank’s Dubai connection
The Karzai empire, villas in Dubai and fears over Afghan aid
Corruption Allegations Test Afghan Banking System
Karzai Family Ties Shielded Afghan Bank
Karzai’s brother made $1m from Dubai deal financed by Kabul Bank

Gee, we’re doing Karzai’s fighting for him while his whole family is picking our pockets.

/of course, a Taliban government would be worse but, apparently, not by much

One Step Closer To Socialized Medicine

Health Care Bill Moves Forward

Sweeping health care legislation has cleared its first hurdle in the full Senate on a party-line vote.

The 60-39 vote clears the way for a historic debate after Thanksgiving on the legislation. The measure is designed to extend coverage to an estimated 31 million Americans who lack it and crack down on insurance industry practices that deny benefits.

The White House released a statement saying, “The President is gratified that the Senate has acted to begin consideration of health insurance reform legislation. Tonight’s historic vote brings us one step closer to ending insurance company abuses, reining in spiraling health care costs, providing stability and security to those with health insurance, and extending quality health coverage to those who lack it. The President looks forward to a thorough and productive debate.”

The rare Saturday session amounted to a first round in the fight to pass the bill in the full Senate, with the remaining Democratic holdouts announcing they would support at least the measure to open debate on the bill, avoiding an early knockout by Republicans.

Sens. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana waited until Saturday to say they would vote yes for a floor debate. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska announced Friday his support for moving the bill forward.

All three cautioned that their votes to start debate should not be construed a support for the bill in its current form.

“It is a vote to move forward to continue the good and essential and important and imperative work that is under way,” Landrieu said on the Senate floor. “I’ve decided that there’s enough significant reforms and safeguards in this bill to move forward but more work needs to be done.”

Lincoln said she still would support a filibuster if the so-called “public option,” a government-run insurance plan, remains in the health care bill.

“I along with others expect to have legitimate opportunities to influence the health care reform legislation that is voted on by the Senate later this year or early next year,” she said.

While the vote is only a procedural one, Republicans haven’t backed down.

“This is a vote about whether or not you want to fundamentally change the way health care is delivered in this country in a way which massively expands the size of government, the role of government and significantly increases the tax burden, especially for small businesses and cuts Medicare by a dramatic amount of money,” Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., told Fox News before Saturday’s session began.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill “monstrous” and, citing the Congressional Budget Office, said it would not bring down costs.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, now Harry Reid’s passing out taxpayer funded bribes to jam this health care travesty through.

Sen. Landrieu flaunts purchased vote: “It’s not $100 million; it’s $300 million!”

Facing fallout from an apparent sale of her health care vote to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the Democratic Caucus, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) took a shocking approach in response to the payoff allegations: she flaunted it!

To help secure her vote, Reid included a provision in the bill sought by Landrieu to provide increased Medicaid funds for states recovering from major disasters such as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. When the bill is closely examined, however, the provision provides immense financial support for only one state: Landrieu’s Louisiana.

Landrieu defended the inclusion of the provision and said Republican critics who accuse her of selling her vote for $100 million are wrong and that she has the support of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Then, in a statement sure to be repeated by Republicans endlessly over the coming weeks of Senate health care debate, the senator flaunted the inclusion of the provision. “I will correct something. It’s not $100 million, it’s $300 million, and I’m proud of it and will keep fighting for it,” Landrieu told reporters after her floor speech. “But that is not why I started this health care debate; I started this health care debate for all the reasons I just mentioned in my statement” on the floor.

The apparent purchase of the senator’s vote is already garnering significant response from Republicans as well as taxpayers footing the bill for this provision. The nickname for the provision? “The Louisiana Purchase.”

Unreal, this is just out of control. Never in U.S. legislative history have so many been screwed by so few, at such a high cost.

See also:
Historic health care bill clears Senate hurdle
Senate Health Care Reform Bill Vote, 60-39 Brings Reform Bill to the Floor
Healthcare bill advances in Senate, in 60-39 vote; it got ‘failing grade’ from healthcare experts
Biden says Senate handed Obama a big victory
Senator Corker Reacts to Senate Health Care Vote
Senate moves health care bill forward for debate
FACTBOX: Details of Senate healthcare reform bill
Landrieu votes in favor of health care debate
GOP hits Landrieu for $100 million ‘new Louisiana Purchase’
Thanks to100 million dollar bribe, Healthcare reform cloture passes Senate!

/trillions of taxpayer dollars, added to the national debt, so we can all pay more, to wait longer, for less health care, whee!