Monday, January 24, 2011

State Of Union, Palestinian Papers, Global Fund Global Corruption

Paul Krugman
Dana Milbank
Andrew Romano
"For whatever reason, however, the teachable moment came and went with nothing learned." - Paul Krugman
"I have a Sarah Palin problem... I feel powerless to control my obsession, even though it cheapens and demeans me." - Dana Milbank
"Beyond all the easily disprovable falsehoods, Bachmann is famous for simply saying outrageous things: that homosexuality is a "dysfunction"; that Obama is turning America into a "nation of slaves"; that conservatives should "slit their wrists" and be "blood brothers" to defeat health-care reform." - Andrew Romano

Tomorrow President Obama will give his State of the Union address, with the GOP's response to be given by Tom Ryan, followed by yet another rebuttal by Michelle Bachmann for the tea party express. Wednesday's papers will be filled with talking points, listed side by side, and it could be used as a drinking game. One drink for each time Obama mentions job creation or competiveness, followed by one drink for the mention of job killing or spending cuts by the opposition. Damn, I'll be drunk before 10 AM... The GOP has already been trying to load the deck, by challenging Obama to be more centrist in his proposed ideas, with the thought that anything he says that isn't left-wing will be a victory for them... except Obama has never been left-wing, he has only been portrayed as one by the GOP. If I hear another middle aged man or woman go off about how he's a Socialist, as if that's a bad word or Sweden is our mortal enemy...

My biggest complaint with the incoming class of legislators, is that they want to do some drastic things without thinking about them first; all they want to really do is cause damage how the federal government works. It's like going to the hospital for a bad cold and ending up with one of your limbs cut off - there, there, don't you feel better? Reducing budgets so that people get laid off and have to go on unemployment seems more vindictive than intelligent analysis. If you really want to balance the budget in a few short years, all you have to do is bring back all of our troops fro Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, and reduce the military's budget by $500 billion dollars, back to pre-9/11 days, and we save over a trillion dollars every two years. You don't have to cut any other programs that help people, and then we can go over the budget line by line and have timely debates over the merits of each expense instead of the slash and burn method the Republican firebrands are straining at the leash toenact. Besides, if we let them off the leash now, how many will just go up and piss on the papers instead of igniting them? ( That was a veiled shout out to the authors of The Dog Ate My Blog, which I have just linked to... check them out, social commentary by those less grumpy than I can ever be...)

While I was watching football and reading the Sunday paper, all of the explosive fun was happening again in the Middle East, and I don't mean the inevitable co-opting of the Tunisian revolution by the established power brokers. Al Jazeera now wants to be known as another rival to wikileaks, and made public the notes on the last ten years of US brokered negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Guess what? Everyone involved in them is now embarrassed and pissed off, making aggressive statements to the press, showing off how macho they really are, not some compromising pussy-cats, meow, meow...: "The cache of documents, the first set of which was revealed by Al-Jazeera late on Sunday night, contain potentially damning revelations on the amount of land in annexed East Jerusalem that the Palestinians were willing to cede to Israel. And the hundreds of documents, dating from 1999 onwards, also reveal that Israel gave the Palestinian leadership advance warning before it launched a devastating 22-day invasion of Gaza in December 2008."

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas tried to cover his ass with the other Arab countries, assuring them that nothing secret was ever kept from them: "He said Palestinian negotiators had never sought to hide the terms of their peace talks with Israel from Arab neighbors. "With everything we have done — in terms of activities with the Israelis or the Americans — we have given the Arabs details," Wafa quoted Abbas as saying. "I don't know where Al-Jazeera got these secret things from, and there is nothing hidden from the Arab brothers," he added, insisting that Arab countries were constantly updated on developments through the Arab League."

"Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reacted furiously, accusing Al-Jazeera of a smear campaign and alleging the documents contained unspecified inaccuracies and falsehoods. Erekat said the leaked documents were taken "out of context and contain lies. We don't have anything to hide, and I reiterate that Al-Jazeera's information is full of distortions and fraud," he said. "We will examine the documents to reveal the truth and if there is a need to publish all the documents of the negotiations unit, then it will be done."

Al Jazeera has been blamed for trying to foment a Tunisian style uprising, purposely trying to damage the Palestinian negotiators, and taking Israel's side. Also, in the Arab News, writer Linda Heard said that after reading the documents released so far, that : "If they are, indeed, a genuine verbatim record of talks between Israelis and Palestinians brokered by the Americans, they confirm what many already knew:

Israelis are not seriously interested in working toward the creation of a Palestinian state other than one that is diminished, robbed of Jerusalem, toothless, demilitarized to the extent it would be unable to defend its own borders and with no control over its own airspace. Saeb Erekat admitted to US envoy George Mitchell that "The Palestinians know they will have a country with limitations. They won't have an army, air force or navy."

Palestinian negotiators have so little clout and are so desperate to clinch a deal that they are almost at the point of selling-out their own grandmothers - or to be precise their grandchildren.

• The Fatah-controlled Palestinian National Authority has been closely cooperating with Israel's security forces, was hand-in-glove with Washington and Tel Aviv to bring down Hamas and was advised of Israel's plans to launch "Operation Cast Lead" in Gaza in advance of hostilities."

Other commentators have said that the Palestinian negotiations for a two state solutions have been effectively killed. But really, it exposes the facts that Benjamin Netanyahu's government has had no intention of giving the Palestinians anything, they have been jerking their chains, and nothing will ever happen until Netanyahu and all of the other conservative right-wingers leave office, because they are too rigid and prejudiced to make any agreements... Also, the Palestinians need new leaders, younger and smarter than these washed out old hacks that are barely clinging to power. They will never have anything beyond the dream of a Palestinian state until that happens. Maybe al Jazeera is right, that a Tunisian style revolution needs to happen in Palestine, to further shake up the old farts who run the Arab world by using other people's oppression to make money and prestige... It really is too bad that the only time we may get anywhere is by humiliating our leaders in public...

Non profit and charity groups have been taking advantage of war-torn areas and countries hit by natural disasters, taking donated money and pocketing it, thank you very much. The AP uncovered another huge fund that has been taking the money - the Global Fund, a $21.7 billion private organization that advertises to fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, now revealed to take as much as 2/3 of grant money that remains unaccountable: "A $21.7 billion development fund backed by celebrities and hailed as an alternative to the bureaucracy of the United Nations sees as much as two-thirds of some grants eaten up by corruption, the Associated Press has learned. Much of the money is accounted for with forged documents or improper bookkeeping, indicating it was pocketed, investigators for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria say. Donated prescription drugs wind up being sold on the black market.

The fund’s newly strengthened inspector general’s office, which uncovered the corruption, can’t give an overall accounting because it has examined only a tiny fraction of the $10 billion that the fund has spent since its creation in 2002. But the levels of corruption in the grants they have audited so far are astonishing. A full 67 percent of money expended on an anti-AIDS program in Mauritania was misspent, the investigators told the fund’s board of directors. So was 36 percent of the money spent on a program in Mali to fight tuberculosis and malaria, and 30 percent of grants to Djibouti." Corrupt administrators are currently in jail in places like Zambia, Mali, and Mauritania.

The major embarrassment to this scam is that it was touted as a viable alternative to various UN programs, which were also labeled to be corrupt. Countries have pledged million of dollars in donations, and many Celebrities have been pimping for the fund, among them have been Bono, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Kofi Annan, and groups like the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation, which gave them over $150 million per year. Way to go, Bill, I guess we still haven't found what we're looking for... I know that you will be relieved to hear the response from the fund's inspector general, John Parsons, that the global Fund is serious in uncovering the corruption! That's right, when you run a global fund, you have no place you can hide...

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