Monday, December 19, 2011

50 Economic Numbers From 2011 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

Even though most Americans have become very frustrated with this economy, the reality is that the vast majority of them still have no idea just how bad our economic decline has been or how much trouble we are going to be in if we don't make dramatic changes immediately. If we do not educate the American people about how deathly ill the U.S. economy has become, then they will just keep falling for the same old lies that our politicians keep telling them. Just "tweaking" things here and there is not going to fix this economy. We truly do need a fundamental change in direction. America is consuming far more wealth than it is producing and our debt is absolutely exploding. If we stay on this current path, an economic collapse is inevitable. Hopefully the crazy economic numbers from 2011 that I have included in this article will be shocking enough to wake some people up.

At this time of the year, a lot of families get together, and in most homes the conversation usually gets around to politics at some point. Hopefully many of you will use the list below as a tool to help you share the reality of the U.S. economic crisis with your family and friends. If we all work together, hopefully we can get millions of people to wake up and realize that "business as usual" will result in a national economic apocalypse.

The following are 50 economic numbers from 2011 that are almost too crazy to believe....

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#1 A staggering 48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be "low income" or are living in poverty.

#2 Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be "low income" or impoverished.

#3 If the number of Americans that "wanted jobs" was the same today as it was back in 2007, the "official" unemployment rate put out by the U.S. government would be up to 11 percent.

#4 The average amount of time that a worker stays unemployed in the United States is now over 40 weeks.

#5 One recent survey found that 77 percent of all U.S. small businesses do not plan to hire any more workers.

#6 There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million extra people to the population since then.

#7 Since December 2007, median household income in the United States has declined by a total of 6.8% once you account for inflation.

#8 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16.6 million Americans were self-employed back in December 2006. Today, that number has shrunk to 14.5 million.

#9 A Gallup poll from earlier this year found that approximately one out of every five Americans that do have a job consider themselves to be underemployed.

#10 According to author Paul Osterman, about 20 percent of all U.S. adults are currently working jobs that pay poverty-level wages.

#11 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs. Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#12 Back in 1969, 95 percent of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job. In July, only 81.2 percent of men in that age group had a job.

#13 One recent survey found that one out of every three Americans would not be able to make a mortgage or rent payment next month if they suddenly lost their current job.

#14 The Federal Reserve recently announced that the total net worth of U.S. households declined by 4.1 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2011 alone.

#15 According to a recent study conducted by the BlackRock Investment Institute, the ratio of household debt to personal income in the United States is now 154 percent.

#16 As the economy has slowed down, so has the number of marriages. According to a Pew Research Center analysis, only 51 percent of all Americans that are at least 18 years old are currently married. Back in 1960, 72 percent of all U.S. adults were married.

#17 The U.S. Postal Service has lost more than 5 billion dollars over the past year.

#18 In Stockton, California home prices have declined 64 percent from where they were at when the housing market peaked.

#19 Nevada has had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation for 59 months in a row.

#20 If you can believe it, the median price of a home in Detroit is now just $6000.

#21 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 percent of all homes in the state of Florida are sitting vacant. That figure is 63 percent larger than it was just ten years ago.

#22 New home construction in the United States is on pace to set a brand new all-time record low in 2011.

#23 As I have written about previously, 19 percent of all American men between the ages of 25 and 34 are now living with their parents.

#24 Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

#25 According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, health care costs accounted for just 9.5% of all personal consumption back in 1980. Today they account for approximately 16.3%.

#26 One study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.

#27 If you can believe it, one out of every seven Americans has at least 10 credit cards.

#28 The United States spends about 4 dollars on goods and services from China for every one dollar that China spends on goods and services from the United States.

#29 It is being projected that the U.S. trade deficit for 2011 will be 558.2 billion dollars.

#30 The retirement crisis in the United States just continues to get worse. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of all American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, and 29 percent of all American workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.

#31 Today, one out of every six elderly Americans lives below the federal poverty line.

#32 According to a study that was just released, CEO pay at America's biggest companies rose by 36.5% in just one recent 12 month period.

#33 Today, the "too big to fail" banks are larger than ever. The total assets of the six largest U.S. banks increased by 39 percent between September 30, 2006 and September 30, 2011.

#34 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined.

#35 According to an analysis of Census Bureau data done by the Pew Research Center, the median net worth for households led by someone 65 years of age or older is 47 times greater than the median net worth for households led by someone under the age of 35.

#36 If you can believe it, 37 percent of all U.S. households that are led by someone under the age of 35 have a net worth of zero or less than zero.

#37 A higher percentage of Americans is living in extreme poverty (6.7%) than has ever been measured before.

#38 Child homelessness in the United States is now 33 percent higher than it was back in 2007.

#39 Since 2007, the number of children living in poverty in the state of California has increased by 30 percent.

#40 Sadly, child poverty is absolutely exploding all over America. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 36.4% of all children that live in Philadelphia are living in poverty, 40.1% of all children that live in Atlanta are living in poverty, 52.6% of all children that live in Cleveland are living in poverty and 53.6% of all children that live in Detroit are living in poverty.

#41 Today, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

#42 In 1980, government transfer payments accounted for just 11.7% of all income. Today, government transfer payments account for more than 18 percent of all income.

#43 A staggering 48.5% of all Americans live in a household that receives some form of government benefits. Back in 1983, that number was below 30 percent.

#44 Right now, spending by the federal government accounts for about 24 percent of GDP. Back in 2001, it accounted for just 18 percent.

#45 For fiscal year 2011, the U.S. federal government had a budget deficit of nearly 1.3 trillion dollars. That was the third year in a row that our budget deficit has topped one trillion dollars.

#46 If Bill Gates gave every single penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for about 15 days.

#47 Amazingly, the U.S. government has now accumulated a total debt of 15 trillion dollars. When Barack Obama first took office the national debt was just 10.6 trillion dollars.

#48 If the federal government began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 years to pay off the national debt.

#49 The U.S. national debt has been increasing by an average of more than 4 billion dollars per day since the beginning of the Obama administration.

#50 During the Obama administration, the U.S. government has accumulated more debt than it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that Bill Clinton took office.

Of course the heart of our economic problems is the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve is a perpetual debt machine, it has almost completely destroyed the value of the U.S. dollar and it has an absolutely nightmarish track record of incompetence. If the Federal Reserve system had never been created, the U.S. economy would be in far better shape. The federal government needs to shut down the Federal Reserve and start issuing currency that is not debt-based. That would be a very significant step toward restoring prosperity to America.

During 2011 we made a lot of progress in educating the American people about our economic problems, but we still have a long way to go.

Hopefully next year more Americans than ever will wake up, because 2012 is going to represent a huge turning point for this country.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Neville the Tw@t...Good riddance

The moment I woke up on Wednesday and discovered Gary Neville had retired, I hit Twitter with the first words that came to mind: ‘Farewell to the most annoying player in the history of world football.’

Within seconds I was bombarded with abuse from Manchester United fans all over the world and congratulations from fans of every other team. And there, in the proverbial nutshell, is the dichotomy that is Gary Neville.
Loved by his own, despised by everyone else. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

My own hatred of the rat-faced weasel ran so deep that the mere sight of him would make me come out in blazing boils of fury.
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As his former colleague, Jaap Stam, so memorably observed in those ill-fated memoirs a few years ago, Gary and brother Phil were ‘a pair of busy little ****s’. And the Dutchman didn’t mean they were always occupied.
From the moment Neville walked out on the pitch, puffing out his small chest like a stunted peacock, he’d irritate me. He was like the worst kind of office block shop steward.

An officious little numpty with delusions of grandeur, a haughty overestimation of his own talents and a relentless ability to wind everybody up at all times with his sheer presence.

Every brawl Arsenal ever had with United involved Neville. But he always played the role of ‘hooligan spotter’ — the spotty kid who set up the fight, then scurried away to let the bigger boys scrap it out.
Who can forget him exchanging verbals with Patrick Vieira in the tunnel (over Neville’s appalling treatment of Jose Antonio Reyes), then begging Roy Keane to help him out?

He was there, too, when ‘Pizzagate’ erupted and during both the Ruud van Nistelrooy/Martin Keown on-pitch battles — sneering, spitting and shouting like a particularly virulent puff adder.

Arsenal had it easy, though. Neville was even more annoying against Liverpool, where he seemed to pride himself on being the Most Hated Man in Anfield History.

Every time the old rivals played each other, he’d pop up in the papers goading and taunting the Scousers in an admittedly rather admirable, yet reckless, disregard for his own life.

The Kop would scream abuse at him for 90 minutes, and he’d return the favour with bells on. And he’d be even worse in the home legs.

Witness the day when he sprinted from the halfway line at Old Trafford to celebrate a 90th-minute winner from Rio Ferdinand right in front of the small Liverpool contingent?

He was fined for ‘improper conduct’ but protested afterwards, asking if it was preferable for players to become ‘emotionless robots’.

And then there were the goal celebrations. Every time United ever scored, Neville would charge like a demented rhinoceros to his successful colleague and jump on his back, arms punching the air — thus ensuring his own ugly mug would be splattered all over the papers the next day.

This diabolical show-stealing display would be ruined only if his equally camera-hungry mate, David Beckham, got there first. Sometimes you could actually see them fighting each other to get on their striker’s back.
As a player, Neville was like a Jack Russell with worms, constantly nipping at people’s ankles, foaming at the mouth and raging at anyone trying to discipline him.

His behaviour towards referees was shockingly bad, regularly hurling foulmouthed abuse at the man in black. Often because the official had just had the gall to send off his beloved Keano for butting some opponent.

So my gut reaction, as communicated to the world of Twitter, was absolutely accurate. I genuinely do believe that Gary Neville was the most annoying player in the history of world football.

But the truth, the awful, sickening truth, is that Neville is also one of the neccessary players in a football club.

I don’t agree with Arsene Wenger that Neville was even the best Premier League right-back ever. As Keown said last week, Lee Dixon could do everything he could but was a better positional full-back.
No, I mean in regard to the virtues that are so sorely missing in the modern-day game — loyalty, passion, dedication, hard work and commitment.

Neville played 602 games for United in 20 years. He never played for anyone else. He never even thought about it. And he played 85 times for England.

He was renowned for the ferocity and intensity of his training. For him, there was never ‘practice.’ If a colleague came under fire, he was always there to defend him.

And off the pitch, he was a good ambassador in terms of personal behaviour. Not for him the vagaries of the drunken, drug-fuelled, womanising night-clubbing scene.

If I’m honest, I wish we’d had more players like Gary Neville at Arsenal.
Men of steel with the team badge metaphorically tattooed on their hearts. Men who would fight to the last drop of their blood. Men who never contemplated defeat until it actually happened. And men who understand what it takes to win and to keep winning.

Gary Neville won eight Premier Leagues, three FA Cups, two League Cups and one Champions League. All while being a serial pain in the backside.

The greatest accolade I can pay him today, as an Arsenal fan, is that I will miss him like I’d miss a large rusty nail stuck in my forehead.

And I know when he reads this, he will smile to himself and — rightly — think: ‘Job done.’

Now onto Fernando Torres, a player I’d have most liked Arsene Wenger to sign in the January transfer window.

His electrifying pace, fabulous ball control and extraordinary nose for goal make him one of the most lethal strikers I’ve ever seen.

But during his elongated departure from Liverpool, we saw a whole different side to the Spaniard — surly, sulky, arrogant and woefully disrespectful.

Add his worrying injury-prone nature to the list and you’re left with the nagging feeling that he’s more trouble than he’s worth.
Torres and Didier Drogba ought to be the best goal machine double act in Britain since Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole. But I suspect it will end up being the biggest clash of egos since Mick McCarthy caught his own reflection in the mirror. And just as unsuccessful.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Master of Economics - Arsene Wenger

A football club should be able to support itself, right? Not wallow in debt for years on end, flinging money in all directions in an insane attempt at balancing the books. Like Real Madrid maybe, spending €1,000 million on transfers in the last 10 years? Or Barcelona perhaps, spending something like €700 million through the same sort of period.

Arsene Wenger of course, seems to be well aware of this. His Arsenal side has been frugally complied over the years and he has continually made money from sales before laying out money for players. As a dedicated student of business and economic principles and factors, he has managed to keep Arsenal's transfer dealings well within reason compared to the extravagance that is engaged in by his major rivals in England and abroad.

Wenger melds his business-minded approach with a love for beautiful football. His teams must always play football, it seems, and in terms of current footballing excellence, they are the only team in England and perhaps world football that comes close to resembling the almost peerless brilliance of Barcelona in full flight. Barcelona of course are the "darlings" of world football, because of the style they exhibit, the total football ideal molded to fit today's game.
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Barcelona though have spent many, many millions more in building the side they have managed this with.

In terms of feasibility, Arsenal's growth seems the more sustainable and the more cleverly executed as it adheres to ideals of sound and fiscally intelligent business practice.


Wenger's current most expensive buy, has looked disinterested on occasion this year, but in terms of the market and the amounts that exist on it, remains a bargain.
Clive Mason/Getty Images Arsene Wenger has always remained somewhat bound by his ideas of what players are actually worth, refusing to throw money at players just because certain clubs in the game have pushed the prices up because of the outrageous amounts they have bid on players.

His current side's most expensive acquisition was Andrei Arshavin at £15 million. Compare this with other sides in the EPL and Europe and it becomes quite embarrassing for his rivals considering the way his side have outplayed some of the more expensively arranged sides they have come up against.

Wenger's team sit second on the table, five points behind Manchester United and five ahead of Chelsea who sit fourth behind Manchester City, who trail Arsenal by a point and have played a game more than the London club. When this form is weighed up against the spending of the club and the amount spent by other teams in the premiership, including some well outside the top four, it is easy to see that Wenger's Arsenal are setting the benchmark for football clubs around the world in terms of effectiveness through superior management practices and business planning.

Arsenal actually come up against a side that spends outlandish amounts of money in their quest for success very soon when they take on Barcelona in the Champions League second round. The Spanish club somehow conveniently escape mention when "big spending" clubs are moaned about, more often Real Madrid and Manchester United and of course more recently Manchester City are mentioned before the Catalan giants come into the conversation.


Nicolas Anelka's sale directly contributed to much of Arsenal's later success, part of the money securing the services of one Thierry Henry.
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images In many ways it will be a case of David and Goliath, and especially when the financial records of the two sides are compared.

What could well be the most captivating tie of the second round will also captivate for the reason that realistically, with the football they have been playing this season, they could conceivably spring a surprise on the Spanish giants.

This would be a victory not only for Arsenal, but for the common sense style practiced by the club's manager. A long shot it could well be, but football is a game that can be won or lost on the bounce of a ball, and as long as you prepare in an intelligent and prudently inspired manner, you give yourself the chance to triumph, whoever the opposition.

Wenger's management style is obviously based on realistic goals and targets, in tandem with growth and performance over time. It remains to be seen if he can bring the side trophies this season, but he has certainly paved the way for the opportunities at success to come along. It will be another thing to see whether his team is ready to deliver.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Rafik Hariri Assassination

While western media have announced that indictments against Hezbollah will be issued shortly by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Russian magazine Odnako challenges the entire UN investigation. Thierry Meyssan posits that the weapon used to assassinate former Prime Minister Rafik Hairiri was supplied by Germany. Former German prosecutor and first commissioner in charge of the UN probe, Detlev Mehlis, seemingly doctored evidence to cover up his country’s involvement. These revelations embarrass the Tribunal and reverse the tide in Lebanon.

All the conflicts rocking the Middle East today crystallize around the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). Peace hinges on it, and so does war. For some, the STL should bring about the dissolution of the Hezbollah, quell the Resistance and establish a Pax Americana. Others consider that the STL is flouting the law and subverting the truth to ensure the takeover of a new colonial order in the region.
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The Tribunal was created on 30 May 2007, pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 1757, to prosecute the alleged sponsors of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination. In the political context at that time, this implied nothing more and nothing less than bringing to trial serving Presidents Bashar el-Assad of Syria and Emile Lahoud of Lebanon, not exactly favourites of the neo-conservatives. However, the charges were not pursued since they were based on flimsy evidence planted by false witnesses. With no accused left, the Tribunal could easily have disappeared in the meanders of bureaucracy were it not for a turn of events that catapulted it back into the epicenter of the turbulent Middle East political scene.

On 23 May 2009, Atlanticist journalist Erick Follath disclosed on Der Spiegel Online that the prosecutor was poised to indict new suspects: certain Hezbollah military leaders. For the past 18 months, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general, has been proclaiming his party’s innocence. He maintains that the real aim of the proceedings is to decapitate the Resistance and clear the region for the Israeli army. For its part, the U.S. administration in a sudden surge of righteousness pledged that no one would be allowed to shun international Justice.

In any event, the indictment - which all believe to be imminent - against Shia leaders for the assassination of a Sunni leader is of such a nature as to spark off a fitna, namely a Muslim civil war, plummeting the region into new depths of bloodshed and violence.

During his 15 and 16 November official visit to Moscow, Saad Hariri - current Lebanese Prime Minister and son of the deceased - reiterated that the political exploitation of the Tribunal exposes his country to the risk of a new conflagration. President Medvedev retorted that Russia wants Justice to be served and reproves any attempt to discredit, weaken or delay the Tribunal’s proceedings. This position of principle arises from the confidence that the Kremlin decided to place in the STL. But it risks being severely eroded by Odnako’s revelations.

Indeed, we deemed it desirable to delve into the circumstances of Rafik Hariri’s assassination. The data we unearthed has opened a new avenue, making one wonder why it had never been explored until now. In the course of our lengthy investigation, we encountered a great number of actors, too many no doubt, so that the news of our work spread quickly, alarming those for whom the assassination trail implicating the armed Lebanese Resistance represents a real godsent. Aiming to intimidate us, the Jerusalem Post on 18 October launched a preventive attack through a piece referring to our work. In a purely libelous vein, it accuses the author of this article of having received 1 million dollars from Iran to exonerate Hezbollah.

Getting down to facts, Rafik Hariri’s convoy was attacked in Beirut on 14 February 2005. Twenty-three people were killed and one hundred injured. A preliminary report commissioned by the Security Council calls attention to the unprofessional conduct of the Lebanese magistrates and police. To redress the situation, the SC assigned its own investigators, providing them with the important means that Lebanon was unable to offer. From the outset of the investigation, it was generally accepted that the attack had been perpetrated by a suicide bomber driving a van packed with explosives.

Having been established to compensate for the Lebanese lack of professionalism, one would have expected the United Nations mission to scrupulously observe the classical criminal procedures. Not so! The crime scene - on the basis of the topography still intact as well as the photos and video footage shot on that day - was not examined in detail. The victims were not exhumed and no autopsies were performed. For a long time, no attempt was made to ascertain the modus operandi. After discarding the hypothesis of a bomb buried in the ground, the investigators espoused the one involving the van withough bothering to verify it.

And yet, this version is implausible: looking at the crime scene, anyone can easily observe the very large and deep crater that a surface explosion could not have dug out. Faced with the adamancy of the Swiss experts who refused to endorse the official version, on 19 October the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) recreated the crime scene behind closed doors. It didn’t take place in Lebanon, nor in the Netherlands which is the seat of the STL, but in France, one of the countries funding the Tribunal. The buildings surrounding the crime scene were reconstructed and earth was brought in from Beirut. The convoy was reconstituted, including the armoured vehicle. The aim was to demonstrate that the height of the concrete buildings had confined the explosion, making it possible for the blast to produce the crater. The results of this costly experiment have never been divulged.

When looking at the photos and videos taken immediately after the attack, the first most striking feature is the blaze. Car parts and various types of objects are burning all around. Then, the bodies of the victims: they are charred on one side and intact on the other. An astonishing phenomenon which bears no resemblance to what is normally caused by conventional explosives. The theory that the van was transporting a mix of RDX, PETN and TNT does not account for the damages occurred.

What is more, from the photos showing Rafik Hariri’s corpse one can observe that his solid gold wristwatch has melted, whereas the collar of his luxury shirt still hugs his neck in pristine condition.

So, what really happened?

The explosion generated a blast of an exceptionally intense heat and exceptionally brief duration. Thus, the flesh exposed to the blast was instantly carbonized, while the body underneath was not burnt.

High-density objects (such as the gold watch) absorbed the heat and were destroyed. Conversely, low-density objects (like the delicate fabric of Hariri’s shirtcollar) didn’t have enough time to absorb the heat and were unaffected.

Rafik Hariri’s remains. Moreover, the videos show that a number of limbs were severed by the explosion. Oddly, the cuts are clean, as if made on clay statues. There is no sign of shattered or jutting bones, nor of any torn flesh. The reason is that the explosion sucked up all the oxygen and dehydrated the bodies, rendering them friable. In the hours that followed, several on-the-spot witnesses complained of breathing ailments. Wrongfully, the authorities interpreted them as a psychosomatic reaction following their psychological trauma.

Such observations constitute the abc of any criminal inquiry. They should have been the starting point, yet they do not figure in any of the reports submitted by the "professional experts" to the Security Council.

When we asked a number of military experts what kind of explosives would be capable of generating such damage, they mentioned a new type of weapon which has been developed over several decades and is featured in reports appearing in scientific journals. The combination of nuclear and nonotechnology science can trigger an explosion the exact strength of which can be regulated and controlled. The weapon is set up to destroy everything within a given perimeter, down to the nearest centimeter.

Always according to the same military specialists, this weapon can also produce other types of effects: it exerts a very strong pressure on the area of the explosion. The minute it stops, the heaviest objects are propelled upwards. Accordingly, cars were sent flying through the air.

There is one unequivocal fact: this weapon is equipped with a nano-quantity of enriched uranium, emanating radiations which are quantifiable. Now, it just so happens that one of the passengers in Rafik Hariri’s armoured car survived the explosion. Former Minister Bassel Fleyhan was taken to a topnotch French military hospital for treatment. The doctors were astounded to discover that he had been in contact with enriched uranium. But no one linked this to the attack.

Technically speaking, the weapon is shaped like a small missile, a few tens of centimeters long. It must be fired from a drone. Actually, several witnesses assured they had heard an aircraft flying over the scene of the crime. The investigators asked the United States and Israel, whose surveillance satellites are permanently switched on, to provide them with the pertinent images. On the day of the attack, the United States had deployed AWACS aircraft over Lebanon. The live feeds could help to establish the presence of a drone and even to determine its flight path. But Washington and Tel Aviv - which indefatigably urge all parties to cooperate with the STL - turned down the request.

Hezbollah intercepted and released videos from Israeli drones surveying Rafik Hariri’s movements and the scene of the crime. At a press conference held on 10 August 2010, Hassan Nasrallah showed a video which, according to him, was shot by Israeli military drones and intercepted by his organisation. All of Rafik Hariri’s movements had been registered for months, until the final day when all the surveillance converged on the bend in the road where the attack was staged. Thus, Tel-Aviv had been surveying the area prior to the assassination. Which is not to say, as Mr Nasrallah himself points out, that they were the authors of the crime.

So, who fired the missile?

This is where things get complicated. According to the military experts, in 2005, Germany was the only country which had a handle on this new technology. It is, therefore, Berlin which supplied and set up the crime weapon.

Hence, it is easy to understand why former Berlin Attorney General Detlev Mehlis - a very controversial figure within his own profession - was eager to preside the UN Investigation Commission. He is, in fact, notoriously linked to the German and U.S. secret services. Assigned in 1986 to shed light on the attack against the La Belle disco in Berlin, he diligently covered up all Israeli and U.S. fingerprints to falsely accuse Libya and justify the bombing of Mouammar Khadafi’s palace by the U.S. Air Force. In the early 2000s, Mr Mehlis was lavishly paid for his stint as researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (think-tank linked to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby) and at the Rand Corporation (think-tank attached to the U.S. military industrial complex). All elements which cast a shadow over his impartiality in the Rafik Hariri affair and should have sufficed to have him taken off the case.

Mehlis was seconded by Commissioner Gerhard Lehmann, who is also a well-known German and U.S. secret services agent. He was formally identified by a witness as having taken part in the programme run by the Bush Administration in Europe, involving the abduction, detention and torture of prisoners in "black holes". His name is mentioned in the ad hoc Report by the Council of Europe. Notwithstanding, he managed to dodge all judicial proceedings on the strength of a strong though unlikely alibi provided by his colleagues in the German police.

Mehlis and Lehmann propagated the theory of the explosives-laden suicide van to deflect the investigation from the German weapon that was used to commit the crime.

Various earth samples were taken from the scene of the crime. They were first mixed, then divided into three jars that were sent to three different laboratories. In the first two no trace of explosives was found. The third jar was kept by Mehlis and Lehmann, who personally sent it to the third laboratory. Here, remnants of explosives were detected. In principle, if the decision is made to resort to three judiciary experts, in case of disagreement it is the majority opinion that prevails. No way! Mehlis and Lehmann violated the protocols. They deemed that theirs was the only reliable sample and embarked the Security Council on a false trail.

The profoundly flawed character of the Mehlis-Lehmann investigations has amply been proven. Their successors acknowledged as much sotto voce and declared entire sections of proceedings nul and void.

Amidst their manipulations, the most famous one relates to the false witnesses. Five individuals purported to have seen the preparations for the attack and incriminated Presidents Bashar el-Assad and Emile Lahoud. While these allegations were fueling the drums of war, their lawyers exposed the lies and the prosecution backed down.

Detlev Mehlis, President of the UN Investigation Commission violated all the rules of the criminal procedure, fabricated evidence and used false witnesses to exonerate Germany and accuse Syria. Based on these false testimonies, Detlev Mehlis arrested - in the name of the international community - four Lebanese generals and had them incarcerated for four years. Pushing his way with his cow-boys into private homes, without a warrant from the Lebanese authorities, he also detained for questioning members of their entourage. With his assistants - who spoke Hebrew to each other - he manipulated the families. Thus, on behalf of the international community, he showed the wife of one of the generals a doctored picture to prove that her husband had not only obscured his implication in the murder, but was also two-timing her.

Concurrently, he tried the same maneuver on the son of the "suspect"’, but in this case to convince him that his mother was a woman of loose morals, a situation which had plunged his desperate father into a murderous folly. The aim was to induce a family crime of honour, thereby tarnishing the image of respected and respectable people.

Even more incredible is Lehmann’s proposition to libertate one of the four imprisoned generals in exchange for his false testimony against a Syrian leader.

Moreover, German journalist Jürgen Cain Külbel highlighted a disturbing detail: it would have been impossible to trigger the explosion by remote control or by marking the target without first disactivating the powerful interference system built into Rafik Hariri’s convoy. A system among the most sophisticated in the world, manufactured in ... Israel.

Külbel was approached by a well-known pro-Palestinian advocate, Professor Said Dudin, to promote his book. However, the outrageous declarations frequently made by Dudin served to torpedo it instead. Külbel, a former East German criminal police officer, was quick to find out that Dudin had a long-standing reputation for being a CIA mole within the German left-wing. The journalist published a number of old East-German reports attesting to this fact and was sentenced and briefly imprisoned for illicit dissemination of documents; meantime, Dudin was settling into the German Embassy in Beirut for the purpose of infiltrating the families of the four generals.

Overlooked in the Middle East, Germany’s role in this region is worth spotlighting. After Israel’s war of aggression against Lebanon in the Summer of 2006, Chancellor Angela Merkel deployed a very large contingent to join the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The 2 400 soldiers from Germany control the maritime infrastructure to prevent arms supplies from reaching the Resistance via the Mediterranean. On that occasion, Ms Merkel declared that the mission of the German army was to protect Israel. A wind of rebellion arose among the officers. By the hundreds, they sent letters to remind her that they had enlisted to defend their homeland not a foreign country, be it an ally.

An unprecedented development took place on 17 March 2008 and 18 January 2010, when the German and Israeli governments held a joint Council of Ministers meeting where various programmes were adopted, especially in the defense sector. At this stage, there shouldn’t be too many secrets left between the Tsahal and the Bundeswehr.

The investigation conducted by Detlev Mehlis is both steeped in ridicule as regards the false witnesses, and tainted with the illegal detention of the four generals. To the extent that the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention formally and firmly condemned this excess of power.

This being said, the opprobrium that befalls Mr Mehlis’ work should not reflect on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon which is in no way responsible for his manipulations. But here, again, things get complicated. The credibility of the STL rests on its ability to curb, in the first place, all those who attempted to mask the truth and falsely accused Presidents Bachar el-Assad and Emile Lahoud, with the intention of provoking a war.

Now, it transpires that the Tribunal refuses to try the false witnesses, giving the impression that it is covering up the manipulations under Mehlis’ watch and is in fact pursuing the similar political objectifs (this time against the Hezbollah, and perhaps against others in future). Even worse, the Tribunal will not hand over to Jamil Sayyed (one of the four generals illegally detained) the minutes of his accusers’ hearings, thereby barring him from requesting compensation and making it look as if it condones four years of arbitrary detention.

In more prosaic terms, the Tribunal is shirking its responsabilities. On the one hand, it must judge the false witnesses to thwart further manipulations and to make plain its impartiality; on the other hand it refuses to undertake a "clean-up" operation which might force it to arrest Prosecutor Mehlis. However, Odnako’s revelations on the German lead render this posture untenable. All the more since it’s already too late: General Jamil Sayyed filed a complaint in Syria and a Syrian examining magistrate has already indicted Detlev Mehlis, Commissioner Gerahrd Lehmann plus the five false witnesses. One can imagine the commotion at the STL should Syria decide to call on Interpol to have them arrested.

Just as the Mehlis commission was supposed to compensate for the lack of professionalism on the part of the Lebanese forces of law and order, the STL should equally have ensured the impartiality that the Lebanese courts may have been short of. But things are far off target, which raises the question of the Tribunal’s legitimacy.

Kofi Annan didn’t want the Lebanon Tribunal to exert international jurisdiction, but to function as a national Lebanese tribunal with an international character. It would have been subjected to Lebanese law while half of its members would have been nationals of other countries. The plan did not materialize because the negotiations came to a sudden end. More precisely, an agreement was reached with the Lebanese government presided at the time by Fouad Siniora, the former authorised representative of the Hariri estate, but it was never ratified either by Parliament or by the president of the Republic. Hence, the agreement was endorsed unilaterally by the UN Security Council (Resolution 1757 of 30 May 2007). The end result is a hybrid and fragile entity.

As pointed out by Kofi Annan, this Tribunal is not analogous to any other so far created within the purview of the United Nations. "It is neither a subsidiary organ of the UN, nor a component of the Lebanese judiciary system"; it is simply "a conventional organ" sitting between the executive authority of the Lebanese government and the UN. Judging by the international rule of separation of powers and independence of the judiciary, the STL cannot be regarded as a genuine tribunal, but rather as a joint disciplinary commission within the executive frameworks of the UN and the Lebanese Government. Whatever decision it may make will inevitably be coated with suspicion.

Worse still, any Lebanese government can terminate it since, not having been ratified, the related agreement was binding only on the previous government. As a result, the present Lebanese coalition government has become a battlefield between partisans and foes of the Tribunal. In an attempt to maintain governmental stability, week after week Lebanese President Michel Sleimane has been dissuading the Council of Ministers from taking a vote on any issue linked with the STL. This embargo cannot hold out forever.

Bad news coming in pairs, suspicions have now extended to the President of the STL, Antonio Cassese. This reputable international jurist was President of the International Criminal Tribunal For the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He happens to be a ardent supporter of the Jewish colonialisation of Palestine. A personal friend of Elie Wiesel, Cassese received and accepted an honorary award, presented by Wiesel himself. He should normally have withdrawn and resigned when Hassan Nasrallah disclosed that Israeli drones had been reconnoitering the crime scene as well as the victim’s movements for months.

According to the President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Antonio Cassese, the armed resistance in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan should be tried for "terrorism". Worst of all, Judge Cassesse personifies an interpretation of international law that causes division in the Middle East. Although his official curriculum vitae obscures it, he took part in the 2005 negotiations between member states of the European Union and those bordering the Mediterranean Sea ("Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean"). His definition of terrorism blocked the discussions. According to him, terrorism is exclusively the act of individuals or private groups, never states. It follows that a struggle against an occupying army would not be considered as "resistance" but as "terrorism". In the local context, this juridical view is consistent with a colonial framework and disqualifies the STL.

The methods of the Special Tribunal do not differ from those applied by the Mehlis Commission. STL investigators collected mass files on Lebanese students, social security recipients and subscribers of public utility services. On 27 October, in the absence of the Lebanese judges, they even tried to snatch medical records from a gynecological clinic frequented by the wives of Hezbollah members. It is obvious that these probes have no link whatsoever with the Rafik Hariri assassination. Everything leads the Lebanese to believe that the information is actually earmarked for Israel, of which, in their eyes, the TSL is merely an offshoot.

All these problems had clearly been foreseen by President Putin when, in 2007, he had vainly made a pitch for a different wording of the STL founding resolution. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had denounced the "juridical loopholes" of the system. He deplored that the Security Council should threaten to resort to force (Chapter VII) to achieve unilaterally the creation of this "conventional organ". He had emphasised that while the Tribunal should be working towards the reconciliation of the Lebanese people, it was devised in such a way as to divide them even more. Finally, Russia - as China - refused to endorse Resolution 1757.

The truth ultimately seeps through. The Israeli drone videos released by the Hezbollah expose Israel’s involvement in the crime preparations. The facts revealed by Odnako point to the use of a sophisticated German weapon. The puzzle is nearly complete.

Olbermann Departs

People are blaming the abrupt departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC on that company’s merger with Comcast and Olbermann’s loss of the protection and patronage of Jeff Zucker, the former head of NBC programming. MSNBC says that the issue has nothing to do with Comcast.

It seems Olbermann is too extreme for US television. But Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, now they are mainstream. What universe could that proposition be true in? That of cranky old white billionaires. And television news is owned by them. Not by you.

Whether Comcast is the villain of the piece directly, things like the Comcast merger with MSNBC are responsible for there being very few voices on American television (and despite the proliferation of channels) like Olbermann’s. And for there being relatively little news on the “news” programs. Time Warner, General Electric and Comcast (partners in NBC), Viacom, Disney, and Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp own almost all television news. In other words, six big corporations determine what you will hear about the world if you get your news from television. There are fewer and fewer t.v. news outlets that do not belong to one of these six, a process called media consolidation.

For reasons of profit-seeking, when Disney acquired ABC, it looted the company’s news divisions. Profits are not to be had in hard news, but rather in tabloid news. It used to be that human interest stories would be ‘desert,’ but they have become the main meal.

Ironically,former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw was one of Olbermann’s biggest critics, afraid that the latter’s flamboyant and polarizing style would tarnish the reputation of regular NBC newsmen for objectivity.

What Brokaw seems not to have noticed is that NBC and MSNBC did, like most television news, a miserable job of covering the Iraq issue in 2002-2003–mainly buying White House propaganda. The powerful bias toward the point of view of the rich and powerful and well-connected in Washington demonstrated by all the major tv news outlets in 2002-2003 makes Olbermann look like a staid centrist.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Canada vs. UAE

Ok, this is getting very childish. I tried very hard not to write about this issue, but I failed.

The UAE is crying because they are not allowed to land their planes as much as they ask for and the Canadians want to protect their jobs....well this is not new especially in the UAE where AT&T, Sprint and Vodafone were not given rights to becoming the third mobile operator so that Etisalat and Du are protected. Hypocrisy anyone? Typical in this region isn't it.

The naivety is embarrassing and all states and governments play this game. Principles of free trade and competitive advantage exist only in theory.

It is just pathetic when the average individual has to suffer. Why does the average Canadian or Emirati have to bear the negative consequences to protect these companies and their inefficiencies?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Don't let what was, get in the way of what's next

Well it has finally arrived...the big "three O".

The night before I turned another decade I thought about how I would feel and came to a conclusion that it was just another year; nothing would change and life would go on as it had for the last 7 years. I was wrong. I woke up thinking that all that I had wanted to do, all that I had achieved was not going according to plan. In the years leading to this milestone, I had planned to be married (or at least engaged), ready to start a family, I had planned to have completed my MBA from a top university, I had planned to have received senior management status, I had planned to have travelled to Australia, Tibet and Vancouver and I had planned to get involved in a private business venture...well it is safe to say I have achieved none of these waking up on the morning of joining the men-in-their-30's club.

Now I look in the mirror thinking, how did that hair get so long on my ear...wow, when did I get all these gray hairs, and will I be looking like Clooney or Kojack (damn...I know who Kojack is). On the other hand, I now know I am much wiser, experienced and part of the men's club. I know what to look for in a partner I wish to be with for the rest of my life, and what are the signs of her being a "psycho" or a "cheating tramp". I know that my friends are much cooler now, they are all doctors, architects, CEOs, VPs, journalists, etc. I know that my peers look at me as one of them now, they would listen when asking me for my advice. The demographics of my immediate group of friends has changed. My outlook on what life is or should be took a drastic change, I now want more quality and less quantity in things. I have found to appreciate the finer things in life for reasons other than “just because”.

It’s fascinating how turning one year older can make such a psychological difference. This single increment in age is a shift into a separate bracket of era. Turning from 29 to 30 feels like turning from 21 to 30. It's as if I was living like a 21 year old for 9 years, now I’m suddenly that much older, overnight.

So now the plan is to travel for the next 3 months, get this out of my system, find out more about me and then start living life in the good ripe age of 30. I will begin my MBA and hopefully that accreditation will get me my senior management status and whilst I am studying…who knows who will meet who or if I have already met that special someone…just don’t know it yet. Here is to a new decade and an upgrade to ME 3.0 (the 2.0 version had its time…a good one at that).