Monday, April 30, 2012

The Sarkozy-Libya Connection: A Timeline

May 6, 2007: Nicolas Sarkozy defeats Segolene Royal in the 2007 French Presidential election. According to French investigative news website Mediapart, Sarkozy's campaign was partially funded by a 50 million Euro payment from the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, which was laundered through banks in Panama and Switzerland.

July 24, 2007: Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor are released by the Gaddafi regime after being jailed for 8 years in Libya. The release is thanks to French diplomatic intervention.

July 25, 2007: President Sarkozy travels to Tripoli, Libya. According to French magazine Les Inrockuptibles, Sarkozy secured the release of the foreign medics the previous day by signing a secret nuclear accord with Libya on top of a public accord to provide Libya with a nuclear-powered desalination plant.

December 10, 2007: Libyan leader Gaddafi arrives in Paris for a five-day visit with President Sarkozy. Gaddafi notoriously pitches a Bedouin-style tent in the gardens of the former Paris mansion of Baron Gustave de Rothschild. Gaddafi signed $15 billion worth of business contracts while in Paris, which included the purchase of French-made conventional armaments.

March 19, 2011: French aircraft are the first to enter Libyan airspace as NATO declares war on the Gaddafi regime. 

March 26, 2011: In the opening stages of the Libya-NATO War, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, publicly reveals that Libya funded Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 Presidential campaign and that the Libyan regime has the financial documents to prove so.

September 1, 2011: French newspaper Liberation publishes a report that the anti-Gaddafi rebel force known as the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) promises to reserve a third of Libyan crude oil output for French companies in return for French support of the anti-Gaddafi uprising.

September 4, 2011: In the midst of the Libya-NATO War, files are found in Tripoli showing the deep connections between the Libyan national intelligence agency under the Gaddafi regime (led by Moussa Koussa), the U.S.'s Central Intelligence Agency and the United Kingdom's MI6 intelligence agency. The files show that the CIA had transported several prisoners to Libya in order to tortured under the "extraordinary rendition" program.

October 20, 2011: Muammar Gaddafi is killed in the Sirte District of Libya by rebel forces.

April 22, 2012: Sarkozy loses the first round of voting in the 2012 French Presidential election to Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande.

April 29, 2012: Shukri Ghanem, Libya's Oil Minister at the beginning of the Libya-NATO War, is found floating dead in the Danube River in Vienna, Austria. Police have no indication it was a suicide.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 French Presidential Election Round One: Political Fragmentation and Rethinking the European Union

Preliminary results for round one of the French Presidential election are emerging. As of Sunday, April 22nd (7:00 PM PDT) the results indicate that Francois Hollande and incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy will move on to the second round.

This election proves that the political landscape in France is extremely fragmented. Together, Hollande and Sarkozy will likely take less than 60% of the total vote. Regardless as to which one of the two eventually becomes President, he will be the first choice of less than one-third of the French electorate (that actually bothered to vote).

Marine Le Pen of the National Front will likely take about 18% of the vote. Jean-Luc Melenchon of the Left Front will likely take about 11% of the vote. Francois Bayrou of the Democratic Movement will likely take about 8% or 9% of the vote.

It is very rare for a Presidential election in a developed-economy, major Western power to have five serious candidates, each of which takes a significant percentage (>5%) of the total vote. The standard model in developed Western powers is the political version of a duopoly. That's noteworthy and signals political fragmentation. The French populace feels alienated and disenfranchised by the current political establishment.

The break-out stars of this election (Le Pen and Melenchon) are very critical of the European integration project (to a degree that would be considered quite radical in several other European Union nation) and that is not a coincidence.

Le Pen wants to take control of monetary policy away from the European Central Bank and return it to the French state. That would necessitate pulling out of the Euro common currency (and presumably returning to the Franc). Le Pen is extremely critical of the Eurozone financial system. She recently said:
"Goldman Sachs topples governments everywhere. [...] Goldman Sachs places its men at the top of Eurozone countries. Goldman Sachs puts its man at the head of the European Central Bank [...] In Greece, Italy, the ECB, oligarchs have taken power." [1]
Melenchon is against the Treaty of Lisbon, one of the foundational documents of the European Union. Melenchon argues that the European Union has been hijacked by technocrats and financial interests and is no longer a democratic project. Melenchon also calls on France to leave NATO.

Even Sarkozy, one of the biggest pro-European integrationists (europhiles in the European jargon) in the world, has taken to nationalism. Sarkozy has threatened to pull France out of the Schengen Area, which allows for greatly relaxed border controls within the EU. Sarkozy took this position as part of his stated policy aim of reducing immigration into France by 50%. Sarkozy likely took this anti-immigrant position in order to stem the loss of voters to Le Pen, the candidate most critical of existing immigration policy.

If this French election is any indication of what we can expect elsewhere on the continent, the European political landscape is in the process of fragmentation and the European populace is seriously rethinking European integration (or at least the form that integration will take).


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sean Stone Calls For Obama's Impeachment in 2012 (or, The Case Against Obama's Reelection)

Sean Stone, son of film director Oliver Stone (Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street, JFK, W.), has published a video calling for the impeachment of President Barack Obama in 2012.

I am pleasantly surprised by the way this video concisely summarizes the case against voting for Obama's reelection this year. The video challenges the viewer to transcend the false left-right political paradigm. Many of the points made against Obama also apply to his (likely) challenger Mitt Romney. If you are dissatisfied with both the Republican and Democratic parties, consider supporting Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty or Gary Johnson's 2012 bid for the presidency as the Libertarian Party's candidate.

Sean Stone makes some great points when he discusses Obama's economic policy and the (on-going) financial sector bailouts:
The Obama administration not only endorsed the 2008 bailout policy, the funds from which did not go either to homeowners or for taxpayers' protection but rather to the consolidation of private banks, many of them in Europe. [sic] There was no investment of any meaningful type in the physical economy. There was no protection of the American people but rather an illegal commitment made on behalf of private banking institutions to commit the American people to paying a debt that the American people did not accrue. The trillions of dollars that were pledged to the private banking sector are backed by the assets belonging to the American people. This combine represents the most clear violation of the principle of the general welfare in the preamble to the Constitution of the United States. 
Video URL:

Monday, April 9, 2012

U.S. Working With Known Terrorist Group to Destabilize Iran

The New Yorker's Seymour Hersch made a startling revelation on April 6th when he revealed that the U.S.'s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has been working with and training members of The People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), a known terrorist group, for years. During the Bush administration, the group was even trained in the deserts of Nevada. [1]

Unfamiliar with The People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK)? Here are some key facts for you to digest:

  • The MEK was founded as an overtly and explicitly Islamic and Marxist-Leninist political movement in Iran in 1965. [2]
  • During the Iran-Iraq War, the MEK was given sanctuary by Saddam Hussein within Iraq. The MEK launched attacks on Iran from Iraqi territory during this period. [3]
  • According to the Iranian government, the MEK is responsible for the deaths of over 17,000 Iranians. [4]
  • Saddam Hussein used the MEK to brutally crush and suppress the Kurdish uprising in northern Iraq in 1991. [5]
  • The MEK has murdered several Americans in terrorist attacks, including Colonel Lewis Hawkins (June 5, 1973) and U.S. Air Force General Harold Price (May 31, 1972). [6]
  • According to Human Rights Watch, the MEK ran prison camps in Iraq during the recent Iraq War ("Operation Iraqi Freedom") and committed serious human rights abuses against prisoners (most of whom were former MEK militants trying to leave the organization). [7]
  • As of April 2012, the MEK is listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department (under the name Mujahedin-e Khalq, the source of the MEK acronym). [8]
  • The MEK received most of its funding from the Saddam Hussein regime, to the tune of $30 million a month. [9]
Are you surprised that the U.S. government is cooperating with a known terrorist group that is responsible for the murder of U.S. military personnel? Are you surprised that the U.S. military is now training this same group within American borders? If you answered 'yes,' you clearly don't pay much attention to the (real) news.
  • Former Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell is under investigation from the Treasury Department for taking money from the MEK for speaking engagements. [10]
U.S. citizens are not supposed to take money from or do business with known terrorist organizations according to U.S. law (unless you're the U.S. military or the Bush/Obama administrations, in which case you're above the law).
  • Many U.S. politicians support removing the MEK from the State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (which would open the door for more funding and training from Western governments) including: former Vermont Governor and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean; Obama's first national security advisor, retired General James Jones; former CIA Director James Woolsey; former CIA Director Porter Goss; former FBI Director Louis Freeh; former U.S. Representative to the United Nations John Bolton; former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge; and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. [11]
  • Mitt Romney's foreign policy advisor Mitchell Reiss is a major supporter of the MEK. [12]

Are you confused? Are you wondering why major U.S. politicians are backing a terrorist group that was sponsored by Saddam Hussein, advocated Marxism-Leninism, brutally crushed the Kurdish population of Iraq, and killed Americans? Wasn't Saddam Hussein a major threat to freedom, according to the Bush administration? Didn't we invade Iraq in part to help the Kurdish population escape violent repression? Are you wondering why supposed peace activists like Howard Dean are teaming up with neo-conservatives like John Bolton?

The answer is obvious.

Let's go back to Hersh's article, where he informs us that:

  • In 2002, the MEK was the first organization to publicly reveal that Iran was enriching uranium as part of its nuclear project. According to the Mohamed El Baradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that information was provided by Mossad (Israeli intelligence) to the MEK, which acted as an information and media conduit. [1]
  • The U.S. trained the MEK to perform "communication intercepts" within Iran, which included intercepting telephone calls and text messages. [1]
  • Two "senior Obama Administration officials" have confirmed that MEK units, trained and financed by Israeli Mossad, are responsible for the assassinations of five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007. [1]
  • Rudolph Giuliani has described the MEK and its efforts to "overthrow the regime of Iran" as the "only way to stop Iran" and "the only thing that will stop Ahmadinejad." [13]
The MEK has rapidly and significantly upgraded its military capability since developing a relationship with the U.S. and Israel. An excerpt from Hersh's article:
“The M.E.K. was a total joke,” the senior Pentagon consultant said, “and now it’s a real network inside Iran. How did the M.E.K. get so much more efficient?” he asked rhetorically. “Part of it is the training in Nevada. Part of it is logistical support in Kurdistan, and part of it is inside Iran. M.E.K. now has a capacity for efficient operations that it never had before."
Let us summarize ... The MEK has been trained and financed by the U.S. and Israel for years. The MEK has assassinated several Iranian nuclear scientists. The MEK has spied on the Iranian people by illegally intercepting digital communications. The MEK has been a major propaganda agent in the West's saber-rattling press campaign against Iran. The MEK released evidence of Iranian uranium enrichment on behalf of Israel's Mossad. The fact that the MEK released this information instead of Mossad gives it the veneer of legitimacy, as it is coming from a group of Iranian exiles and dissidents instead of a hostile foreign intelligence agency (even though the intelligence in actuality originated from said hostile foreign intelligence agency).

Now we have a plethora of politicians in the U.S. suddenly and without much precedent emerge on a major campaign to have the MEK removed from the State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, which would allow Western governments (especially the U.S. and Israel) to dramatically increase funding to and cooperation with the MEK in an above-the-board, completely legal manner. In the background, U.S. President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu continue to talk of possible military action against Iran later in 2012 or in 2013.

Get the picture? The West is using the MEK to destabilize Iran and provoke a major military conflict. The MEK is a key piece in the geopolitical "game" that the U.S. is playing in the Middle East and Southwest/Central Asia.

Addendum: Hersh states that the MEK was trained at the Nevada National Security Site, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site. This is one of the most radioactively contaminated sites in North America. It is also just a few miles south of the notorious Area 51. Just an interesting tidbit.

[2]: The Iranian Mojahedin, Ervand Abrahamian, 1989

Sunday, April 8, 2012

California Fisheries Potentially Affected by Fukushima Radiation

A new report states that unusually high levels of radioactive iodine 131 have been detected in kelp off the coast of California.

From the San Francisco Chronicle (4/8/2012):

Scientists from CSU Long Beach tested giant kelp collected off Orange County, Santa Cruz and other locations after the March 2011 accident and detected radioactive iodine, which was released from the damaged nuclear reactor.
The largest concentration was about 250 times higher than levels found in kelp before the accident.
The study's authors suggest that the radioactive particles were brought across the Pacific from the Fukushima area by weather patterns. 

The San Francisco Chronicle article understates the threat that this discovery poses. 

From the Newport Beach Patch (4/7/2012):

Cesium 137 has a half life of 30 years, as opposed to iodine 131's half life of below 10 days, so it may be present in California kelp to this day, said Manley.
"We were limited in what our instrumentation allows us to do," he said. "The big question was, 'is another major isotope that came over in the cloud, cesium 137, present in the kelp, too?' "
Followup work showed varying amounts of low levels of radioactive cesium in seaweed from samples near UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz, the scientists said. No radioactivity was found in seaweed from Alaska.
So the article confirms that cesium has indeed been found off the coast of California. As the article indicates, cesium 137 has a half life of 30 years. This radioactive material is not only here, but will be here for the following three decades.

The article also notes that fish have a thyroid system system that utilizes iodine. The thyroid system regulates hormones. That means the unusually high levels of iodine may affect fish populations in ways we can't even predict currently.

More importantly, it means that these radioactive particles are now in the food chain. California fisheries produce much of the seafood consumed along the coast and transported to the inland parts of the U.S. One has to wonder whether these radioactive particles will eventually make their way into the human population and affect human thyroid systems as well.

As previously stated on this blog, 'developed world' governments have failed to fully account for the damage that the Fukushima accident caused and continue to understate the threat that this radiation continues to pose to human populations all over the globe.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nuclear Policy Contradiction: Nuclear Drones in the Era of Fukushima

Nick Fielding, writing for The Guardian (4/2/12):

American scientists have drawn up plans for a new generation of nuclear-powered drones capable of flying over remote regions of the world for months on end without refuelling.

The blueprints for the new drones, which have been developed by Sandia National Laboratories – the US government's principal nuclear research and development agency – and defence contractor Northrop Grumman, were designed to increase flying time "from days to months" while making more power available for operating equipment, according to a project summary published by Sandia.
Luckily, for humanity:

A halt has been called to the work for now, due to worries that public opinion will not accept the idea of such a potentially hazardous technology, with the inherent dangers of either a crash – in effect turning the drone into a so-called dirty bomb – or of its nuclear propulsion system falling into the hands of terrorists or unfriendly powers.
 Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth (The Economic Times - 4/3/12):

Scientists have found radioactive material from the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor in tiny sea creatures and ocean water some 600 km off the coast of Japan, revealing the extent of the release and the direction pollutants might take in a future environmental disaster.  

Buesseler said the marine radiation levels are comparable to those seen after past accidents, such as Chernobyl accident in 1986.  
Are the leaders of the developed nations mad? Yes, Sandia Labs and Northrop Grumman have halted the project, which we are told was only a conceptual exercise.

Nonetheless, why are taxpayer dollars being spent on such a project? The U.S. is in serious economic distress. Fielding doesn't report on how much this conceptual exercise cost. Nonetheless, a look back at the huge budgets and huge cost overruns with past defense industry projects suggests to me that considerable resources were probably spent on this "conceptual exercise."

The whole project seems so risky and so potentially dangerous that it seems absurd to imagine that intelligent engineers and scientists were willing to spend more than a few seconds on this project.

Have they not been paying attention to the news from Fukushima? Including reports that Reactor 4 of the complex still poses a major meltdown threat. Or the blog chatter reporting on Japanese citizens who have been recording and documenting extraordinarily high levels of radiation in major cities. The world hasn't fully accounted for the fall-out (literal and metaphorical) from the Fukushima disaster. Despite the fact that it still poses a major environmental and health risk to a large chunk of the globe, it's rarely a major topic of discussion in the U.S. mainstream media as of April 2012. The disaster will have a major effect on Japan for decades.

Let's hope that Western leaders learn from the Fukushima disaster and rethink Western nuclear policy, with an emphasis on safety and long-term security.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

U.K. Set to Expand Internet Surveillance

Britain's Telegraph newspaper is reporting that the U.K. government is set to pass legislation that will force internet companies to install hardware that will allow the government to monitor, in real-time, any phone call, text message, e-mail and all internet traffic.

Source: Internet activity 'to be monitored' under new laws

If you're a resident of the U.K., please spread the word to your friends and family. This is vital information for anyone who does business through electronic means and anyone who still (erroneously) has an expectation of privacy.

The director of the 'Big Brother Watch' activist group said:
"This is an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance seen in China and Iran."

What is the "Global Minimum Tax"?

Recently, while at a campaign stop in Iowa, Vice President Joe Biden called for a "Global Minimum Tax." Here's what he said:

"For years, American manufacturers have faced one of the highest tax rates in the world. We want to reduce that by over 20%. We want to drop the rate, particularly, for high-tech manufacturers like you, Mr. President, even further than the 20%. We want to create (what's called) a global minimum tax, because American taxpayers shouldn't be providing a larger subsidy for investing abroad than investing at home."
Many people were shocked. Was Biden suggesting that the U.S. would try to implement some form of taxation on a supranational basis?

 Such a suggestion would not necessarily be new in the U.S. political sphere. In 2009, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in support of a "Tobin tax," which would levy a tax on all conversions of one currency into another. In late 2011, Bill Gates also announced his support for a "Tobin tax."

The "Tobin tax" is named after economist James Tobin. James Tobin argued for his tax idea in a 1978 article in the Eastern Economic Journal titled "A Proposal for International Monetary Reform." In it, he voices support for globally implementing "a common currency, common monetary and fiscal policy, and economic integration" but acknowledges that this is not politically viable. Instead, he suggests the tax on currency exchange which would "be an internationally agreed uniform tax" where the "tax proceeds could appropriately be paid into the IMF or World Bank."

So indeed there has been a serious proposal for a global taxation authority in U.S. politics in the recent past. It's no secret that Paul Krugman's policy writings are a major influence over the Obama administration.

Alas, I don't believe this is what Vice President Biden was referring to. Biden was referring to Gene Sperling's proposal to tax the foreign profits of U.S. based companies and corporations. Gene Sperling is the Director of the National Economic Council. Lawrence Summers held the post before him. Mr. Sperling worked in the Clinton Administration, was on the staff of the Council on Foreign Relations, worked for Goldman Sachs and is a close associate of Timothy Geithner.

Sperling's proposal is astounding. Let's deconstruct the proposal by analyzing Biden's words.

"For years, American manufacturers have faced one of the highest tax rates in the world."
Biden presents this as a wrong that the Obama administration is out to correct. He completely overlooks the fact that the Democratic party played a major role in raising that tax rate to the uncompetitive level it is now at.

"We want to create (what's called) a global minimum tax, because American taxpayers shouldn't be providing a larger subsidy for investing abroad than investing at home."
This is a completely Orwellian way of speaking about the tax proposal. Essentially, Biden is admitting that high tax rates in the U.S. have forced manufacturers to go abroad in order to stay competitive in international markets. American taxpayers are not subsidizing foreign investment. Manufacturers have been pushed into foreign investment by a greedy U.S. government that can't control its spending.

Biden never touches upon the risks of this proposal. He ignores the possibility that, instead of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., companies may simply officially relocate themselves to foreign countries in order to thereby avoid the U.S. tax structure almost entirely. Such a development would be a tremendous blow to the U.S. economy during a fragile period.

In both of the above cases, the "Tobin tax" and Gene Sperling's "Global Minimum Tax," the goal is to limit competition between different economic systems and instead corral everyone into a unitary, uniform financial structure. The "Tobin tax" would make it more expensive to convert your U.S. dollars into a foreign currency. And any such transaction would be subject to regulation by supranational entities like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which are not responsible to any electorate. The "Global Minimum Tax" negates any benefit one might attain by doing business abroad. It is a financial "fence" meant to keep you and your money within the confines of the U.S. tax structure, even if there are far better economic opportunities abroad. This will likely end up greatly limiting U.S. investors and pricing them out of key international markets.


I intend to write about three main topics: (1) economics, the ongoing global financial crisis, markets, and global economic change; (2) civil liberties and democracy; (3) geopolitics and global conflicts.

You know, lighthearted stuff like that.

I may touch upon a few other topics as well.

I'm a historian, so that's the prism I'm usually looking at events through.

I have strong opinions but I don't have allegiance to any particular political label or political party or politician(s).