Lebanon, March 14, Syria

The Return of Hussam Hussam

Lebanese television station Al-Jadeed released another titillating episode in its series “Haqiqa Leaks” a few days ago, this time featuring the notorious Hussam Hussam, a Syrian intelligence agent who came forward early in the Hariri investigation with information incriminating Syrian and Lebanese security officials.

Hussam, like Siddiq (who was the star of his own Haqiqa Leaks primetime special), would later recant his story and claim that he was pressured by March 14th figures to fabricate his testimony. The leaked recording is from an interview conducted with him by a member of the U.N. investigation team in Damascus in 2007. It’s full of all kinds of accusations, among them that he was tortured by Gerhard Lehmann in a subterranean building abutting the headquarters of the Special Tribunal in Monteverdi (a residential neighborhood just northeast of Beirut), and that he was offered $5 million by Saad al-Hariri to round up other false witnesses to help substantiate the tale that he was made to tell.

According to the STL, neither Siddiq nor Hussam’s testimonies are part of the evidence presented to the pre-trial judge, having been deemed unreliable once they recanted. This will not stop many from continuing to argue, however, that the entire case is based on false witness testimony…

And whether or not one chooses to believe a word that the guy says, it’s obvious that whoever is behind these leaks knows just how damaging they will be to the Tribunal’s credibility in Lebanon. Does al-Jadeed have their own Bradley Manning deep in the bowels of the STL’s offices in The Hague? How much more embarrassing material is waiting to be revealed, and when will we see other parties circulating their own “leaks” to counter the Al-Jadeed narrative?

More importantly: don’t you just love Lebanese politics? Not content to be the first country ever to trigger a UN Special Tribunal devoted to the prosecution of a political murder, we are also the first country to coopt the Wikileaks phenomenon (and brand) in the service of undermining said Tribunal. Ghazi Kanaan didn’t know who he was dealing with when he told the Lebanese to stick to entertainment and leave the politics to Syria. Talk about a false choice.

(I’ll  be traveling for the next few days, so please behave yourselves in the comment section…)
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Discussion

223 thoughts on “The Return of Hussam Hussam

  1. So Andy’s in on it to get his pine code by forcing him to smell paint for 15 minutes ?

    I kind of lost interest listening further with the annoying electronic noise which I wonder why it is there to begin with? Hmm … the plot thins.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | January 31, 2011, 8:00 pm
  2. If only the Lebanese Sunnis would recognize their Phoenician roots.

    It’s what Assad fought mightily against to discredit any possible unified Lebanese identity that could break away from Arabism.

    What Arabism between Egyptians, the Saudis, the Syrians, the Palestinians or the Arab Shi’ites is … definitely is on the table.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | January 31, 2011, 8:33 pm
  3. Random #1

    🙂

    I want to know who this Andy fellow is. Siddiq mentioned him too (or was it Saad)? He’s very ominous sounding, precisely because he has such a pedestrian name.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 31, 2011, 8:38 pm
  4. Yeah. Who the **** is Andy? Bring on the theories!
    CIA operative? Elder of Zion?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 31, 2011, 8:48 pm
  5. “UN Special Tribunal devoted to the prosecution of a political murder…”

    A tribunal over which your country has no control and from which it is not allowed to withdraw. Ain’t colonialism grand?
    But I forget. You’re on the side of civilization.

    Posted by Queequeg AbuKhalil the Jew | January 31, 2011, 10:51 pm
  6. Queequeg,
    Why do you persist in making statements that cannot be substantiated?
    Let me remind you that the STL was established upon the request of the Lebanese authorities. A tribunal is not controlled by anyone except the principles of law. This tribunal is essentially based on Lebanese law. And just out of curiosity what does withdrawing from a court that has no membership take place? Ain’t rash judgment Grand? 🙂

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 31, 2011, 11:49 pm
  7. “A tribunal is not controlled by anyone except the principles of law. ”
    And whose law is that? When the UN can impose sanctions for non-compliance? Who was it who said that the Saudi’s were always ready to fight to the last drop of some else’s blood?

    Let’s have the UN investigate Lebanon in its entirely. With full subpoena power. Investigate the last 50 years. Every subject. The Gemayels, Hariri, Hezbollah, Samir Lady Gaga. The whole lot. And then maybe we can throw 3/4 of a million Germans out of the Rhineland and give it to the Jews. That too.

    Ah, sweet justice and the rule of law.
    I come from a family of lawyers by the way. Did I tell you?

    Posted by Queequeg AbuKhalil the Jew | February 1, 2011, 1:03 am
  8. Okay, so the STL might not be fair for not investigating all the murders in Lebanon, but its gotta start somewhere, and what better time than NOW.So stop your whinging.
    Those who claim to be innocent and point the finger down south in true conspiracy fashion are willing to turn the world upside down and smash it to bits rather than leave the STL and see what it bears. All this fire breathing doesnt really fit the label of innocent or framed.
    It seems you all know truly well who did it, but just cant stand the fact that the culprits were caught doing something that has always been the case in Lebanon.Deep down you all smiled and snickered when M14 figures were getting taken out.(plenty of proof both on the airwaves and within social circles). If you knew it was the Sahyoonis, wouldnt you be first to defend the martyred and attack the so called culprits?
    Too blind, too brainwashed to even listen to logic.The sickening Lebanese left who are in bed with theocrats and dictators are prostituted in believing in the anti U.S./zionist cause, cheering for the ousting of Mubarak and defending Assad and the Iranian regime. Bunch of hypocrites.

    Posted by Maverick | February 1, 2011, 1:58 am
  9. It’s damn obvious that Bashar and his entourage ordered the killing of Hariri and Hezbollah executed it with the blessing of Nasrallah. No brainer there. Wake up all and see the light. The STL is here to stay…no matter what.

    Posted by EV | February 1, 2011, 2:31 am
  10. QN, could you please elaborate on your reference to Hussam Hussam as a Syrian intelligence agent, any supporting evidence , documents , confessions to back it up or are just metaphysically taking Harriri’s media and M14 claims at face value .

    Posted by BamBoo | February 1, 2011, 2:37 am
  11. ويلُ لأمّة لا يعلو صوتها إلاّ في جنازة – جبران خليل جبران
    Woe to a nation, not vocal but in a funeral – Khalil Gibran.
    Applying Gibran’s poignancy to the STL:
    الويل لأمّة لا يعلو صوتها إلاّ في جنازة فلان
    Woe to a nation, not vocal but in the funeral of Hariri.

    Posted by noble | February 1, 2011, 3:47 am
  12. To noble@11
    You’re absolutely right again.
    I had the privilege of having dinner recently with a high ranking UN officer [ with a Legal Background ] who was headquartered at the UN in NYC at the time of the launch of STL…and I was amazed at how much she was totally against STL and the whole process of STL…[ She is not Lebanese nor Arab…she comes from South America } She also told me that many high ranking diplomats and UN Bureaucrats were completely against STL and were vocal about it at the time of inception…and those people have been proven right because it is blatantly obvious that STL is just a Political tool for a US/Israeli agenda and a bag full of dirty tricks….pure and simple.

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 1, 2011, 6:56 am
  13. GK @6 – I often enjoy your contributions, albeit no agree with it all, because it reflects a logic based on liberal and democratic convictions.

    Alas, I get somewhat disillusioned when you try to defend the STL from a legal point of view.

    Lest we forget, the passing of the ‘request’ by Lebanese authorities, as you put it, falls quite short of the dictates of the Lebanese Constitution that stiulates, amog other things, that such international agreements ought to be negotiated by the President and passed by Parliament. I say this at the risk of igniting a debate over ‘closed Parliament’ the role of President Lahhoud at the time etc. At least let us consider that there are different views re the legality of establishing the STL from a Lebanese perspective. This in itself renders the said tribunal needing a consensus over its legality.

    As to the STL being subject to, and only to, the rules of law and due process, well the jury is still out on this one, primarily because of what a growing near-consensus sees as political machinations by international interests. A cursory look at the matter of Sudan’s Al Bashir and how the relevant court case coud be subjected to political demands provide perhaps a semblence of credence to that near-concensus. The debacle of the Lockerby affair and the Libyan angle could perhaps be another.

    The fatal weak point, in my humble view, is how everyone who is supportive of the STL, the latest mentioned included, have been actively adamant that either there is no such thing as ‘false witness’ or there is and we will not be touching this matter with a mile pole.

    It just makes one think!

    Regards

    Posted by QuestionMark | February 1, 2011, 7:11 am
  14. Machiavelli once wrote that Princes… should see to it that they are either respected or feared; what they must avoid at all cost is to be despised…. To have made itself despised as irrelevant: That is the legacy of USA’s faithlessness and willful blindness in Lebanon for Decades and throughout the Greater Middle East….Where the Kissinger Bible in US Foreign Policy still carries the day…from Quetta to Darfur…attempting to create/impose Hundreds of Tribes with Flags in order to serve pure Israeli Interests….Now, Blowback is upon us with a Vengeance….

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 1, 2011, 7:51 am
  15. Paradoxical is our beloved USA. On one hand it’s the epitome of civilized society – is an American white? is he Black? Christian, Jewish, or Muslim?
    Like him or not, electing a minority president with a Hussein middle name supports the above.
    On the other hand we pay little attention to Bill Clinton’s pastor warning him from his deathbed. “you will make mistakes and God will forgive you. But God will never forgive you if you forget the state of Israel.”
    I am not against the state of Israel. I am against Israel’s behavior and the carte blanche given it by our government.

    Posted by noble | February 1, 2011, 8:29 am
  16. BamBoo

    I’m basing this on Hussam’s initial confession. He never denied that he was a Syrian intelligence agent, although he did deny everything else he said. But let me know if I missed something.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | February 1, 2011, 9:12 am
  17. Queequeg said:

    “I come from a family of lawyers by the way. Did I tell you?”

    Your style of argumentation is very amusing. Why should we care if your family business is lawyering, what your religion is, and where your cousins live? You seem to think that this somehow lends substance to your arguments.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | February 1, 2011, 9:17 am
  18. QuestionMarks,

    First STL was formed by UN under chapter 7. Whether Lebanon agrees to it or not is irrelevant.

    Second, the so-called ‘false witness’ non-issue is a creation of HA’s imagination to avoid answering to a possible accusation.

    Third, if HA has nothing to fear then it should simply submit to STL authority.

    That’s all there is to it.

    Posted by anonymous | February 1, 2011, 9:18 am
  19. It is clear that Mubarak has no choice of staying in power and that he is trying to appeal to the sense of lawful behaviour by the citizen. I am wondering what would be the reaction if he pulls a Lyndon Johnson by announcing officially that he is not a presidential candidte in the upcoming Sept. election?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 1, 2011, 10:33 am
  20. Noble@15
    History will tell that the Europeans introduced a nasty virus into the Middle East….Israel…. that corporate Americans of “more than one faith” sought to exploit throughout the last 70 years….and STL is their latest Stunt which will go down in flames…

    It didn’t take that long, in earthly terms, for mother nature and the Free Spirited Peoples of the area to react to it….

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 1, 2011, 11:06 am
  21. Question Mark:

    On GK, “I often enjoy your contributions, albeit no agree with it all, because it reflects a logic based on liberal and democratic convictions.”

    So when you don’t agree with him it’s because you have no liberal or democratic convictions?

    The point is that the “False Witness” really is a non-issue (in terms of investigating the assassinations).

    Let us take the worst case scenario, and pretend there is truth to it. Let’s say Saad Hariri or some UN official paid Hussam a million dollars to give testimony against the Syrians.

    So what does this prove? That the course of justice was tainted? OK. But does it get us any closer to the perpetrators of the assassinations? Really?

    The Aoun (FPM) logic is that “Follow the False Witnesses” and you will get your killers. But this logic is flawed as per the point above.

    So what we are left with is a segment of Lebanese society that is interested in finding out who the perpetrators are. And another segment who is not interested in finding out the perpetrators. The first support the STL. The others don’t. It’s as simple as that.

    Moby Dick:

    Come of it. Why not investigate the last 10,000 years of history while we’re at it. The focus on Hariri and subsequent killings is not because they are more special. It’s to draw a line in the sand that says Enough is Enough.

    If for you, Enough is not Enough, then defacto you are promoting a civil war mentality.

    Posted by Gabriel | February 1, 2011, 1:03 pm
  22. #20 Anonymous2

    A couple of times now you have referred to some pre-colonial Middle East as “natural”. I find that not only a strange reading of history, but also troubling in that such discourse has a history of legitimizing incredible violence to cleanse a people of its impurities.

    Posted by Jonathan | February 1, 2011, 1:30 pm
  23. Professor Cole has a decent post on Egypt. If you are interested then go to:

    http://www.juancole.com/2011/01/egypts-class-conflict.html

    Posted by ghassan karam | February 1, 2011, 2:49 pm
  24. GK,

    Husein Abdul Hussein also has a good article here,

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/opinion/31iht-edabdul31.html?_r=1&sq=hussain%20abdul%20hussain&st=cse&adxnnl=1&scp=1&adxnnlx=1296532833-bLtoYKafhPd51dldrxZIYQ

    Now, it has become clear that Mubarak’s interior ministry was behind all the lawless acts. But the army is behaving very well so far.

    I also do not think that the Syrians will prove themselves less capable than the Egyptians and the Tunisians. The fear barrier is definitelu falling down and very quickly. May be should we call it the ‘Berlin Wall’ of the ME?

    http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/F1F4E5B2-594C-438C-8753-892CEC9871CD.htm?GoogleStatID=9

    Let justice be served.

    Posted by anonymous | February 1, 2011, 3:17 pm
  25. Thanks Ghassan,
    Great piece;Very informative,except that it lacks the use of the word “corruption” when describing the policies of Mubarak and the practices of Egyptian institutions,which tops the complain list among Egyptians.
    It was a surprise that He gave some credit to Nasser’s economical policies,when most people thought Nasser policies were destructive to Egyptian middle class.

    Posted by The Prophet | February 1, 2011, 3:28 pm
  26. anonymous #24,

    I did liken the current events in the Arab world to the fall of communism in the mid 90s, back when we started talking about Tunisia! 🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 1, 2011, 3:32 pm
  27. Nabi:

    I’m not an economist so I’m not sure how much credit he’s giving Nasser, but it seems his point was that whatever infrastructure or econpmic framework Nasser may have put in place in his day, may have helped his regime in his time, but did not account for the inevitable urbanization of society.

    Posted by Gabriel | February 1, 2011, 3:51 pm
  28. It is estimated at least 8 million participated in today’s protests in all provinces. Must take into consideration that many roads were cut off and also the train services was halted on purpose.

    Ghassan may now call for 30 million in order to become par with March 14, 2005 on a proportional basis.

    According to US ex-ambassador to Egypt, Mubarak has only few days left,

    http://www.14march.org/news-details.php?nid=MjczOTU1

    BV 26,

    That could be attributed to’telog-pathy’ from tele-blog.

    Posted by anonymous | February 1, 2011, 3:55 pm
  29. I must admit that whenevr I wrote about Middle Eastern democracy as being inevitable because of the march of history I never thought that I would get to experience freedom and liberty in my life time. I am much more hopeful today.
    The Mubarak regime is history and I fail to understand his obstinancy. He cannot possibly be thinking of a political comeback so why doesn’t he make it eas for himself and the Egypotians by doing what LBJ did . Let him announce officially that he is not a candidate for the new presidential elections in Septamber and that he will spend the next few months making sure that Egypt enjoys an orderly transition.
    People my age are in a sense blessed; we saw the fall of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall and its domino effect in Eastern Europe and now possibly a major breach in the Arab Berlin wall. I can hardle wait to see this new air of freedom and liberty spread to the gulf states and Saudi Arabia not to mention Syria, Jordan, Algiers, Libya Moroco and of course Lebanon. (Have I forgotten any one besides Djiboti, and Somalia?)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 1, 2011, 4:03 pm
  30. I just found out that Mubarak is to announce that he will not seek reelection. His advisers must be reading QN 🙂 I have already mentioned that he should borrow a page from LBJ twice today.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 1, 2011, 4:09 pm
  31. Ghassan,
    He’s expected to resign,unless I’m being too optimistic.
    Not seeking reelection will not be accepted by the protesters.He simply would have done things his way,since He had never announced that He would seek reelection.
    In Not seeking reelection , He would be saying that The Egyptian president is president for life minus few days.

    Posted by The Prophet | February 1, 2011, 4:25 pm
  32. According to NYT, Ghassan is right, Mubarak might just announce that He won’t seek reelection.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/02/world/middleeast/02transition.html?hp

    Posted by The Prophet | February 1, 2011, 4:47 pm
  33. Was The whole revolution meant to decide between Gamal Mubarak or Omar Suleiman to carry on the torch of dictatorship?

    Posted by The Prophet | February 1, 2011, 4:51 pm
  34. Back to Lebanon. GMA shows again his very selective memory/amnesia. He said:
    “وأشار عون الى أنه لم يتم البحث بعد في الحقائب الوزارية، ورفض الثلث المعطل لأنه سيؤدي الى العودة الى وضع مشلول.

    Does he realize that he is admitting that his role for the past 4 years has been responsible for the paralysis. Where is the press? Why don’t they ever hold any of these clowns responsible for his actions?

    anon, I guess the answer to my above question is to be found in the piece that you have posted a few posts back. We just do not have a free press butmouthpieces for various governments and organs.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 1, 2011, 4:58 pm
  35. Dude!!! He will resign once the agreement has been ironed out (most likely with Baradei as he would not talk to Akhwan) in a civil transfer of power from him to military(with a puppet civilian in charge)…The elections most likely will be brought in closer from September. Also, there will be an agreement to redo the parliamentary elections with less corruption!!!

    I think he won’t make it past another week!

    Posted by danny | February 1, 2011, 5:05 pm
  36. He just finished delivering his speech. He is not resigning, but He said He will not seek reelection.

    Posted by The Prophet | February 1, 2011, 5:14 pm
  37. Nabi,

    He has no choice. This ploy won’t work and he WILL resign!

    Posted by danny | February 1, 2011, 5:18 pm
  38. March 14 should not join the Govt.

    They should allow Aoun to pursue his primary objectives of dealing with the false witnesses and the $11 Billion theft issue.

    He is dreaming if Berri, Jumblatt and the Syrians will let him deal with the latter.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 1, 2011, 5:24 pm
  39. Yeah. I don’t think this last ditch attempt of “I will not run for re-election” is gonna fly.

    RE: Aoun.

    I would LOVE nothing more than for someone to collate the contradictory statements made over the years by EVERY SINGLE LEBANESE politician and to post them somewhere where all Lebanese can see them.

    It amazes me the degree of selective memory that the Lebanese people seem to suffer from.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 1, 2011, 5:28 pm
  40. danny
    Well He wants it the hard way, I Think.
    He sounded very comical when He promised to do everything He could not do in 30 years , in just few months.

    Posted by The Prophet | February 1, 2011, 5:28 pm
  41. BV,

    I don’t know whether you have checked Elias Bejjani’s site (he used to be one of the staunchest supporters of clAoun).

    Here’s his total life of lies and contradictions.

    Posted by danny | February 1, 2011, 5:38 pm
  42. Btw, anyone else find the humor and irony in Bashar Al Assad lecturing about the Arab world needing to “upgrade”?
    I found that to be particularly hilarious.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 1, 2011, 5:51 pm
  43. BV
    All Arab leaders are comical.
    Just like Mubarak saying earlier that ,it is not in his nature to give up on his duties to serve the people of Egypt.LOL
    What duties , dude, they want your ass out.lol

    Posted by The Prophet | February 1, 2011, 5:57 pm
  44. “I just found out that Mubarak is to announce that he will not seek reelection. His advisers must be reading QN”

    Ghassan 30,

    That is why I pre-empted you in 28 by predicting you would be calling for 30 million. You may still have some more wishes to come true, who knows? The more people showing the better. It will turn almost into a bloodless revolution achieved solely by people’s power. It would also make me happy as I’m sure the M14ers would now be feeling jealous.

    Which post are you referring to in 34? Just a clue. I do not need a link.

    Mubarak will go by the end of the week.

    Posted by anonymous | February 1, 2011, 6:14 pm
  45. I have a feeling Queequeg is none other than the infamous Dr Angry Arab Asaad Abukhalil
    Lady GaGa gave u away 🙂

    Posted by V | February 1, 2011, 6:17 pm
  46. Badna El Hakika !!

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 1, 2011, 6:21 pm
  47. V,

    I had the exact same feeling ! 🙂

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 1, 2011, 6:22 pm
  48. Else he’s his prodigal student, blogger … or lover 🙂

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 1, 2011, 6:25 pm
  49. Obama is scheduled to make a statement this evening. Stay tune.

    Posted by The Prophet | February 1, 2011, 6:30 pm
  50. The world will become a healthy one when politics becomes as boring to an adult as it does to a kid.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 1, 2011, 6:39 pm
  51. An Algerian paper is reporting that the Mubarak family is estimated to be worth $55 billion.
    All such politicians must be made to answer for their ill gotten wealth. That includes Beri and GMA). How can one parlay a meager salary into billions unless it is a scheme that is worse than that of Bernie Madoff.

    anon, my remark about the Lebanese press was in refernce to the Husein article about what happened at the Arab Conference in Beirut.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 1, 2011, 6:52 pm
  52. Gus,

    He is Bernie’s piggy bank lol. 😀
    You let the cat out of the bag!

    Posted by danny | February 1, 2011, 7:17 pm
  53. Looking at the summary of the HDI report of Arab countries and the summary compiled by GK, could it be linked to the actions we are seeing in some of the Arab countries (and not seeing in others).

    The countries that have seen some sort of action are:

    Tunisia HDI 0.683
    Jordan HDI 0.682
    Algeria HDI 0.677
    Egypt HDI 0.62

    All other Arab countries are either above 0.752 or below 0.589

    Can this imply that the countries where people are acting have reached a threshold where they have developed enough and have the capabilities to act against their governments to fast forward their rights for better life? Could it be that in countries that are not acting, they are either happy with their standards of life (HDI above 0.7), or have many things to worry about (bread on table, fear,..) (HDI below 0.6)

    Following this logic, then the next two countries to watch are: Syria HDI 0.589 where, with time, naturally it will increase and hence the people will demand change. And then SA HDI 0.752, where if for financial reasons (oil prices down, wars in the region,..) it slows down the spending on economy and education, then it’s HDI might drop to the danger zone.

    Posted by IHTDA | February 2, 2011, 4:21 am
  54. 1. Between 1980 and 2007 Egypt’s Human Development Index (HDI) rose 42%.

    2. Egypt’s average annual HDI growth was 10th fastest worldwide and almost double the global average.

    3. Between 2005 & 2008 Poverty, as defined by those living under $2/day, fell over 11%

    4. Only 16% of the population now live on less than $2 per day.

    5. The Gini Index, the international measure of wealth inequality, fell 7% between 1999 & 2007.

    6. The share of the poorest 10% in national income rose 5% and the share of richest 10% fell 6% in the same period.

    The ratio of the wealth of the richest to the poorest 10% also fell 10%.

    Syria is next in line. The opposition has called for mass protests soon…

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 2, 2011, 5:00 am
  55. How Do We Know How Many Protesters Came Out in Cairo?

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/02/01/how_do_we_know_how_many_protesters_came_out_in_cairo

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 2, 2011, 9:37 am
  56. To Mr. Ghassan Karam,

    You forgot Comoros Islands.

    Strange you did not mention Hariri among the thieves to be prosecuted. Hope his “eloquence” did not take hold on some minds. Let’s remember it once again:

    Posted by NR | February 2, 2011, 11:32 am
  57. NR,

    We have seen this a zillion times! Your point please?

    Posted by danny | February 2, 2011, 11:59 am
  58. An Algerian paper is reporting that the Mubarak family is estimated to be worth $55 billion.

    Boy, he must have a huge tax bill!

    Posted by Akbar Palace | February 2, 2011, 12:42 pm
  59. NR
    Its the facts that count. When the recipient of a meager salary ;hardly enough to meet ones daily expenses at a middle class living standard; boasts wealth in $billions then there is only one explanation: unlawful and illegal activities. That seems to be the case of the Mubaraks, Ben Alis and Assads at one level and at a slightly lower one the Beris and the Aouns of the world.
    It cannot be true of those who were already billionaires when they joined government service like the Hariris, Safadi, Mikati, Faris… These individuals might have abused their power for personal gain but that is not an obvious conclusion until solid facts are presented. Meanwhile no one should cast aspersions.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 2, 2011, 12:57 pm
  60. IHTDA
    I think that your conclusions are probably accurate in a general sense. One can obviously conclude that changes in the highly developed countries do take place but since all are functioning democracies that their “revolutions”/regime change takes place through the ballot box.
    In this regard one can say that all the Arab countries, with the exception of the gulf oil exporters, have at best a medium level HDI which becomes even lower once adjusted for inequality combined with very low scores for political freedom. Combine the two Indexes and you get a list of countries with tremendous social, political and economic challenges. Obviously Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco ,Jordan and Lebanon would be at the top of the list.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 2, 2011, 1:07 pm
  61. Hariri sr. dispossessed 57000 families in the center of Beirut without proper compensation. Furthermore, he made Billions from Treasury bills in the early 90s when he initiated policies with over 35% interest rates on the LP. He, his cronies and Bank reaped many Billions of USD. He had a networth of about 3 Billion USD when he came into office and ended up with a Networth of 17 Billion when he died….

    Posted by Jhon | February 2, 2011, 1:11 pm
  62. Well, the Egypt affair has just taken a turn for the worst, it appears.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 2, 2011, 2:12 pm
  63. Jhon, I can’t agree more Hariri and everyone else Berri included should be sued. Berri’s wife owns a contruction company that wins government contracts, but that still pales in comparison to the pillage and plunder that Hariri and his associates have undertaken. I am not accusing them of outright stealing but there is no reason that a sitting prime minister or MP’s company should be winning government contracts or rebuilding our downtown, that is an absolute conflict of interest that has led to the destructive debt we have today.

    When will M14’s platform include not only supporting the tribunal, controlling Hizb’s arms, but also tackling the greatest threat to national security our national debt.

    On another note Raya Hassan chastised Jebran Bassil because he did not have the proper authority for to recommended that Lebanon lower its gas tax. After many weeks of inaction she submitted a proposal to lower the tax by 5000. Why can’t she applaud Bassil for shedding light on this issue, without his vocal support this proposal would have not seen the light under any Hariri administration.

    Morever, Bassil should be applauded for stepping in the way of the M14 a few years ago and preventing the sale of our Mobile telephone licenses at a time when the global economy was faltering. He has lowered costs, increased subscriber numbers, and the ministry is looking better than it ever did, and those successes have been followed by current Minister Nahhas.

    Let’s compare that action/proposals from M8 ministries compared M14.

    Posted by tamer k. | February 2, 2011, 2:13 pm
  64. Speaking of Randa Berri’s construction company; Her company ,back in the nineties , won a government contract to install new water pipes for one big town.The contract was about $8 million , she sold the contract to another company. The same contract was sold to another contractor, before some small contractor took the job for $300 thousands.
    The job was done by the last lucky contractor, right before the liberation of 2000. When the government decided to open the water, the whole town was flooded because most of the pipes were not even connected.
    I’m sure Lebanese from all over the country can tell us of similar example of corruption among Lebanon’s elites.

    Posted by The Prophet | February 2, 2011, 2:28 pm
  65. @63-64

    Very factual indeed….

    Posted by Jhon | February 2, 2011, 2:35 pm
  66. #64…

    Hahahahha. That’s hilarious.

    Posted by Gabriel | February 2, 2011, 2:43 pm
  67. Tomorrow, Egyptians will also be calling for the head of the army for allowing it to stand idly by today’s insanity on Tahrir square.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 2, 2011, 4:30 pm
  68. tamer k,

    since you seem to be the champion of Im bassil here please explain to us how he is building a million dollars worth of a mansion in Batroun. Also, while you are at it kindly explain how the clAoun’s daughters have moved in into condos worth millions…

    Be fair when you talk about corruption! Also, Hariri Sr. bought the downtown core way before he became PM. Get your facts straight! Also, explain how all these amazing M8 ministers seem to be getting rich after they become ministers?

    Posted by danny | February 2, 2011, 4:43 pm
  69. Unless I am mistaken, Aoun’s ego does not allow him to live off karamet el nass … else he would always mention them and thank them for it in his speeches.

    How a Lebanese Army General can support himself and his family in a villa in France without an income for ten years is stupefying to me.

    Where he got the seed money to finance a political party is another mystery.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 2, 2011, 4:59 pm
  70. Danny,

    I am certain there is corruption on both sides I think I pointed that out when I gave the example of Randa Berri, and we can talk about the millions that Bassil and co. maybe squandering.

    But to be fair let’s talk about the land that Hariri and co. (Solidiere) squandered in downtown (a private company has powers of eminent domain… go figure), let’s talk about the St. Georges Hotel, let’s talk about Sukleen contracts, let’s talk government debt owned by the Lebanese Banks that Hariri helped push, let’s talk about the push to sell the telecom licences, let’s talk about the vote buying (as verified by a recent wikileaks document). My point is let’s talk about the billions first before I get into the millions Bassil may or may not have taken.

    Solidere was incorporated in 1994 well after he become Prime Minister, how and when hariri bought his downtown core is irrelevant to me.

    Posted by tamer k. | February 2, 2011, 5:12 pm
  71. billions you say tamer…Miqati is worth more than Hariri. and hariri is worth less than $2 billion according to Forbes. Now which billions are you talking about? I am not a Hariri supporter; but it would bet you a bottle of your choice of wine that no one will dare to bring up any of the ‘transactions” of the past two decades in Lebanon as they and I mean THEY (including Hizb Allah and the rest of the merry men) were all a part of the “seduction”.

    Posted by danny | February 2, 2011, 5:17 pm
  72. Both sides stole significant amounts under Syrian tutelage. I didn’t say Hariri himself stole it all but I those around him did benefit. Yes I am talking about the BILLIONS in INTEREST PAYMENTS that went to the banks, the BILLIONS we could have lost if we listened to Sanioura’s silly plan to privatize the TELECOM companies, the BILLIONS in wealth that was stolen from Downtown Property owners.

    Even after the cedar revolution the pro western democracy loving majority engaged in serious corruption, probably hard to break a bad habit they learned from their former Syrian friends.

    http://report.globalintegrity.org/Lebanon/2007/notebook

    Ghada Eid, whose TV show on corruption, Fassad, has been digging up stories on misuse of power or public funds since early 2005, is never banned or shut down, yet rarely does a corruption scandal ever prompt any action from the judiciary, with the exception of cases that pro-government politicians could benefit from. Cases in 2007 exposing hazardous waste being allegedly dumped into the sea, or other cases involving public officials allegedly landing contracts without having gone through the required tendering and bidding process, have been officially ignored outside the realm of the news media.

    “Things have not changed since the Syrians were in control. Then, as now, if I run an episode on a corruption case that implicates the opposition, the judiciary takes action, but if it’s against pro-government politicians, the judiciary does nothing,” said Eid, adding that her fight against corruption effectively starts with the judiciary, “which is not doing its job.”

    Posted by tamer k. | February 2, 2011, 5:37 pm
  73. tamer k,
    Since I was the one that started this thread by mentioning the rumours that Mubarak has accumulated around $55 billion I feel that I have to respond to your allegations.
    I do not believe that any decent rational responsible individual will condone in any way any theft of public goods or any misuse of public authority for self profit. But you speak of wild rumours as if they are fact. Your accusations are spurious at best. Until someone can present any evidence to the contrary ther does not appear to be much credibility to the accusations against Hariri Sr. besides the fact that Solidere has used some strong arm tactica to rebuild downtown. That might be true since unfortunately we do not have the practice of preventing individuals elected/appointed to government service from conducting business that could be construed as a conflict of interest. Upon election/nomination all the wealth and business interest of indivduals and their families should be put in a blind trust.
    Back to Hariri. Your accusation that he profited from buying Lebanese CD with high rates of interest is rather silly don’t you think? To start with no one has supplied any figures or evidence of this but assuming it is true there is nothing illegal about it. The Bank of Lebanon had to pay these hig rates in order to attract the required funds. Rates are usually, as you well know, commensurate to the level of risk. I know of a large number of individuals who bought these CD and as it happened it has turned out to be a very profitable investment but there were no guarantees. What is the difference between buying CD from a practically bankrupt country and buying say GM bond at $10 per $1000 or maybe Ford at $2 a share. These GM bonds are worth currently at least $35 and each share of Ford is about $16.00 These are exceptionally great ratyes of return but those that got thjem were the ones that were willing to carry the risk associated with them. The same thing is true of Hariri and tens of thousands of Lebanese who benefited from the high interest rates paid.
    Unless you have any solid evidence then I do not think that you have the right to make accusations as if they are factual when in essence they rest on nothing else but unfounded rumours and inuendos.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 2, 2011, 5:46 pm
  74. People don’t change habits and behavior unless they are forced to do so. If someone is a thief, He /she will always be a thief.
    Unless you have laws that are enforced on everyone equally and firmly, politicians(and everyone else) will always be corrupt.

    Posted by The Prophet | February 2, 2011, 5:53 pm
  75. Ghassan,

    In a country like Lebanon a lot of what is said is based on rumor because our government denies us the right to to see how they are spending our money. Case in point the recent debacle over Sukleen, and M14 reluctance to adhere by their democratic, transparent western ideals.

    “Currently, the terms of the deal between Sukeleen and the government are secret, as are the fees the company charges, despite the fact that they are paid from public money.”

    Is sukleen contract among others a matter of national security? Until I am afforded my rights by this government, rumors will have to suffice.

    http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=215009

    There needs to be accountability when debt soars from 2 billion to over 50 billion, whether Hariri profited from it or not. Why is Minister Hassan so reluctant to open up the books from previous administrations?

    Posted by tamer k. | February 2, 2011, 6:06 pm
  76. tamerk,
    I do not wish to divert this discussion to one about sovereign debt. You probably are aware that I am very critical of all the Lebanese policies that are connected to national debt. I believe that they are misguided.
    The fact that debt is so high does not by itself justify accusations of government officials profiteering from these expenditures. We should hold all officials responsible and we have to be able to review and examine all contracts, that is a given. But I am not willing to make accusations that the national debt has served to allow a few to profit. there is no evidence of that. There is no doubt in my mind that many, if not most or maybe all; governemt expenditures in Lebanon are not efficiently spent and embody a lot of waste. Waste however does not mean , necessarily, abuse of power or misuse of funds since one can argue that the optimal model for expenditures in an area is never attained anywhere in the world and so waste is to be accepted as part of the process. What needs to be done is to minimize waste and prevent personal profiteering.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 2, 2011, 6:19 pm
  77. As someone who hasn’t lived in Lebanon (and never will), and only goes there to visit family etc, perhaps I can offer this perspective.

    Drive up and down the coast of Lebanon, and you see abysmal villages and cities. Anyone with a sliver of land has popped a building, completely disrespectful of its enviroment. Nothing seems to fit. Just a congestion of construction projects that have defaced the mountain.

    Don’t get me wrong, as a tourist, there are some nice unspoilt spots. Only very few villages “caught” my eye.

    Then you go to the BCD (is that what it’s called?). It’s not my typical hangout spot, with overpriced tourist traps. But step back and look at it. Every city deserves a gem, a proper seat to the government. The stonework is impeccable. The proportions are right. The “heritage” has been respected. Whether or not you like Hariri, you can’t really fault any of those observations.
    I don’t doubt that some poor fellows were pushed out, perhaps got a little less value for their bullet ridden apartment than they deserved, but I don’t doubt that the individuals alone were powerless to implement the kind of construction project that was needed.

    I visited Beirut several times before the BCD came to be. And several times after the fact. Who can argue that the project was not transformative?

    I don’t think it’s fair to think that (going back to Tamer’s point), a construction mogul from Saudi Arabia coming back to war-torn Lebanon should really “trust” in non-existant processes to clean up the BCD. Why should he? Is there a conflict of interest? Yes, but the circumstances were particular. Nor do I think any other combination of “construction” companies who bid and follow proper business practices, given the situation, would have delivered an output that was just as good.
    I think on that note, Hariri does deserve accolades for accomplishments, even if some of his means were less than desirable, or if he personally benefitted from the whole affair.

    I think the question of who took millions, and who took billions is only part of the question. The other part of the question is who brought in millions, or who brought in billions.

    When I visit, I invariably tour. On a number of occasions, friends tagged along. We eat in restaurants. We go to Sur and Saida and Baalbak and Trablus. And our non-Lebanese monies contribute to the money velocity in Lebanon. I come when it is safe and stable. Otherwise, believe me, an all-inclusive vacation in Cuba at a fraction of the cost would suit me a lot better! These last few times, the number of tourists had been growing exponentially. I went to Harrisa, and was surprised to see Burqaed Saudis buying trinkets. (They don’t let Christians wear crosses in the Kingdom, and here they were touring and sinking their Oil money on trinkets :D).

    What has M8 done to encourage investment in the country? Every time I speak to a Aouni, all I hear is “the M14 crowd is selling Lebanon to the Saudis”.

    Posted by Gabriel | February 2, 2011, 6:22 pm
  78. Someone had mentioned favourably the fact that the tax on oil at the pump is being cut by 5000LL. This has to be one of the most misguided policies ever. In a country that cannot service its national debt and that does not have an income tax structurto speak off the last thing that needs to be done is to decrease the price of energy. The appropriate policy in tghis regard should be increasing the cost of fuel at the pump in order to encourage the use of smaller and more efficient vehicles and the use of public transit . This will also decrease the volume of energy imported whaich will help the balance of payment and the Lebanese pound.
    If one is absolutely certain that the consumers need a respite then offer a tax cut in a different area such as reduced VAT on clothing, school supplies … The last thing that we should encourage is more energy consumption.

    prophet,
    I love the story about the contracting company of Beri’s wife. I must remember that story. I believe that Kamal Jumblatt used to push for a law called: Min Ayn Laka Hatha; (How did you get this? ) It would be great if such a law is enacted and enforced. I am allowed to dream sometime, right? 🙂

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 2, 2011, 6:35 pm
  79. Yeah she is retired now,and busy doing charity work.lol

    Posted by The Prophet | February 2, 2011, 6:47 pm
  80. Gaby @77: Never say never 🙂

    All – by now this has been tweeted so much and posted so much that it will be difficult to find the true originator, but here goes:

    “Mubarak is in DeNile”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | February 2, 2011, 6:55 pm
  81. Ghassan,
    Rumors has it that Beri will revive the call for the law(Min Ayn Laka Hada)K. jumbalt pushes for.lol

    Posted by The Prophet | February 2, 2011, 7:06 pm
  82. HP,
    I think a NYC tabloid carried the DeNile headline on Monday. It is a masterpiece.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 2, 2011, 7:23 pm
  83. Can you please tell me which tabloid was that, Ghassan?

    Posted by The Prophet | February 2, 2011, 7:26 pm
  84. I think the Daily News

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 2, 2011, 7:45 pm
  85. I think this whole thread of baseless accusations against hariri (sr.) is ridiculous.

    The guy came in to Lebanon already loaded and Lebanon’s currency at the time was worthless. It looks like there is a deliberate effort just to smear the guy’s reputation.

    He made his money outside Lebanon. The Lebanese tried as much as they can to suck money out of him and eventually conspired with outsiders to kill him.

    We know for a fact that he was responsible for educating thousands of young people, who would otherwise be carrying weapons, and perhaps still shooting at each other.

    As for Egypt, the battle is over who will be in control of Tahrir Square. According to latest Jazeera report the demonstrators took control back and secured all the entrances. They have also been joined by several huge demonstrations that started from differnt sections of Cairo when people heard of the eruppting fights. The army is asking the demonstrators to leave but they are refusing.

    Ehud Barack is now saying Mubarak’s era is coming to an end and calling for increased spending on Isreal’s army. The US will certainly oblige. What else can it do?

    Posted by anonymous | February 2, 2011, 8:08 pm
  86. anonymous, that last paragraph was what AIG said would happen and he considered that it is good for Israel. The guy has a good predictive capability, even if he seems cold and a-emotional, something atypical of a Middle-Easterner (which he likely is not by genes).

    Posted by Honest Patriot | February 2, 2011, 8:27 pm
  87. “The guy has a good predictive capability, even if he seems cold and a-emotional,”

    I personally find that being somewhat detached and unemotional is actually a big help in making accurate reads and predictions.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 2, 2011, 9:00 pm
  88. HP and BV,

    I am emotional as the next guy, I just understand that my emotions influence my thinking and take that into account explicitly. One technique I recommend is to translate the question at hand into a monetary bet. For example, instead of thinking “will there be a democracy in Egypt”, think instead “am I willing to bet (say $1,000) that there will be democracy in Egypt and if yes at what odds”. The second form of the question allows somewhat more objectivity and detachment. Currently, I would be willing to risk very little money that in 5 years Egypt is a democracy but would need odds of about 15 to 1. That does not mean that there will not be free elections on the way, I just doubt very much that democracy will stick.

    Posted by AIG | February 2, 2011, 9:43 pm
  89. This is something that I learned only today. I have no idea how old or sophisticated is this technology but once you take a look you will understand why the expression” get lost in a crowd” is no longer applicable. I wonder whether the Egyptian police is using this camera.

    Note that every single person who was at the Obama inaugural can be recognized by zooming in on him/her. Just click on the following for a treat of sorts:

    http://gigapan.org/viewGigapanFullscreen.php?auth=033ef14483ee899496648c2b4b06233c

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 2, 2011, 10:22 pm
  90. Hey Ghassan,

    Did you ever use Google Map?

    You can similarly zoom to almost any location in the world in the same way as in your link.

    If you haven’t used it yet,go ahead and try it.

    Posted by anonymous | February 2, 2011, 11:11 pm
  91. @85
    “We know for a fact that he was responsible for educating thousands of young people, who would otherwise be carrying weapons, and perhaps still shooting at each other.”

    Most people forget that.

    When I was in college in the mid 80s, over half the Lebanese students (100+) were paid for by the Hariri Foundation. Invariably, almost every one of them tried their best to renege on the agreement and screw the foundation. Just appalling.

    Posted by htj | February 3, 2011, 12:12 am
  92. anon,
    The similarity to Google Earth did cross my mind except that ( I am told)the camera that is essentially used by security agencies is not a satellite picture. It is simply a camera with a huge ( again I am told 1500 megapixels) capacity to permit a zoom without distortions.
    I guess that you might be right that one can buy from commercial providers pictures that will reveal car plate numbers which is essentially what this is about. Does this mean that the Egyptian security services have a close up of each of the demonstrators? I do not like that.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 3, 2011, 12:30 am
  93. @92

    Maybe they can view each demonstrator and see how many beards to non -beards therefore verifying the nature of the protests.
    Praying to the secular Gods, its the latter.

    Posted by Maverick | February 3, 2011, 12:47 am
  94. Ghassan, The BCD property was taken from owners under the premise of eminent domain for pennies on the dollar + stock options. Even those individuals that were able to rebuild their buildings/apartments according to the Solidere specs were forced to give away their properties. Throughout the reconstruction phase and especially after the largest shareholder was involved in insider trading to a point where he got back all those stock options – also for pennies on the dollar. This is fairly easy to prove, if anyone would dare to do it. It should also be fairly easy to prove how 4billion in wealth in 1992 becomes 27billion in 2005 (I think this was the amount of inheritance). Why don’t they just come out and show us? Also why did Hariri jr get a special law to avoid inheritance taxes passed through parliament in 2005?
    I appreciate your contributions here very much, but can’t take you seriously when you decide to brush over the blatant abuse of power and conflict of interest that is practiced so well by all our politicians.

    Gabriel,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about the ugliness that Lebanon has become. I moved back here 3 years ago, and just about every green spot that I have visited since then is now no longer there. Only a few remain.

    I also agree with you about BCD and that it is not an eyesore. My issue with it is that downtown used to be the epicenter of Beirut. It was a socio-economically mixed epicenter that brought together all 18 sects and more in an area the size of a few city blocks. It was a place that brought the Lebanese together. Hariri made it a place for the rich to play. And when 85% of the population can’t afford a bottle of water in the epicenter of their country, then it is a shame on the city – no matter how pretty it looks.

    Posted by Johnny | February 3, 2011, 2:14 am
  95. Johnny@94
    Fully agree with you, especially the last paragraph…it’s absolutely crucial what you say here. BCD has lost its soul completely, and it’s hard to see how it will ever recover from that, regardless the beauty or the architecture of the BCD.
    Just a correction, Hariri sr. networth when he died was 17 Billion USD and not 27, and the law which was enacted for 2 hours especially for his family…spared them 2 Billion USD which would have gone to the Lebanese treasury…

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 3, 2011, 5:21 am
  96. What’s BCD?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | February 3, 2011, 5:31 am
  97. Beirut Central District

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 3, 2011, 5:45 am
  98. Johnny@94

    I fully agree with you about Ghassan Karam.

    This is but one example about the Siniora-Hariri crooks and his legacy since 93…

    هناك هبات أعطيت للحكومة من قبل بعض الدول ولم تدخل الخزينة

    GK sees what he likes to see and dwells upon what he likes to highlight. Repeatedly presumptuous, flailing about, ignoring blatantly obvious facts about Lebanon’s polity and their utter corruption, probably for being too far away. I don’t take him seriously either,especially his views on Hezbollah, but he has a great intellect…Sad, no one is perfect!

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 3, 2011, 6:04 am
  99. Just exactly who isn’t corrupt in Lebanon?
    2 days ago I left Beirut and had excess baggage and was very casually asked by the Middle East rep to slip him $200 in my passport and he will forget about the official fee.
    Try conducting any business in Lebanon and let’s see if you can without having a special budget just for kickbacks. It’s so outrageous the scope of corruption, we all heard how they try to smuggle in expired food and medicine! So who knows what has been going on for years?

    Those pointing out how Hariri was so corrupt shouldn’t be so selective and let’s hear some stories about General “halaatneey” slayer of all corrupt.

    By the way Greetings from Kabul, sipping Chai here with the Flintstones I can’t stop thinking how ungrateful we the Lebanese are and we think we have problems? Hahayyyyyyy

    Posted by V | February 3, 2011, 6:20 am
  100. Will Israel redress its treatment of Palestinians or the contrary?
    An interesting attack by Syria’s champress.com on the facebook group calling for Syrians to emulate Tunisians and Egyptians. It appears Assad is buying time and I expect him to begin immediate changes that benefit the people of Syria if Egyptians succeed in ousting Mubarak while maintaining peace and order. We should expect radical change in Syria beginning with the release of political prisoners from Syrian jails…
    If Kissinger knew of Youtube, Facebook, iReport… he would’ve considered changing his entire strategy vis-à-vis Arabs and the Jewish state among others.
    I think we are contemplating two scenarios: 1- Success in Egypt and Israel will redress its treatment of Palestinians.
    2- Widespread chaos in the Middle East and Israel will intensify its oppression of Palestinians.

    Posted by noble | February 3, 2011, 6:24 am
  101. noble@100.
    Mubarak will go with a Bang and his cronies will be tried. The longer they drag this thing on, the worse it will get…
    I agree with you on Syria, it’s simmering for sure, but I don’t trust that the Regime will be able to fool the Syrian opposition. Assad has made so many “promises” since 2000 and very few have been kept, despite cosmetic economic changes…On the Democracy front, he is incapable of doing anything, because it will bring the whole Alawite house of cards tumbling fairly quickly.
    I will tell you one thing though. I see the “Jordanian Option” coming upon Jordan like a train wreck, fast and furious…
    On Corruption in Lebanon : Hopeless!

    نتحدث عن أموال عامة مجهولة المصير وتُقدّر بالمليارات

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 3, 2011, 7:22 am
  102. On Corruption in Lebanon…
    Public Debt is around 65 Billion USD in 2011.

    ملف الفساد الذي هو ملف ضخم جدا، نظرا لوجود عشرات المليارات $ من الأموال المهدورة والمسروقة

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 3, 2011, 7:43 am
  103. ما دمتم وصلتم إلى فتح ملف الفساد، هل تملكون أدلة أو وثائق تؤكد وجود هذا الفساد الحكومي الذي تتكلمون عنه؟

    – بالتأكيد.. فعندما نتكلم عن الفساد، لا نتكلم عن موضوع تقديري، بل نتكلم عن الفساد والوثائق بين أيدينا. الأرقام التي بحوزتنا ثابتة وواضحة، ولا يمكن لأحد أن يكذّب ما نقول. الصدق جزء من سلوكي، وكل الذين يعرفونني في لبنان أو في الدول العربية يعلمون أنني عندما أقول كلمة أكون متأكدا من صحتها، ولذلك قلة هم الذين يتجرأون على معاكستي أو مشاكستي بهذا الموضوع الموثّق.

    _ أين تكمن أبرز ملامح هذا الفساد؟

    – في إدارة المال العام، بحيث توجد أموال طائلة مفقودة تتعلق بسلفات الخزينة. فعندما تقر الحكومة الموازنة يستطيع الوزير أن يطلب سلفة بانتظار إقرارها في مجلس النواب، وعلى هذا الأساس، تم صرف مبالغ طائلة من سلفات الخزينة دون تقديم أي مبرر.

    _ بكل صراحة.. هل تتهمون حكومة سعد الحريري بإهدار المال العام أم بسرقته؟

    – حكومة الحريري ارتكبت مخالفات من النوعين. نقول إن الأموال مفقودة، ويمكن أن تعتبر مسروقة بتحقيق عدلي لتحديد السارق، وتكون مسؤولية الحكومة التواطؤ لأنها لم تحاسب، ووزارة المال ستكون هي المسؤولة الأخيرة لأنها لم تطالب بالأموال ولا بالوثائق التي تبرّر صرف هذه الأموال.

    _ بلغة الأرقام، كم يبلغ حجم هذه المبالغ المفقودة، وهل ستطالبون بمحاسبة المسؤولين عن فقدانها في الحكومة المقبلة؟

    – لا تقل عن 15 مليار دولار كحد أدنى

    _ بالطبع أنتم تتكلمون عن حكومة الحريري الأخيرة وليس عن الحكومات السابقة التي تعاقب على رئاستها تيار «المستقبل»؟

    – أنا أتكلم عن كل الحكومات السابقة، لأن الأموال التي هدرت أتت في سياق واحد، بحيث غيّبوا منذ العام 1993 حسابات الخزينة وحسابات القطع التي تحدّد حجم الأموال المصروفة من الخزينة والأموال الواردة إليها، وبناء على ذلك نقول إن أموال الدولة لم تُصرف وفقا لقواعد المحاسبة العامة.. وكمثال على هدر الأموال وعدم معرفة مصيرها، هناك هبات أعطيت للحكومة اللبنانية من قبل بعض الدول ولم تدخل إلى الخزينة، وكل مال لا يدخل الخزينة لا تعرف كيف صُرف.

    _ .. ولكن قيامكم بفتح الملفات القديمة يوحي بأنكم تريدون محاسبة رفيق الحريري حتى وهو في قبره؟

    – هذا الموضوع انتهى لأن الحق يسقط بالوفاة، ولا توجد محاسبة للميت. هناك مسؤولية الموقع ومسؤولية الجريمة. المجرم هو الذي يقترف الجرم، والمسؤول هو الذي يكون في مركز المراقبة والتدقيق، بمعنى أنه إذا كنت أنا وزير المال وتمت سرقة أموال من وزارتي وأهملت التدقيق بها، أتحمل حتما مسؤولية عدم التدقيق ومسؤولية الإهمال، بينما تكون على الطرف الآخر مسؤولية السرقة.

    _ إذن باختصار ملف المال العام سيفتح وسيكون من أولويات برنامج الحكومة المقبلة؟

    – ملف المال العام ستتم متابعته لأنه مفتوح في لجنة المال. ملفات وزارة المال مخيفة، وتوجد أخطاء جسيمة.

    _ ولكن الرئيس المكلف ميقاتي قال إنه ليس في وارد فتح ملفات سابقة في رسالة طمأنة للرئيس الحريري وفريقه السياسي الذي يتخوف من فتح ملفات في وجهه بعد إخراجه من السلطة؟

    – هذا الملف ليس ملفا سابقا، بل هو ملف حالي ومفتوح.. وعندما نتحدث عن أموال عامة مجهولة المصير وتُقدّر بالمليارات، لا أنا استطيع تغطية هذا الخلل، ولا الرئيس ميقاتي يستطيع تغطية هذا الخلل

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 3, 2011, 7:53 am
  104. 12:29am A security official confirmed to AFP that Egypt’s Hizbullah cell escaped in threak.

    I had a feeling the prisoners would escape, as I pointed out in an earlier post… However, I do not support hezbollah’s actions outside of lebanon. palestine is not our problem i hope nasrallah has learned his lesson, hamas ain’t worth it.

    Posted by tamer k. | February 3, 2011, 8:15 am
  105. Tamer k.,

    Hizballah’s core ideology is based on liberating Jerusalem led by the Mahdi himself, they will conquer and rule the whole world.

    so brace yourself for the long haul :).

    Posted by V | February 3, 2011, 8:41 am
  106. Thank you, Anonymous#2 @97

    Posted by Honest Patriot | February 3, 2011, 9:20 am
  107. Kudos to Hezbollah on the escape of their cell in Egypt, Bravo.
    Ominous signs from Egypt… It seems that the Mubarak/Omar Suleiman Regime are going to attempt to pull a Tienanmen. BBC sources are saying that Army and military Police are coordinating with Mubarak’s thugs from internal security and rounding up as many as possible from the MB supporters. They are also trying to completely cut-off access to Tahrir Square, in an attempt to fend off Friday’s demonstrations.
    But the most indicative of an incoming Tienanmen scenario is the systematic effort to attack, destroy, imprison and steal journalists tools/cameras etc, and specifically targeting All foreign correspondents, journalists, their satellite equipment, etc. They are also raiding/rampaging their offices….

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 3, 2011, 9:26 am
  108. A very interesting opinion/analysis piece by Prof. Joshua Landis: http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=8255

    Here’s the question/concern I have: with all such admitted serious social and economic issues in Syria which I have to believe is obvious pale compare to any such issues in Lebanon, is it surprising that a large number of Lebanese, local and expatriates, deeply resent any Syrian interference (not to mention hegemony or attempts at it) in Lebanese affairs?
    Is it any surprise that the 1990-2005 years where an independent Lebanon did not exist but was effectively a Syrian province at least as far as foreign policy goes – but probably even in more areas – is it any surprise that these years, despite their relative security stability, were seen as lost years by many Lebanese?

    The historical and family and other ties between Syria and Lebanon are undeniable. They are strong. Mutual support by the countries is advisable and desirable. There is affinity, common culture, common goals, etc.
    But shouldn’t all this be handled along with full respect of each other’s independence?
    Wouldn’t Syria actually benefit from a prosperous Lebanon that finds a way to be fully non-aligned and act as a broker for peace and as a center for economic exchange for the whole Middle East? Surely, a smart man like Bashar Assad is capable of understanding all this. Is he constrained by his environment and his advisors? How can one logically understand his thinking and his attitude? Befuddling to say the least.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | February 3, 2011, 9:26 am
  109. Anonymous#2, are you the same as Jim?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | February 3, 2011, 9:28 am
  110. Landis is a mouthpiece for the Alawite Regime, a disinformation agent.
    The Alawite Regime should crumble soon and Democracy will come to Syria. Syria’s people are a kind, hard working bunch and deserve no less.

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 3, 2011, 9:34 am
  111. I love it when people applaud the illegal militia that terrorizes Lebanese until it gets what it wants and yet cry for freedom of the masses! Hypocrisy at its zenith!

    Posted by danny | February 3, 2011, 9:58 am
  112. This from Amira Haas about the Israeli illegal militia Killers/assassins of IDF.
    Sooner or later, the protective nets the Israeli tyranny has excelled at creating will tear… Will the masses flood the streets then, will they break through the barriers and roadblocks, march to Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and Psagot, as my colleagues Akiva Eldar and Aluf Benn have predicted?

    Let us not delude ourselves. There will be no confusion here. Precise instructions, clear and immediate, will be given to the Israeli soldiers. The IDF of Operation Cast Lead will not give up its heritage. Even if it is a march of 200,000 unarmed civilians – the order will be to shoot. There will not be 10 dead, because the army of Cast Lead will want to outdo itself. We have not yet reached the stage in which the machinery of Israeli repression breaks up into its component parts – the people – who instead of obeying, begin to think…

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 3, 2011, 10:16 am
  113. Very interesting interview with an Egyptian reporter that recounts his ordeal during the turmoil in Cairo.

    http://nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=237071

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 3, 2011, 10:53 am
  114. It will be interesting to see what will happen to the value of the Egyptian Pound once banks open.

    This is probably going to crash the Egyptian economy.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 3, 2011, 11:12 am
  115. Johnny says:

    “I appreciate your contributions here very much, but can’t take you seriously when you decide to brush over the blatant abuse of power and conflict of interest that is practiced so well by all our politicians.”

    As someone once said “I love to be quoted but I hate to be misquoted” 🙂 I will have to disagree rather strongly with your above statement because I have not brushed aside abuse of power or conflict of interst . Actually I have often described the Lebanese political system as being built on corruption and so the only reform is to change the whole culture… My only objection in one of the above posts was to people repeating accusations as if they are facts and without submitting any evidence. If a system is corrupt then that is not a licebse to level unfounded accusations. I have argued from long ago that the Lebanese state should not have allowed the firm of the PM to undertake the largest civil construction project in the history of the republic . To have the same authority in charge of imminent domain and construction does represent a huge conflict of interest.
    One can argue that Lebanon was in a dire situation at the time and had to come up with a workable solution, a solution that will provide the momentum required to get such a large project going. That would be true but that does not mean that a different structure for competitive bids could not have been undertaken. The better models for urban renewal usually will have the state acquire the land and then auction plots one at a time with conditiond attached to ensure the integrity of an overall plan. All of that is academic at the moment since the Lebanese/Syrian authorities at the time approved the project. What we need to do in this regard is to appoint a commission of urban planners, architects, economists… to review the whole process and come up with suggestions about how such projects are to be handled from here on so as to ensure conflict of interest.

    I have objected and still do to the allegations that Sa’ad Hariri and Saniora before him have used the issue of sovereign debt to enhance their personal wealth. I have not seen any evidence of this besides the fact that interest rates at one time were very high and supposedly Hariri Sr. and others bought such CDs. I am not sure that this is true but even if it is there is no wrong doing in this case. Accusations must be based on solid evidence or at least the appearance of an improprietry similar to that of Marcos of the Phillipines whose official salary was only a $1 a year and yet accumulated over $10 billion. Min Ayn Laka Hatha will be very appropriate.

    In the final analysis I am suggesting that suspicion that funds might not have been accounted for is noit the same as a final determination that funds have been absconded. Whenever suspicions arise then it is time to investigate and wait for the results of the investigations before accusations of specific individuals are made.
    What I also find amusing regarding the case for reform in Lebanon is that the primary accuser at the moment is also the one who cannot explain any of his illgotten wealth. (Wikileaj=ks made it very clear that GMA/FPM were the major financial beneficiaries of Doha:-)). This does not mean that corruption is to be accepted. Far from it Lebanon will not attract any major international investment when it is listed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Let me conclude with what has become a standard line for me: Save Lebanon: Sack Its Political Class. They are irredeemable.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 3, 2011, 11:48 am
  116. RTOTD # 114,
    And that is when a good capitalist buys.:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 3, 2011, 11:57 am
  117. The longer I study Lebanon, the more amazed I become at the blatantly unfair manner in which the law is applied there… When it comes to gangrenous corruption, criminality, or even treating people fairly, we are on the level of a banana republic… The law is often selectively enforced…

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 3, 2011, 12:30 pm
  118. “On the level of a banana republic” ?
    You just figured that out?

    Come on. Lebanon has been a failed state / banana republic since 1943. There really is no such thing as Lebanon.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 3, 2011, 2:24 pm
  119. @ Johnny #94

    I get it. You don’t like the man. That’s you prerogative. I’m not a huge fan myself. But unsubstantiated claims in a forum such as this one are a different matter. No one is claiming the man is a saint. GK has replied to you so eloquently, but I would like to add the following points.

    Forbes magazine listed Hariri Sr.’s net worth at $4.3B in 2005. Not at $27B as you claim or even $17B. You might have better sources than Forbes. I just wonder what they are. Also in 2005, Forbes listed Carlos Helu’s net worth at $13.4B. Helu’s net worth climbed to over $53B in early 2010 according to the same magazine. Should one start accusing Mr. Helu of corruption and unfair business practices just because his net worth more than tripled in less than 5 years?

    I have heard the same arguments over and over again: Imminent domain, pennies on the dollar, forced evictions, so on and so forth… and when I question the validity of these statements, the answer invariably comes back: Everybody knows this. It can be proven. But I must admit that your answer is a new one on me:

    “This is fairly easy to prove, if anyone would DARE to do it. “

    I was wondering who is afraid of Hariri these days: Al-Akhbar, Al-Jadeed TV, Anyone in the March 8 coalition, just to name a few? And why don’t they DARE prove any of these claims.

    Posted by htj | February 3, 2011, 3:26 pm
  120. Ghassan 95,

    I do not think that technology is yet available in real time for commercialization. I do not know how often Google or other engines update their images

    Real time technology in this area may be available to certain governments, but I think they cannot achieve the same level of resolution as in the link you’ve shown. The government that will first possess that level of resolution in real time will be the one to rule the world. Hopefully before that happens, camouflage technology would have advanced far enough to prevent that from happening.

    Egypt however is turning very ugly. Mubarak actually was making a veiled threat when he said in his last speech that he intends to die in Egypt. Now we understand what he meant,

    http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/293F1ECF-ACAD-4AB4-8C3C-5EFA7C40A160.htm?GoogleStatID=1

    http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/077E884E-472D-4270-ACBE-7602AD27B0C9.htm?GoogleStatID=9

    One of the above Jazeera stories is doing its best by arguing very cleverly to show that the US will be the ultimate loser out of the Egyptian revolution.

    Posted by anonymous | February 3, 2011, 3:28 pm
  121. The most blatantly censored forum on Lebanon and regional affairs is the Orange Room.

    Why is there no one that has pointed this out yet?

    I think it’s easier to get a comment past North Korean administrators than it is on tayyar.org.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 3, 2011, 3:33 pm
  122. Do tell, RandomThought… 🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 3, 2011, 3:48 pm
  123. Amanpour clinched the interview of the moment.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 3, 2011, 3:49 pm
  124. I haven’t seen it yet but I guess this is Amanpour’s *Robert Frost* moment.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 3, 2011, 3:56 pm
  125. I haven’t seen it yet but I guess this is Amanpour’s *Robert Frost* moment.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 3, 2011, 3:56 pm
  126. Ooops ! David … not Robert.

    Wrong Frost 🙂

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 3, 2011, 5:08 pm
  127. Here’s some updates from al-jazeera. One story contains some of Amanpour’s questions in that interview. Mubarak said he really wants to leave but he could not find anyone to replace him yet and is afraid Egypt will not be able to live without him,

    http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/F493B873-C40F-4FD2-A8F9-88D2A3220DC1.htm?GoogleStatID=9

    http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/33E51ED4-7283-43B0-8864-1AB61AE87378.htm?GoogleStatID=9

    Posted by anonymous | February 3, 2011, 9:14 pm
  128. anon,
    Thanks for solving the mystery of the original meaning of “Baltagy”. I have been trying to determine its root for two days.

    Posted by ghassan karam | February 3, 2011, 9:40 pm
  129. Ghassan,

    Notice the similar styles between the “Baltagy’s” and the black coat paraders that we saw in Lebanon not long ago.

    The above links actually does not refer to Amanpour’s interview. But Mubarak did tell Amanpour essentially the same thing I mentioned in my previous comment. He said he’s had enough public service for over 62 years. But it is not possible for him to leave because of concerns as I mentioned above.

    Posted by anonymous | February 3, 2011, 10:10 pm
  130. How did I guess?

    “Lebanon’s political parties divided over Egyptian protests
    March 14 warns against interference, while March 8 vocal in support of demonstrators”

    Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=124533#ixzz1CxXhI4XT
    (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

    Posted by Queequeg AbuKhalil the Jew | February 4, 2011, 12:02 am
  131. Honestly Moby Dick,

    Have you no shame?

    Posted by Gabriel | February 4, 2011, 12:20 am
  132. At times it becomes embarassing to be an academic in the US while you feel obliged to support a dictator.

    Joshua Landis splits hairs with Mona Yacoubian to desperately spin anything positive out of the Egyptian revolt for his in-law in Damascus,
    http://static.bloggingheads.tv/ramon/_live/players/player_v5.2-licensed.swf

    At the moment, the US is actively seeking the replacement of Mubarak. They want Suleiman to take over. But will the demonstrators buy that?

    Posted by anonymous | February 4, 2011, 12:55 am
  133. The link doesn’t work in the above comment. Sorry, here’s one that works,

    http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/33981?in=00:00&out=62:49

    Posted by anonymous | February 4, 2011, 12:57 am
  134. Ghassan @ 115. Thank you for the eloquent clarification. I agree with you that accusations should not be mistaken for facts. Somebody needs to open a case. We need some forensic auditors to come in here and figure this financial mess out.

    Question for the jurists on this blog: Can a mass of citizens file a corruption case in the Hague against an entire political class?

    Anonymous2 @ 98 says about Mr. Karam: “Repeatedly presumptuous, flailing about, ignoring blatantly obvious facts about Lebanon’s polity and their utter corruption, probably for being too far away.”

    I could not agree LESS with this statement – as is evidenced by Mr. Karam’s response in 115.

    HTJ @ 119 says: “I was wondering who is afraid of Hariri these days: Al-Akhbar, Al-Jadeed TV, Anyone in the March 8 coalition, just to name a few? And why don’t they DARE prove any of these claims.”

    They don’t DARE because they are equally corrupt – and have stolen as much if not more than anyone else. Look no further than Mr. Berri for the biggest thief in the country. They know enough not to throw stones from a glass house. The only person that doesn’t follow this rule in Lebanon is GMA. But that’s his thing. Get angry and rile the masses and they wont consider how a former army general lives in a mansion in Rabieh and was able to support himself in Paris for so long.

    V @ 99, It just happened that this post was directed against Hariri. I have no liking for any Lebanese politician. I have called for revolution and imprisonment of the entire political class on this blog before.

    Enjoy Kabul, I didn’t like it nearly as much as Jalal Abad – which has some of the most beautiful vistas – and quite possibly the largest roses – in the world. The Afghans really know how to garden.

    On petty corruption: When I moved back to Lebanon three years ago I had to pay off the customs agent by the actual amount of duty I owed on my household effects shipment lest he double the official charge. This is neglecting the fact that I was eligible for my once in a lifetime duty free entry of household effects – considering I had been out of the country for 15 years at that time. The agent’s response was: yes, you have been out of Lebanon for 15 years, but you only lived in the last country you were in for 2. Minimum of 3 years to be eligible for duty free. You can either pay me the correct amount, or I charge you double for an ‘official’ receipt.

    I think it was Random who said it best the other day: Egyptians have it easy. Only one ruler to get rid of. We in Lebanon have at least a dozen.

    It always amazes me that a people who think they are the smartest in the world can be so ignorant about how their zuama abuse them day in day out. There is no exception to this. We need to purge the entire political class and develop a new constitution.

    Otherwise BV is right. Let’s stop this farce called Lebanon and become Syrian lackeys again.

    Posted by Johnny | February 4, 2011, 2:15 am
  135. And who knows. If we do join Syria, maybe we can help the Syrians reach the tipping point and rid ourselves of yet another Arab despot.

    Posted by Johnny | February 4, 2011, 2:40 am
  136. Since the beginning of Egypt uprising I have had this nagging question: why only tens of thousands are participating in the demonstrations? With all the media coverage, the momentum this movement have and the fact that the population of Cairo alone is almost 8 million, why not more are participating?
    In Lebanon with a total population of 4 million, every party can mobilize hundreds of thousands whenever they please!

    Posted by IHTDA | February 4, 2011, 9:31 am
  137. Well it seems it have reached 2 Million today according to some reports

    Posted by IHTDA | February 4, 2011, 12:02 pm
  138. IHTA,
    Most Egyptians are still fearful of the internal security forces. It takes time to get that fear out of people’s psychic.
    Iraqis had to see and watch Saddam being executed ,otherwise they may not have believed He was dead.lol
    Plus, Egyptians don’t enjoy the money of Hariri and HA ,and their free transportation.

    Posted by The Prophet | February 4, 2011, 12:06 pm
  139. McCain calls Middle East pro-democracy movements a ‘virus’: ” …

    Israel is in danger of being surrounded by countries that are against the very existence of Israel, or governed by nationalist radical organizations.”

    Congress Prepares to Renew the USA Patriot Act, Corporate Media Silent….

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 4, 2011, 12:23 pm
  140. Prophet
    Probably you’re right. But with such a historic event I would have imagined more participation.
    Now the fear barrier has been broken and I think if the crowds do not increase drastically, Mubarak will stay in the office till the end of his term.

    Posted by IHTDA | February 4, 2011, 12:31 pm
  141. IHDA,
    We should also keep in mind that, in addition to nearly 2 million police and internal security personal, the majority of local officials belong to the ruling party.
    Also most roads between major cities are blocked, all public transportation has been suspended by the authorities.
    The thugs of the regime are harassing,and attacking those who are trying to reach major squares by foot.
    One other thing to remember,is that Lebanese always demonstrated when some event took place as far away as china,lol

    Posted by The Prophet | February 4, 2011, 12:56 pm
  142. It will spread globally… Humanity is sick of oppression and we have it everywhere from overt dictators in undeveloped nations to smoke-and-mirrors Western democracies with their controlled paradigms and the sheeple awakening to the fact that maybe this corporate fascism ain’t grandpa’s American Dream or democracy after all. This is fueled by the oxygen of a rapidly spreading economic collapse.

    Oh yeah, this whole thing is coming down like a house of cards. Globally.

    Posted by cvghfx | February 4, 2011, 1:27 pm
  143. @ cvghfx

    I heart you 🙂

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 4, 2011, 2:11 pm
  144. It’s funny how events in the Wider ME have taken over the discussion.

    Mikati, Hariri, who cares anymore, lol 🙂

    Posted by Gabriel | February 4, 2011, 2:37 pm
  145. The AIPAC Amen corner in USA as far as FP goes, and the greedy elevation of food prices by futures investors and hording of grains to manipulate the prices seems to be part of the inevitable financial collapse. Ironically the big tent would come down on the ones trying to boost the prices, as well as on the rest of the World.

    Posted by Jhon | February 4, 2011, 2:48 pm
  146. Jhon,
    So who is trying to manipulate the prices of food? Is the Zionists again?:-) Do you think that the additional demand for a stagnant supply of food and a lower dollar has anything to do with it? I guess that is too easy of an explanation so why not predict “the collapse of the tent upon those that are trying to boost the prices?”lol

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 4, 2011, 7:06 pm
  147. It’s much easier to spew out random nonesense than to actually think things through, make rational arguments, or God forbid, put one’s money where one’s mouth is.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 4, 2011, 7:19 pm
  148. The only claim to fame we have as a nation is our Phoenician ancestry.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 4, 2011, 7:48 pm
  149. We invented the alphabet or somesuch!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 4, 2011, 8:09 pm
  150. And don’t forget hummus!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | February 4, 2011, 8:09 pm
  151. We’re also famous for inventing Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Judaism, the Shi’ites and every other religious fanatic that holds our well being hostage.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 4, 2011, 8:24 pm
  152. But what we are most famous for is marrying foreigners to save our heritage.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 4, 2011, 8:57 pm
  153. Interesting comments on corruption but rather than trust popular uprising to change such a situation, one needs to understand the structural limitations involved in all neoliberal settings. Other crooks will replace existing ones (whether in Tunis, Egypt or Lebanon); as long as the economic system and the corresponding sociocultural and political frameworks remain the same corruption, exploitation and oppression will always characterize politics in any/all countries (usa, Russia, or China at the forefront). It is time for those interested in politics, regional or global, to study alternatives–whether through socialist or keynwsian kinds of planned economies that do not rest on structural exploitation and pure contingency. Cynicism is a good start, but enough with the empty promises and the disempowerment based on cheap hopes and costly fears.

    Posted by parrhesia | February 5, 2011, 2:55 am
  154. Confessions Of A Wall St. Nihilist: Forget About Goldman Sachs, Our Entire Economy Is Built On Fraud…

    by Mark Ames

    April 30, 2010

    There was a strange moment last week during President Obama’s speech at Cooper Union. There he was, groveling before a cast of Wall Street villains including Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein, begging them to “Look into your heart!” like John Turturro’s character in Miller’s Crossing…when out of the blue, the POTUS dropped this bombshell: “The only people who ought to fear the kind of oversight and transparency that we’re proposing are those whose conduct will fail this scrutiny.”

    The Big Secret, of course, is that every living creature within a 100-mile radius of Cooper Union would fail “this scrutiny”–or that scrutiny, or any scrutiny, period. Not just in a 100-mile radius, but wherever there are still signs of economic life beating in these 50 United States, the mere whiff of scrutiny would work like nerve gas on what’s left of the economy. Because in the 21st century, fraud is as American as baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet Volts–fraud’s all we got left, Doc. Scare off the fraud with Obama’s “scrutiny,” and the entire pyramid scheme collapses in a heap of smoldering savings accounts.

    That’s how an acquaintance of mine, a partner in a private equity firm, put it: “Whoever pops this fraud bubble is going to have to escape on the next flight out, faster than the Bin Laden Bunch fled Kentucky in their chartered jets after 9/11.”

    And that’s why this SEC suit accusing Goldman Sachs of fraud is really just a negotiating bluff to give Obama’s people some leverage–or it’s supposed to be, anyway–according to the PE guy. He dismissed all the speculation that the fraud investigations would turn on other obvious villains like Deutsche, Merrill, Paulson & Co., the Rahm Emmanuel-linked Magnetar and so on.

    “You don’t get it, Ames. Even Khuzami, the SEC guy in charge of the Goldman case, is a fraud; the fucker was Deutsche’s general counsel when they pulled the same CDO scam as Goldman. You have no idea how deep this goes.”

    And it’s clear that a lot more people here are aware of how fundamentally rotten things are but they’re not willing to face the big fraudonomics bummer yet, preferring instead to stick with specific accusations.

    My position on this was, “Good, throw the book at those crooks too, I don’t see what the problem is here.”

    This was exactly what I argued a week ago, during a verbal slapfight with that acquaintance of mine. We were making a scene in a Midtown yuppie restaurant, arguing over just how much damage Wall Street had caused, and what to do about it.

    His position was indefensible, and he knew it, so he switched tactics:

    “OK Ames, which bankers would you throw the book at? Because you’re arguing that they’re all guilty. So which ones do you go after? Two of them? Three? Half of them?”

    “Every last one of them. Lock ’em up in one of their private prisons.”

    “Not gonna happen, Che.”

    “Che? Me? Listen, Scarface, I’m about law and order. Don’t any of you PE degenerates believe in that anymore?”

    “OK, here’s the deal, Che. I’m going to walk you through this nice and slow so that even an agave-sweetened hippie like you can understand this. Stick with me, this is gonna be a little complicated. Ready?” And so he began.

    “Let’s say the government decides one day, ‘You know, we oughta listen to Che here, let’s throw the book at every firm and every executive that our people can make a case against. Because you know, gosh, it’s all about rule of law and blind justice, just like Che says.’ OK, so now this means indicting just about every serious player in finance, so they take down Goldman Sachs, they take down Citigroup, JP Morgan, BofA… and they also serve all the big funds who are at least as guilty, if not more. So they shut down Pimco, Blackrock, Citadel… maybe they indict Geithner and Summers, haul in some of Bush’s crooks… right?”

    “Too bad they don’t serve popcorn here, this is getting good.”

    “OK, now guess what you’ve just done? You’ve just caused the markets to completely tank. Remember what happened after the Lehman collapse? Remember how popular that made every politician in Washington? Still wondering why they coughed up a trillion bucks? They were scared for their lives; that’s why they voted for that bailout. You’d have done the same goddamn thing. But if we go after everyone guilty of fraud and theft, the market crash this country would see would make 2008 look like Sesame Street. Open that can of worms labeled ‘Fraud’ and the whole fucking economy collapses. You may as well prosecute people for masturbating. No one will know where the fraud investigation stops and who will be charged next–everyone will try to cash out, and the markets will tank to zero. And guess what happens when the markets tank to zero? Every fucking American with a retirement plan, or an investment portfolio, or a 401k–every state pension plan in the country, every teacher’s pension fund, every fireman’s pension–every last one of them will be wiped out. That’s what the Lehman collapse taught us.”

    “Us? It didn’t teach anything but that this country is run by maniacs.”

    “Jesus H. Christ, Ames– you’re even more clueless than the idiots who managed the Lehman collapse. I mean, didn’t everyone get it how badly those idiots screwed up with Lehman? It was the biggest screw-up this hemisphere has ever seen. You had Secretary Paulson and Fed Chief Bernanke scratching their asses not knowing what to do, so then they go, ‘OK, we’re supposed to be a free market economy, and we’re supposed to be the Republicans–let’s try something different for a change since nothing else is working. Let’s go out on a limb and actually give this “free market” thing a whirl. Who knows? Maybe the “free market” really works the way we always say it does. Nothing else seems to work, let’s let the free market decide Lehman’s fate. Maybe corporate-socialism isn’t the answer.’ So they hung Lehman out in the free-market, and BAM! The. Shit. Hit. The. Fan. No shit, dudes–the free market is for suckers, didn’t your daddy teach you idiots that? Not only did Lehman collapse–everything collapsed; confidence in the entire system collapsed. And here’s what I’m trying to explain to simpletons like you: Our economy is just a confidence game. Don’t ask me how it got this way, don’t care.”

    I tried saying something insulting to him, but he just talked right over me, lurching forward baring his laser-whitened teeth.

    “I’m sure you have the answer, you and Ron Paul and all the other pot-smoking libertarian do-gooders have it all figured out. But what I’m saying is, no confidence means end of the confidence game. That’s what Lehman showed. Every single player in finance suddenly had to face the fundamental problem–this whole fucking economy is built on fraud and lies and garbage. So when Lehman collapsed, every single player panicked, going, ‘If Lehman was nothing but a Ponzi scheme–and I know what I’m running is a Ponzi scheme–holy shit, that means everyone else is running a Ponzi scheme too! Run for the exits!’ No one trusted anyone else, everyone pulled out, and the entire global economy collapsed just like that. And that meant your parents, my parents, every teacher, every fireman, every person in the country going into retirement, every price on every asset–wiped out.

    “And here’s what I’m trying to get you to understand: In the grown-up world, when an entire country’s savings accounts are wiped out because of some do-gooder and his law books and his Thomas Jefferson ‘What about free and fair markets?’ crap, that is a big problem–people don’t give a fuck about Jefferson and ‘free and fair markets,’ they just want their savings to be worth something. And people are right: Jefferson was an imbecile. He should have been a folk singer, not a Founding fucking Father. But that’s another issue that’s over your head–the point is, the guy who destroys this economy because it’s ‘the right thing to do’ will have to flee for his life, and whatever president or political party was in power when that decision was made will be out of power for the next 200 years. That’s why Washington panicked and passed ‘the bailout,’ they didn’t want to be the fools whom all the Ponzi victims blame for tanking the Ponzi scheme, so they broke the glass and pumped up a newer, bigger Ponzi scheme. It was an expensive 14 trillion dollar lesson in, ‘Stay the fuck away from free-market experiments, assholes!’ How naive are you people to actually believe that ‘free market’ crap? The problem is when people in power are stupid enough to listen to guys like you: all the do-gooder libertarians and the do-gooder free-market Republicans who forgot that they’re supposed to lie. Hello!”

    “Libertarian, me? Since when was I ever a libertarian?”

    “That’s my point: Fools like you don’t even know who you are anymore. They forgot that they’re supposed to lie about all that libertarian free-market shit, keep it far the fuck out of policy. But instead of just lying about free-markets while secretly propping up Lehman, the idiots actually tried pulling off a ‘free-market’ miracle, and we had to pay $14 trillion just to find out what I could have told them for no fee at all, which is: ‘Hey, assholes, you’re supposed to be hypocrites, OK? You’re supposed to be two-faced free-market liars, not libertarian Quakers! You’re not supposed to believe in anything–your job is to get up in front of the public and lie about free markets and the rest. Period.’

    “That’s it, how fucking hard is it? Look, watch my face: Say one thing out of one side… and do the other out of the other side. Got that? Let everyone else whine and cry about, ‘Ooh, that’s not fair, ooh, that’s a bailout, that’s socialism, that’s corruption.’ That’s what losers do–they whine. You, for example, Che–you whine all the time, and look at you… Can you pay the bill for this meal? Is there a libertarian on earth who can afford to buy a decent meal in Manhattan? And now, look at me: I’m a hypocrite. Hell yes I am! I lie every day of my life, I lie to myself in my sleep. Hell, I’m lying to you right now, in fact I don’t even know what the fuck I’m saying anymore because I’m so used to lying. And yet–who’s the guy with the black card? Who’s the one who’s going to pick up the check tonight? Guys with power, guys like me, we lie. You got that? ‘Lie’ as in ‘My Lai’ the massacre–as in, ‘My Lai you long time, me so free-markety.’ You distract the dumbshits with free-market B.S. because hey, for whatever reason, that’s what the public likes to hear, it doesn’t really matter what lie you feed them so long as it’s the lie that puts them in a trance. And then behind the scenes, you do the very opposite: You fix the game, you cover up this problem here with those funds there, you move shit around, you skim budgets and you subsidize the system, you cover up the bad shit and once in a while throw a has-been to the wolves to keep the public entertained–that’s the way the system works, and anyone who’s an adult understands that. And everyone who doesn’t understand that can go form an online libertarian chat group and complain with all their little libertarian friends about free markets and Jekyll Island and ‘Wahhh! It’s not not fair, waahhhh!'”

    “What’s with the libertarian accusation?”

    “It’s just that you all sound the same to me. Libertarians, hippies–is there really a difference? You all whine alike: ‘It’s not fair, man! Ooh! You can’t do that, it’s fraud, it’s corruption, ooh no!’ Or: ‘It’s the income inequality, man; Goldman Sachs controls us all man; it’s socialism for the rich; it’s all too scary for my retarded 5-year-old libertarian brain!’ Seriously, anytime I meet libertarians like you–”

    “Listen–I’m not a fucking libertarian, OK? I want free handouts. How clear do I have to make this? Me–handouts. Me–Big Government. I want to collectivize your productive cash, because I am a resentful parasite. Are you capable of processing a single word of what I’m saying to you, Spaz?”

    “Uh-huh, sure, whatever. Here’s the thing: I think it’s great that you and your friends memorized Road to Serfdom in between Star Trek episodes–no really, I’m happy for you. Yeah, we’re all so proud. But here’s the thing: We grown-ups are really, really busy now trying to sort out the free-market mess you made with that Lehman move of yours. Yeah, so why don’t you run along to your libertarian chat rooms and have your little debates about Jekyll Island and the gold standard, because it really means a lot to us. And report back to me as soon as you have it all figured out, m’kay? Just get the fuck out of my face and leave the adults alone.”

    It got a lot more vicious and personal than this, but when our verbal slap-fight ended–and he paid the bill–I thought about what he said, and it made a lot more sense. Fraud has become so endemic in this country that it’s woven its way into America’s DNA, forming a symbiotic relationship that can’t be undone without killing off the host. If they push it just a little too hard, the entire American economy could crash, asset values could tank, and that means tens of millions of extremely pissed off retirees and Baby Boomers. As the Wall Streeter put it: “Whoever is responsible for bursting this latest bubble by exposing all the fraud–and tanking all the markets–will not only be out of power for at least a generation, but they’ll all have to get radical reconstructive surgery on their faces and seek political asylum somewhere remote. No one wants to be that guy, and that’s why it’s not going to happen.”

    That may be true, but all bubbles to eventually burst, all Ponzi schemes do collapse. The only question is when. For those of us not on the verge of retiring, the sooner we have this day of reckoning and get it over with, the better.

    Fraudonomics: 10 Fun Fraud Facts

    Ever since I got kicked out of Russia and forced back home, I’ve been collecting all kinds of news articles about fraud, in a document file titled “America Is Russia.” Here’s a little taste of the wonderful world of American Fraud:

    1). Accounting Fraud: Last year, America’s leading banks were insolvent. They had tens or hundreds of billions in losses on their books, and the only way to wipe those losses out would be to either a) own up to the mess, raise enormous amounts of money on top of all the bailout money; or b) get out a big fat eraser, and wipe those losses off the books as if they never existed. The first option was nice and all, but a real hassle. So Geithner and Larry Summers chose Door Number Two: Accounting Fraud. They forced the FASB to accept a rule-change in the accounting methodology called “mark-to-model” which let banks decide how much their assets were worth, rather than letting the markets decide. So if for example a BofA owned a complex security called “Orion Butt Fungus” that was worth 5 pesos on the open market, but BofA was too broke to go out and raise 5 pesos to cover that loss, under the new accounting rules, the government told BofA that rather than pricing “Orion Butt Fungus” at what the market will actually pay for it, why not first ask, “How much would BofA like ‘Orion Butt Fungus’ to be worth, in a perfect world?'” If BofA answers, “Doyee, gee I dunno, how about $500 million?” then under the “mark-to-model” accounting rules, BofA could now value “Orion Butt Fungus” at $500 million, and voila! Their problems are over. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Suddenly, BofA looks like it knows how to pick winners! And no one’s going to second-guess them, because everyone else is mark-to-modeling their “Orion Butt Fungi” too! The end result: under the old rules, BofA would have had to raise money just to cover its debts, sort of like you and me have to do, and that’s just a lot of money going to waste. But now that its portfolio is so profitable, BofA has a much easier time raising money, which it uses to pay ginormous bonuses to its executives.

    2). Big Pharma Fraud. Remember that scene early in Fight Club, when Edward Norton explained his job, when it was more profitable to let a car defect go and pay whatever lawsuit settlements come from the deaths, and when it’s better to recall the cars because the number of deaths will result in too many lawsuits? This is humanitarian do-gooder stuff compared to the savage real-world fraud-for-profit model that drives America’s drug companies. It’s really simple and it goes like this: the more fraud a drug company commits, so long as it’s off-the-scale fraud with the most horrible consequences for the victims, the drug company’s profits always outdo the criminal fines and lawsuits by factors of 20, 30, 100… It’s as simple as that. Because the billion in penalties here or the two billion in class action lawsuit settlements there are always far less than the tens of billions you earn from pushing harmful drugs on unsuspecting idiots. To wit: Between May 2004 and March 2010, a handful of top drug companies like Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers paid over $7 billion in criminal penalties for bribing doctors to prescribe drugs for unapproved uses, with sometimes deadly consequences. However, as a Bloomberg report noted, the fines are always a fraction of the profits–Pfizer alone paid almost $3 billion in criminal fines since 2004, yet that was just one percent of their total revenues; Eli Lilly got busted bribing doctors to prescribe a schizophrenia drug, Zyprexa, to elderly patients suffering from dementia, even though company-run clinical trials showed an alarming death rate of 31 people out of 1,184 participants (double the placebo rate). Whatever–the market for elderly dementia patients meant billions in extra revenues. So Eli Lilly continued pushing Zyprexa on the elderly for another four years until it the Feds busted them. Eli Lilly got hit with $1.42 billion fine, but that was peanuts compared to the $36 billion it earned on Zyprexa sales from 2000-2008. To make it happen, the drug companies buy off all the checks and balances: lawsuits revealed the enormous bribes they pay to doctors, and even America’s medical journals are so corrupted by drug company influence that they’re no longer reliable as much more than hidden advertisements, according to a recent UCSF study. Medical journals are 5 times more likely to publish “positive” drug reviews than negative reviews, and one-quarter of all clinical trials are never published at all, leading doctors to prescribe drugs assuming they have all the information. The result: prescription drugs kill one American every five minutes …while Americans pay more for drugs than anyone in the world, spending a total of $12 billion on drugs in 1980 to spending $291 billion in 2008–a 1,700% increase. America is ranked only 17th in the world in life expectancy.

    3). Alan Greenspan: Fraudonomics Maestro. America’s central banker from 1987-2006 once told a do-gooder regulator not to fuck with the bankers’ fraud schemes, because in Greenspan’s mind, fraud was not a crime and didn’t need to be regulated. Then Greenspan forced the regulator, Brooksley Born, to resign. Just in time for his next and final act as Central Bank chief: from 2001-2004, Greenspan pumped up the biggest housing bubble in human history by holding rates down to nothing, while touring the country promoting the glories of subprime and Alt-A mortgages. Then in late 2005, when the bubble was ready to burst, Greenspan tendered his resignation and switched over to the other side, signing lucrative contracts with three investment firms all of which bet big against gullible American homeowners, and reaped billions. First, Greenspan signed up to work for Deutsche Bank, which is being sued for securities fraud for selling an Abacus-like CDO to a Warren Buffett-owned bank, M&T; Greenspan also worked for Pimco, which earned $2 billion in a single day in September 2008, when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were nationalized with Greenspan’s lobbying help; and lastly, Greenspan went to work for Paulson & Co., the hedge fund that raked in $1 billion off the same Abacus CDO deal that brought the SEC fraud suit against Goldman Sachs. It’s an unusually perfect record for Greenspan, given his atrocious forecasting record at the Fed. It recalls the old Greenspan circa 1984-5, when he worked as a lobbyist for Charles Keating trying to push regulators off his back and vouching on the record for Keating’s character…Keating was eventually jailed for fraud in the worst savings and loan collapse of all.

    4). Municipal Debt Fraud. America’s $2.8 trillion municipal bond market is rife with fraud of the sort you’d expect in an emerging tinpot economy: opacity rather than transparency, plenty of corruption and kickbacks, resulting in decimated budgets and services cutbacks in communities across the country. The problem all stems from way the bonds are issued these days: instead of holding open tenders, nearly all are the result of backroom deals. Back in 1970, only 15 percent of municipal bond contracts were awarded through no-bid contracts; last year, 85% of muni bond deals were assigned in no-bid, non-transparent agreements. Studies show that no-bid bonds invariably cost municipalities more than bonds resulting from open tenders. So far, fraud and corruption charges have been leveled against state employees and city councilors in Florida, New York, New Mexico, Alabama and California, to name a few. Muni bond defaults soared from just $348 million in 2007 to $7.4 billion in 2008–that’s an increase of 20 times– with growing numbers of cities, counties and states on the verge of bankruptcy.

    5). Journalism fraud. The Washington Post got caught whoring out their venerable editorial staff to corporate lobbyists for anywhere from $25,000 to $250,000 a date, depending on the access. The Atlantic Monthly admitted to TalkingPointsMemo that it routinely sold access to its editorial staff for cash. As for business journalism, all sorts of articles and studies have asked the obvious question: “How did every mainstream business outlet miss the financial collapse of 2008?” Among all the self-flagellating mea-kinda-culpas, you won’t find the word “fraud” in their answer. Speaking of business journalism and fraud, The Business Insider, one of the top business news blogs, published a pair of articles defending Goldman Sachs against the SEC fraud charges. The author of the articles defending Goldman Sachs is Business Insider’s co-founder and editor, Henry Blodget. In 2003, Blodget himself was charged with securities fraud by the SEC for repeatedly misleading clients into buying stocks of companies that in private emails Blodget referred to as “piece of shit.” Under the terms of Blodget’s settlement with the SEC, he agreed to a lifetime ban from the securities industry, and he paid $4 million in fines and disgorgements. Since he is not barred from the world of business journalism, Blodget was able to post an article last Friday headlined: “HOLD EVERYTHING: The SEC’s Fraud Case Against Goldman Seems VERY Weak.”

    6). Fraudonomics K-12. If you want your kid to grow up to succeed in a fraud-based economy, you need to teach him the ABC’s of cheating starting at a young age. This is one area where America’s schools aren’t failing their students. Cheating is so rampant in schools that nowadays if the student doesn’t cheat on his exam, chances are his teacher or administrator will cheat on his test for him. One in five elementary schools in Georgia are currently being investigated for tampering with the students’ standardized test scores–although suspicious patterns of erasing and remarking answers showed up in half of the state’s elementary schools. In California, as many as two-thirds of its public schools admitted to fudging its students’ standardized test scores. A survey of graduate school students found that 53 percent of business school grad students admitted to cheating, more than any other grad school discipline. Overall, up to 98 percent of college students today admit to cheating, compared to just 20 percent who cheated in 1940.

    7). Boardroom Fraud. Corporate America’s boardrooms are stacked up these days in tight, intertwined relationships that turn public companies into crime scenes, plundering money from unsuspecting shareholders and divvying up the loot among the directors and top executives. In 2008, Chesapeake Energy’s stock price collapsed from $74 per share to $9.84, wiping out $33 billion in shareholder value. The CEO, Aubrey McClendon, gambled and lost 94% of his stock in the company on a margin call, personally losing about $2 billion. So what did the board of directors do? They voted to award McClendon $112 million for 2008, the highest of any CEO in America. Shareholders were outraged, calling it a “bailout,” and several pension funds tried suing Chesapeake, but the courts in Oklahoma blocked the lawsuits. That’s because Aubrey McClendon is sort of the George Bush of Oklahoma–a spoiled fuck-up with a rich and powerful granddaddy–Robert Kerr, former governor and senator, and founder of Kerr-McGee–meaning plenty of VIP connections for the loser grandkid. So on Chesapeake’s board, you had Aubrey’s cousin, Breene Kerr; Frank Keating, Republican ex-governor of Oklahoma whose son Chip (and Chip’s wife) works for Chesapeake; Don Nickles, Republican ex-Senator of Oklahoma who co-funded with Aubrey the Republican anti-gay marriage campaign in 2004; Richard Davidson, the former head of Union Pacific, whose corrupt board of directors lavished Davidson with tens of millions in bonuses and a $2.7 million per year pension when he retired… Now multiply a board of directors like this by the sum total of “Corporate America” and you get…a corrupt, tin-pot corporate culture masquerading as a civilized First World corporate culture. That’s us. (You can read about this problem in an excellent new book Money For Nothing: How The Failure of Corporate Boards is Ruining American Business and Costing Us Trillions.)

    8). Corrupt credit rating agencies. The only way big institutional investors like pension funds could justify buying a piece of the Orion Butt Fungus CDO pie was if ratings agencies like S&P or Moody’s gave it a top-notch seal of approval: AAA rated, with a little star on the forehead for good behavior. And in the world of fraudonomics, good behavior looks like this email from a Standard & Poor ratings analyst in December 2006:

    “Rating agencies continue to create an even bigger monster _ the CDO market. Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.”

    The happy ending to this story is that a huge percentage of thieving scum like this emailer saw their hopes become reality: they got wealthy and retired before the CDO market crashed in a trillion-plus dollar heap of shit. And if they didn’t retire, even better–because bonuses in 2009 were soaring, thanks to the always-gullible American taxpayer.

    9). Regulatory Fraud: In the OTS, OCC, Fed, pension benefit guaranty agency and of course the SEC, where whistleblowers were routinely ignored because the regulators were too busy painting their monitors while surfing sites like http://www.fuck-my-wife.com.

    10). Judicial Fraud: Juvenile court judges in Pennsylvania took millions of dollars in kickbacks from privately run prisons in exchange for sentencing thousands of innocent kids to juvenile prison terms. Chronic on-the-bench masturbation is running rampant: an Oklahoma judge was accused of using a penis pump on the bench, while nearby in Texas, a Harris County judge masturbated and ejaculated on a defendant’s hand. Speaking of Texas, the entire juvenile prison system there was turned into a sex abuse racket involving Texas state officials–over 750 official complaints about prison administrators molesting or raping underaged inmates in all 13 juvenile facilities had been officially logged between 2000 and 2007.

    The list goes on and on. Hell, even our literature was corrupted with fraud: James Frey’s addiction “memoir” A Million Little Pieces turned out to be A Million Pieces of Bullshit, the biggest literary fraud of our time. Fooled readers sued, Oprah chewed him out and Frey is now a bestelling “fiction” author.

    This is just scratching the surface, but you get the point. We’re way past the point of redemption. No wonder everyone’s dreaming of a violent apocalypse to wipe the slate clean, and take us away to another plane where everything would be better. Anything but this….

    http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2010/05/oil-spills-crime-waves-and-increasing.html

    To be informed is commonplace; to think clearly is very rare; to be well-informed and to publish truly original thinking is a gem. Even if you are wrong (and I for one seem to agree with a lot of what you say sometimes…) it is a far greater service to the Hive Mind than merely adding yet more noise to intractable tribal oppositions. Or yet another unadventurous recitation of received ‘wisdom’…
    Much online and mainstream media commentary sounds well informed but does not take one on a journey of reason….

    Posted by Jhon | February 5, 2011, 6:55 am
  155. ….If Obama had “really” wanted Hosni Mubarak gone all he had to do was call PM D. Cameron in the UK and the Swiss Government, then tell them to investigate this and how about seizing some of it in the mean time….

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/04/hosni-mubarak-family-fortune

    Posted by Jhon | February 5, 2011, 9:13 am
  156. Jhon,
    So you think that by posting a few pages written by Mark Ames are likely to make these views more credible?
    For those who are not familiar with Amea and his one time partner Matt Taibi hers a short sample of what some think of them:

    “They call Ames and Taibbi, singly or in combination, children, louts, misogynists, madmen, pigs, hypocrites, anarchists, fascists, racists, and fiends. According to Carol Williams, of the Los Angeles Times, “It seemed like a bunch of kids who’d somehow gotten funding for their own little newspaper.” A former New York Times Moscow-bureau chief, Michael Wines, offered a no-comment comment. “I think I’ll pass, thank you,” he e-mailed, “except to repeat what I said at the time, and what Shaw said a lot earlier: Never wrestle with a pig. You just get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it”.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 5, 2011, 9:27 am
  157. GK, The truth hearts…
    The Main Stream Media comments about Mark Ames is a powerful statement in his favor.
    No one believes anything the MSM says anymore.
    The proof is in the pudding…and you’re not doing yourself a favor by attacking the messenger. It’s about the message in there…and what the world is experiencing because of the Fraud and the systemic corruption. The Pig story doesn’t fly GK

    Posted by Jhon | February 5, 2011, 9:39 am
  158. Senior S&L regulator William K. Black slammed the FCIC for failing to call out fraud…..:

    The Commission was unwilling to use the “F” word (“fraud”)
    “They’ve drawn the picture of the horse, but they refuse to call it a ‘horse'”
    The Commission’s conclusions could only have occurred with fraud by the most senior ranks of the big banks
    They made millions of liars loans, with an incidence of fraud of 90%
    There was an epidemic of appraisal fraud. Only lenders and their agents can induce appraisals to commit fraud. They deliberately inflate appraisals to make the loans look safer, and then to sell the loans for a higher price. Attorney General Cuomo found that Washing Mutual had a “black list” of appraisers they wouldn’t use. Appraisers got on the black list by refusing to inflate appraisals
    Nobel price winning economist George Akeroloff showed that if banks (1) grow like crazy, (2) Make bad loans at premium yields, (3) use high leverage and (4) keep small loan loss reserves, it is a e a “sure thing” that there will be record profits on paper which will make the top executives rich, and cause the bank to fail
    Indeed, we’ve known of this dynamic for “hundreds of years”
    The only reasons you’d have millions of liars loans was to create fictional accounting income and loot the institutions

    There were 1,000 felony convictions before the S&L commission made its findings. In addition, had several thousand major enforcement actions by regulators. And nearly 1,000 civil suits

    By contrast today, there have been zero criminal prosecutions of any senior lending officers that made liars loans at major institutions, next to no enforcement actions, and next to no civil suits. Because the prosecutions have not occurred, the public records have not been developed. And so the FCIC knows 1/100th as much about this crisis as the S&L commission knew about S&L crisis
    This crisis is maybe 40 times as large as S&L crisis. However, the number of FBI agents assigned to look at white collar crime is much smaller than during the S&L period

    “The elites can now commit white collar crime with near impunity”
    The result is catastrophic to our nation. And not just our nation, but nations worldwide.
    Lucid, concise and coherent but how many can see it? Who will act on it?
    It is as if in the thirty years since the S&L we have bred a generation that, like the color blind, have no organ for perception? Or are they completely satisfied to be blinded by economic chicanery?
    Or, if they can perceive the truth/injustice, then like a handicap/challenged person, they cannot act, paralyzed?? No, it’s corruption to the core….

    Posted by Jhon | February 5, 2011, 9:47 am
  159. Obama Is Treating the Dictator in Egypt Exactly Like He’s Treating the corrupt Tyrants on Wall Street and utter Fraud.

    Barack Obama says he’s praying that violence in Egypt will end but still hasn’t called for Mubarak to quit.

    However, the violence won’t end until Mubarak and his cronies are out of office. By failing to demand the tyrant that the U.S. has propped up for decades resigns, the U.S. is ensuring continued violence.

    This reminds me of how the American government has dealt with the giant banks….

    Fed chief Ben Shalom Bernanke told the financial crisis inquiry commission today:

    If the crisis has a single lesson, it is that the too-big-to-fail problem must be solved

    ***

    Too-big-to-fail financial institutions were both a source … of the crisis and among the primary impediments to policymakers’ efforts to contain it ….

    That’s funny, given that Bernanke has been one of the biggest defenders of the too big to fail banks, arguing strenuously against breaking them up, throwing trillions of dollars their way, and begging the banks to play nice with one hand, while patting them on the back with the other hand and giving them a big wink.

    (Of course, the same applies to Obama, Geithner, Summers et al.)

    Having Mubarak and the other Egyptian tyrants in office is the problem , just like letting the giant banks grow as large and ready to blow as supernova-size stars is the problem.

    Democracy is the solution for Egypt, just like having more, smaller banks is the solution for America’s economy.

    The failure to transition to these solutions is creating a staggeringly high body count in Cairo, and a staggeringly high unemployment rate in America…..

    Posted by Jhon | February 5, 2011, 9:55 am
  160. Jhon,
    I have no clue who are you quoting. Really! It would be more constructive to state your views in few lines and link to the articles you feel relevant.
    I don’t mean to tell how to post, but for simple people like me, few words a time can go a long way 😉

    Posted by IHTDA | February 5, 2011, 11:30 am
  161. Al Jazeera reports
    “One of Al Jazeera’s correspondents in Cairo said there were about 10,000 people in Tahrir Square and queues of people trying to get in.

    About 500 people have joined the protesters in the square from the port city of Suez.”

    There is something wrong in this picture. The latest concert for Haifa Wehbe gathered more people!

    Posted by IHTDA | February 5, 2011, 12:10 pm
  162. looks like Jhon is Jim’s cousin

    Posted by V | February 5, 2011, 1:13 pm
  163. Anonymous#3 ?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | February 5, 2011, 1:34 pm
  164. The inevitability of a future American rebellion against the utter corruption of the state and the power behind the power in USA looks imminent… There is no denying the fact that the People will try to overthrow the State in the near future… Whenever it becomes obvious to the masses that our government’s war is far more important than our lives, saving our homes, our families and our communities here in the Homeland, then Americans will either take to the streets, or to the hills (with their personal arsenals). Whether we choose to defend ourselves with signs or with guns will be determined by how long it takes to agitate us to that breaking point…

    That is the exact reason why activists, have been telling everyone who would listen, that we must make the revolution happen sooner, rather than later… The longer the powers that be can forestall our revolution, the bloodier ours will surely be. It seems very clear that at some point the U.S. will face the same kind of mass revolt of the people we have seen in the USSR, Tunisia, Egypt, and many other societies in recent decades…

    Posted by Jhon | February 5, 2011, 1:54 pm
  165. They all sound like the oil salesmen from the old west. 😀

    Posted by danny | February 5, 2011, 2:58 pm
  166. ***Snake oil salesmen…

    Posted by danny | February 5, 2011, 2:59 pm
  167. George W. Bush has canceled a visit to Switzerland, where he was to address a Jewish charity gala, due to the risk of legal action against him for war crimes and torture, rights groups said…
    Bush was to address Jewish charity in Geneva. Only the “Canadians” seem to want to honor someone who ordered extra-judicial assassinations by the infamous White House Murder INC, wars of aggression worldwide killing hundreds of thousands and the torture of innocent Muslims and others….

    http://betaus.mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE7141CU20110205?WT.tsrc=Social%20Media&ca=rdt

    Posted by Jhon | February 5, 2011, 3:48 pm
  168. The major world powers, new and old, also face a novel reality: while the lethality of their military might is greater than ever, their capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low. To put it bluntly: in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today with the ZIOCONS of GWB & Co., it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people….-

    Zbigniew Brzezinski

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22963

    Story of torched synagogue in Tunisia turns out to be (you guessed it) another fraud…

    http://www.voxnr.com/cc/dep_interieur/EkAylFFFyyeYbbBvUA.shtml

    Posted by Jhon | February 5, 2011, 4:09 pm
  169. The Old Testament explained … by Ricky Gervais 🙂

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 5, 2011, 5:51 pm
  170. continued …

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 5, 2011, 5:59 pm
  171. Only those who believe in fairy tales take the religious stories seriously and literally.

    Such a presentation in Beirut would immediately unite Bkirki, the Mufti, the Imamas and probably Sheikh Al Aql in condemnation of reason and rationality 🙂

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 5, 2011, 6:30 pm
  172. Here’s to hoping seeing an Egyptian comedian ripping through the Koran on a stage in Beirut … and people applauding … in my lifetime.

    Cheers !

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 5, 2011, 6:39 pm
  173. If Arabs “really” want to get rid of Israel … just turn into bloody Atheists, for Christ’s sake, and get it over with!

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 5, 2011, 6:50 pm
  174. Off course I’m only half joking 🙂

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 5, 2011, 7:10 pm
  175. Ghassan,
    That could get you in big trouble now.
    You have yet to hear my story.lol
    And why Do you exclude the Sayyeds?lol

    Posted by The Prophet | February 5, 2011, 7:55 pm
  176. prophet,
    I am an equal opportunity critic religiously. I figured that Imams will cover the Sayyeds, I guess it does not:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 5, 2011, 10:06 pm
  177. Ghassan,
    Just making sure,No discrimination allowed.
    Cheers .lol

    Posted by The prophet | February 6, 2011, 12:49 am
  178. عندما يصبح المفكرُ بوقاً: رضوان السيد مثالاً

    صالح الراشد –

    كتب رضوان السيد مقالاً ينتقد فيه بعض الكتاب السعوديين، الذين وصفهم بالليبراليين، بسبب موقفهم المنتقد سعد الحريري بعد سقوط حكومته، ويقارن – بسذاجة مضحكة – بين ليبرالية بشار الأسد وحسن نصر الله من جهة وليبرالية سعد الحريري والسنيورة من جهة أخرى؛ وكأن الليبرالية هي شرط الكفاية لإقناعنا بسعد الحريري كحصان رهان في الساحة اللبنانية. كما أن الهجمة التي شنتها الصحافة السعودية على سعد الحريري تعامل معها رضوان السيد في مقاله على أنها هجمة ليبراليه ليس إلا؛ والواقع أن سعد الحريري في الداخل السعودي يمثل عامل (توحّد) بين فئات الشعب السعودي وأطيافه المختلفة، بما فيهم الليبراليين وغير الليبراليين، بما تمثله شركته – شركة سعودي أوجيه – من دور سلبي خطير في قطاع الأعمال، وبالذات قطاع المقاولات في السعودية، حيث يكتنف أعمالها وتعاملها مع الأيدي العاملة السعودية مواقف عنصرية واضحة؛ حيث يتم تفضيل اليد العاملة اللبنانية على العمالة السعودية، ناهيك عن بعض المقالات التي تنشرها الصحافة السعودية الورقية المحلية بين حين وآخر، تتحدث بوضوح عن هذه السلبيات؛ وهذا هو مربط الفرس من القضية، والذي جعل جميع السعوديين بما فيهم الليبراليين يقفون منه، أو بالأحرى من شركته، هذا الموقف. فالليبراليون والإسلاميون في السعودية يختلفون في كل شيء، ولكنهم يتخذون موقف سلبي واحد تجاه الحريري وشركته.

    أما رأينا فيه كسياسي فهي تنطلق من منطلقين : أولهما أن الرجل لا يملك قدرات وإمكانات ومهارات ذاتية تؤهله للقيام بما هو مطلوب من زعيم أهل السنة في لبنان، والدفاع عن مصالحنا هناك. المنطلق الثاني أننا لا يمكن أن نلغي كل الخيارات السنية، ونضع كل بيضنا في سلة سعد الحرير. السبب أنه يفتقد أولاً للكاريزما التي يشترط أن تتوفر في الزعيم السياسي، وثانياً قدرته المتواضعة على الخطابة، وتلعثمه في الحديث. وثالثاً نعومته واهتمامه المفرط بالشكليات إلى درجة تجعله أقرب إلى عارض أزياء منه إلى زعيم سياسي. وفي السياسة تستطيع أن ترث المال والاسم وربما المكانة والعلاقات الاجتماعية، أما الإمكانيات الشخصية فلا تورث؛ والدليل الفرق بين الحريري الأب والحريري الابن، فالابن لم يرث من الأب إلا الثروة إضافة إلى الاسم والشكل ليس إلا. أريدك – أيها المفكر المبجل – أن تقارن بين حسن نصر الله كزعيم يملك شخصية آسرة، وقدرة خطابية استثنائية، وذكاء سياسي وتقارنه بصاحبك سعد الحريري، ثم افترض أن حسن نصر الله اغتيل ، كما هو ديدن ساستكم في دولتكم دولة الطوائف المتخاصمة، فهل سيأتي الإيرانيون بابنه – مثلاً – ويعمّدونه زعيماً لشيعة لبنان، حتى وإن كان في تواضع قدرات وإمكانات سعد الحريري الشخصية، كما فعل (جماعتنا) مع صاحبكم؟ .. طبعاً لا، ولا أعتقد أن أحداً سيوافقك – يا رضوان – لو قلت حتى (ربما)؛ فالإيرانيون أهل حزم وعزم، وليس للعواطف والمجاملات علاقة بقراراتهم، لهذا استخدموا (ميقاتي) ليعمل أجيراً لهم، ويدافع عن مصالحهم؛ فلماذا لا نستأجر نحن أيضاً (القوي) القادر على الدفاع عن مصالحنا ومصالح أهل السنة في لبنان، ولماذا لا يكون لدينا نحن السعوديون، خياراً آخر غير الحريري؟

    يقول الساسة يا رضوان: (أينما تكون المصلحة فثمَّ شرع السياسي)؛ فالمصلحة هي التي تفرض في نهاية المطاف منطقها، وقيمها، وشروطها؛ وعندما تراهن على حصان (واحد) لا يملك إمكانات الفوز، فلا تتوقع أن يأتي متقدما في سباق هيأ له المتنافسون أفضل ما يملكون من جياد، ولأن سعد لا يملك الأسباب الموضوعية للفوز، كان لا بد من إخراجه من السباق، ولأننا لم نخرجه، سقط وخسرنا السباق.

    أخي رضوان؛ أعرف أنك مدفوع للكتابة، وتقبض في نهاية النهار ثمن ما تكتب عداً ونقداً، ولأنك متورط بالرجل، فلم تجد للدفاع عنه إلا إقحام الليبرالية والليبراليين في الموضوع، بطريقة مضحكة ومحزنة في الوقت ذاته، فحاولت أن تجعل من قضايانا (المحلية) نحن السعوديين، وصراعاتنا، للنيل من أناس جعلوا من سيدك، وأبيه من قبله، شيئاً مذكورا، في حين أنه عندما أتى للملكة أتى (ماسك دفاتر) وليس سياسياً تلتفت إليه الأعناق؛ وختاماً أذكرك ببيت لنزار قباني يقول فيه:
    وإذا أصبح (المفكر) بوقاً يستوي الفكر عندها والحذاءُ
    أربأ بك يا رضوان أن تصبح في نهاية حياتك مجرد بوق ينفخ فيه الآخرون

    Posted by cvghfx | February 6, 2011, 6:49 am
  179. Word is that Wissam Eid was working on Israel hits on Lebanese politicians and others in car bombings and that is why he was hit….
    Hussam Hussam is Syria/CIA creation to confuse/distort and disorient the investigators away from the Infamous White House Murder INC, and Asef Shawkat’s goons.

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 6, 2011, 10:25 am
  180. By way of influence, the power behind the power in America, lobbies and campaign contributions, et al, the U.S. elite utterly controls the apparatus of government, with worldwide ramifications…. Naturally, this ‘ruling elite’ favors economic policies which enrich them to the detriment and/or impoverishment of everyone else… This is the reductio ad absurdum of the Scrooge (Herbert Spencer) position which maintains, wrongly and fallaciously, that the rich are rich because they are smarter and better….They often resort to economic hit-men or wars to get their way, if all else fails….

    I am of the opinion that at present, when the U.S. empire is illegally embroiled and mired, when the military of the United States has proven its corruption to the entire world, when the armed forces of the U.S. have been videotaped in acts of atrocity and otherwise exposed to have committed numerous war crimes to include tortures resulting in death, mass murders of civilians (captured on video tape), when the criminal nature of numerous U.S. occupations, aggressions, extra-judicial assassinations in the Levant, through the infamous White House Murder INC, and Asef Shawkat…, incursions most of which violate every international treaty to which the U.S. is signatory it is unconscionable not to yell ‘fire in a crowded theater!!
    Al-Qaeda, Aka Al-CIAda…. was a U.S.A./Israeli creation, specifically a product of inverted right wing pseudo logic. If ‘Al-Qaeda’ did not exist, never mind –the shills would invent it and cite it to justify wars abroad, crackdowns on freedom at home! They would bestow upon it a virtual existence via press releases, propaganda and outright lies –deliberate attempts to mislead the American people!
    The “basis” for the specific principles of International Law to which the U.S. is “obliged”, indeed, even insisted upon are as follows:

    * Nuremberg Principles
    * Geneva Convention
    * U.S. Codes; Section 2441

    An excerpt:

    (a) Offense.— Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.

    I also recommend ‘Preventive War’ and International Law After Iraq. An excerpt from the introduction and executive summary:

    However if change is to be effected, it must be carried out in way(s) that promotes international peace and security through multilateral action and the rule of law. This may be time consuming and frustrating, but the alternative danger is a weakening or even abandonment of the rule of law and undermining the prohibition on the use of force which has been the product of not only the international consensus to avoid war following two world wars but decades of consensus. –‘Preventive War’ and International Law After Iraq, Duncan E. J. Currie LL.B. (Hons.) LL.M., 22 May, 2003

    To conclude that because one has power its exercise is always right is, simply, wrong! It’s a non sequitur! On trial for his Nazi crimes at Nuremberg, Goering called it “victor’s justice”!

    A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook! –Bertolt Brecht

    What remains then is the truth: Bush and some members of his administration conspired with agents of the CIA, DIA, OSP, COG and MOSSAD/Aman to commit the crimes of mass murder and high treason against the people of the United States, the good citizens of New York and the World. Let the trials begin….

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 6, 2011, 10:33 am
  181. let me the first to say it openly since no one has done so yet except by voting with their feet. Many of the regulat commentators on QN have not shown their faces/posts for a long time.

    To me that , like any other event, have a reason. May I suggest in this case that we are witnessing the slow , dare I say it, slow death of QN and furthermore that the explanation can be found in two old principles that have been violated.

    (1) Grahams Law: Bad money drives old money out of circulation.

    (2) The tragedy of the Common: Unrestricted access will always be abused and will result in the death of the common.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | February 6, 2011, 10:58 am
  182. Ghassan,

    The constant annoying spam like cut and pastes as well as brainwashed rhetoric has diminished the regular exchange of views and opinions. I do not like to read over and over again about how bad the USA is; especially written by those who have benefited from its values and opportunities.

    Sometimes it looks like we are walking into a room with mirrored walls. Same old rhetoric under different handles…

    Posted by danny | February 6, 2011, 12:10 pm
  183. Ghassan,

    The slow death of QN? A3oozabillah! 🙂

    Who are the regular commentators you are thinking of?

    There is very little going on in Lebanon at the moment; that’s why there’s no one around these days. When things pick up, I imagine that folks will be back.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | February 6, 2011, 12:18 pm
  184. America’s alternative vision, one shared by a rapidly growing grass-roots movement, which focuses upon America’s secret military history and cowardly extra-judicial assassinations in the Levant… This vision, shared by much of the rest of the human race considers America’s string of “limited wars” to be a series of war crimes, military acts of aggression, which are more accurately defined as terrorism than as legitimate military action, since all of the mercenary forces hired or tricked into fighting for USA/Israel have been “non-military combatants” (thugs, criminals and patsy jihadists). In reality, America’s secret wars were dishonorable adventurism that real patriots or a heroic warrior class would not be associated with…

    America’s alternative news services exist to post reports about America’s secret news, reports on countless little wars of aggression, that have been waged upon both friends and foes alike. Until America produces a generation of ethical American leaders who are both willing to take-on the real debate about the American deep state at the state or national level and run on an anti-war-crime platform, then nothing will get better…Expect the worst from those bandits.

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 6, 2011, 1:00 pm
  185. Mubarak’s real partners being outed and fleeing like rats as the US/Israeli-backed regime in Cairo falters….

    Hussein Salem caught in Dubai with $500m
    Salem is a partner with Israeli businessman Yosef Maiman in EMG, which supplies gas to Israel.
    Hussein Salem, an Egyptian partner of Israeli businessman Yosef Maiman in the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG), which has long term agreements to supply natural gas to Israel, has been caught in Dubai with $500 million in cash in his possession, according to agency reports this morning.
    It was reported yesterday that Salem and his family had fled Egypt because of the turmoil in the country. Arab media report that Salem himself went to Dubai, while his family left for an unknown destination. Salem is considered close to the Egyptian regime, particularly to President Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal Mubarak, who has reportedly left Egypt for London.

    Salem owns 28% of EMG, which has supplied gas to Israel since June 2008.

    Salem is one of the most mysterious business people in Egypt, and as far as is known he has never been interviewed in the Western press. In Egypt I he is known as the owner of a hotel chain, and as the confidant of Mubarak and his family. His business tie with Maiman was formed when they were partners in the construction of a refinery in Alexandria at the end of the 1970s.

    Maiman sold his holding in the refinery at the beginning of the decade because of internal; criticism in Egypt, and started to focus on the export of natural gas to Israel. When EMG was founded in 2000, Salem owned 65%, Maiman owned 25%, and the Egyptian government owned the rest. Yesterday morning, in an official press release, Maiman said that exports of gas to Israel by EMG would continue as usual.

    In July 2007, Salem sold 12% of EMG to Sam Zell and David Fisher of the US at a valuation of $2.2 billion, and four months later sold 25% to the Thai national oil company PTT at a valuation of $2 billion. The rest of the shares in the company are now owned by Maiman (20.6%), Israeli institutions (4.3%), and the government of Egypt through government gas company EGAS (10%).

    Cheney comes to the defense of Mubarak… Fascists do stick together. Mubarak, Berlusconi, Cheney, Blair, KSA, Jordan, Libya, Sarkozy, etc.: the prison cannot be dark or deep enough…

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 6, 2011, 3:16 pm
  186. A2,

    $500 million in *cash* in his possession ?

    How old are you?

    … and who cares?

    You’ll find more people interested in your tabloid trash in the Orange room. Here’s the link:

    http://forum.tayyar.org/f8/

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 6, 2011, 3:40 pm
  187. In a recent interview with Le Figaro, Mikati said that his cabinet will not review Lebanon’s treaty with the UN regarding the STL without Lebanese consensus and Arab support. I wonder how he could succeed in forming a cabinet, while keeping this pledge.

    Posted by Badr | February 6, 2011, 3:53 pm
  188. During a ceremony commemorating the 32nd anniversary of the Iranian revolution, MP Nawwaf Mousawi said: “We are working to unite Lebanon’s sects and bolster coexistence away from foreign hegemony.”

    Let me get this straight: A Lebanese MP, on Lebanese soil, commemorated a foreign government’s event, and had the audacity to say that he was working *against* foreign hegemony? And this made the news.

    I used to think BV is very pessimistic in losing all hope. I am starting to see his point.

    Posted by htj | February 6, 2011, 6:17 pm
  189. Well hell, 188hjt.

    Our elites just celebrated a Dead President’s 100th BIRTHDAY to much acclaim on American teevee. The guests at the ultimate RR dude ranch even sang “Happy Birthday” to his iconic Great Spirit in the sky.

    Simply too cultie ghoulish for words and potentially, unAmerican!

    Posted by lally | February 6, 2011, 7:41 pm
  190. SHN is going to give to speech tomorrow revealing on how the pyramids were built.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 6, 2011, 8:35 pm
  191. SHN is going to give a speech tomorrow revealing on how the pyramids were built.

    Posted by RandomThoughtOfTheDay | February 6, 2011, 8:40 pm
  192. lally,

    Amazing rebuttal. 😀

    Posted by danny | February 6, 2011, 11:16 pm
  193. Maybe the official rules ought to require comments to adhere to the content of the blog post. Why anon2 is allowed to post paragraphs about Big pharma is beyond me.

    Posted by Nasser V | February 6, 2011, 11:59 pm
  194. I wish Anonymous#2/Jim/Jhon/etc can explain to us commoners the great relations Hizballah has with the “Syrian Asef Shawkat CIA Zionist Alawaite regime in Syria”. does that make SHN a CIA tool also ? what gives !!

    Posted by V | February 7, 2011, 3:30 am
  195. @186

    Ask your idols here

    http://www.globes.co.il/serveen/globes/docview.asp?did=1000619367&fid=1725

    V@194
    I don’t need to clarify anything to “commoners”, because real folks/commoners are decent, perceptive and do their own homework/research, investigations to find real answers and not the shallow garbage we see here from people who hate the Resistance in Lebanon. The finger tip of one of those Resistance fighters is worth more than the whole Universe. These valiant folks have been defending their homes, villages, valleys and honor for decades, while you guys here keep pontificating from behind the screens.

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 7, 2011, 3:49 am
  196. No “global awakening” if Soros, Gates and other creeps who tag along with them can do anything about it…

    As if on cue and as America’s past program of commandeering and steering popular rebellions and revolutions to bring about pro-American governments is failing on a grand scale, we have learned from reliable sources that there has been an increase in the disruption of blogs and comments sections on web sites in the United States, especially those that take on an anti-Obama and anti-globalist, anti-USA/Israel stance from the left side of the political spectrum…

    Professional agents provocateurs and amateurs from the “netizen” community have been busy posting comments on various web sites to distract and steer post threads away from subjects that are critical of the Obama administration. In addition, We have learned that international financier George Soros has stepped up his program to act as a “gate keeper” of the left by contributing more money and staff paid through his various non-profit contrivances to increase his political influence on the left side of the blogosphere….

    Various wealthy tycoons on the right, including the Koch brothers, have carried out the same manipulative efforts on the right side of the blogosphere for some time but Soros’s efforts, which seek to mirror the Israel Lobby’s “Give Israel Your United Support” (GIYUS) and its Megaphone desktop computer article and commentary monitoring tool, are the current focus of White House political propaganda operatives, including White House Office of Information Regulatory Affairs chief Cass Sunstein, the mastermind of the program of “cognitive infiltration” of Internet sites by federal government agents and operatives….

    The paid operatives who disrupt web sites take a number of tacks. Options include the use of profanity, especially toward the original poster of an item. But more often, the infiltration takes the form of posting extraneous information to detour the commentary thread away from uncomfortable subjects…. For example, if one is participating in a back-and-forth exchange dealing with U.S. Middle East policy, a comment on a great recipe for chili for a Super Bowl party may appear, followed by similar disruptive chili recipes, all from the same originator or group of originators who seek to divert and eventually kill the thread.

    In more bold cases, Soros-paid operatives will simply ban individuals from certain sites that are amply funded by the multi-billionaire “disaster capitalist,” thus censoring their future comments temporarily or permanently. There are a number of so-called “progressive” web sites that conduct such operations on a routine basis.

    Currently, with the release of certain documents of dubious origin, including pre-selected State Department cables and papers from Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the Internet is experiencing the first major salvo in a global information war, one that, like the so-called “war on terrorism,” appears to be permanent. And as with any war, the truth is the first casualty….

    With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) working on new regulations that may corrupt traditional “net neutrality” on the web in favor of more corporate control over access and bandwidth, the word is that Soros’s plans are to further expand his influence on left and center-left websites that deal with politics and social issues — a plan that may forestall the need for an Internet “kill switch.” The Egyptian situation has shown that there are ways around “kill switch” technology for the Internet and cell phone networks. Therefore, as the elites, who recently adjourned form their annual conclave in Davos, Switzerland, where they huddled together over the loss of “stability” [ the term equates to the elites’ control of the world ] from Cairo to Athens and London to Reykjavik, information manipulators like George Soros/CIA and Bill Gates realize that only Sunstein’s “cognitive infiltration” will ensure that Zbigniew Brzezinski’s heralded “global awakening” will remain in a deep coma….

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 7, 2011, 4:15 am
  197. Discharging from a much deeper wound…which has befallen upon us unjustly from USA/Israel and their criminal Ziocons and their henchmen is always in order. It’s the least we can do, in memory of our beloved fallen comrades, savagely assassinated by the Infamous White House Murder INC, to voice our determined and persistent disgust…and we have yet to disclose 10% of what we know about these despicable criminals…
    This is very much in line with the Topics raised here daily.

    http://www.newscentralasia.net/moreNews.php?nID=669

    http://www.consortiumnews.com/2011/020411.html

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 7, 2011, 7:52 am
  198. V,

    I guess you figured out that only ONE poster here (under several names) uses the terms “White House Murder Inc” and “Ziocons”.

    I am certain that a percentage of Arabs are conspiracy theorists who simply can’t believe: 9-11 was perpetrated by arab jihadists, that Saddam Hussein filled mass graves with over 300,000 Iraqis, that post-Saddam insurgents killed tens of thousands more, and that Hamas and Hezbollah fired thousands of missiles into Israeli population centers (war crime) from populated areas (war crime 2).

    In other words, the mess we face in the ME was all caused by someone else.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | February 7, 2011, 8:30 am
  199. @198
    Following your skewed “Logic” we should all assume that US and Israeli military wars of aggression on Lebanon 2006, Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan were field trips meant to plant roses and flowers for the peoples of the the ME. and beyond. LOL
    Now, I for one, agree wholeheartedly with your views/infos on and about Syria’s ruling Dictatorship of thugs…but keep in mind that Hezbollah has many many differences with Syria…and they have paid in blood during Ghazi Kanaan’s reign, losing 27 people in clashes with Syrian forces in Beirut, and losing Imad F. Moughnieh in the heart of Damascus in 2008…. Those deep divisions cannot be voiced by Hizbollah…because Syria is but a Post Office Box for Hezbollah and a transshipment avenue for their weapons…So, all your views and the views of your ilk about the Legitimate and crucial Resistance in Lebanon fail to acknowledge that essential and obvious side of the equation for those in the know….Hizbullah has to navigate those differences smoothly and daily since 1982…and should be given credit to be doing that in the best possible way…and we support them fully in their efforts.

    Posted by Anonymous#2 | February 7, 2011, 9:11 am

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