Category Archives: North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas.
Hillary Clinton with Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, former president of Argentina.
Florida lobbyist Freddy Balsera partnered with Carlos Molinari, who’s been indicted in the financial scandal in Argentina, on the scheme
By Ken Silverstein • 10/24/16 8:00am
I’m a reporter who intensely dislikes both major party presidential candidates, but my personal experience during this campaign, bolstered by witnessing the incredibly slanted coverage we’ve seen the past month, is that the media is far more interested in running negative stories about Donald Trump than about Hillary Clinton. Trump indisputably received a lot of positive coverage when he was running in the GOP primaries, but once this became a two-person race the gloves came off, which has had a huge impact on coverage and helped Hillary immensely.
One of the most heavily promoted storylines of this year’s campaign is that Trump is a tool of Moscow and Vladimir Putin and no one is pushing it harder than Hillary Clinton’s campaign, as seen in last week’s debate. The idea that Trump is Putin’s Manchurian Candidate is too ludicrous to take seriously, as Paul Starobin, Businessweek’s former Moscow bureau chief, has written.
This storyline gained currency a few months back when Trump’s top campaign advisor, Paul Manafort, was forced to resign following a barrage of negative coverage about his work as a lobbyist in Ukraine. A flurry of stories came out — I wrote a couple of them— that raised legitimate issues about Manafort’s role in Ukraine, but few noted that his efforts mainly took place at a time that Ukraine had friendly relations with the United States, during the Bush and Obama years.
Here’s a story, thus far unreported, about a leading Clinton surrogate and fundraiser named Freddy Balsera who founded a company called Global Development Consultants Inc. with Carlos Molinari, a businessman who’s been indicted in a massive financial scandal in Argentina. Global Development Consultants is mentioned on multiple occasions in Molinari’s indictment, and Argentine prosecutors believe it played a role in laundering money directly into the United States — which would seem to be a good hook for U.S. reporters. The related scandal — which has been heavily covered by major U.S. media outlets — has resulted in the indictment of former Argentine president Cristina Kirchner and a host of financial middlemen and money launderers.
Do I think this made Hillary Clinton a tool of Kirchner’s left-leaning government? No I don’t, just as I don’t believe Manafort’s work in Ukraine somehow makes Trump Putin’s puppet. But I do believe the media would have been all over this story if it had been a Trump surrogate and not a Clinton surrogate who was involved, and that it raises important questions about one of her leading allies in Florida.
(I asked Balsera and the Clinton campaign for comment. Thus far they have not replied.)
Balsera is a lobbyist and PR consultant who runs Miami-based Balsera Communications, and he has a “unique proficiency” in peddling political narratives to the public, according to his bio page on the firm’s website. His partners at the PR firm include David Duckenfield, who took a leave from Balsera Communications to work in a senior job at the State Department under John Kerry between 2014 and 2016.
Balsera is also a Democratic operative with a big, influential political network in Florida, a key swing state, and he claims to have a huge following with Hispanic voters. He was an Obama media surrogate and claims to have crafted a good chunk of Spanish-language political ads for his campaign which “helped deliver an estimated sixty-six percent of the national Hispanic vote.”
Balsera was an Obama bundler and a member of his national finance committee, which appears to have reaped him some notable dividends. His family and Molinari’s bowled at the White House in 2010 (and Molinari’s daughter is an Obama donor). The president appointed him to the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, which sells U.S. foreign policy abroad, and earlier this year Balsera Communications opened a new office in Buenos Aires just as Obama was in the country tangoing his way through a state visit. A picture on Balsera’s Twitter feed shows him and Duckenfield jetting down to Buenos Aires to be there for Obama’s official trip. All a coincidence, no doubt.
Balsera helped secure a U.S. visa for an Ecuadorean woman, Estefanía Isaías, who had been barred from entering the United States because she’d been busted for illegally obtaining visas for her maids. The State Department under Hillary Clinton lifted the ban on Isaias in 2012 — the same year her rich, politically wired family gave more than $100,000 to the Obama Victory Fund and other Democratic causes, the New York Times has reported. “It was one of several favorable decisions the Obama administration made in recent years involving the Isaías family,” which lives in Miami and is accused by the government of Ecuador of having looted a bank,” the Times wrote.
Balsera sponsored Isaías’s visa application, which said she would be employed by his firm. But the Times never found any evidence that Isaias ever actually went to work for Balsera Communications. A senior executive at the firm had never heard of her and she was not listed as an employee on its website, Facebook page or Twitter timeline. In other words, it looks like Secretary Clinton did a big favor for Obama money man Balsera and for a family of Democratic donors.
Nowadays Balsera raises money for Hillary’s campaign —incidentally, his partner Duckenfield, another Obama bundler, does so, too— and is national co-chair of the DNC’s Hispanic Leadership Council. He’s also a director of Correct The Record, a Super PAC that closely coordinates with Hillary’s campaign and that put together a “rapid response team” that attacks Hillary’s critics. The group spent at least $1 million to target social media users and heavily pushed the “Bernie Bros” meme, which suggested that Sanders’ supporters were mostly deplorable misogynists.
Correct the Record was created by David Brock, the professional propagandist who also set up Media Matters — another Clinton attack vehicle that protects its Supreme Leader in the same way that North Korea’s Central News Agency defends Kim Jong-un.
Like many in the Clinton camp, Brock’s political positions and empathy are decidedly situational.
His vehicles have worked furiously to promote stories about Donald Trump’s awful remarks about women. This is a bit rich because back during Bill Clinton’s years as president — when Brock got his start in propaganda as a Republican hatchet man — he famously labeled Anita Hill, the woman who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.”
Anyway, Balsera is a big deal in Washington and Miami and it turns out that he’s well connected in Argentina as well through Molinari and Global Development Consultants (and now with his PR firm’s brand news Buenos Aires office). But for reasons that will become clear shortly, the normally voluble Balsera apparently doesn’t like to talk about Global and all traces of that firm’s presence on the Internet have been scrubbed, seemingly after Molinari’s embarrassing legal problems erupted in Argentina.
I obtained — from the National Legal and Policy Center, which provided key research for this story — a screenshot from the firm’s old website. It shows that Global, registered in Florida, was created by Balsera and Molinari. A third major player at the firm was Diego Molinari, Carlos’ son, who was identified on the now scrubbed Global website as CEO and executive vice president.
Here’s a nutshell summary of the case:
The figure at the center of the scandal is Lázaro Báez, a former bank teller turned oligarch who built a vast business empire through contracts awarded by his close friend Cristina Kirchner and her husband, Néstor Kirchner, who preceded her as president of Argentina. When Néstor died, Báez was so bereft that he erected a three-story mausoleum to house his former patron’s remains.
Prosecutors allege that Báez received huge kickbacks on his government contracts and moved them abroad into offshore accounts with the help of a labyrinth of middlemen. The network was reportedly set up in large part by Mossack Fonseca, the firm at the heart of the now famous Panama Papers scandal, and includes dozens of shell companies set up in the United States, mostly in Las Vegas.
According to the prosecution, tens of millions of dollars in kickback money was moved abroad with the help of SGI Argentina, a financial consultancy firm. SGI was hired to move Baez’s money by a man named Leonardo Fariña, who worked for Molinari for years and, the prosecution claims, retained SGI on his advice.
The whole scandal erupted after video footage from early 2011 emerged showing Martín Báez, the oligarch’s son, and a number of SGI employees counting cash at the company’s office and stuffing it into suitcases to be shipped overseas. Fariña, who later turned state’s witness, claimed that SGI sent so much money abroad, mostly to Switzerland, that the cash wasn’t counted but weighed.
On February 24, 2011, which is close to the time that the video was made, SGI sent a letter to the U.S. consulate in Buenos Aires requesting a visa for Fariña. The letter said he would travel to Florida the following month on a chartered plane with Molinari, who was identified as the president of Global Development Consultants.
Leonardo Fariña. Twitter
The letter refers to Fariña as SGI’s representative and said that Global Development Consultants had invited him “to see all the projects in which we may be interested in investing.” Molinari’s November 2013 indictment says that Farina bought 10 percent of the shares of Global Development Consultants for $1 million, which would have made him a partner in the firm.
According to prosecutors, Fariña’s trip with Molinari coincides with a period when SGI was moving all that dirty money abroad and was looking to make investments in Florida. Prosecutors say that during the first six months of 2011 Molinari and a number of friends took a total of 33 chartered flights looking to funnel SGI’s money offshore, including to Florida.
Curiously, in May 2011 Global Development Consultants and another firm formed an LLC called Stambul Ventures to manage the luxury Langford Hotel in downtown Miami. Molinari’s divorce records, which included a list of his assets, and Florida corporate records show that he had an interest in the property as well.
The Langford’s developers raised millions — 35 percent of the total costs — through the State Department’s EB-5 visa program to underwrite the renovation of the property, which was previously a historic bank. They applied for the funding in 2012 and began receiving the money in 2015.
In order to apply for the EB-5 visa, a foreigner must invest $500,000 in a project that produces at least 10 jobs in a rural or high unemployment area – or $1 million elsewhere. “Critics of the visa program say it amounts to little more than buying a visa and it benefits the wealthy more than the high-unemployment communities it’s supposed to help,” NBC News said.
The EB-5 program has been riddled by allegations of fraud and favoritism toward politically connected investors. In 2015, a Department of Homeland Security watchdog report said a top official had repeatedly intervened “on behalf of well-connected participants,” including Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Tony Rodham, a brother of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Politico has reported.
As of this writing, Báez remains in prison as the case unfolds, former president Kirchner has been called to testify and Molinari remains indicted and has reportedly been barred from leaving the country. And it appears that Balsera’s company Global Development Consultants served as a method for Argentine crooks to move dirty money through the United States.
It’s a ripe, juicy story involving a foreign scandal that helped bring down an overseas president, and it involves allegations of financial criminality in the United States and features an appearance by a major political campaign figure. I look forward, with bated breath, to reporters jumping to pursue this story, as there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered.
by Tyler Durden
Sep 6, 2016 6:30 PM
Why does it seem like almost everything is made in China these days? Yesterday I was looking at some pencils that we had laying around the house and I noticed that they had been manufactured in China. I remarked to my wife that it was such a shame that they don’t make pencils in the United States anymore. At another point during the day, I turned over my television remote and I noticed that it also had “Made In China” engraved on it. With Labor Day just hours in the past, I think that it is quite appropriate to write about our transition from an industrial economy to a paper economy today. Since the year 2000, the United States has lost five million manufacturing jobs even though our population has grown substantially since that time. Manufacturing in America is in a state of stunning decline, our economic infrastructure is being absolutely gutted, and our formerly great manufacturing cities are in an advanced state of decay. We consume far more wealth than we produce, and the only way that we are able to do this is by taking on massive amounts of debt. But is our debt-based paper economy sustainable in the long run?
Back in 1960, 24 percent of all American workers worked in manufacturing. Today, that number has shriveled all the way down to just 8 percent. CNN is calling it “the Great Shift”…
In 1960, about one in four American workers had a job in manufacturing. Today fewer than one in 10 are employed in the sector, according to government data.
Call it the Great Shift. Workers transitioned from the fields to the factories. Now they are moving from factories to service counters and health care centers. The fastest growing jobs in America now are nurses, personal care aides, cooks, waiters, retail salespersons and operations managers.
No wonder the middle class is shrinking so rapidly. There aren’t too many cooks, waiters or retail salespersons that can support a middle class family.
Since the turn of the century, we have lost more than 50,000 manufacturing facilities. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of gleaming new factories have been erected in places like China.
Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?
At this point, the total number of government employees in the United States exceeds the total number of manufacturing employees by almost 10 million…
Government employees in the United States outnumber manufacturing employees by 9,932,000, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Federal, state and local government employed 22,213,000 people in August, while the manufacturing sector employed 12,281,000.
The BLS has published seasonally-adjusted month-by-month employment data for both government and manufacturing going back to 1939. For half a century—from January 1939 through July 1989—manufacturing employment always exceeded government employment in the United States, according to these numbers.
You might be thinking that government jobs are “good jobs”, but the truth is that they don’t produce wealth.
Government employees are really good at pushing paper around and telling other people what to do, but in most instances they don’t actually make anything.
In order to have a sustainable economy, you have got to have people creating and producing things of value. A debt-based paper economy may seem to work for a while, but eventually the whole thing inevitably comes crashing down when faith in the paper is lost.
Right now, the rest of the world is willing to send us massive amounts of stuff that they produce for our paper. So we keep producing more and more paper and we keep going into more and more debt, but at some point the gig will be up.
If we want to be a wealthy nation in the long-term, we have got to produce stuff. That is why the latest news from Caterpillar is so depressing. In addition to the thousands of layoffs that had been previously announced by the industrial machinery giant, it appears that a fresh wave of layoffs has arrived…
Hundreds of mostly office employees received layoff notices at one of the largest Caterpillar Inc. facilities in the Peoria area this week, just as the company announced plans to close overseas production plants and eliminate thousands more positions.
A total of 300 support and management employees at Building AC and the Tech Center in Mossville this week received job loss notifications that included severance packages, 60 days notice and mandated Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act letters.
During this election season, you will hear many of our politicians talk about how good “free trade” is for the global economy. But that is only true if the trade is balanced. Unfortunately, we have been running a yearly trade deficit of between 400 billion dollars and 600 billion dollars for many years…
When you have got about half a trillion dollars more going out than you have coming in year after year that has severe consequences.
Let me try to break it down very simply.
Imagine that I am the United States and you are China. I take one dollar out of my wallet and I give it to you and then you send me some stuff.
After a while, I want more stuff, so I take another dollar out of my wallet and send it to you in exchange for more products.
But that stuff only lasts for so long, and so pretty soon I find myself taking another dollar out of my wallet and giving it to you for even more stuff.
Ultimately, who is going to end up with all the money?
It isn’t a big mystery as to how China ended up with so much money. And when we can’t pay our bills we have to go and beg them to let us borrow some of the money that we sent to them in the first place. Since we pay interest on that borrowed money, that makes China even richer.
This is why I am so obsessed with these trade issues. They truly are at the very heart of our long-term economic problems.
But most Americans don’t understand these things, and they seem to think that our debt-based paper economy can just keep rolling along indefinitely.
In the end, history will be the judge as to who was right and who was wrong.
In a fair election, my best estimate is that Donald Trump would win in a landslide.
But this election will not be fair. In fact, few of them are.
For Trump’s part, there is no doubt that he has been this year’s sensation. A newcomer to politics, he has thrown out all the conventional rules, played by his own, and found a captivated country hanging onto his every word. Love him, hate him, or somewhere in between… no one can look away from the spectacle.
After a war within the party and the convenient disposal of 16 conventional GOP contenders, Trump is now the official Republican candidate and he is in a strong position. Coming out of the relatively calm Republican National Convention and going into the tumultuous DNC, Trump has enjoyed soaring poll numbers while Hillary has been losing ground fast to the scandals and corruption revealed by Wikileaks and other related mouthpieces.
But the fat lady has not sung.
Hijacking the Party, Keeping Dissent Under Wraps
Hillary’s coronation last night as she formally accepted her party’s nomination could hardly have been more forced. The entire Democratic convention has been stage-managed to downplay the overwhelming noise from Bernie supporter who are outraged and feel betrayed by Hillary.
The entire convention has had a certain air to it, a quality that reveals the desperation for power, and the crisp sense of danger that brings with it.
To a casual observer, things might look typical enough, with a few sore losers and pipe dreamers wishing for an ideal country run by decent and fair people that either don’t exist or haven’t figured out how to win an election. But things are not typical – the paradigm is shifting. Politics realigns every 30 years or so, or at least that is the maxim that has held in political science. Only, the last shift has been 30 or 40 years overdue.
There is a reason for that, and the establishment has been fighting to stop the change for the past generation. They have faked out the cycle and kept the population under their thumb (when was the last time you saw a “real” presidential election that wasn’t a means to keeping the status quo?)
But delaying the inevitable won’t hold.
Why Trump Should Win…
As Michael Moore argued, Trump has been preaching the gospel of restoring America’s manufacturing, and is working to woo and turn to “red” the “blue” Rust Belt states where Americans once had strong middle class jobs, especially in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. According to Moore’s numbers (which are cited to motivate support for Hillary and opposition to Trump), if Trump captures those key states in addition to the red states that Mitt Romney, a weak candidate, won in 2012, then Trump should win the electoral college:
I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states – but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million). Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and tied with her in Ohio. Tied? How can the race be this close after everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it’s because he’s said (correctly) that the Clintons’ support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest.
In fact, Moore is right. Nobody wants any more Flint, Michigans (where the water is contaminated and poverty seems to be airborne and contagious), least of all Michael Moore.
Trump’s appeal is much broader than just his sensational antics and controversial statements. He is resonating with America because he is speaking to the wounds of those struggling to cling to what’s left of the middle class American Dream.
And the strength of Trump’s position there is buttressed by the cold fact that the Clinton’s strong support for NAFTA played a major role in the downward spiral of the Rust Belt, and many other parts of the United States.
Trump’s appeal to bringing jobs back to America has to sound like not only a good campaign strategy, but an actual sound idea.
Things have reached a point where nearly every American – regardless of how little they pay attention to news and world affairs – is feeling the damage that has been done. NAFTA, GATT, the WTO and an entire shift into pseudo-governing structures of globalism that have eaten away at the sovereignty of the United States and devoured the prosperity of its people have taken a serious toll on our way of life. And we have all been programmed to take it lying down.
The steady flow of funny money, artificially pumped out by the Federal Reserve has kept many from noticing it, but the real world effects are still hitting people on the street. Not only does the dollar not go as far as it used to, but everything in life is increasing in cost, and getting watered down in value and substance. Society is acting out one big charade, and pretending not to notice the outrage, dissent and anger seeping through the cracks and edges.
Inevitable and determined to win at all costs
Rather than let that burst on her watch, and during the only opportunity she has left in this lifetime, Hillary Clinton and her minions have rearranged all the deck chairs in her favor to force a win. It certainly hasn’t come from the grassroots. Where necessary, the Democratic party has fudged primaries and stolen them outright. The mainstream media has been scripted around her as an anointed figure who is untouchable and beyond reproach. They have stifled exposure of Bernie and would have done so to any other rival… if only any others had dared to enter the race.
Instead, the campaign to elect Hillary became an unrelenting junta to force her into office in spite of the will of the people, the rules of the game or the ever-expanding negative image of the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State whose corruption and ties to bad deeds are both legendary and sufficiently documented to warrant life without parole.
There was a never a realistic chance that Hillary would be prosecuted or even reprimanded over her email scandals, because the fix was in a long time ago. Those who would theoretically hold her into account were appointed by her husband, or by President Obama, and their cooperation was assured in private.
Though many have argued that you can’t put lipstick on a pig, that is exactly what has taken place. 2016 is more of a farce than ever… and there is still another round to go.
Only One Persons Stands Between Her and the Presidency
Can anyone else see that the most rigged and stolen election of all time is shaping up? If the Democratic party doesn’t want Hillary, what makes anyone think the entire country wants anything to do with her?
Before you answer that openly, make a strong educated guess about who the next president is going to be… and how many bodies she will have to climb over to get there.
What Wikileaks exposed with Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC, and what the emails have revealed about Hillary and the Clinton Foundation are surely only the tip of the iceberg. The stories of the delegates who were silenced or kicked out of the convention, and many other deceitful acts to destroy dissent and keep up appearances suggest some of the rest of the story… and it is anything but democratic or “of the people” – though very likely the whole of it will never be known.
There is something very, very wrong going on and it is time that everyone – regardless of ideology, party affiliation or politics – needs to face up to. Preliminary evidence indicates strongly that there has been a very carefully orchestrated coup taking place… and if successful, it will have only one logical conclusion:
Total power, at any price, with a facade of support and momentum that just isn’t there from anyone other than a handful of elite billionaires, and a cadre of clients with addresses that are either foreign or based on Wall Street.
If you missed the convention coverage, then you have got to see Hillary playing with the balloons after her speech.
There really is no wondering who she is concerned about… herself, of course.
As I mentioned above, it is reminiscent – even spot on – of Charlie Chaplin’s amazing parody in The Great Dictator, where his version of a Hitler-esque autocrat toys with the world as his plaything.
We are in for a world of hurt if what I think is going to happen turns out. The entire democratic process is being pushed back under the water, and a crude, fake smile is broadcast for appearances, while holding it all down.
09.12.2015 Author: Henry Kamens
Before oil is sold, it is tested. Oil test labs know exactly where the oil they test comes from and where it goes. We knew this even before the Las Vegas Sun broke a story about it.
But even though this story provided confirmation that there is no mystery about the oil sales funding ISIS, or the mechanism behind them, it hasn’t prevented these sales and transports continuing. This is because the logistics behind them are so sophisticated, and overseen at such a high level, that it is very difficult to isolate and expose the weak links in the chain.
When Bob Woodward of Watergate fame investigated drug use in Hollywood for a biography he found it more difficult to get to the truth than he had with Watergate, because the film industry closed ranks. Imagine how hard it is to expose what world governments are doing to support terrorism, when they try so hard to pretend they are doing the opposite. But maybe, just maybe, enough fingers are pointing in one direction to make it easier for other players to find an alternative, and sacrifice an ally along the way.
Would-be emperor with no clothes
We don’t know all the players involved in the transport and sale of ISIS oil. Inevitably, many are actually reputable oil testing and transport companies who go through the same procedures every day without them being called into question. But a few names which keep cropping up are a bit less than reputable, largely due to the concerns over their existing connections and how they maintain the bottom line.
One of these is Genel Energy Plc. This is one of the Rothschild companies, which should start alarm bells ringing in itself. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, we can say that it has made vast investments in Syria and Northern Iraq and it would make more business sense if it could deal with one compliant government in these countries rather than two unreliable ones. Taking a less charitable line, we can suggest, as some pundits have, that there has long been a Rothschild plan to create a Kurdish state for this purpose, and it was in the works even before the 9/11 attacks.
However, no one is going to sacrifice the Rothschilds, who can buy and sell any country on earth, and through investing in military actions. So if one of the players has to be cut out for being an embarrassment, it would have to be one the West already has plenty against. This is where, once again, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes in. He and his clan have made a lot of money by abusing their authority to become major components in this business. But if anyone has to take a fall to keep the operation running, they are the prime targets, and they know it.
Divorce of convenience
Turkey is a US ally because of where it is. It may be under constant disapproval for being everything the West claims to oppose, but as long as it is useful that doesn’t matter, unless, of course, you have the misfortune to live there.
One of Turkey’s most useful features is its ports – or rather, certain ports not actually in Turkey. Under the Treaty of Kars, signed in 1921, the area now known as the Adjarian Autonomous Region was ceded by the transitional Turkish state to the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. However, one clause of that agreement states that Turkey has the right to transport goods in and out of the port of Batumi without paying any duties and can use the port whenever it wants without paying any duties. In effect, this means it retains control of Batumi’s port facilities, and can classify them as a “strategic interest”.
This arrangement has several useful aspects. Firstly, the Georgian authorities cannot police the port. Turkey can do whatever it wants there, transporting goods which would be too risky to move elsewhere, and Georgia’s best bet is to claim a piece of the inevitable action. Secondly, as the port is a “strategic interest” any threat to it can be met with a military response, under another clause of the Kars treaty. Get too close, Turkey sends troops in, you risk World War Three over some dodgy goods.
Thirdly, the port was once in the Soviet Union and is now very close to Russia. People, as well as goods, can be smuggled through it, and this has created the smoke-and-mirrors world Batumi presents today, in which no one knows who really controls what. It has long been known as a can of worms best steered clear of, and this is the advice routinely given to reporters, diplomats, businessmen and even Black Sea holidaymakers who get too close to something they aren’t even aware of.
The nature of this port operation was confirmed in 2007. In that year Georgia embarked on an investigation into alleged Russian spies in its Ministry of Defence, including links to Saybolt Georgia. This was conducted with the help of Turkish and Israeli intelligence, but focused not of the Georgian MoD itself but on Batumi, where a thorough investigation was done into everything no one else is allowed to get near. It goes deeper than that … but let’s start with pipeline wars and all kinds of intrigue for the record.
It was later alleged that Russia had set up a spying facility in Batumi, disguised as an oil testing laboratory. But that would have nothing to do with the Ministry of Defence. The ministry’s name had been used to justify bringing in outside intelligence services for another purpose, Georgia having its own intelligence service, which calls in the CIA, not Turkey and Israel, when it wants extra help. So several of the managers of Saybolt Georgia, Armen Gevorkian, director and Ruben Shikoian, his deputy were arrested based on trumped up spy charges. The purpose was to secure actual control of oil exports from Georgia, and this was done in collaboration with Turkish intelligence—as now there would be no oversight.
When the long-preplanned Georgia-Russia war came the following year some regional analysts wondered why Georgia’s largest seaport was not being bombed by Russian planes. Israel is, of course, always seeking friendly terms with Russia as well as being a US ally, and secures a regular supply of oil through Batumi. They also asked why the war only lasted eight days, despite the Western protestations of support for Georgia. Turkey’s behind-the-scenes reminders of its right to intervene to protect its interests, and the disruption this would cause to global oil supplies, go a long way to explaining this.
So it is hardly surprising, given this background, that influential people in the Turkish state use the port for their own purposes. These include the son of President Erdogan. Bilal Erdogan owns the BMZ group, a marine transport company. Of all the companies he might own, this is the one he considers the most useful and unimpeachable.
Both Russia and Syria have openly accused the Erdogan family of transporting undocumented crude oil deriving from ISIS. Russia has also stated that the shooting down of its plane was retaliation for Russia bombing truckloads of oil supplies near the Syrian border.
Obviously the Erdogans deny all this. But Turkey is known to have smuggled Kurdish crude oil through another port, Ceyhan, for years. That port is state-owned. It is also Turkish state policy to support the Syrian opposition through oil sales, alongside the Western powers who arm, fund and train them, and therefore a state-controlled oil smuggling mechanism must exist and be part of a wider Western oil supply operation.
Turkey is serving a purpose, in exchange for the usual payoffs. But maybe the gravy train is about to come to an end. It is possible for test labs to tell exactly where the oil came from. Exactly!
Proof of the pudding
All the information now being released in the Western media conveniently smears Turkey. It is not the only country involved of course. But it is the one which will suffer most when the West tries to continue its game by investigating the allegations which are now being made.
When oil tankers arrive at their destinations the oil they carry can be retested. If results are falsified in Batumi or elsewhere, this will be picked up later on. At the moment the BTC oil pipeline, which passes through Batumi and Ceyhan (the ‘B’ and ‘C’ of its name) does not keep backup samples after testing, which suggests that some of the oil going through it is not what it is purported to be. But this must have been exposed elsewhere, by end users who may now be being given the signal that to maintain their existing supplies, it is in their interests to say what they know.
After all, this process has been gone through before. One of the oil testing labs in Batumi was once run in collaboration with a company called Saybolt Georgia. It parent company, based in The Netherlands, has a sordid history, having been implicated in Food for Oil deals with Iraq between 1996 and 2003.
Saybolt was set up as a scapegoat by US testing company Intertek Caleb Brett, working with US and Turkish intelligence. These parties raised no objection when it hired the son of Alex Bakradze, the former Head of State Security for former Adjarian ruler Aslan Abashidze. When the time came, Caleb Brett dropped the word and it was reported that Saybolt wasn’t all it presented itself as. Saying it was obliged to investigate its own allegations, it discovered that the head of the testing had had no qualifications whatsoever and removed several staff for having failed drug tests, which were of course undertaken in-house.
Thereafter Saybolt’s history revealed, and its connection with Bakradze and the reviled regime his father worked for made public knowledge. Caleb Brett did not pretend this was anything other than a plot: one of its management told one of the dismissed employees, “I can continue to list all non-conformities in QHSE/Compliance, Georgian Branch to explain the departure of one testing employee who was terminated and to share it with the media”.
It is no coincidence that both the BTC pipeline and the smaller Baku-Supsa pipeline are often down for repairs. The oil is merely abstracted from the point at which the repairs are being made, usually before it arrives to Georgian pumping station number 2, and sold on to third parties who use other routes controlled by the same logistics mechanism, off the books. Employing incompetents appears, on the surface, to give a very good reason for undertaking repairs. The repairs themselves also involve filling the pipeline with oil which has not been documented or tested, as theoretically, it isn’t being sent there, until the next political realignment of the logistics arrangements needs to take place.
Ignorance is not bliss
Few would shed tears if the Erdogan family were brought down by oil testing as the case study shows in Georgia. Turkey would likewise present itself as cleansed of its rotten apples, with the same vigour the US displays when distancing itself from Richard Nixon, whose many crimes were not only known about but encouraged by many of those who vilify him today. Then it would continue as an ally on new terms, and we would be told that its ISIS-funding past had been forgotten.
The mechanism for doing this is there, as Caleb Brett tests everything which passes through the BTC pipeline and always has. It has enough knowledge to bring Turkey’s leadership down overnight, and the information we are now receiving indicates that it is interested in doing this. It would also implicate itself of course, and its US and Turkish intelligence partners, if the full extent of its institutional knowledge was revealed. But only the discredited Turks will reveal it, while the international logistics mechanism will be subtly rejigged, with different players, and supplies of ISIS oil to the West, which suit both parties, will continue.
Insider sources claim that these same companies, and players, are tied in with the tankers used today in the smuggling of ISIS oil, and that nexus will give us the link with a group of Georgians working out of the Ukrainian port of Odessa, including former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvii.
When Jimmy Carter was US president he made a number of public addresses about energy, including his famous “malaise” speech. He eventually stopped doing it because the American people were no longer listening. You can get away with a lot if people aren’t really interested in what you’re doing. The progressive exposure of the Erdogan family’s oil smuggling for ISIS will bring down an ally which has pushed its luck too far, but that, rather than what they have done, will be the story.
The actual oil smuggling, and devastation it funds and causes, continue because none of us care enough to stop it. But that is no excuse for cynically exploiting the fact to destroy your own allies, simply because you have the power to do so.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
By Bill Bonner Of Bonner And Partners
Literally, Your ATM Won’t Work…
While we were thinking about what was really going on with today’s strange new money system, a startling thought occurred to us.
Our financial system could take a surprising and catastrophic twist that almost nobody imagines, let alone anticipates.
Do you remember when a lethal tsunami hit the beaches of Southeast Asia, killing thousands of people and causing billions of dollars of damage?
Well, just before the 80-foot wall of water slammed into the coast an odd thing happened: The water disappeared.
The tide went out farther than anyone had ever seen before. Local fishermen headed for high ground immediately. They knew what it meant. But the tourists went out onto the beach looking for shells!
The same thing could happen to the money supply…
There’s Not Enough Physical Money
Here’s how… and why:
It’s almost seems impossible. Hard to imagine. Difficult to understand. But if you look at M2 money supply – which measures coins and notes in circulation as well as bank deposits and money market accounts – America’s money stock amounted to $11.7 trillion as of last month.
But there was just $1.3 trillion of physical currency in circulation – about only half of which is in the US. (Nobody knows for sure.)
What we use as money today is mostly credit. It exists as zeros and ones in electronic bank accounts. We never see it. Touch it. Feel it. Count it out. Or lose it behind seat cushions.
Banks profit – handsomely – by creating this credit. And as long as banks have sufficient capital, they are happy to create as much credit as we are willing to pay for.
After all, it costs the banks almost nothing to create new credit. That’s why we have so much of it.
A monetary system like this has never before existed. And this one has existed only during a time when credit was undergoing an epic expansion.
So our monetary system has never been thoroughly tested. How will it hold up in a deep or prolonged credit contraction? Can it survive an extended bear market in bonds or stocks? What would happen if consumer prices were out of control?
Less Than Zero
Our current money system began in 1971.
It survived consumer price inflation of almost 14% a year in 1980. But Paul Volcker was already on the job, raising interest rates to bring inflation under control.
And it survived the “credit crunch” of 2008-09. Ben Bernanke dropped the price of credit to almost zero, by slashing short-term interest rates and buying trillions of dollars of government bonds.
But the next crisis could be very different…
Short-term interest rates are already close to zero in the U.S. (and less than zero in Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden). And according to a recent study by McKinsey, the world’s total debt (at least as officially recorded) now stands at $200 trillion – up $57 trillion since 2007. That’s 286% of global GDP… and far in excess of what the real economy can support.
At some point, a debt correction is inevitable. Debt expansions are always – always – followed by debt contractions. There is no other way. Debt cannot increase forever.
And when it happens, ZIRP and QE will not be enough to reverse the process, because they are already running at open throttle.
The value of debt drops sharply and fast. Creditors look to their borrowers… traders look at their counterparties… bankers look at each other…
…and suddenly, no one wants to part with a penny, for fear he may never see it again. Credit stops.
It’s not just that no one wants to lend; no one wants to borrow either – except for desperate people with no choice, usually those who have no hope of paying their debts.
Just as we saw after the 2008 crisis, we can expect a quick response from the feds.
The Fed will announce unlimited new borrowing facilities. But it won’t matter….
House prices will be crashing. (Who will lend against the value of a house?) Stock prices will be crashing. (Who will be able to borrow against his stocks?) Art, collectibles, and resources – all we be in free fall.
The NEXT Crisis
In the last crisis, every major bank and investment firm on Wall Street would have gone broke had the feds not intervened. Next time it may not be so easy to save them.
The next crisis is likely to be across ALL asset classes. And with $57 trillion more in global debt than in 2007, it is likely to be much harder to stop.
Are you with us so far?
Because here is where it gets interesting…
In a gold-backed monetary system prices fall. But the money is still there. Money becomes more valuable. It doesn’t disappear. It is more valuable because you can use it to buy more stuff.
Naturally, people hold on to it. Of course, the velocity of money – the frequency at which each unit of currency is used to buy something – falls. And this makes it appear that the supply of money is falling too.
But imagine what happens to credit money. The money doesn’t just stop circulating. It vanishes. As collateral goes bad, credit is destroyed.
A bank that had an “asset” (in the form of a loan to a customer) of $100,000 in June may have zilch by July. A corporation that splurged on share buybacks one week could find those shares cut in half two weeks later. A person with a $100,000 stock market portfolio one day could find his portfolio has no value at all a few days later.
All of this is standard fare for a credit crisis. The new wrinkle – a devastating one – is that people now do what they always do, but they are forced to do it in a radically different way.
They stop spending. They hoard cash. But what cash do you hoard when most transactions are done on credit? Do you hoard a line of credit? Do you put your credit card in your vault?
No. People will hoard the kind of cash they understand… something they can put their hands on… something that is gaining value – rapidly. They’ll want dollar bills.
Also, following a well-known pattern, these paper dollars will quickly disappear. People drain cash machines. They drain credit facilities. They ask for “cash back” when they use their credit cards. They want real money – old-fashioned money that they can put in their pockets and their home safes…
Let us stop here and remind readers that we’re talking about a short time frame – days… maybe weeks… a couple of months at most. That’s all. It’s the period after the credit crisis has sucked the cash out of the system… and before the government’s inflation tsunami has hit.
As Ben Bernanke put it, “a determined central bank can always create positive consumer price inflation.” But it takes time!
And during that interval, panic will set in. A dollar panic – with people desperate to put their hands on dollars… to pay for food… for fuel…and for everything else they need.
Credit may still be available. But it will be useless. No one will want it. ATMs and banks will run out of cash. Credit facilities will be drained of real cash. Banks will put up signs, first: “Cash withdrawals limited to $500.” And then: “No Cash Withdrawals.”
You will have a credit card with a $10,000 line of credit. You have $5,000 in your debit account. But all financial institutions are staggering. And in the news you will read that your bank has defaulted and been placed in receivership. What would you rather have? Your $10,000 line of credit or a stack of $50 bills?
You will go to buy gasoline. You will take out your credit card to pay.
“Cash Only,” the sign will say. Because the machinery of the credit economy will be breaking down. The gas station… its suppliers… and its financiers do not want to get stuck with a “credit” from your bankrupt lender!
Whose credit cards are still good? Whose lines of credit are still valuable? Whose bank is ready to fail? Who can pay his mortgage? Who will honor his credit card debt? In a crisis, those questions will be as common as “Who will win an Oscar?” today.
But no one will know the answers. Quickly, they will stop guessing… and turn to cash.
Our advice: Keep some on hand. You may need it.
APRIL 14, 2015
ISIS is operating a camp just a few miles from El Paso, Texas, according to Judicial Watch sources that include a Mexican Army field grade officer and a Mexican Federal Police Inspector.
The exact location where the terrorist group has established its base is around eight miles from the U.S. border in an area known as “Anapra” situated just west of Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Another ISIS cell to the west of Ciudad Juárez, in Puerto Palomas, targets the New Mexico towns of Columbus and Deming for easy access to the United States, the same knowledgeable sources confirm.
During the course of a joint operation last week, Mexican Army and federal law enforcement officials discovered documents in Arabic and Urdu, as well as “plans” of Fort Bliss – the sprawling military installation that houses the US Army’s 1st Armored Division. Muslim prayer rugs were recovered with the documents during the operation.
Law enforcement and intelligence sources report the area around Anapra is dominated by the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Cartel (“Juárez Cartel”), La Línea (the enforcement arm of the cartel) and the Barrio Azteca (a gang originally formed in the jails of El Paso). Cartel control of the Anapra area make it an extremely dangerous and hostile operating environment for Mexican Army and Federal Police operations.
According to these same sources, “coyotes” engaged in human smuggling – and working for Juárez Cartel – help move ISIS terrorists through the desert and across the border between Santa Teresa and Sunland Park, New Mexico. To the east of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, cartel-backed “coyotes” are also smuggling ISIS terrorists through the porous border between Acala and Fort Hancock, Texas. These specific areas were targeted for exploitation by ISIS because of their understaffed municipal and county police forces, and the relative safe-havens the areas provide for the unchecked large-scale drug smuggling that was already ongoing.
Mexican intelligence sources report that ISIS intends to exploit the railways and airport facilities in the vicinity of Santa Teresa, NM (a US port-of-entry). The sources also say that ISIS has “spotters” located in the East Potrillo Mountains of New Mexico (largely managed by the Bureau of Land Management) to assist with terrorist border crossing operations. ISIS is conducting reconnaissance of regional universities; the White Sands Missile Range; government facilities in Alamogordo, NM; Ft. Bliss; and the electrical power facilities near Anapra and Chaparral, NM.
Part 1 :: How This Phony CIA Agent Pulled Off a ‘Scam’ to Impose Environmental Regulations on Americans
Kevin Mooney / @KevinMooneyDC / February 10 2015
Remember the EPA bureaucrat who got caught receiving $900,000 in pay without working because he claimed he also was employed by the CIA?
According to a report from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the man, former climate policy expert John Beale, “retired” when questions arose about his spotty attendance and expense records.
Only he didn’t file his retirement paperwork and continued to draw an active-duty salary for some time after. His boss at the time in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, now-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, knew this for about seven months and did nothing to stop it.
>>> This is the first of a two-part series.
“On March 29, 2012, an OAR official raised concerns about Beale’s retirement when he informed McCarthy that Beale was still on payroll,” the report stated.
“Despite being aware of the fact that one of her subordinates was collecting a paycheck without providing any work product, this arrangement continued for seven more months before McCarthy ever contacted Beale.”
In December 2012, McCarthy met with Beale for the first time in nearly 15 months, and he informed her that he was no longer planning on retiring. Two more months passed before concerns with Beale were officially reported to the inspector general. On April 30, 2013, McCarthy had cause to fire Beale, but instead elected to allow him to voluntarily retire with full benefits.
Liz Purchia, press secretary for McCarthy, told The Daily Signal in an email: “[McCarthy] believed he was retired, and [that] was the reason he was not in the office.”
How Did He Do It?
According to the Senate report, Beale’s career at the EPA was marked by relentless dishonesty on matters large and small and a cadre of supervisors who, like McCarthy apparently in the matter of his retirement pay, enabled his self-dealing behaviors.
He claimed an injury so he could ride first-class on flights for government business, which in one case drove the ticket price from $1,000 to $14,000. He forged expense forms, claimed to be away on CIA business for 2½ years worth of work days and flew to Los Angeles and stayed in posh hotels on the EPA’s tab for family visits that had nothing to do with agency work.
Few even attempted to question Beale’s frequent absences, enormous expense reports, exorbitant salary—he retired as the agency’s highest-paid employee—and lack of accountability. He was personally popular, well-connected and believed to be among the agency’s most effective employees.
But Beale’s greatest deception has nothing to do with first-class flights and fancy hotels.
Beale, who is serving a 32-month sentence in the federal prison in Cumberland, Md., for pleading guilty to felony theft of government property, spent most of his career devising regulations under the Clean Air Act that are justified by science few have seen and no one has peer-reviewed, according to the Senate report.
“We should all question how John Beale became a senior official at the EPA and played a major role in long-lasting policy decisions while pulling off a scam I thought only Hollywood could make up,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., told The Daily Signal.
“But this egregious case helped us successfully reveal how EPA has wasted taxpayer resources and mismanagement in a manner that is far too common.”
John Beale and the Clean Air Act
Beale’s penchant for bilking the EPA out of money eroded the trust Americans place in their government and EPA employees place in their superiors and coworkers. But it was the role he played beginning in the mid-1990s in creating and implementing regulations pursuant to Clean Air Act that continues to reverberate and linger at the expense of the American people.
Staffers with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee set out last year to probe the relationship between “sue-and-settle” arrangements and evidence they had uncovered that pointed to the manipulation of scientific data.
What they discovered, as detailed in their report, titled “EPA’s Playbook Unveiled: A Story of Fraud, Deceit and Secret Science,” was how agency officials concealed and misled about the science that underpinned its most significant initiatives and silenced and marginalized their own internal watchdog offices, which enabled the agency to greatly overstate the benefits and underestimate the costs of its Clean Air Act rulemaking.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to create National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter and ozone. The American Lung Association sought to jumpstart this process with a so-called “sue-and-settle” suit filed in 1995.
The idea behind “sue-and-settle” is for friendly plaintiffs to sue a government agency, work out agreeable terms—perhaps even beforehand—and emerge with a court order to implement rules or regulations that could not have been achieved through the democratic or even regulatory process.
The American Lung Association suit resulted in a consent decree that called for the EPA to propose final standards for particulate matter by Nov. 29, 1996, and issue the standards by July 19, 1997. The decree set no deadline for ozone standards because they had been reviewed in 1993 and were not up for another review until 1998.
But Beale and Robert Brenner, his best friend and erstwhile boss, made what documents called a “policy call” and seized on the urgency to produce new particulate matter standards to rush through a new ozone standard as well.
This put the agency in the position of advancing two regulatory standards simultaneously, which it had never done. And it put the agency and those charged with reviewing such regulations, including the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, under impossible deadline pressure.
Why Beale Was Emboldened
The EPA admitted in court papers filed pursuant to the American Lung Association lawsuit that any period shorter than Dec. 1, 1998, for promulgation of the particulate matter standard “would require the EPA to reach conclusions on scientific and policy issues with enormous consequences for society before it has had an adequate opportunity to collect and evaluate pertinent scientific data” and that further time was needed to reach a “sound and scientifically supportable decision.”
Beale had no time for that. He needed an ally to move things along and found one in Carol Browner, the Al Gore acolyte and former staffer who served as administrator of the EPA through both terms of the Clinton administration. Beale formed a close relationship with her and met with her multiple times per week to discuss his progress on this.
The urgency, as well as his influence with the boss and an unwillingness of others at EPA to block him, gave Beale “the mechanism he needed to ignore opposition to the standards.”
Beale’s efforts to include ozone in the new regulations proved expensive for Americans.
The EPA estimated the cost at $2.5 billion, but its estimate was based on receiving the full benefits of cutting ozone but achieving only a partial attainment of the standards, which the law did not permit. The Council of Economic Advisers also measured the cost and found it to be $60 billion—24 times the EPA estimate.
Indeed, as was the case with him getting away with not showing up for work and submitting exorbitant expense reports, succeeding in this regulatory sleight of hand only emboldened Beale to go further.
‘Hidden and Unverified’
That first round of standards, which regulated coarse particulate matter, such as pollen and dust, became known as PM10. But Beale wanted more.
In 1997, with the backing of his superiors, he sought to engage the agency in regulating fine particulate matter—particles a fourth the size of those regulated under PM10 and too small to be visible to the human eye.
But to enact these regulations, EPA first had to produce scientific research that established these smaller particles posed a threat to humans.
To accomplish this, Beale pulled data from two controversial studies—the Harvard Six Cities Study and an American Cancer Society study known as ACSII. The data was not trusted. The air advisory committee pointed out it had not been peer-reviewed, and others indicated Beale was exaggerating the findings for his desired result.
Further undermining those studies’ credibility is that even now, 20 years later, EPA still refuses to release the data, despite McCarthy’s promise to do so during her confirmation hearings.
Though Beal is out of the picture and in prison, his rulemaking techniques he employed to advance the 1997 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and particulate matter remain firmly entrenched.
“This effort codified EPA’s now customary practice of using fine particulates (PM2.5) to inflate the benefits of nearly all regulations issued under the Clean Air Act,” the Senate report concludes. “Yet the science supporting nearly all of EPA’s alleged benefits remain hidden and unverified.”
Part 2 :: EPA Under Fire for Concealing Controversial Scientific Data, Silencing Skeptics
Kevin Mooney / @KevinMooneyDC / February 11, 2015
For more than 15 years, the Environmental Protection Agency has resisted releasing data from two key studies to the general public and members of Congress. Government regulators used those studies to craft some of the most expensive environmental rules in U.S. history.
When skeptics within the federal government questioned and challenged the integrity of the studies—the Harvard Six Cities Study and an American Cancer Society study known as ACS II—they were silenced and muzzled.
That’s when the Republican staff on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee stepped in to shine light on the situation, revealing the scope of the scandal in in a report titled, “EPA’s Playbook Unveiled: A Story of Fraud, Deceit and Secret Science.”
>>> This is the second of a two-part series. Read the first part: How This Phony CIA Agent Pulled Off a ‘Scam’ to Impose Environmental Regulations on Americans
The key player in the scandal is John Beale, who was sentenced to serve 32 months in federal prison on Dec. 18, 2013, after pleading guilty to stealing almost $900,000 from U.S. taxpayers.
It was in 1994 that Beale first began to beguile EPA employees and supervisors into believing he worked for the CIA. When he failed to report for work, Beale would enter “D.O. Oversight” on his calendar, which meant he was a director of operations responsible for covert operations at the CIA.
But it was the role Beale played beginning in the mid-1990s in creating and implementing regulations pursuant to Clean Air Act that continues to reverberate and linger at the expense of the American people.
Two Allies at the EPA
Over the past decade, evidence has emerged to reveal the Six Cities and ACS II studies did not support enacting one of the most controversial, far-reaching and expensive regulations in American history. Otherwise, the agency would have provided access to the data without a fight.
The political appointees who led the EPA at the time feared the consequences of enacting such a regulation without being able to offer scientific evidence of its necessity.
Beale needed an ally. He needed someone to explain the problems with the research and the reasons the data could not be released. Someone who could run interference with various actors in Washington. He found one in top EPA official Robert Brenner.
Brenner had recruited Beale, his former Princeton University classmate, to the EPA as a full-time employee in 1989.
Brenner, then deputy director of the EPA’s Office of Policy Analysis and Review within the Office of Air and Radiation, hired his friend despite Beale’s lack of legislative or environmental policy background. He also placed Beale in the highest pay scale for general service employees—a move typically reserved for those with extensive experience.
He then allowed Beale to collect retention bonuses, which go to only the most highly qualified employees to keep them from jumping ship—an unlikely scenario for a man who had picked apples and worked in a small-time law firm in Minnesota before joining the agency. Employees are supposed to be eligible for such bonuses—potentially worth as much as a fourth of the employee’s annual salary—for only three years, but Brenner helped Beale receive them for more than 10.
The two would work together at the EPA for 25 years—during which time the Office of Policy Analysis and Review would grow “in both scope and influence” as Beale and Brenner worked in tandem to muzzle dissenting voices within the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.
‘Beale Memo’ Details Regulatory Agenda
At the crux of their agenda—the initiative that would build their legend within the agency—was implementation of a fine particle standard regulating air pollution.
The formula had been set with the American Lung Association sue-and-settle agreement and codified in a confidential document known as the “Beale Memo,” which described how Beale pressured regulatory and clean air bodies to back off criticisms of EPA rulemaking both within the agency and in correspondence with members of Congress.
The EPA attempted to conceal this document from Sen. David Vitter’s committee investigators, but a conscientious whistleblower “turned it over surreptitiously,” the report said.
The memo outlined how Beale and Brenner would work to compress the time the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and the voluntary Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee had to review regulations so they could get away with using “secret science.”
The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee opposed from the start the move to regulate fine particulate matter. Members claimed there was no precedent or court order to establish these regulations, that research had not distinguished between dangers posed by PM 10 particles and those a fourth that size under PM 2.5, and that the PM 2.5 target was arbitrary and tied to no known science. (PM stands for particle matter, a term “for particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets,” according to EPA.)
Further, the committee, known as CASAC, complained it was being asked to do the work that took eight years on the previous air quality review in 18 months.
“The Beale memo is interesting in that it provides evidence of Beale’s direct role in ensuring concerns raised by other agencies, CASAC members and OIRA were not considered in the final rulemaking,” wrote Luke Bolar, spokesman for Vitter, in an email to The Daily Signal.
“While there were major concerns with the science and the cost-benefit analysis as outlined in comments filed on the rule, the Beale memo was written to push back against OIRA publicizing those concerns,” Bolar added. “They didn’t have to directly ‘blunt’ criticism, as Beale got his way through his close ties to Mary Nichols (then head of the Office of Air and Radiation) and Carol Browner (EPA administrator.”
Efforts to slow Beale, Brenner and their highly charged regulations failed. As a result, today the “co-benefits” of PM 2.5 are used to justify almost the entirety of the Obama administration’s air quality initiatives even though the immediate benefits still have yet to be proven.
“There is no watchdog now inside the EPA,” laments Steve Milloy, the former editor of JunkScience.com, which has posted a fact sheet that debunks the EPA’s PM 2.5 claims. “Whatever the EPA wants it gets. The agency is allowed to run rampant. There was a time when OIRA use to have stopping power, but now it’s just ignored. OIRA has become a rubber stamp.”
This is especially true of PM 2.5, Milloy says. “There is no real world evidence” PM 2.5 has caused sudden or long-term death, he said. “The claim that PM 2.5 kills people is at the heart and soul of how the EPA is selling these regulations. But it’s a claim that’s not supported by the facts or evidence. The EPA has rigged the whole process.”
Indeed, the purported co-benefits have become the benefits, according to Vitter’s report.
“Historically, EPA used co-benefits in major rules as one of several benefits quantified to justify a rule in the RIA,” the report says. “Yet, at the beginning of the Obama administration, there was a ‘trend towards almost complete reliance on PM 2.5-related health co-benefits.’ Instead of being an ancillary benefit, EPA started using PM 2.5 co-benefits as essentially the only quantified benefit for many CAA regulations.”
The Senate report claims all but five air pollution rules crafted between 2009 and 2011 listed PM 2.5.
Lack of Transparency at EPA
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set air quality standards to protect public health with an “adequate margin of safety.” In its review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, the EPA considers factors such as the nature and severity of health effects, the size of the at-risk groups affected and the science.
Several exhaustive scientific reviews prior and subsequent to the 1997 standards were conducted following open, public processes that allowed for public review and comment prior to updating the standards.
EPA press secretary Liz Purchia told The Daily Signal in an email that the process is open enough.
The National Ambient Air Quality Standards are bolstered by “sound science and legal standards,” she said, and “several exhaustive scientific reviews prior and subsequent to the 1997 standards were conducted following open, public processes that allowed for public review and comment prior to updating the standards.”
Beale’s involvement in no way undermines the rational basis for the agency’s decisions nor the integrity of the administrative process. Reducing the public’s exposure to ground-level ozone and PM protects millions of Americans from costly and dangerous illness, hospitalization, and premature death.
All that may be true, but the EPA still won’t provide the underlying data to put the matter to rest.
Vitter and his team say this is because the EPA can continue to overstate the benefits and understate the costs of federal regulations—just as Beale did in the 1990s.
“This technique has been applied over the years and burdens the American people today, as up to 80 percent of the benefits associated with all federal regulations are attributed to supposed PM 2.5 reductions,” the report states.
by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,
The gravy train is over for oil workers. All over North America, people that felt very secure about their jobs just a few weeks ago are now getting pink slips. There are even some people that I know personally that this has happened to. The economy is really starting to bleed oil patch jobs, and as long as the price of oil stays down at this level the job losses are going to continue. But this is what happens when a “boom” turns into a “bust”.
Since 2003, drilling and extraction jobs in the United States have doubled. And these jobs typically pay very well. It is not uncommon for oil patch workers to make well over $100,000 a year, and these are precisely the types of jobs that we cannot afford to be losing. The middle class is struggling mightily as it is. And just like we witnessed in 2008, oil industry layoffs usually come before a downturn in employment for the overall economy. So if you think that it is tough to find a good job in America right now, you definitely will not like what comes next.
At one time, I encouraged those that were desperate for employment to check out states like North Dakota and Texas that were experiencing an oil boom. Unfortunately, the tremendous expansion that we witnessed is now reversing…
In states like North Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas, which have reaped the benefits of a domestic oil boom, the retrenchment is beginning.
“Drilling budgets are being slashed across the board,” said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents more than 500 companies working in the state’s Bakken oil patch.
Smaller budgets and less extraction activity means less jobs.
Often, the loss of a job in this industry can come without any warning whatsoever. Just check out the following example from a recent Bloomberg article…
The first thing oilfield geophysicist Emmanuel Osakwe noticed when he arrived back at work before 8 a.m. last month after a short vacation was all the darkened offices.
By that time of morning, the West Houston building of his oilfield services company was usually bustling with workers. A couple hours later, after a surprise call from Human Resources, Osakwe was adding to the emptiness: one of thousands of energy industry workers getting their pink slips as crude prices have plunged to less than $50 a barrel.
These jobs are not easy to replace. If oil industry veterans go down to the local Wal-Mart to get jobs, they will end up making only a very small fraction of what they once did. Every one of these jobs that gets lost is really going to hurt.
And at this point, the job losses in the oil industry are threatening to become an avalanche. The following are 12 signs that the economy is really starting to bleed oil patch jobs…
#1 It is being projected that the U.S. oil rig count will decline by 15 percent in the first quarter of 2015 alone. And when there are less rigs operating, less workers are needed so people get fired.
#3 Oilfield services provider Baker Hughes has announced that it plans to lay off 7,000 workers.
#4 Schlumberger, a big player in the energy industry, has announced plans to get rid of 9,000 workers.
#5 Suncor Energy is eliminating 1,000 workers from their oil projects up in Canada.
#6 Halliburton’s energy industry operations have slowed down dramatically, so they gave pink slips to 1,000 workers last month.
#7 Diamondback Energy just slashed their capital expenditure budget 40 percent to just $450 million.
#8 Elevation Resources plans to cut their capital expenditure budget from $227 million to $100 million.
#9 Concho Resources says that it plans to reduce the number of rigs that it is operating from 35 to 25.
#10 Tullow Oil has reduced their exploration budget from approximately a billion dollars to about 200 million dollars.
#11 Henry Resources President Danny Campbell has announced that his company is reducing activity “by up to 40 percent“.
#12 The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is projecting that 140,000 jobs related to the energy industry will be lost in the state of Texas alone during 2015.
And of course it isn’t just workers that are going to suffer.
Some states are extremely dependent on oil revenues. Just take the state of Alaska for instance. According to one recent news report, 90 percent of the budget of Alaska comes from oil revenue…
But oil is also a revenue source in more than two dozen states, especially for about a third of them. In Alaska, where up to 90 percent of the budget is funded by oil, new Gov. Bill Walker has ordered agency heads to start identifying spending cuts.
Sadly, it looks like oil is not going to rebound any time soon.
China, the biggest user of oil in the world, just reported that economic growth expanded at the slowest pace in 24 years. And concerns about oversupply drove the price of U.S. crude down another couple of dollars on Monday…
Oil declined about 5 percent on Tuesday after the International Monetary Fund cut its 2015 global economic forecast on lower fuel demand and key producer Iran hinted prices could drop to $25 a barrel without supportive OPEC action.
U.S. crude, also known as West Texas Intermediate or WTI, settled 4.7 percent lower at $46.39 a barrel, near its intraday bottom of $46.23.
There is only one other time in history when we have seen an oil price crash of this magnitude.
That was in 2008, just before the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression.