OPINION | Op-Ed Contributor to the New York Times, December 18, 2014
The outsize influence and campaign donations of King Coal subvert democracy in Appalachia.
Without a Democrat Senate to worry about and diregarding Republican opposition to normalization of relations with Cuba, President Obama Acts Finally Like a Nobel Laureate says Scott Galindez, a co-founder of Truthout.
Obama Finally Acts Like a Nobel Laureate.
By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News
18 December 2014
Normalizing relations with Cuba was an act worthy of consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The diplomatic thaw can lead to more peace and justice if it is the first step. The most important move that can be made would be to lift the cruel and unjust embargo against Cuba. For over 50 years the embargo has made a poor country poorer.
The failed policy has not weakened the Castro Government, instead it has exacerbated poverty in what was one of the most vibrant economies prior to the Cuban Revolution.
According to the Smithsonian: “By the late ’50s, U.S. financial interests included 90 percent of Cuban mines, 80 percent of its public utilities, 50 percent of its railways, 40 percent of its sugar production and 25 percent of its bank deposits – some $1 billion in total. American influence extended into the cultural realm, as well. Cubans grew accustomed to the luxuries of American life. They drove American cars, owned TVs, watched Hollywood movies and shopped at Woolworth’s department store. The youth listened to rock and roll, learned English in school, adopted American baseball and sported American fashions.”
For the Cuban elite and American investors all was great. But for many in Cuba, the resources were concentrated in the hands of an elite class that was enjoying life with their partners, the American Robber Barons. The inequality led to the Cuban Revolution. When the Batista regime fell and American-owned resources were nationalized by Castro, the capitalists in Washington decided that they would do all they could to make sure the revolution failed.
The Cuba policy reminds me of the Republican strategy for dealing with Barack Obama’s presidency. They did everything they could to make sure more Americans would suffer and blame the President for their pain.
Regime change never came. Some would argue that the embargo helped Fidel Castro unite the Cuban people against the “real” boogeyman in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said: “These historic actions by the President chart a new course for our country’s relationship with Cuba and its people. It will improve the lives of millions and will help spur long overdue economic and political reform across the country. Expanding economic engagement between the Cuban people and the American business community will be a powerful catalyst that will strengthen human rights and the rule of law.”
So buyer beware, while increased economic activity between the United States and Cuba could be a good thing, we must make sure it does’t lead to more exploitation by Cuba’s powerful neighbor.
President Obama said in Cuba yesterday: “There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba. I was born in 1961 – just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism. We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.”
Those differences have hardened for many Cuban Americans, but at the same time younger Cubans living in the United States support the president’s actions. They are the future, voices of hope and reconciliation. Let’s not listen to the voices of the past, being amplified by politicians like Marco Rubio who I am convinced express the view of an ideological fraction of the Cuban American community that will soon become the minority.
If we follow the direction the Obama administration is taking on Cuba, one day liberal Cuban politicians will start prevailing in South Florida and extremists like Marco Rubio will be out of office.
In a statement on Cuban television, Raul Castro called on President Obama to lift the embargo through executive action. Many are saying it will require an act of Congress. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait on the “just say no” Congress – since this policy was initiated by Obama, we know they will do everything they can to reverse it.
Republicans were quick on Wednesday to accuse President Obama of appeasing our nation’s adversaries and showing weakness.
“First Russia, then Iran, now Cuba: One More Very Bad Deal Brokered by the Obama Administration,” blared the subject line of a release from Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) office.
“Unfortunately, this is yet another example of this administration continuing to show the rest of the world and dangerous leaders like those in Iran and North Korea that the United States is willing to appease them,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said.
“It is par for the course with an administration that is constantly giving away unilateral concessions, whether it’s Iran or in this case Cuba, in exchange for nothing, and that’s what’s happening here,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on Fox News.
But there’s one very important way in which Cuba differs from all of these other bad actors on the world stage. And it’s this: Americans aren’t scared of Cuba — like barely even a little bit.
Despite Cuba’s proximity to the United States (about 90 miles from Florida) and its alliance with other antagonistic countries like North Korea and Russia, Americans have grown progressively less and less concerned that the island country actually poses a threat to the United States.
A CNN/Opinion Research poll earlier this year, in fact, showed that just 5 percent of people viewed Cuba as a “very serious threat” and 21 percent said it was a “moderately serious threat.” Another 72 percent said it wasn’t a threat at all or “just a slight threat.”
Back in 1983, two-thirds of Americans viewed Cuba as at least a “moderately serious threat,” but that numbers has fallen steadily since then.
In addition, Cuba today simply can’t be compared to the likes of Iran, Russia, North Korea and the others as far as the threat it poses. Seven in 10 Americans say each of those countries poses at a least a “moderately serious threat,” compared to 26 percent for Cuba.
As President Obama makes his case that normalizing relations with Cuba is a good idea, this is a major factor working in his favor. As long as Americans aren’t afraid of Cuba, they will likely be more accepting of a diplomatic relationship.
It’s no coincidence, after all, that the sharp decrease in fear of Cuba has coincided with a sharp rise in support for diplomacy.
World leaders have welcomed a historic move by the US to end more than 50 years of hostility towards Cuba and restore diplomatic relations.
Pope Francis joined leaders from Latin America and Europe in praising the “historic” deal which saw the release of prisoners from both countries.
Op-Ed Columnist – The New York Times, December 18, 2014
Sending in gunmen to liberate the Bay of Pigs failed, but perhaps we’ll do better with diplomats, tourists and investors.
Op-Ed Contributor – The New York Times, December 18, 2014
Instead of punishing my country, the U.S. should check its own record.
From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency – for what it is worth this December (2014)
News Brief: Iran unveils monument to Iran-Iraq War Jewish ‘martyrs’
(JTA) — Iran unveiled a monument to Jews who died during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.
IRNA, the official Iranian news agency posted photos of the ceremony Monday, headlined “Monument to Jewish Martyrs Unveiled in Tehran.”
The page was captioned, “Iran on Monday unveiled a monument to the Jewish citizens who lost their lives in the 8-year Iraqi imposed war on Iran.”
The monument, a gold colored slab with inscriptions in Persian and topped by an artistic representation of the Hebrew phrase, “Peace Forever,” appears to be set in a Jewish cemetery.
Another slab bears a tiled depiction of a gold seven-stemmed Menorah set against a royal blue background.
There also are photos of officials speaking at a podium next to a large seven-stemmed Menorah, and of Jews praying and paying respects at tombstones in the cemetery.
The Iranian parliament’s vice-speaker, Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard, praised the relationship between the government and Iran’s Jewish community during an address at the ceremony.
“The explicit stances of the Jewish community in supporting the Islamic Republic’s establishment and their obedience to the Supreme Leader of the (Islamic) Revolution demonstrate the bonds originating from the teachings of the divine religions,” he said, the Tasnim news agency reported.
He also praised the Jewish community for its condemnation of U.S. demands on Iran, Israeli actions visa vis the Palestinians, and the “violent and inhumane” behavior of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Launch of the ‘Open Geospatial Data for Energy Access’ Survey
from: Yann Loic Tanvez ytanvez at worldbank.org
OPEN GEOSPATIAL DATA FOR ENERGY ACCESS
Phase 1 / Survey: Understanding the Practitioners’ Needs
Access the survey by clicking on the following link: goo.gl/forms/OY1bE5vFE6
Access to quality information and data is crucial for the need assessment, planning and monitoring of basic services delivery in developing countries. In the energy sector, and specifically in the context of providing energy access to currently un- or under-served populations, the use of ground level geospatial data for strategic planning at both national and project levels remains in an early stage. Yet, interest and uses have increased in recent years as public and private sector stakeholders intend to prioritize, rationalize and accelerate centralized and decentralized energy infrastructure-related investments.
The World Bank Group and the European Space Agency are joining forces in a pilot initiative capitalizing on existing ground level geospatial data and collecting missing information via satellite Earth Observation. Starting from the requirements of energy access practitioners, this collaboration seeks to identify relevant datasets, demonstrate their potential and formulate best practices for their use in energy access related projects.
The first phase of this pilot initiative is the following survey that aims to identify the various geospatial datasets required by the different stakeholders across the energy access value chain. The findings of this survey will be made available to the wider community through a short publication. Phase 2 will provide identified datasets on a demonstration basis in two selected countries, to assess their utility and test the project rationale in real-world investment scenarios.
We are grateful for your time in completing this survey. The information you provide below will inform the broader energy access agenda, as well as the World Bank Group team leading this initiative by ensuring it effectively responds to the data needs of the various energy access practitioners.
For any further information, or for discussing a deeper engagement with this initiative, please do not hesitate to contact M. Yann Tanvez at ytanvez at worldbank.org.
This activity is part of the WBG initiative “Incubating Innovation for Rural Electrification”. Further information, knowledge resources, as well as recordings and materials from previous events are available on the initiative’s online collaborative platform. The platform is accessible at collaboration.worldbank.org/grou….
If you would like to join the energy-l at IISD Mailing Lists
The complexities of Energy Money as per East Coast New England States. They seem to insist on being strangled by the fossil fuels industry by not allowing increase in renewable energy and then complain when extortion by the conventional industry occurs.
From the U.S. Section of The New York Times:
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE – Weekend December 13, 2014
Starts with Photo of Patricia Richardson, 78, a retiree in Salem, N.H., who has taken energy-saving measures and said she could not understand why her bills had still increased. Credit Charlie Mahoney for The New York Times.
Then reporting from SALEM, N.H. — John York, who owns a small printing business here, nearly fell out of his chair the other day when he opened his electric bill.
For October, he had paid $376. For November, with virtually no change in his volume of work and without having turned up the thermostat in his two-room shop, his bill came to $788, a staggering increase of 110 percent. “This is insane,” he said, shaking his head. “We can’t go on like this.”
For months, utility companies across New England have been warning customers to expect sharp price increases, for which the companies blame the continuing shortage of pipeline capacity to bring natural gas to the region.
Now that the higher bills are starting to arrive, many stunned customers are finding the sticker shock much worse than they imagined. Mr. York said he would have to reduce his hours, avoid hiring any new employees, cut other expenses and ultimately pass the cost on to his customers.
Like turning back the clocks and putting on snow tires, bracing for high energy bills has become an annual rite of the season in New England. Because the region’s six states — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont — have an integrated electrical grid, they all share the misery.
These latest increases are salt in the wound. New England already pays the highest electricity rates of any region in the 48 contiguous states because it has no fossil fuels of its own and has to import all of its oil, gas and coal. In September, residential customers in New England paid an average retail price of 17.67 cents per kilowatt-hour; the national average was 12.94 cents.
Beyond that, the increases confound common sense, given that global oil prices have dropped to their lowest levels in years, and natural gas is cheap and plentiful from the vast underground shale reserves in nearby Pennsylvania.
But the benefits are not being felt here. Connecticut’s rate of 19.74 cents per kilowatt-hour for September was the highest in the continental United States and twice that of energy-rich states like West Virginia and Louisiana. The lowest rate, 8.95 cents, was in Washington State, where the Columbia River is the nation’s largest producer of hydropower.
For the coming winter, National Grid, the largest utility in Massachusetts, expects prices to rise to 24.24 cents, a record high. The average customer will pay $121.20 a month, a 37 percent increase from $88.25 last winter.
The utilities argue that they are hamstrung unless they can increase the pipeline capacity for natural gas, which powers more than half of New England. That would not only lower costs for consumers, they say, but also create thousands of construction jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.
The region has five pipeline systems now. Seven new projects have been proposed. But several of them — including a major gas pipeline through western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, and a transmission line in New Hampshire carrying hydropower from Quebec — have stalled because of ferocious opposition.
The concerns go beyond fears about blighting the countryside and losing property to eminent domain. Environmentalists say it makes no sense to perpetuate the region’s dependence on fossil fuels while it is trying to mitigate the effects of climate change, and many do not want to support the gas-extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that has made the cheap gas from Pennsylvania available.
Consumers have been left in the middle, as baffled as they are angry. Utilities across the region are holding workshops and town meetings to try to address their concerns and offer tips on energy conservation. About 100 people showed up this month for a meeting at Salem High School here that included a presentation by Liberty Utilities, the largest natural gas distributor in New Hampshire.
John Shore, a company spokesman, told the audience that in times of peak demand, the available natural gas went first to residential and business customers. Some power plants that normally rely on gas then turn to more expensive fuels like oil, although not all plants have the ability to switch fuels. In some cases, electric generating plants go offline, and more expensive generators are used to make up the capacity.
Prices are also up this winter because they are based in part on last winter’s high prices. Arctic blasts from the polar vortex drove up the cost of wholesale power in New England to $5.05 billion for the three months from December 2013 through February 2014 alone — almost the same as the cost for the entire year of 2012.
Patricia Richardson, 78, a Salem retiree in the audience, said she had already had an energy audit on her 100-year-old house, installed triple-pane thermal windows, bought a new boiler, had insulation blown in and put weather stripping around leaks. She could not understand why her bill had still increased, even after pressing Mr. Shore.
Ms. Richardson said after the meeting that his explanation had been confusing. “I wanted to know in my heart that he was giving it to me square,” she said. “But I didn’t get that feeling.”
Many utilities provide rebates when customers buy high-efficiency appliances, and offer free energy audits, savings plans and guidance on limiting energy use. Government programs and nonprofit organizations are stretching to help those who cannot pay the utility bills necessary to make it through this cold, dark season.
But even if these stopgap measures help some households in the short term, the outlook for the long term appears gloomy.
A year ago, the governors of the six New England states agreed to pursue a coordinated regional strategy, including more pipelines and at least one major transmission line for hydropower. The plan called for electricity customers in all six states to subsidize the projects, on the theory that they would make up that money in lower utility bills.
But in August, the Massachusetts Legislature rejected the plan, saying in part that cheap energy would flood the market and thwart attempts to advance wind and solar projects. That halted the whole effort.
“The impasse just kicks the can down the road, and I see no reason why this dynamic isn’t going to be repeated during the heating season for years to come,” said John Howat, a senior policy analyst at the National Consumer Law Center, a Boston-based nonprofit advocacy group for low-income residents.
“I think we need to be more aggressive in pursuing renewables and energy efficiency,” Mr. Howat said. “But I doubt we can implement those solutions quickly enough and at a sufficient scale to relieve the economic burden in the short term on those 30 percent of households that don’t have sufficient income to pay these bills.”
The problem may be getting worse, not only because of pipeline constraints but because old coal and oil power plants are being retired. The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which supplies nearly one-third of Vermont’s electricity, is also scheduled to go offline this month.
ISO New England, the independent system operator that oversees the region’s energy market, said it expected there to be “sufficient resources” this winter to meet demand. But in a November assessment, it called the pipeline constraints severe and said the reliability of the system would “continue to be threatened” until the region expanded its pipeline capacity or invested in other energy sources.
Figuring out how much new pipeline might be enough is not an easy calculation. Massachusetts, for one, is analyzing its needs now for a report due at the end of the month. It is a complex process, said Mark Sylvia, the state’s undersecretary for energy, because it must take into account the state’s desires to avoid dependence on one type of fuel, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure reliability “so the lights stay on.”
THE OBAMA SHAKE-DOWN of CLIMATE CHANGE: Lima is becoming a steping-stone towards a Paris 2015 global system to answer the Climate Change man-induced phenomenon. This thanks to President Obama’s insistence on a list of self-imposed obligations by Administrations that are not demanding a Parliamentary, or in the case of the US – a Senate, blessing.
LIMA, Peru — Diplomats from 196 countries are closing in on the framework of a potentially historic deal that would for the first time commit every nation in the world to cutting its planet-warming fossil fuel emissions — but would still not be enough to stop the early impacts of global warming.
The draft, now circulating among negotiators at a global climate summit meeting here, represents a fundamental breakthrough in the impasse that has plagued the United Nations for two decades as it has tried to forge a new treaty to counter global warming.
But the key to the political success of the draft — and its main shortcoming, negotiators concede — is that it does not bind nations to a single, global benchmark for emissions reductions.
The idea is to reach a global deal to be signed by world leaders in Paris next year, incorporating 196 separate emissions pledges.
That is the point at which, scientists say, it will become impossible to avoid the dangerous and costly early effects of climate change — such as melting glaciers, rising sea levels, extreme drought, food shortages and more violent storms.
The Lima draft represents the input of all the negotiating countries, though there are still several major hurdles to work out. But even then, experts say, at best the new deal might be enough only to curb global warming by about half as much as scientists say is necessary.
Until recently, the United States and China, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas polluters, have been at the center of the impasse over a climate deal.
Until this year, the United States had never arrived at the United Nations’ annual climate negotiations with a domestic policy to cut its own carbon emissions. Instead, it merely demanded that other nations cut their use of coal and gasoline, while promising that it would do so in the future.
China, meanwhile, was the lead voice among nations demanding that developing economies should not be required to commit to any cuts.
But in November, President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China announced plans to reduce emissions, helping inject new life into the global climate talks.
Negotiators here call the joint announcement between China and the United States the catalyst for the new draft, which, if approved at the climate summit meeting this week, would set the stage for a final deal to be signed by world leaders next year in Paris.
In the United Nations’ first effort to enact a climate change treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the legally binding language of the agreement prescribed that the world’s largest economies make ambitious, specific emissions cuts — but it exempted developing nations. The United States Senate refused to ratify the treaty, effectively leaving it a failure.
The Lima draft does not include Kyoto-style, top-down mandates that countries cut emissions by specific levels. Instead, it includes provisions requiring that all nations, rich and poor, commit to policies to mitigate their emissions. Countries that sign on to the deal will commit to announcing, by March, detailed, hard-numbers plans laying out how they will cut emissions after 2020.
The draft that emerges this week “will look like a game of Mad Libs,” said one negotiator who was not authorized to speak publicly. Over the coming months, as countries put forth their emissions reduction pledges, the details of the final deal will be filled in.
It is expected that many countries will miss that March deadline. Officials from India and other countries have said that they are unlikely to present a plan before June.
In order to ensure that all countries are included in the deal, late announcers will get a pass. The point, United Nations officials say, is to ensure that the information exists to finalize a Paris deal by December 2015.
Negotiators concede that the “each according to their abilities” approach is less than perfect — but that it represents what is achievable.
“The reality of it is that nobody was able to come up with a different way of going about it that would actually get countries to participate and be in the agreement,” said Todd D. Stern, the lead American climate change negotiator. “You could write a paper, in theory, assigning a certain amount of emissions cuts to every country. That would get the reduction you need. But you wouldn’t get an agreement. We live in the real world. It’s not going to be perfect.”
And there are still many hurdles ahead.
“Australia is left without any viable policy to cut emissions,” said Senator Christine Milne, the leader of the Australian opposition Green Party. “It’s going to drag its heels.”
Money, as always, is a sticking point.
The increasing likelihood that the planet’s atmosphere will warm past the 3.6 degree threshold, with or without a deal in Paris, is driving demands by vulnerable nations — particularly island states and African countries — that the industrialized world open up its wallet to pay for the damage incurred by its fossil fuel consumption. Under the terms of a 2009 climate change accord reached in Copenhagen, rich countries have agreed to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to help poor countries adapt to the ravages of climate change. But a report this month by the United Nations Environmental Program estimates that the cost to poor countries of adapting to climate change could rise to as high as $300 billion annually — and vulnerable countries are stepping up their demands that more money be included in any final deal. Many vulnerable and developing countries insist that each country’s national pledge include not just a plan to cut emissions, but also money for adaptation.
“The financing question will be one of the deepest divides,” said Jennifer Morgan, an expert in climate change negotiations with the World Resources Institute, a research organization.
Another element to be hashed out by negotiators will be devising an international number-crunching system to monitor, verify and compare countries’ pledged emissions cuts.
China has always balked at any outside monitoring of its major economic sectors, and is pushing back on proposals for rigorous outside scrutiny.
Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that his country “always supports increasing transparency” but that the new reporting system should reflect “the reality that developing countries’ basic capacities in areas like national statistics and assessment are still insufficient.” He added that “developed countries should provide appropriate support to developing countries.”
The United States has urged that a final deal not take the form of a legally binding treaty requiring Senate ratification, hoping to avoid a repeat of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol experience.
But many countries continue to press for a legally binding deal.
French officials have already given the yet-to-be-signed deal a working title: the “Paris Alliance.”
The name, they say, is meant to signify that many different economies are working together, rather than complying with a single, top-down mandate.
Edward Wong contributed reporting from Beijing.
Irith Jawetz writes from New York:
I just got back from the reception at the Austrian Consulate General in New York which was hosted by the Consul General and your friend Josef Mantl. I gave Mr. Mantl your regards and he reciprocated them.
This was a preview for a Charity auction at Sotheby to benefit operation Bobbi Bear in partnership with Arms Around the Child, which will take place on Monday, December 8th. Mr. Mantl and another Austrian gentleman Mr. Gery Keszler are involved in the Life Ball in Vienna and those bears are designed by celebrities and will be auctioned off. The celebrities who have their own bears include Bill Clinton, President Heinz Fischer, Vienna Mayor Michael Haeupl, Opera Star Anna Netrebko who lives now in Vienna, and many more. A few bears were on display tonight the rest are kept at Sotheby’s. The money will help abused children with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. This seems to be a huge problem there.
A few bears were on display tonight and sold! President Fischer’s Bear went for $1,300, and Mayor Haeupl’s bear fetched $ 1,350.
The South African NGO received tremendous help from Austria through the “Life Ball” event which is a huge charity event which takes place every year in Vienna and draws many celebrities including former President bill Clinton. This year the Life Ball will take place on May 16, 2015 inside the Vienna City Hall.
For further information about Bobbi Bear please visit keepachildalive.org
The children here are 5,6,7,8, years old and got aids because they were raped by people who had aids in the believe that this will help cure the AIDS. This was something I heard years ago in South Africa.
Above resonates because while I was in Johannesburg for the 2002 UN Global Summit, a lady of Scottish extract, helping out at my bed and breakfast Boer place, took me to visit an orphanage that was home to such children, and for which she did voluntary work. This was at a time we knew still very little of the AIDS scourge that was hitting Africa. She herself got interested because her son, of mixed race, a jazz musician, was living in a relationship with a black musician who contracted the virus. I was all amazed of complex human side of the new post-apartheid country. All volunteers there were church driven whites.
Dr. Auma Obama – Barack’s older sister – Joins the World Future Council with interest in Climate and Energy, Women and Children of Africa!!! The Alternative Nobel Prize that was also created by Jakob von Uexkull honors those that secure the rights of Future Generations.
FROM THE WORLD FUTURE COUNCIL
Dr. Auma Obama joins World Future Council.
Hamburg, 25 November 2014 – Dr. Auma Obama has been appointed Councillor of the World Future Council. The organisation works with decision-makers worldwide to implement policy solutions that secure the rights of future generations. At an official meeting with WFC board members Alexandra Wandel and Stefan Keinert, the older sister of US president Barack Obama signed the acceptance statement, declaring “I am honoured to become a part of your organisation. I cannot wait to meet my fellow Council members and to support the work on the rights of women and children, particularly in Africa.”
Auma joins the ranks of Councillors from a vast variety of countries and backgrounds, including Dr. Frances Moore Lappé, Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE and Dr. David Krieger.
Born and raised in Kenya, Auma Obama completed her doctorate at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. She is the initiator and CEO of the Sauti Kuu Foundation, which works to self-empower children and adolescents from underprivileged backgrounds in Kenya. A world sought-after speaker on sustainability issues, Auma Obama is also a board member of the Jacobs Foundation, which funds research and development programmes in the field of child and youth development.
Economy / AlterNet / By Janet Allon
“The Islamic Phoenix” – a Loretta Napoleoni study of the rebirth of the Islamic Caliphate she sees as a political movement that uses terrorism and Gulf oil money in order to build a modern Arab State on the ashes of present corrupt Arab States.
In effect – what Ms Napoleoni says is that the Islamic State uses globalization and aim at creating an original Muslim State that is for the Muslim world a parallel to what Israel is to World Jewry – albeit the first stage overlaps the borders of the Caliphate of Baghdad and will claim besides Iraq and Syria also Jordan , Lebanon, and Israel.
Introduction to Loretta Napoleoni’s THE ISLAMIST PHOENIX.
September 8, 2014
The following is the introduction to The Islamist Phoenix, a study of ISIS by Loretta Napoleoni, one of the world’s leading experts on money laundering and the financing of terror. Islamist Phoenix will be available as an ebook in early November, and as a trade paperback on December 2nd.
For the first time since World War One, an armed organization is redesigning the map of the Middle East drawn by the French and the British. Waging a war of conquest, the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (al Sham), or ISIS, is erasing the borders that the Sykes-Picot Accord established in 1916. The region where the black and golden flag of IS flies already stretches from the Mediterranean shores of Syria well into the heart of Iraq, the Sunni tribal area. It is bigger than the United Kingdom or Texas and, since the end of June 2014, is known as the Islamic Caliphate. “Caliphate” is the name given to an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a caliph, or successor to the Prophet Muhammad – the most famous being the Ottoman Caliphate (or Empire), which began in 1453 and lasted until the dissolution of the Caliphate and expulsion of the last caliph, Abdulmecid, at the hands of Kemal Ataturk in 1924.
Many believe that the Islamic State, like al-Qaeda before it, wants to turn back the clock, and indeed in Western media Syrian and Iraqi refugees describe its rule in their countries as a sort of carbon copy of the Taliban regime. Posters forbid smoking and the use of cameras. Women are not allowed to travel without a male relative, must be covered up, and cannot wear trousers in public. The Islamic State seems also engaged in a sort of religious cleansing through proselytism: people must either join its creed, radical Salafism; flee; or face execution.
Paradoxically, to deem the IS essentially backward would be mistaken. Indeed, during the last few years the belief that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader and the new Caliph, is a clone of Mullah Omar may well have led Western intelligence to undervalue him and his organization’s strength. While the world of the Taliban was limited to Koranic schools and knowledge based upon the writings of the Prophet, globalization and modern technology have been the cradle of the Islamic State.
What distinguishes the Islamic State from all other armed groups that predate it, including those active during the Cold War, and what accounts for its enormous successes, is its modernity and pragmatism. So far its leadership has understood the limitations that contemporary powers face in a globalized and multipolar world – for example, the inability to reach an agreement for foreign intervention in Syria, as happened in Libya and Iraq. Against this backdrop the Islamic State’s leadership has successfully exploited the Syrian conflict, the most recent version of the traditional war by proxy, to its own advantage almost unobserved, drawing funds from a variety of people: Kuwaitis, Qataris, Saudis, who, seeking a regime change in Syria, have been willing to bankroll several armed groups. However, instead of fighting the sponsors’ war by proxy, the Islamic State has used their money to establish its own territorial strongholds in financially strategic regions, for example in the rich oilfields of Eastern Syria. No previous Middle Eastern armed organization has been able to promote itself as the region’s new ruler with the money of its rich Gulf sponsors.
In sharp contrast with the Taliban’s rhetoric and despite the barbarous treatment of the enemy, the Islamic State is spreading a positive and powerful political message in the Muslim world: the return of the Caliphate associated with happier and richer times for Muslims. This message comes at a time of great destabilization in the Middle East, while Syria and Iraq are ablaze, Libya is on the verge of another tribal conflict, Egypt is restive, and Israel has been once again at war with Gaza. Hence, the rebirth of the Caliphate and of its Caliph, al-Baghdadi, appears to many Sunnis not as yet another armed group but somehow as a political entity that is rising from the ashes of decades of war and destruction.
The fact that this Islamist Phoenix materialized on the first day of Ramadan 2014, the holy month of fasting and prayer, should be regarded as a powerful omen of the challenge that the Islamic State poses to the legitimacy of all the 57 countries that follow the Islamic faith. As clearly stated by its spokesman, Abu Mohamed al-Adnani: “the legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the Caliph’s authority and the arrival of his troops to their areas.” This is a challenge posed by a new political organization that, while claiming to trace its legitimacy all the way back to 7th-8th century Arabia and the first territorial manifestations of Islam, comprises a contemporary state and commands a modern army. As such it should not be underestimated, especially if the Islamic State consolidates its territorial conquests.
That the threat is real, and that it is particularly felt by those who share a border with Syria and Iraq, are facts: in July, 2014 the black and golden flag of the Islamic State appeared in Jordanian villages, and in August thousands of IS militants streamed into Lebanon from Syria and took Arsal. Even former sponsors fear the military power of the Caliphate: at the beginning of July, al-Arabiya broadcast that Saudi Arabia had deployed 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq after Iraqi soldiers withdrew from the area.
Under the religious veneer and the terrorist tactics, therefore, lays a political and military machine fully engaged in nation-building, seeking consensus after territorial conquest. Residents of the enclaves controlled by the Caliphate affirm that its arrival coincided with improvements in the day-to-day running of their villages, from fixing holes in the roads to organizing soup kitchens for those who had lost their homes to the daylong availability of electricty.
_76526461_iraq_syria_isis_caliphate_25.07.14_624mapWhile territorially the Islamic State’s master plan is to recreate the ancient Caliphate of Baghdad — an entity that the Mongols destroyed in 1261 and that stretched from the Iraqi capital all the way into modern Israel — its political goal seems to be the shaping of a twenty-first century incarnation. In his first speech as Caliph, al-Baghdadi pledged to return to Muslims the “dignity, might, rights, and leadership” of the past, and at the same time called for doctors, engineers, judges, and experts in Islamic jurisprudence to join him. As he spoke, a team of translators across the world worked almost in real time to release the text of his speech on jihadist websites, facebook and twitter accounts in several languages including English, French, and German.
The Islamic State wants to be for Muslims what Israel is for Jews, a state in their ancient land that they have reclaimed in modern times, a religious and powerful state that protects them wherever they are, something to be proud of. This is a potent message for the disenfranchised Muslim youth who live in the political vacuum created by disturbing factors, such as the corruption and inefficacy of the Free Syrian and Iraqi Army, the Maliki government’s refusal to integrate Sunnis into the fabric of political life, the absence of proper socio-economic infrastructures destroyed during the war, and a high rate of unemployment. It is a powerful message also for those living abroad, the disenfranchised Muslim youth of Europe. No other armed organization has shown such insight and political intuition into the domestic politics of the Middle East and Muslim immigrants’ frustration all over the world, and no other armed organization has adapted to contingent factors, such as the provision of basic socio-economic infrastructures in the territory it controls to succeed at nation-building.
Its leadership has also studied the tactical and structural mistakes of past armed groups as well as their successes, and has put these lessons into a modern context. Like the European armed organizations of the 1960s and 1970s, the Islamic State understands the power of propaganda, of fear at home and abroad, and has been skilfully used social media to propagate sleek videos and images of its barbarous actions. Fear is a much more powerful weapon of conquest than religious lectures, something that al-Qaeda has never understood. Equally, the Islamic State knows that the 24-hour media seeks ever more brutal images, because in a world overloaded with information, extreme violence sells the news: thus the plentiful supply of photos and videos of brutal punishments and tortures uploaded in formats that can be easily watched on mobile phones. Shockingly, in a voyeuristic society, sadism, when appealingly packaged, becomes a major attraction.
The Islamic State has closely analysed the propaganda machine that the US and UK administration employed to justify the preventive strike in Iraq in 2003, in particular the creation of the myth of al Zarqawi which US Secretary of State Colin Powell used on in his speech to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003 to justify the invasion of Iraq. Thanks to an extensive and highly professional use of social media, the Islamic State has propagated equally false mythologies to proselytize, recruit, and raise funds across the Muslim world.
Crucial for the successes of this strategy have been the secrecy and mythology carefully woven around the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Bagdhadi. Again, in a world overloaded with information, mystery plays a major role in stimulating the collective imagination. The less people know, the more they want to know, and the more they imagine. Give people a few clips and they will complete the picture as they like it. Islam is premised on a certain nostalgia rooted in the return of the Prophet, while the West still fears Islam. Hence the IS is leading Muslims to believe that the Prophet has returned wearing the clothes of al-Baghdadi and at the same time it terrorizes Westerners with shockingly barbarous killings. Modern advertising has constructed a trillion-dollar industry atop these simple concepts. Now the Islamic State propaganda machine is using them to manufacture the myth of al-Baghdadi and his new Caliphate. What’s surprising is our surprise.
Finally, unlike al-Qaeda, the Islamic State is showing pragmatism. It seems to understand that, in the twenty-first century, new nations cannot be built and held together with terror and violence alone. To blossom, they require popular consensus. Hence the IS uses violence and Sharia law together with propaganda distributed over social media and a variety of popular social programmes aimed at improving the living conditions of the Sunni population trapped inside the Caliphate.
If this strategy succeeds, the world will be forced to turn a new leaf in the history of terrorism and nation-building, because the Islamic State will have provided a workable solution to the dilemma of terrorism. This, in a nutshell, is the true challenge that any armed organization poses to the modern state: whether to consider acts of terrorism as a threat to national security or to law and order. This dilemma springs from the ambiguous nature of terrorism: it has military aims – for example, among the goals of the Islamic State are freeing the territories of the old Caliphate of Baghdad from the tyrannical rule of the Shiites and the annexation of Jordan and Israel to recreate its ancient borders – but it employs criminal and barbarous methods like suicide bombings, the crucifixion of its opponents, and the beheading of hostages. Terrorism, therefore, could be defined as a crime with the aims of war. This ambiguity has allowed states to deny members of armed organizations the status of soldiers and enemies, relegating them to the ranks of outlaws even while using armies against them.
If the Islamic State succeeds in building a modern state, one that the world will not be able to ignore, using terrorism to gain territorial control and social and political reforms to secure internal popular consensus, it will prove what all armed organizations have affirmed: that they are not terrorists but enemies engaged in an asymmetrical war to overthrow illegitimate, tyrannical, and corrupted regimes. No matter how barbarous their actions are or have been, their status as threats to national security, as warriors, will be beyond doubt.
As the Islamic State’s war of conquest progresses, it is becoming clear that since 9/11 the business of Islamist terrorism has been getting stronger instead of weaker — to the extent that now it has morphed into a state — by simply keeping abreast with a fast-changing world in which propaganda and technology play an increasingly vital role. The same cannot be said for the forces engaged in stopping it from spreading.
As GOP Swept Congress, Black Republicans Took Home Historic Wins.
The Republican Party made historic gains during this week’s midterm elections. Among their victories were three wins by black Republicans, who seem to be building momentum for diversifying the GOP ranks.
Mia Love — who is Mormon and Haitian-American — is one of those three, and Republicans in Utah’s 4th District will be sending her to Congress next year.
“Many of the naysayers out there said that Utah would never elect a black, Republican, LDS woman to Congress,” Love told a crowd on Tuesday. “And guess what? Not only did we do it, we were the first to do it!”
Another big winner was Tim Scott, who was appointed to the Senate in 2012, but won a full term in his own right on Tuesday. He’s now South Carolina’s first elected black senator, and the South’s first since Reconstruction.
Texas also celebrated a historic win in Will Hurd, a former CIA officer who is the first black Republican from Texas ever to win a U.S. Congressional seat.
“It’s a start,” says Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “And yeah, I want more. You know, I want to get to the point where it’s not notable.”
Steele, the first black chairman of the RNC, is notable himself. He says these rising stars will follow the lead of former representatives Allen West and J.C. Watts, who, like other black Republicans, faced suspicion from many black voters.
“You still have to deal with the stereotype that somehow if you’re a black Republican, you’re not a real black person,” he says.
But Steele adds there are also legitimate questions about his party’s commitment to racial diversity.
“White folks get excited when they see, ‘Oh, got a black candidate running for office!’ ” he says. “OK, that’s great. But what are you doing to get them elected? It’s not just enough to have the face on the ballot.”
Amy Holmes, a former speech writer for Republican Sen. Bill Frist and an anchor on the TheBlaze.com, says this newly-elected group represents an important part of the post-Obama era of politics.
“I think President Obama’s election in 2008 inspired a lot of African-American politicians, including on the right,” Holmes says.
Holmes points out these candidates also succeeded in places where black voters did not make up the majority.
“The old conventional wisdom has been that an African-American politician has to run from a majority African-American district,” she says. “Well, these three candidates prove that’s not true.”
Why Did Black Voters Flee The Republican Party In The 1960s?
But the relationship between the GOP and black voters has to change as U.S. racial demographics continue to shift, according to Lenny McAllister, a former Republican candidate for Congress and the host of The McAllister Minute on the American Urban Radio Network.
Early exit polls show almost 90 percent of black voters supported Democrats on Tuesday, and McAllister says that allegiance to the Democratic Party diminishes black political power.
“We cannot continue to only access half of the political process,” McAllister says. “We need Republicans and Democrats being actively and efficiently responsive to our needs.”
McAllister admits it will take more than these three winners for Republicans to earn the trust of black voters. But he says we shouldn’t forget how a young senator from Illinois beat the odds to become America’s first black president.
“The impossible happens in America, and if we’re going to open up the doors to what’s possible for more Americans, we have to take on this fight now,” he says.
Reading the Tea Leaves on Energy & Fuels in the 114th Congress: While there may not be the super majority needed to block a filibuster or overcome a Presidential veto on bills that would negatively impact renewable energy – renewable fuels may not fare so well in the upcoming Congress. Senator James (Jim) Imhofe of Oklahoma will agree only to subsidies for oil.
From: EESI – the Environmental and Energy Study Institute
1112 16th Street, NW, Suite 300
November 7, 2014
With their sights already set on the 2016 election, Boehner and McConnell are vowing to end the ‘grid lock’ and “put as much legislation on the President’s desk as possible in the next two years, starting with many bills which passed [the House] with bipartisan support—only to gather dust in a Democratic-controlled Senate that kept them from ever reaching the president’s desk.” Not surprisingly, McConnell and Boehner’s agenda includes voting on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. While not specifically mentioned in early comments from leadership, it is likely that several bipartisan energy issues will be raised again, including the renewable tax credits and the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill. It is also likely that the oil export ban, the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, and other proposed regulations and expansions of oil and gas drilling on federal lands will receive attention in the new Congress.
In early 2014, Inhofe expressed interest in repealing the RFS, and instead focus on expansion of domestic oil and gas drilling. Inhofe wrote that the RFS should be repealed, “allow[ing] ethanol and other biofuels to compete on a level playing field with all other transportation fuels”— a common refrain of renewable energy foes. Ironically, Inhofe makes no mention of the $4.8 billion in taxpayer funded subsidies to the oil and gas industry each year. But it is clear, without the support of the EPW Chairman, challenges to the RFS will be brought forward. In looking over previous anti-RFS legislation from the 113th Congress, a few patterns emerge. It is likely that efforts to modify the RFS could include capping ethanol at ten percent of fuel volumes, blocking or hindering mid-level blends, and possibly cuts to corn ethanol from the mandate. And while many environmentalists would like to see the focus shift solely to advanced fuels, such as those sourced from agricultural or other wastes, corn ethanol has provided the marketplace for the nascent advanced fuels categories. Indeed, many cellulosic plants coming online today are bolt-on technologies to existing corn ethanol facilities. Therefore, these two industries’ fates are intrinsically tied together and are both important to the future of biofuel and biobased products and our ability to move away from oil dependency.
What remains to be seen is if any of these bills could achieve the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and make it to a vote on the Senate floor. Hopefully, it will not come to that point; the importance of support beyond the ‘corn belt’ cannot be ignored. The industry itself has already had ‘1000 cuts’; distribution has been severely limited by infrastructure issues created by the oil and gas industry; public perception issues still loom large, and a long-delayed 2014 renewable volume obligates (RVOs) has chilled industry investments in new technologies and feedstocks. The result is an industry that is increasingly looking abroad for investor certainty, as China, South America and Europe still remain bullish on renewable fuels. Therefore, it would be unwise for the industry to rely on historic support. Instead, the case needs to be made as to why ethanol and other biofuels are important to every district and state, by lowering prices at the pump, reducing reliance on oil, creating jobs and a globally competitive industry, and lowering exposure to toxic tailpipe emissions.
For more information see:
Energy Policy Seen Ripe for Compromise in GOP Congress, Bloomberg
Will Ethanol Ride the GOP Wave?, Agriculture.com
Sen. Inhofe, denier of human role in climate change, likely to lead environment committee, The Washington Post
Congress Should Repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard, Washington Times
Contact at EESI:
The Lower Price of Oil Helped Saudi Women: The Shura Council budged and said that above 30 years of age, no make up, and with their guardian’s permission could be allowed to drive when the sun shines.
The AP reports:
“The council member told The Associated Press that the Shura Council made the recommendations in a secret, closed session held in the past month. The member spoke on condition of anonymity because the recommendations had not been made public.”
As The Two-Way’s Bill Chappell reported last year, there have been a number of bold protests against the ban, with Saudi women getting behind the wheel for a day. Thousands have signed online protests against the ban. The October 2013 protest highlighted by Bill was the third of its kind since 1990.
The AP says that the Shura Council recommended that women 30 and older be allowed to drive until 8 p.m. each day if they have permission from a male guardian. They would be allowed to drive from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday through Wednesday and noon to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, the Muslim weekend.
The council is also recommending a “female traffic department” made up of female officers to deal with female drivers, the AP says.
After an interim of two Months of the Zombies – Without the fiction of a Democrat Senate – we are optimists in the sense that we think Gridlock is over – instead there will be acceptable Compromise and honest Confrontation.
QUOTATION OF THE DAY:
President Obama’s problems were in part caused by Senate Democrats who catered to demands from interests that claimed to speak for the people rather then backing foresight that was presented by the White House. Many of such Senators lost anyway and in their last two months in Congress are now free to vote their conscience having been freed from politics.
For whatever this is worth – we post here the thoughts of Heritage Foundation’s President – former Congressional leader Jim DeMint – while eager to see what President Obama still manages to achieve during this interim two months of a “Zombie Congress” – the time he is facing a still a nominal Democrat Senate – at least by name. The following two years, with the fiction of a Democrat Senate out of the way – President Obama will be forced to govern by rulings from the White House and vetoes of Congressional legislation that he will not be ready to accept. We are thus optimists and say that the time of Gridlock will be over – a new era of compromise or clear confrontation is looming for these two years.
Commentary By Jim DeMint
With the midterm elections just behind us, Americans might think they can finally stop worrying about politics for a while. Not so fast! Now is when they need to be more vigilant than ever.
Although dozens of politicians were replaced with fresh faces on Election Day, the losers don’t have to vacate their offices for two months. That means they can keep on voting in a “lame duck” session of Congress.
While “lame duck” is the standard parlance in D.C., I prefer the more colorful term “Zombie Congress,” popularized in recent years by George Will and others. It more aptly conveys the peril of the situation. Zombie legislators are those unhappy senators and representatives who have been voted out of office, yet still stagger dutifully back to Washington for a month or so before Christmas break. ‘Tis the season when they are most dangerous.
Unlike their B-movie counterparts, these zombies don’t seek brains, though they could probably use some. With no electorate to appease, the newly politically “deceased” members have no incentive to restrain their more base urges to feast upon the hard-earned tax dollars of the living.
Unfortunately, lame duck sessions have become more common in recent years and have been used to rush through liberal policies while most Americans are focused on the holidays. Obamacare was rammed through the Senate on Christmas Eve in 2009. Other lame ducks were used to pass bailouts, debt limit increases, big spending bills, special-interest tax breaks and even an ill-advised arms treaty with Russia.
Lame duck lawmakers could use this year’s post-election session to push through a costly omnibus spending bill … with total impunity. Those who want to further burden Americans by taxing their Internet purchases also are contemplating the chance to ram through the misleadingly titled “Marketplace Fairness Act.” The “fairness” here means you send more money to the government!
It’s not just a matter of electoral death and taxes, either. All sorts of controversial issues and massive bills could be brought up when We the People think it’s safe to turn our attention away from Washington and enjoy family, fall and football. Harry Reid has been clear in his desire to preserve corporate welfare for big “green” energy companies by tying it to good “must pass” tax provisions, instead of waiting until next year to consider them separately.
In the past two lame duck sessions of Congress, ill-advised treaties have arisen, such as the United Nations Disabilities Treaty, which violates American sovereignty in helping its citizens who need care. If the disability treaty rises from the dead this session, it would impose foreign educational and social agendas upon our country regardless of the will of the people.
Not all hazards arise from the legislative branch: President Obama has threatened to implement additional unilateral amnesty for illegal immigrants after the election. He already has “lit the beacon” of amnesty for further incoming waves under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and has hinted at expanding it to millions more who have entered the country illegally. A Congress where the balance of power is determined by folks with nothing to lose lacks incentive to stand up to the president’s executive overreach or work with him for a sane alternative to the border crisis.
Tackling these challenges will take time, deliberation and, most importantly, a legislative body which actually represents Americans and has a stake in the outcome. That’s not the kind of body you have in a Zombie Congress.
As of last night, the nation has spoken, giving a new generation of leaders the mandate to govern on popular conservative priorities such as school choice, increased energy production and more jobs. But the losers could still affect national policy even after the voters have made their wishes clear.
Harry Reid and John Boehner should insist the zombies shuffle homeward without hurting the country and begin the transition to real life as soon as possible. Americans don’t need divisive, expensive legislation forced on them in a lame duck session by senators and representatives they’ve already fired. We have big challenges to face as a nation, and we’ll face them best with a Congress that better reflects the will of the people. And it can all wait until January!
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint rose from modest South Carolina roots and a career in marketing to build and lead a resurgent conservative movement.
Jim DeMint @JimDeMint