Welcome to Foreign Policy Editors’ Picks for April 14 2015, FP’s round-up of the day’s best articles of the day.
Today, we look at Iran and Saudi Arabia’s power struggle, the aftermath of the Garissa attack in Kenya, and why the United States and Nigeria failed to bring the Chibok girls back.
KILL>CAPTURE: The Obama administration’s explicit policy is to capture suspected terrorists, not kill them. So why is the opposite taking place? FP’s Micah Zenko explores what’s behind the president’s affinity for drones:
Outmuscling the kingdom: The War in Yemen has exposed a naked struggle for influence between Riyadh and Tehran in the Middle East — and the Islamic Republic is coming out on top:
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE MOGADISHU: In the wake of the Garissa University attack, Somali expats in a Nairobi neighborhood are caught between an increasingly indiscriminate al Shabab and a heavy handed police force:
THE OTHER KIND OF GRIDLOCK: Despite the White House’s objections, Democrats sided with Republicans to unanimously approve a bill that could scuttle a final nuclear deal with Iran. FP’s John Hudson reports: Read more at: THE OTHER KIND OF GRIDLOCK: Despite the White House’s objections, Democrats sided with Republicans to unanimously approve a bill that could scuttle a final nuclear deal with Iran. FP’s John Hudson reports:
STILL NOT BACK: One year ago, the Chibok girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. FP’s David Francis reports on how the United States and Nigeria failed to rescue the 219 abducted girls:
The New York Times presents a good case why Europe should not sign an agreement with the US that allows US regulations that do not stand up to US business but overule laws of European States. The case in point is an unhealthy pesticide legal in the US but not used in Europe.
A Pesticide Banned, or Not, Underscores Trans-Atlantic Trade Sensitivities
This year, Tuesday March 3rd, happens on eve of Purim that young Jews celebrate with parties, this year it happens also that Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks before US Congress – it is all about an unsustainable attempt by Persians to persecute Jews.
As received from Lady Rabbi Judith Hauptman of the Ohel Ayalah community on New York City.
Dear Ohel Ayalah community,
P U R I M P A R T Y for 20s/30s
P U R I M, in a serious vein: The Scroll of Esther (the Megillah) will be read in synagogues on Wed night, March 4. One suggested (fun) venue is: JTS, 3080 Broadway, at 122 St. Time: 7 pm.
The danger that Memucan (one of the advisors) sees in Vashti’s refusal is preposterous. How will it provoke a rebellion by all the wives in the empire against their husbands? The burlesque of the great Persian empire, drowning in luxury, wine, courtiers, and incompetent management, reaches one of its high points here, with a touch of male sexual anxiety added for good measure (p17).
So read the rest of the Megillah in a communal setting on Wed night, Mar 4, or by yourself. Laugh but also cry. Here is a link to an online version of Megillat Esther: www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt3301….. You will need to click to get from one chapter to the next.
Please note: Passover is around the corner. Will be sending more information in a few weeks. Seder reservations open on Sunday, March 15. First night seder for all Ages, Fri April 3; Second night seder for 20s/30s, Saturday night, April 4.
Questions or comments? Write to me at Judith at ohelayalah.org.
Rabbi and Founder, Ohel Ayalah
A Conversation with Justin Gillis – Reporter for The New York Times
The conversation will be moderated by Michael Shank – Director of Media Strategy for Climate Nexus
Consulate General of France
The European Union Studies Center at The City University of New York – Graduate Center – 365 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, New York City.
This coming Wednesday, February 11 2015, at 6pm, we will co-sponsor a panel discussion featuring contributors to a new volume on EU-African relations:
The EU and Africa: From Eurafrique to Afro-Europe
Rob de Vos
The event will take place at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue, in Room 9207. A flyer is attached. Please RSVP by emailing RBInstitute at gc.cuny.edu
We hope to welcome you to this very interesting event!
Patrizia Nobbe, Ph.D.
Irith Jawetz reports: At the UN a Dialogue in the Face of Extremism – sponsored by Sweden and Indonesia – for the Alliance of Civilisations – and titled STAYING TOGETHER, and a Memorial to the Holocaust that was postponed for a day because of inclement weather – that included a speech by H.E. Reuven Rivlin – the President of the State of Israel and two statement of memories by Holocaust survivers – introduced by the UN Secretary General. This was a retelling of the Loss of Civilisation.
WORK IN PROGRESS
At the UN that date was bracketed in between two very important event. The one on Monday January 26th that was held as scheduled – right before the shut-down of the UN for Juno’s Tuesday the 27. The other event was supposed to be held on Tuesday the 27 Which was the Holocaust Memorial Day HMD, but was postponed for Wednesday the 28th – the day the UN gates were opened again.
We present here the two reports by Irith Jawetz who participated at the two events at the UN.
This event was the last one before the United Nations shut down because of the approaching of what was described as the “Blizzard of the Century” in New York City. When we left the building at 3 p.m. we were led out through the basement, since the main entrance and exit doors were already shut down. The UN expects to reopen again on Wednesday, January 28th. The Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, originally scheduled for Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 was postponed for Wednesday, January 28th due to the inclement weather.
It was a High-level Panel on “Staying Together – Dialogue in the Face of Violent Extremism” and took place on Monday 26 January 2015, 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm at the Trusteeship Council, UN Headquarters
The event was co sponsored by The Permanent Missions of Sweden and Indonesia to the United Nations.
Opening Remarks were given by H.E. Ms. Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden who welcomes everybody and thanked us all for attending the event in spite of the weather. She started by quoting Mahatma Gandhi who said ” There is no way to Peace – Peace is the way” . Sweden has had its problems since it has taken in refugees from Iraq, and now Syria, but she believes that dialogue between ethnic groups and religious leaders is the right way to combat those problems. Sweden encourages dialogue between leaders of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders.
The panel included:
H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations;
Closing Remarks were given by H.E. Mr. Desra Percaya, Permanent Representative, Indonesia
Mr. Jan Eliasson stressed that we have to stay cool and find the root causes to the problem of extremism. It is important to stop recruitment of new extremists, we have to isolate extremists and the job should be done by everybody who has some power, i.e. political leaders, religious leaders, parents, Grandparents, teachers, community leaders, whoever comes in touch with the public. It should be a wake up call.
Mr. Paul Berman introduced a new word: Islamism. By Islamism he does not mean Islam, or Islamists, but Islamism which is just like Fascism, Nazism, Stalinism. People who practice Islamism believe in conspiracy theory, the western world is against them, Zionism is against them, and he also stressed that those elements must be fought by all means.
The Consensus of the speakers was that recent acts of violent extremism around the world remind us that dialogue is more important than ever. We must stay together, united against those divisive forces which challenge the diversity and core values of our societies. A multifaceted and comprehensive approach is key. The counter-narrative to polarisation is inclusive participation.
This high-level event aims to give new impetus to the promotion of a culture of peace, dignity and respect for human rights, drawing on existing initiatives of the United Nations. Here, the UN Alliance of Civilizations and UNESCO’s “Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures” afford examples of intercultural confidence-building in practice. How can we together step up efforts to strengthen the voices of moderation? Can we, jointly, find new ways to co-operate in order to counter violent extremism whilst safeguarding a culture of dialogue?
The event was informative, and one can only hope that the ideas expressed will not stay only on paper and measures will be implemented.
The International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust is marked every year on January 27th, the date on which Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated in 1945 by Soviet troops. This year’s observance, on the theme ‘Liberty, Life and the Legacy of the Holocaust Survivors,’ coincides with two milestone events: the 70th anniversary of the Second World War’s end and the founding of the UN.
The Hall was crowded and the first rows were reserved for holocaust survivors.
“Anti-Semitism remains a violent reality; Jews continue to be killed solely because they are Jews. Extremism and dehumanization are present across the world, exploited through social media and abetted by sensationalist press coverage. The targets are as diverse as humankind itself,” the Secretary-General said.
“In Europe and elsewhere, Muslims are under attack, the victims of bigotry at the hands of political opportunists and ultra-nationalists. Vulnerable populations everywhere bury their dead and live in fear of further violence.”
“I take heart from counter-demonstrations, rallies and interfaith dialogue. We must all remain on our guard. We must uphold human rights, democratic freedoms and our responsibility to protect people at risk. And we must respond to terrorism and provocation in ways that resolve – instead of multiply – the problem,” he underscored.
H.E. Mr. Reuven Rivlin started his speech in English and continued in Hebrew. He explained that the Hebrew language is the language of his parents, his people, and it is befitting that this talk should be delivered in that language.
However, since the UN was founded, more nations and communities had been slaughtered. “We must ask ourselves honestly: is our struggle – the struggle of the General Assembly against genocide – effective enough?” he said. “Are we shedding too many tears and taking too little action?”
The General Assembly must act as a determined and unified international community or else risk leaving the ‘Never again’ oath hollow and defiled.
“We must remain silent no longer. We must rise up and take action,” he said.
In his remarks, General Assembly Vice-President Denis Antoine also underscored the importance of drawing lessons from the tragedy of the Holocaust and the need to “pass them on to the present and future generations,” particularly as the world continued to confront instances of violent intolerance and brutal prejudice.
A very remarkable speaker was Youth Advisor Ms. Charlotte Cohen. In September 2013 British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the establishment of a national holocaust Commission in order to ensure that Britain has a permanent and fitting memorial to the holocaust and educational resourced for generations to come. Ms. Cohen won an essay contest on the subject “Why is it so important that we remember the Holocaust and how can we make sure future generations never forget”. Charlotte came to the United Nations to speak on that important day and t stress the need to “never forget”.
Two emotional speeches came from two Holocaust survivors. The first was Mrs. Jona Laks who was nine years old and living with her family in Lodz, Poland, when Hitler invaded Poland. Together with her family she was forced to live under inhuman conditions in the Lodz Ghetto, and in 1944 was transferred to Auschwitz. She and her twin sister were subject to the experiments undertaken by SS Dr. Josef Mengele. She described the horrors she had to endure and there was not one dry eye in the audience. She managed to survive the Death March and ended up in Israel, the sole survivor of her family.
The second survivor was Soviet Army Veteran Mr. Boris Feldman who spoke in Russian. He was born in 1920 in Vinnitskaya Oblast, Ukraine, and was taken by the Nazis to the “Chernevetsloe” ghetto where he remained until March 1944 when the ghetto was liberated by the Soviet Army. Later he joined the Soviet Army and fought as an infantryman in Eastern Europe against the German Army. He was decorated with several military medals.
For the “musical” part of the ceremony we listened to Israeli Grammy Award winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari who co-founded the Gedenk Movement. She explained that the word “Gedenk” means “Remember” in Yiddish. She helped create the non profit organization in 2006 to expand young people’s awareness about the holocaust and antisemitism and its negative consequences in today’s world.
Cantor Shimmy Miller from Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey recited El Maleh Racahamim and Ani Ma’amin. He was accompanied by Mr. Daniel Gildar on the Keyboard.
A moving ceremony befitting its motto: “Liberty, Life and the legacy of the Holocaust survivors”.
Irith Jawetz worked 1972-2010 – for 38 years – as part of the Austrian Government Foreign Service – with Austrian Holocaust survivors that restarted their lives in the United States.
Islamic Fundamentalism Enforces want an end to civilization – the American Iranian Council that preaches mutual understanding speaks out against this behaviour shouldering it on now Yemen-based Al-Qaeda.
The killings – at the offices of a satirical newspaper in Paris – execution style – were done by three hooded individuals – two of them brothers.
In a statement posted on its website, French national police ask for information on the whereabouts of two suspects: They are brothers – Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi, warning that both are potentially armed and dangerous.
The gunmen who attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris asked for people by name before killing them, according to a doctor who helped the wounded and spoke with survivors.
Dr. Gerald Kierzek said the gunmen divided the men from the women before opening fire. The shooting was not a random spray of bullets, he said, but more of a precision execution.
A dozen people died in the attack. Authorities are searching for the three suspects.
On Wednesday, January 7, 2015, three heavily armed men staged a sophisticated attack on the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people. The paper is known for its provocative content on Islam, including satirical depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, something the religion prohibits. The attack was almost certainly a response to this content, as assailants were heard screaming “We have avenged the prophet,” and “Allahu Akbar.”
Speaking live on television, French President Francois Hollande said it was “a terrorist attack without a doubt.” All indications point toward an act of terrorism indeed. While it is not yet certain which individuals or group(s) are responsible for the attack, police officials named three suspects, and the Associated Press quoted one official who said they were linked to a Yemeni terrorist network. Al Qaeda is most active in Yemen.
The American Iranian Council stands with the French people, stands up for the rights and protections of free speech, and unequivocally condemns the gruesome violence conducted in the name of Islam. This horrific and sad event is another reminder that the entire civilized world needs to work together to stem the tide of radical Islamist violence wherever it exists.
At times like this tragic moment, it is particularly crucial that we remind ourselves that there is nothing more urgent in today’s chaotic world than the task of promoting better international understanding, dialogue and mutual respect towards world peace and development. The AIC is proud to have pioneered such a task in US-Iran relations and sustained it for over 25 years.
We continue to believe that the US and Iran face common enemies in terrorism, from Al Qaeda and the Taliban to ISIS and other similar groups, and must work together to eradicate it. Wednesday’s tragic event is yet another reminder of the need for these two countries to think more strategically about the imperative of reaching a mutually gainful deal on the Iranian nuclear dispute towards better relations.
-The American Iranian Council
As Reported by a US Press Release:
The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack against the headquarters of French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, France, on 7 January 2015, causing numerous deaths among journalists, media professionals and associated personnel as well as of two policemen.
The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this intolerable terrorist act targeting journalists and a newspaper.
The members of the Security Council expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the Government of France.
The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice.
The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the need to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.
In New York City – a Window of the US at the Start of 2015 – The Mayor and the Police. A “New Yorker” reminds us of the great American that moved to Paris – James Baldwin. The America we see will not sustain itself.
In New York City – a Window of the US at the Start of 2015
04 January 2014
In 1960, James Baldwin, the American Orwell, wrote “Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter from Harlem,” an essay that portrayed the ugly dynamic between white police officers and young black men in the neighborhood where he grew up:
Rare, indeed, is the Harlem citizen, from the most circumspect church member to the most shiftless adolescent, who does not have a long tale to tell of police incompetence, injustice, or brutality. I myself have witnessed and endured it more than once. . . . It is hard, on the other hand, to blame the policeman, blank, good-natured, thoughtless, and insuperably innocent, for being such a perfect representative of the people he serves. He, too, believes in good intentions and is astounded and offended when they are not taken for the deed. He has never, himself, done anything for which to be hated––which of us has?––and yet he is facing, daily and nightly, people who would gladly see him dead, and he knows it. There is no way for him not to know it: there are few things under heaven more unnerving than the silent, accumulating contempt and hatred of a people.
To contemporary readers, such a passage may seem a relic of a harsh past. Baldwin’s essay predates so many advances, including the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. The New York Police Department’s rank and file is no longer majority white. Crime rates are lower than they have been in decades. An African-American was elected President in 2008 and appointed an African-American to be the chief law-enforcement official in the land. American audiences go to see “Selma,” get teary-eyed, and think how far we’ve come. The temptation is to suppose that Baldwin has long since lost all relevance. Why, then, does the President gently remind us that if he had a son he’d look like Trayvon Martin? And why does the Attorney General say we are a “nation of cowards” when it comes to the discussion of race?
On January 3rd, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, an N.Y.P.D. officer, on any charge related to the homicide-by-asphyxiation, in July, of an African-American man named Eric Garner. New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, commented on the grand jury’s decision. He spoke with unapologetic honesty about the failure of the judicial system. He anticipated, and tacitly endorsed, peaceful protest, “the only thing that has ever worked” to advance social justice in America. And he spoke personally, saying that he and his wife, Chirlane, have had “the talk” with their son, Dante, about “the dangers he may face” on the street as a young man of color:
De Blasio then echoed one of the most resonant lines heard since the protests began last summer in Ferguson, Missouri. “It’s a phrase that should never have to be said,” he insisted. “It should be self-evident. But our history, sadly, requires us to say that black lives matter.”
The demonstrations that followed were almost entirely peaceful. There were instances of protesters shouting despicable slogans, but those instances were isolated and rare. Most police officers showed no more disrespect to de Blasio and the protesters than de Blasio and the protesters had shown to them. The truth is that both protest and argument, conducted peacefully and with decency, can have the effect of easing the long-running tension between the police and the policed and bringing about the kind of change that is needed. The “techniques” that killed Eric Garner demand reform, and so does a system in which it is nearly impossible to bring a police officer to trial.
And yet some police groups, including the leadership of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, charged that the Mayor was fanning anti-police sentiment. Then came the assassination, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, of two N.Y.P.D. officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, by a young man who had just shot his ex-girlfriend. That horrendous event devastated New Yorkers, particularly police officers, who daily put their lives at risk in the name of public safety. It also brought the simmering resentment among some police leaders to a boil of accusatory rhetoric. Patrick Lynch, the head of the P.B.A., who has waged battles over contracts and other issues with previous mayors, used the killings as a political cudgel. The Mayor, he said, had blood on his hands. Michael Goodwin, a columnist for the Post, was among those who had amplified the case for blaming de Blasio; the Mayor, he wrote, had thrown “gasoline on the fire by painting the entire force as a bunch of white racist brutes.”
As a way to cool tensions, de Blasio asked that there be a halt to protests, at least until after the officers’ funerals. The most flagrant refusal to do so came at the funeral of Rafael Ramos, when hundreds of police officers in attendance, following Lynch’s lead, turned their backs as the Mayor delivered a eulogy. An occasion of mourning had been hijacked. The police commissioner, William Bratton, was diplomatic, calling the gesture “inappropriate.” It was worse than that. It was an act of profound disrespect not only to de Blasio but also to the Ramos family members, who were there to grieve, not to witness a petulant display of resentment.
At his press conference, de Blasio had referred to a history that preceded the death of Eric Garner and charged it with meaning. The story of civil rights is not an event that ends with a triumphal arrival at a Southern statehouse. Two generations after Selma, the Supreme Court has started to roll back voting rights. Two generations after Selma, one out of three black males born in America today will, if present trends continue, see the inside of a prison cell.
“One day, to everyone’s astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up,” Baldwin wrote. “Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed, editorials, speeches, and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is that Negroes want to be treated like men.” Some of the language is of its time, but the demand is just and everlasting.
Comments posted by RSN:
+54 # DaveM 2015-01-04 12:51
+18 # Walter J Smith 2015-01-04 14:20
Remember that question being asked in the movie, Apocalypse Now?
The answer hasn’t changed.
As one CEO long ago said about the Pentagon, on their resume’s every general and admiral at the Pentagon runs the whole bureaucratic empire. Until you ask them a simple question. Then you immediately discover no one there knows anything about anything.
The same is true in the US Deartment of Veterans Affairs. I am now, as I have been since August, attempting to get the VA to give me the eye surgery their own doctors agree I need. Yet, the VA just keeps sending me for more appointments to have my eyes examined to determine if I need cataract surgery. And no one knows why. No one knows who makes the appointments. No one knows what can be done about it. No one knows who can schedule my cataract surgery. No one is responsible for anything. Except on their resumes. Where everyone of them is responsible for everything.
+19 # Art947 2015-01-04 15:31
Tell me which banker, hedge fund manager, corporate raider, etc. deserves the big bucks that they are paid when each has a hand in destroying the lives of average Americans? Are you listening, Mr. Romney? Mr. Dimon?
+9 # brux 2015-01-04 12:58
That’s a good quote, and true, but the meaning and point is very fuzzy.
Both sides here have valid arguments, and the conversations that arise around race simple cannot go anywhere.
If I simple express my opinions on it, not in a mean or racists way, I get branded a racists for not agreeing with the mobs of folks for example that tore up Ferguson, MO.’
If I do not exactly agree with sentiments such as put the cops on trial or shoot them I just get vitriolic hatred for it, despite the fact that I feel very bad for the negative experiences black people I have known have experienced and do empathize with them.
Having been sort of hippie-like in my youth I am familiar with being targeted or confronted with an attitude from the way I look. Driving through the South one time with my California license plate and needing a haircut I was almost involved in a fight was the redneck barbers kicked me out of their shop hair half cut.
I know the bad side of human nature, and the problem with discussing it is that people cannot get past their own experiences and need to vent about them instead of trying to come to a reasonable compromise about what is fair and just and how to enforce it.
0 # economagic 2015-01-04 21:23
What have you done, beyond “feel very bad for them,” to change the institutional racism that Mr. Remnick, Mr. Baldwin, Frederick Douglass, and myriad others have written about for more than a century and a half? Are you even aware that institutional racism exists in this country?
How long? How many times? Yet the Supreme Court scales back the protections of the Voting Rights Act even as the Republican Party rams laws through state legislatures to restrict voting that in ways affect blacks disproportionately, on the basis of fraudulent “research” claiming voter fraud.
I was more than “sort of hippie-like” in my youth, and was also an activist who witnessed that racism up close. It was a lot different from what I experienced as a white hippie.
I have a friend who is smart and well intentioned, a really decent and generous guy. Yet he sends me emails with the most blatant, ugly racism this side of the Ku Klux Klan. It has not been that long since the Klan owned a little town near here that hosted some of the CIA “torture taxis.” As best I can tell my friend supports that too, but only for “terrorists.” He refuses to define that term, but clearly he means “them,” “the others,” “people not like us.”
He would be most indignant if I confronted him with his racism. He is a closet racist, in the closet only to himself and others who cannot take an honest look at their own hearts, or honestly say, “There but for the Grace of God (for being born white) go I.”
+17 # Art947 2015-01-04 15:36
+23 # wrknight 2015-01-04 13:56
And speaking of a nation of cowards, what about those attorney generals who are afraid of Wall Street bankers?
+20 # progressiveguy 2015-01-04 14:10
+27 # angelfish 2015-01-04 14:36
+4 # lfeuille 2015-01-04 19:40
It is only because the national media, for whatever reason, has finally decided to pay attention to the problem that many people are even aware of it. You can’t fix what you don’t know about. It was happening even when the press wasn’t looking.
+12 # fredboy 2015-01-04 16:52
If I were the mayor I would clean house, starting at the top.
Their actions and attitudes are prompting citizens across the land to police the police–that’s how bad things are out there.
0 # leftcoast 2015-01-04 17:23
0 # corals33 2015-01-04 18:20
+3 # greenbacker 2015-01-04 22:02
So let me get this straight. President Obama’s father was African, his mother was American. But he is not “African-American?” Am I missing something? “WHITE” is not (or should not be) synonymous with “American,” but for too many people it is, even if subconsciously. This is a huge part of the problem when it comes to discussing race in America. The fact of the matter is that a large portion, if not a majority, of Blacks born in America have some European as well as African ancestry. Henry Louis Gates (remember the “beer summit” after Gates’ encounter with police in his own house?) has a whole series on PBS dealing with this subject. In fact, in one episode it was revealed through DNA testing that the rapper Nas has Scandinavian/Viking ancestry. So, yes, an African-American was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. No correction necessary. And if Obama was not President of the US, and his story so well known, and you saw him walking down the street, you would not identify him as a half-white guy, you would see him as a Black man.
0 # Rockster 2015-01-04 18:34
-3 # perkinsej 2015-01-04 19:00
+1 # jstick 2015-01-04 20:27
+1 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-01-04 21:10
A Godless Jewish Humanist, Marxist and Psychoanalyst – who forced into migration from Nazi Germany – developed several lives and had achievements in different areas – we would prefer mention by citing the title of one of his many books – “THE SANE SOCIETY” (1965)
Sunday, January 4, 2015 The review by Dinah M. Mendes of Tikkun – of a book about Erich Fromm – by Lawrence J. Friedman, assisted by Anke M. Schreiber, Columbia University Press, 2014
Even before opening Lawrence J. Friedman’s biography, “The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet,” readers are alerted by its title to the enormousness of the task of conveying the range and reach of this once celebrated intellectual. Erich Fromm was a Heidelberg University-trained sociologist, a psychoanalyst who helped found and direct psychoanalytic institutes in the United States and Mexico, author of more than a dozen books—many of them best sellers—a social commentator, and a political activist who promoted worldwide socialist humanism and nuclear disarmament. For college students and the educated reading public from the mid 1940s through the late ’60s, Escape from Freedom (1941), The Sane Society (1955), and The Art of Loving (1956) were often their first introduction to psychoanalytic, Marxist, and sociological constructs that Fromm incorporated and popularized in his reader-friendly prose.
The Public Versus the Private Lives of Erich Fromm
At the same time, Friedman traces the various, often parallel trajectories of Fromm’s life: his educational course, vocational development, emigration, institutional affiliations, significant relationships, and his steady output of books—for each of which he offers a detailed summary and statistics about sales and translations.
Friedman unfolds the public lives of Erich Fromm the social critic, political activist, and global educator with great vividness, but he is less successful at bringing to life the private Erich Fromm, whose inner life remains largely obscured beneath the evidence of his amazing productivity and range. While this might be regarded as a deficit in any comprehensive biography (and Friedman’s stated intention is to supplement previous Fromm biographies by elucidating the influence of his personal life on his intellectual contributions), it is especially striking in the biography of a man who defined himself as a psychoanalyst. Although the book is sprinkled with tart observations about Fromm—and even criticisms about the unabashed self-referential basis of his later writings or his “unethical trysts” with female patients—under Friedman’s hand they never quite coalesce into a satisfactory psycho-biographical portrait. In one notable example, he observes:
For much of his life, Fromm responded to disappointments and adversities … [by] jumping from one location to another, quitting one professional association and joining or creating another, altering his conceptual and clinical approaches, and switching from one intimate friendship or bed partner to another.
This is heavy-duty stuff, seemingly ripe for analysis and interpretation, but in the very next sentence, Friedman reverses direction, foreclosing deeper exploration and turning weakness into asset: “There was a pertinacity here. Fromm would rarely allow a difficult situation to immobilize him,” he concludes summarily.
Friedman’s myopia, his tendency to justify and smooth over rough edges, is mirrored on a larger scale by his authorial stance in relation to his subject, regarding whom his undisguised admiration and identification seem to preclude more objective assessment and critique. At one point, he compares Fromm’s “narcissism” to Freud’s, noting, “both regarded themselves as founders of unique psychoanalytic ideas, institutions, and traditions.” The unqualified idealization expressed in the elevation of Fromm to Freud’s status highlights Friedman’s difficulty in consolidating a profile of a man with outsized talents and passions, as well as egregious shortcomings, and in producing a critical evaluation of Fromm’s intellectual contributions—his psychoanalytic and ethical humanism theories in particular.
Fromm was an avid student of great teachers and systems, beginning with the vast tradition of Jewish learning, and followed by Marxism and psychoanalysis. But it seems that his enthusiasm and valuation were matched by an equally strong need to reject essential components of every system, assimilate seemingly divergent concepts, and refashion them—often on a grand scale—into a new product of his own making.
Fromm was a master of syncretism, and while Marxism and Freudianism remained the orienting poles of his professional identity, he combined them with the ethical foundation derived from the Hebrew Bible, with elements of Christianity and Buddhism added to the mix. Friedman lays out a detailed map of the stages of Fromm’s intellectual journey, but he does not provide the psychological scaffolding or insight that might illuminate the course that Fromm charted.
Why, for example, did he find it necessary to reject Freud’s instinctual basis of psychic development and substitute in its stead the construct of social character (drawn from a fusion of Freudian and Marxian tenets)? What made him throw out the baby with the bath water instead of extending Freud’s idea into the social realm? Much later in life, Fromm apparently softened his anti-instinctual bias, and his constructs “biophilia” and “necrophilia,” first cousins of the life and death instincts enshrined in Freud’s Eros and Thanatos, appear without explanation or commentary (The Heart of Man, 1964).
With even greater cogency, the reader might wonder about what impelled Fromm, raised as an Orthodox Jew and enamored of its culture of learning and spirituality, to strip his ethical humanism of the influence and authority of a deity and to insist that everything of value is inherent in man (Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics, 1947)? Although Friedman frequently refers to the deficiency of Fromm’s parents as role models, Fromm’s childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood were filled with powerful and sustaining relationships with mentors.
The precocious young Fromm began studying Talmud with his great-uncle Ludwig Krause, a Talmudic scholar, and as a teenager, came under the influence of Nehemia Nobel, rabbi of a prominent Frankfurt synagogue and student of the noted Kant scholar, Hermann Cohen, who had incorporated the universalism of Kant’s moral philosophy into Jewish religious tradition. The Nobel circle, which included Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem and Leo Baeck, was instrumental in setting up the Free Jewish Teaching Institute (Lehrhaus) dedicated to introducing enlightened but assimilated German Jews to the richness of their Jewish heritage.
At the University of Heidelberg, under the tutelage of the sociologist Alfred Weber, brother of Max, Fromm wrote his dissertation on the function of Jewish law in maintaining social cohesion and continuity in three Diaspora communities: the Karaites, Reform Jews, and Hasidim. During the same period, he also studied with Salman Rabinkow, a Russian socialist and Talmudist, whom Fromm later acknowledged as his most influential mentor. Rabinkow introduced Fromm, variously, to the Lithuanian approach to Talmud, the writings of Maimonides, and the Tanya (the central text of Chabad Hasidism)—as well as to Hasidic melodies that Fromm reportedly sang for the rest of his life.
Friedman skillfully records the gradual transformation of Erich Fromm, the Orthodox Jew, the Frankfurt Institute academic, and psychoanalytic clinician—all private roles—into Erich Fromm, the public intellectual, educator, and activist. Both the cloistered cubicles of academia, and the individual focus of psychoanalysis, respectively, must have felt too restrictive to Fromm, especially when compared to the far-reaching impact of a political or religious system or the delivery of a message with universal reverberations. With his arrival in New York in the mid-’30s, Fromm began writing in English and grew adept at rendering psychological-sociological-political concepts accessible to a broad readership. His two best-known works, Escape from Freedom, an exploration of the seduction of and submission to authority and the fear of freedom, and The Art of Loving (which in Germany is still outsold only by the Bible) sold in the millions.
An Iconoclastic Proponent of Secular Religiosity
Fromm’s passion for refashioning ideas into a mold bearing his individual stamp seems nowhere more evident than in his application of Jewish ethical precepts and learning: Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics (1947); You Shall Be as Gods: A Radical Interpretation of the Old Testament and Its Tradition (1966); and To Have or To Be? (1976). His erudition is often on full display: in You Shall Be as Gods, he frequently offers his own translation of the Hebrew when the original interpretation does not measure up to his standards, and his love for the richness of the ancient texts is palpable. This does not deter him, however, from taking a free hand—the “radical interpretation”— in reaching the light at the end of the tunnel: a Frommian nontheistic humanist ethics.
Fromm could be alternately creative, iconoclastic, and single-mindedly reinterpretive in reaching his goal; one of the opening stories in Genesis, the eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden (the Fall, in Christian theology) is recast by Fromm as a salutary and emblematic act of disobedience that reveals the innate human potential for independence of mind and freedom.
In Fromm’s explication, Hebrew Bible idolatry was actually a demonstration of the triumph of the “having” mode over the “being” mode, a harbinger of Marx’s later emphasis on the corruption of capitalism and consumerism. The greed and acquisitiveness of the newly liberated Hebrews in the desert, unable to resist stockpiling manna that God had warned them would rot, is another illustration of both the having mode and the intolerance of freedom, as is the Jews’ insistence to the prophet Samuel, many generations later, that he appoint a flesh and blood king over them.
Fromm’s odyssey through the Hebrew Bible leads him to the prophets of messianic vision, who foretell a time of universal peace and co-existence when—in Fromm’s version—divisions between people and states will be eliminated, and a universal ethics, motivated by brotherly love and the joy of human productivity (a melding of Marx and Freud), will prevail. Ultimately, Fromm espouses a secular religiosity—a fervent devotion to ideals that emerge from self-cultivation that is not obstructed by recourse to God’s authority or external directives.
A New Ethical Humanism
Fromm’s attitude to authority was nothing if not vexed, and he had a visceral reaction to authority in any doctrinal form. In his critique of Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics, the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr ventured that Fromm confused duty with authority, and, it might be suggested, authority with authoritarianism. Fromm’s antipathy to authority sparked his acclaimed formulations on authoritarianism, but also colored his controversial negation of key tenets of Freudian theory and the concept of a real God who is accepted as an external authority. Fromm took issue with the concept of the Freudian superego as an internally regulating authority that derived originally from parental authority, just as he did with the linkage of ethical principles to the authority of an existing God. He rejected Freud’s concept of the death instinct and the aggressive drive, just as he did the darker image of human nature captured in the idea of yetzer hara—the innate human propensity for evil and destructiveness. Fromm’s humanism is adamantly anti-theistic, anti-authority, and optimistic, if not actually utopian.
Fromm’s attitude to Freud (whom he never met) was admiring but critical, as the title of his posthumously published work, Greatness and Limitations of Freud’s Thought (1980) indicates. Freud referred to himself as a “godless Jew,” but his vehement opposition to religion stemmed from his conviction that it was based on infantile helplessness and dependency, and the false succor of illusions that it extended to its adherents. Fromm too might be described as a godless Jew, but one with an entirely different provenance and orientation. His quest was to free the cultivation of spirituality and ethics from their theistic, authoritative moorings in the Hebrew Bible and forge them—with elements of Hasidic mystical relatedness and themes from Marxism, Christianity, and Buddhism—into a new ethical humanism. A messianic mission, a desire to be a “light unto the nations” is discernible in the proselytizing, prophetic inflections of his late writings on ethical humanism. Freud, in his turn, might have identified in Fromm a tangled knot of Oedipal conflicts—the Freudian complex that signifies the generational struggle for power and authority, manifest in strife over the transmission or rejection of the old versus the new.
Friedman is lavish with information about Fromm but leaves the final assessment of his contributions up to the reader. Fromm’s legacy resides neither in the innovation nor the profundity of his psychoanalytic and ethical concepts. Rather, his place in intellectual history is assured by his adaptation and popularization of ideas—mixing and matching across systems—which he introduced into the public domain via his accessible and best-selling books. Without him, many of Freud and Marx’s ideas—and he courageously upheld the value of Marx’s contributions at the height of the Cold War—might have remained sequestered in academic isolation.
Perhaps Fromm’s greatest gifts were as a social psychologist and critic; he had his finger on the social and cultural pulse, auguring trends that were still incubating or in the process of fomenting. In Escape from Freedom he wrote about the global threat and psychological appeal of authoritarianism and totalitarianism, even as they were advancing. In The Art of Loving, he differentiated between healthy self-love and selfishness, daring to suggest that self-love was not only healthy and desirable but a prerequisite for loving others—anticipating by many years the work of the psychoanalyst, Heinz Kohut. Assessing the threat of an engulfing consumerism, and the “having versus being modes,” he coined such enduring terms as “automaton conformity,” and the “marketing personality.”
Ultimately, it is impossible to pigeonhole Erich Fromm. He was a man of letters, and simultaneously a man of action, who used money earned from his books to support peace-promoting organizations. He was a psychoanalyst committed to the painstaking task of changing lives one by one, who sought at the same time to influence thousands and even millions of people with his ideas and prophetic exhortations. Prefiguring our contemporary immersion in global communication and veneration of celebrities, Fromm—a man of outsized passions and ambitions—was a public, celebrity intellectual and educator.
From Readers Supported News:
Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Blog | The Government Problem
Reich writes: “Some believe the central political issue of our era is the size of the government. They’re wrong. The central issue is whom the government is for.”
The Obama Boom
Wall Street Had a Merry Christmas. The New Year’s Still Up for Grabs.
Dr. Vandana Shiva from India joins Rabbi Michael Lerner under a banner of Spiritual Progressives to promote Internationally Environmental and Social Responsibility by Corporations and Government Bodies.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, the environmentalist from India who works for seed integrity against international corporations that are seeking control over every inch of the agricultural process, has joined with Rabbi Michael Lerner of Berkely, California, and became the international chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.
Rabbi Lerner is promoting ESRA that stands for – the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – that he and Peter Gabel co-authored and which is being circulated as per salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/525…
The intent of the framers of this Amendment is to:
a. Protect the planet and its inhabitants from environmentally destructive economic arrangements and behavior, and to increase environmental responsibility on the part of all corporations and government bodies.
b. Increase U.S. citizens’ democratic control over American economic and political institutions and ensure that all people, regardless of income, have the same electoral clout and power to shape policies and programs.
c. Promote the well-being of citizens of the United States by recognizing that our well-being depends on the well-being of the planet and all its inhabitants, which in turn requires an end to poverty, wars, and violence, and the rise of a new global ethic of genuine caring and mutual interdependence.
A. The First & Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution shall apply only to human beings, and not corporations, limited liability associations, and other artificial entities created by the laws of the United States.
B. Money or other currency shall not be considered a form of speech within the meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and its expenditure is subject to regulation by the Congress and by the legislatures of the several States.
C. Congress shall regulate the amount of money used to disseminate ideas or shape public opinion in any federal election in order to assure that all major points of view regarding issues and candidates receive equal exposure to the greatest extent possible. Congress shall fund all major candidates for the House, Senate and Presidency in all major elections and in primaries for the nomination for president of major parties (those which have obtained at least 5% of the vote in the last election for president).
D. In the three months prior to any election for a federal position, all media or any other means of mass communication reaching more than 300,000 people shall provide equal time to all major presidential candidates to present their views for at least an hour at least once a week, and equal time once every two weeks for congressional candidates during that media agency’s prime time. The candidates shall determine the form and content of that communication. Print media reaching more than 300,000 people shall provide equal space in the news, editorial, or most frequently read section of the newspaper or magazine or blog site or other means of communications which may be developed in the future. During the three months prior to an election, no candidate, no political party, and no organization seeking to influence public policy may buy time in any media or form of mass communication or any other form of mass advertising including on the Internet. Major candidates shall be defined as:
a. those who have at least 5% of support as judged by the average of at least ten independent polling firms, at least two of which are selected by the candidates deemed “not major,” 3 months before any given election,
b. or any candidate who can collect the signatures of 5% of the number of people who voted in the election for that office the last time that office was contested in an election. These petitions can only be signed by people eligible to vote in the relevant electoral districts. Every state shall develop similar provisions aimed at allowing candidates for the governor and state legislatures to be freed from their dependence on wealthy donors or corporations.
A. Every citizen of the United States and every organization chartered by the U.S. or any of its several states shall have a responsibility to promote the ethical, environmental, and social well-being of all life on the planet Earth and on any other planet or in Space with which humans come into contact.
This being so, corporations chartered by the Congress and by the several States shall demonstrate the ethical, environmental, and social impact of their proposed activities at the time they seek permission to operate.
In addition, any corporation with gross receipts in excess of $100 million shall obtain a new corporate charter every five years, and this charter shall be granted only if the corporation can prove a satisfactory history of environmental, social, and ethical responsibility to a grand jury of ordinary citizens chosen at random from the voting rolls of the community in which the primary activities of the corporation take place, or, if there is dispute between stakeholders and the corporation on where those primary activities take place, then in Washington, D.C.
Factors to be considered by the grand jury in determining whether a corporation will be granted a charter shall include but not be limited to:
1. The degree to which the products produced or services provided are beneficial rather than destructive to the planet and its oceans, forests, water supplies, land, and air, and the degree to which its decisions help ensure that the resources of the earth are available to future generations.
2. The degree to which it pays a living wage to all its employees and the employees of any contractors with which it does business either in the US or abroad, and arranges its pay scale such that none of its employees or contractors or members of its board of directors or officers of the corporation earn (in direct and indirect benefits combined) more than ten times the wages of its lowest full-time wage earners; the degree to which it provides equal benefits including health care, child care, retirement pensions, sick pay, and vacation time to all employees; and the degree to which its employees enjoy satisfactory safety and health conditions; and the degree to which it regularly adopts and uses indicators of its productivity and success which include factors regarding human well-being, satisfaction and participation in work, and involvement in community service by its employees and members of its top management and board of directors;
3. The degree to which it supports the needs of the communities in which it operates and in which its employees live, including the degree to which it resists the temptation to move assets or jobs to other locations where it can pay workers less or provide weaker environmental and worker protections.
5. The degree to which it treats its employees, its customers, and the people and communities in which it operates with adequate respect and genuine caring for their well-being, and rewards its employees to the extent that they engage in behaviors that manifest genuine caring, respect, kindness, generosity, and ethical and environmentally sensitive practices.
6. The degree to which its investment decisions enhance and promote the economic, social, and ethical welfare and physical & mental health and well-being of the communities in which its products may be produced, sold, or advertised and/or the communities from which it draws raw materials.
7. When assessing the environmental and social responsibility of banks, stock markets, investment firms and other corporations whose activities include the lending or investing of monies, in addition to the issues 1-6 above, the jury should also consider: the degree to which the financial institutions direct the flow of money to socially and/or envrionmentally useful activities, including non-profits serving the most disadvantaged of the society and including the financing of local business cooperatives and local community banks and to support low-income and middle income housing with affordable mortgages, rather than directing the money to speculators in finance, real estate, or other commercial activities; the degree to which it forgives loans previously given to poverty stricken countries; the degree to which it engages in misleading advertising or hides the costs of its services in small print or engages in aggressive marketing of monies for loans or preys on the most economically vulnerable; the degree to which it offers no-interest loans to those with incomes below the mean average income in the society; and the degree to which it seeks to fund directly socially useful projects and small businesses.
In making these determinations, the jury shall solicit testimony from the corporation’s board of directors, from its employees, and from its stakeholders (those whose lives have been impacted by the operations of the corporation) around the US and around the world. The U.S. government shall supply funds to provide adequate means for the jury to do its investigations, to hire staff to do relevant investigations, and to compensate jurors at a level comparable to the mean average of income in the region in which the deliberations of the jury takes place, or at the level of their current income, whichever is higher.
If the grand jury is not satisfied with the level of environmental, social, and ethical responsibility, it may put the corporation on probation and prescribe specific changes needed. If after three more years the jury is not satisfied that those changes have been adequately implemented, the jury may assign control of the board and officers of the corporation to non-management employees of the corporation and/or to its public stakeholders and/or to another group of potential corporate directors and managers who seem most likely to successfully implement the changes required by the jury, but with the condition that this new board must immediately implement the changes called for by the jury within two years time, or else the jury can reassign control of the corporation to another group of potential board members.
B Any government office or project receiving government funds that seeks to engage ln a contract (with any other corporation or limited liability entity) involving the expenditure of over $100,000 (adjusted annually for inflation) shall require that those who apply to fulfill that contract submit an Environmental and Social Responsibility Impact Report to assess the applicant’s corporate behavior in regard to the factors listed above in point A of Article II. Community stakeholders and non-supervisory employees may also submit their own assessment by filling out the Environment and Social Responsibility Impact Report. Contracts shall be rewarded to the applicant with the best record of environmental and social responsibility that can also satisfactorily fulfill the other terms of the contract.
A. Earth being the natural and sacred home of all its peoples, Congress shall develop legislation to enhance the environmental sustainability of human communities and the planet Earth, and shall present a report annually to the American people on progress made during the previous year in ameliorating any conditions deemed by an independent group of scientists to be adverse to the planet’s long-term environmental welfare. The objectives of such legislation shall include but not be limited to alleviating global warming, reducing all forms of pollution, restoring the ecological balance of the oceans, and assuring the well-being of all forests and animal life. The President of the United States shall have the obligation to enforce such legislation and to develop executive policies to assure the carrying out of its objectives.
B. In order to prepare the people of the United States to live as environmentally and socially responsible citizens of the world, and to recognize that our own well being as citizens of the United States depends upon the well being of everyone else on Earth and the well being of this planet itself, every educational institution receiving federal funds whether directly or through the several states, shall provide education in reading, writing and basic arithmetic, and appropriate instruction including at least one required course for all its students per year per grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade, and in any college receiving funding or financial aid or loan guarantees for its students, in:
1. the skills and capacities necessary to develop a caring society manifesting love, generosity, kindness, caring for each other and for the earth, joy, rational and scientific thinking, non-violence, celebration, thanksgiving, forgiveness, humility, compassion, ethical and ecological sensitivity, appreciation of humanity’s rich multicultural heritage as expressed in literature, art, music, religion, and philosophy, non-violence in action and speech, skills for democratic participation including skills in how to change the opinions of fellow citizens or influence their thinking in ways that are respectful of differences and tolerant of disagreements, and how to organize fellow citizens for non-violent political action and engagement in support of causes not-yet-popular; and in
2. the appropriate scientific, ethical, and behavioral knowledge and skills required to assure the long term environmental sustainability of the planet Earth, and to do so in ways that enhance the well being of everyone on the planet.
Congress shall provide funding for such courses in all the educational institutions receiving public funds or loans or loan guarantees for students, and shall provide funding for similar courses to be made available to the non-student populations in each state.
All such courses must teach caring not only for the people and economic, social and environmental well-being of the people of the United States, but also for the economic, social and environmental well-being of all the people on the planet Earth and the well-being of the planet as well!
The measurement of student progress in the areas covered by sections 1 and 2 being, like artistic and musical skills, difficult or impossible to measure by quantitative criteria, educational institutions supported directly or indirectly by public funds shall develop subtle and appropriate qualitative ways of evaluating adequate progress on the part of students in the areas specified, ways that contribute to and not detract from students’ ability to love learning and to enhance their capacities to cooperate rather than compete with their fellow students in the process of intellectual and emotional growth. Teachers shall be funded to learn the skills described in points A and B and the methods of evaluation appropriate to this kind of values-oriented subject matter.
A. Any corporation which moves or seeks to move its assets outside the U.S. must submit an Environmental and Social Impact report to a grand jury of ordinary citizens, and the jury shall similarly receive testimony from other stakeholders and the employees of the corporation in question to determine the impact of the moving of those assets outside the U.S. The jury shall then determine what part of those assets, up to and including all of the assets of the corporation, shall be held in the U.S. to compensate those made unemployed or otherwise disadvantaged by the corporate move of its resources elsewhere, and or to pay for other forms of environmental or social destruction of the resources or the well-being of the United States or its citizens. Conspiracy to evade this provision shall be a crime punishable by no less than twenty years in prison for all members of the board of such a corporation.
2. Any part of the Constitution or the laws of the U.S., or any of its states, deemed by a court to be in conflict with any part of this ESRA Amendment shall be null and void. Any trade arrangements, treaties, or other international agreements entered into by the United States, its citizens, or its several states, deemed by a court to be in conflict with the provisions or intent of this Amendment are hereby declared null and void.
3. Congress shall take action to provide adequate funding for all parts of this amendment and implementing legislation that seeks to fulfill the intent as stated above.
Please circulate and seek endorsements by your local city council, religious, civic and professional organizations, political parties, and your State Legislature and U.S. Congressional and Senatorial representatives.
And please sign this yourself: by going to
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.”
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.