Are We Ready for Daily-Life Drones?

This exploration illustrates how ill-prepared we are, legally and socially, for the multitude of issues and conflicts that will inevitably arise as private drones become cheap and ubiquitous.

A recent experience provided grist for a “what-if” exploration of how drones may start impacting daily life. And I don’t mean delivery of packages and pizzas.

On the return drive of a trip north in summer, we were stopped for over an hour on Highway 101 by a helicopter that had landed in the middle of the four-lane highway to airlift people injured in an accident.

Since the line of stopped cars extended over a bridge and around a curve for at least a quarter-mile, we couldn’t see the cause of the blockage. As a result, I walked all the way to the front of the line to see what was going on. Another passenger from one of the hundreds of waiting vehicles joined me and we questioned people close to the front to learn what had happened.

Apparently a car had swerved off the highway and careened down a steep, forested embankment. Several tow trucks were attempting to pull the vehicle up to the roadway with little evident success while local rescue personnel were attempting to get the injured people up to the helicopter on stretchers.

Our return to our cars was leisurely, as we stopped to brief people waiting in vehicles who had not walked to the scene. One local driver told me there was a bypass road, but he suspected it too had been blocked by the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

A radio station news employee happened to be stuck behind us, and in chatting with her we discovered her contact in the news department had been unable to get any information out of the CHP.

When the helicopter finally lifted off and traffic crawled forward, our brother-in-law Fred R.speculated how this scene would be changed by the ubiquity of personal drones.

For those who haven’t seen such drones in action yet–they are small enough to fit in the trunk of a car and generally have three rotors, which enable them to move freely in all directions and hover for extended periods.

Here are some of the scenarios we foresaw playing out once having a drone in one’s vehicle becomes common:

1. An attorney with a super-fast drone could race ahead of other drones, reach the scene of the accident first, record the rescue operation with an onboard camera and assess the liability issues in real time; if a legal opportunity was present, the attorney could upload the recording to associates and be “firstest with the mostest” in a legal claim.

2. A free-lance stringer with a connection to a news organization would navigate his/her drone to the accident site and record close-ups of the victims, rescue personnel at work, etc., and then upload the recording to a news bureau that would have an exclusive (“if it bleeds, it leads”).

3. A techie with a drone equipped with a powerful wi-fi router could hover the drone above the scene and send the video to anyone with a wi-fi-enabled device, eliminating the need for dozens of drones to compete for airspace.

4. The CHP could ban drones from hovering over or near accident sites, except for officially sanctioned drones from government agencies and vetted news agencies.

5. Someone stuck in the traffic blockage could send their drone high enough to scope out alternative routes and zoom in to see if they were blocked, jammed or free of vehicles.

6. One of the mass of circling private drones malfunctions and crashes into another drone, causing it to crash on a rescuer, inflicting injuries. The liability thread runs in various directions: can the manufacturer of the malfunctioning drone be sued, along with its operator?

7. Frustrated by the delay and the lack of official drones/sources of information, someone breaks the law by flying their drone over the accident scene. the CHP wants to issue a citation, but how can they trace the drone to the owner if the operator is clever enough not to return the drone to his vehicle straightaway?

8. A badly injured victim of the wreck finds that graphic close-up recordings of their injuries have been shown on TV, and sues the station and stringer for invasion of privacy. Are there any limits on what private drones can record in public spaces?

This brief list shows how ill-prepared we are, legally and socially, for the multitude of issues and potential conflicts that will inevitably arise as private drones become cheap and ubiquitous.

For example: If ownership of a drone can be obscured, then how can liability be traced back to the owner/operator? Will drones be required to send the equivalent of a mobile-phone ID code or IP address? What if the owner switches this signal off? Will downing a drone invading one’s privacy create liability? If so, does this trump the liability for violating privacy? How can regulations about drones possibly be enforced, much less monitored?


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FBI: Bombing ISIS Will Only STRENGTHEN Them

By Bombing ISIS, We Are Only Feeding the “Parasite of War”

Antiwar notes:

US airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, far from “degrading” the organization, are actually giving ISIS a huge shot in the arm, according to FBI Director James Comey, who testified today before Congress.

***

The US operation seems to be playing directly into ISIS’ hands in many ways, with President Obama’s high-profile speech last Wednesday, promising to escalate the war on ISIS into neighboring Syria, paying off for ISIS in recruitment as well.

And see this.

Reuters reports:

Islamic State has won new recruits in Syria since President Barack Obama signaled last week that air strikes against the group will be expanded from Iraq to its strongholds in northern and eastern Syria, a group monitoring the war said on Wednesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 162 people had joined Islamic State training camps in Aleppo province since Sept 10, when Obama said he would not hesitate to strike Islamic State in Syria.

The new recruits do not represent a big increase in the size of IS, which is estimated by intelligence agencies at 20,000 to 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq. But they do illustrate the risk that U.S.-led efforts to crush Islamic State will end up winning it more followers.

Daniel Ellsberg notes:

ISIS wants us to attack — it helps recruitment; makes parallel to Vietnam War

If this sounds naive, remember that Islamic terrorists weren’t even in Iraq until the U.S. invaded that country.

Former Washington Post and HuffPost writer – now with the Intercept – Dan Froomkin explains:

… experts in the field believe that the recent beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker were deliberate acts of provocation, and that ISIS is not just hoping for an American overreaction, but depending on it — perhaps even for its own survival.

Ali Soufan, the former FBI agent who was one of the few heroes of modern American counter-terrorism, tells Mehdi Hasan of the Huffington Post UK:

They are trying to suck the west into the war with them…. Then they’ll be not only the regional bad boy, but also the bad boy for the global jihadi movement. They can then claim they are in an international war – a modern day Crusade – against all the countries coming to fight them.

What good would that do? According to Soufan:

[The Islamic State is] fearful of Islamists within [their movement] turning against them…. They want to fight the British and the Americans… to unify the extremists within and diminish any kind of meaningful threat within their support base. They are not fearful of secular or moderate people.

Journalist and author Steve Weissman writes for Reader Supported News that Obama is giving ISIS just what it wants:

the more jihadis Obama kills, the more Sunnis that Obama recruits to their ranks. Not a winning strategy.

***

An editorial in the Guardian on Sunday lays out the case for self-control in the immediate aftermath of the third ISIS beheading last week, of British aid worker David Haines:

The killing of Mr Haines was not an act of revenge. It was an act of provocation. Like the two murders of the American journalists, it was designed to frighten and to inflame. It seems nothing would please Isis more than for these killings to provoke an intemperate and thoughtless violent reaction from those at whom they are aimed. Such a reaction might, in Isis’s crude and perverse logic, give them public legitimacy as victims rather than as killers. Such things have happened all too often in history. This in itself is a good enough reason for western leaders to have cool reactions.

Matthew Hoh, a former State Department official who resigned in protest in 2009 over U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, responded to ISIS provocation with a provocative headline in his Huffington Post essay: “The Beheadings Are Bait.”

He sees a repeat of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which achieved the goals of radical extremists vastly more than it achieved those of the U.S.:

The Islamic State is a parasite of war. Its members and its narrative need war for their personal, organizational and ideological validation and success. That is why the only way to defeat the Islamic State is to take the war away from them.

A few members of Congress have raised concerns about playing into the Islamic State’s hands. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) recently spoke from the House floor, saying:

We have got to be sure that we are not falling into doing something that could be counterproductive because, clearly, ISIL did that to provoke a reaction, and I think that needs to be a part of the debate we have.

And Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN last month:

[W]e shouldn’t allow this horrible act to provoke us into doing things that are counterproductive.

There’s nothing that ISIS would like more than having us reintroduce ground troops in Iraq, for example. So we have to be careful not to let this, the horror of this act provoke us to doing things that don’t make sense for us to do and that’s very difficult, but I think it’s extraordinarily important we keep our focus on what we can achieve.

Whether a military response would be exactly what the Islamic State wants was the first question that former CIA Middle East expert Paul Pillar raised when I asked him earlier this month what sorts of questions the press should be pursuing instead of banging the drums for war.

And Juan Cole, the University of Michigan professor and authoritative Middle East blogger, writes that journalists are also getting played, by giving the beheadings too much free media:

These acts of public brutality against a helpless individual are intended in part to announce that despite their military superiority, Westerners are not 10 feet tall and can be cut down to size. They announce leadership and encourage angry young men to join ISIL rather than one of its many rivals. They also push Western publics to demand reprisals. Reprisals in turn can be used by the radical group as proof to its followers that it really is being unjustly targeted by the big bad superpower. It is a passive aggressive form of terrorism.

It seems to me that editors should refuse to play along with this sick game.

Liberals and conservatives agree:  Bin Laden won, because the West overreacted and indiscriminately bombed and regime changed all over the Middle East … turning the Arab population against the U.S., and spending trillions in the process.

We’re about to do the same thing in overreacting to ISIS …

Posted in Politics / World News | 3 Comments

House Bans War Powers Resolution Actions

The U.S. House of Representatives has not just left town, but prior to leaving passed a rule preventing any member from using the War Powers Resolution to force Congress to return and vote on war.

Here’s a video of Congressman Jim McGovern denouncing the rule (or read the transcript here):

If you watch the video, following Rep. McGovern’s remarks two of his colleagues run their mouths. The first is Congressman Pete Sessions nonsensically replying to McGovern. The second is Congresswoman Virginia Foxx on an unrelated topic. If you jump ahead to 10:25 McGovern replies to Sessions. It’s well worth watching.

In addition, Congressman McGovern and five other Democrats and six Republicans have asked Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote on war. Here’s their letter: PDF.

 

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Russia’s Leader Putin Rejects Ukrainian Separatists’ Aim to Become Part of Russia

Eric Zuesse

The leader of the Ukrainian separatists says that their efforts to get Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to accept their territory as being a part of Russia have been firmly rejected by Putin’s Government; and, so, “We will build our own country.” (This important statement from the rebel leader Andrei Purgin on Wednesday, September 17th, was inconspicuously buried halfway through an AP news story that focused instead on “East Ukraine Casualties.” It’s common for propagandistic news reports, such as characterize the U.S. media, to bury what’s important in the news story, and not even to headline that crucial information, when that information violates the regime’s propaganda. So: this information was buried, and was not headlined.)

Russia’s Government has thus made clear that it is not seeking to add to its territory. While Russia has accepted the approximately million refugees who have fled to Russia from Ukraine’s civil war, Russia does not want any part of Ukraine’s territory. Crimea was traditionally part of Russia, throughout the period 1783-1954, until the leader of the Soviet Union gifted Crimea to Ukraine (the nation that was called the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic) in 1954, but the residents of Crimea never accepted that, and they overwhelmingly considered themselves still to be Russians. Furthermore, the Russian Navy’s lease on the Crimean port of Sebastopol for its Black Sea Fleet extended till 2042, and the February 2014 coup-installed Ukrainian Government wanted to cancel it, which threatened crucial Russian national defense. Furthermore, many of those new Ukrainian leaders wanted a nuclear war against Russia. So, Putin accepted Crimea back into Russia, but he will not admit more than that as being added to Russian territory.

Crimea is viewed as not being an addition to Russia, but instead as voluntarily rejoining Russia, irrespective of the new Ukrainian Government’s campaign to eliminate ethnic Russians from Ukraine’s southeast. No other part of post-1954 Ukraine had previously been part of Russia, and this includes the southeastern portion of Ukraine, whose residents ethnically descended from Russian immigrants who had settled there.

Consequently, the ethnic-cleansing campaign that has been going on by the new, Obama-installed, Ukrainian Government, against the residents in Ukraine’s southeast, will continue, at least until the surviving residents there become a small enough proportion of the Ukrainian national electorate so that a nationwide Ukrainian election — which hasn’t been held in Ukraine since the February 2014 coup – will choose leaders who are acceptable to the U.S. Government, which planned and financed that February coup. Only by killing and driving out enough of those people – the ones in the areas that overwhelmingly voted for the man whom Obama overthrew – will become possible a democratic Ukraine that allies itself with the U.S.

President Putin and President Obama have regularly been in direct contact with one-another ever since Obama’s coup occurred in February. Perhaps Putin’s declining to accept Ukrainian territory into Russia is part of an agreement between the two leaders in which Obama is, for his part, declining the urgings from congressional Republicans and conservative Democrats for the U.S. to provide weapons to the Ukrainian military to expedite their ethnic cleansing campaign.

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Killed by Congressional Cowardice

We tend to think of war as resulting from an excess of aggression or disorderliness or rebellion. Western academics hunt in the genes of foreigners and study chimpanzees to find the root of the nastiness.

But one would be hard press to count the number of people who have lost their lives to an excess of cowardice in the halls of the United States Congress. “This chamber reeks of blood,” said Senator George McGovern, who would have been shocked anew this week.

On Constitution Day, the House of Representatives — followed the next day by the Senate — decided to put off until after the next U.S. elections in November any possible consideration of the new U.S. war already underway in Iraq and Syria, but voted in the meantime to approve of shipping weapons over to Syria to fuel the violence.

Here’s a website that tells you how your Representative and Senators voted and lets you send them an appropriate message with one click.

Said Congressman Jim McDermott, who voted No: “This amendment, which is valid only through early December, serves as nothing more than a faux authorization designed to get Congress through the election season.  Moreover, it addresses only one aspect of the strategy the President outlined last week.  That is not a responsible way to conduct public policy.”

So, the President announced a three-year war, based on no timetable anyone has produced other than that of U.S. presidential elections. And Congress declared that it would consider looking into the matter after the next Congressional election.  But it’s not as if we don’t all know that they are allowing the war to go on and worsen each and every day. Numerous Congress members denounce Congress for what they themselves call a shameful act of cowardice. But which of them are protesting their “leadership”? Which of them are moving a discharge petition to force a vote? Which of them are using the War Powers Resolution to compel a vote regardless of what the “leadership” wants?

Back on the 25th of July the House overwhelmingly passed the McGovern-Jones-Lee resolution which required the President to seek Congressional authorization before sending troops to Iraq. The President went ahead and ignored that. Will Congress cut off the funding? Censure? Impeach? Nope. Congress voted to approve weapons and training for Syrians who are closely allied with the forces Obama is already waging an air and ground war against in Iraq.

Senator Tim Kaine had been leading the charge to demand that Congress vote before any new war. (As noted, the House did, and the Senate did not follow suit.) Now Kaine says a discussion of that following the U.S. Congressional elections will be sufficient. Until then, the United States will fuel the violence on both sides of a complex war, while repeating incessantly “There is no military solution” and deploying the military and military weaponry in a counterproductive effort to find a solution.

Remarked Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who voted No on weapons to Syria: “The consequences of this vote will be a further expansion of a war currently taking place and our further involvement in a sectarian war. . . . What is missing from this debate is the political, economic, diplomatic and regionally-led solutions that will ultimately be the tools for security in the region and for any potential future threats to the United States.”

Also missing was an organized opposition. Republicans voted yes and no, as did Democrats, as did the so-called Progressive Caucus, as did the Black Caucus. These people need to hear the message that cowardice is not a campaign strategy. They must be confronted with the demand that they stop this war, just as they were a year ago, when scary ISIS videos weren’t manipulating Americans into once again doing the bidding of terrorists who gain strength from U.S. attacks.  A year ago we spoke up. We confronted Congress members at town hall meetings. We stopped them.

Now they’ve literally cut and run. They’re taking a two-month vacation in order to pretend they have nothing to do with the escalating violence. They need to hear from us in person. But we can start by sending them a note to let them know what we think.

Remember, their duty is not to vote approval for a new war, which will then somehow make everything OK. Their duty is to uphold the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the U.N. Charter, the wisdom of most of the world, the lessons of the past decade, and basic common decency by stopping the war.

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Shale Fracking Is a “Ponzi Scheme” … “This Decade’s Version of The Dotcom Bubble” … “A Lot In Common With the Subprime Mortgage Market Just Before It Melted Down”

A Losing Bet

In 2011, the New York Times wrote:

“Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is “inherently unprofitable,” an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company,  wrote to a contractor in a February e-mail. “Reminds you of dot-coms.”

“The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy research company,  wrote in an e-mail on Aug. 28, 2009.

***

“And now these corporate giants are having an Enron moment,” a retired geologist from a major oil and gas company  wrote in a February e-mail about other companies invested in shale gas.

***

Deborah Rogers, a member of the advisory committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, [and a]  former stockbroker with Merrill Lynch … showed that wells were petering out faster than expected.

“These wells are depleting so quickly that the operators are in an expensive game of ‘catch-up,’ ” Ms. Rogers wrote in an e-mail on Nov. 17, 2009, to a petroleum geologist in Houston, who wrote back that he agreed.

***

A review of more than 9,000 wells, using data from 2003 to 2009, shows that — based on widely used industry assumptions about the market price of gas and the cost of drilling and operating a well — less than 10 percent of the wells had recouped their estimated costs by the time they were seven years old.

***

“Looks like crap,” the Schlumberger official wrote about the well’s performance, according to the regulator, “but operator will flip it based on ‘potential’ and make some money on it.”

In 2012, the New York Times pointed out:

The gas rush has … been a money loser so far for many of the gas exploration companies and their tens of thousands of investors.

***

Although the bankers made a lot of money from the deal making and a handful of energy companies made fortunes by exiting at the market’s peak, most of the industry has been bloodied — forced to sell assets, take huge write-offs and shift as many drill rigs as possible from gas exploration to oil, whose price has held up much better.

***

Now the gas companies are committed to spending far more to produce gas than they can earn selling it. Their stock prices and debt ratings have been hammered.

Rolling Stone reported the same year:

Fracking, it turns out, is about producing cheap energy the same way the mortgage crisis was about helping realize the dreams of middle-class homeowners. For Chesapeake, the primary profit in fracking comes not from selling the gas itself, but from buying and flipping the land that contains the gas. The company is now the largest leaseholder in the United States, owning the drilling rights to some 15 million acres – an area more than twice the size of Maryland. McClendon [the CEO of fracking giant Chesapeake] has financed this land grab with junk bonds and complex partnerships and future production deals, creating a highly leveraged, deeply indebted company that has more in common with Enron than ExxonMobil. As McClendon put it in a conference call with Wall Street analysts a few years ago, “I can assure you that buying leases for x and selling them for 5x or 10x is a lot more profitable than trying to produce gas at $5 or $6 per million cubic feet.”

According to Arthur Berman, a respected energy consultant in Texas who has spent years studying the industry, Chesapeake and its lesser competitors resemble a Ponzi scheme, overhyping the promise of shale gas in an effort to recoup their huge investments in leases and drilling. When the wells don’t pay off, the firms wind up scrambling to mask their financial troubles with convoluted off-book accounting methods. “This is an industry that is caught in the grip of magical thinking,” Berman says. “In fact, when you look at the level of debt some of these companies are carrying, and the questionable value of their gas reserves, there is a lot in common with the subprime mortgage market just before it melted down.

***

In February, Chesapeake announced that, because of low gas prices, its revenues will fall $3.5 billion short of its expenses this year.

Jim Quinn noted last year:

Royal Dutch Shell is one of the biggest corporations in the world, with financial resources greater than 99% of all the organizations on earth. Their CEO [Peter  Voser] probably knows a little bit more about oil exploration than the Wall Street systers and CNBC bimbos. His company has poured $24 billion into shale exploration in the U.S. It has been a huge failure. They have already written off $2.1 billion. They are trying to sell huge swaths of land in the Eagle Ford area. They are losing money in the shale oil and gas business. If Shell can’t make it profitable, who can?

Bloomberg noted in February:

Independent producers will spend $1.50 drilling this year for every dollar they get back.

Oil Price reported in March:

Shell’s new boss, Ben van Beurden, said bets on U.S. shale plays haven’t worked out for his company.

***

“Some of our exploration bets have simply not worked out,” Shell’s Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said. It was bad management policy to commit close to $80 billion in capital on its North American portfolio and still lose money. Now, he said, it’s time to cut the loss and slash exploration and production investments by 20 percent for 2014.

***

Shell’s problems say more about the difficulties of shale exploration than they do about the company itself.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out in April:

These newly public companies are spending more than they make ….

Bloomberg wrote in May:

Shale debt has almost doubled over the last four years while revenue has gained just 5.6 percent, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of 61 shale drillers. A dozen of those wildcatters are spending at least 10 percent of their sales on interest compared with Exxon Mobil Corp.’s 0.1 percent.

“The list of companies that are financially stressed is considerable,” said Benjamin Dell, managing partner of Kimmeridge Energy, a New York-based alternative asset manager focused on energy. “Not everyone is going to survive. We’ve seen it before.”

***

In a measure of the shale industry’s financial burden, debt hit $163.6 billion in the first quarter, according to company records compiled by Bloomberg on 61 exploration and production companies that target oil and natural gas trapped in deep underground layers of rock.

***

Drillers are caught in a bind. They must keep borrowing to pay for exploration needed to offset the steep production declines typical of shale wells. At the same time, investors have been pushing companies to cut back. Spending tumbled at 26 of the 61 firms examined. For companies that can’t afford to keep drilling, less oil coming out means less money coming in, accelerating the financial tailspin.

***

“Interest expenses are rising,” said Virendra Chauhan, an oil analyst with Energy Aspects in London. “The risk for shale producers is that because of the production decline rates, you constantly have elevated capital expenditures.”

And Tim Morgan – former global head of research at Tullett Prebon – explained last month at the Telegraph:

We now have more than enough data to know what has really happened in America.

***

If a huge number of wells come on stream in a short time, you get a lot of initial production. This is exactly what has happened in the US.

The key word here, though, is “initial”. The big snag with shale wells is that output falls away very quickly indeed after production begins. Compared with “normal” oil and gas wells, where output typically decreases by 7pc-10pc annually, rates of decline for shale wells are dramatically worse. It is by no means unusual for production from each well to fall by 60pc or more in the first 12 months of operations alone.

Faced with such rates of decline, the only way to keep production rates up (and to keep investors on side) is to drill yet more wells. This puts operators on a “drilling treadmill”, which should worry local residents just as much as investors. Net cash flow from US shale has been negative year after year, and some of the industry’s biggest names have already walked away.

The seemingly inevitable outcome for the US shale industry is that, once investors wise up, and once the drilling sweet spots have been used, production will slump, probably peaking in 2017-18 and falling precipitously after that. The US is already littered with wells that have been abandoned, often without the site being cleaned up.

Meanwhile, recoverable reserves estimates for the Monterey shale – supposedly the biggest shale liquids play in the US – have been revised downwards by 96pc. [Background and here; and see this.]  In Poland, drilling 30-40 wells has so far produced virtually no worthwhile production.

In the future, shale will be recognised as this decade’s version of the dotcom bubble. In the shorter term, it’s a counsel of despair as an energy supply squeeze draws ever nearer.

Posted in Business / Economics, Energy / Environment, Politics / World News | 12 Comments

U.S. Targets Islamic State’s Lucrative Oil Smuggling Operations

With U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement of an open-ended plan for airstrikes on the Islamic State (IS), the U.S. and its allies will need to degrade the power and influence of the Sunni jihadist group, and that means reducing its incoming flow of oil money.

And the Obama administration seems aware of that, according to a New York Times article that reports that the President and U.S. diplomats are pressuring Turkey to cut off the stream of oil smuggled across its border.

Related: Eliminating The Scourge Of Islamic State In Iraq

IS controls territory in central and northern Iraq, and is thought to be producing between 25,000 and 40,000 barrels per day (bpd). Since they cannot sell this oil legitimately, they smuggle it and sell it on the black market. Some energy analysts think IS could be pulling in between $1.2 and $2 million per day.

“The key gateway through that black market is the southern corridor of Turkey,” Luay al-Khatteeb, a fellow at the Brookings Institute’s Doha Center, told the Times. “Turkey is becoming part of this black economy.”

Turkey, no friend of IS, is hesitant to help because 49 Turkish diplomats are currently being held hostage by IS in Iraq. They were taken during the initial IS onslaught in June.

Smuggled oil could be a pivotal issue for the U.S. as it seeks to destroy IS. The militant group sells oil at a reduced price – perhaps around $25 per barrel. At first, it sold the oil to middlemen, who moved the oil to Iran, Syria, Jordan and Turkey. But as IS’ operations grew, they forced out the middlemen, beat back other militant groups, and are now providing security to their own convoys of oil tanker trucks heading out of their territory to market.

The group then uses the revenues to finance its operations, pay salaries — including support for family members of militant members, even after their death — and sign up new recruits.

The economic lifeline for IS will certainly be a top priority for the United States. Up until now, the U.S. military has not targeted the tanker trucks that flow outwards from IS-controlled territory. But an Obama administration official told the Times “that remains an option.”

The tankers are “clearly visible from the sky should any drone pass overhead, so the smuggling is not particularly furtive,” Howard Shatz, a senior economist with the RAND Corporation, writes in Politico. The roads that tankers use could also be destroyed in order to disrupt the money trail.

Another target could be “mobile refineries,” Shatz says, which IS uses to refine crude oil into useful petroleum products. Along with smuggling crude oil, IS sells refined products to local markets. But even though these mobile refineries provide IS with income, they do not have enough capacity to process all the oil coming from IS territories. There are some larger refineries in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey that refine IS oil.

IS is aggressively trying to expand, but oil remains at the heart of its fundraising strategy. The militant group has tried several times since June to take over the massive Baiji refinery, which is 130 miles north of Baghdad. The refinery can process about 310,000 barrels of oil per day, and is a critical piece of infrastructure that the Iraqi government is desperate to hold onto.

In recent days, IS has renewed its attacks on the refinery, firing mortar rounds and hitting a storage tank, according to Bloomberg News. Luay al-Khatteeb of Brookings said if they do capture the refinery, IS will struggle to operate the huge facility without the expertise of technical staff. Nevertheless, it remains a prize for the organization.

Related: All’s Fair In Love And War And Oil

The millions of dollars IS is making from smuggling oil may sound like a lot, but the group also has a lot of costs. Paying salaries and buying weapons is one of them, but Shatz of RAND Corporation says that as a group acting as a state, it needs to provide services to the people in its territories. Just to provide the basics of electricity, water, and other administrative services, the Iraqi government spent far more in the past in IS controlled territory than the $2 million-per-day or so the militant group is earning. Ruling with an iron fist will work for now, but if IS is to last, it will need more cash.

Air strikes may succeed in destroying vehicles and other military equipment under IS control, but cutting off the flow of money – specifically from oil smuggling – will likely go further in weakening the Islamic State.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/U.S.-Targets-Islamic-States-Lucrative-Oil-Smuggling-Operations.html

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Posted in Business / Economics, Energy / Environment, Politics / World News | 1 Comment

What Israel Has Done Since “Ceasefire” with Gaza

The following is by Omar Robert Hamilton, from the London Review of Books:

On 26 August a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was agreed, bringing a fragile end to a war that killed 2150 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and 73 Israelis (mostly soldiers). Since then Hamas has not fired a single rocket, attacked an Israeli target, or done anything to break the terms of the ceasefire. Israel has done the following:

1. Annexed another 1500 acres of West Bank land
2. Seized $56 million of PA tax revenue
3. Not lifted the illegal blockade (as required by the ceasefire)
4. Broken the ceasefire by firing at fishermen on four separate occasions
5. Detained six fishermen
6. Killed a 22-year-old, Issa al Qatari, a week before his wedding
7. Killed 16-year-old Mohammed Sinokrot with a rubber bullet to the head
8. Tortured a prisoner to the point of hospitalisation
9. Refused 13 members of the European Parliament entry into Gaza
10. Detained at least 127 people across the West Bank, including a seven-year-old boy in Hebron and two children, aged seven and eight, taken from the courtyard of their house in Silwad – and tear-gassed their mother
11. Continued to hold 33 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in prison
12. Continued to hold 500 prisoners in administrative detention without charge or trial
13. Destroyed Bedouin homes in Khan al Ahmar, near Jerusalem, leaving 14 people homeless, and unveiled a plan to forcibly move thousands of Bedouin away from Jerusalem into two purpose-built townships
14. Destroyed a dairy factory in Hebron whose profits supported an orphanage
15. Destroyed a family home in Silwan, making five children homeless
16. Destroyed a house in Jerusalem where aid supplies en route to Gaza were being stored
17. Destroyed a well near Hebron
18. Set fire to an olive grove near Hebron
19. Raided a health centre and a nursery school in Nablus, causing extensive damage
20. Destroyed a swathe of farmland in Rafah by driving tanks over it
21. Ordered the dismantling of a small monument in Jerusalem to Mohamed Abu Khdeir, murdered in July by an Israeli lynch mob
22. Continued building a vast tunnel network under Jerusalem
23. Stormed the al Aqsa mosque compound with a group of far right settlers
24. Assisted hundreds of settlers in storming Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus
25. Prevented students from entering al Quds University, firing stun grenades and rubber bullets at those who tried to go in
26. Earned unknown millions on reconstruction materials for Gaza, where 100,000 people need their destroyed homes rebuilt. The total bill is estimated at $7.8 billion

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Which Global Hegemon Is on Shifting Sands?

Given that all the leading candidates for Global Hegemon are hastening down paths of self-destruction, perhaps there will be no global hegemon dominating the 21st century.

Which nation with aspirations of global dominance (i.e. hegemony) has these attributes?

1. The nation’s recent prosperity is based on a vast expansion of credit.

2. The nation has 100+ million obese/diabetic citizens.

3. The citizens have little say over central government policies that favor cronies.

4. The nation faces demographic headwinds as the number of people in the workforce declines and the number of retirees balloons.

5. Large regions of the nation suffer from chronic water shortages.

Hmm, sounds like the U.S. is a match so far…. Let’s add a few more attributes:

6. The nation’s credit expansion has relied on a largely unregulated shadow banking system.

7. The nation is in the midst of an unprecedented housing bubble.

This could still be the U.S., but America’s unprecedented housing bubble popped in 2006–the current bubble is a mere echo bubble. Let’s add a few more attributes:

8. The nation is beset with unprecedented “external” environmental costs as a result of rapid and largely unregulated industrialization.

9. The nation suffers from large-scale desertification.

10. Over half the nation’s monied Elites have either left the nation or plan to leave and transfer their financial wealth overseas.

The only nation with aspirations of global hegemony that fits all these attributes is China. The conventional China Story holds that the 21st century will be China’s century, much like the 20th century was America’s.

But this story overlooks the vast demographic, health, environmental and financial problems built into China’s land, people, and Central-Planning systems of finance and governance.

Consider two charts drawn from John Hampson’s recent overview of Problems in China:

China’s shadow banking system, which provided the majority of the credit that fueled the current expansion, is imploding:

Not coincidentally, China’s unprecedented housing bubble is also imploding:

China’s system allows only a limited number of options for savings and investment; other than bank accounts that have lost money when real inflation is accounted for, the primary option available to households is real estate. As a consequence, an enormous percentage of the nation’s household wealth has been sunk into empty apartments which act as “savings.”

But a physical flat in a high-rise building is not a financial asset like a savings account: it is a physical object that degrades with time and whose value is set by supply, demand and thr availability and cost of credit.

If the building is not maintained properly, elevators break down, pipes start leaking and fixtures corrode, and the value of an unmaintained building drops to zero in terms of habitability within a decade or so.

100 million apartments become an enormous mal-investment of one-time wealth as they slowly become uninhabitable due to poor construction and/or maintenance.

China has been building infrastructure at a break-neck pace for 30 years, and this has created the mindset that almost every structure will be torn down and replaced with something grander every 20 years or so.

As a result of this mindset, very few structures are maintained. Why bother if it will be torn down and replaced a few years down the road?

But tens of millions of apartments cannot replaced every decade or two.

In effect, China has squandered its one-time wealth generated by rapid industrialization, and absorbed the still-uncounted environmental and health costs of this industrialization that must be paid in shortened lives, higher healthcare costs and environmental cleanups for decades to come.

Few promoters of the China Hegemony-in-the-21st-century Story mention the estimated 114 million people in China with diabetes–over one third the population of the U.S.– or the roughly 500 million people in China with elevated blood-sugar levels that put them at risk of developing diabetes or related lifestyle diseases. China ‘Catastrophe’ Hits 114 Million as Diabetes Spreads.

How much of the nation’s surplus wealth will be devoted to fixing the environmental and health costs that are already visible? How much of the wealth is actually phantom wealththat will vanish as the housing bubble based on an unprecedented credit bubble pops?

The China Story based on demographics, health, environmental damage and financial Central Planning is a quite different one from the China will be the global hegemon in the 21st century story. Given that all the leading candidates for Global Hegemon are hastening down paths of self-destruction, perhaps there will be no global hegemon dominating the 21st century. 

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Giant March for Independence in Catalonia

Background.

Posted in Politics / World News | 2 Comments

The U.S. Has Already Completed Regime Change In Syria (1949), Iran (1953), Iraq (Twice), Afghanistan (Twice), Turkey, Libya and Other Oil-Rich Countries

Syria

Everyone knows that the U.S. and its allies have heavily backed Islamic terrorists in Syria in an attempt to implement regime change in that country.

But did you know that the U.S. previously carried out regime change in Syria?

The CIA backed a right-wing coup in Syria in 1949. Douglas Little, Professor, Department of Clark University History professor Douglas Little notes:

As early as 1949, this newly independent Arab republic was an important staging ground for the CIA’s earliest experiments in covert action.
The CIA secretly encouraged a right-wing military coup in 1949.

The reason the U.S. initiated the coup?  Little explains:

 In late 1945, the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) announced plans to construct the Trans-Arabian Pipe Line (TAPLINE) from Saudi Arabia to the Mediterra- nean. With U.S. help, ARAMCO secured rights-of-way from Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  The Syrian right-of-way was stalled in parliament.

In other words, Syria was the sole holdout for the lucrative oil pipeline.

(Indeed, the CIA has carried out this type of covert action right from the start.)

In 1957, the American president and British prime minister agreed to launch regime change again in Syria. Historian Little notes that the coup plot was discovered and stopped:

On August 12, 1957, the Syrian army surrounded the U.S. embassy in Damascus. Claiming to have aborted a CIA plot to overthrow neutralist President Shukri Quwatly and install a pro-Western regime, Syrian chief of counterintelligence Abdul Hamid Sarraj expelled three U.S. diplomats ….

Syrian counterintelligence chief Sarraj reacted swiftly on August 12, expelling Stone and other CIA agents, arresting their accomplices and placing the U.S. embassy under surveillance.

Neoconservatives planned regime change in Syria once again in 1991.

And as Nafeez Ahmed notes:

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business,” he told French television: “I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria.”

Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor, including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials, confirmed that as of 2011, US and UK special forces training of Syrian opposition forces was well underway. The goal was to elicit the “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

Iraq

Everyone knows that the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein during the Iraq War.

But did you know that the U.S. previously carried out regime change in Iraq?

Specifically, the CIA plotted to poison the Iraqi leader in 1960.  In 1963, the U.S. backed the coup which succeeded in killing the head of Iraq.

Recently, Iraq has started to break apart as a nation.   USA Today notes, “Iraq is already splitting into three states“. Many say that is by design … a form of regime change.

Iran

Everyone knows that regime change in Iran has been a long-term goal of the hawks in Washington.

But do you know that the U.S. already carried out regime change in Iran in 1953 … which led to radicalization of the country in the first place?

Specifically, the CIA admits that the U.S. overthrew the moderate, suit-and-tie-wearing, Democratically-elected prime minister of Iran in 1953. (He was overthrown because he had nationalized Iran’s oil, which had previously been controlled by BP and other Western oil companies). As part of that action, the CIA admits that it hired Iranians to pose as Communists and stage bombings in Iran in order to turn the country against its prime minister.

If the U.S. hadn’t overthrown the moderate Iranian government, the fundamentalist Mullahs would have never taken over. Iran has been known for thousands of years for tolerating Christians and other religious minorities.

Hawks in the U.S. government been pushing for another round of regime change in Iran for decades.

Turkey

The CIA has acknowledged that it was behind the 1980 coup in Turkey.

Afghanistan

The U.S. obviously bombed the Taliban into submission during the Afghanistan war.

But Hillary Clinton and then-president Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser have both admitted on the record that the U.S. previously carried out regime change in Afghanistan in the 1970s by backing Bin Laden and the Mujahadin … the precursor to Al Qaeda.

Libya

Not only did the U.S. engage in direct military intervention against Gadafi, but also – as confirmed by a group of CIA officersarmed Al Qaeda so that they would help topple Gaddafi.

Indeed, the U.S. has carried out coups and destabilization campaigns all over the worldcreating chaos.

And see this.

Posted in Business / Economics, Energy / Environment, Politics / World News | 4 Comments

A Public Bank Option for Scotland

Guest post by Ellen Brown.

Scottish voters will go to the polls on September 18th to decide whether Scotland should become an independent country. As video blogger Ian R. Crane colorfully puts the issues and possibilities:

[T]he People of Scotland have an opportunity to extricate themselves from the socio-psychopathic global corporatists and the temple of outrageous and excessive abject materialism. However, it is not going to be an easy ride . . . .

If Alex Salmond and the SNP [Scottish National Party] are serious about keeping the Pound Stirling as the Currency of Scotland, there will be no independence. Likewise if Scotland embraces the Euro, Scotland will rapidly become a vassel state of the Euro-Federalists, who will asset strip the nation in the same way that, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain have been stripped of their entire national wealth and much of their national identity.

 

To achieve true independence, Crane suggests the following, among other mandates:

  • Establish an independent Central Bank of Scotland.
  • Issue a new Scottish (Debt Free) Currency.
  • Settle any outstanding debt with new Scottish Currency.
  • Take Scotland out of the EU.
  • Take Scotland out of NATO.
  • Establish strict currency controls for the first 3 years of independence.
  • Nationalize the Scottish oil & gas industry.
  • Re-take control of the National Health Service.
  • Establish a State Employment Agency to provide work/training for all able-bodied residents.

Arguments against independence include that Scotland’s levels of public spending, which are higher than in the rest of the UK, would be difficult to sustain without raising taxes.  But that assumes the existing UK/EU investment regime.  If Scotland were to say, “We’re starting a new round based on our own assets, via our own new bank,” exciting things might be achieved. A publicly-owned bank with a mandate to serve the interests of the Scottish people could help give the newly independent country true economic sovereignty.

I wrote on that possibility in December 2012, after doing a PowerPoint on it at the Royal Society of Arts in Edinburgh. That presentation was followed by one by public sector consultant Ralph Leishman, who made the proposal concrete with facts and figures.  He suggested that the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) be licensed as a depository bank on the model of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota. I’m reposting the bulk of that article here, in hopes of adding to the current debate.

From Revolving Fund to Credit Machine: What Scotland Could Do with Its Own Bank

The SIB is a division of Scottish Enterprise (SE), a government body that encourages economic development, enterprise, innovation and investment in business.  The SIB provides public sector funding through the Scottish Loan Fund. As noted in a September 2011 government report titled “Government Economic Strategy”:

[S]ecuring affordable finance remains a considerable challenge and further action is needed to ensure that viable businesses have access to the funding they require to grow and support jobs. The recovery is being held back by limited private sector investment – indeed, overall investment in the UK remains some 15% below pre-recession levels. Evidence shows that while many large companies have significant cash holdings or can access capital markets directly, for most Small and Medium-sized companies bank lending remains the key source of finance. Unblocking this is key to helping the recovery gain traction.

The limitation of a public loan fund is that the money can be lent only to one borrower at a time.  Invested as capital in a bank, on the other hand, public funds can be leveraged into nearly ten times that sum in loans.  Liquidity to cover the loans comes from deposits, which remain in the bank, available for the use of the depositors.  As observed by Kurt Von Mettenheim, et al., in a 2008 report titled Government Banking: New Perspectives on Sustainable Development and Social Inclusion from Europe and South America (Konrad Adenauer Foundation), at page 196:

[I]n terms of public policy, government banks can do more for less: Almost ten times more if one compares cash used as capital reserves by banks to other policies that require budgetary outflows.

In 2012, according to Leishman, the SIB had investment funds of £23.2 million from the Scottish government. Rounding this to £25 million, a public depository bank could have sufficient capital to back £250 million in loans. For deposits to cover the loans, the Scottish Government then had £125 million on deposit with private banks, earning very little or no interest.  Adding the revenues of just 14% of Scotland’s local governments would provide another £125 million, reaching the needed deposit total of £250 million.

The Model of the Bank of North Dakota

What the government could do with its own bank, following the model of the Bank of North Dakota (BND), was summarized by Alf Young in a followup article in the Scotsman. He noted that North Dakota is currently the only U.S. state to own its own depository bank.  The BND was founded in 1919 by Norwegian and other immigrants, who were determined, through their Non-Partisan League, to stop rapacious Wall Street money men foreclosing on their farms.

Young observed that all state revenues must be deposited with the BND by law.  The bank pays no bonuses, fees or commissions; does no advertising; and maintains no branches beyond the main office in Bismarck. The bank offers cheap credit lines to state and local government agencies. There are low-interest loans for designated project finance. The BND underwrites municipal bonds, funds disaster relief and supports student loans. It partners with local commercial banks to increase lending across the state and pays competitive interest rates on state deposits. For the past ten years, it has been paying a dividend to the state, with a quite small population of about 680,000, of some $30 million (£18.7 million) a year.

Young wrote:

Intriguingly, North Dakota has not suffered the way much of the rest of the US – indeed much of the western industrialised world – has, from the banking crash and credit crunch of 2008; the subsequent economic slump; and the sovereign debt crisis that has afflicted so many. With an economy based on farming and oil, it has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the US, a rising population and a state budget surplus that is expected to hit $1.6bn by next July. By then North Dakota’s legacy fund is forecast to have swollen to around $1.2bn.

With that kind of resilience, it’s little wonder that twenty American states, some of them close to bankruptcy, are at various stages of legislating to form their own state-owned banks on the North Dakota model. There’s a long-standing tradition of such institutions elsewhere too. Australia had a publicly-owned bank offering credit for infrastructure as early as 1912. New Zealand had one operating in the housing field in the 1930s. Up until 1974, the federal government in Canada borrowed from the Bank of Canada, effectively interest-free.

. . . From our western perspective, we tend to forget that, globally, around 40 per cent of banks are already publicly owned, many of them concentrated in the BRIC economies, Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Banking is not just a market good or service.  It is a vital part of societal infrastructure, which properly belongs in the public sector.  By taking banking back, local governments could regain control of that very large slice (up to 40 per cent) of every public budget that currently goes to interest charged to finance investment programs through the private sector.

Recent academic studies by von Mettenheim et al. and Andrianova et al. show that countries with high degrees of government ownership of banking have grown much faster in the last decade than countries where banking is historically concentrated in the private sector.  Government banks are also LESS corrupt and, surprisingly, have been MORE profitable in recent years than private banks.

Young wrote:

Given the massive price we have all paid for our debt-fuelled crash, surely there is scope for a more fundamental re-think about what we really want from our banks and what structures of ownership are best suited to deliver on those aspirations? . . .

As we left Thursday’s seminar, I asked another member of the audience, someone with more than thirty years’ experience as a corporate financier, whether the concept of a publicly-owned bank has any chance of getting off the ground here. “I’ve no doubt it will happen,” came the surprise response. “When I look at the way our collective addiction to debt has ballooned in my lifetime, I’d even say it’s inevitable”.

The Scots are full of surprises, and independence is in their blood.  Recall the heroic battles of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce memorialized by Hollywood in the Academy Award winning movie Braveheart.  Perhaps the Scots will blaze a trail for economic sovereignty in Europe, just as North Dakotans did in the U.S.  A publicly-owned bank could help Scotland take control of its own economic destiny, by avoiding unnecessary debt to a private banking system that has become a burden to the economy rather than a pillar in its support.

_________________________

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 200+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.

Posted in Business / Economics, Politics / World News | 23 Comments

The REAL Reason Britain is Freaking Out About Scottish Independence

Oil

David Cameron and the British media have been freaking out about the potential Scottish independence.

They’ve blathered on about “history”, “common defense” and other red herrings.

But it’s really all about oil …

Specifically, if Scotland becomes independent, it gets to keep 90% of the revenues from its huge oil reserves.

The New York Times reports:

Scottish nationalists have long argued that being governed from London has deprived their country of its fair share of the wealth from Britain’s oil and natural gas fields, which mostly lie in North Sea waters off their shores.

“It’s Scotland’s oil” was the rallying cry in the 1970s that helped raise the profile of the Scottish Nationalist Party, which now leads the country and is pushing for a vote to secede in the referendum on Thursday. Alex Salmond, the politician leading the separatist movement, has pointed to North Sea energy as the treasure that would help finance an independent Scotland — ensuring that the country could continue the generous public spending, including free university tuition, that he is promising voters.

Al Jazeera notes:

Massive oil reserves in the North Sea are at the heart of the Scottish independence debate. Many are questioning whether the reserves are just for Scotland or if the rest of the United Kingodm should continue to benefit from their profits.

NBC writes:

The ‘Yes’ campaign … says Scots should have total control of their own affairs and that revenue from Scotland’s offshore oil fields would sustain the country’s economy

In addition, as Max Keiser explained:

(1) The UK can now borrow cheaply using the giant Scottish oil reserves as collateral

(2) If Scotland leaves, the collateral (oil reserves) is no longer available

(3) So the cost of borrowing money for Britain skyrockets

Scotland’s North Sea oil reserves are slowing running out, and so oil won’t be such a valuable resource forever.

But for now, it is still invaluable (especially as collateral for British borrowing) … and the key to Britain’s panic over potential Scottish independence.

Posted in Business / Economics, Energy / Environment, Politics / World News | 20 Comments

If ISIS Were Really a Movie

ISIS has created a movie preview for the coming war, a war it eagerly wants Washington to take part in. The White House and Congress would like to oblige, as long as the movie can be a short one, on the model of Libya. Here’s the plot: Evil force arises out of nowhere; United States destroys it; credits roll. If Libya-The-Movie had begun with years of support for Gadaffi or ended with the disaster left behind, the critics would have hated it. Framing is everything.

Kathy Kelly published an article on Wednesday describing her visit some years back to a U.S. prison camp in Iraq where Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai spent four years under the name Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi before becoming the leader of ISIS.

Imagine a Hollywood-like movie that began in that camp. An opening scene might show Baghdadi and his fellow prisoners paraded naked in front of female soldiers and forced to say “I love George Bush” before they could get their food rations. We’d see them sleeping on the ground in the cold, cursing their captors and swearing every last drop of energy and instant of remaining life to that highest of all Hollywood values: violent revenge.

Cut to the present and a scene in a small house in Iraq with 500-pound U.S. bombs exploding just outside. Baghdadi and his gang of loveable heroes look horrified, but — with a twinkle in his eye — Baghdadi gathers the others to him and begins to smile. Then he begins to laugh. His comrades look bewildered. Then they start to catch on. “You wanted this, didn’t you?” exclaims Sexy Female Rebel. “This was your plan, wasn’t it!”

“Hand me the ultimate weapon,” Baghdadi says, turning to a future nominee for best male supporting actor. BMSA grins and pulls out a video camera. Baghdadi raises the camera over his head with one hand. Turning to Sexy Female Rebel he says “Go on the roof and look north. Tell me what you see coming.”

Cut to view through binoculars as music swells to high enthusiasm. Countless oceans of people on foot are making their way over the land with burning U.S. flags on sticks leading the way.

Of course, even Hollywood, which made Avatar, wouldn’t make exactly THIS movie. The White House is going to have to make it. But who’s directing? President Obama is hunting around for a name for this war, while ISIS has already released one in its video preview. Even the U.S. public seems increasingly interested in the full-length feature. “How does this end?” they want to know. “This was begun by Bush” they say, depending on their partisanship.

What if the script were flipped, not to portray the Iraqi as protagonist, but to abandon the religion of violent revenge?  What if Washington were to say to ISIS this:

We see that you want a war with us. We understand that you would gain local support because of how deeply we are hated. We’re tired of being hated. We’re tired of taking direction from criminals like you. We’re not going to play along. We’re going to make ourselves loved rather than hated. We’re going to apologize for our occupations and bombings and prisons and torture. We’re going to make restitution. We’re going to provide aid to the entire region. It’ll cost us a lot less to do that than to keep dropping bombs on you, so you can forget the plan to bankrupt us. We’re going to save trillions of dollars in fact by ceasing to arm ourselves and the rest of the world to the teeth. We’re going to announce a ban on shipping weapons to the Middle East. And since we ship 80% of them, not even counting our own military’s, we’re already off to a huge start. We’re going to prosecute any oil company or country that does business with your organization. But we’re going to hold no grudges against anyone who abandons your organization and seeks peace, just as we ask you to do what you can toward overcoming grudges against our past barbarity.

What would happen? You might be surprised. Gandhi-The-Movie brought in over $50 million in 1982.

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9/11: What Happened?

What do you think about this fascinating new documentary from David Hooper?

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