Natural resource & welfare states: Saudi Arabia and West Virginia
The world’s most successful welfare state is Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia has the world's largest oil reserves and is the world's largest oil exporter. Oil accounts for more than 90% of exports and nearly 75% of government revenues, facilitating the creation of a welfare state, which the government has found difficult to fund during periods of low oil prices.”
Saudi Arabia is a kingdom, run by a royal family.
Among America’s least successful welfare states is West Virginia.
“The economy of West Virginia is one of the weakest in the United States (only Mississippi has a weaker economy). Coal is one of the state's primary economic resources. The effort of unions to organize miners is a violent chapter in the state's history. In 1933, the President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt threatened to call the National Guard in order to forcibly unionize parts of Raleigh County. Nevertheless, labor organizing persisted under the leadership of John L. Lewis and the United Mine Workers.”
Senator Jay Rockefeller is a man who could be king of West Virginia, but the American system doesn’t allow for that. If the Rockefeller family had governed West Virginia in the same manner as the Saudi Royal family, maybe the state would be better off.
First, the Rockefellers would expand their empire to include neighboring Pennsylvania to get total control of coal. They know that the world is increasingly dependent on coal so they will need price control.
Since the state has very few “foreign born,” it will invoke strict immigration controls to keep it that way. The only way in and out of the state will be by purchasing a State Park visiting pass with overnight stay privileges.
Gasoline will be sold on a two tier basis: 1) prices for residents, and 2) prices fro visitors.
The Rockefeller Family will be protected by a Royal State Militia that will create jobs for a large number of state residents, those who cannot work the mines.
It just doesn’t seem right that the Royal Nation with oil is better off than the Unroyal coal state of West Virginia.
Well, at least the Rockefellers would probably not chop off peoples’ members for transgressions against the Welfare State elite.
“Chop Chop Square
Inside Saudi Arabia’s brutal justice system
Aslender sword — four feet of shining steel, curved at the end — hovers high above a kneeling figure shrouded in white. Only the kneeler’s neck is exposed. Sixty or so men watch from the edge of a granite courtyard, behind a patchy line of eight soldiers in tan uniforms. The man wielding the sword looms high, almost spectral, in a flowing white dishdasha and a red-checked headcloth. He is ready to swing but then steps back. He huddles with two police and the one person who can make this stop: the victim of the crime that’s being punished.
The huddle breaks, and the executioner retakes his position, left of the condemned. He sets his right leg forward and his left leg back, as if about to stretch his left calf. Sunlight flashes on the blade as he draws it above his head.
SAUDI ARABIA’S LEADING EXECUTIONER, MUHAMMAD SAAD AL-BESHIFrom an Arab News article, June 5, 2003
“I am very proud to do God’s work... No one is afraid of me. I have a lot of relatives, and many friends at the mosque, and I live a normal life like everyone else... I deal with my family with kindness and love. They aren’t afraid when I come back from an execution. Sometimes they help me clean my sword... It’s a gift from the government [worth SAR 20,000, or around $6,800 CAD]. I look after it and sharpen it once in a while, and I make sure to clean it of bloodstains.”
This is Saudi Arabia, one of the last places on earth where capital punishment is a public spectacle. Decapitation awaits murderers, but the death penalty also applies to many other crimes, such as armed robbery, rape, adultery, drug use and trafficking, and renouncing Islam. There’s a woman on death row now for witchcraft, and the charge is based partly on a man’s accusation that her spell made him impotent. Saudi Arabia executed some 1,750 convicts between 1985 and 2008, yet reliable information about the practice is scarce. In Riyadh, beheadings happen at 9 a.m. any given day of the week, and there is no advance notice. There is also no written penal code, so questions of illegality depend on the on-the-spot interpretations of police and judges.
What’s certain is that the Koran guides the justice system, with some laws passed to address areas the holy book does not. The Saudi interpretation of the Koran discourages all forms of evidence other than confessions and eyewitness accounts in capital trials, on the theory that doing otherwise would leave too much discretion to the judge. But at any time until the sword strikes, a victim’s family can pardon the condemned — usually for a cash settlement of at least two million riyals ($690,000 or so) from the convict or his family.
In rare cases, often politically sensitive ones, King Abdullah grants a pardon, one of the last hopes for Canadian national Mohamed Kohail, now twenty-four,who faces beheading after being convicted for the murder of a Syrian youth during a schoolyard brawl in Jeddah. His younger brother Sultan, who reportedly instigated the fight by insulting a Syrian girl, could also face the death penalty, as his case has been transferred to an adult court on appeal. Allegedly, Mohamed was told that if he signed a document stating that he punched the victim in the stomach, he would be freed. Many who live to recount their experience in the Saudi justice system report that police promised freedom in exchange for a confession — or tortured them to get one.
In Riyadh, beheadings take place in a downtown public square equipped with a drain the size of a pizza box in its centre. Expatriates call it Chop Chop Square. I showed up at 9 a.m. most days for several weeks. After arriving at the barren granite expanse for yet another morning, I’d drink tea with merchants in the bazaar next door. Popular opinion seems to allow more respect for the executioners than sympathy for those wrongfully convicted, and rumours about the mysterious swordsmen abound. “He must kill,” one carpet dealer told me. “If he doesn’t kill for a few days, they give him a sheep to kill.” The job is a coveted one, often passed from father to son. In a Lebanese TV clip now on YouTube, a Saudi executioner shows off his swords and describes his approach: “If the heart is compassionate, the hand fails.””