Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last

The crown prince has big plans to bring back a level of tolerance to his society.

.. It’s been a long, long time, though, since any Arab leader wore me out with a fire hose of new ideas about transforming his country.
.. It’s “ludicrous,” he said, to suggest that this anticorruption campaign was a power grab. He pointed out that many prominent members of the Ritz crowd had already publicly pledged allegiance to him and his reforms, and that “a majority of the royal family” is already behind him
.. The calculation of our experts is that roughly 10 percent of all government spending was siphoned off by corruption each year
.. So when his father, who has never been tainted by corruption charges during his nearly five decades as governor of Riyadh, ascended to the throne in 2015 (at a time of falling oil prices), he vowed to put a stop to it all, M.B.S. said:
“My father saw that there is no way we can stay in the G-20 and grow with this level of corruption. In early 2015, one of his first orders to his team was to collect all the information about corruption — at the top. This team worked for two years until they collected the most accurate information, and then they came up with about 200 names.”
.. each suspected billionaire or prince was arrested and given two choices: “We show them all the files that we have and as soon as they see those about 95 percent agree to a settlement,” which means signing over cash or shares of their business to the Saudi state treasury.
.. “How much money are they recovering?” I asked.

The public prosecutor says it could eventually “be around $100 billion in settlements,” said M.B.S.

..  Saudi business people who paid bribes to get services done by bureaucrats are not being prosecuted, explained M.B.S. “It’s those who shook the money out of the government” — by overcharging and getting kickbacks.

.. Not a single Saudi I spoke to here over three days expressed anything other than effusive support for this anticorruption drive. The Saudi silent majority is clearly fed up with the injustice of so many princes and billionaires ripping off their country.

.. The first is to bring Saudi Islam back to its more open and modern orientation — whence it diverted in 1979. That is, back to what M.B.S. described to a recent global investment conference here as a “moderate, balanced Islam that is open to the world and to all religions and all traditions and peoples.”

.. in 1979, and so much of the region that I have covered since was shaped by the three big events of that year:

  1. the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Saudi puritanical extremists — who denounced the Saudi ruling family as corrupt, impious sellouts to Western values;
  2. the Iranian Islamic revolution; and
  3. the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

.. These three events together freaked out the Saudi ruling family at the time, and prompted it to try to shore up its legitimacy by allowing its Wahhabi clerics to impose a much more austere Islam on the society and by launching a worldwide competition with Iran’s ayatollahs over who could export more fundamentalist Islam.

.. It didn’t help that the U.S. tried to leverage this trend by using Islamist fighters against Russia in Afghanistan. In all, it pushed Islam globally way to the right and helped nurture 9/11.

.. M.B.S. is on a mission to bring Saudi Islam back to the center.

.. He has not only curbed the authority of the once feared Saudi religious police to berate a woman for not covering every inch of her skin, he has also let women drive

.. unlike any Saudi leader before him, he has taken the hard-liners on ideologically

.. “Do not write that we are ‘reinterpreting’ Islam — we are ‘restoring’ Islam to its origins — and our biggest tools are the Prophet’s practices and [daily life in] Saudi Arabia before 1979.”

.. At the time of the Prophet Muhammad, he argued, there were musical theaters, there was mixing between men and women, there was respect for Christians and Jews in Arabia. “The first commercial judge in Medina was a woman!

.. Then one of his ministers got out his cellphone and shared with me pictures and YouTube videos of Saudi Arabia in the 1950s — women without heads covered, wearing skirts and walking with men in public, as well as concerts and cinemas. It was still a traditional and modest place, but not one where fun had been outlawed, which is what happened after 1979.

.. Toby Keith held a men-only concert here in September, where he even sang with a Saudi, and that Lebanese soprano Hiba Tawaji will be among the first woman singers to perform a women-only concert

.. M.B.S told me, it was just decided that women will be able to go to stadiums and attend soccer games. The Saudi clerics have completely acquiesced.

.. Iran’s “supreme leader is the new Hitler of the Middle East,” said M.B.S.

A Republican intellectual explains why the Republican Party is going to die

Avik Roy is a Republican’s Republican. A health care wonk and editor at Forbes, he has worked for three Republican presidential hopefuls — Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Marco Rubio.

.. “I don’t think the Republican Party and the conservative movement are capable of reforming themselves in an incremental and gradual way,” he said. “There’s going to be a disruption.”

.. He believes it means the Democrats will dominate national American politics for some time. But he also believes the Republican Party has lost its right to govern, because it is driven by white nationalism rather than a true commitment to equality for all Americans.

.. “I think the conservative movement is fundamentally broken,” Roy tells me. “Trump is not a random act. This election is not a random act.”

.. “Goldwater’s nomination in 1964 was a historical disaster for the conservative movement,” Roy tells me, “because for the ensuing decades, it identified Democrats as the party of civil rights and Republicans as the party opposed to civil rights.”

.. Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He himself was not especially racist — he believed it was wrong, on free market grounds, for the federal government to force private businesses to desegregate.

  1. .. First, it forced black voters out of the GOP.
  2. Second, it invited in white racists who had previously been Democrats.

Even though many Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act in Congress, the post-Goldwater party became the party of aggrieved whites.

.. the Republican coalition has inherited the people who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — the Southern Democrats who are now Republicans,” Roy says. “Conservatives and Republicans have not come to terms with that problem.”

.. This revisionism, according to Roy, points to a much bigger conservative delusion: They cannot admit that their party’s voters are motivated far more by white identity politics than by conservative ideals.

 .. they deny that to this day, Republican voters are driven more by white resentment than by a principled commitment to the free market and individual liberty.
.. conservatism has become, and has been for some time, much more about white identity politics than it has been about conservative political philosophy. I think today, even now, a lot of conservatives have not come to terms with that problem.”
.. By refusing to admit the truth about their own party, they were powerless to stop the forces that led to Donald Trump’s rise. They told themselves, over and over again, that Goldwater’s victory was a triumph.
.. Trump’s politics of aggrieved white nationalism — labeling black people criminals, Latinos rapists, and Muslims terrorists — succeeded because the party’s voting base was made up of the people who once opposed civil rights.

.. “Either the disruption will come from the Republican Party representing cranky old white people and a new right-of-center party emerging in its place, or a third party will emerge, à la the Republicans emerging from the Whigs in the [1850s],” Roy says.

The work of conservative intellectuals today, he argues, is to devise a new conservatism — a political vision that adheres to limited government principles but genuinely appeals to a more diverse America.

“I think it’s incredibly important to take stock,” he says, “and build a new conservative movement that is genuinely about individual liberty.”

.. For the entire history of modern conservatism, its ideals have been wedded to and marred by white supremacism. That’s Roy’s own diagnosis, and I think it’s correct. As a result, we have literally no experience in America of a politically viable conservative movement unmoored from white supremacy.

.. what actual political constituency could bring about this pure conservatism in practice. The fact is that limited government conservatism is not especially appealing to nonwhite Americans, whereas liberalism and social democracy are. The only ones for whom conservatism is a natural fit are Roy’s “cranky old white people” — and they’re dying off.

 

 

What happened: Hillary’s view

The more serious, systemically, is the Russians. Clinton pulls together the most complete account of what we know or should believe, and the story is truly terrifying. Terrifying, not just for what the Russians did — which is terrible enough—but more for how pathetically the public, meaning journalism, reacted.

.. the most terrifying bit of the Clinton account is just how pathetic journalism in America has become.

.. Had this been the Bush administration warning about Russians trying to flip the election against Obama, that would have been heard and believed. The Obama Administration was probably right that its fears would have rendered political.

.. it all ties to the weakness of relying on commercial media to provide America with what America needs to perform its democratic function.

..  No producer is passing the list of stories to be covered on the evening news by the advertising department. But in the discipline of ratings reporting, and the judgments executives make, it is clear to everyone what stories should be covered because it is clear to everyone what stories will sell.

.. It’s not clear American democracy can survive commercial media

.. When you know why you’re doing something and you know there’s nothing more to it and certainly nothing sinister, it’s easy to assume that others will see it the same way. That was a mistake.

This is a perfect account of her — or anyone’s—own psyche. Yet if true, it is a perfect indictment of a campaign. Because of course, no one could have “assum[ed] that others” saw Clinton in the way Clinton and her staff saw Clinton. Everyone in that campaign must have known that way too many in America were incredibly suspicious of her. That suspicion was partly her fault, partly not

.. the consequence of the never-ending attack on her integrity by Sanders, and then Trump was completely predictable. What Clinton faced was an enormous trust gap. And the fundamental question for the campaign should have been, how do we address that gap?

.. How do we convince America that we — certainly more than Trump—want to remake the corruption of DC? How do we become the reformers, at a time when Americans desperately wanted reform?

.. This fact — that Americans desperately wanted reform — is the single most denied fact of DC insiders in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

.. found Americans (both Democrats and Republicans) more dissatisfied with their government than at any time in polling history.

.. Even though her platform on this issue was the most progressive of any major candidate, including Sanders, the fact that she could never make it central to her message convinced me she either didn’t see it or didn’t care about it.

..  Even her book lists reform nowhere on the top issues the Democrats should pursue.

.. This is the core mistake — not just of Clinton, but of too many in the Democratic Party. America is with Reagan—“Government is not the solution. Government is the problem”—not because they believe, like Reagan, that the private market can solve every public problem, but because they believe their government is fundamentally corrupt.

.. They see taxes as a waste — not because the poor don’t deserve help, but because they believe the government is not helping anyone except itself.

.. That blindness leaves the field wide open for the party of no — no taxes, no immigration, no health care, no (more) social security, no protection for privacy, no network neutrality, no family planning, no dreamers.

.. we need to give America a reason to believe there is good in yes. And we will only do that when we convince them that their government works for them—and not the funders, and the lobbyists, and the corporations

Liberalism’s Summer of ’17

Liberals whine about being governed by Trump. Pity those governed by them.

Many of those now climbing over the Democrats’ blue walls were willing to live under the original liberal governance model that existed before 1960 because it recognized the legitimacy of private economic life. The wealthy agreed then to pay their “fair share.”

.. Defenders of the liberal model argue that cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are changing into sophisticated, cosmopolitan hubs that attract a new class of young professionals who will restore urban America. Instead, many of these urban revivals are producing a phenomenon economists now call “racially concentrated areas of affluence,” or RCAAs.

An area gets RCAAed when the residents who pack themselves into it are mostly white people whose median incomes are unprecedentedly greater than the city’s poverty level. Some of the most RCAAed cities are liberal duchies like Boston, Baltimore, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Today, private economic life, especially that of the urban middle class, is no longer a partner in the liberal model. It’s merely a “revenue source” for a system whose patronage is open-ended welfare and largely uncapped public-employee pensions. I’d describe the liberal-progressive governing strategy as ruin and rule.

.. Not widely noticed is that liberalism’s claimed beneficiaries—black Americans—are also fleeing its failures. Demographers have documented significant black out-migration from New York, Michigan, California and Illinois into Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina. North to south.

.. They are now asking the federal government, meaning taxpayers who live in parts of the U.S. not hostile to capitalism, to give them nearly $15 billion to replace the 100-year-old train tunnel beneath the Hudson River. Why should they? Why send money to a moribund, dysfunctional urban liberal politics that will never—as in, not ever—clean up its act or reform?

Maybe we need a new default solution to the urban crisis: Let internal migration redistribute the U.S. population away from liberalism’s smug but falling-apart plutonomies.