CO052 Lenore Skenazy on Child Hyper-Protection

Let Grow.org

Lenore Skenazy is an author, columnist, and president and chief blogger at Let Grow, a non-profit dedicated to overthrowing overprotection. In our discussion I mentioned Risk by John Adams, an excellent book on the topic of risk and risk-aversion.

****************************

There’s something happening that you might not have noticed in the news. What’s happening is MBS. If you don’t know what MBS is, then listen up.

First, a little history. Saudi Arabia, as we know it, came into being in the 1930s, the oil business there started in earnest in the 1940s, and by the 1970s it had become the largest oil producer in the world. In 1973 they led the oil boycott in protest against the West’s support for Israel.

To say that Saudi Arabia is conservative doesn’t begin to describe it. Music is banned. Dancing is banned. Cinema is banned. I don’t mean that some films are banned from cinemas. I mean that there are no cinemas at all. They are totally illegal.

Up to recently, it was illegal for women to drive. It’s still illegal for them to go almost anywhere without their father, husband or son chaperoning them. Also, Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy. There is no pretence of democracy whatsoever. The king’s word is, literally, law. And the kings are old. For the whole of this century, there has been no king aged under 80.

Actually, that’s not quite true, the current King, Salman, was a few months short of his eightieth birthday when he came to power almost three years ago. And how kings come to power is another matter. Islamic law allows a man to have up to four wives. But that’s four wives at a time. In reality, these rich and powerful men have a conveyor belt of wives, with a one-in-one-out system meaning that they are never married to more than four of them at any given time.

This means that there are hugely complex families with sons – girls don’t count for much here – with dozens of sons, nephews, half brothers all competing in the game of thrones for the succession. Usually an uneasy peace is kept. Usually. In 1975, King Khalid came to power when his predecessor King Faisal was assassinated by the king’s nephew, Prince Faisal.

Mohammad bin Salman
Mohammad bin Salman

Up to now, the peace has been kept by palace power-broking, meaning that there are complex deals behind the scenes to rotate the throne and other positions between members of different cliques. This is one reason why the kings are so old, they are often compromise candidates, put in place in the knowledge that they won’t be there long enough to consolidate a power base.

These deals go all the way down through the power structure, there are about 3,000 princes, and positions are handed out according to their rank, so every government minister, every mayor of every city, every director of every major company, all these positions go to one of these princes.

The latest king, as I said, is King Salman. A few months ago he did something extraordinary. On June 21st, Salman appointed his son as crown prince, the one who will succeed him to the throne. This was extraordinary for a couple of reasons; the first is that it’s Salman’s son, Mohammad bin Salman – bin means son of – so this goes against the grain of dividing power between the factions.

The second reason is his age. Remember that for the whole of this century Saudi has barely ever had a king aged less than 80. Mohammad bin Salman – or MBS, that’s what they’re calling him. MBS is 32. He was born in 1985. To put that in context, the king was born in 1935, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president. MBS was born in Ronald Regan’s second term as president. A-ha were in the charts with Take on Me, the Nintendo Entertainment System already existed when he was born. His father is older than the jet engine. MBS is younger than the space shuttle.

And if you were thinking that this was just a victory for one faction of the clan in the game of thrones, think again. MBS started off his new position with a slew of announcements. Some of them might seem pretty tame anywhere else, but many of them are nothing short of revolutionary in Saudi Arabia. I mentioned allowing women to drive.

More important for most Saudi people is the almost total curb on the power of the Mutaween, the religious police force that previously went around arresting people for crimes against morality such as holding hands. Also on the cards is the end of the prohibition on western media. In October MBS said that the religious nature of the Saudi state is not normal, and that he would transform it into a modern, moderate Islamic country.

But for the real revolution, follow the money. Many of those thousands of princes have made themselves unimaginably wealthy, using their positions to siphon off billions of dollars into private bank accounts.

Last week, MBS took over a luxury hotel and converted it into a prison to hold more than 200 of his extended family members, who he had arrested in a massive move against corruption. His investigators are hunting down hundreds of billions dollars of stolen state funds.

This move is not spectacular just for the number of people locked up, but also for just how big fish they are. Included in those arrested are Al-Waleed bin Talal, a vastly wealthy man how owns major stakes in Citibank, News Corp and Twitter and other major companies, also more than 40 princes of the royal family, several of them government ministers, including the Minister of Economy and Planning, and also the Commander of the Saudi navy.

MBS is not even the king yet, and he’s only in the position of crown prince for less than half the time that Donald Trump has been in the White House. I suppose he doesn’t have to deal with Congress or a supreme court, but even allowing for that, his progress is impressive.

So that leaves us with two questions: first, is he one of the good guys? Is he doing this to, as he said, bring his country out of theocracy and into the modern era, or is this just his way of eliminating the competition, with a veneer of respectability?

And, even if he has good intentions, will he succeed? He’s sure to be making some powerful enemies, and remember this is a family that has murdered its patriarch before.

For the first question, I think the answer might not matter. Freedom is a genie that doesn’t easily go back into its bottle. The people of Saudi Arabia are well educated, and all the censorship in the world can’t hide the miserable comparison between their freedoms and those in the west.

Even if MBS is completely insincere, even if his aim is just to use an anti-corruption drive to grab more loot from himself, he is clearly letting that genie out of the bottle; he would be foolish to think that a system that pays even lip service to the rule of law can avoid trending towards that in the long term. And, the scale of Saudi corruption is such that it cannot function without a massive bureaucracy of people who are themselves being paid off, so whether he knows it or not, whether he intends it or not, if MBS succeeds he will reduce the ability of anyone, including himself, of looting quite so many billions.

If he succeeds.

There are two threats on the horizon. The Arabian peninsula, and its neighbours, are becoming more unstable. MBS’s reforms might be coming too late. Saudi is already at war with its poor southern neighbour, Yemen. Relations with Iran are deteriorating. Both Iran and Saudi are trying to run Lebanon as a proxy state. Israel might be very happy indeed to stoke a war there, which would put all reform off the table. And that’s if his own disgruntled cousins don’t bump him off first, which is distinctly likely.

Either way, this guy is going into the history books. Remember his name. MBS. Mohammad bin Salman.

CO051 Barrett Holmes Pitner on the New Jim Crow

Barrett Holmes Pitner is a journalist who has written for The Daily Beast, The Guardian, The Daily Dot, and The Huffington Post.

CO050 John Kiriakou on The West and the Islamic World

John Kiriakou is a former CIA spy who was jailed following his public statements about the the CIA’s use of torture. He is the author of Doing Time Like A Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison and Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror.

In our discussion, I mentioned predictions ascribed to the CIA that Pakistan would fail as a state by 2015.

CO049 John Kiriakou on Going from the CIA to Federal Prison

John Kiriakou is a former CIA spy who was jailed following his public statements about the the CIA’s use of torture. He is the author of Doing Time Like A Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison and Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror.

CO048 Hayley Jones on News in the Age of Social Media

I talked to Hayley Jones who writes for The Daily Beast and I mentioned this story run by Rachel Maddow about Russian military intelligency figures boasting about their reach and ability to influence social media.

Hayley mentioned that The Daily Beast had also run elements of this story.

 

CO047 Bill Tatro on Finance and Millennials

Bill Tatro is an economist, writer and broadcaster who studied under John Kenneth Galbraith, who has been entertaining audiences on the radio and in seminars for over 30 years.

We spoke about his article Those Damn Millennials.

I mentioned When China Rules the World by Martin Jacques, but I made a mistake when I said Jacques is American, in fact he is British.

CO046 Alex Nowrasteh on the Conservative Case for Immigration

Alex Nowrasteh is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

In our discussion, we mentioned the Chinese Exculsion Act and the Irish Americans who are descendants of people who immigrated to the US over several centuries.

CO045 Heather Jones on the Alt-Right and Accuracy

Black Pigeon Speaks is a popular Alt-Right YouTube channel and associated websiteBlack Pigeon is the voice of the many videos on the channel. He is noted for his anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, racist, sexist and anti-trans views.

Heather Jones is the Editor-in-Chief of BlackPigeonSpeaks.com, She self-identifies as ‘New-Right’ or as a ‘Traditionalist’ rather than ‘Alt-Right’.

Below are videos from the Black Pigeon Speaks channel where certain claims were made, along with some sourced information I found while fact-checking.

In this video Black Pigeon claims that average IQ in western countries is falling. This Wikipedia article explains ‘The Flynn Effect’, a substantial and long-sustained increase in both fluid and crystallized intelligence test scores measured in many parts of the world from roughly 1930 to the present day. The effect has been found in tests replicated in dozens of academic studies, and proposed explanations from psychologists include improved education, improved nutrition, a generally more stimulating intellecutal environment, reduction in infectious diseases, and heterosis, the increase in marriage to people who are not related.

In this video Black Pigeon claims that ‘studies’ exist which indicate that a large majority of women orgasm during rape. This claim seems to be based on an internet hoax which is outlined here.

Heather wrote an article based on a fabricated quotation attributed to the mayor of London Sadiq Khan, which was also the subject of a Black Pigeon Speaks video. The inaccurate quotation seems to have originated with a tweet from Donald Trump Jr, and has been modified and widely circulated on alt-right websites in various forms, usually claiming that Khan claimed that people ‘should accept terrorism‘. Heather wrote:

‘’Terror attacks are ‘part and parcel’ of living in a major city’’ – Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London.

What Khan actually said in September was:

“Part and parcel of living in a great global city is you’ve got to be prepared for these things, you’ve got to be vigilant, you’ve got to support the police doing an incredibly hard job. We must never accept terrorists being successful, we must never accept that terrorists can destroy our life or destroy the way we lead our lives.”

Snopes: Sadiq Khan statements about London terror attack

We also discussed Heather’s article Dear Feminists: Your ‘Multiculturalism’ is Taking Away Your Rights.

CO044 Darius McCullough on What is MGTOW?

Darius McCullough runs the YouTube channel MGTOW Knowledge – Darius.

MGTOW is a subculture that is particularly active on YouTube, there are literally thousands of channels devoted to it.

CO043 Jonathan Wood on Libertarian Environmentalism

Jonathan Wood is the author of FREEcology a blog on libertarian environmentalism. In addition he is also an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), an adjunct fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) and a member of the executive committee for the Federalist Society’s Environmental Law and Property Rights Practice Group.

According to Jonathan’s blog Libertarian environmentalism has three key facets which he outlines as follows.

“First, incentives matter. The knee jerk impulse to treat regulation as the solution to every environmental problem often backfires, by punishing behavior that benefits the environment. Second, secure property rights are a necessary, if not always sufficient, condition for responsible resource use and conservation. And, finally, where environmental regulation is appropriate, the best system will ensure that whoever benefits from the regulation also bears the costs. Internalizing those costs prevents regulations from being more burdensome than necessary.”

You can connect with Jonathan through FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and SSRN.

CO042 Aaron Bandler on Russia & WWII

Aaron Bandler is a staff writer with The Wire. We talked about his article about the Russian foreign ministry tweet taking credit for defeating the nazis.

https://twitter.com/mfa_russia/status/900398021623656450

Aaron (and others) commented that this tweet was sent on the anniversary of the of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the 1939 deal between Hitler and Stalin which promised peace between the two, and carved up Eastern Europe between the two powers.

Historians are divided as to the degree to which the Soviets believed in the pact, or used it as cynical move to delay the war, giving them time to prepare, particularly moving industry beyond the Urals into Siberia; however there is absolutely no doubt that the bulk of nazi forces were ranged against – and defeated by – the Soviet Union.

Of all nazi forces, 80 per cent were on the Eastern Front, and 95 per cent of all Allied casualties were suffered by the Soviet Union. The Battle of Stalingrad began almost two years before D-Day, on August 23, 1942, and lasted until February 1943. There is no doubt that this was the fulcrum of the war; it was the beginning of the Soviets’ advance towards Berlin.

CO041 Fr John Peck on Replacements for Religion

Fr John Peck is a priest in the American Orthodox Church, an Eastern Rite church which has strong links to the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches. He writes the blog The Orthodox Church of Tomorrow, and featured this article on his blog.

In the conversation, I mentioned Sathya Sai Baba, an Indian guru who claimed to have performed a variety of miracles, including raising people from the dead. He has a large following, including Uri Geller and Alice (wife of John) Coltraine, and some of his devotees say that they have witnessed him perform miracles such as healings, raising people from the dead, clairvoyance, bilocation.

Many of the miracles seem to have a distinct echo of the miracles attributed to Jesus in the Bible, though in the case of Sathya Sai Baba there are many people available to give apparently sincere testimony of the miracles.

CO040 Sharyl Attkisson on Manipulating the News

Sharyl Attkisson is the presenter of Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson, and a former news anchor for CBS and CNN. She has won Emmy awards for Investigative Journalism and Business and Financial Reporting.

HarperCollins recently published her book The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote.  

CO039 Peter Balint on Tolerance

Dr Peter Balint is a senior lecturer in International & Political Studies at the
School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia. His book, Respecting Toleration Traditional Liberalism and Contemporary Diversity was published recently by Oxford University Press.

In our discussion, I mentioned Pastafarianism, the parody religion that purports to worship Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose supposed adherents sometimes insist on accommodations that parody those of real religions, such as demanding the right to wear religious head-coverings – a colander – in photos government IDs where authorities allow that exception for other belief systems. 

CO038 Ryan Alford on The Rule of Law

Ryan Alford is an associate professor at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University, Ontario, and he’s also a US-qualified lawyer.

He recently published the book Permanent State of Emergency; Unchecked Executive Power and the Demise of the Rule of Law.

CO037 Jerry Newcombe on America as a Christian Nation

Jerry Newcombe is an author and pastor, who has written The Unstoppbable Jesus Christ and The Book that Made America.

In our conversation I mentioned Thomas Paine’s, The Age of Reason and Reason, the Only Oracle of Man by Ethan Allen, both Founding Fathers, and I drew from the more modern book The Faiths of the Founding Fathers by David L. Holmes.

CO036 Michael Huttner on how to Resist Trump

Michael Huttner is the co-author of The Resistance Handbook: 45 Ways to Fight Trump with Markos Moulitsas, published by Disruption Books. 

I mentioned Nate Silver’s article Donald Trump Is Making Europe Liberal Again, which has noted that association with Trump, particularly by the European far-right parties, seems to be hurting them politically.

CO035 Dan Kovalik on the Vilification of Russia

Dan Kovalik is a human rights, labor rights lawyer and council for United Steelworkers Union. 

His new book is called, The Plot to Scapegoat Russia,  (How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Russia). We also spoke about Dan’s related article, Listen liberals Russia is not our enemy.

There is a list of the journalists killed in Russia under Putin on Wikipedia; without exception .

CO034 Richard Stratton on Being a Major Criminal

Richard Stratton is the author of Kingpin: Prisoner of the War on Drugs, and previously wrote Smuggler’s Blues: A True Story of the Hippie Mafia. both published by Arcade Publishing.

CO033 Tarek Fatah on Liberal Islam

Tarek Fatah was born in Pakistan, he lives in Canadian now where he is a writer, broadcaster, activist, and writes a weekly column for the Toronto Sun. In our conversation, he mentioned some Muslims naming their children after Timur.

***

There’s a video that you should see.

It’s a drama made by the BBC, the British national broadcaster. I’m not sure how or when it will be shown outside the UK, but there are loads of clips online, I’ve even seen that on YouTube there are the whole of the three hour-long episodes, I’m not sure how legal that is, or how long they will stay up, but I’m sure you can find it on some service or other.

Another challenge, if you’re not from the UK, you might find some of the accents a bit of a challenge, so maybe try with subtitles; the reason for that is that it’s set in the northern English town of Rochdale.

Rochdale is a town close to Manchester, it’s got a population of about 100,000, and about a quarter of its population is of Asian origin, although measuring that is a bit tricky, it depends on whether you count just the town or the wider metro area, since Asians tend to live more centrally in the town.

And Rochdale is poor. And that is central to the video you should see. The video is a drama, it’s in three hour-long episodes, it’s called Three Girls, and the title characters are three young teenagers from Rochdale. They represent, according to the British government enquiry, more than 1,400 girls – I’m going to pause for you to take that number in, more than 1,400 girls who were sexually abused by men who chatted them up, gave them fast food, alcohol, sometimes drugs, and gained influence over them – what is called grooming. And having gained influence, they sexually abused the girls, raped them, and in some cases rented them out to be raped by other men.

This went on for years, and as well as the abuse on the girls, the drama looks at how the authorities reacted to what was going on. Most, but not all of the girls, came from quite poor backgrounds, some of them had chaotic lives, were alienated from their parents, in other words they didn’t have a strong adult presence protecting them.

The drama follows one community health worker who repeatedly reported the child abuse and rapes to the police, but they took little effective action, and the scandal, since exposed in a government report, was that two attitudes let this go on for years, although many men have now been convicted in relation to the case.

The first is that all of the perpetrators were Muslim men from a Pakistani or Afghan background and all the victims that we know of were white.

The second is that the girls didn’t look like middle class, well-spoken A-students. Some of them drank, had sex, stayed out late.

The combination of these two factors, it seems, paralyzed the authorities. They were so afraid of being seen to be racist, that they were walking on eggshells any time they dealt with ethnic minorities. They were anxious to find any other explanation than the obvious one, that hundreds of girls were being abused and raped. And there was one explanation that suited them. Many of the girls were not perfect candidates to be seen as blameless victims by a jury.

One scene in the film shows a police officer referring to the girls as underage prostitutes. The health worker replies that there is no such thing as an underage prostitute, she says that they are abuse victims.

There are two things to take away from this. The first is that victims are not always perfect. In this case, I would guess, the abusers targeted them for that exact reason. But they are still victims, and they still deserve justice. Justice is not justice if it’s not justice for all.

The second is that being against racism can’t mean being against reality. Some crimes are prosecuted in a racist way, there is no doubt about it. White and Black Americans use and sell marijuana in much the same proportions, but blacks are vastly more likely to be arrested for it.

But where crimes do follow a racial pattern there is nothing wrong with talking about that, and nothing wrong with acting on it.

And the third point is that some racial or cultural or religious practices – whatever you want to call it – are just disgusting and should be simply rejected. I don’t think you can get away from the fact that aspects of Islam are misogynistic, and that is connected with the abuse of women and girls, and that can be seen in many Islamic countries, and in the pattern of crimes that are committed by some immigrants from those countries.

Anyone who thinks that respecting diversity should mean not prosecuting those crimes to the full should take a long look at themselves.

***

One last thing, it’s notable that the prosecutor who overturned the original decision not to prosecute these rapists was a guy called Nazir Afzal, a first generation Pakistani immigrant, and I take two things away from that. First that not all Pakistani men are bad, and secondly, that there is no excuse for the ones who are.

Anyway go and look it up and watch the drama, it’s called Three girls.