Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

November 30, 2007

The Ron Paul "debate" – have a look

Filed under: Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 4:21 pm

This is going to be a very short post, since I’d like readers to look at two posts on two other blogs before I weigh in with my two cents.

From Bob Bidinotto’s blog post on Ron Paul: “Ron Paul’s “noninterventionism” fraud” http://bidinotto.journalspace.com/?entryid=637

From Ilana Mercer’s post on libertarians who don’t go for Paul: “On Idiot Ideologues Who Pan Paul” http://blog.ilanamercer.com/?p=581

Full disclosure: I know both writers, Bob I count as a friend and have been his home guest on one occasion. Ilana I know through mostly friendly correspondence, and have posted frequently on her blog. I believe they also know each other and have had business dealings in publishing.

Does the phrase “where angels fear to tread” mean anything to you?

November 29, 2007

Enchanted is… enchanting

Filed under: Movies — Stephen W. Browne @ 4:18 pm

With two kids, aged 6 years and 16 months, you may well imagine that we don’t get out to movies much these days. We either have to see them in shifts or find one that the boy will enjoy (Transformers was a good one) and the baby will tolerate.

We also find that it’s best to go during the day when there are very few people in the theater to be bothered by a crying baby or breastfeeding mother.

So on the strength of a preview and review by Frederika Matthews-Green in National Review Online, we went to see Disney’s Enchanted.

It’s a hoot! It’s a story about a not-yet-princess who is thrown down a well by her prince and husband-to-be’s evil stepmother – and comes out in New York!

Adults will have a great time spotting all the allusions to classic Disney fare, and kids will just get off on the action.

This is satire for sure, but of the loving tribute kind of satire. And… say it softly, but it’s a wise and thoughtful movie as well. Doesn’t hit you over the head with anything, but it makes you think about stuff like love, courtship, and parenthood.

Amy Adams is Giselle, the pretty redheaded princess who is taken in by a sad, world-weary single dad, divorce lawyer. She’s brilliant. Playing the fairytale princess (complete with cartoon voice) thrown into real life must have been difficult to pull off without a. cracking up (though who knows how many takes that must have taken?) or b. coming off sappy and sacharine.

Patrick Dempsey (a.k.a. “Dr. McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy) is the single dad divorce lawyer – he’s OK in this, basically support for Adams.

James Marsden gleefully hams it up as the Handsome Prince.

Idina Menzel, a strikingly exotic raven-haired beauty, is the girlfriend of the single dad who isn’t the bad guy, just not the girl for him.

Susan Sarandon is the power-hungry queen – a delightful piece of probably unintentional irony.

The flick is worth the price of admission for one scene. Giselle wakes up in the dad’s apartment, which is a mess. “Oh no, this won’t do.”

She throws open the window and sings out, “Ah-a-a-a-ah.”

So instead of field mice and songbirds, a pack or rats, roaches, flies and pigeons arrive. “Oh well, it’s nice to make new friends.”

They all set to work cleaning up to a “Happy Working Song.”

Giselle singing to the cockroaches perched on her finger had me in stiches – and I knew it was coming.

Take your kids to see it – it’s as good an excuse as any.

*************************************************************************************
Lyrics to “Happy Working Song” (and imagine this sung by a high-voiced, slightly ditsy but pretty girl while cockroaches clean the tub, flies wring out a towell, and rats and pigeons straighten up.)

Come my little friends as we all sing a happy little working song
Merry little voices clear and strong
Come and roll your sleeves up – so to speak – and pitch in
Cleaning crud up in the kitchen as we sing along
Trill a cheery tune in the tub as we scrub a stubborn mildew stain
Pluck a hairball from the shower drain to that gay refrain of a happy working song
We’ll keep singing without fail – otherwise we’d spoil it
Hosing down the garbage pail and scrubbing up the toilet – ooh!
How we enjoy letting loose with a little “la da dum dum dum!
While we’re emptying the vacuum up it’s such fun to hum a happy working song – ooh! –
A happy working song
Oh how strange a place to be
’till Edward comes for me, my heart is sighing
Still, as long as I am here I guess a new experience could be worth trying
Hey! Keep drying!
You can do a lot when you’ve got such a happy working tune to hum
While you’re sponging up the soapy scum
We adore each filthy chore that we determine
So friends, even though you’re vermin, we’re all happy working throng
Singing as we fetch the detergent box for the smelly shirts and the stinky socks
Sing along
If you can not sing then hum along
As we’re finishing our happy working song!

November 27, 2007

John Bolton and the no-name nukes

Filed under: Politics,Terrorism — Stephen W. Browne @ 2:41 pm

Just before I returned from DC I went to a media breakfast with John Bolton, US ambassador to the UN.

That title is significant, because one of the points Bolton made was that he regarded the post as precisely that – not as the UN ambassador to the US.

I wrote up my observations here: http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=23432

I wrote:

“Asked about the possibility of a “no-name nuke” falling into the hands of terrorists who would use it against the US, Bolton said that the possibility is very real: Iran is the international finance house of terrorism, North Korea is a criminal regime that will sell anything to anybody for hard cash, and nuclear Pakistan may fall into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists.

Bolton said that the only defense is prevention, keeping criminal regimes from getting nuclear weapons in the first place, and that that means adopting a policy of pre-emption. Unfortunately he said, not even all Republicans are on board with that and the Bush administration has shown signs of wavering lately. “

Later, I was asked if the phrase “no-name nuke” was my own. Well, I can’t remember hearing it elsewhere, so I guess it is. Remember, you read it here first.

Bolton answered my question thoughtfully and straightforwardly, as is his custom, and the reason he is so intensely disliked by those who prefer evading reality. But though he mentioned the horrible eventuality of a nuclear weapon of unknown provenance going off on our soil, he didn’t pursue that line of thought further that that.

So, what if in spite of everything we do (or don’t do), the unthinkable happens?

I was going to press him further, but thought better of it. Fact is, at this point in time no public figure can raise that subject in public, and had better be damned careful about doing it in private. Doing so would be career suicide, and damaging to America’s image abroad. (Nice understatement that!)

The thought of having to respond to a nuclear attack, based on probability of origin is horrible to contemplate. Too horrible for people to deal with at this point in time.

But, as ambassador Bolton pointed out, time is running out.

November 24, 2007

Reflections on the Presidential Election

Filed under: Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 2:47 pm

Well, what’s it going to be do you think?

On the Democrat side, the nomination is probably Hillary’s to win. Obama is running close enough to scare her, but… don’t think so. Though idea-wise he’s a vacuous collection of 60s clichés, he seems like a nice guy personally – so Hillary will destroy him.

On the Republican side, they could have the election if they ran a strong candidate against Hillary – but they ain’t got one.

In a recent poll of 10,000 families each in eight states, the front-runner for the Republican nomination was “No Preference” at around 28% followed by Giuliani at about 26%. None of the others approached within about 8 points.

Attempts to contact No Preference for comment were unsuccessful.

Giuliani, hoo-boy. He rose to the occasion masterfully on 9/11 and has a record as a tough Italian-American prosecutor who wasn’t afraid to say the word “Mafia.”

On the other hand, he prosecuted Michael Milikin for the crime of being a financial genius who invented a way of funding high-risk ventures while protecting small investors from devastating losses. And by the way, got a guilty plea by threatening the man’s little brother.

(If you think Michael Milikin was really a criminal, can you name the specific crime he was charged with? It’s something involving obscure SEC regulations that can basically be interpreted to mean anything the prosecutor wants them to mean.)

Plus, the Giuliani campaign manager I talked to while updating a political guide came off as an arrogant prick. Sorry Rudi, I don’t like your style.

Then there’s Ron Paul.

Ron Paul is pulling enough support to surprise and worry the Republican Old Guard. This is great in a number of ways. Paul is activating the libertarian wing of the conservative movement and maybe even bringing in enough of the crazy fringe element of the libertarian movement long enough to pull a lever or two. Ron Paul attracts support from people who don’t like the Iraq war – but don’t hate America.

As a libertarian I should go for Ron Paul unreservedly, except…

One: He’s dangerously naive on foreign policy. Recently it was pointed out to me that Paul has stated that Reagan didn’t bring down the Soviet Union, it collapsed by itself.

That’s not even wrong, it’s a dangerous half-truth.

Yes the Soviet Union was headed for collapse all by itself. Their centrally planned economy was getting poorer and poorer and was just flat unable to keep up with modernity. Yes, they would have collapsed eventually. Back in the 70s, me and the CIA figured it would be around the year 2000 – still a pretty good guess I think.

But they had an option to keep themselves going – conquer Western Europe and loot it for the wherewithal to keep going for another generation. This is not a fantasy or a “what if?” the Polish government has been releasing the Warsaw Pact plans for doing exactly that over the past year.

Reagan’s resolute defense of the West, and that audacious move of “buying the pot” with that crazy Star Wars project held off the Soviet Empire long enough for it to collapse under the weight of its stupidity.

Paul is part of that libertarian crowd who think that “If you do not aggress against others, they will not aggress against you.”

In a word – wrong! The world just flat doesn’t work that way.

If you haven’t been in a fight lately, worked with an unpleasant co-worker you have not offended, or had the experience of being stalked by a psychopath, then think back to your playground days. When has that ever been true in your experience?

Two: Paul was the one “nay” vote on a bipartisan House of Representatives resolution asking the government of Bangladesh to drop the capital charges against Bangladeshi journalist Saleh Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.

Choudhury it seems, was arrested for treason, sedition and whatever else they could throw at him, for the crime of attempting to board a plane to Israel to talk peace.

It was a resolution for God’s sake! Not a threat or a declaration of war. It wasn’t even a hint that they’d reconsider the $60 million gift the US bestows on them every year. Resolutions don’t mean anything but a gesture of moral disapproval, everybody know that. Except that sometimes it means a lot to the people in those appalling countries.

I want to know why Ron. Is this your idea of non-interventionism?

November 20, 2007

Back from DC

Filed under: Personal,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 2:11 pm

Just got back from Washington and am trying to pick up my life from where it left off, play with my kids and give my valiant wife a rest from three months of riding herd on two rambunctious youngsters.

So last week I was having breakfast with Newt Gingrich and Ambassador John Bolton and lunch with Tom DeLay – and now I’m thinking about what to feed the kids before I tackle some large paperwork tasks and some very serious pay-the-bills issues.

See why people become Beltway junkies? Beats the hell out of real life.

I’ll have more to say about this, but here are some preliminary thoughts about what our nation’s capitol is like.

One, it’s a surprisingly provincial place with a rather small-town feel to it.

The central Capitol Hill area is not very big, and even when you include the area out to Embassy Row, it’s an afternoon’s walk there and back. Everything in the area where almost all the government, foundation and NGO offices are, is within a reasonable walk or subway ride.

This is surrounded by a much larger periphery that has an entirely different feel to it though.

People are surprisingly friendly on the street, and it’s interesting how ready people you meet professionally are to help you. This has a large element of self-interest of course. Help someone on their way up and you’ll have someone in a high place owing you someday. But quite a lot of it really does seem to come from a certain benevolence from people who like the idea of using their influence to do something nice for people. It’s the upside of “that feeling of power.”

The downside of course is the power to screw people you disagree with, or maybe just from petty spite.

Two, you get your nose rubbed in the fact that the High and Mighty of the World’s Greatest Democracy put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you and me.

I’ve met political figures who are pretty durn smart, but others impress you as not exactly the sharpest tools in the shed. In fact, the distribution seems about the same as in the general population of college graduates.

This realization is disturbing to both those who mainly respect our elected officials and those who loathe all of them on principle.

I think most of us would like to believe, that whether they are seriously working for the public good as they understand it – or conspiring to strip us of our remaining liberties and reduce us to servitude, they are at least competent and know what they are doing.

In this scary world, the thought that our rulers are people not too different from ourselves, trying to deal with the incredible power this nation commands is really scary.

I’ve seen two reactions in DC to this. One is an unvarnished contempt for politicians on either side. One’s position on the Right or Left is defined by which kind one dislikes least.

On the other hand, I worked quite a lot with one fellow, name of John Gizzi who is the political editor of the conservative weekly Human Events. (Look him up on their online edition for political analysis. Get the hard copy for his Capitol Briefs if you want to follow the details of what’s going on under the Big Dome.)

Gizzi knows everybody in that town – and manages to like most of them. (“Yeah, that’s the difficult part” I heard one colleague say.)

He seems to manage this by having an appreciation for the foibles of human nature. (In the words of Henry Fielding, “Let us not judge too harshly, we are all of us as God made us – and many of us much worse.”)

You’ve got to develop a tolerance for human nature in that burg, or you get sour and cynical. At any rate, I’ll have more to say later but you can read some of the stuff I wrote in DC here: http://www.humanevents.com/search.php?author_name=Steve+Browne

November 10, 2007

What happened to movies?

Filed under: Movies — Stephen W. Browne @ 4:03 pm

As I logged on to the computer to do this post, I found a message from my friend Bob Bidinotto directing my attention to this post on his blog http://bidinotto.journalspace.com/?entryid=627
wherein he points out that the anti-American movies Hollyweird is putting out these days are bombing at the box office.

That’s as nice a segue into this theme as I could hope for – and a great piece of synchronicity. Thanks Bob!

In my apartment here on Capitol Hill, I’ve got a wall-mounted flat-screen TV with the basic cable package. Included are a few channels that specialize in old movies.

I love old movies. There was, of course, a lot of dreck made way back when, and a few generations back there seemed to be a style of acting that was, well… overacting. This probably came from the influence of the stage on acting style when movies were young and they hadn’t quite caught on that the audience was almost in the actors’ laps.

But damn! they made good flicks back then. I’m sure that both scholars and ordinary folks hundreds of years from now are going to be watching them for enjoyment, inspiration and insight into the creative process.

What is wonderful to see in old movies is the confidence America had in itself back then. Last night I caught the end of ‘I Remember Mama’ about the struggles of a Norwegan immigrant family on their way up the ladder in America. The film made it plain that it was a tough row to hoe, but never doubted that it was possible for people to come here, become Americans and make it on their own, just given the chance.

So I’d like to tell you about an old movie, and an old TV series I first saw when I was a pre-teen. The movie was ‘Princess O’Rourke’ (1943) with Bob Cummings, Joan Fontaine, Jack Carson, and Jane Wyman, the first Mrs. Ronald Reagan.

The plot is hardly original, and has been recycled many times. A European aristocrat escapes into American society incognito, meets a stalwart American guy who thinks she’s a maid and falls in love with him. It was very well done again in 1952 with Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn and Ann Blyth in ‘The World in His Arms’.

In ‘Princess O’Rourke’ the resolution comes when all is revealed – and the princess’ guardians decide that marriage to a respectable young American is just the thing for their country, which is counting on the US for their liberation.

Just one catch, they want the future Prince Consort to give up his American citizenship.

He says “No way!” and declares that he always thought he was a lucky guy to have been born an American. Marriage plans in tatters. He asks if he can stay in his room at the White House for the night, and then he’ll move out and find himself a room in town, before he’s due to report for the Army Air Force.

However, that night the princess comes to him and asks if he’d marry a poor refugee from occupied Europe. They are married in a quicky ceremony in a White House room and escape into their future as a more or less ordinary American couple – with the obligatory comic relief. Seems the guy has tipped the witness five bucks, only to be told that he’s tipped the President – and he took it!

Fun movie, not a great one but still fun to watch even after all these years.

Now notice that point made in the movie, that (in the words of Voltairine de Cleyre) “to be an American was greater than to be a king.”

Back then folks could take it for granted that of course the American boy would prefer to remain American and the beautiful Princess would chose to become American. (By the way, in hindsight this would in fact have been the right choice, given what happened to so many European monarchies after the war.)

Nowadays it stretches credibility. A while back in the offices of a right-wing publication I described the plot, and a lot of folks found it hard to believe even there.

How many American girls do you think would object to marrying Prince William if the price was only their American citizenship? And does anyone even remember that Grace Kelly negotiated a deal to keep hers when she married Prince Ranier of Monaco?

Now I’ll tell you about the TV series, Whirlybirds which ran from 1957 to 1959. In particular one episode, ‘If I Were King’ in the second season.

Now note this, I was seven years old when I saw it and still remember it to this day. Unlike ‘Princess O’Rourke’ I haven’t seen it in the years since, so you can bet it made a powerful impression on me and who knows how many other kids.

“Whirlybirds” was about two guys who own a helicopter company, played by Kenneth Tobey and Craig Hill.

In this episode they are hired to fly a young man who gives his name as “John Frederick” to a small town in California where he grew up, to see his dying foster-father.

Pretty quickly you get the idea that all is not as it seems. The guy’s old girlfriend confronts him tearfully and asks why he left without a word of explanation. His foster-father tells him that he took too big a risk coming back, and then an extremely incompetent would-be assassin confronts him and tells him that he must kill him “so our country can be free.” You can guess where this is going.

Fortunately, the Whirlybirds come in and disarm the fellow while he’s trying to nerve himself up to do the job. “John Frederick” then tells them to let him go.

So, the old man dies. John says goodby and they climb into the chopper to go back. After some musing in the copter, the young guy says, “Turn around and go back.”

“OK, it’s your flight,” says the pilot. “Just one thing. Who are you?”

“My name is John Frederick. And I’m going home.”

November 8, 2007

Al Gore and "Environmentalists" I have known

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 6:43 pm

Al Gore has declared the debate on Global Warming “over” and that anyone perverse enough to deny it must be “in it for the money.”

This is convenient because he has been AWOL in the debate for a long time. He has consistently refused to debate the issue with anyone with any legitimate scientific credentials.

Perhaps it’s because a degree in Divinity has left him less than well-prepared to discuss hard science.

Fact is, not only is the debate not over, it really hasn’t begun. For the reason that the questions have not been stated precisely in the public forum.

Is the world warming up?

Can we phrase that a little more precisely?

Do you mean the average temperature of the whole earth, both hemispheres? And is it a long-term trend upwards, or just a fluctuation that can be expected to reverse itself as if has over the history of the earth, as far back as we know it?

And most importantly, if the average temperature is on a long-term upward trend (and please define “long-term”) – is this a bad thing, a good thing, or of mixed consequences?

Well, already we’ve gotten a bit more rigorous than most “environmentalists” I have known tend to be.

I once knew an Englishman who believed firmly in every environmental disaster scenario he’d ever heard of. When confronted with scientific opinions to the contrary, he would immediately make up an ad hominem attack on the credibility of the scientist. Rather like Mr. Gore did in fact. (What was weird and alarming was that this fellow had a degree in philosophy and should have known what the ad hominem fallacy is.)

For example, when I mentioned that during the time I worked at The College of Exact Science in Poland (I was the English Department) I never met a Polish scientist who thought Global Warming was a credible theory.

“That’s just because their income depends on denying it” he said.

No, not only not true but the opposite of true. Poland has no disaster lobby in their government that funds scientists to find “problems” for it to solve, as we do. As one Pole bluntly told me, “We can’t afford it, we have real problems.”

And furthermore, is it really logical to believe that groups of scientists would in effect help destroy the world, the same one they live in, for money? Where would they spend it after the environmental cataclysm?

On another occasion in North Carolina, I met a young woman who assured me that the forests of New Hampshire were dying of pollution.

I assured her that I had just driven through that part of New England and that the forests looked just fine thank you very much.

She kept insisting that pesticides or whatever had killed all the trees. The spooky thing about this was that North Carolina is not all that far from New Hampshire. She could have checked her contention out on a pleasant day trip – but it hadn’t even occurred to her to do so. And when I suggested that she do so, she dismissed the idea. She didn’t need to see it with her own eyes, she knew.

Need I point out that the cause of environmentalism is not well-served by people such as these?

Now am I suggesting that everybody concerned about the environment is as pig-ignorant as this?

Absolutely not! I know and respect the opinions of a fair number of scientists (David Brin for example) who take the notion of an endangered environment very seriously. But too durn many are – and they appear to have the loudest voices in the… you can’t call it an argument, because they obviously don’t know what an argument is.*

This is obviously a deeply held emotional conviction we are dealing with here. The question arises, why do they feel a deep-seated need to believe that the world is on the brink of disaster? Wouldn’t they be happy to be proven wrong?

That is a question for another post.

PS I anticipate a number of outraged, anonymous (and hysterical) attacks. Do us all a favor and post only if you can answer these questions and comment on their relevance to the debate. Honor system.

1) Chemistry: What is Boyle’s Law?

2) Biology: What is a rhizome?

3) Physics: What is albedo?

*In formal logic, an argument is a set of statements, one of which (the conclusion) is claimed to necessarily follow from the others. Logic is the study of the proposition “follows from.”

November 1, 2007

Interview with Dr. Ali Alyami, Director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 3:18 pm

This afternoon I am going to the Rayburn House Office Building, to a meeting on: The State of Reform: Human Rights, Democratic Development, and Individual Freedoms in
Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf States
, as the guest of Dr. Ali Alyami, Director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.

A few weeks ago Dr. Alyami granted me an interview – which I am posting here because there isn’t a lot of interest elsewhere. Later I will be posting about meeting his Egyptian colleague Tarek Heggy, also an advocate for liberty in the Middle East and the activities of the Center, which you can check on here: http://www.cdhr.info/

Saudi Arabia is the elephant in the room in the War on Terror. The Kingdom, while nominally an ally and friend of the United States, it is the major supplier of funds and volunteers for global jihad against the West and the United States.

The unhealthy relationship between US political elites and the Saudi royal family is a scandal waiting to break – that never does. The execrable Michael Moore made the relationship between the Saudi royals and the Bush family a major focus of his propaganda-piece Fahrenheit 9/11 but interestingly, though it seems that this would be one of President Bush’s major vulnerabilities, Democrats failed to pick up on it as an election issue. The most likely reason is that the corruption of our political processes by Saudi money is a bipartisan issue which neither side wants to talk about.

I spoke with Dr. Ali Alyami, and consulted their website and position paper Strategies for Encouraging Democratic Reform in Saudi Arabia: The Path and Obstacles to democratization and Respect for Human Rights. Although a non-sectarian himself, Dr. Alyami is a member of the Ismaili minority in Saudi Arabia, a former employee of Saudi Aramco, starting around age 10 at 75 cents per day. He has lived in the United States for 40 years and holds a Ph.D. in Government and Diplomacy from Claremont Graduate University. He is married with two children, his son is an officer in the US Army and has served one tour of duty in Iraq.

What are the goals of the Center?

Dr. Alyami explained that the broad goals for Saudi Arabia lie in: political reform, privatization and economic reform, women’s rights and religious freedom.

For specifics, the Center advocates a non-sectarian constitution that would guarantee the rights of all Saudis, including women and religious minorities. They would expand and empower the Majlis al-Shura or consultative council, which at present functions as a purely advisory body to the King, and make it elective. The constitution would establish a rule of law with an independent judiciary, trained in a national law school in the principles of justice as it is understood in free societies and disband the Mutawwa’a, the religious police/judiciary.

The Center advocates privatization of state industries and public utilities, to end citizens’ dependence on the royal family for food, education and medical care.

I asked, is it a fair statement to say that Saudi Arabia is the center of global jihad?

“Yes, definitely” he said. “And America is paying for its relationship with Saudi autocratic royal family with the blood of its young men.”

So why does nobody want to talk about it, is it because of oil?

“Not just oil. In the State Department for instance, if you are a friend to Saudi princes, you could have consulting contracts after you retire, worth a lot of money.”

So why is the Saudi royal family promoting jihad?

Dr. Alyami said that the only agenda item the Saudi royals has is to stay in power, pure and simple. To that end they want to make Arabs and Muslims in general hated throughout the world. They hope that hatred will push them together and prevent their assimilation into modern, secular, tolerant society.

And, according to Alyami, they want to destroy Israel, not because of its Jewishness, but because its a democracy in the center of a region ruled by tyrannical regimes who see democracy as a deadly threat to their control. They fear democracy than they do terrorism or even threats of nuclear war.

The Saudi royals share power with the Wahhabi family (from the clan of the founder of the Wahhabi sect), the religious fanatics who supply the preachers for the Madrassas that the Kingdom supports around the world preaching jihad.

So why do religious fanatics tolerate the notoriously decadent and hedonistic royals?

“They hate each others guts – but they need each other,” Alyami explained. “Their alliance goes back to 1744 when the House of Saud began their quest to conquer Arabia in alliance with the Wahabis. The agreement was that the royal family would control all politics and the Wahhabis all social and religious aspects of society.

“If you ask why women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia,” Alyami said, “they will tell you, “It is our religion.” But in reality its politics and now it’s becoming a big business for younger princes. If women are allowed to drive that would eliminate importations of millions of expatriate drivers who normaly pay good money to middle men, princes, to get visas to work as drivers for Saudi families. The same for alcohol, the princes make money importing all the good liquor in Saudi. If it becomes legal, they would loose monopoly over the illegal trade.

There has been talks of replacing the nine or so millions of foreign workers with Saudis (dubbed Saudiazation). How come that has not worked?

“The ruling elites don’t want the Saudiization of the workforce. If the Saudi people become strong, organized and independent workers they will want a share of the power and bargaining tools like labor unions, codified labor laws, good health care system and other benefits. Now the hard work is done by people from poor countries who are treated with utter contempt in Saudi Arabia, a modern form of slavery.”

I mentioned that my university once had a very large number of students from Saudi Arabia, and that a generation ago they seemed a far more easygoing and tolerant lot. Today Saudis studying in the US seem to be far more anti-American, fanatical, intolerant and anti-Semitic. Older expatriate workers I met in Saudi Arabia confirm that that seems to be the trend in the Kingdom itself.

“Oh yes, it is definitely worse. When I was young in my home in the southern region, women never covered up, some of them even after they got married. People, men and women, used to play, dance, work together and mingle freely and openly,”Alyami said.

So what is to be done, especially about the new waves of religious extremists?

“ The root causes of extremism must be eradicated, The place to start is Saudi Arabia. It’s the home to religious intolerance and lots of oil and money. The problem is not with the Middle East, it’s with the West.”

Dr. Alyami strongly agrees with many people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji and many others, who say that the West is in denial and must wake up to the terrible danger they face from Islamic dangerous ideologues.

“In reality the West is still empowering tyrannical regimes whose intuitions advocate killing of the infidels, Christians and Jews.”

Dr. Alyami spoke movingly of a father’s fear and pride when after 9/11 his son told him that he was joining a military school to serve in the US the Army, and subsequently did a tour in Iraq. “If you leave Iraq without implanting democracy – then it’s finished” he said. “Tyrant regimes and killers win.”

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