Trump demonstrates his unswerving loyalty to Saudi rulers

The New York Times reports:

President Trump defied his intelligence agencies and ample circumstantial evidence to declare his unswerving loyalty to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, asserting that the crown prince’s culpability for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi might never be known.

In a remarkable statement that appeared calculated to end the debate over the American response to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, Mr. Trump said, “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

“We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” the president continued. “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Still, in its 631 words in eight paragraphs, punctuated by seven exclamation points and a casual style that sounded like Mr. Trump’s off-the-cuff musings, the statement was a cogent summary of the Trump worldview: remorselessly transactional, heedless of allies, determined to put America’s interests first and founded on a theory of moral equivalence. [Continue reading…]

Pompeo handed Riyadh a plan to shield MBS from Khashoggi fallout, says source

Middle East Eye reports:

Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince are shielding themselves from the Jamal Khashoggi murder scandal by using a roadmap drawn up by the US secretary of state, a senior Saudi source has told Middle East Eye.

Mike Pompeo delivered the plan in person during a meeting with Saudi King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, last month in Riyadh, said the source, who is familiar with Pompeo’s talks with the Saudi leaders.

The plan includes an option to pin the Saudi journalist’s murder on an innocent member of the ruling al-Saud family in order to insulate those at the very top, the source told MEE.

That person has not yet been chosen, the source said, and Saudi leaders are reserving the use of that plan in case the pressure on bin Salman, also known as MBS, becomes too much.

“We would not be surprised if that happens,” the source told MEE.

The US State Department denied the Saudi source’s allegations, and called them “a complete misrepresentation of the secretary’s diplomatic mission to Saudi Arabia”. [Continue reading…]

After Khashoggi murder, some Saudi royals turn against king’s favorite son

Reuters reports:

Amid international uproar over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, some members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are agitating to prevent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from becoming king, three sources close to the royal court said.

Dozens of princes and cousins from powerful branches of the Al Saud family want to see a change in the line of succession but would not act while King Salman – the crown prince’s 82-year-old father – is still alive, the sources said. They recognize that the king is unlikely to turn against his favorite son, known in the West as MbS.

Rather, they are discussing the possibility with other family members that after the king’s death, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, 76, a younger full brother of King Salman and uncle of the crown prince, could take the throne, according to the sources.

Prince Ahmed, King Salman’s only surviving full brother, would have the support of family members, the security apparatus and some Western powers, one of the Saudi sources said. [Continue reading…]

Trump wanted to order Justice Dept. to prosecute Comey and Clinton

The New York Times reports:

President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

The lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.

The encounter was one of the most blatant examples yet of how Mr. Trump views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies. It took on additional significance in recent weeks when Mr. McGahn left the White House and Mr. Trump appointed a relatively inexperienced political loyalist, Matthew G. Whitaker, as the acting attorney general. [Continue reading…]

One in four Europeans vote populist

The Guardian reports:

Populist parties have more than tripled their support in Europe in the last 20 years, securing enough votes to put their leaders into government posts in 11 countries and challenging the established political order across the continent.

The steady growth in support for European populist parties, particularly on the right, is revealed in a groundbreaking analysis of their performance in national elections in 31 European countries over two decades, conducted by the Guardian in conjunction with more than 30 leading political scientists.

The data shows that populism has been consistently on the rise since at least 1998. Two decades ago, populist parties were largely a marginal force, accounting for just 7% of votes across the continent; in the most recent national elections, one in four votes cast was for a populist party.

“Not so long ago populism was a phenomenon of the political fringes,” said Matthijs Rooduijn, a political sociologist at the University of Amsterdam, who led the research project.

“Today it has become increasingly mainstream: some of the most significant recent political developments like the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump cannot be understood without taking into account the rise of populism.

“The breeding ground for populism has become increasingly fertile, and populist parties are ever more capable of reaping the rewards.”

Supporters of populism say it champions the ordinary person against vested interests and hence is a vital force in any democracy. But critics say that populists in power often subvert democratic norms, whether by undermining the media and judiciary or by trampling minority rights. [Continue reading…]

In Bosnia, entrenched ethnic divisions are a warning to the world

The New York Times reports:

When a fire breaks out in the Bosnian city of Mostar, Sabit Golos, a veteran firefighter, knows that he does not have to worry unless the flames take hold on the Muslim side of what, from 1992 until 1994, was the front line in a vicious ethnic conflict.

That is because Mostar, though long at peace, has two separate fire brigades, one made up mostly of Muslims like Mr. Golos, who are responsible for putting out fires on the east side of the old front line and a second one staffed by Catholic Croats who douse flames on the other side.

The line vanished long ago as a boundary between warring communities and does not officially exist. But it lives on in the mind, an emblem of the ethnonationalist fissures that paralyze Mostar and the whole of Bosnia.

As Europe and the United States struggle with the rise of ethnic nationalism as a divisive force, Bosnia’s divisions offer a dark lesson in how, once cleaved apart by fear and fighting, communities can stay splintered long after many people have forgotten what it was that pushed them apart. [Continue reading…]

You can’t characterize human nature if studies overlook 85 percent of people on Earth

File 20181115 194491 2pryc3.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
By only working in their own backyards, what do psychology researchers miss about human behavior?
Arthimedes/Shutterstock.com

By Daniel Hruschka, Arizona State University

Over the last century, behavioral researchers have revealed the biases and prejudices that shape how people see the world and the carrots and sticks that influence our daily actions. Their discoveries have filled psychology textbooks and inspired generations of students. They’ve also informed how businesses manage their employees, how educators develop new curricula and how political campaigns persuade and motivate voters.

But a growing body of research has raised concerns that many of these discoveries suffer from severe biases of their own. Specifically, the vast majority of what we know about human psychology and behavior comes from studies conducted with a narrow slice of humanity – college students, middle-class respondents living near universities and highly educated residents of wealthy, industrialized and democratic nations.

Blue countries represent the locations of 93 percent of studies published in Psychological Science in 2017. Dark blue is U.S., blue is Anglophone colonies with a European descent majority, light blue is western Europe. Regions sized by population.

To illustrate the extent of this bias, consider that more than 90 percent of studies recently published in psychological science’s flagship journal come from countries representing less than 15 percent of the world’s population.

If people thought and behaved in basically the same ways worldwide, selective attention to these typical participants would not be a problem. Unfortunately, in those rare cases where researchers have reached out to a broader range of humanity, they frequently find that the “usual suspects” most often included as participants in psychology studies are actually outliers. They stand apart from the vast majority of humanity in things like how they divvy up windfalls with strangers, how they reason about moral dilemmas and how they perceive optical illusions.

Given that these typical participants are often outliers, many scholars now describe them and the findings associated with them using the acronym WEIRD, for Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic.

[Read more…]

Music: Dhafer Youssef Quartet — ‘Les Ondes Orientales’

 

The United States is becoming a two-tiered country with separate and unequal voting laws

Ari Berman reports:

Phoebe Einzig-Roth, an 18-year-old freshman at Atlanta’s Emory University, moved to Georgia in August and was excited to vote in her first election. But when she went to her polling location near campus on Election Day, election officials told her she’d been flagged as a noncitizen. Even though she’d brought three forms of identification—her Massac­husetts driver’s license, passport, and student ID—she was forced to cast a provisional ballot.

Three days later, she went to confirm her citizenship at the local election office, where she was assured her vote would be counted. But she kept checking Georgia’s online “My Voter Page” and there was no record it had been. She posted a picture of herself on Facebook wearing an “I’m a Georgia Voter” sticker and wrote, “The thing that infuriates me the most about voter suppression is not that it happened to me, but that it happened, and is continuing to happen to thousands of people all over the country, and most of the time, nothing is done to stop people from being turned away at the voting polls.” She told me a few days later, “I don’t believe my vote will count.”

Einzig-Roth was right that she was far from alone. Voters in Georgia and other states faced onerous barriers to performing their civic duty this year. As these voters were running into obstacles, residents of other states were passing ballot measures to strike down voting restrictions and make voting easier for many more people. These parallel worlds mean voting in America today looks a lot like it did more than half a century ago. We’re becoming two Americas again: one where casting a ballot is a breeze, and another where it’s a pitched battle.

Before 1965, voting laws varied widely by state. It was extremely difficult for African Americans to vote in Alabama or Mississippi but far easier for them to do so in Northern states. The Voting Rights Act ended this dichotomy by striking down the literacy tests and suppressive laws that disenfranchised African Americans in the segregated South. With the passage of the VRA, the country committed itself to ensuring voting rights for all Americans, regardless of race, party, or region.

But the Supreme Court shattered that consensus when it gutted the law in 2013, ruling that states with a long history of voting discrimination no longer needed to get federal approval to make changes to their voting rules. Chief Justice John Roberts rejected the notion that voting discrimination was still “pervasive” or “rampant,” asserting that “our country has changed.” The midterms were a perfect illustration of just how wrong he was. [Continue reading…]

Top Democratic donors and operatives eager to see Beto O’Rourke jump into 2020 presidential race

Politico reports:

Sparked by his narrow defeat in a Texas Senate race, Beto O’Rourke is scrambling the 2020 presidential primary field, freezing Democratic donors and potential campaign staffers in place as they await word of his plans.

Even prior to O’Rourke’s meteoric rise, many Democratic fundraisers had approached the large number of 2020 contenders with apprehension, fearful of committing early to one candidate. But the prospect of a presidential bid by O’Rourke, whose charismatic Senate candidacy captured the party’s imagination, has suddenly rewired the race.

O’Rourke — who raised a stunning $38 million in the third quarter of his race — is widely considered capable of raising millions of dollars quickly, according to interviews with multiple Democratic money bundlers and strategists, catapulting him into the upper echelons of the 2020 campaign.

Mikal Watts, a San Antonio-based lawyer and major Democratic money bundler, said several donors and political operatives in Iowa, after hearing from other potential candidates in recent days, have called to ask whether O’Rourke is running, a sign of his impact in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

“They’re not wanting to sign on to other presidential campaigns until they know whether Beto is going,” Watts said. “And if Beto is running, what good progressive Democrat wouldn’t want to work for Beto O’Rourke?” [Continue reading…]