Bread, Circuses, Stick Shifts

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A rare nudge toward liberalism in Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia is to lift its ban on women drivers in an attempt to stem a rising suffragette-style movement in the deeply conservative state. […]

The move is designed to forestall campaigns for greater freedom by women, which have recently included protesters driving cars through the Islamic state in defiance of a threat of detention and loss of livelihoods.

Whole thing here; link via Rick Davis.

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  1. I heard on NPR that women are allowed to rent hotel rooms on their own as well.

    They’re still in the 1700’s, but it’s a start!

  2. But wait! If we don’t spread liberty around the world at the barrel of a gun, how will anyone ever have freedom?

    Hmm, what to do? I say we bomb them before they realize they could fight for themselves.

  3. Driving in SA just got a whole lot more dangerous. I can’t imagine burqas are very good for peripheral vision.

  4. EXACTLY…Nick you are right on target, we do not need to patronize people around the world by bringing the American way to everyone, they can and will develop their own cultures and will democratize over time without our help.

  5. Shock, horror. Saudi minister grasps libertarian concept.

    Abdulaziz bin Salamah, the deputy information minister, said the official reform programme had been dogged by debate over the issue.

    “In terms of women driving, we don’t have it now because of the reticence of some segments of society,” he said. “For example, my mother wouldn’t want my sister to drive.

    “It’s something she cannot grapple with. But there is change on the way. I think the fair view is that one can be against it but one does not have the right to prevent it.”

  6. we do not need to patronize people around the world by bringing the American way to everyone

    Driving isn’t “the American way?” 😉

  7. crimethink,

    It wasn’t a picnic before, that’s for sure. I’ve only driven in the UAE, and that’s bad enough. From what I’ve heard from colleagues who have been in Saudi a lot, it’s about five times as horrific.

    Adding partially blind women will only marginally add to the danger of the testosterone-laced, entitlement mentality that exists already.

    You think American urban highways are bad? You actually put your life solidly in the hands of a bunch of unstable nouveau-riche young males whenever you go out on the roads in the Middle East.

    Add to that the Subcontinent component of city driving (every lane is a potential left turn lane; impatience at extreme levels; etc.) and you’ve got danger everywhere. It sucks.

  8. Don DeLillo writes that people in Middle East drive the way a person walks down a crowded city street; you’re very close to others and sort of bump and feel your way through a crowd.

    Um, Yikes!

  9. Has the ‘if we give them a little now, we won’t have to get them a lot later’ strategy ever worked?

  10. joe,

    Depends on the sort of driving. In the cities, kinda. In neighborhoods (at least in Abu Dhabi), it’s nearly impossible to NOT hit someone/something, and everyone parks literally everywhere.

    Depending on the width of the road in the ‘hoods, there’s usually explicit parking spaces on one or both sides. That’s not too much of a problem, except that it’s all straight-in (no angled). Then, depending on how much room is left over, one or even TWO rows of parallel-parked cars go right down the middle of the street.

    Turning around is an exercise in navigating the whole way down to the end of the road or the nearest break in the “wall” (which can take dozens of minutes at certain times of the day). Since the distance between the designated parking on the right side and the parked cars in the middle is approximately 1.05 Porsche Cayenne widths and the parking on the side is straight-in, it sometimes takes a many-point turn to even get out of a space.

    Suction.

  11. Next they’ll be shaving their body hair.

    And modernity is good why?

  12. But, will they require the women to be veiled or unveiled in their Drivers’ License photos?

  13. The next modernization: SA will use the guillotine instead of a sword-wielding headsman to punish adulterous women.

  14. Egypt is pretty bad – one must do without minor conveniences we take for granted, like stop signs and traffic lights. Every time you cross a major street you seize your life firmly in your hands. But that’s pretty standard stuff.

    It’s the desert highways that are positively terrifying; the side of the road is simply littered with the burned out hulks of heavy trucks. Just horrific, ghastly wrecks – I mean, these things look like they were driven into the side of a live volcano at 100mph and then doused with lava. Which is odd, since you’re driving through ‘Ozymandias’ – “boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.”

  15. You know what I’m waiting for now:

    Saudi woman gets forcibly carjacked and receives 100 lashes for being touched by a man who isn’t her husband.

  16. Jesus. No lights or stop signs? Ouch.

    The highways in UAE don’t have the spectacular wreckage that I hear about in Saudi or elsewhere. But there are a TON of vehicles randomly strewn about wherever the sand gets a bit firmer. I’ve seen the same vehicles in the same place for weeks.

  17. We used to joke that there were three traffic lights in metropolitan Cairo… all broken.

    Other places have their own delightful traffic quirks. Take Sri Lanka, for example. The main coast road south of Colombo was only two lanes (presumably still is)… and if you’re driving at anything like a reasonable speed, following cars will get right up behind you and look all impatient and vexed and in a tearing hurry. So you let them pass, and then they drop in right in front of you and go as slooooowly as possible the rest of the way. After the third or fourth time this happens, even as a passenger you can feel the road rage welling up in your chest.

  18. They’re still in the 1700’s, but it’s a start!

    I wouldn’t be that chaitable. Has any western civilization ever mandated a related male escort for a woman to leave her home? Call me a cultural bigot, but there is nothing in Saudi Arabian culture that I admire. That would be zip, zero, nada, null set.

    I’d rather pay $15.00 a gallon for gasoline than watch our government suck up to that medieval, misogynist totalitarian dictatorship. Explain how that culture is any better from the human rights standpoint than North Korea. You can’t, can you?

    Hundreds, perhaps thousands of brave woman are going to be imprisoned, gang raped and executed before these idiots, filled with a false superiority complex, recognize the reality that woman are every bit as intelligent, worthwhile and good as men.

    I repeat, I have NO respect for Saudi culture.

  19. So now Saudi women have the same rights as babies!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zewBkV42970

  20. Re: My previous post.

    NOWs silence on the treatment of women in many parts of the world is shameful. I don’t mean an incosequential press release or two, I mean a real domonstration of outrage. NOW can get thousands out to demonstrate in front of the SCOTUS. How about the Saudi embassy, guys and gals?

  21. J sub D,

    But they would run smack dab into the newest paradox of political correctness, the maddening reconciliation of these two concepts:

    1) Islam is not a race, it is a religion followed by many races.

    2) Any criticism of Islam is racist.

    Pick one, guys.

  22. .Explain how that culture is any better from the human rights standpoint than North Korea

    At least the women in North Korea are emancipated.

  23. If I had to choose between living in North Korea and Saudi Arabia, and suicide weren’t an option, I’d try my luck with North Korea and curse the universe even more than I already do.

  24. Jennifer,

    Well, maintaining your girlish figure shouldn’t be a problem there.

    At least the women in North Korea are emancipated.

    That should read, “emaciated.”

  25. Ooh, I know this game!

    Why doesn’t NOW protest the treatment of women in the Muslim world?

    Oh, OK, the do, well…whey don’t they do it MORE?

  26. Yeah, leave feminists alone. They have horrible outrages like this to devote their energy to.

  27. joe,

    Got the protest video? I missed it. Got a press release? Oooooh.

  28. It’s no surprise that the only concession the House of Saud would make to women is allowing them to burn oil.

  29. SugarFree,

    Yes, it’s right next to the protest video from the Project for New American Century, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the Independent Women’s Forum, and Humnan Rights Watch.

    Double standards much?

  30. The move is designed to forestall campaigns for greater freedom by women

    Ha! This will only encourage them!

    And now I must dutifully make clear that I believe that to be a GOOD THING.

  31. J sub D,

    Neener neener nee-ner:

    search results for “National Organization for Women Saudi Arabia Women”

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=National+Organization+for+Women+Saudi+Arabia+women&btnG=Search

  32. joe,

    Uh, that was J sub D. I think protesting is a bit silly.

    “Oh, Allah! A bunch of white women in America oppose our policies! We must change our ways immediately!”

  33. I think this one is my favorite:

    http://www.now.org/news/note/010408.html

    Sorry, J sub. My bad.

  34. Quick, J sub, ask me about why NOW never denounced the Taliban.

  35. Does this mean Condi Rice won’t need a driver when she goes into exile retirement in the Kingdom of Saud?

  36. James ignorantly wrote:

    EXACTLY…Nick you are right on target, we do not need to patronize people around the world by bringing the American way to everyone, they can and will develop their own cultures and will democratize over time without our help.

    They will democratize? Much like Russia “democratized” in the early 20th century?

    Who is to say that Saudi Arabia won’t become more deeply and devoutly Islamic over time? That would be bad. (Normally that goes without saying, but we have quite a few Islamic apologists in this forum.)

    Islam delenda est.

  37. Sarcastic mocking is the only way that joe can respond to this level of cognitive dissonance. Intelligent response is beyond him.

    joe wrote:

    Ooh, I know this game!

    Why doesn’t NOW protest the treatment of women in the Muslim world?

    Oh, OK, the do, well…whey don’t they do it MORE?

    They don’t do it MORE because doing so would insult Islam, and that’s a big no-no to cowards like you.

    Islam delenda est.

  38. Except they do, Einstien. Those funny looking words I posted are called “links…”

    Moron delenda est.

  39. See, what you do is to copy those funny looking words, past them into the bar at the top of your browser, and hit return. Then a new page will load – this this case, a page that contains this:

    In the conflict-ravaged region of Darfur, in western Sudan, as many as 400,000 innocent people have been killed and more than 2.5 million driven from their homes. Rape and sexual violence have been used to terrorize and displace rural communities. Even after fleeing Darfur, women and girls in refugee camps continue to be raped and assaulted by civilians or militia members.

    The brutalization of women in war zones and the appropriation of their bodies as “spoils of war” are common practices that have persisted for centuries. The United States condemns the use of these tactics, but at the same time our female service members fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are being raped by the same commanders and comrades they trusted to fight beside them. They are reluctant or afraid to report these crimes, and the added trauma is taking its toll, as reported in USA Today this week.

    This report comes on the heels of a story of gender-based crime and punishment that sparked considerable media interest. In 2006, a 19-year-old woman in Saudi Arabia brought charges against seven men for gang-rape. In addition to the punishments handed down to the perpetrators, the judge sentenced the young woman herself to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a man who was not a relative of hers just before the attack.

    Even a country like Saudi Arabia, a strong ally of the Bush administration, treats women residents like second-class citizens. Justice in Saudi Arabia is administered by a system of religious courts following a strict interpretation of Islamic Shari’a law. Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive and must get a male relative’s permission before having surgery, going to college, seeking a job or accepting a marriage proposal.

    The case of “the Girl from Qatif” (as she came to be known) attracted worldwide attention for its outrageous injustice. Last year, a Saudi court more than doubled the young woman’s penalty to 200 lashes and six months in jail. According to Arab News, the court said the woman’s punishment was increased because of “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.”

    After even greater condemnation from the world community, King Abdullah eventually granted the woman a pardon in December. However, this incident served as a reminder that patriarchy continues to exist in its most extreme forms, sanctioned by governments that are not accustomed to being challenged.

  40. See, what you do is to copy those funny looking words, past them into the bar at the top of your browser, and hit return. Then a new page will load – this this case, a page that contains this:

    D’oh! joez law strikes again!

  41. Whether Saudi women can drive to get their own lattes only matters to cosmotarians, not real libertarians like Ron Paul.

  42. joe,

    If NOW really cared, they would put together a private army and overthrow the KSA. To quote you/Dondero they are just talking instead of petitioning in the snow. 🙂
    Or fighting in the desert.

  43. joe, found those press releases. Here, here, and here. The first three hits. The fourth hit was a blog making the same point I made. Like I said, where’s the demonstrations?

    So I then google National Organization for Women, demonstrations. I get, from the New York Times, this.
    Your search for DEMONSTRATIONS AND RIOTS in National Organization for Women returned 16 articles
    16 articles to peruse, alas, still nothing on demonstrating Saudi Arabia’s treatment of half of their population.

    I follow up with a google for National Oraganization for Women Saudi Arabia.
    Still nothing about a demonstration. I google NOW, Masters demonstration, and I get VIDEOs.
    I google National Organizatio for Women Supreme Court Demonstations and get a articles on NOW prtotesting, and SCOTUS rulings on anti abortion protesters.

    So much for international sisterhood.

    BTW, I kind of like NOW, but their priorities are somewhat skewed.

  44. I wouldn’t be that chaitable. Has any western civilization ever mandated a related male escort for a woman to leave her home?

    Yes, until the late 1800s a woman (even in the United States) that left home without a male relative was automatically considered a prostitute.

  45. Before you say “But at least they didn’t wear veils!” having to wear corsettes and extremely long dresses–even in the heat of summer–couldn’t have been very fun, either.

  46. Yes, until the late 1800s a woman (even in the United States) that left home without a male relative was automatically considered a prostitute.

    By law? C’mom Cesar, you can do better than a mere assertation. In the 1800s a women couldn’t take the buggy to market without being considered a trollop? Evidence please.

  47. As Fluffy said, exactly what would a bunch of white women demonstrating in front of the Saudi Embassy in Washington accomplish, in terms of influencing Saudi politics?

    NOW’s strategy here is twofold: to influence our government in its dealings with Saudi Arabia, and to support local women’s rights groups in THEIR protests and whatnot in Saudi Arabia. Both of those seem to be more plausible avenues for accomplishing change within Saudi Arabia than staging protests that the Saudi people will never see.

  48. Both of those seem to be more plausible avenues for accomplishing change within Saudi Arabia than staging protests that the Saudi people will never see.

    Why bother to protest apartheid in South Africa? Why bother to protest Israeli treatment of Palestinians? Maybe to express our outrage more effectively than a couple of press releases.

  49. J sub D-

    The last book I remember reading that discussed the topic was A Family Venture which was about family life in the Southern United States in the 1800s. It was made perfectly clear in that book that a woman without a male escort was considered to be a prostitute.

  50. Cesar, I’ll check it out. It’s on the shelf at the local library. Still that hardly compares with the mess in Saudi Arabia today.

  51. Why bother to protest apartheid in South Africa? Why bother to protest Israeli treatment of Palestinians?

    To influence our government in their dealings with those regimes. Which NOW does, btw.

    I just explained all of this!

    joe, who protested apartheid IN FRONT OF THE WHITE HOUSE, NOT THE SOUTH AFRICAN EMBASSY.

  52. Its not quite as bad, JD, but I think we in the west forget we didn’t treat women as full members of society until the 1920s at the earliest.

  53. Before you say “But at least they didn’t wear veils!” having to wear corsettes and extremely long dresses–even in the heat of summer–couldn’t have been very fun, either.

    I’m at work so can’t verify, but I’ll bet you can find a lot more NSFW images with GIS on ‘corset’ than ‘veil’

    just sayin’

  54. I’m at work so can’t verify, but I’ll bet you can find a lot more NSFW images with GIS on ‘corset’ than ‘veil’

    just sayin’

    But unlike a corset, a veil doesn’t permanently deform your lungs.

  55. joe, a protest by NOW against the Saudi Arabian treatment of women. As I started all of this out with, when was it? You gave me press releases, which I indicated I didn’t want to hear about. From the post that started it all off – I don’t mean an incosequential press release or two, I mean a real domonstration of outrage. NOW can get thousands out to demonstrate in front of the SCOTUS.

    I’m sure we both possess sufficient outrage about the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. I just called out NOW. Please link me to coverage of a protest in front of the White House, the State Department or the Capitol Building. Otherwise, I’ll continue to think NOW is acting parochially.

  56. Its not quite as bad, JD, but I think we in the west forget we didn’t treat women as full members of society until the 1920s at the earliest.

    Oh absolutely. In custody battles, in property rights and of course suffrage. BTW, New Zealand was the first western nation to grant suffrage to women. They are justifiably proud of that.

  57. Cesar,

    I read in this one document that Martin Luther King was a gay pedophile. So it must be true, right?

  58. Nope, J sub, I’m not explaining it to you again.

  59. Before you say “But at least they didn’t wear veils!” having to wear corsettes and extremely long dresses–even in the heat of summer–couldn’t have been very fun, either.

    Corsets and petticoats were not mandated by law; they were simply fashion statements. (Long dresses were required by modesty laws, but a long skirt isn’t automatically hot to wear, if made of the right material.)

    Your analogy is like comparing Chinese foot-binding to wearing stiletto heels: both are bad from a foot-health perspective, but wearing heels is a fashion choice whereas having your feet bound was not.

  60. Nope joe, You haven’t responded to my original post from January 22, 2008, 11:20am which asked
    NOWs silence on the treatment of women in many parts of the world is shameful. I don’t mean an incosequential press release or two, I mean a real domonstration of outrage. NOW can get thousands out to demonstrate in front of the SCOTUS.

    You give me press releases. NOW can mobilize the masses for the all important feminist problem of the Augusta country club, get their pictures on the TV over the fact that the country club doesn’t have women mambers, but can’t do any better than a few press releasses for the subjugated, enslaved women in parts of the world. That’s parochial thinking, and you know it. You won’t acknowledge that I’m correct, but I’d never expect you to. Have a nice day in happy, happy, liberal land (Motto – We’re never wrong. Even when we are, we aren’t.)

  61. …and then you make sure you define “a real demonstration of outrage” in a way that you can be sure won’t meet your standards.

    Right back to the beginning: “Why don’t they…ok, but whey don’t they do it MORE?”

  62. heh, that wuz me.

  63. Should I explain for, what?, the fourth time the difference between how a domestic pressure group works on OUR government rather than on a foreign government?

    Nah. What good could it possibly do to explain it a fourth time?

  64. OK, since I’m feeling generous, I’ll take one last stab at it.

    The Club for Growth puts out a good deal of material about tax policy, and even works to influence political races to further its goals of lower taxes. AND YET, it has never actually endorsed or run ads in favor of any lower-tax candiates in Sweden, France, or Zimbabwe. No, despite the fact that taxes are much higher in all of those places, they are much more concerned about piddling 1/2 of 1% increases in sales taxes in Nevada than in the much higher tax rates in other countries.

    Can anyone here come up with a plausible reason why that might be?

  65. WTF?

    Me again.

  66. joe, One last try. You can’t be this obtuse. My original post –

    NOWs silence on the treatment of women in many parts of the world is shameful. I don’t mean an incosequential press release or two, I mean a real domonstration of outrage. NOW can get thousands out to demonstrate in front of the SCOTUS. How about the Saudi embassy, guys and gals?

    You showed me press releases, said they would try to affect US policy so wouldn’t demonstrate at the embassy. I’m asking has NOW ever held a demonstration, anywhere, anytime in support of the women in Saudi Arabia. Your continued refusal to provide evidence that they have, just reinforces my opinion of “shameful” NOW priorities.

    I realize Augusta National is sooo important to the women’s movement, but can they demonstrate for their overseas sisters? A link joe? To a video, or an article, where NOW has demonstrated against US policy towards Saudi Arabia. That is all I ask. Prove that they are genuinely concerned (and no, press releases don’t count).

  67. If your stance is that NOW is only concerned about US women, fair enough. Parochial.

  68. I guess that’s that then.

  69. I tried, the man wants to hate on NOW.

    Since you carefully picked one form of political action that they haven’t engaged in, and defined it as the only meaningful action they could take, you get to tell yourself they aren’t engaged in any meaningful political action about women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

    Why isn’t raising the issue in the press worth anything more than a sneer? How about the lobbying they do to influence our government’s policy?

    Oh, right, because they actually try to do those things, and it’s so important to you to believe that they aren’t doing anything. So, of course, it can’t be important for them to work to raise awareness of the issues among the public and government officials. No, you made sure to single out a particular tactic that they haven’t utilized, so that you could tsk tsk at them.

    Like I said, “OK, but why don’t they do it MORE?”

  70. A protest of American women at Augusta is something that could effect a change.

    A protest by the same women at the Saudi embassy would be a meaningless gesture of self promotion and self congratulations.

    But you see, this is what the Muslim-bashing fake feminists want; to see people on television making gestures that assert our superiority to them people. That it would be completely meaningless, that it would stand no chance whatsoever of effecting any change, isn’t the point.

    NOW isn’t there to make Americans feel good about themselves. They’re there to accomplish improvements in the lives of women. So you don’t get to yell “woo-hoo” about a political rally. Pull your own self-congratulatory stunts, they have real work to do.

  71. I don’t have a problem with NOW choosing not to protest against Saudi Arabia’s horrendous human rights record, but what the fuck was protesting at Augusta supposed to do? It got the publicity, but Augusta is not a public place. It is a private club that had every right to discriminate if it so chooses. Maybe they want to be an all boys club. That’s the decision of their members. NOW can do whatever they want, but if they are serious about affecting change they should stick to public policy, not the policies of private groups. Protesting private groups is the equivalent to protesting Saudi Arabia. Neither one has any potential since they are not American AND public institutions.

  72. You can bring public opinion to bear against the practices of private clubs.

    As a matter of fact, I’m contantly told on these here threads that bringing public opinion to bear is the only appropriate means to push for the changes one would like to see in the private sector.

    This is really very easy. A private club has every right to limit its membership. Another private group has every right to speak out and organize protests to denounce what the first private group is doing. And you have every right to say they shouldn’t do that, and I have evey right to say you’re wrong.

    “Every rights” all around. What’s the problem here?

  73. Joe, I’m not saying they don’t have the right to protest the private club. I’m not saying they don’t have the right to protest a foreign nation. I support their right to do so. I just wonder what they aimed to accomplish? Getting a couple rich women into Augusta was really worth their efforts? Maybe it was just a ploy to get some attention since no one had mentioned them in a while and if that’s the case, good for them, but if they really only cared about getting rich women into Augusta, that’s just dumb, in my opinion.

    If they just wanted to make a splash, I’d say the Saudi Arabia thing would make a much bigger splash especially since protesting in front of the Saudi embassy in DC is not welcomed by the Bush Administration…ever. They could have exposed two huge controversies in national media at the same time. Instead they just ended up getting a few golfers to say, “yeah, we kinda sorta agree, but we love playing in the Masters so we’re gonna play instead of joining your cause.” Yippee!

  74. I admire the freedom fighting Saudi women.

    I wish I could admire our own feminists,
    instead they make excuses about why women should not be allowed to defend themselves, and why a president who is pro abortion should be able to get away with rape and sexual harassment.

  75. Nick,

    It was a high-profile fight. Millions of people watch the Masters, and Augusta is held up as a classy organization for people to emulate.

    It’s like picking a poster child, but in reverse.

  76. “Augusta is held up as a classy organization for people to emulate.”

    Really? I thought everyone understood them to be an expensive and elitist private club to be ignored except for the one long weekend every spring where golfers we’ve heard of play there, and that’s more about the course than the club. Nice try, though. Why do you have to defend everything a liberal or progressive organization does? Can’t you just admit it was grandstanding and agree they could have done more of value if they protested and embarrassed the Saudi embassy?

    This is why a lot of people are turned off by liberal or progressive groups when in reality they do some good things a lot of libertarians and even conservatives like. It’s because they feel like they are above criticism. I’ve read you posting here at H&R a lot and you, too, think you are above criticism, you never admit you might have been wrong, ever, and you always defend liberal or progressive groups and policy positions. Well, I hate to break it to you, you are not always right.

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