Royal Succession, Saudi Style

Don’t expect big changes in Saudi Arabia because King Abdullah died.

First, because his younger brother Salman was already in the driver’s seat. Second, because the al-Saud family runs the country like a family business. The Saudi king is the elected chief executive. Saudi Arabia is close to an absolute monarchy with the caveat that sovereignty rests with the al-Saud family, not the individual king.

Obviously, the elders of the family have already met in a very private majlis confirming the next king: Muqrin bin Abdulaziz. Usually, but not always he’s the next available son of the Old King (Abdul Aziz, founder of Saudi Arabia, also referred to as ibn Saud). But if the next oldest is judged unsuitable, they’ll pick another. That’s how they avoid succession issues and avoid idiots on the throne, a practice certain European monarchies might emulate.

The trick is they’re about out of sons. Oh, there are hundreds of grandsons. The Old King had about a hundred sons and daughters. He took full advantage of Islam’s four wives rule to cement his legacy by Continue reading

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On Being Careful What You Wish For

Tuesday the citizens of Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District reminded Eric Cantor of he’s only human. They also reminded us of the potentially unintended consequences of Gerrymandering. As we should have learned in high school, Gerrymandering is that grand old American practice of manipulating election district borders to assure my party has more safe seats than your party.

Virginia is a purple state: apt to go Republican or Democrat in any particular election based on a single issue or the personality of a candidate. Therefore every ten years the Virginia Assembly members try to assure their party the maximum number of safe seats from among its current eleven Representatives. The practical result has been conceding the Third District (most of Richmond and liberal enclaves along the James River—see map) to the Democrats and the Seventh District (encompassing the conservative areas west and north of Richmond) to the Republicans.

There Eric Cantor was safely elected year after year since 2000. In recent elections the Democrats have wasted little effort (read here: money) on opposing him. Ah, but there in lies the rub. The Seventh District is so conservative that this year a political neophyte successfully challenged Cantor for not being conservative enough!

So, Republicans find themselves with Dr. Dave Brat as their candidate for this year’s election. As a result, if Democrat candidate Jack Trammell is moderate enough, Republicans could lose their “safe seat.” If not, Democrats may find Cantor replaced with an even more conservative representative.

Be careful what you wish for.

Presidential IQs

The other evening I sat through a conversation by liberal friends (yes, I have them) whether Bill Clinton’s IQ was double that of George Bush. See, liberals talk about silly things just like conservatives; they’re just different.

A 2001 hoax email purported that Clinton’s IQ was 182 and Bush’s 91. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Presidential_IQ_hoax.

The crux of the discussion Continue reading