Jamal Khashoggi’s Final Words—for Other Journalists Like Him


October 20, 2018

Jamal Khashoggi’s Final Words—for Other Journalists Like Him

On October 3rd, the day after Jamal Khashoggi disappeared, the Washington Post received a final column left behind with his assistant when he went off to Turkey to get married. It was, in seven hundred words, poignant and personal and epically appropriate, considering his fate. “The Arab world was ripe with hope during the spring of 2011. Journalists, academics and the general population were brimming with expectations of a bright and free Arab society within their respective countries,” he opined. “They expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information.” Instead, rulers grew ever more repressive after the short-lived Arab Spring.

Today, hundreds of millions of people across the Middle East “are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives,” Khashoggi wrote. They are either “uninformed or misinformed” by draconian censorship and fake state narratives. As the headline of his last published words asserted, “What the Arab world needs most is free expression.”

In his death, Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and former government supporter who became a vocal and fearless critic of the current Saudi crown prince, has galvanized global attention far more than he was able to do during his life. The horrific details of his murder and dismemberment have had an effect he would never have imagined—putting into serious question the fate of a Saudi leader, the state of U.S.-Saudi relations, American foreign-policy goals in the world’s most volatile region, and even policies that have kept dictators in power. The repercussions are only beginning.

But Khashoggi was hardly a lone voice decrying political repression in the Middle East, as he acknowledged in his final Post column. Saudi Arabia may be the most cruel and ruthless government in the region, but it uses tactics embraced by dictators, sheikhs, and Presidents across twenty-two countries.

In 2014, Egypt’s military-dominated government seized all print copies of the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, whose name means “The Egyptian Today.” Al-Masry Al-Youm is that rare private newspaper in the Arab world where young reporters once dared to question government policies in hard-hitting editorials and groundbreaking journalism. “The Egyptian government’s seizure of the entire print run of a newspaper, al-Masry al Youm, did not enrage or provoke a reaction from colleagues. These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community,” Khashoggi wrote. “Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence.”

The world, particularly the West, is partly culpable for looking the other way, he wrote. It is a tragic irony that the world is paying attention to Khashoggi’s death, yet still not making an issue of a sweeping problem that could determine the future of a region of twenty-two countries and four hundred million people. On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, announced that he would not attend the Saudi investment conference known as “Davos in the Desert,” which is pivotal to the crown prince’s plans to modernize the kingdom’s oil-reliant economy. The British trade minister, the French and Dutch finance ministers, and the president of the International Monetary Fund also backed out after Khashoggi’s disappearance. But no foreign government is addressing the broader political practices in any other country, or any other case, in the region.

In his column, Khashoggi drew attention to imprisoned colleagues who receive no coverage. “My dear friend, the prominent Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehi, wrote one of the most famous columns ever published in the Saudi press,” Khashoggi noted. “He unfortunately is now serving an unwarranted five-year prison sentence for supposed comments contrary to the Saudi establishment.” Shehi, who had more than a million followers on Twitter, was charged with “insulting the royal court” for his statements about widespread government corruption in his columns for the newspaper Al Watan and on a local television program.

 Image result for Michael Abramowitz, the President of Freedom House

Michael Abramowitz, the President of Freedom House and a former national editor at the Washington Post, told me that Khashoggi rightly identified the broader stakes. “Khashoggi’s final column accurately pinpointed the appalling lack of political rights and civil liberties in much of the Arab world, especially the right to freely express oneself,” he said. Khashoggi began his last piece by citing Freedom House’s 2018 report—and the fact that only one Arab country, Tunisia, is ranked as “free.” Abramowitz told me, “What is especially sad is that, while we are properly focussed on the outrageous actions by the Saudi government to silence one critic, we must also remember that countless other bloggers, journalists, and writers have been jailed, censored, physically threatened, and even murdered—with little notice from the rest of the world. And, in some cases, notably Egypt, conditions have deteriorated.”

Image result for Michael Abramowitz, the President of Freedom House

In the Gulf states, Human Rights Watch chronicled a hundred and forty cases—a number chosen based on the original character limit on Twitter, though there are actually many, many more—where governments have silenced peaceful critics simply for their online activism. Among the most famous is Raif Badawi, a young Saudi blogger who ran a Web site called the Saudi Liberal Network that dared to discuss the country’s rigid Islamic restrictions on culture. One post mocked the prohibition against observing Valentine’s Day, which, like all non-Muslim holidays, is banned in Saudi Arabia. In 2014, he was sentenced to ten years in prison, a thousand lashes, and a fine that exceeded a quarter million dollars. (I wrote about his case in 2015.)

Badawi’s sister Samar—who received the 2012 International Women of Courage Award at a White House ceremony hosted by Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—was arrested in July. When the Canadian Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, tweeted her concern about the Badawi siblings, in August, the kingdom responded by expelling the Canadian Ambassador, recalling its envoy, freezing all new trade and investment, suspending flights by the state airline to Toronto, and ordering thousands of Saudi students to leave Canada. (I wrote about the episode that month.)

In Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab, one of the Arab world’s most prominent human-rights advocates, is languishing in jail after being sentenced to five years for tweeting about torture in the tiny sheikhdom and criticizing Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. In the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Mansoor, who ran a Web site focused on reforms, was sentenced to ten years for social-media comments calling for reform.

“The Arab people are desperate for real news and information, and Arab governments are desperately trying to make sure they never get that,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, told me. “Uncensored communication on social media promised journalists and writers in the Middle East the greatest hope to freely exchange ideas and information, but it’s also why Arab governments, so terrified of the voices of their own citizens, rushed to pass laws criminalizing online communications and jailing writers and activists for mere tweets.”

Image result for crown prince mohammed bin salman

The wider world bought into the Saudi narrative that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince and de-facto ruler, was intent on opening up the kingdom. Perhaps tellingly, it is the free press elsewhere in the world that first asked questions about Khashoggi’s October 2nd disappearance, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to get papers so he could marry. “The world should take note that it is the free press, not the Saudi government or the White House, that has doggedly searched for the truth about what happened to Mr. Khashoggi,” the Democratic senator Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, said in a statement. “It reminds us, once again, that a free press is an essential check against tyranny, dishonesty, and impunity.”

 

“Compassion or Toleration? Two Approaches to Pluralism”


October 198, 2018

“Compassion or Toleration? Two Approaches to Pluralism”

On October 4th, 2018, Karen Armstrong, writer and religious historian, delivered the sixth Annual Pluralism Lecture titled “Compassion or Toleration? Two Approaches to Pluralism”.

Please to listen to Karen’s lecture and reflect. Egoism is our problem. God is always Great.  –Din Merican

 

Trishakti — the Real Malaysian Manifesto we need


October 14, 2018

Trishakti — the Real Malaysian Manifesto we need

Opinion  | Dr.  Azly Rahman

Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | The “manifesto” shoved down the eyes, ears , and brain of the voters – one that promised good things in life: no tolls, greater educational future, more equality for everything that can be equalised, less cronyism, massive arrests of white collar-songkok wearing thieves in political garments, and so on. These promises pushed the old regime of the Barisan Nasional to the corner to become losers in the 14 th general elections. This is not the sum total of a manifesto. It should not have been called a manifesto.

These are mere promises made to lure voters. To amass votes. Now they are confessing that these promises were not meant to be kept. They are meant to get the votes, get into power, maintain power, consolidate power, and leave the voters shortchanged. That’s the politics. And there are apologists to that game.

But what is a manifesto if the one that was presented by the Pakatan Harapan coalition is merely a set of to-do-list of things to implement; some to throw away and some to seduce voters into voting?

What must a manifesto do for a multicultural polity such as Malaysia, yearning to become a truly multicultural Malaysia? What language of change must it be written in, what narrative employed, what tone of discourse weaved in to make it as memorable and alive as The Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Engels, or the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America drafted by Thomas Jefferson, or even the Tennis Court Oath of the French Revolution worked on by the Paris Commune? Or even as fanciful as the Transhumanist or Cyborg-Humanoid Manifesto of today’s geeks?

Come the 15th general election, who’s going to lead the cybernetic revolution of the Third Force, Third Wave, guided by the Third Eye? The Messiah we need to get us out of the Matrix — from Najibism to neo-Mahathirism? How do we craft a shift in social-political-economic-cognitive paradigm?

Image result for the new malaysia

Herein lies the need to redo the manifesto or for another coalition for a new government to come up with one in preparation for the next general election, since the current regime that is sloganising a “New Malaysia” seems to be slipping into the ethos, ethics, anatomy, and psychology of the Old Malaysia, with the modus operandi of the new nation building mirroring the old ways of doing things.

A Third Force may emerge out of this possibly short-lived regime that seemed not quite interested in honouring the promises. Race politics is coming back, or too stubborn to leave the consciousness of the leaders of the new regime, although a majority of them are from parties that have multi-ethnic soldiers and major-generals. These parties may be intimidated by the hegemony and authority and insincerity of mono-racial parties that want to continue the agenda of one-race-one-religion superiority.

Hence, missing in the “manifesto” are abolishing race-based parties, levelling the racial playing field of education, combating racial and religious extremism, designing a truly social-democratic and emphatic-based economy model that is sustainable, and graced with sound principles of human rights and justice. Plus all those good things that ought to be in a manifesto which will move society rapidly and deterministically to another progressive phase of our evolution. But it seems we are made to step backwards. The new regime seems to be unsure what to do with its “manifesto” and how to honour the promises.

Elegance is missing in that thing called the manifesto. More than elegance, the bedrock of change is missing: a new national philosophy that promises to make the dream of founding fathers such as Tunku Abdul Rahman come true. The dream of a true Malaysia in which no Malaysians will be left behind. The dream of a nation “clean, efficient, trustworthy” mooted by Mahathir Mohamad who ruled for 22 years. The dream of a society not ruled by the arrogant, the privileged, the filthy rich, and those who think they are entitled to power and wealth passed down as easily as any of the world’s monarchy ruling over the enslaved majority.

The Trishakti Manifesto

Here are my thoughts on the coming wave of change — of “trishakti” as a dimension of change:

Come the 15th general election, who’s going to lead the cybernetic revolution of the Third Force, Third Wave, guided by the Third Eye? The Messiah we need to get us out of the Matrix — from Najibism to neo-Mahathirism? How do we craft a shift in social-political-economic-cognitive paradigm?

Third Force, Third Wave, Third Eye = Trishakhti — a force that should shape new politics away from the current ideological impasse. Bloggers and commentators in social media must come together and ignite this new intellectual revolution in educating the masses. Trishakti — Third Force, Third Wave, Third Eye … a force that will colour Malaysian politics blind. A force that will be a vigilante to the abusers of power. No one can stop it. The internet is anarchy — ride its wave.

The Kuhnian Revolution in science proposed that when there are too many questions that go unanswered as a consequence of the end of history for the prevailing worldview, the paradigm is meeting the near-collapse of its existence. This is said in Kuhn’s classic work The Structures of Scientific Revolution. (Thomas Kuhn is a Harvard historian of science.)

Malaysia is facing such a crisis – the collapse of the Barisan Nasional paradigm and the emergence of a newer one. There are too many questions unanswered and too many structures crumbling – judiciary, education, law enforcement, economics, culture, and so on that needed to be rebuilt but yet the old architectural plan is still used. The Third Wave is here – postmodernity. The First Wave – traditional societies – gave way to modernisation. Malaysian politics must respond to the coming of this wave.

In Malaysia, both waves have failed as a result of the failed policies of modernisation taken over by privatisation, Look East, and Malaysian Inc policies. Vision 2020 is a meaningless slogan created by the ideology of the past. Capitalism developed without ethics, fuelled by greed and facilitated by race-based politics. The world is experiencing the earthquake of a new global ideology surfacing.

The Third Wave is here. The March 2008 tsunami was a warning of its inevitability. The May 2018 transfer of power was testament of voter nausea and irritability.

But the Third Wave needs a Third Force and a Third Eye. The Third Force cannot be stopped and the Third Eye cannot be blinded. Trishakti is here. We need a leader — an intellectual leader. Current leaders do not understand this force. They are in it and are drowned by it, like fish in the water.

Let us push this idea to the masses and see it dance in the Malaysian cyberspace and gets translated into praxis. Trishakti resides in the cave — Plato’s cave, where philosophers, architects, culturalists, and futurists of change are congregating.

We have failed to scan the global environment and understand the waves of change affecting us now and in future. We need a real manifesto. No mere set of promises to be broken. Will a Third Force emerge?


Dr. AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books available here . He grew up in Johor Bahru, and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Official: Anwar wins PD by-election with bigger majority


October 14, 2018

Official: Anwar wins PD by-election with bigger majority

Published:  |  Modified:

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Anwar ibrahim

Congrats–The new MP for Port Dickson

 

PD POLLS | PKR President-elect Anwar Ibrahim has won the Port Dickson by-election with a 23,560-vote majority, and is expected to be sworn in at Parliament on Monday.

According to the Election Commission, Anwar bagged 31,016 votes, while runner-up Mohd Nazari Mokhtar from PAS secured 7,456 votes. Turnout was at 58.25 percent.

Despite the lower turnout, Anwar’s 23,560-vote majority eclipses that of PKR’s Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, who won the seat in the 14th general election by a margin of 17,710 votes.

An analysis of voting results by Malaysiakini, however, indicates that the outcome may have been different had BN contested.

Four polling districts won by BN on May 9 – Kampong Jimah Baru, Si Rusa, Linggi and Kampong Sungai Raya  – were won by Anwar this time around. However, voting patterns suggest that although there was some swing towards Pakatan Harapan, many BN supporters appear to have boycotted the by-election.

Meanwhile, all independent candidates, including former UMNO Vice-President Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, will lose the security deposits submitted to the EC to contest in the by-election.

Candidates have to obtain at least one-eighth of the total votes cast in order to secure a deposit refund.

Isa obtained 4,230 votes, while Anwar’s former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan garnered the lowest number of votes, with just 82.

Entrepreneur Stevie Chan, meanwhile, obtained 337 votes; Lau Seck Yan, 214; and Kan Chee Yuen, 154.

Follow Malaysiakini’s live report on the Port Dickson by-election results here.

 

Why Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman Gave Up on Happiness


October 6, 2018

Why Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman Gave Up on Happiness

The cognitive psychologist spent years studying happiness, yet now he considers satisfaction and life satisfaction of greater importance to people.

What did I consider more important about my meeting with Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman? My enjoyment of the meeting, which was fascinating and inspirational – or the photo that shows me talking with one of the world’s most brilliant men? According to Kahneman, this is a complex question that has caused confusion in happiness studies for many years.

He came to the study of happiness through a circuitous route, as an outgrowth of research in which he sought to understand the connection between what we experience in real time – that is, the life we lead – and what we remember of these experiences (i.e., the narrative we carry with us and tell about our lives).

A Tel Aviv native and Professor Emeritus at Princeton, Kahneman, 84, is a cognitive psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 for research conducted jointly with Amos Tversky (who died in 1996). The two modeled a systematic, inbuilt set of cognitive biases and logical failures in our method of thinking that influences contexts, conclusions and decision-making. They then demonstrated how, as a result, we make decisions on the basis of erroneous assessments and intuitions that are inconsistent with either statistics or common sense.

The research and behavioral models derived from their studies had a significant effect on the economic sciences, forcing it to change its models – which had previously been based on the fundamental assumption of rational behavior. Kahneman’s insights created the field of behavioral economics: A field that seeks to evaluate the influence of irrational, impulsive human behavior.

In the 1990s, Kahneman studied another form of cognitive bias: That there is a discrepancy between our experiences as we experience them while they’re actually happening, and our memories of those same experiences.

The subject of his initial research was not sexy and quite distant from the happiness debate. The study documented, in real time, patients’ degree of suffering during a colonoscopy (it was a painful procedure at the time, unlike today).

It turned out there was no connection between the length of the procedure and level of pain a patient experienced and described at the time, and the extent of trauma he recalled afterward. The memory was based primarily on whether the pain increased or decreased toward the end of the procedure. The stronger the pain in the final stage of the procedure, the more traumatic it became in the patient’s memory – with no connection to the question of how much pain he actually experienced during it.

Positive experiences are processed similarly. In a 2010 lecture, Kahneman related the story of a man who told him about listening to a symphony he loved, “absolutely glorious music.” But at the end there was a “dreadful screeching sound” that, the man said, ruined the whole experience for him.

But as Kahneman pointed out, it hadn’t actually destroyed the experience, because the man enjoyed the music at the time. Rather, it ruined his memory of the experience, which is something completely different.

“We live and experience many moments, but most of them are not preserved,” Kahneman said. “They are lost forever. Our memory collects certain parts of what happened to us and processes them into a story. We make most of our decisions based on the story told by our memory.

“For example, a vacation – we don’t remember, or experience, the entire time we spent on vacation, but only the impressions preserved in our memory, the photographs and the documentation. Moreover, we usually choose the next vacation not as an experience but as a future memory. If prior to the decision about our next vacation we assume that at the end all the photos will be erased, and we’ll be given a drug that will also erase our memory, it’s quite possible that we’ll choose a different vacation from the one that we actually choose.”

A very vague concept

Kahneman’s studies of “What I experience” versus “What I remember” are what led him to get involved in the study of happiness.

“I put together a group of researchers, including an economist whom I viewed as both a partner in the group and its principal client,” he told me when we met earlier this year. “We wanted to figure out what factors affect happiness and to try to work to change conditions and policies accordingly. Economists have more influence on policy.

“The group developed a model known as DRM, or Day Reconstruction Method – a fairly successful method of reconstructing experiences throughout the day. It gives results similar to those of ‘What I experience’ and is easier to do.”

It turns out there are significant differences between the narrative that we remember and tell, and the feelings of day-to-day happiness we experience at the time – to the point that Kahneman believes the general term “happiness” is too vague and can’t be applied to both.

He views “happiness” as the feeling of enjoyment a person experiences here and now – for instance, two weeks of relaxation on the beach, or an enjoyable conversation with an interesting person. What is described as happiness in the “What I remember” is something Kahneman prefers to call – as he did more than once in his series of studies – “satisfaction” or “life satisfaction.”

 

Amir Mandel speaking with Daniel Kahneman, March 2018. What did I consider more important about our meeting? My enjoyment of the meeting or the photo? Moti Milrod

 

“Life satisfaction is connected to a large degree to social yardsticks – achieving goals, meeting expectations,” he explained. “It’s based on comparisons with other people.

“For instance, with regard to money, life satisfaction rises in direct proportion to how much you have. In contrast, happiness is affected by money only when it’s lacking. Poverty can buy a lot of suffering, but above the level of income that satisfies basic needs, happiness, as I define it, doesn’t increase with wealth. The graph is surprisingly flat.

 

“Economist Angus Deaton, the Nobel Prize laureate for 2015, was also involved in these conclusions. Happiness in this sense depends, to a large extent, on genetics – on a natural ability to be happy. It’s also connected to a genetic disposition to optimism. They are apparently the same genes.

“To the degree that outside factors affect this aspect of happiness,” he continued, “they’re related solely to people: We’re happy in the company of people we like, especially friends – more so than with partners. Children can cause great happiness, at certain moments.”

‘I was miserable’

At about the same time as these studies were being conducted, the Gallup polling company (which has a relationship with Princeton) began surveying various indicators among the global population. Kahneman was appointed as a consultant to the project.

“I suggested including measures of happiness, as I understand it – happiness in real time. To these were added data from Bhutan, a country that measures its citizens’ happiness as an indicator of the government’s success. And gradually, what we know today as Gallup’s World Happiness Report developed. It has also been adopted by the UN and OECD countries, and is published as an annual report on the state of global happiness.

“A third development, which is very important in my view, was a series of lectures I gave at the London School of Economics in which I presented my findings about happiness. The audience included Prof. Richard Layard – a teacher at the school, a British economist and a member of the House of Lords – who was interested in the subject. Eventually, he wrote a book about the factors that influence happiness, which became a hit in Britain,” Kahneman said, referring to “Happiness: Lessons from a New Science.”

“Layard did important work on community issues, on improving mental health services – and his driving motivation was promoting happiness. He instilled the idea of happiness as a factor in the British government’s economic considerations.

“At the same time,” said Kahneman, “a movement has also developed in psychology – positive psychology – that focuses on happiness and attributes great importance to internal questions like meaning. I’m less certain of that.

Tourists in New York posing near a homeless man. “In general, if you want to reduce suffering, mental health is a good place to start,” says Kahneman. Tourists in New York posing near a homeless man. “In general, if you want to reduce suffering, mental health is a good place to start,” says Kahneman.

Tourists in New York posing near a homeless man. “In general, if you want to reduce suffering, mental health is a good place to start,” says Kahneman. Reuters

“The involvement of economists like Layard and Deaton made this issue more respectable,” Kahneman added with a smile. “Psychologists aren’t listened to so much. But when economists get involved, everything becomes more serious, and research on happiness gradually caught the attention of policy-making organizations.

People connect happiness primarily to the company of others. I recall a conversation with Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, in which he tried to convince me I had a meaningful life. I insisted – and I still think this today – that I had an interesting life. ‘Meaningful’ isn’t something I understand. I’m a lucky person and also fairly happy – mainly because, for most of my life, I’ve worked with people whose company I enjoyed.”

Then, referring to his 2011 best-seller “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” he added, “There were four years when I worked alone on a book. That was terrible, and I was miserable.”

 

Despite Kahneman’s reservations, trends in positive psychology have come to dominate the science of happiness. One of the field’s most prominent representatives is Prof. Tal Ben-Shahar, who taught the most popular course in Harvard’s history (in spring 2006), on happiness and leadership.

Following in his footsteps, lecturers at Yale developed a course on happiness that attracted masses of students and overshadowed every other course offered at the prestigious university.

In positive psychology, it seems to me they’re trying to convince people to be happy without making any changes in their situation,” said Kahneman, skeptically. “To learn to be happy. That fits well with political conservatism.”

I pointed out to Kahneman that Buddhism – including Tibetan Buddhism’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, which whom he is in contact – also places great emphasis on changing a person’s inner spiritual state. “That’s true to a large extent,” he agreed, “but in a different way, in my opinion. Buddhism has a different social worldview.

 

“But in any case, I confess that I participated in a meeting with the Dalai Lama at MIT, and some of his people were there – including one of his senior people, who lives in Paris and serves as his contact person and translator in France. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from this man. He radiated. He had such inner peace and such a sense of happiness, and I’m absolutely not cynical enough to overlook it.”

Tending to mental health

Kahneman studied happiness for over two decades, gave rousing lectures and, thanks to his status, contributed to putting the issue on the agenda of both countries and organizations, principally the UN and the OECD. Five years ago, though, he abandoned this line of research.

I gradually became convinced that people don’t want to be happy,” he explained. “They want to be satisfied with their life.”

A bit stunned, I asked him to repeat that statement. “People don’t want to be happy the way I’ve defined the term – what I experience here and now. In my view, it’s much more important for them to be satisfied, to experience life satisfaction, from the perspective of ‘What I remember,’ of the story they tell about their lives. I furthered the development of tools for understanding and advancing an asset that I think is important but most people aren’t interested in.

“Meanwhile, awareness of happiness has progressed in the world, including annual happiness indexes. It seems to me that on this basis, what can confidently be advanced is a reduction of suffering. The question of whether society should intervene so that people will be happier is very controversial, but whether society should strive for people to suffer less – that’s widely accepted.

“Much of Layard’s activity on behalf of happiness in England related to bolstering the mental health system. In general, if you want to reduce suffering, mental health is a good place to start – because the extent of illness is enormous and the intensity of the distress doesn’t allow for any talk of happiness. We also need to talk about poverty and about improving the workplace environment, where many people are abused.”

My interview with Kahneman took place as I started working on the Haaretz series of articles “The Secret of Happiness,” and was initially meant to conclude it. It was the key to the entire series. It’s interesting that Kahneman, one of the leading symbols of happiness research, eventually became dubious and quit, while proposing that we primarily address causes of suffering.

The “secret of happiness” hasn’t been deciphered. Even the term’s definition remains vague. Genetics and luck play an important role in it.

Nevertheless, a few insights that emerged from the series have stayed with me: I’m amazed by Layard’s activity. I was impressed by the tranquility of the Buddhist worldview and the practices that accompany it. Personally, I’ve chosen to practice meditation with a technique adapted to people from Western cultures.

I learned to collect experiences and not necessarily memories, which can be disputed. I don’t mind sitting for three hours in a Paris café or spending a day wandering through the streets of Berlin, without noting a single monument or having a single incident that I could recount. I gave up on income to do what I enjoy – like, for instance, writing about happiness and music.

Above all, it has become clear that our best hours are spent in the company of people we like. With this resource, it pays to be generous.

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-why-nobel-prize-winner-daniel-kahneman-gave-up-on-happiness-1.6528513

The Ongoing Judge Brett Kavanaugh Saga


October 5, 2018

The US Supreme Court–The Ongoing Brett Kavanaugh Saga

“In this crucible of power politics, of bullying and posturing and rage, no one has been more severely tested than Judge Kavanaugh. If he believes himself innocent of sexual assault — if he is innocent of sexual assault — the test, to him, can only appear monstrous.

Yet unfair as the test might seem to the judge and his supporters, senators who want to preserve the credibility of the Supreme Court cannot now look away from the result: Judge Kavanaugh failed, decisively.”–The Editorial Board,

The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, as much as any development in the challenging era of Donald Trump, is testing America’s politicians and its civic institutions. Few, so far, have met the test.

Not Republican senators, who, after denying one president his legitimate authority to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court, are now rushing their own nominee through, uninterested in the truth, while weeping crocodile tears about other people’s partisanship.

Not Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who tainted the process by bringing forward damaging allegations against Judge Kavanaugh only at the last minute.

Not the F.B.I., which either of its own volition or because of constraints imposed by Republicans failed to interview many of the key witnesses who could speak to the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh. And not President Trump, to absolutely no one’s surprise.

In this crucible of power politics, of bullying and posturing and rage, no one has been more severely tested than Judge Kavanaugh. If he believes himself innocent of sexual assault — if he is innocent of sexual assault — the test, to him, can only appear monstrous.

Yet unfair as the test might seem to the judge and his supporters, senators who want to preserve the credibility of the Supreme Court cannot now look away from the result: Judge Kavanaugh failed, decisively.

How? First, he gave misleading answers under oath. Judges — particularly Supreme Court justices — must have, and be seen as having, unimpeachable integrity. The knuckleheaded mistakes of a young person — drinking too much, writing offensive things in a high school yearbook — should not in themselves be bars to high office. But deliberately misleading senators about them during a confirmation process has to be.

If Judge Kavanaugh will lie about small things, won’t he lie about big ones as well?Indeed he already has: During the course of his confirmation hearings, he claimed, implausibly, that he was not aware that files he received from a Senate staff member, some labeled “highly confidential” or “intel,” had been stolen from Democratic computers.

Even the small lies, of course, aren’t so small in context, since they relate to drinking or sex and thus prop up his choir-boy-who-indulged-now-and-then defense.

Second, confronted with the accusations against him, Judge Kavanaugh made recourse not to reason and methodical process, but to fury and the rawest partisanship. Judges — particularly Supreme Court justices — must strive to be, and be seen as, above politics.

As Judge Kavanaugh said in a 2015 speech, “to be a good judge and a good umpire, it’s important to have the proper demeanor.” He added: “To keep our emotions in check. To be calm amidst the storm. On the bench, to put it in the vernacular, don’t be a jerk.”Wise words. He wasn’t able to live by them when it mattered. At last week’s hearing, Judge Kavanaugh was a jerk. He spun dark visions of a Democratic conspiracy of vengeance against him. He yelled at Democratic senators, interrupted them frequently, refused to answer questions directly and, at one point, confronted Senator Amy Klobuchar, who had asked him whether he had ever blacked out from drinking.

“I don’t know,” Judge Kavanaugh sneered. “Have you?” This contempt came only moments after Ms. Klobuchar told Judge Kavanaugh about her father’s struggles with alcoholism.

Was Judge Kavanaugh truly out of control, in rage and pain, as he appeared, or had he calculated that a partisan attack would rally President Trump and Republican senators to his side, as it did? (We all know he was capable of a more temperate response to the accusations: He’d demonstrated that just a couple of nights earlier, in his interview with Fox News.) For purposes of Senate confirmation, it shouldn’t matter. Such a lack of self-control, or such open and radical partisanship, ought to be unacceptable in a judge.

And indeed, on Thursday, the retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who was appointed by a Republican president, took the astonishing step of saying that Judge Kavanaugh’s performance before the Judiciary Committee should disqualify him from the court. “Senators should really pay attention to it,” he said.

Judges are human beings, not ideological blank slates, but the American legal system depends on their being fair and open-minded to all who come before them. Judge Kavanaugh failed to show that he can do this, or that he even would want to.

That’s a disappointment, but maybe not a surprise to anyone who knew of his life before he joined the bench. He was a fierce Republican warrior in some of the most politically charged battles of the past two decades — including the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, in which he sought to expose the most intimate details of Mr. Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. He also played a role in the most controversial policies of the George W. Bush administration, including the torture of detainees and warrantless wiretapping. (How much of a role we may never learn, since Senate Republicans still refuse to release more than 90 percent of the documents related to Judge Kavanaugh’s work in the Bush administration.)

While many of Judge Kavanaugh’s defenders leapt to exonerate him of sexual assault or excused his rage-bender as understandable, virtually no one has tried to deny his rank partisanship. Yet after last week’s testimony, how could any self-identified Democrat, or leftist, or sexual-assault victim, or anyone who is not identifiable as a Republican, expect to get a fair shake from a Justice Kavanaugh? If he is confirmed, that will pose a profound problem for the court.

It is quite a tribute to Christine Blasey Ford that she has presented the one image of dignity and calm in this howling maelstrom. Dr. Blasey testified last week that a drunken Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a 1982 party while they were in high school. Her testimony was credible, and the F.B.I. inquiry was too cursory to substantiate or discredit it. Judge Kavanaugh denies the accusations, and in a court of law — and, we hope, in his life as an American citizen — he is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

He is not, however, entitled to a seat on the Supreme Court. Republican senators have repeatedly said they respected Dr. Blasey and were sympathetic to her; but to vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh now is to declare that her accusations mean nothing.

Presidents have the prerogative to name Supreme Court justices who reflect their values and views of the Constitution. President Trump has no shortage of highly qualified, very conservative candidates to choose from, if he will look beyond this first, deeply compromised choice.

Some Republicans have warned that if Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, no decent person will ever want to be put up for the Supreme Court again. This, like so much nonsense in recent weeks, is political hysteria. For starters, consider these seven names: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, John Roberts Jr., Samuel Alito Jr., Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch.

All were seated on the court since 1991, the last time a Supreme Court nominee faced credible allegations of sexual misconduct. In that case, Clarence Thomas got the job, even in a Democratic-controlled Senate. Since then, not a single nominee has faced allegations of the sort leveled at Judge Kavanaugh.

The only failed nominations since 1991 both came at the hands of Republicans: President George W. Bush’s choice of Harriet Miers, who Republicans said was unqualified; and President Barack Obama’s pick of Merrick Garland, a respected federal judge whose only disqualification was being named by a Democrat. Republicans refused to even grant Judge Garland a hearing. Meanwhile, if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, 15 of the last 19 Supreme Court justices will have been chosen by Republican presidents, and the court has had a Republican-appointed majority for nearly half a century.

The Supreme Court, coequal with Congress and the White House, takes up the most important issues facing the country. Its rulings are often decided by a single vote, and they can affect the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans. Yet the source of the court’s power is not tangible. It holds neither the sword nor the purse, to paraphrase Alexander Hamilton. The court’s legitimacy is founded instead in an act of national faith, of confidence in the integrity and fairness of the justices. It is that confidence that ratifies the court’s decisions as the final word on American law.

That confidence has already been shaken. The court’s party-line vote in Bush v. Gore, which effectively decided the 2000 presidential election, led many Americans to wonder if the justices were nothing but politicians in robes. Sixteen years later, Republicans made the balance of the court more clearly a political prize by blocking Judge Garland.

This confirmation battle has been awful for everyone. It has exposed to the country a depth of partisan grievance and connivance within the Senate that should embarrass and worry every American. It is a terrible reality that, at this point, either confirmation or rejection of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination by a narrow and overwhelmingly partisan margin will dismay and anger millions of Americans. But only by voting no, by asking Mr. Trump to send someone else for it to consider, can the Senate pass its test of institutional character and meet its obligation to safeguard the credibility of the Supreme Court.

 

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A28 of the New York edition with the headline: A Test of Mr. Kavanaugh, and America. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe