Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reconcile Helen Thomas, Free Gilad Shalit, Creating McMecca

Mat Bai
EJ Dionne Jr
Jeff Stein
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." - Barry Goldwater
"More to the point, the chaos is only going to intensify, which is why the presidential season ahead is likely to feature the most unruly and flat-out fascinating contest Republicans have staged in 35 years." - Matt Bai
"The liberals and Obama need to escape the bubbles of legislative and narrowly ideological politics and re-engage the country on what can only be called a spiritual level. Modern American liberalism is not some abstract and alien creed. At its best, it marries a practical, get-things-done approach to government with a devotion to fairness, justice and compassion." - EJ Dionne Jr

The Daily Beast ranked Denver 12th out of 40 of the most drunken cities, citing these statistics:

Average drinks, per person, per month: 12.94
Percent of adults who are heavy drinkers: 5.9
Percent of adults who are binge drinkers: 17.1
Deaths per 100,000 residents from alcoholic liver disease: 7.0

Number one in their rankings was Milwaukee, WI, followed by Fargo, ND. Another smaller town that ranked at number six, was Burlington, VT. Well, at least Milwaukee has a country song about it and Schlitz beer, you can even choose between the Jerry Lee Lewis version or the later one by Rod Stewart:

What's Made Milwaukee Famous
Has Made a Loser Out of Me...

"But, to this day, there has been almost no compassion, empathy or respect shown for one of our great journalists, Helen Thomas, who has been presumed guilty and sentenced to oblivion with barely a word spoken in her defense. How can we expect Israelis and Palestinians to reconcile if our media won't set an example by reconciling with Helen Thomas?"  - Danny Schechter

During the Christian holidays, our attention naturally focuses on the Holy Land and the Middle East, prating that all will be quiet and no altercations break out. The worst treatment of Christians has taken place in Iraq, with more communities being attacked by people who claim to belong to a resurgent al Qaeda. There aren't many people left who want to join al Qaeda anymore, they're like an old street gang that's lost its credibility, and they are engaging in more desperate acts to get attention. A couple more years and they will be a legend, an insurgent group that broke away from their CIA masters and broke with the covenant that Muslims should never kill or maim or bomb other Muslims, until it became bloody normal behavior. 

The borders around Gaza are getting a buildup of Israeli tanks and troops, because groups other than Hamas have been smuggling in missiles and firing them into Israel. Hamas has also been stockpiling munitions, mostly Russian-made missiles that can penetrate a tank. It's claimed that Hamas has so much new toys that its fighters don't know how to use them, yet. Hamas and Israel have yet to engage in any public peace talks, so far everything has been in secret, mostly still trying to free Corporal Gilad Shalit. Tensions are rising, hopefully they will cool down, because the innocent Palestinians caught in the middle of this posturing will end up paying with their lives...

The most controversial construction projects are happening in Mecca, with a lot of the natural landscape is being churned over to make way for expensive hotels, observation boxes that overlook the Grand Mosque, shopping malls, restaurants, did I say more more expensive hotels: "It is an architectural absurdity. Just south of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Muslim world’s holiest site, a kitsch rendition of London’s Big Ben is nearing completion. Called the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the world, the centerpiece of a complex that is housing a gargantuan shopping mall, an 800-room hotel and a prayer hall for several thousand people. Its muscular form, an unabashed knockoff of the original, blown up to a grotesque scale, will be decorated with Arabic inscriptions and topped by a crescent-shape spire in what feels like a cynical nod to Islam’s architectural past. To make room for it, the Saudi government bulldozed an 18th-century Ottoman fortress and the hill it stood on.

The tower is just one of many construction projects in the very center of Mecca, from train lines to numerous luxury high-rises and hotels and a huge expansion of the Grand Mosque. The historic core of Mecca is being reshaped in ways that many here find appalling, sparking unusually heated criticism of the authoritarian Saudi government."
“It is the commercialization of the house of God. The closer to the mosque, the more expensive the apartments. In the most expensive towers, you can pay millions” for a 25-year leasing agreement, he said. “If you can see the mosque, you pay triple.” - Sami Angawi
It seems as if the members of the Royal family who are involved in this project have been spending too much time indoors, jetting between Las Vegas and Dubai, letting their vast personal fortunes insulate and distort their perceptions of what is appropriate. Instead they are turning one of the world's most holiest of places into a Disneyland, robbing it of its spiritual connection with the common believer. Soon, there will be McMosque franchises in malls throughout the world. Instead of making the pilgrimage all the way to Mecca, they will be able to go to the local mall for their holy experience and buy their hajj t-shirts and trinkets... And if you sill want to make the journey to Mecca, you will soon be able to do it by plane, train, and limosine, always in air-conditioned comfort, never having to step outside. You can rent your skybox overlooking the Grand Mosque and pretend that you are one of those who actually made the trip on foot, and are now circling around the Kaaba. Or, we will put it all on a DVD for you...

Anyway, have a Happy New Year, and say a prayer for peace before you go out to party...

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