Evening Digest Feb 16, 2008
After the Read More! The BBC apologizes for equating Rafik Hariri with Imad Mughniyeh. We shall be overcome: fainting incidents at Obama rallies. Zombietime covers Code Pink in Berkeley. Military curio: AK-47s are photographed mounted on AAA barrels in China; but why? You've heard about sharia law in Britain, but what about Islamic bonds? A new meaning to the word "dumped". And we are told that drinking bottled water is "immoral".
The Jerusalem Post says, "In an uncommon act of journalistic contrition, the BBC has apologized for equating former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh as 'great national leaders.'"
The BBC took the unusual step after Don Mell, The Associated Press's former photographer in Beirut, lambasted the parallel, drawn by BBC correspondent Humphrey Hawkesley in a BBC World report last Thursday, as "an outrage" and "beyond belief." ...
In his letter to the British state broadcaster, Mell wrote: "For you to refer to former prime minister Rafik Hariri and Imad Mughniyeh as 'great national leaders' in the same sentence is beyond belief. One was an elected leader who spent years and millions of his own money rebuilding his country. The other was probably the world's second most notorious terrorist, who was responsible for, in addition to running a major criminal enterprise, destroying the US Embassy, the French and US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983; the hijacking of TWA 847; the bombing of the Israeli cultural center in Buenos Aires, [and] the kidnapping and murder of many Westerners in Lebanon, including Terry Anderson, Terry Waite, John McCarthy."
For my money it was that last bit about Terry Anderson which hit home. Terry Anderson was a journalist and his mistreatment by Mughniyeh broke the union rules.
Maybe Obama draws individuals of the sort who would come to mass events in search of something transcendental. And either they are overcome with emotion or are physically frail so that prolonged waiting, jostling and standing eventually knocks them down.
Noah Shachtman at Wired asks: "Okay. Can anyone come up with anything approaching a logical explanation for why the Chinese have mounted AK-47s on their anti-air artillery? Anyone?"
Ok. Here's my theory. The AAA crews were issued with personal defense weapons and decided to clip it to barrel of their main weapon for easy access. I know it's lame, but what else makes sense?
The Daily Mail thinks the Archbishop of Canterbury's ill-timed remarks may have queered the pitch for plans to issue new "Islamic bonds".
A new sharia law controversy erupted last night over Government plans to issue special "Islamic bonds" to pay for Gordon Brown's public-spending programme by raising money from the Middle East.
Britain is to become the first Western nation to issue bonds approved by Muslim clerics in line with sharia law, which bans conventional loans involving interest payments as "sinful". ...
It will lead to the ownership of Government buildings and other assets currently belonging to British taxpayers being switched wholesale to wealthy Middle-Eastern businessmen and banks. ...
The Treasury proposal follows the heated debate over the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams's claim that the spread of elements of sharia law in parts of Britain was "inevitable".
I'm of two minds on this and neither thought is particularly edifying. On the one hand I think "Islamic" financial instruments are hokey ways of disguising fees and interest charges in order to attract credulous Muslims into financial markets which would otherwise be regarded as impure. It's a feeling shared by a European Muslim who can do his sums.
The colonial Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) was the first to come up with the ingenious idea of re-branding with its Amanah house finance scheme. If an interest-bearing mortgage could be sold to Muslims as "halal" and virtually interest free, those Muslims desperate to do the right thing would happily pay even higher interest rates than anywhere else on the market. The government even changed the rules on stamp duty to allow this con to be marketed.
Any day now I'm waiting for some Chinese company to market a service where any meat-packing plant can tune into a videocast of a slaughterhouse in Saudi Arabia and have the tasmiyah and takbir blessings virtually intoned over PC speaker. So one way to regard "Islamic bonds" is as yet another clever ploy to part a fool from his money. But on the other hand it's yet another step on the process to building "social cohesion" by creating a multitrack society. I have no doubt that the moneymen will make money; but I suspect society will wind up paying hidden costs for the transaction in the end.
The moral of the story? Don't assume that just because you're quadriplegic and helpless that people will have pity on you. Out on the street being weak and vulnerable is like being an old and lame zebra on the Serengeti plain. Pity ain't got nothing to do with it.
A British environmental minister says that bottled water should be as anathemized as smoking. "A BBC Panorama documentary, "Bottled Water: Who Needs It?", to be broadcast tomorrow says that in terms of production, a litre bottle of Evian or Volvic generates up to 600 times more CO2 than a litre of tap water."
I actually never drink the stuff, but I'd defend people's right to drink it. Bottled water is useful in certain situations, chiefly when traveling abroad and you're not sure whether the local stuff will give you gastro-enteritis. It's also useful in situations where you must provide water to children in the field. Back when, people's immune systems were prepped enough by well water and similar sources to be able to resist the odd bug in the water. Today, this is not the case.
But my principle difficulty with all the trivial little dos and don'ts that now beset society is that people ought to be able to figure stuff like when and when not to drink water or smoke cigarettes by themselves. Not long ago a man won a suit against a seaside town in Australia because he injured himself diving into the water and hit his head in the sandy bottom. He claimed the town should have posted a sign notifying swimmers that the ocean had a bottom. Why do we need a minister of the environment to figure out which way is up?
We can't childproof the world without infantilizing ourselves. If we turn ourselves over to the child-care State let there be no complaints when we're fed blended food and finally put to sleep. And yes they will put us to sleep in the end, only some of us will still have a memory, illegal by then, of running free in the fields. And there will be those who will argue at the last that it were better to have no memory of freedom that we may have no sense of loss, but I disagree.
I hold it true, whatever befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'tis better to have sipped water and lost
than never to have sipped water at all