Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for December 22nd, 2007

US loses Latin America

Posted by Charles II on December 22, 2007

For two centuries, Latin America has been all but an American possession. Now, under the worst president ever, it is breaking free. Janette Habel, Le Monde Diplomatique, via ICH (thanks Wendy Kristiansen):

Latin America is a lost continent according to the editor of Foreign Policy, Moises Naim. The president of the Inter-American Dialogue organisation, Peter Hakim, voiced the same concern when he asked: “Is Washington losing Latin America?” (1). Over the past decade the United States has suffered many setbacks in this part of the world. Voters, rejecting neo-liberal policies, have elected radical or moderate leftwing coalitions, claiming degrees of independence. In April 2002 the attempt to overthrow Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez failed. In 2005 the native movement brought Evo Morales to power in Bolivia despite US State Department efforts. Though it exerted pressure, the US was unable to prevent Daniel Ortega from being elected in Nicaragua or Rafael Correa in Ecuador (2)….

Southcom considers that no single foreign power threatens US interests, the sub-continent being a nuclear-free zone with no weapons of mass destruction. The key emerging threat, according to Southcom’s former commander, James Hill, is “radical populism, in which the democratic process is undermined to decrease rather than protect individual rights.” Such populism, embodied by Chávez, gathers strength by tapping into “deep-seated frustrations of the failure of democratic reforms” and by “inflaming anti-US sentiment” (8).

There’s a lot of good stuff in the article.

Posted in Latin America | 3 Comments »

Available from Ronco

Posted by Charles II on December 22, 2007


(from Wired magazine).

Says Rob Beschizza, citing Next Energy News and Gizmodo (via ICH):

Twenty foot long by six foot wide, the reactors produce 200kW of energy and run themselves: the entire thing is manufactured with the fuel within, and when it runs out, they can just send a truck to pick it up.

This is one of those things one hopes is a hoax but probably isn’t. FWIW, Toshiba doesn’t seem to have a press release or product specs on their English language website.

Posted in eedjits, WTF? | 10 Comments »

James Lileks Is A Twit, #13450437

Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 22, 2007

Poor Mr. Lileks. He should never try to do journalism; all it does is hurt his head and make him look dumber than he already does.

For example, we have him saying truly dumbass things about Sharia finance and the City of Minneapolis:

Unless no-interest business loans are available to religious believers whose doctrines do not forbid interest — not to mention anarchists — this would seem to be Flamingly Unconstitutional, to use the legal term. Does one have to prove one holds this particular religious belief? Would they bring in someone to test you? It seems absurd to expect the government to validate your piety to make sure you qualify for benefits.

Not to be outdone in the Crashing Stupidity department, the rabidly anti-Muslim blog Gates of Vienna picks up and passes around this dreck as if it were the Word of God:

Sharia-based finance is rapidly gaining ground in the United States. The most effective means to combat it is to denounce it vigorously, loudly, and repeatedly as blatantly unconstitutional.

Here’s conservative blogger and Real Live Account Dennis the Peasant, who unlike Lileks has been known to use Google properly on occasion (and who unlike Lileks has actually worked with Muslims — Somalis, in his case — in the field of finance, which of course makes him a race and/or culture traitor as far as the Gates of Vienna fan base is concerned):

Had either James Lileks or Baron Bodissey googled “Sharia finance” and spent, say, twenty minutes reading several of the many links provided on page one, our intrepid journalist and our equally intrepid counterjihadist would have discovered that “no interest” Sharia finance does not equate to “no cost” non-Sharia finance, and that both of them were completely, totally and embarrassingly wrong in their respective hyperventilations. But as we all know, saving the world from The Muslim Menace™ can really eat into your free time if you let it, so sometimes something has to give… In this case, as in most, what actually does give is any semblance to factual accuracy.

I now understand why Lileks was so desperate to avoid returning to reporting news for a living.

Here are the facts:

Islamic law requires three elements to be present in any financial contract to qualify as Sharia-compliant:

1) All parties share in the profits and losses associated with the transaction,
2) Investors in the transaction cannot charge interest, and
3) Uncertainty (returns determined by possible future outcomes) is prohibited in the terms of the contract.

(Other elements, such as prohibited investments (haram) and form/elements of Sharia-compliant contracts need not be addressed here.)

The key to understanding Sharia financing is this: Muslims believe that money, in and of itself, has no value. All value derives from trading, and the risk associated with trading. Therefore, making money from money is prohibited because it is viewed as being a risk-free transaction with unearned reward. So, for any transaction to meet the requirements of Sharia financing, it must be structured in a way that risk and reward are fairly shared by all parties to the contract. Thus, where the Western investor would receive interest income, the Muslim investor would receive a stated portion of the profit or loss. Where the Western borrower would pay interest, the Muslim would pay a stated portion of the profits (if any) of the transaction.

The bottom line is this: When the mayor of Minneapolis stated that the city would make available “alternative financing loans with no interest to business owners whose religious beliefs restrict them from receiving traditional interest-based financing”, what he was not saying was the Muslim business owners would receive “no cost” loans. What he was saying is that they would be receiving traditional Islamic financing where profit-sharing is substituted for the paying of interest. Not that either Lileks or the Baron would know this, but what the city will most likely offering is a Murabaha contract, which Westerners usually consider to be a form of cost-plus financing, through a third-party agent.

Of course, the paranoid Warriors Against Islam jumped all over Dennis’ case, and he promptly smacked them down:

A Note To My Friends At GulfCoastPundit: I see I have several folks claiming my assertion that the Sharia financing offered by the City of Minneapolis isn’t “no cost” is just an example of me running my mouth. Sorry, kids, but Dennis – unlike Lileks and the Baron – actually does his fucking homework. Here is a link to the City of Minneapolis web site page that explains the Sharia finance program in detail. It is “low cost”, not “no cost”, and mirrors the City of Minneapolis’ non-Sharia 2% Revolving Loan funding that is available to dhimmis.

Game, set and match to Dennis.

As I told Dennis in the comments section of his blog (edit:  or would have, if my comments ever got past the spam filters of a typical TypePad blog), I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that it’s somehow “Flamingly Unconstitutional” to try to avoid screwing people in a financial transaction. Forget Googling “Sharia finance”; these clowns should Google “usury”, a topic on which the Puritans were most fulsome. But apparently things like 24% interest on credit cards are A-OK to them.

Posted in anti-Muslim, Flying Monkey Right, WTF? | 12 Comments »

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