Major Muslim Cleric Calling For Educational Reform

This is the type of movement and expression that needs to happen to counter those who wish to perpetuate a bastardized version of Islam.   While I welcome the words and tone from Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb I am not at all impressed with the words from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.  It is after all Saudi rulers who have cozied up with Wahhabism which has produced such dreadful outcomes for not only Islam but the political dynamics of much of the Middle East.   Stop sponsoring the anti-intellectual madrassas form of education and then we can start to listen without gagging over what Saudi rulers have to say.

The head of Sunni Islam’s most esteemed center of learning made one of the most sweeping calls yet for educational reform in the Muslim world to combat the escalation of extremist violence.

Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar in Cairo, blamed “corrupt interpretations” of the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad for the rise of Middle East-based terrorism. He issued his appeal in Mecca, Saudi Arabia—Islam’s holiest city—at a gathering of some 700 moderate Muslim clerics from various countries.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman also expressed concern that extremists posed a threat to Muslims everywhere because their actions had tarnished the image of Islam among non-Muslims.

In a speech read to the conference by the governor of Mecca, the king said Muslims are now seen as “culprits and as a source of fear and concern,” resulting in strained ties between Muslim countries and the rest of the world.

Mr. al-Tayeb deplored what he described as the stigmatizing of moderate Muslims by their more radical brethren in schools and universities.

The only way for more mainstream Muslims to reassert their control was to “tackle this tendency [of extremists] to accuse [other] Muslims of being unbelievers,” he told the gathering convened by Saudi-financed Muslim World League.

The rise of terrorism stemmed from “historical accumulations of tendencies of extremism in our heritage, which originated from corrupt interpretations of some of the texts of the Quran and the Sunnah,” he said, referring to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

Earlier this month, Mr. al-Tayeb said Islamic State fighters who burned a Jordanian air force pilot to death deserved the Quranic punishments of death or crucifixion for being enemies of God and the prophet.

Mr. al-Tayeb didn’t mention the Sunni radical group Islamic State by name but clearly alluded to the group by criticizing “extremist violent groups” that spread fear and panic through “beheadings and burning innocents alive.”

Grand Ole Opry House Now On National Register of Historic Places

As you know the National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation.  Now that list include The Grand Ole Opry House!


While the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville is recognized as an important country music venue today, it is not usually thought of as being historic. Constructed 1972-1974, the performance hall and broadcast studio was listed in the National Register for its exceptional national importance because of its impact in popular culture, entertainment and the communications industry. The largest radio and television broadcast studio in the world when completed, the building represents a new era in country music, when the industry was becoming more mainstream and using new sounds, marketing and production techniques. The building continues to be used for shows and broadcasts.

Coffee Tastes Of Americans Befuddling

This just begged to be posted on Caffeinated Politics.

With upscale artisanal coffee brewers dotting city streets across the country, America might fancy itself a nation of high-end coffee drinkers.

But just the opposite is true: People in this country, on the whole, are actually drinking worse coffee today than they have in the past. And the reason appears to be that they value cheapness over quality — and convenience over everything. “A lot of people in America would take a sip of single origin high-end coffee and not appreciate the taste,” said Howard Telford, an industry analyst at market research firm Euromonitor.

Only about 8 percent of the coffee beans Americans buy are fresh whole beans, which upscale coffee brewers, like Blue Bottle, will tell you is the much better way to buy coffee beans. And ground coffee isn’t just outpacing whole bean coffee — it’s increasing its lead, each and every year.

The rise of coffee pods, which come pre-ground, provides what is without question the most compelling evidence of the country’s desire for convenience. Sales of coffee pods have grown by a blistering 138,324 percent — yes, 138,324 percent — over the past 10 years, according to data from Euromonitor.

Keurig now controls more than 20 percent of the U.S. retail market for coffee, roughly the same as the next two — Folgers and Starbucks — combined. But the rest of America’s top 10 most popular brands hardly scream high-end. Folgers, the second-best-selling brand, is famous for selling oversized buckets of ground coffee.

Even as Starbucks continues to plant coffee shops around the country, other artisanal coffee businesses — chained or not — continue to grow in cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles (think Blue Bottle, Stumptown and the like).Maxwell House, the fourth-best-selling brand, is open about its coffee’s mediocrity: Its latest ad campaign, after all, essentially amounts to a plea for people to settle for “good” coffee instead of aspiring for “great” coffee.


Kathleen Parker Gives Her View Of Scott Walker “Only A Fool”

It could not be stated more clearly.

The first summoned to the interrogatory was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, for whom the dinner was intended when Mr. Giuliani stole the show. Mr. Walker has been asked repeatedly whether he thinks Mr. Obama loves America, an idiotic question that only a fool would answer except to say, “Absolutely!”

Instead, Mr. Walker grabbed a shovel and starting digging a hole right next to Mr. Giuliani’s. Though he first replied that he didn’t feel he needed to comment on Mr. Giuliani’s comments, he later said he doesn’t know if Mr. Obama is a Christian.

Well, of course he doesn’t “know,” but everyone knows what Mr. Obama has said. He’s a Christian. I’m no less inclined to believe the president when he says he’s a Christian than I am to believe Mr. Walker when he says he’s one. If either man is a fake Christian, he has plenty of company, the fact of which makes very little difference to most Americans.

This is all politics, in other words, and Republican candidates need to get smarter. Litmus tests will keep coming their way, and anyone seriously considering running for president needs to know what he thinks before he’s asked. When the camera is running is no time to share one’s deliberations.

Lower Uninsured Numbers Will Impact Supreme Court Case

In spite of some legal minds who are truly in a quandary over how the Supreme Court will act on the case regarding subsidies I fall on the history of the court opting to allow for congressional intent.  Clearly congress meant to allow the subsidies in states which did not set up their own frameworks.    The larger truth is that regardless of how states dealt with the uninsured The Affordable Care Act is working–and quite nicely.

New Gallup-Healthways numbers released today vividly illustrate that the Affordable Care Act is working to lower the uninsured rate in states that are trying to make the law work for their constituents, by expanding Medicaid and setting up exchanges.

But guess what: Additional Gallup data sent my way shows that the ACA is also lowering the uninsured rate in states that have not set up their own exchanges.

This strongly suggests the federal exchange is probably working in those states to lower the uninsured rate. That could have important ramifications for the coming Supreme Court battle over King v. Burwell, which threatens to gut subsidies in roughly three dozen of those states on the federal marketplace, perhaps causing those states’ insurance markets to implode.

The data are also interesting when you break them down by states. In many of the federal exchange states with the largest numbers of people who qualify for subsidies — states that have the most to lose from a ruling against the ACA — there have been meaningful drops in the uninsured rate.

In North Carolina it dropped by 4.3 points. In Florida it dropped by 3.8 percentage points. In Ohio it dropped by 3.4 points. In Wisconsin it dropped by 3.3 points. In Texas it dropped by 2.6 points. In Illinois it dropped by 4.5 points.

All of which is to say that Obamacare appears to be accomplishing its goal of expanding health coverage even in states that are declining to participate in the law and have defaulted to the federal backstop. A Supreme Court decision against the law, of course, could rapidly undo that progress.

Concerns Over Demolishing Home At 906 Williamson Street


A couple weeks ago I attended a neighborhood meeting aimed at providing information about a proposed development at 906 Williamson Street.   At the time I posed a series of questions about the current home located on the site; a structure that would be demolished if the development were to proceed.

At that meeting I prefaced my first question with the fact I was not opposed to the proposed development, in and of itself.  I did however want to find a way forward that would save the home, either by moving it, or having it incorporated into the development plans.    I was informed that the building was not structurally sound for moving, though when I asked on a scale of 1 to 10 it could not be stated just how unworthy for moving the structure really was at this time.    It was also noted by another community member that moving a house is a cumbersome process, and I understand that too is a reality.

When I followed up on comments made by Alderperson Marsha Rummel about perhaps incorporating in some fashion the home into the development scheme that idea was dismissed as not feasible.    To be blunt it was my impression there was just no real desire to use the structure in that fashion, regardless of anything else.

There is no doubt that we live in one of the most vibrant and up-ticking sections of the city.  Everyone wants to come here to live or eat or visit.  There is much to be proud of for those who have worked to make this area so attractive.   At the same time however we must be cognizant of what makes this place so unique and special.    One of those characteristics are the homes that allow for long-term owners and residents to continue to make this the mixed-type neighborhood which all enjoy.  Removing an older home that many refer to as affordable seems to undercut the feel that we should seek to foster here.

John Coleman, a leader in this community and a member of the Marquette Neighborhood Associations, has taken a most vocal stand in opposition to the demolishing of this structure.  He notes–and we should be proud of this fact–that our neighborhood has taken a very strong stand against demolition of any building built before 1945.  Coleman wrote a note to many residents and provided written language from a community-driven study to underline his point of view.

Only in extreme cases can demolition of any pre-1945 building in the Williamson Street neighborhood be justified. Demolition
should not be permitted if the building contributes to the street’s historic appearance unless the building is beyond all economically feasible repair as determined by the Commission.
This evaluation shall be done by an analyst independent of the entity proposing demolition, and have experience with historic restoration.

  • Whether the building or structure is within a grouping of similar buildings or structures that creates a distinctive pattern or historic rhythm of masses and spaces that would be significantly altered by the removal of one or more of its parts.
  • Whether the building contributes to the working-class architectural character of the neighborhood.
  • Whether the building has been documented to have been strongly associated through historic ownership, family relationship or use with other buildings in the district that exemplifies social, family or business history.
  • Whether the building has design features that exhibit ethnic tradition or building types.
  • Whether the building has architectural characteristics associated with hand built buildings, such as hand-hewn timbers, scroll saw cut architectural trim, finished stone trim.

I  am under no illusions where this all is headed as it was most apparent from the neighborhood meeting that many conversations had taken place over the months and lines of support had been created for the development.  And as I noted at the meeting, in and of itself, the development works for me.

But how anyone can just accept the loss of this home as the price we need to pay is something I have real problems with.  I hope others find reason to join in the effort to make sure this home is allowed to be saved from being demolished.

Low Oil Prices Will Lead To Higher Prices

Great read today.

Over the past six months, 53% of vehicle purchases in the U.S. were light trucks or sport-utility vehicles, which tend to consume more gas than cars, according to Commerce Department data. That was the highest share in a decade and up from 51% last June, when oil prices peaked for the year. The Transportation Department estimates Americans drove more than three trillion miles in the 12 months through November, the most since mid-2008 and the biggest annual increase—38 billion miles—in a decade.

Earlier this month, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries reversed its forecasts that energy consumption would decline with the weakening economy. Instead, the lower prices will boost consumption of OPEC oil, the cartel said.

“In 2008, prices fell sharply starting in the summer with the onset of the financial crisis and the global economic recession, which also led to a deterioration in demand,” the OPEC report said. “This time the sharp fall in prices has been mainly driven by excess supply. As a result, lower prices are likely to help to accelerate the pace of oil demand growth this time.”

Few experts see demand increasing so quickly that oil prices rise rapidly. More likely is that some oil producers will be unable to achieve a profit with oil prices so low, and they will curtail production.

“Historically, the initial response of consumers is to increase purchases of other items rather than use more gasoline,” said James Hamilton, a University of California, San Diego, economist who specializes in energy economics. “That is why most of the short-run adjustment in oil markets will have to be on the supply side, as high-cost producers are forced out. And until that happens, low prices will continue.”

Columba Bush’s Spending Habits Not Germane

I am taken aback by the press account of how Columba Bush, Jeb Bush’s wife, made large purchases of this and that while in Paris in 1999.  I find it not important to know how much her jewelry purchase in one day amounted to, as I do not see it as being germane to the issue of her husband running for president.

The shopping trips that First Lady Mrs. Lincoln took in the 1860’s and the bills she piled up make for interesting parts of the larger story of the Lincoln Administration.  But her shopping trips did not alter the steadfastness that President Lincoln used when striving to save the union and win the war.

We all know the Bush family is wealthy.  That is not news, nor should the fact they spend money be earthshaking.    How Jeb Bush views policy and personally uses his resources is where the tire meets the road. That is fair to report and consider.  But what Columba Bush does with her money is simply not worthy of press attention.