Sunday, 25 September 2011

Danny Wilson: Mary's Prayer


Everything is wonderful
Being here is heavenly
Every single day, she says
Everything is free

I used to be so careless
As if I couldn't care less
Did I have to make mistakes?
When I was Mary's prayer

Suddenly the heavens rolled
Suddenly the rain came down
Suddenly was washed away
The Mary that I knew

So when you find somebody who gives
Think of me and celebrate
I made such a big mistake
When I was Mary's Prayer

CHORUS:
So if I say save me save me
Be the light in my eyes
And if I say ten Hail Mary's
Leave a light on heaven for me

Blessed is the one who shares
The power and your beauty, Mary
Blessed is the millionaire
Who shares your wedding day

So when you find somebody to give
Think of me and celebrate
I made such a big mistake
When I was Mary's Prayer

CHORUS

CHORUS

If you want the fruit to fall
You have to give the tree a shake
But if you shake the tree too hard,
The bough is gonna break

And if I can't reach the top of the tree
Mary you can hold me up there
What I wouldn't give to be
When I was Mary's prayer

CHORUS

CHORUS

Save me, save me
Be the light in my eyes
What I wouldn't give to be
When I was Mary's prayer
What I wouldn't give to be
When I was Mary's prayer
What I wouldn't give to be (save me)
When I was Mary's prayer


References

Uploaded by emimusic on Jun 2, 2009

YouTube: alternative HQ version (not offical video, but great sound)

Wikipedia: Meet Danny Wilson
Meet Danny Wilson was the debut album from the Scottish pop group Danny Wilson. It became a significant hit in America, on the strength of the hit single, "Mary's Prayer."

The song "Mary's Prayer" is featured in the 1998 film There's Something About Mary and is listed on the movie soundtrack.

Wikipedia: Danny Wilson (band)
Danny Wilson were a New Wave group formed in Dundee, Scotland [in 1984] ... [The name Danny Wilson is] taken from the 1952 Frank Sinatra film, Meet Danny Wilson.

[In 1987] they released the album, Meet Danny Wilson; the lead single, "Mary's Prayer" was initially unsuccessful in the United Kingdom, but it eventually became a Top 30 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart later that year. Buoyed by this success it was re-released in 1988, and reached number 3 in the UK Singles Chart. The band released its second and final album, Bebop Moptop the following year, including the hit single "The Second Summer Of Love", which reached number 23. They broke up in 1991.

2011-09-25

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Saturday, 24 September 2011

Bon Jovi: It's My Life


This ain't a song for the brokenhearted
No silent prayer for the faith departed
And I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd
You're gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud

It's my life
It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just wanna live while I'm alive

(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, "I did it my way"
I just wanna live while I'm alive
'Cause it's my life

This is for the ones who stood their ground
For Tommy and Gina who never backed down
Tomorrow's getting harder, make no mistake
Luck ain't even lucky, gotta make your own breaks

It's my life
And it's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just wanna live while I'm alive

(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, "I did it my way"
I just wanna live while I'm alive
'Cause it's my life

You better stand tall
When they're calling you out
Don't bend, don't break
Baby, don't back down

It's my life
It's now or never
'Cause I ain't gonna live forever
I just wanna live while I'm alive

(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, "I did it my way"
I just wanna live while I'm alive

(It's my life)
And it's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just wanna live while I'm alive

(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, "I did it my way"
I just wanna live while I'm alive
'Cause it's my life!


References

Uploaded by BonJoviVEVO on Jun 16, 2009

Wikipedia: It's My Life (Bon Jovi song)
"It's My Life" is Bon Jovi's first single from the album Crush. It was released on May 23, 2000. It was written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Max Martin. The song hit #1 across several countries (although it only reached #33 in the US). However, it has the distinction of being the only song from a band once classified as 1980s hair metal to reach the top 40 in the 21st century, a testament to how the song managed to introduce the band to a new, younger fanbase. The song is arguably their biggest post-1980s hit single and has been performed live at almost all shows since its release.

Wikipedia: Crush (Bon Jovi album)
Crush is Bon Jovi's seventh studio album, released on June 13, 2000. It was their first studio album since These Days in 1995.

Wikipedia: Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi is an American hard rock band from Sayreville, New Jersey. Formed in 1983, Bon Jovi consists of lead singer and namesake Jon Bon Jovi (John Francis Bongiovi, Jr.), guitarist Richie Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres, as well as current bassist Hugh McDonald.

... it's now or never, I ain't gonna live forever...

2011-09-??

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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Patti Smith: Frederick


hi hello wake from thy sleep
God has given your soul to keep
all of the power that burns in the flame
ignites the light in a single name

Frederick name of care
fast asleep in a room somewhere
guardian angels [line a bed]
shed their light on my sleepy head

I am a threshold yearning to sing
down with the the dancers having one last fling
here's to the moment when you said hello
come on my spirit are you ready let's go

hi hi hey hey
maybe I will come back some day now
but tonight on the wings of a dove
up above to the land of love

..........

now I lay me down to sleep
pray the Lord my soul to keep
kiss to kiss breath to breath
my soul surrenders astonished to death

night of wonder for us to keep
set our sails channel [out] deep
after the rapture two hearts meet
mine entwined in a single beat

Frederick you're the one
as we journey from sun to sun
all the dreams I waited so long for
fly tonight so long so long

bye bye hey hey
maybe we will come back some day now
but tonight on the wings of a dove
up above to the land of love

Frederick name of care
high above in sky that's clear
all the things I've been dreamin' of
are expressed in this name of love

bye bye hey hey
maybe we will come back some day now
but tonight on the wings of a dove
up above . . .


References

Uploaded by honk1tonk1 on Mar 10, 2007

Wikipedia: Frederick (song)
"Frederick" is a rock song written by Patti Smith, and released as lead single from Patti Smith Group 1979 album Wave. The song is dedicated to Fred "Sonic" Smith, guitarplayer of the Detroit band MC5 and Smith's future husband. The intro music strongly reminds of Bruce Springsteen's Prove It All Night intro as played during the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour (1978).

Wikipedia: Wave (Patti Smith Group album)
Wave is an album by the Patti Smith Group, released May 17, 1979 on Arista Records. This album was less commercially successful than its predecessor, Easter, although it continued the band's evolution towards more radio-friendly mainstream pop music.

Wikipedia: Patti Smith
Patricia Lee "Patti" Smith (born December 30, 1946) is an American singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist, who became a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses. Called the "Godmother of Punk", her work was a fusion of rock and poetry. Smith's most widely known song is "Because the Night", which was co-written with Bruce Springsteen and reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1978. In 2005, Patti Smith was named a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, and in 2007, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On November 17, 2010, she won the National Book Award for her memoir Just Kids. Recipient of the 2011 Polar Music Prize.

2011-09-18

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Saturday, 17 September 2011

Movie Review: Drive

It's an art film. It's an action film. It's a psychological drama. It uses the strong, silent antihero as the center point to an array of characters who talk, emote and display their lives. While they all show us their hopes, dreams and aspirations, our antihero remains focused on one thing and one thing only: driving. Is this Clint Eastwood in A Man With No Name? Is this tough guy Steve McQueen in Bullitt?

Ryan Gosling was absolutely fabulous in the romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. (my review) This film is a complete one eighty. Instead of a character who displays the various facets of his personality and the quirks of his psyche, we have the brooding silent type, that James Dean school of temperament which gives forth an aura of seething anger, violence and darkness all bubbling below the surface of this calm, resolute, focused drive of putting one foot in front of the other. It's the person in the movie you know oh so little about which just whets your appetite all the more for finding out the details of how they wound up in this predicament.

Gosling plays the Driver. Yep, that's the only name you know him by. He's a garage mechanic. He does stunt driving for the movies. And, for a price, he will be a getaway driver. No questions asked. He doesn't carry a gun; he just drives. He gives you 5 minutes to do whatever it is you want to do then he drives you away. - I couldn't help thinking of The Transporter. A slightly different premise but still the idea of a driver for hire.

Of course, as with anybody involved with skirting the law, the Driver soon runs into the bad guys doing really bad things, like bad things to him and we get to see just how bad our hero can be. The strong silent type can also be the violent type and I mean violent. While the camera did turn away, I was wondering just what the human face would look like after being stomped on, oh, ten times or so.

I can't be sure, but I had the impression the car chase scenes and crashes were real as opposed to special effects. Of course, who knows for sure these days? I do have to point out the problem of continuity in any film or is it a question of realism? In one scene, Gosling hits another car broadside knocking it over a thirty foot cliff. After we watch the car tumble down, we turn back to Gosling and there is his car with both headlights on and what looks to be a front bumper with no damage.

The comedian Albert Brooks has a role in the film as a mobster. Nothing funny here as Brooks plays this straight and does a convincing job as somebody who wouldn't think twice about slitting your throat.




Final Word
While I would say the film is good, I have to temper that by adding good for its genre of nameless antihero goes badass on the bad guys. I didn't think it was truly original in terms of other films like Bullitt. It's odd that Rotten Tomatoes gave in 92% and Roger Ebert accorded it three and a half stars out of four while Cinema Clock in Toronto shows the film only garnered 6.6 out of 10 from its viewers.

My recommendation would be to wait until this comes out as a rental. If you want to see a really, really good film, and let's not forget you're forking over a chunk of change these days to see a film at the theatre, I'd be tempted to recommend something else. But that's just me.


References

Rotten Tomatoes: Drive: 93%
A hyper-stylized blend of striking imagery and violence, Drive represents a fully realized vision of arthouse action.

Wikipedia: Drive (2011 film)
Drive is a 2011 American action drama film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn that is adapted from James Sallis's 2005 novel of the same name. After an unsuccessful attempt to create a film adaption made by Universal Studios, this project was greenlit in early 2010. When Ryan Gosling, who plays the unnamed principal character, signed on, he was allowed to choose the director. A fan of his work, the actor chose Refn. Before filming began towards the end of 2010, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston, and Christina Hendricks joined the cast.

Roger Ebert: Drive - Sep 14/2011
Three and a half stars out of four.

2011-09-17

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Friday, 16 September 2011

She's here to help: Michele Bachmann, at your cervix

Here's the premise for this article. Medical science backed up by statistical evidence shows that by taking the HPV vaccine, you can reduce the number of deaths from cervical cancer by thousands. Yes, thousands. Then a politician vying for public office stands up and recounts a supposed personal experience which makes her completely doubt the safety of the vaccine. The politician is not a medical doctor. Based on anecdotal information... no, based on a single anecdote, the politician who is in a position to influence millions suggests that people should not take the vaccine.

The Story
During the Republican presidential debates, Representative Michele Bachmann took on Governor Rick Perry over an order he had issued which required Texas schoolgirls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus, the human papilloma virus (HPV). That unto itself was considered by pundits, journalists and ethics watchdogs as an issue worthy of discussion. Should the government have the right to force its citizens to take the vaccine?

Unfortunately, Ms. Bachmann didn't stop there. She recounts the situation where after one of the debates, she meets a "tearful" woman who claims her daughter developed mental retardation after being vaccinated against HPV. Based on this one encounter, Bachmann has taken to telling the media that the vaccine is possibly linked to mental retardation. The truth is anything but.

The Numbers
According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2007 (the most recent numbers), 12,280 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,021 women in the United States died from cervical cancer.

The CDC has studied and continues to study the safety of the vaccines. They admit right up front that their reporting of adverse effects cannot any way prove a causal association between the vaccines and the adverse effect. The effect happens sometime after the vaccination which may mean it's the vaccination but could be merely coincidental. Nevertheless, nowhere and I mean nowhere in the published documentation is there any, yes, any mention of mental retardation.

Gardasil seems to be the most administered vaccine. It was approved by the FDA on June 8, 2006 and as of June 22, 2011, 35 million doses were distributed in the U.S. and the CDC received 18,727 reports of adverse events. That is five one hundredths of one percent, 0.05%. Out of those eighteen thousand, 92% were considered not serious while only 8% were serious. That means that 1,498 cases out of thirty-five million were serious or 0.004%, four one thousandths of a percent. As of June 22, 2011, there have been 68 reports of death, 32 confirmed and 36 unconfirmed. In the 32 confirmed cases there is nothing to suggest the death was caused by the vaccine. Even if one takes the number 68, out of 35 million that represents 0.0002%. That represents 68 deaths in the five years the drug has been on the market or, on average, 13.6 deaths per year.

In looking at how low the percentage is from a statistical point of view, somebody is going to counter with the obvious argument that any one of us would be very concerned if we were part of those 68 cases.

In comparison to 13.6 deaths possibly attributable to an HPV vaccine (this has not been proven), there are 62 deaths each year due to lightning, yes, lightning. (Infoplease). Over thirty thousand (30,000!!!) die each year in traffic accidents. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) 18,000 people die each year from AIDS. (Center for Disease Control) Over 4,000 women die each year from cervical cancer. (Center for Disease Control)

As an aside, I must make note that we all accept our government as having the right to mandate certain things in our lives which contribute to the "greater good". Seat belts in cars are mandatory. Certain drugs are controlled substances and you must have a doctor's prescription to get them. Does this vaccine fall into the same category? Michele Bachmann criticized Rick Perry for mandating that girls get vaccinated but at what point should a government, our government, intervene for our own good? There are a number of stories where a Jehovah's Witness has refused a blood transfusion for their child only to have the courts step in and force the transfusion to take place. And as an extreme case, suicide is illegal.

Does government intervention in our lives still feel wrong? Let's add some numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: In 2007, an estimated 15,147 lives were saved by seat belts, and 2,788 lives were saved by air bags. If seat belt use increased to 100 percent, then an additional 5,024 lives would have been saved (Starnes, 2008).


Uploaded by brainnumbification on Sep 15, 2011
Michele Bachmann claims HPV vaccine made woman's daughter mentally retarded



Final Word
I would propose that said politician herself is mentally retarded. Based on past experience which has proven her to open her mouth without the slightest regard to fact checking or any form of logical deduction, I would also submit the likelihood that this person is suffering from some form of tourettes.

I am livid. Michele Bachmann is a f**kin' idiot. This is most egregious example of irresponsibility; she just opens her mouth and says whatever comes to mind without the slightest regard for research, statistics or the truth. This woman doesn't deserve to hold public office.

The plural of anecdote is not data.
- various

Facts are not decided by how many people believe them. Truth is not determined by how loudly it is shouted.
- sign at the Rally to Restore Sanity, October 30, 2010, Washington DC

I am going to keep repeating that until I'm blue in the face. People in general and politicians specifically should not, cannot, must not, be making decisions based on "I heard somebody say..." Anecdotal evidence is not something upon which we should base our decisions. We need a more rigorous methodology for examining an issue so as to arrive at the best assessment. If Michele Bachmann wants to do something which affects her and only her, be my guest, it's her life. But when she as a presidential candidate advocates a course of action which could potentially affect the decisions made by millions of people, I expect her to be more circumspect in assessing the pros and cons not just for herself but for millions of people. Expect it? No, I demand it!

This isn't a blunder. This isn't a faux pas which can be assessed in terms of how the latest polling numbers are going to be affected. No, this is a wake-up call, a flashing red light, a warning siren that Michele Bachmann is not just incapable of being president of the United States, she is a danger to the country and more than likely to herself. To hear this woman criticize Obama and his administration for anything she possibly perceives as "an error" is the ultimate in irony considering the litany of her pronouncements which clearly indicate gross incompetency, a total lack of facts and an incapability of formulating a logical thought. This woman should have never been allowed into the GOP race. If anything, her presence is a clear indication that the Republican Party is becoming or has already become a laughing stock of American politics. God only knows what the rest of the world thinks of the U.S. This has gotten so stupid, I don't know why we are even talking about this with any degree of seriousness, never mind talking about it at all.


References

Wikipedia: Cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is malignant neoplasm of the cervix uteri or cervical area. One of the most common symptoms is abnormal vaginal bleeding, but in some cases there may be no obvious symptoms until the cancer is in its advanced stages. Treatment consists of surgery (including local excision) in early stages and chemotherapy and radiotherapy in advanced stages of the disease.

Wikipedia: HPV vaccine
The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine prevents infection with certain species of human papillomavirus associated with the development of cervical cancer, genital warts, and some less common cancers. Two HPV vaccines are currently on the market: Gardasil and Cervarix.

Wikipedia: Gardasil
Gardasil (Merck & Co.), also known as Gardisil or Silgard, is a vaccine approved June 8, 2006 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the prevention of certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), specifically HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. HPV types 16 and 18 cause an estimated 70% of cervical cancers, and are responsible for most HPV-induced anal, vulvar, vaginal, and penile cancer cases. HPV types 6 and 11 cause an estimated 90% of genital warts cases.

CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Reports of Health Concerns Following HPV Vaccination
The adverse event may be coincidental or it may have been caused by vaccination, however we cannot make any conclusions that the events reported to VAERS were caused by the vaccine.

The New York Times - Sep 15/2011
With Stakes for Bachmann Higher Now, Her Words Get in the Way by Trip Gabriel
Jim Dyke, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee unaffiliated with any candidate, said: “This is the nail in the coffin in her campaign. Because you can be a cable television darling by saying provocative things, but you can’t be president of the United States.”

Reuters - Sep 15/2011
Analysis: Bachmann HPV vaccine comments toxic: doctors By Julie Steenhuysen
No matter how much the U.S. medical community challenges the suggestion by presidential candidate Michele Bachmann that a vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) is dangerous, doctors fear the damage has already been done.

Respectful Insolence - Sep 14/2011
Michelle Bachmann's anti-vaccine statements cross the political pseudoscience divide
Chris Mooney, for all that some atheists vilify him, seems eerily prescient in his book from six years ago The Republican War on Science. Mooney's only mistake? He didn't realize at the time just how far into anti-science positions the Republican Party would ultimately dive. Who would have thought that the Bush Administration would seem almost rational by comparison with today's crop of Republican candidates for president?

my blog: Michele Bachmann: the next president of the WTH!?!
I read the news articles; I watch the video clips and I realize I don't have to say anything. Michele Bachmann speaks for herself. I used to think Sarah Palin was a one off, a unique event on the American political landscape. I now know Sarah has a twin. Both of them look great; they have a certain presence and somewhere there is the hope this is the person from whom one could expect big things. Then they open their mouths.

my blog: Michele Bachmann, a Corn Dog and the Oral Office
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll with 28.6%. While various news analysts and Ms. Bachmann herself have supposedly called this an important win or a solid or resounding victory, an article in the Huffington Post by Richard Greener points out something so obvious, so overwhelming obvious, it is surprising at how these people could be so blind. 71.4% of the voters did not pick Michele Bachmann. At a GOP-sponsored affair where the most fervent supporters of the Iowa Republican Party come together and nearly three-quarters of those people do not vote for Bachmann, how can anyone, media or Bachmann herself, say that this in any way resembles a victory?

my blog: Michele Bachmann and the far, far, far, far, far right
Ryan Lizza wrote of Bachmann: In the spring of 2009, during what appeared to be the beginnings of a swine-flu epidemic, Bachmann said, “I find it interesting that it was back in the nineteen-seventies that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat President, Jimmy Carter. And I’m not blaming this on President Obama—I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.” (New Yorker, Aug 14/2011: Leap of Faith)

2011-09-16

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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Movie Review: The Devil's Double

There are two aspects to this film. The film as a film: the screenplay, the editing and the acting. Then there is the slice of history, something we have seen on the television and read in the headlines.

The story is about Latif Yahia who played a fedai or body double for Uday Hussein, the eldest son of Saddam Hussein. Considering all that has taken place in Iraq, the invasion of Kuwait, the two Gulf Wars, the hanging of Saddam, etc., there is more than enough material for a dozen books. However here we have a story, more of a behind the scenes story that I myself was unaware of. Uday Hussein turns out to be a grown up spoiled brat who has ultimate power thanks to his father and wields that power like a psychopath. Reading down the list of crimes committed by Uday makes Hannibal Lecter seem like a Boy Scout. Whether it's true or not, there's a scene in the movie where Saddam himself is confronted with the depravity of his son and says, "I should have killed you the day you were born." As the film goes on, I had to ask myself why his father didn't do just that.

Uday is an out of control drug addict and sex fiend on a power trip. He picks up school girls off the street for sex and in one case, kills her and has his body guards dump the body outside of Baghdad. He takes a fancy to the bride at a wedding and takes her away for sex. She commits suicide by jumping off the balcony of his hotel room. This just goes on and on with Latif Yahia, the double, forced to watch this. Why does he put up with it? Uday has threatened to kill his entire family if he doesn't. Reading the Wikipedia article on Uday provides excellent background material to the film but makes you wonder how such evil can go on in the world.

The main actor, Dominic Cooper did double duty as both Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia. He is superb, capturing the insanity of Uday and the reasonableness of Latif forced into the world of a psychopath. From what I understand, the film makers did have some poetic licence with the screenplay, supposedly fictionalizing parts of the story from Latif Yahiya's own book. Nevertheless, the film interjects news footage of the invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent 1st Gulf War to portray the politically unstable bizarre life in Baghdad for the Hussein leadership. I couldn't take my eyes off of Cooper as either Uday or Latif; this man is a highlight of the film.


Final Word
Rotten Tomatoes gave the film 52% although I see Roger Ebert accorded it three stars out of four. I would have to vote with Mr. Ebert finding the film far better that just 52%. Okay, it's not an Oscar picture but the story is both horrifying and fascinating like driving by a traffic accident. You just can't help looking.

I would recommend preparing to see the film by reading some materials on Uday; the Wikipedia article for instance. The film puts a face on the various stories of the crimes committed by Saddam's eldest son and I can still see Cooper's excellent performance of ultimate power gone mad. The world is a better place with Uday gone but we still have this film. And oh what a story it tells!


References

Rotten Tomatoes: The Devil's Double: 52%
Originally, the rating was 57% but has come down with more reviews.

Wikipedia: The Devil's Double
The Devil's Double is a 2011 drama film directed by Lee Tamahori and starring Dominic Cooper, Philip Quast, Ludivine Sagnier and Raad Rawi. It was released on January 22, 2011 at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was released in limited theaters on July 29, 2011 by Lionsgate and Herrick Entertainment.

Wikipedia: Uday Hussein
Uday Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti (18 June 1964 – 22 July 2003) was the eldest son of Saddam Hussein from his first wife, Sajida Talfah. He was the brother of Qusay Hussein. Uday was for several years seen as the heir apparent of his father; however, Uday lost his place in the line of succession due to his erratic behavior and troubled relationship with his father and brother. Following the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, he was killed along with his brother by a secretive combined Special Forces Task Force (Task Force 20) during a brief gunfight in Mosul.

Wikipedia: Latif Yahia
Dr. Latif Yahia al-Salihi (born June 14, 1964) is an Iraqi born author, blogger, Ph.D in International Law, and former military officer in the Iran-Iraq War. Latif was forcibly recruited to be the body double of Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday Hussein.

official movie web site: The Devil's Double

Roger Ebert - Aug 3/2011
The Devil's Double
3 stars out of 4.

2011-09-15

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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

One Million Words

Early in 2010, I discovered blogging. Why did people do this? What was the point? Did they make money? Was there some other reward?

On May 31, 2010, I created a blog on Google's Blogger. On June 3, I wrote my first posting. On June 28, 2010, I was contacted by the editor of an online newspaper Oye! Times for permission to reprint my blog articles. After a while, I started writing separate articles just for the paper, that is, these were your reporting the news type of articles which I never published on my blog. I keep all this in two Word documents; one document is my work in progress and one is my archive. Right now, my archive of blog postings and newspaper articles shows over a million words. That's 493 blog postings and 540 newspaper articles. That represents 469 days with an average of 2,100 words per day.

Since October 1, 2010, I have published at least one posting per day on my blog. - I guess I've satisfied the requirements for National Blog Posting Month; NaBloPoMo asks you to post every day for a month. - I've shot my mouth off about numerous things but chuckle to myself about what any of this signifies in the grand schemes of things. There are a number of amusing demotivational posters about blogging floating round.

Blogging: Now you can show the whole world why no one listens to you.

Blogging: If you had any friends in the real world, you wouldn't need to yammer on about your day on the Internet.

Blogging: Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.

Blogging: With the right stage and the right voice there's no limit to the size of your audience. (This one has the picture of an empty theatre.)

Profanities
Many have their quirkiness. It may be charming, amusing or stupid. I guess that depends on the reader. Being a big fan of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, I have been very much taken by the bleeping of profanities on these shows. As odd as it may sound, I find the bleeping funnier than if I had actually heard them swear. I'd say this is related to euphemisms. Rather than just saying the F word, coming up with a novel way of suggesting it can be funnier. By the way, French Connection United Kingdom have quite a novel marketing campaign based on the acronym of the company name.

Consequently, I have taken to never writing out a profanity in full. That is, I'll write f**k or s**t but I won't write the word itself. Hmmm, I think there may be a couple of times I quoted somebody and left the profanity in but as a rule, I use asterisks. Is this quirky? Probably. Is this funnier? Well, no comments so far but I plan on continuing that way. After all, any Tom, Dick or Harry can swear. The trick is to do it tastefully, artfully and appropriately. I have humorously noted over the years in hearing certain people talk that if I could remove the F word from their vocabulary, I estimate I could reduce their side of a conversation by 50%. Yes, just about every other word is F. Are there no other words one can use to underline the importance of something? It isn't good; it's very good. It's incredibly good, fantastically good, extraordinarily good. No, it's supercalifragilisticexpialidociously good. Then again "it's f**king good" does have a certain visceral impact. There's nothing like "literarily" kicking your reader in crotch. (literarily as opposed to literally) (see my blog: Censorship: Kill me but no sex please)

Images
I decided early on that an image for each article spiffed things up a bit. It caught the eye and dressed up the page. Maybe it wasn't 100% necessary but somehow it made a posting aesthetically a bit more pleasing.

I have found the images by using Google's image search. However I've always had in the back of my mind that images could be copyright material. Now I'm not making any money off this blog so somehow I felt nobody would object if there was no commercial gain. Nevertheless in selecting an image I stayed away from the newspapers since I knew they were copyright material and I would favour an image I saw being reproduced by several sources. My defence, albeit weak, was to say I swiped the image from another site not realising it was copyrighted.

Some bloggers, like Kat Wilder, do me one better. They go to a commercial site like Fotolia.com and buy images. They offer royalty free images for a minimal amount of money usually only demanding that the photographer and the service get credit. On one article, I note that Ms. Wilder has written in small print at the bottom of her posting:

Photo © Christopher Hall – Fotolia.com

This doesn't seem like much of an inconvenience and it gives her the peace of mind that nobody is going to accidentally run across her blog and (legally) take exception to it. I, on the other hand, am running the risk of getting my ass sued off.

I note that those bloggers who have managed to turn their online literary work into a commercial enterprise, like Dooce and Single Dad Laughing seem to be only publishing photographs that they themselves have taken. That's an excellent way of avoiding the copyright laws; do it yourself.

References
Early on, I noted that everybody is essentially blogging their opinion. Fine, but I decided to kick it up a notch. Not being satisfied with just stating my opinion, I opted to prove as objectively as possible that my opinion was right; it was the truth. Hence, just about each posting ends with a References section in which I provide links to various other sources, supposedly expert sources, which (hopefully) back up what I've said.

Now this may seem trite: Who cares, so you can Google stuff. Or this may seem pedantic: Think you're pretty smart, eh? However as I went on reading more stuff, and I don't necessarily mean blogs but even newspaper articles, I discovered people would say things which were very, ah, for lack of a better word, politicized. The word politicize means "to make political in character" but I have come to interpret that as meaning to twist the facts, cherry pick the facts or outright lie. I would like to think that life can be factual - two plus two equals four - but became progressively disgusted at how people would bent the truth. They would say the correct answer is not four but five. I would back up from their conclusion to find where their interpretation of the problem is two plus three not two plus two. I would check where "three" came from only to discover their reasoning was specious.

Osama bin Laden is a terrorist.
Osama is a Muslim.
therefore
Muslims are terrorists.

I have actually seen this type of defective syllogism. But never mind specious reasoning, I have actually seen people lie. Lie! I get insulted. I get angry. I am offended that this person thinks I am gullible enough to accept whatever they say, that I am not going to bother to take the time to verify what they say. Yes, two plus three equals five but your three is based on all Muslims being terrorists.

Quotations
As well as references, I decided that quoting an expert was better than me writing my opinion. As such, I have to clarify that when I say one million words, not all of those words are mine. Yes, I did the research; yes, I found the materials, but what I wrote was me quoting an expert. Instead of me saying that two plus two equals five, I felt it would be or at least sound more authoritative to write:

Two plus two equals five.
- Albert Einstein


If I say it, aren't you going to be thinking, "Just who the heck does this guy think he is? Albert Einstein?"

I violate rules about blogging
10 rules for responsible blogging. Six rules of blogging (that also apply to Twitter). Five Blogging Rules to Make a Great First Impression. The 11 Definitive Rules of Blogging. The New York Times' 10 Rules For Blogging. Top 3 Blogging Rules. Oh, and finally, how about 5 Blogging Rules You Should Break?

Apparently you should blog about a single topic. I don't. I'm all over the map and I can now see the problem one supposed expert described. A reader drops by to read one of my postings on divorce only to come back the next day and find my posting Krispy Kreme Burgers: Gag me with a spoon. Or they read my review of the movie Contagion then drop back and find a posting on politics like Michele Bachmann, a Corn Dog and the Oral Office.

Some say you should post every day; some say you should post only when you have something to say. Since October 1, 2010, I have posted at least once every day although I may be guilty of throwing some "filler" in there once in a while. If you ever see a posting consisting of a music video, that means I ran out of steam and couldn't think of anything else to do. Yes, I throw in the lyrics with a references section but I am essentially too tired or too uninspired to actually write something. That's filler.

On the other hand, I've passed a motivated weekend researching and writing (I currently live alone) and have managed to crank out ten thousand words.

I cross-post on Open Salon, Zimbio, Oye! Times and occasionally NaBloPoMo. Does this help to up my pageviews? Beats me. Curiously enough I have noted that Open Salon seems to be a world unto itself. It seems that people only read what's in Open Salon and even though I provide a link back to my blog, very few people ever click out of Open Salon.

I also post to Facebook and Twitter. I have set up automatic feeds from my blog to these social media sites but manually add entries either about news items or to repost my own blog entries. How much does doing this add to my site traffic? I haven't got the foggiest. My stats do show some pageviews originating from Twitter and Facebook but not very much. Then again, I don't have that many friends or followers.

Alexa
I discovered this web site tracking service in November 2010 and have been looking at my score ever since. I started at 18 million and am now down to 2.3 million. Note that Google is number one. Now this may seem like an improvement, but I've come to understand that in the big picture this doesn't mean diddly-squat.

Heather Thompson of Dooce.Com has managed to turn her blog into a commercial enterprise. Her Alexa score is 16,000 and she gets 5 million pageviews per month. I've been on-line for 1 year and 4 months and only have 75,000 pageviews in total!

Final Word
According to the Global Language Monitor, as of September 14, 2011, there are 1,010,649 words in the English language. I am positive that out of my million, I have repeated a lot of those words and covered just a fraction of the total available. Me write words few. Sorry, I'm having a Yoda moment.

I started writing a blog as an experiment. I had no idea of what I was doing or where I was going. It's been over a year and I still don't know what I'm doing or where I'm going. I have certainly learned that there are a lot, and I mean a lot of people out there writing who are smarter and funnier than I am and who have a better command of the English language than I do. Grammatical mistakes? Spelling errors? Run-on sentences and a lack of logic? Strunk and White are turning over in their graves.

Pauline Gaines of the web site Perils of Divorced Pauline publishes something she calls Blogger Space. Every Sunday she features a picture of where a blogger writes with a short description about the space written by the blogger in question. She asked me to submit something and I hesitated wondering what I could do that was entertaining. This is what I sent her (including a picture of my laptop perched on the seat of my toilet):

It was a tough decision: do something serious or do something (hopefully) funny. Well, when you live in a tiny apartment, you ofttimes go for the funny. It's better than sobbing uncontrollably.

The photo: ah, the challenge of perching one's laptop on the throne while overcoming the precarious nature of gravity. After all, it's not like I'm "flush" with cash and can go buy a new one if this one gets wet. But how could anyone pass up an opportunity to dig out every puerile scatological reference they could think of? Then there are the potential guffaws from associating this with multi-tasking. Of course, in picturing my balancing act ending up in the drink, I began to think about the phrase "laptop in a bowl". For some reason it sounded to me like a gelato specialty dessert in a high-priced restaurant; the laptop would be a wafer sticking out of a stemmed glass cup.

If anything, I hope it is a reminder that we are not here for a long time, we are here for a good time. In the grand scheme of things, I know that I am merely a single grain of sand on the beach of life and my contribution to the background cacophony of seven billion voices is just a blip meriting an allusion to the posterior of a rodent: Who gives a rat's ass? At the heart of the writing process is some sort of (psychotic) urge to put it down on paper. I think of this quote which so far I haven't been able to attribute to anyone:

"A writer is an egomaniac with low self-esteem".

And so, another day, another blog posting. NoBloPoMo is now checked off. What's next? NaNoWriMo? As I look again at my blogger statistics and the dearth of pageviews, I lean back in my chair, look upwards to the ceiling with a contemplative expression while wondering which benefactor is going to bequeath the posterior of a rodent to me. 7 billion people. That's a lot of competition for your attention. I better get smarter and funnier.


References
The following are some of my blog postings about writing. Some are specifically about blogging; some are about writing books.

Blogging: Using Google as a research tool
Blogging: Does crossposting increase traffic?
Writing for Blogging for Money for a Living
Kindle E-books Overtake Paper Books
Writing: Stories in tweets
Blogging: Just another drop in the bucket
Dean Wesley Smith: Dean of Star Trek
Gay male romance for women
Amanda Hocking: indie author goes viral
authonomy.com: maybe this doesn't help writers
Holly Lisle: before I'm 25, I want to write a book.
Writing: November Challenges
NaBloPoMo: National Blog Posting Month
Assembly Line Writing: churning it out
James Patterson: some don't like me, many more do
Writing: Less is more: the drabble
NaNoWriMo: Write a novel in 1 month?
On Writing by Stephen King

2011-09-14

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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Radical Islam: The (supposed) threat to America

What should we be afraid of? What threatens our culture and our way of life? What is the danger?

I ran across a blogger innocently enough inviting her readers to look at some films all devoted to the idea that radical Islam is a threat to America. Radical anything in my view is not a good thing but is somebody specifically zeroing in on "radical Islam" to put forward a personal or political agenda which is not focusing on the bigger picture? I researched the 2005 documentary "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" and the 2009 documentary "The Third Jihad". I discovered the film maker and/or producer is Raphael Shore, a Canadian-Israeli film writer, producer, and rabbi. I found out he is the founder of The Clarion Fund, a non-profit organization that seeks to advance the idea that the United States is threatened by radical Islam.

On the official move web site for Obsession, I find this quote from Glenn Beck: "I believe this is the most important movie of our lifetime, I was born in 1964, I can't tell you of a movie that I think is more important."

Glenn Beck himself admits that he is an entertainer. "I'm a rodeo clown."(NY Times) That pretty much sums up how I take Beck seriously about anything. He is a ring wing Conservative extremist who sees conspiracies everywhere and whose message to America is one of fear. Like Chicken Little saying the sky is falling, Beck represents everything which is nutty at the far end of the spectrum. Sadly, his popularity indicates that there are many Americans who share in his dismal, myopic, America-centric view of the world.

Beck's endorsement of the film Obsession is for me a warning light, a red flare, a compressed air horn alerting me to the danger of a biased, narrowly focused analysis of the situation.

I return to my original question: what should we be afraid of?

Timothy McVeigh was Roman Catholic
The Oklahoma City Bombing of April 19, 1995 was the deadliest act of terrorism within the United States until 9/11. 167 people were killed and more than 680 injured. The perpetrator, Timothy McVeigh, was Roman Catholic. (Wikipedia)

Anders Breivik is Protestant
The Norway attacks took place on July 22, 2011 and consisted of two events. The bombing of a government building in Oslo resulted in eight deaths and the mass shooting at a camp on the island of Utøya left 69 people dead. The perpetrator, Anders Breivik, is Protestant. (Wikipedia)

Baruch Goldstein was Jewish
Hebron is the largest city in the West Bank in Israel and home to about 165,000 Palestinians. On February 25, 1994, this American-born Jewish physician, dressed in his army uniform, entered the Cave of the Patriarchs serving as a mosque carrying an IMI Galil assault rifle and four magazines of ammunition, which held a total of 140 rounds in 35 rounds per each magazine. Standing in front of the only exit from the cave and positioned to the rear of the Muslim worshippers, he opened fire, killing 29 people and wounding another 125. According to survivors, he bided his time until sojud, the prayer said while worshippers kneel towards Mecca. After someone in the crowd hurled a fire extinguisher which struck him on the head, he was overcome and then beaten to death. Baruch Goldstein was Jewish. (Wikipedia)

Pastor Terry Jones is Christian
This Gainesville, Florida minister announced to the world his plan to burn the Qur'an on September 11, 2010, the ninth anniversary of 9/11. In his opinion, Islam is "a false religion" that will lead people to hell. Due to protests from all sectors of society including President Obama, Jones didn't do it. However, he did carry out his threat on March 20, 2011 and burned the Holy Book. On April 1, 2011 protestors in the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, protesting this burning, attacked a United Nations Assistance Mission, killing at least 12 people, including at least 7 U.N. workers. (Wikipedia)

Dominionism: Christian Governance of the United States
On August 14, 2011, The Daily Beast published an article by Michelle Goldberg entitled "A Christian Plot for Domination?" in which she describes how Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are closely associated with a theocratic strain of Christian fundamentalism known as Dominionism. Let's touch upon a couple of points to ensure we all know the details. Theocracy is a form of government in which a state is understood as governed by immediate divine guidance provided to ruling clergy or other ruling officials. (Wikipedia) Dominionism, in the context of politics and religion, is the tendency among some politically active conservative Christians to seek influence or control over secular civil government through political action, especially in the United States. (Wikipedia)

Ms. Goldberg writes: "Put simply, Dominionism means that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions." This statement is startling and just a tad hard to believe. In fact the author goes on to point this out by saying that "ordinary people" call her and others writing about this as paranoid. However, Ms. Goldberg comes to the table with quite a degree of authority on the subject being the author of the book "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism", her thorough firsthand reporting of the Christian right In America. (see my blog: Michele Bachmann and the far, far, far, far, far right)

Dearborn, Michigan: Watch out for extremists!
On June 18, 19 and 20, 2010, Dearborn played host to the 15th Annual Dearborn Arab International Festival. As per the web site of American Arab Chamber of Commerce, this event is described with the following: "Highlights of the festival include 30-international food booths, large carnival, interactive children's stage, Arab merchandise, calligraphy, and bread making." Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly Jr. and Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad call the festival a family event.

During the festival, four "Christian" missionaries of a small extremist group called the Acts 17 Apologetics which actively seeks to convert Muslims to Christianity were arrested by police for disturbing the peace when they deliberately escalated their disruptive behaviour for the purposes of inciting an incident. Surprisingly enough, the initial complaint lodged against the group was made by a Christian volunteer at the festival.

The papers were awash in the false story of Christians being arrested by Muslims or because of Muslims. Even Newt Gingrich weighed in on this by stating in a letter: "This is a clear case of freedom of speech and the exercise of religious freedom being sacrificed in deference to shari'a's intolerance against the preaching of religions other than Islam."

The Christian mayor, the Christian chief of police and the Christian arresting officers testified that this group comes to Dearborn with the intent to disrupt a local cultural festival and misrepresent facts in order to further their mission of raising funds through emotional response. Newt Gingrich thinks this indicates shari'a law? (see my blog: Dearborn, Michigan: Watch out for extremists!)

Extremism: I'm right and you're wrong
Radical Islam is a threat. Yes, but radical Christianity is a threat. Radical anything is a threat. We sit in a country where the majority seem to be Christian. The country claims to be multi-cultural but just how pluralistic is it really? How much xenophobia do we collectively have? We fear what we do not understand so just how much do we understand and how much have we attempted to understand without fear mongering? (see my blog: Extremism: I'm right and you're wrong)

"We have met the enemy and he is us."
- Pogo by cartoonist Walt Kelly (1913 - 1973)

All extremists should be taken out and shot.
- Anonymous but repeated by comedian Steven Wright

Are we worrying about the right things?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 33,808 people died in traffic accidents in the United States in 2009.

According to UNAIDS.Org 1.8 million died from AIDS in 2009. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 18,000 people die each year from AIDS.

The World Health Organisation estimates that almost one million people die from suicide every year. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), there were 34,598 suicides in the United States in 2007.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.6 million are murdered each year worldwide. The CDC states there were 18,361 homicides in 2007.

Final Word
Radical is not a good word. Extremism is not a good word. There are two problems with the expression radical Islam.

First of all, it puts the focus on Islam and doesn't put the focus on radical. It completely misses the fact that there are radical Christians whose aim in life is to take over the country and eventually to take over the world.

Secondly, it poorly assesses radicalism, where it comes from and how to deal with it. Let's not forget that the Bush administration convinced all of us, convinced the world that it had to invade Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction and its links to al Qaeda. It has been proven many times over that neither one of those reasons was valid. (see my blog: Donald Rumsfeld, 9/11 and the War on Terror)

Fear mongering does what exactly? Are you going to start distrusting your Muslim neighbours? Will you avoid shopping at Muslim owned stores? Is one of you going to take it upon themselves to spray graffiti on the wall of the local mosque? Where is anybody going with this? Are the newspapers going to print pictures of the villagers armed with torches storming the Islamic centre?

When I read about the attacks in Norway carried out by a supposed Christian, I was shocked. When I watched the television coverage of Pastor Terry Jones burning the Qur'an, I was ashamed. When I see the media coverage of ring wing Conservative extremists like Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry or even Glenn Beck, I am afraid of the possible direction in which the vocal minority could take the country, could take all of us. Distrust begets distrust. Hate begets hate. Violence begets violence.

Radical Islam is a threat to America? How about radical Christianity? What about radical anything?


References

Wikipedia: Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West
Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West, also called Obsession, is a controversial 2005 documentary film about the perceived threat of radical Islam to Western civilization. Using extensive Arab television footage it claims to give an 'insider's view' of the hatred preached by radicals to incite global jihad and seek world domination. It also draws parallels between WWII's Nazi movement and Islamism and the West's response to those threats.

movie web site: Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West
"I believe this is the most important movie of our lifetime, I was born in 1964, I can't tell you of a movie that I think is more important." - Glenn Beck, CNN Headline News

Wikipedia: Clarion Fund
Clarion Fund is a New York City-based nonprofit organization founded in 2006 whose stated mission is "to educate Americans about issues of national security," with its main focus on what it calls "the most urgent threat of radical Islam." The organization was founded by Canadian-Israeli film producer Raphael Shore.

Clarion Fund: National Security Through Education
CLARION FUND, Inc. is an independently-funded non-profit organization that produces and distributes documentaries on the threats of Radical Islam.

Wikipedia: The Third Jihad
The Third Jihad: Radical Islam's Vision For America is a [2009] documentary film made by Wayne Kopping on the subject of radical Islam in present day United States. (Produced by Raphael Shore)

movie web site: The Third Jihad: Radical Islam's Vision for America
The Third Jihad, the newest offering from the producers of the captivating documentary film, Obsession, explores the existence of radical Islam in America and the emerging risk that this “homegrown jihad” poses to national security, western liberties and the “American way of life.”

Wikipedia: Raphael Shore
Raphael Shore is an Canadian-Israeli film writer, producer, and rabbi. He is the founder of The Clarion Fund, a non-profit organization that seeks to advance the idea that the United States faces a threat of radical Islam.

Wikipedia: Zuhdi Jasser
Zuhdi Jasser, also known as M. Zuhdi Jasser, and Mohamed Zuhdi Jasser, is a commentator on the topic of the Islamic faith in the United States, and the President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix, Arizona. A medical doctor, he is a former Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy, and staff physician to the U.S. Congress.
...
According to The Washington Post, Jasser's group has "made two controversial films about the dangers of radical Islam". Jasser was featured in the PBS film Islam v Islamists. He was the main narrator in the Clarion Fund film, The Third Jihad, which claims that Muslim radicals have infiltrated the U.S. in order to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state. The claims of stealth jihad and cultural jihad are based on a single document written by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1990s that was used in a successful U.S. prosecution of an Islamic charity for laundering money to Hamas. According to The New Republic the producer of the film has ties to the Israeli settlement movement. Although Jasser has said he does not agree with everything in the film, he supports the overall message. Jasser also appeared in the 2010 Newt Gingrich film, America At Risk: The War With No Name, a production of Citizens United. The film claims there is a global movement to impose sharia law on all aspects of society and has been described as "anti-Obama" by The Nation.


Wikipedia: Jack Moline
Jack Moline (born August 10, 1952) is an American Conservative rabbi who has served as rabbi of Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, Virginia since 1987 and Director of Public Policy for the Rabbinical Assembly since 2009, and is a past Chair of the Board of the Interfaith Alliance.

In 2008, he was named by Newsweek magazine as one of the top pulpit rabbis in America (#3 in a list of 25), and in 2010 and 2011 as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America. He has served in numerous leadership positions for Jewish, interfaith, and community organizations, and has advised key religious and political leaders of the United States on issues of religion and values. In 1995, he helped write President Bill Clinton's famous "Shalom, Haver" eulogy for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Wikipedia: Jack Moline: Interfaith affairs
He has also taken a strong stand against those who attack Islam in general or individual Muslims regardless of their own words and actions, and therefore was a strong voice among those who rebuked Republican congressman Allen West for his “intemperate” comments about Muslim Democratic congressman Keith Ellison and his Islamic faith. Moline was also one of the religious leaders to speak out against Rep. Peter T. King’s 2011 congressional hearings on "the radicalization of American Muslims." In 2009 he spoke on the topic of "Preventing Future Holocausts" during a tour of the United States Holocaust Museum by a group of rabbis and imams from ten European nations.

Moline is on the steering committee of "Shoulder to Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values," which describes itself as "a campaign of national faith-based organizations and religious denominations to promote tolerance and put an end to anti-Muslim bigotry." In a March 2010 statement, the group wrote that

"As American religious leaders, we share a deep sense of obligation to call upon our fellow citizens to treat each other with compassion and honesty, and to foster an ethical commitment to bedrock American values such as pluralism and religious freedom, mutuality and respect—values also at the core of our religious traditions."

For similar reasons, he was an outspoken critic of the 2005 documentary film "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," which he described as "a thinly-veiled call for disparagement and distrust of all Muslims."

Wikipedia: Veneration of Goldstein and celebration of the massacre
The gravesite has become a pilgrimage site for "Israeli extremists"; a plaque near the grave reads "To the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish people, the Torah and the nation of Israel."
...
At Goldstein's funeral, Rabbi Yaacov Perrin claimed that even one million Arabs are "not worth a Jewish fingernail."
...
Samuel Hacohen, a teacher at a Jerusalem college, declared Goldstein the "greatest Jew alive, not in one way but in every way" and said that he was "the only one who could do it, the only one who was 100 percent perfect."
...
In the weeks following the massacre, hundreds of Israelis traveled to Goldstein's grave to celebrate Goldstein's actions. Some Hasidim danced and sang around his grave.
...
Some visitors kissed and hugged the gravestone, or even kissed the earth under which Goldstein was buried, declaring him a "saint" and "hero of Israel."


New York Times - Mar 9/1994
From Orthodox Jewish Education to Hebron; Scripture Distorted
To the Editor:

"One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail," said Rabbi Yaacov Perrin in his eulogy of Dr. Baruch Goldstein (news article, Feb. 28). The original Hebraic phraseology comes from the Midrash to Deuteronomy which, typically, elaborates on the sparse biblical description of the death of Moses.

God informs Moses that He can either pardon the Israelites for having made the Golden Calf or permit Moses to enter the Promised Land, but not both, whereupon Moses immediately responds, "Let Moses and a thousand like him be destroyed but let not the fingernail of a single Israelite be harmed."

That the lunatic fringe of the ultra-orthodox distort the ethical humanism of all that is noblest in the Zionist dream is not enough. They also diabolically distort Jewish sacred texts out of all recognition. The question "Who is a Jew?" begins to assume unforeseen dimensions when "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." (Rabbi) ALAN W. MILLER Clinical Associate Prof. of Theology in Psychiatry, Cornell Medical College New York, March 1, 1994

2011-09-13

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Monday, 12 September 2011

Donald Rumsfeld, 9/11 and the war on terror

Let there be no mistake about it, 9/11 was a horrific event. The media coverage shot around the world meant that people everywhere were in the know for better and for worse. Even those who were on the other side of the globe were psychologically traumatised by the disturbing images. Everyone is marked by this defining moment with "I remember where I was when..."

At the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, commentators, pundits and journalists have turned their attention to analyzing and assessing all that transpired before and after. Why did it happen in the first place? Has enough been done to ensure it will never happen again?

Donald Rumsfeld (born 1932) has the twin distinction of having been the youngest and oldest person to have served as Secretary of Defense. At the age of 43, he was the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, and then at the age of 74 was the 21st Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. According to Wikipedia, Rumsfeld was sworn in shortly after Bush took office on January 20, 2001 because Bush's first choice, FedEx founder Fred Smith, was unavailable.

On September 11, 2011, The Globe and Mail wrote (Looking back, I was right, Rumsfeld says of Bush-era wars by Paul Koring):

In a Sept. 11 interview, Mr. Rumsfeld told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that the Iraq war was worthwhile, despite the absence of Baghdad’s involvement with al-Qaeda and its alleged arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. “I think the world is certainly a better place with Saddam Hussein gone,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Okay. But what about any number of despots or dictators elsewhere in the world? North Korea's Kim Jong il? Libya's Muammar Gaddafi? Egypt's Hosni Mubarak? Syria's Bashar al-Assad? Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh?

The war will last 6 months
"It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to U.S. troops in Aviano, Italy; Feb 7/2002 (USA Today)

The War in Iraq started on March 20, 2003. All U.S. forces are scheduled to be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011. (Wikipedia) That is eight years, nine months and eleven days.

The War in Afghanistan started on October 7, 2001. President Barak Obama has stated that all troops will be out of the country by 2014. (Wikipedia: War in Afghanistan)

The war will cost $50 billion
In 2002, Larry Lindsey, director of the National Economic Council under Bush, was ousted after he said in an interview in the Wall Street Journal that the war would cost $100 to $200 billion. Rumsfeld called this "baloney" while suggesting that $50 to $60 billion was an accurate assessment. (Wikipedia: Lawrence B. Lindsey: The Iraq controversy)

In 2008, Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes, both of whom are American economists, published the book "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict". The book uncovers many hidden expenses of the war including caring for wounded veterans for the rest of their lives. They calculate the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts exceed (as of 2008) the cost of the 12-year war in Viet Nam, more than double the cost of the Korean War and projected, will be ten times the cost of the first Gulf conflict. (The Sunday Times)

The Fiscal Times wrote on September 6, 2011:

The U.S. launched a global War on Terror in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the most deadly strikes against domestic targets by foreigners in U.S. history. Beyond the incalculable human cost of nearly 3,000 civilian deaths, and the subsequent deaths of over 6,000 soldiers, 2,300 contractors and hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi soldiers, policemen and civilians, the fateful choices made after the attacks had profound ramifications for the U.S. government and continues to be a major contributor to its fiscal woes. If one includes both the next decade’s interest payments on the debt-financed wars and future veterans’ benefits, the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is now estimated to reach more than $5 trillion.

Weapons of Mass Destruction
U.S. Department of Defense, News Transcript, March 30, 2003
Secretary Rumsfeld Remarks on ABC "This Week with George Stephanopoulos"

Mr. Stephanopoulos:
Key goal of the military campaign is finding those weapons of mass destruction. None have been found yet. There was a raid on the Answar Al-Islam Camp up in the north last night. A lot of people expected to find ricin there. None was found. How big of a problem is that? And is it curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction?

Sec. Rumsfeld:
Not at all. If you think -- let me take that, both pieces -- the area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

Al Jazeera - Sep 11/2011
Colin Powell regrets Iraq war intelligence

"It turned out, as we discovered later, that a lot of sources that had been attested to by the intelligence community were wrong," Powell said in Washington, DC.

"I understood the consequences of that failure and, as I said, I deeply regret that the information - some of the information, not all of it - was wrong," said the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"It has blotted my record, but - you know - there's nothing I can do to change that blot. All I can say is that I gave it the best analysis that I could."

The Connection between Iraq and Al Qaida
September 26, 2002: The United States has accused Iraq of having long-standing links with the al-Qaeda network. Two senior Bush administration figures, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, made the allegations - without giving detailed information to back them up. (BBC)

September 17, 2003: Breaking with other top Bush administration officials, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld disputed the possibility yesterday that Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. "I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say" Saddam was linked to Al Qaeda's suicidal hijackings, Rumsfeld said. (New York Daily News)

Special Envoy to the Middle East: 1983
Rumsfeld served from November 1983 to May 1984 as Special Envoy to the Middle East for Ronald Reagan. He visited Baghdad on December 19 - 20, 1983 and had a 90 minute meeting with Saddam Hussein. This was in the middle of the Iran-Iraq War (Sep 1980 - Aug 1988) during which over a half a million people, soldiers and civilians were killed.

During his brief bid for the 1988 Republican nomination, Rumsfeld stated that restoring full relations with Iraq was one of his best achievements. This was not a particularly controversial position at a time when U.S. policy considered a totalitarian yet secular Iraq to be an effective bulwark against the expansion of Iranian revolutionary Islamist influence. (Wikipedia)

Baghdad Museum actions: 2003
After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was a great deal of lawlessness. The U.S. was criticized for not doing more to protect historical artefacts and treasures plus museums and other cultural institutions.

When asked at the time why U.S. troops did not actively seek to stop the lawlessness, Rumsfeld infamously replied, "Stuff happens ... and it's untidy and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here." (Wikipedia)

Calls for resignation: 2006
In an unprecedented move in modern U.S. history, eight retired generals and admirals called for Rumsfeld to resign in early 2006 in what was called the "Generals Revolt," accusing him of "abysmal" military planning and lack of strategic competence. Scott Ritter, a former intelligence advisor to General Schwarzkopf and UNSCOM inspector publicly called Rumsfeld a "Cold War Dinosaur" and "out of touch with reality". Rumsfeld rebuffed these criticisms, stating that "out of thousands and thousands of admirals and generals, if every time two or three people disagreed we changed the secretary of defense of the United States, it would be like a merry-go-round." Commentator Pat Buchanan reported at the time that "Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who travels often to Iraq and supports the war, says that the generals' and admirals' views mirror those of 75 percent of the officers in the field, and probably more." Bush responded to the criticism by stating that Rumsfeld is "exactly what is needed". (Wikipedia)

There are unknown unknowns
[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know.
- Donald Rumsfeld, Feb 12/2002
DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers

The above statement was made by Rumsfeld on February 12, 2002 at a press briefing where he addressed the absence of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups.
(Wikipedia: There are known knowns)

From the Decider himself
Time Magazine: The President Will Now Answer Your Questions
By Mike Allen/Philadelphia - Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2005

Squinting into the television lights, Bush later called on Faeze Woodville, 44, of Stratford, Pa., who cares for two sons at home. "Mr. President," she began, "I would like to know why it is that you and others in your administration keep linking 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq when no respected journalist or Middle Eastern expert confirmed that such a link existed." She got a burst of applause—this was no Bush-Cheney campaign audience. The President and other administration officials have often implied a link between Saddam Hussein and the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, and polls have shown that lots of Americans believe it. Bush was not so forthcoming with this answer. "I appreciate that," he began, which is the way he often begins the answers to questions he does not appreciate. He repeated some of his stock lines about how 9/11 had changed his view of foreign policy and then got even bigger applause by concluding: "Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country." Chatting afterward with reporters from TIME and The Washington Post, Woodville said she was disappointed by the non-answer. "He must think we're morons," she said.

Final Word
9/11 was a tragedy. Justice was demanded and whether we will admit it or not, revenge was a glint in our eyes. However, in the wake of the event, any criticism of the Bush administration was tantamount to treason and was the need to do something, anything at all, a factor in blinding our leaders and possibly blinding all of us as to what happened, why it happened and what was the best course of action afterwards?

Human beings can be resilient, brave, hard-working and self-sacrificing when presented with a cause. However, our leaders are not gods; they are mere mortals subject to same emotions of revenge, short-sightedness and pride as we are. They can just as well make a bad decision as we can. Unfortunately, their bad decision involves more zeros, a lot more zeros.

10 years after 9/11, the papers are filled with articles questioning what has happened after the event, the decisions that were made and the actions carried out trying to determine if we are better off than we were. Whatever the case, at the end of the day, at the end of this decade, what has happened is so big, so unbelievably huge, "it just is". We are obliged to contend with the current state of affairs. We can't change anything; we must deal with what is.

The old saying is that history repeats itself. Will we learn anything? Knowing what we know now, would we collectively spend $5 trillion to topple Saddam? What about Gaddafi? Or Kim Jong il? Would we spend $5 trillion to go after a single man and his extremist ideology?

We will all be discussing this from here to eternity trying to determine the truth and playing What if? scenarios. There will be no "right" answer. However, if you had $5 trillion, what would you do to make the world a better place?


References

Wikipedia: Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Henry Rumsfeld (born July 9, 1932) is an American politician and businessman. As a government official, Rumsfeld served as the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977, under President Gerald Ford, and as the 21st Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006, under President George W. Bush. He is both the youngest (at 43 years old) and the oldest person (at 74 years old) to have served as Secretary of Defense.

About.Com: Donald Rumsfeld Quotes

The Fiscal Times - Sep 6/2011
9/11 and the $5 Trillion Aftermath by Merrill Goozner
In the last four budget years of President Clinton’s term in office (fiscal years 1998 through 2001), the U.S. ran a $559.3 billion surplus. In the succeeding eight years (fiscal years 2002 through 2009), the U.S. ran a $3.5 trillion deficit. Even if one excludes the $1.4 trillion deficit of 2009, when the economy was in freefall from the financial crisis, the Bush administration racked up over $2 trillion in deficits despite unemployment falling below 5 percent thanks to the housing bubble.

The Center for American Progress - Sep 1/2011
Think Again: War Is Hell
On September 23, 2002, at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Al Gore explained to his listeners that instead of President George H.W. Bush’s prudence, his son was embarking on a policy that would squander “the international outpouring of sympathy, goodwill, and solidarity that followed the attacks of September 11.”
...
A young African American Illinois state senator made a similar argument at a rally organized by Chicagoans Against War in Iraq in October 2002. Barack Obama had supported the war in Afghanistan, but he predicted that “even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda."

The Australian - Feb 28/2008
Iraq war 'caused slowdown in the US'
Professor Stiglitz, an academic at the Columbia Business School and a former economic adviser to president Bill Clinton, said...

"When the Bush administration went to war in Iraq it obviously didn't focus very much on the cost. Larry Lindsey, the chief economic adviser, said the cost was going to be between $US100billion and $US200 billion - and for that slight moment of quasi-honesty he was fired.

"(Then defence secretary Donald) Rumsfeld responded and said 'baloney', and the number the administration came up with was $US50 to $US60 billion. We have calculated that the cost was more like $US3 trillion.

"Three trillion is a very conservative number, the true costs are likely to be much larger than that."

Five years after the war, the US was still spending about $US50billion every three months on direct military costs, he said.

Wikipedia: Lawrence B. Lindsey: The Iraq controversy
Lawrence B. Lindsey was director of the National Economic Council (2001–2002)... He left the White House in December 2002 and was replaced by Stephen Friedman after he estimated the cost of the Iraq war could reach $200 billion.
...
On September 15, 2002, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lindsey estimated the high limit on the cost of the Bush administration's plan in 2002 of invasion and regime change in Iraq to be 1-2% of GNP, or about $100–$200 billion. Mitch Daniels, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, subsequently discounted this estimate as "very, very high" and stated that the costs would be between $50–$60 billion. This lower figure was endorsed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who called Lindsey's estimate "baloney".

Wikipedia: The Three Trillion Dollar War
The Three Trillion Dollar War is a 2008 book by Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes, both of whom are American economists. The book examines the full cost of the Iraq War, including many hidden costs. The book also discusses the extent to which these costs will be imposed for many years to come, paying special attention to the enormous expenditures that will be required to care for very large numbers of wounded veterans. The authors conclude by illustrating the opportunity cost of the resources spent on waging the war.

official web site: The Three Trillion Dollar War

The Gobe and Mail - Sep 11/2011
Looking back, I was right, Rumsfeld says of Bush-era wars by Paul Koring
A decade after America launched its “war on terror,” Donald Rumsfeld, the irascible neo-conservative defence secretary on Sept. 11, 2001, and champion of toppling the Taliban and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, marked the anniversary with a combative defence of the Bush-era wars.

Wikipedia: Cobra II
Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq is a 2006 book written by Michael R. Gordon, chief military correspondent for The New York Times, and Bernard E. Trainor, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, which details the behind-the-scenes decision-making leading to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It then follows, in depth, the invasion itself and the early months of the occupation through summer 2003.

The New York Times - Mar 28/2006
How the Iraq War Was Planned and Launched by Sean Naylor
A work of prodigious research, "Cobra II" will likely become the benchmark by which other histories of the Iraq invasion are measured. Note the word invasion. Cobra II was the name United States commanders gave the operation to depose Saddam Hussein's regime. It is the story of the planning, execution and immediate aftermath of that invasion that is related by Michael R. Gordon, The New York Times's chief military correspondent, and Bernard E. Trainor, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general and former military correspondent for The Times, in "Cobra II."
...
the authors present a damning indictment of the Bush administration's national security team.
...
Obsessed with minimizing the size of the invading force, Secretary Rumsfeld dismissed advice from experts inside and outside government who argued for a larger contingent than the 140,000 or so troops sent into Iraq. His efforts "played havoc" with the military's preparations, according to the authors, and sowed the seeds for the anarchy that followed the fall of the Hussein regime.
...
although planning for the Iraq invasion began within weeks of Al Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, a combination of hubris, arrogance, naïveté and sheer incompetence meant that little attention was paid to what the military terms "Phase IV," or post-conflict operations.
...
"Cobra II" provides fascinating insights into what went wrong in the first critical weeks after the fall of Baghdad. What stands out in particular is the frustration of the military leaders on the ground with decisions taken by their political bosses.
...
The consensus of the military leaders quoted in "Cobra II" is that these decisions, combined with the lack of enough troops to restore order, caused the United States to miss a window of opportunity and lose the initiative in the weeks following the invasion. In a reference to the insurgency that erupted in the power vacuum created by these mistakes, Mr. Gordon and General Trainor conclude that "none of this was inevitable."

2011-09-12

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