Monthly Archives: December 2012

Senate Sends Letter Calling ZD30 on Torture

As you may have already read about, the new film Zero Dark Thirty, which alleges to be the fact-based re-telling of the capture and execution of Bin Laden strongly suggests — regardless of all evidence to the contrary — that information obtained through torture was central to tracking down Bin Laden. The film has also been criticized because of the questionable access that its directors and writer have received from the CIA and White House.

Just yesterday, Senators Levin, Feinstein, and McCain have written a scathing letter directed to Sony Picture’s CEO and Chairman criticizing the film’s depiction of torture and stating in definitive terms that the evidence that led to the Bin Laden operation was not procured through torture, but through other unrelated means.

Senate Letter

They followed with a strong recommendation that that falsehood be corrected:

. . . but the fundamental problem is that people who see Zero Dark Thirty will believe that the events it portrays are facts. The film therefore has the potential to shape American public opinion in a disturbing and misleading manner. Recent public opinion polls suggest that a narrow majority of Americans believe that torture can be justified as an effective form of intelligence gathering. This is false. We know that cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners is an unreliable and highly ineffective means of gathering intelligence.

The use of torture should be banished from serious discourse for these reasons alone, but more importantly, because it is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, because it is an affront to America’s national honor, and because it is wrong. The use of torture in the fight against terrorism did severe damage to America’s values and standing that cannot be justified or expunged. It remains a stain on our national conscience. We cannot afford to go back to these dark times, and with the release of Zero Dark Thirty, the filmmakers and your production are perpetuating the myth that torture is effective. You have a social and moral obligation to get the facts rights.

Please consider correcting the impression that the CIA’s use of coercive interrogation techniques led to the operation against Usama Bin Laden. It did not.

Now, I think Senator McCain is one of the most hypocritical, cynical politicians in recent American memory — for example, he met with and reopened the doors to Gaddafi (including selling him US military technology) along with Condalezza Rice, not to mention  Sarah Palin, yet he can claim with a straight face that Ambassador Rice is unfit for the job of Secretary of State because of her statements on Libya — you do have to give him credit for singing this letter. I would like to know how he squares this with his objection to closing Guantanamo.

As a side note, it is nice to see someone correctly transcribe the name as “Usama” and not Osama, not just because Usama doesn’t rhyme with Obama, but because that is how it is pronounce, with a “U”.


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Filed under Essays, We The People

“How Much Do I Love You”

Parents shouldn’t fool themselves: it’s not that their child is a genius, it’s that all children are brilliant. It’s simply the nature of childhood.

So even though my kid, almost two years old now, may not be exceptional, it sure feels like it.

My wife speaks to our son in Moroccan Arabic, I speak to him in English, and we live in Spain (and he’ll probably go to French school). He is already able to completely distinguish between Arabic and English, and he instantaneously translates conversations between himself, my wife and me. So for example, I will tell him to ask my wife, “are we going outside” and he will immediately replicate what I have said in Arabic. When he asks my wife for something in Arabic and she says no, he’ll turn to me and repeat the question in English. And when he picks up the phone, he says, “Hola, muy bien, muy bien”.

One of the rituals my son and I have established is that every night when I put him to bed, we read three stories and sing a handful of songs. These songs change over time. Right now his favorites are “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer“, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, and “Jingle Bells”. Amazingly just after two weeks of singing Christmas songs, he already knows all of the lyrics and insists that he sings them all by himself.

We’ve already gone through a wide range of song phases that have included variations of “The Wheels on the Bus”, “Old MacDonald”, and the “Farmer in the Dell”, where I am required to change the lyrics to include different vehicle types (firetrucks instead of buses, etc) and include different family members — at his insistence — on the farm. When he was a little younger, I even sang him a host of my favorite “bedtime” tunes from Bob Marley, Billie Holiday, The Beatles, Jim Croce and Cyndi Lauper. Because I could never remember all of the lyrics, I would upload them onto my Kindle which I would then use as a cheat sheet while I sang to him. This didn’t last too long because first, the light on my Kindle became a distraction, and second because he was starting to learn more vocabulary, he wanted songs he could “understand” (ie, ones with trucks and animals).

So once I had to give up my Kindle cheat sheet, the only song that I could remember all of the lyrics to was my favorite Irving Berlin standard, “How Deep is the Ocean (How High is the Sky)“. But, he never much appreciated this song (once again, no wheels going round), so I always used it as the last song, just as he was starting to fade.

But I hadn’t sang “How Deep is the Ocean” in over two months.

Until last night. Out of the blue, he interrupts “Grandma goes to sleep, Grandma goes to sleep, hi-ho the diary-oh, Grandma goes to sleep” to insist that I sing …. “How much do I love you”, as in “How Deep is the Ocean”:

How much do I love you
Let me tell you know lies
How deep is the ocean,
How high is the sky

How many times a day do I think of you
How many roses are sprinkled with dew
How far would I travel to be where you are
How near is the distance from here to a star

And if I ever lost you,
how much would I cry
How deep is the ocean,
How high is the sky

And just now as I was telling him that we’d finished the last song, he once again insisted, “How much do I love you.”

Note my favorite version is the one by Joe Williams.

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Filed under Jazz, Married to a Moroccan, Parenthood

BLUES ette

Blues Ette

It’s that “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” when I am normally driving my family and neighbors crazy with Christmas music. While I’ve already got the tree up and probably exhausted my Christmas playlist, I have been more flexible this year and have found a little room for some non-festive tunes.

I just picked up trombonist Curtis Fuller’s BLUES ette, featuring Benny Golson, Tommy Flanagan, Jimmy Garrison and Al Harewood. And it’s highly recommended hardbop, if that’s your sort of thing. Also, if you are a Haruki Murakami fan like me, you’ll probably recall that the song “Five Spot at Dark” from this album was heavily featured in After Dark.

But if you would rather listen to Christmas music, the song I can’t get out of my head this year is “What Are You Doing New Year’s Evesung by Ella Fitzgerald.

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Filed under Essays, Jazz

More Moroccan Oud

Following up on my last post on the Moroccan oud, I recently found this video of outdated hairstyles and Hamid Zahir, a Moroccan singer who plays the oud with a more authentic (for lack of a better word) Moroccan style.  It’s fun stuff, even though, I much prefer his song “Ach dak temchi l zin“.

And if you are interested in the oud, here is a video of  Uncle Said (an in-law) playing with some friends in Italy.

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Filed under Jazz, Married to a Moroccan