As they went on their rampage, the
men who killed 12 people
in Paris this week yelled that they had “avenged the
prophet.” They followed in the path of other terrorists who have
bombed newspaper offices, stabbed a filmmaker and killed writers and
translators, all to mete out what they believe is the proper Koranic punishment
for blasphemy. But in fact, the Koran prescribes no punishment for blasphemy.
Like so many of the most fanatical and violent aspects of Islamic terrorism
today, the idea that Islam requires that insults against the prophet Muhammad
be met with violence is a creation of politicians and clerics to serve a
One holy book is deeply concerned
with blasphemy: the Bible. In the Old Testament, blasphemy and blasphemers are
condemned and prescribed harsh punishment. The best-known passage on this is Leviticus 24:16 :
“Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire
assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme
the Name they are to be put to death.”
By contrast, the word blasphemy
appears nowhere in the Koran. (Nor, incidentally, does the Koran anywhere
forbid creating images of Muhammad, though there are commentaries and
traditions — “hadith” — that do, to guard
against idol worship.) Islamic scholar
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan has pointed out that “there are more than
200 verses in the Koran, which reveal that the contemporaries of the prophets
repeatedly perpetrated the same act, which is now called ‘blasphemy or abuse of
the Prophet’ ... but nowhere does the Koran prescribe the punishment of lashes,
or death, or any other physical punishment.” On several occasions, Muhammad
treated people who ridiculed him and his teachings with understanding and
kindness. “In Islam,” Khan says, “blasphemy is a subject of intellectual
discussion rather than a subject of physical punishment.”
Somebody forgot to tell the
terrorists. But the gruesome and bloody belief the jihadis have adopted is all
too common in the Muslim world, even among so-called moderate Muslims — that
blasphemy and apostasy are grievous crimes against Islam and should be punished
Muslim-majority countries have laws against blasphemy and apostasy —
and in some places, they are enforced.
Pakistan is now the poster child
for the anti-blasphemy campaign gone wild. In March, at least 14 people were on
death row in that country, and 19 were serving life sentences, according to the
on International Religious Freedom. The owner of the country’s
largest media group has been sentenced to 26 years in
prison because one of his channels broadcast a devotional song about
Muhammad’s daughter while reenacting a wedding. (Really.) And Pakistan is not
alone. Bangladesh, Malaysia, Egypt, Turkey and Sudan have all used blasphemy
laws to jail and harass people. In moderate Indonesia, 120 people have been
detained for this reason since 2003. Saudi Arabia forbids the practice of any
religion other than its own Wahhabi version of Islam.
The Pakistani case is
instructive, because its extreme version of
anti-blasphemy law is relatively recent and a product of politics. Mohammed Zia
ul-Haq, Pakistan’s president during the late 1970s and 1980s, wanted
to marginalize the democratic and liberal opposition, and he embraced Islamic
fundamentalists, no matter how extreme. He passed a series of laws Islamizing
Pakistan, including a law that recommended the death penalty or life
imprisonment for insulting Muhammad in any way.
When governments try to curry favor
with fanatics, eventually the fanatics take the law into their own hands. In
Pakistan, jihadis have killed dozens of people whom they accuse of blasphemy,
including a brave politician, Salmaan Taseer,
who dared to call the blasphemy law a “black law.”
We should fight terrorism. But we
should also fight the source of the problem. It’s not enough for Muslim leaders
to condemn people who kill those they consider as blasphemers if their own
governments endorse the idea of punishing blasphemy at the very same time. The
U.S. religious freedom commission and the U.N. Human
Rights Committee have both declared that blasphemy laws violate
universal human rights because they violate freedom of speech and expression.
They are correct.
In Muslim-majority countries, no
one dares to dial back these laws. In Western countries, no one confronts
allies on these issues. But blasphemy is not a purely domestic matter, of
concern only to those who worry about countries’ internal affairs. It now sits
on the bloody crossroad between radical Islamists and Western societies. It
cannot be avoided anymore. Western politicians, Muslim leaders and
intellectuals everywhere should point out that blasphemy is something that does
not exist in the Koran and should not exist in the modern world.
EVEN A BROKEN CLOCK IS RIGHT TWICE A DAY. THESE GUYS AREN'T RIGHT ON MUCH OF ANYTHING - EVER:
“If this president is
re-elected, you’re gonna see chronic high unemployment continue for another
four years—or longer.”
---Mitt Romney on “Meet
The Press” September 2012
“Gas prices will be up at
around $6.60 per gallon.”
--Senator Mike Lee
(R-Utah) March 2012 on Senate Floor
“The country’s economy is
going to collapse if Obama is re-elected.”
--Rush Limbaugh on “The
Rush Limbaugh Show” September 2012
AND THIS JUST IN FROM NBC:
"Continuing a trend of solid job gains, the U.S. economy added 252,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.6%. The job gains were stronger than analysts had expected, and the unemployment rate is now 0.2% lower than in the previous month. Overall, 2014 marked the strongest year of job gains since 1999, adding 2.95 million new jobs total and an average monthly gain of 246,000."
The last time I saw you—or
thought I did—was back in 1962 on Christmas Eve when I scurried to our back
door only to be told by my mother that you had just ducked into a cab and
dashed off. That’s right, she said you tooka cab. I now know
that was baloney. You were actually in a sleigh on our roof at the time. But
mom was feeding me a line of misdirection to cover your tracks. I get that. Mom
doesn’t remember the incident. Actually, she doesn’t remember much of anything
anymore. Which is probably for the best because it seems that her cab story was
merely the tip of a Titanic-sized iceberg of lies I’ve been fed ever since.
Mom was doing her best. She
meant no harm. Neither did my teachers when, each and every school day, they
had us all stand up straight and tall, beside our desks—hands over hearts--and
pledge allegiance to “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Let me tell you Santa, the way
things are going, God may soon be demanding a retraction.
Last month, the Registrar of
Deeds for Southern Essex County in Massachusetts—a guy named John O’Brien—said
that his office has been a “crime scene” ever since
2008. He said that 75% of the foreclosures sought by Bank of America, Wells
Fargo & JP Morgan Chase (among others) were completely fraudulent. That’s
40,000 families being kicked out of their homes illegally in just one half
of one county in one state in the country. Which means, Santa, if you’re
delivering presents to any of said addresses (or millions of others like
them), those families may not live there anymore.
Since nobody from any of the
crooked banks will be going to jail for their crimes against America's middle class, can you
please put them on your “naughty” list? While a piece of coal in their
stockings is a small price to pay for what they did, at least it’s a start.
Also Santa, please be
especially sensitive when you visit Staten Island New York, Cleveland Ohio, and
Ferguson Missouri this Christmas Eve.
In Ferguson, there’s a lady
named Lesley. She had a son named Mike Brown. He was a big, burly 18 year old
kid who had just graduated from high school and—like a lot of teenage boys—got
into trouble occasionally as he tried to find his way in this crazy world. He
liked to play Call of Duty—Zombies and he never had a criminal record.
Mike was killed by a police officer. The cop, who fired 12 shots—two directly
into Mike’s head, said he had no other choice. Mike was unarmed. I don’t know
what that policeman is doing this Christmas Eve. But I’m pretty sure Lesley
will be crying.
Also Santa, there are six kids on
Staten Island who will never see their father again. Their dad’s name was Eric
Garner. He was jumped by a bunch of policeman while he stood on the sidewalk
with both arms raised. They wrestled him to the ground and choked him to death.
I know because I saw the video. It’s very tough to watch. While being choked,
he pleaded with the cops. “I can’t breathe,” he kept saying. He said it eleven
When you finally get to
Cleveland, Santa, I know you were planning to leave a little something under
the tree for twelve-year old Tamir Rice and his fourteen year-old sister. But
now he’s gone too. You see, a few weeks ago he was at the park across the
street from where they lived, playing with his toy airsoft gun, when a
Cleveland cop pulled up in a squad car and shot him dead—no questions asked.
The boy’s gut-wrenching murder—which was also captured on video—happened in
less than three seconds.
Santa, do you remember when my
son was a teenager and you brought him a toy airsoft gun and a zombie video
game? In those days, he too was a big burly kid, who occasionally found himself
in the wrong place at the wrong time when the local police in our tony Boston
suburb showed up. But everything worked out fine and he’s graduating from
college next year.
Then again, he’s white.
I’m an adult now Santa, and I
know you have your limits. You can’t bring that Cleveland boy (or any of those
other victims) back to life, or fill the heartbreaking void their families will
endure from now on. I’m also pretty sure that even you can’t make the words
“justice for all” ring true for me again—the way they used to when I was nine.
And I’m kind of sad about that.
Still Santa, I do have one
small request this year--which is definitely doable. If there’s any coal left
after you finish with those weasel-y Wall Street bankers, please put the rest
of it inside the stockings of a few select police union chiefs. You know the
ones I mean. Just maybe, coming from you, the message will finally sink in:
that they disgrace the uniforms of the vast majority of decent American cops by
standing in front of TV cameras making excuses for the murderers in their midst.
Losing the lease to the
family bakery’s landmark location of 61 years in a central part of Quincy and
moving to a less traveled part of town four years ago has been difficult on
Brian Jackle .
Foot traffic once attracted
Bakery by Jackle’s concoctions, like the doughy fusion of peanut
butter, banana, and chocolate he dubbed Elvis Bread, is much harder to come by
at its new location on Vernon Street.
But like a Hollywood fairy
tale, Jackle got a break a few months ago when a baker friend of his in
Somerville recommended O’Brien’s to the craft service team in charge of feeding
the crew on the set of “The Finest Hours,” a multimillion-dollar
Disney production filming in Quincy and Duxbury.
“They were looking for
six-foot subs,” Jackle said. “The guys from the movie called me and asked me,
and I said I can make them.”
Four hours of giant
sandwich-making helped establish a relationship between Jackle’s family-run
business and the film’s food and beverage contractors, who have continued to
place orders with the bakery, including a recent request for 100 bread bowls to
go with 4 gallons of steak chili and 2 gallons of broccoli-cheddar soup made by
Jackle’s mother, Muriel.
While the latest report
from the state Department of Revenue indicated that most of the spending
attributed to the Massachusetts film tax credit in 2012 went out of state, proponents of the
initiative say that an increasing number of locally filmed productions have
spread out beyond Boston, helping small businesses and tourism in the suburbs
from Lincoln to Quincy to Saugus.
The number of major
productions — those with budgets over $250,000 — filmed in the state annually
has more than tripled since 2011, going from nine to 30 this year, according to
the Massachusetts Film Office. And from 2011 to 2013, film production took
place in 108 Massachusetts communities, boosting local businesses from
restaurants to hardware stores, said Lisa Strout, director of the film agency.
businesses are so surprised when [film crews] are in a town for a week and
they’re buying 300 bagels every single day, or pizzas,” Strout said. “It goes
across all economic sectors. Car rental folks are very cognizant of the movie
industry, [as are] our lumber yards.”
One indicator that
Massachusetts is coming into its own as a filming destination is the
construction of the $41 million New England Studios, led by Chris Byers and a group of investors.
The complex, which opened
last year and now is on its second movie, features four sound stages totaling
72,000 square feet in the former Fort Devens Army base, which straddles Ayer,
Harvard, and Shirley.
“We were losing parts of
movies to California or to other states to do their sound-stage work because we
didn’t have anything that high caliber,” Strout said. “We’re really excited to
see how this affects the movie industry here.”
For Jackle, getting the call
from craft service for “The Finest Hours,” which is scheduled to continue
filming locally until January, has turned into an unexpected lifeline. Any time
an order comes in from the set, it’s in the hundreds of dollars, he said.
“It’s helping a lot,” he said.
“It’s been tough.’’
If film productions “do
more business from people like me and small businesses, it’s great.”
The mobile, unpredictable
nature of the movie-making industry makes it difficult for the state film
office, local chambers of commerce, and visitors bureaus to measure a
production’s full economic reach in the communities where they film, Strout
said. But one indicator, she said, is the growth in membership in local film
and television unions, among them the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees
Local 481 , headquartered in Woburn.
In 2006, when the state’s
film tax credit went into effect, the union, representing behind-the-scenes
workers such as set builders and electricians, had 325 members. It now boasts
about 900, said business manager Chris O’Donnell.
O’Donnell contends it
wouldn’t have happened if not for the tax incentive, which critics have said
doesn’t benefit the economy enough. Under the incentive, filmmakers who spend
more than $50,000 locally qualify for a 25 percent payroll tax credit; spending
more than 50 percent of a project’s total budget or filming at least 50 percent
of principal photography in Massachusetts qualifies projects for a 25 percent
production tax credit and a sales tax exemption.
In 2012, the most recent
year with data from the Department of Revenue, the film tax credit cost the
state $78.9 million in revenue, while only a third of the $304.4 million in
spending driven by the credit occurred in Massachusetts. But O’Donnell said
agency’s report “is a very small slice of what impact the film industry has had
One example, he said, is “The Equalizer,” a thriller starring Denzel
Washington that opened in theaters in September. It was filmed last year, with
locations including a former Lowe’s store in Haverhill. Members of Local 481
were in charge of the vendor lists for everything from set construction
materials to props and food, he said.
“For ‘The Equalizer’ alone,
there were vendors and businesses in 45 different communities that came off
that list,” O’Donnell said.
Since 2008, members of
Local 481 have made production-related purchases in more than 3,000 local
businesses, many outside of Boston, O’Donnell said. Among those members is the
duo behind Team Crafty , a Lincoln-based craft service
business started by David Steinwachs in response to the growing local film
industry, said co-owner Cam Goodrich.
Over the past four years,
the men have been working nonstop on approximately 16 movie and TV productions
filmed throughout Massachusetts, including the Whitey Bulger biopic “Black Mass,” “The Judge,” starring Robert Downey Jr., and “Grown Ups 2.”
A lot of the food and drink
on set is purchased at warehouse clubs and local supermarkets, but Steinwachs
and Goodrich try to get as much as possible from small businesses and
restaurants, Goodrich said. On average, their food budget is $950 to $1,900 a
day to feed 100 to 200 people on a set, he said.
“It’s a fat wad of cash
usually. . . We’ve been given the golden ticket to help people out,”
Goodrich said. “On a movie like ‘Grown Ups 2,’ we would have to get a second
meal every day of the week, and that was a different vendor every
night. . . We really try to spread the wealth because they give us
the wealth to spread.”
Paul Delios, president of
the 60-year-old family-run Kane’s Donuts in Saugus, said he has delivered
orders for 300 doughnuts on a weekly basis for the past three years to many of
the sets where Team Crafty has worked, including current productions. Each
dozen costs $16.
“It’s not a huge part of
our business, but it’s a nice extra,” Delios said.
Even long after productions
have wrapped, the local economy still benefits, said Taunya Wolfe Finn, owner
Adventures and Tours in Newburyport. Since a movie-themed component
was added about two years ago, Wolfe said, it now makes up 10 percent of her
group tour business.
Wolfe Finn said she makes
it a point to bring visitors to places where they can spend money, such as Woodman’s of Essex
, a seafood restaurant where parts of the movie “Grown Ups” were filmed in 2009. If a 45-person
tour group, for instance, has lunch there or at any local restaurant, it can
easily add up to more than $1,000 for the business, Wolfe said.
“It’s amazing how far of a
reach the filming industry has going into the local economy,” she said. “People
want to see where things happened, where history happened, and where the movies
Once the state’s film tax
incentive was enacted, Farshad Sayan, owner of Clevergreen
Cleaners in Medford, and his wife tapped an industry-connected
friend in Los Angeles to recommend their eco-friendly dry-cleaning business to
anyone planning to film in Massachusetts. They got their first contract in 2007
with the movie “The Women.”
“We knew Hollywood was
coming to Boston,” said Sayan, now working on his 45th or 46th production,
including the recently filmed “Ted 2 .” “Ever since then, it’s just been one
after another,’’ he said, noting that costume supervisors “have me on their
contact list or I have them on my phone.”
Though movie contracts are
only 3 to 5 percent of Sayan’s business, it can be a big help.
“This past summer having a
movie like ‘Black Mass’ really made a huge difference for us during our slow
time of the year — $35,000 to $40,000 for the total dry-cleaning bill,” he said.
“Sometimes the movie industry is like an umbrella that you sometimes have to
hold on to when it’s shiny, and you kind of wonder why you even carried it
along, but when it rains you’re glad you carried your umbrella with you.
How local businesses have profited from the filming
PHOTO BY JOHN TLUMACKI/ GLOBE STAFF
A pizza restaurant was
made over into a Cuban cafe on Revere Beach Blvd. across the street from Revere
Beach to transform the look of the beach into Miami Beach where a scene from
the movie Black Mass will be filmed there for the next several days.