I’m posting my letter to the editor published in today’s Pantagraph (Bloomington-Normal, Illinois). My letter is a response to a letter the paper published last week by Theodore Roy, which I’ve included below. Also included is another person’s letter-to-the-editor response to Mr. Loy, published today as well. Andrew Hartman

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Maybe there’s a reason for anti-U.S. propaganda

Pantagraph

May 29, 2007

I am writing in response to Theodore H. Loy’s letter (“West not prepared for impact of radical Islam,” YourViews, May 23).

Mr. Loy laments that, while Arab children are spoon-fed hateful anti-American propaganda, our children are taught tolerance, thus leaving us, in his words, “ill-prepared for what’s in store for us.”

I would kindly suggest that Mr. Loy’s logic needs to be turned right-side up by asking him the following:

Do the Arab nations occupy our cities with troops in the hundreds of thousands? Do Iraqi battleships patrol our waterways? Do their fighter planes dominate our skies?

Are Muslims actively seeking to control our natural resources? Have they imposed regime change in the United States, damning the consequences?

I am not apologizing for anti-American or anti-Israeli propaganda, although the degree to which alarmists overestimate its pervasiveness in Muslim societies should also be described as propaganda, especially since our propaganda is backed up by the world’s deadliest military.

I would simply like to point out that Mr. Loy and others quick to argue that we need to step up the so-called “clash of civilizations” need to think about the larger context.

If Muslim Web sites encourage hatred of the United States and Israel, perhaps it’s because such sentiments resonate in occupied societies. Although I don’t condone their propaganda, theirs makes much more sense to me than ours.

Andrew Hartman

Bloomington

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West not prepared for impact of radical Islam

Pantagraph

May 23, 2007

While our children are taught tolerance, multiculturalism and diversity, children in the Arab world are taught something very different.

The Internet site Palestinian Media Watch monitors children’s programs etc. broadcast to the entire Arab world on Al-Aqsa TV, the official Hamas TV station in Gaza. These programs brazenly encourage Muslim children to become shahids, that is, people who are willing to die for Allah.

Paradise is promised for all those who give themselves to shahada and are martyred in jihad against Israel and the West.

A quick perusal of this propaganda will convince you that we are facing a protracted life-and-death struggle against radical Islam as future Arab generations are primed to become suicide bombers.

We in the West are ill-prepared for what is in store for us because of this.

While millions of Muslim children are being prepared to fight us to the death, we are telling our children that Islam is just another religion we need to tolerate.

There is a total disconnect between what we teach our kids and the real threat of a radical Islam bent not only on eliminating Israel but also on dominating the West.

One of the programs you can see on Palestinian Media Watch uses a Mickey Mouse lookalike who interacts with Saraa’, a young Muslim girl. They talk about the coming world domination of Islam and the role Islamic children will play as they are willing to become shahids. Hatred of Israel and the West is encouraged – especially hatred of the United States – and killing in the name of Allah is glorified.

We tasted some bitter fruit of this poisonous training when radical Muslims attacked our shores on 9/11. Sadly, we can expect much more of the same since new Muslim generations are receiving a steady diet of the same poison.

Theodore H. Loy

Normal

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We’re engaged in war between good, evil

Pantagraph

May 29, 2007

I read with interest the letter from Theodore H. Loy (“West not prepared for impact of radical Islam,” YourViews, May 23). His comments are not only true, but do not even begin to tell the whole story, nor could whole books expose all that Islam plans for its enemies – which is every one who is not Muslim.

Except for our own destructive immorality, Islam is the greatest threat not only to our nation, but to the free world and most especially to Christianity and Judaism.

Even the Iraqi people who are not terrorists believe that Islam should rule the world, those who hated the former government of Iraq, are convinced that Christianity and Judaism should be crushed. How can we win such a war?

Taught from birth that Jews and United States are to be destroyed and that Islam is meant to rule, taught from earliest childhood that it is honorable and desirable to die for Mohammed because all hunger, all hardship, all problems are caused by Israel – and that the United States is to be hated most of all for her immorality, her excesses and the freedoms that she enjoys – the Muslim child is totally indoctrinated to do the will of Islam, up to and including dying for it.

This war must be fought, it cannot be avoided; it is indeed a war between good and evil. The question is, is the good as good as the evil is evil?

Good will ultimately overcome the evil, but in the meantime, how will we fare? God alone Knows.

Anna Helmers

Anchor

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I sent a letter to the NY Times which was published by the editors today.  Here is the original Times Observer Editorial and my response:

In New Orleans, Life and Hope stir at the Bottom

Published: May 7, 2007

New Orleans is slumping into hurricane season. The danger is not just in the weather. Hotels in the French Quarter are hiring private security squads to soothe jittery guests; the police are considered outmanned and unreliable. Those polite young men with black polo shirts and Glocks are not busboys. The restaurants and bars are humming, though, and the beat of rhythm and blues pours into the street. It is a faint approximation of a civic pulse.

Outside the tourist zone, New Orleans remains a city of indolence and ruin. On the edges of the Central Business District, fires are erupting in abandoned buildings, at least three in the last week. The smoke curling under the highway overpasses has an ugly chemical smell. The Lower Ninth Ward is still mostly empty, vast and mute. But there is hustle and energy in the baking heat, in places like the parking slabs near Home Depot and Lowe’s, where Hispanic, black and a few white laborers gather every morning for work.

Read the rest of this entry »

Last year, Latin America’s best known painter released a series of tremendously powerful paintings. “This conduct by the Americans was a total shock for me,” Botero told a Colombian magazine, “I am increasingly sensitive to injustice, which makes my blood boil, and these paintings were born from the anger provoked by this horror.

“I had no commercial intention in painting these works. I produced them purely to say something about the horror. And since all art is communication, it’s more important that they are seen in museums and big public exhibitions than that they are hidden away in the house of a private collector.”

abu-ghraib-1.jpgabu-ghraib-3.jpg

Read the rest of this entry »

More than one-third of US soldiers in Iraq surveyed by the Army said they believe torture should be allowed if it helps gather important information about insurgents, the Pentagon disclosed yesterday. Four in 10 said they approve of such illegal abuse if it would save the life of a fellow soldier.

In addition, about two-thirds of Marines and half the Army troops surveyed said they would not report a team member for mistreating a civilian or for destroying civilian property unnecessarily. “Less than half of Soldiers and Marines believed that non-combatants should be treated with dignity and respect,” the Army report stated.

About 10 percent of the 1,767 troops in the official survey — conducted in Iraq last fall — reported that they had mistreated civilians in Iraq, such as kicking them or needlessly damaging their possessions.

                – The Washington Post

This is an unmentioned dimension of the Iraq war failure. It is often noted by Democrats that the abuses at Abu Graib, Guantanamo and Haditha undermine Iraqi public opinion of the United States. But here we can see it is not just the dilapidated infrastructure, lack of security, or supposed abuse which is responsible for Iraqi distrust. Daily harassment by US soldiers is also driving their distrust and hatred. This report from the US Army forces us to consider the following statistics from a month old ABC, BBC and USA Today poll in a very different light:

-Only 38% of Iraqis think the country is better of today than it was under Hussein.
-4/5 oppose the presence of coalition troops in Iraq
-51% think it is OK to attack coalition troops. Thats triple the number from a 2004 survey!
– 94 percent of Sunnis, 7 percent of Kurds and 35 percent of Shiites endorse attacks on coalition forces
– and 53% of the population believes that “from today’s perspective, and all things considered,” it was “wrong that US-led coalition forces invaded Iraq in spring 2003.”

 

 

Hopes of an anti-Bush fueled European power realignment may be squashed this weekend, as French right winger Nicolas Sarkozy seems to be ahead in the polls for the upcoming May 6 French election runoff. “Socialist” (center left) challenger Segolene Royal is not favored by the transnational corporations and Wall Street. Anytime we read about how American “Business” (the friendly word for corporation), thinks a certain candidate is “better for the economy”, it is always code for trade liberalization, union busting, and overall wealth consolidation. France, which has fought hard for its living wage and 35 hour workweek, may see its worker’s rights severely curbed in the event of a Sarkozy victory. Expect Sarkozy to be far more likely to embrace the Bush Middle East agenda vis-a-vis Iran and Israel as well.

From the AP:

Most U.S. businesses are pulling for Sarkozy, analysts in the U.S. said, because he has promised to loosen rules that limit the French work week to 35 hours and would make overtime pay tax-free to encourage more work. In contrast, Royal wants to raise the minimum wage.


U.S. companies see strict French labor rules and other regulations as “impediments to growth and expansion,” Shapiro said, and some of the changes proposed by Sarkozy “would make France a more attractive place to invest and do business.”

At a recent show, De La Rocha – of Rage Against the Machine – said “and this current administration is no exception. They should be hung, and tried, and shot.” Conservatives like Hannity and Coulter are having a shit fit, pretending that his comments are a culmination of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi’s anti-Bush sentiment.

De La Rocha is a rare and powerful voice in the American mainstream. His message is at times reactionary, but his prowess as a singer and songwriter give him the unique ability to popularize a leftist, anti-government message. As such, I have posted my two favorite Rage Against the Machine videos:

Testify

Sleep Now in the Fire

“If it had not been for these things, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life could we hope to do such work for tolerance, for justice, for man’s understanding of man as now we do by accident. Our words–our lives–our pains–nothing! The taking of our lives–lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish-peddler–all! That last moment belongs to us–that agony is our triumph.”

by Bartolomeo Vanzetti – the Italian-American anarchist – on his immanent exocution.

 vanzetti.jpg

The judge in the case, Webster Thayer, stated to the jury “This man, (Vanzetti) although he may not have actually committed the crime attributed to him, is nevertheless culpable, because he is the enemy of our existing institutions.”

Gravel makes some good, honest points in this interview.  It is somewhat silly, but Gravel manages to interject stinging, humorous critiques of money in American politics and the war in Iraq.  Also, Gravel does something in this interview I haven’t seen any other presidential candidate  accomplish:  he talks comfortably about homosexuality.

In a short interview in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, corporate consultant Mark Raskino describes how corporations can mine the “innovations” that take place in markets in underdeveloped countries — innovations that stem from a growing number of people who want access to the consumer goods of the global market but who can’t afford them as they are currently priced. He says, “Many of these innovations are things that would not only be useful in Third World markets, they would also come back to the Third World.” What is he talking about? For example, he says that the only way to have wider computer use in poorer countries is to have them sell for around $100. So, the innovation that allows a computer to be developed and sold dirt cheaply — innovations that are already being developed by “Third World” entrepreneurs — is something that can be imported to corporations here “within empire,” and then re-exported back to the “Third World” from which the innovation came. It’s a way to ensure that rich people in rich countries benefit from something that’s going to happen whether they get involved or not.

This is interesting for three reasons. First of all, it demonstrates one of a myriad ways in which capitalists squeeze profit from a world with no external markets left to conquer. Since the end of the Cold War, since the processes of capitalist globalization were finally unleashed across the entire planet, there are no longer any markets to conquer. It’s all one market. So capitalists seek new and innovative ways to make money, new and innovative ways to be the “middle man,” or new and innovative enclosures such as the privatization of water, land, energy, education. This is the commodification of everything.

Second, this Wall Street Journal interview is also interesting because it characteristically ignores the driving force of such Third World innovation at the macro-level. Gartner talks about how all of this is made possible because of the rate at which “people of the Third World are moving from subsistence to being consumers.” There is an unintended and ironic way to interpret this sentence: it’s entirely true that millions of people every year are moving away from subsistence. About ten percent of them do indeed become “consumers,” which means they buy and sell on the global market. But the other ninety percent of these people “moving from subsistence” are now living in the rapidly expanding global slums (as detailed by Mike Davis in his recent book Planet of Slums). And the reason for this massive global migration? The policies imposed on poorer nations — euphemistically called “free trade,” i.e. the destruction of import substitution policies, austerity measures, etc. — have driven people off the land, away from subsistence farming, and into cities where jobs do not await them. The policies created by the highly developed world have urbanized (slumified) the underdeveloped world, thus creating an environment for consumer innovations to be stolen.

The third reason the interview was interesting: the Wall Street Journal reporter, Lee Gomes, who has a weekly “Talk Tech” column, seemed to sense that the tone of this interview might be construed in the way that I’m construing it. He asks Gartner, “Is there anything unseemly about thinking of people who are desperately poor as potential customers, as opposed to people who need help?” I find this interesting because, at the Wall Street Journal, the goodness of capitalism is assumed and unspoken. The question is akin to a fish asking another fish, “Is water a good thing?” Gartner’s reply: “Ultimately, people in Third World countries would like to become consumers, and there’s nothing wrong with that desire.” True. But that’s not what we’re talking about. What about the desire to exploit this desire? Anything wrong with that?

Andrew Hartman

In our consumer society, where our lives our defined by the objects that surround us, our reality is thus simulated through a system of signs. A unique cultural language is developed – one that alienates a product, an object of consumption, from any material or temporal reality. It is seen as disconnected from who made it, any historicity, and so on. Instead, its existence is taken for granted and its meaning is signified in pure cultural fantasy.

Thus, as we come to accept growth and progress as “miracles” which have been showered upon us (the end of scarcity), we also live in a constant state of fear of losing this world of abundance – we are both disconnected from where it came from and unaware of its consequences.To quote Baudrillard, we are “sheltered by signs – in denial of the real.”

Nothing embodies this phenomenon of what we could call a prodigal “consumer culture” more than the nature of the news item. The news item is a system of pure signs; fully actualizing in its emotional bombast, yet purely unfulfilling in the sense that it bares no relation to reality. The news item constantly struggles to be “true”, to be “fact”, to be at the heart of the scene. It establishes the notion that a news item could in fact be purely reflective of reality. Yet the signs and images, just as consumer products do, signify merely cultural phenomenon, ideology, and other socially fabricated concepts.

So why is it that we continue to accept this actualization through objects – as exemplified by the universality of the news item – as the best possible actualization? For, in consumer culture, there is always a constant restlessness, an emptiness, an inability to ever feel truly connected to reality – a constant “I’m bored”. It is purely because we are told that this reality is a gift, that we must protect, that we must shelter from the constant looming catastrophic threat. It is in this we find the obsession with the over hyped daily car crash, murder, bombastic disaster news items. Through our signified, socially and historically disconnected simulation of reality, the fear of the loss of that simulation is the only thing that keeps us from rupturing in the disconnected guilt that it produces.

“So we live sheltered by signs, in the denial of the real. A miraculous security: when we look at the images of the world, who can distinguish this brief irruption of reality from the profound pleasure of not being there? the image, the sign, the message – all these things we “consume” – represent our tranquility consecrated by distance from the world, a distance more comforted by the allusion to the real (even where the allusion is violent) than compromised by it.”

– Baudrillard

Jed Rouhana