ppi.036-MONDAY REVIEW- interesting news briefs

1998-06-01

Richard Moore

                   PEOPLES PRESS INTERNATIONAL (PPI)
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          ppi.036-MONDAY REVIEW- interesting news briefs
                               fwd
                       THE MONDAY REVIEW
        A Free Weekly News Digest of Intellectual Affairs

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From: Carolyn Ballard <•••@••.•••>
Subject: FW: THE MONDAY REVIEW  June 1, 1998
Date: Sun, 31 May 1998

Friends-
     Some interesting reviews of journal/newspaper articles in this Monday
Review....particularly on NATO expansion.

ckb

-------------- Enclosure number 1 ----------------
THE MONDAY REVIEW

A Free Weekly News Digest of Intellectual Affairs


June 1, 1998 - Issue #5
-----------------------------------------------

The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye.
The more light you pour upon it, the more it will
contract.
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

-----------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------

1. PORTENTS OF A CRASH IN JAPAN
The perception of the economic stability of a nation is often as
important as the actuality, since the perception of stability
influences not only investment but foreign trade contracts, local
consumer spending, and so on. For many years, Japan was
considered an economic archetype of a successful industrialized
nation, and the local and international perception seemed to
mirror the actuality. These days, despite Japan's continuing
industrial strength, the perception of Japan's economic stability
has apparently undergone a major revision. A consideration of
various perceptions in various places reveals the following:
"In the late 1980s, Japan's speculative bubble economy burst,
exposing the flaws in what has been called an economically
incestuous system based on mutual back-scratching. Instead of
reforming the system, especially the banks, Japan's finance
ministry used its huge reserves and public savings to keep the
system on life support." (*Irish Times*, Dublin)... "The swelling
numbers of homeless are the most visible sign of Japan's founder-
ing economy. Each week it seems there are a few more scattered
around Tokyo's well-off neighborhoods. At the Ginza, the subway
stop for some of the world's most expensive boutiques, they sleep
in the passageways, oblivious to the shoppers trekking past with
their Fendi and Prada shopping bags." (*The Age*, Melbourne)...
"A web of corruption linking Japan's bankers to the bureaucrats
charged with regulating them has shattered the country's once-
exalted image of government mandarins." (*Globe and Mail*,
Toronto)... "It is clear that no one knows how to prevent the
Japanese economy from sinking like the Titanic and taking the
rest of us with it." (*Far Eastern Economic Review*, Hong Kong).
(World Press Review June 1998) (The Monday Review 1 Jun 98)


2. ON INDIA AND THE BOMB
Commenting on the recent nuclear explosion tests in India, *The
Economist* makes the following points: India's nuclear tests have
won its new government considerable popular support at home,
perhaps enough to win a majority in a snap election. But at what
cost in international condemnation and to world security?...
India has had a nuclear deterrent since it first tested a device
in 1974, but going from this to a tactical attack capability
could be a costly delusion of grandeur... Sanctions will not
affect credits already in the pipeline, which exceed US$10
billion, and India's financial markets have so far shown
relatively little concern. The real impact of sanctions on India
will depend on whether the issue can be resolved quickly... The
tests have made Indians feel good. After years of worrying about
economic problems and foreign pressure, voters suddenly feel
virile. Like most highs, it won't last. [Editor's note: On 29 May
1998, Pakistan announced that for the first time it had conducted
5 underground nuclear tests, that it was now a "nuclear power",
and that it was already fitting nuclear warheads on missiles able
to strike targets across most of northern and central India.]
(The Economist 16 May 98) (The Monday Review 1 Jun 98)


3. ON THE AGE OF POSTMODERN WAR
In a review subtitled: "Beyond Clausewitz: the long and ragged
conflicts of the coming millennium," journalist Robert Fox makes
the following points: The idea that since war has come to
threaten the very existence of civilized humanity it will
therefore not occur remains a colossal assumption that has yet to
be proved... The nature of conflict is changing profoundly, but
not in a way that gives much hope of a quick remedy applied by
great powers and their allies... Nuclear proliferation is a
headache, and the risks from the spread of chemical and
biological weapons a nightmare. Some two dozen governments are
contemplating acquiring a nuclear capability, and few are likely
to be constrained by international convention. A chemical weapon
capable of wiping out entire cities can now be produced by an
industrial chemist... The greatest challenge presented by the new
forms of conflict is their very informality. Decreasingly, will
wars be the preserves of states and alliances of great states...
We are now in an era of long and ragged conflicts, community-
based, open-ended, crude and cruel, and beyond the time
limitations and technical constraints of much military and
diplomatic practice in the advanced world... The emerging
informal or postmodern war has been recognized by specialists for
nearly a decade (e.g., M. van Crevald, E. Luttwak). The trinity
of power behind modern war -- army, government, and people --
recognized by Clausewitz in the last century, ceases to be
relevant.
(The Times Literary Supplement 15 May 98)
(The Monday Review 1 Jun 98)


4. ON THE ARMS INDUSTRY AND NATO EXPANSION
The expansion of NATO, apart from any geopolitical ramifications,
is evidently of particular interest to a particular segment of
the American economy -- the arms industry. William D. Hartung
(New School for Social Research, US) reviews the NATO expansion
as an arms industry bonanza, and makes the following points.
1) Expanding NATO to include Poland, Hungary, and the Czech
Republic could end up costing US taxpayers tens of billions of
dollars --  far more than the US$400 million the Pentagon and the
Clinton Administration claim. 2) Given the costs of the NATO
expansion and the fact that the old NATO enemy, the Soviet Union,
no longer exists, one wonders why the US government is pushing so
hard to expand the alliance. The reason, Hartung says, is the US
arms lobby. US weapons makers hope to cash in on a subsidized
arms market in Eastern and Central Europe that could reach US$8
to US$10 billion for fighter aircraft and as much as US$35
billion for military equipment of all kinds over the next decade.
3) Major exporting companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and
Textron have engaged in extraordinary lobbying efforts -- both in
the US and in Eastern and Central Europe -- aimed at promoting
NATO expansion and boosting US subsidies for military sales to
prospective members of the alliance. 4) In May 1996, President
Clinton's Advisory Board on Arms Proliferation Policy recommended
that the US should support the goal of reducing or eliminating
subsidies for arms exports on a global scale. Unfortunately,
Hartug suggests, far from reducing corporate welfare for weapons
dealers, the US government has increased it, and NATO expansion
will boost it even further. One might add explicitly that if
Hartung is correct in his analysis, NATO expansion, at least from
this perspective, is a transfer-of-payments vehicle for the
large-scale transfer of money from the US taxpayer to the US
government to the new NATO countries to the weapons industry and
finally to the stockholders of the weapons industry, and that
whatever the geopolitical and US national security benefits of
the expansion, the flow of currency is an apparent significant
factor.
(The Progressive May 1998) (The Monday Review 1 Jun 98)


5. LOVE AND MISERY IN CUBA
One of the central questions concerning Cuba is whether its
present condition is the beginning of the termination of the
Castro government, or merely a transition to another long-lasting
phase of the Revolution. Alma Guillermoprieto, a journalist who
lives in Mexico, reports of her recent visit to Cuba: 1) Cuba has
indeed opened itself to tourism: the island has become an
established part of the world sex tour circuit. 2) The decision
to tolerate, and even encourage prostitution, appears to have
been deliberate. 3) There is evidently no attempt to zone prost-
itution, to restrict it to certain types of hotels or certain
neighborhoods or otherwise hide it from view. Prostitutes are so
readily available to tourists and so cheap, they crowd around
every hotel and are bought by the day. 4) Dissenters are invis-
ible in Cuba, and inaudible. They have no access to the airwaves
or the official press, and are not allowed to hold public
meetings without permission. 5) Dessi Mendoza Rivero, the Cuban
doctor in Santiago who revealed to the world the massive epidemic
of dengue fever in Oriente province, was sentenced to 8 years in
prison for "enemy propaganda" (apparently a few phone conversat-
ions with foreign correspondents in Havana), and he remains in
prison to this day. 6) Guillermoprieto suggests it is difficult
to avoid the impression that the Revolution prefers the radical,
invasion-prone opposition in Florida to the unarmed social-
democrat and Christian-democrat activists within Cuba itself.
(The New York Review 11 Jun 98) (The Monday Review 1 Jun 98)


9. EDUCATION OF TEACHERS BLAMED FOR DECLINE OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Politics has its own ironies. The newspaper *The Washington
Times* is archly conservative, often marked by a tone of near
hysteria, and certainly as chauvinist and reactionary a publicat-
ion as can be found on a newsstand. It is one of the few news-
papers where one can find the donation of a large sum of money by
billionaire media tycoon Ted Turner of CNN to the United Nations
cited as proof that Ted Turner is a "left-winger". One would
think the editors of *The Washington Times* would recognize that
since the base of their political stance is the ignorance of the
masses of America, the grade school teachers who promote and
coddle that ignorance in the young are the front-line soldiers of
the Right. Grade school teachers are "home-grown" in the US: they
usually find teaching jobs in the same region where they were
born and raised and educated themselves by previous grade school
teachers. The academic community has recognized for many years
that these teachers are usually poorly educated, with a resultant
poor education of the children they teach. And it is also these
same grade school teachers who move into the bureaucratic
decision-making positions in the local education systems. Thus it
comes as a surprise to find in a recent weekly edition of *The
Washington Times* a long front-page story concerning "the
historically flawed system in America of educating mostly average
or below-average students to be public-school teachers." The
article quotes Edward J. Delattre of the Boston University School
of Education: "Schools of education are cash cows to univers-
ities. They admit and graduate students who have low levels of
intellectual accomplishment, and these people are in turn visited
on schoolchildren. They are well-intentioned, decent, nice people
who by and large don't know what they're doing." So what is
happening to *The Washington Times* that it publishes this sort
of thing? Is this paragon of jingoist reaction in the throes of a
conversion? Doubting that particular miracle, one concludes *The
Washington Times* has no inkling that this article saws away at
the very wood that supports its platform. Certainly, the last
thing in the world needed by the fulminating Right cohort is an
enlightened electorate. But all is not lost: a bannered blurb in
the article does proclaim, "Schools of education, reacting to
social and political pressures, are perceived to be more
interested in promoting equity, diversity and social justice than
in transmitting knowledge." Thus are the minds of the editors
unfolded.
(The Washington Times 18-24 May 98) (The Monday Review 1 Jun 98)


10. ON THE PREACHING OF FREE-TRADE GOSPEL IN THE CLASSROOM
If, in the last report, we are confronted with a right-wing
publication bashing the public school system for its ignorance
and preaching of equity, diversity, and social justice, then in
this next report we are confronted with the paragon left-wing
publication *The Nation* bashing the public school system for its
ignorance and use of corporate-sponsored video programs that
preach the value of free-trade and "Winning with Exports". Yes,
"Winning with Exports" is apparently a phrase that appears in one
of the videos distributed by a program called Virtual Trade
Mission, a corporate-financed and Clinton-administration backed
plan to introduce high school students to the wonders of the
global economy and the potential of "Big Emerging Markets" such
as Mexico, Indonesia, China, etc. But winning *what* with
exports? Luke Mines, the author of the article, writes: "It may
be true that increasing international commerce is an inevitab-
ility, but is figuring out how to sell more things to more people
the only task associated with the expansion of the global
economy?" Concerning the labor and environmental issues, a
teacher in Oklahoma is quoted as saying, "I think my students
would be bored by it." The videos, some of which are distributed
by weapons manufacturers and involve promotion of US arms sales
overseas, are apparently "slickly produced in MTV style, with
quick cuts, hypnotizing graphics and throbbing soundtracks. The
viewpoints of corporate sponsors such as MCI, Boeing, Hughes, and
UPS dominate the content." This is apparently Bash the Teachers
Week, with grade school teachers and the public educational
system in general whacked on both sides of the head, right and
left.
(The Nation 1 Jun 98) (The Monday Review 1 Jun 98)


11. LEFT AND RIGHT AND DISTORTION IN THE TEACHING OF HISTORY
We are not yet finished with the teaching profession: there is
one more whack to the head to be considered, this time closer to
the center of the forehead. Journalist Alexander Stille, writing
in *The New York Review*, reviews the current status of grade
school history education. History, as it is taught to children,
is of course of major concern to all groups with political
agendas, and it is one of the primary preoccupations of grade
school teachers and their teacher-administrators. Stille makes
the following points: 1) The American history taught in schools
has been rewritten and transformed in recent decades by a handful
of large publishers who are much concerned to meet the demands of
both the multicultural left and the conservative religious right.
2) The states of Texas and California taken together account for
20 percent of the textbooks sold in America. They are the biggest
of some 22 states that review and choose textbooks on a state-
wide basis, and their choices have disproportionate influence
among the 50 states. Approval of a textbook series in Texas or
California guarantees millions of dollars in sales, while
rejection will almost certainly mean financial failure. 3) An
editor at McGraw-Hill (who chooses to remain identified) reports
"We were told to try to avoid using the word 'imagine' because
the people in Texas felt it was too close to the word 'magic' and
therefore might be considered anti-Christian." 4) Spokespeople
for the religious right and other conservative groups vigilantly
criticize any critical references to America's traditional
heroes; they equally oppose harsh accounts of slavery and
positive descriptions of the "socialistic" policies of the New
Deal or the charter of the United Nations. 5) Across the
political court, to forestall criticism from the multicultural
left, publishers have drawn up new lists of taboos: for example,
out are the words "tribe", "Indian", and "slave" -- replaced by
the words "group", "Native-American", and "enslaved person". 6)
Another editor at McGraw-Hill: "In trying to avoid anything that
might be offensive to either the left or the right, we were
reduced to producing totally bland middle-of-the-road pabulum."
So here is the third whack at the teachers and their teacher-
administrators, who are the people, after all, who make the
ultimate decisions concerning textbooks. This week marks the end
of the school year, and American children now move off to a long
vacation-education exclusively in the hands of the television and
film industries. Nil desperandum.
(The New York Review 11 Jun 98) (The Monday Review 1 Jun 98)


-----------------------------------------------

BOOK NOTES:

P. Erlich and A. Erlich: BETRAYAL OF SCIENCE AND REASON
How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future
Island Press, 1998, 320p, US24.95, paper US16.95
ISBN 1-55963-483-9 (hc); 1-55963-484-7 (p)
An account of the corporate backlash against environmental
policies, the backlash that "distorts and denies mainstream
scientific thinking in an effort to roll back environmental
policies in favor of immediate economic interests." Natural
resources, toxic substances, ozone depletion, global warming,
acid rain, biodiversity loss, flood production, population
growth. Paul R. Erlich is Professor of Population Studies at
Stanford University (US); Anne H. Erlich is a senior research
associate in biological sciences at Stanford University (US).

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