Letters to the Editor
In and around Springfield
THE MOST ASININE STORY EVER!
There have been many types of stories in Illinois Times over the past 31 years — the good, the bad, the ugly (and even some boring). However, Stan Cox’s piece on air conditioning was the most asinine, one-sided story I can remember [“Hot flash,” Aug. 3].
Are we Americans ravenous energy hogs? Yes. Could we reduce the amount of energy consumed? Yes. Could we use more energy-efficient devices for the remaining consumption? Yes.
However, a balanced story would have at least acknowledged the number of situations where air conditioning is vital. Mr. Cox, is air conditioning in a hospital, hospice, or nursing home “comfort” or “process”? How about home air conditioning for people with heart troubles? How about automobile air conditioning for those who must drive long distances from the pharmacy to home with insulin in their vehicle? What advice does Mr. Cox have for people who suffer from allergies and/or asthma and are advised by medical professionals to stay inside in air conditioning? These would all seem to be public health issues
Or is Mr. Cox’s idea for those who need air conditioning to move to northern Canada or the northern Rocky Mountains? Environmental issues are serious, and require extensive, wide-ranging discussions. Attacking air conditioning without an acknowledgment that many people face serious health concerns, including the possibility of an easily preventable death, does not advance serious discussion on this matter.
THE COST OF HIS BLOODLUST
I would like to address some of the issues raised by Jeff Davis in his Aug. 3 letter to the editor. If I can understand his rants, I think he has issues with regard to the amount of money the U.S. government allocates to defense spending relative to funding education. I am happy that he gets some sort of thrill from seeing expensive military hardware in use. I would like to point out the relative costs for his vicarious bloodlust. The U.S. ranks No. 1 in total defense spending — in fact more than the rest of the world combined by a factor of two. The U.S. also ranks No. 1 in total number of prisoners incarcerated. We do falter a bit in per capita defense spending — coming in at No. 3 (behind Israel and Singapore). Then, according to Mr. Davis’s views we also kick butt in education. The U.S. ranks No. 51 in spending per student in secondary schools, No. 39 in spending for education as a percentage of GDP, and No. 38 in education spending as a percentage of total government spending. All statistics are taken from nationmaster.com and wikipedia.com.
U.S.-IRAN WAR BY PROXY
According to the subtitle of R.L. Nave’s short piece about current Lebanon conflict, “the roots of the Mideast conflict run deeper than the West can imagine” [R.L. Nave, “No end in sight,” Aug. 3]. Nave describes the battle as the latest occurrence of Jews fighting Muslims, who “have been trying to prove the other side wrong for centuries.”
This is inaccurate. Before the Emancipation of Jews in Western Europe, which started just before 1800, Jews had far more rights in Islamic countries than under Christian governments. When Spain expelled the Jews in 1492, many fled to North Africa or Turkey, where they were more welcome than in Christian Europe. Until the 1920s, conflict between Jews and Muslims was far less pronounced than conflict between Christians and Muslims or Christian persecution of Jews.
The second inaccuracy is that the West cannot understand the Middle East. In fact, the modern Middle East was shaped largely by the colonial policies of Western Europe (predominately Western Christians) starting around 1800. The 19th century saw France and Britain, in particular, struggling for influence in the Middle East. This culminated with the creation of the “mandates” by the League of Nations in 1919.
The French received Lebanon and they created its government, which divides power among different religious groups. Although a minority of the population was (and is) Christian, the French guaranteed that the government would be dominated by the minority Christians. That this would foster sectarian resentment and (later) conflict should have been anticipated.
The British received modern Jordan and Israel. The British created the monarchy that rules Jordan today, when they took a foreigner, a Saudi named Abdullah bin al-Husayn, and made him the King of Transjordan. The British also assisted in the creation of Israel and, while the details of how Israel came into existence are hotly contested, no one denies that the Brits were intimately involved.
The U.S. has also been deeply involved in the Middle East, especially after World War II, to quench our ever-growing thirst for oil. In short, the idea that the current conflict is the result of centuries of Muslim-Jewish conflict and that the West can’t understand it is incorrect. Until quite recently, Jews and Muslims tolerated each other pretty well; animosity rose sharply only in the last 80 years or so, especially with the creation of Israel. One way of seeing the current conflict is that it is a proxy war between Iran (supporting Hezbollah) and the United States (supporting Israel). The West should seek to understand and to take responsibility for how its actions have shaped the contemporary Middle East.
SPEAKING OF WEASELINESS
Jim Hightower’s column is a lie [“ ‘Small’ is beautiful,” Aug. 3]. He takes the Small Business Administration to task for awarding billions and billions in federal contracts to major American corporations. Didn’t happen. He either totally misread the report he was commenting on or he is deliberately lying about it to create a lively column.
The SBA never, ever said that a quarter of the SBA’s contracts went to small business. Not so fast, Slick! The SBA report said a quarter of the entire federal government’s contracts went to small businesses. The issue is over $314 billion in contracts. The SBA’s entire annual budget is less than 1 percent of that.
The SBA report was based on numbers provided to it by the Federal Procurement Data System, a database maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration. It collects data that is input by all of the federal government’s departments and agencies. SBA didn’t award the contracts; it only reported the results.
None of the large companies he mentions got contracts from the SBA. Not one. None of those dollars were siphoned out of the SBA. None.
Director, SBA Press Office
Jim Hightower responds: Let’s check who’s lying. As reported in a front-page article in the July 6 New York Times, the SBA put out a press release last month boasting that it “had awarded more than a quarter of contracts to small business.” Bush’s SBA was taking credit for showering this largesse on small business. My point was not that all of the cash came from this one agency, but that SBA’s claim of delivering 25 percent of federal contracts to mom-and-pop enterprises is a fraud. Indeed as I indicated in my column, some $5 billion worth of these “small business contracts” went to just 13 of America’s largest corporations, including Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin. The corporations themselves admit they got the money! This is why the president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce says, “The SBA’s handling of small business contracting is a mess.” If the agency’s PR flack thinks I’m lying, he might check with SBA’s own inspector general, who issued a damning report last year that declared: “One of the most important challenges facing the SBA and the entire federal government is that large businesses are receiving small business procurement awards.” To keep up with SBA’s funny numbers game, contact the watchdog group, American Small Business League at www.asbl.com/fraud.
Several years ago there was a big demand for straw for paper [see “Rethinking paper,” Aug. 3]. Basically, it went belly-up. Can anyone explain what happened?
F. N. Ross
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has the Blagojevich administration worried. His name was incorrect in a recent headline [Rich Miller, “The things to come,” July 13]. We regret the error.