Israel and its image
Re "Report: Threats against Jews on the rise," and "Israel razes Bedouin homes," July 28
The Times recently published an article regarding the rise of threats against Jews.
In the same day's newspaper, you could find one of the contributing factors to the rise of those threats.
Alongside an article describing the removal of Bedouin homes in long-disputed territory ran two pictures that once again make the Israelis look like bad guys and the Bedouins like victims — unless the reader takes the time to read the entire article, almost to the end, where it indicates that the Israeli government offered to have these Bedouins live in Israeli cities with water, electricity, sewers and schools.
So what does the reader come away with, after reading the first two columns?
The Israeli government is forging ahead in colonizing all of Palestine.
If President Obama and our government really believe our country supports the rule of law, he must speak out against these home demolitions and other stealing of land from the Palestinians.
As a Jew, I have a hard time justifying the actions of the state of Israel to my non-Jewish friends, who clearly see American hypocrisy in supporting such abuses. How can Obama continue to speak about "shared values" between Israel and the United States?
Not ready to move to Japan
Re "We need a case of 'Japan syndrome,'" Opinion, July 29
Steven Hill cites statistics to argue that Japan's economy has surpassed ours. But how many Americans would enjoy living where half the rural population uses outhouses, where urban homes average 1,000 square feet and "suburbs" include cramped high-rise apartment buildings?
A realistic measure of economic success must reflect a society's values, some of which are less objective than life expectancy or crime rates. For instance, Hill puts a high value on income equality. Though that may align him with a majority of Japanese — not to mention the U.S. Congress — it contradicts traditional American ideals. This is a land of opportunity, not a laboratory of social leveling.
What WikiLeaks accomplished
Re "The candor war," Opinion, July 29
Doyle McManus is correct that almost all of the information contained in the WikiLeaks documents was available from official sources, so the usual culprit — government secrecy — is not entirely to blame for this information being missing from the national debate on the war in Afghanistan. If the media had gotten off their collective butt and done some research, they might have fulfilled their true role of informing the electorate.
The only service WikiLeaks performed was to repackage the information in the shiny tinsel of controversy to attract the attention of the feckless media and to distract them from their preferred role as stenographers for the powerful.
The publishers at WikiLeaks may or may not provide a useful service to humanity, but only when they begin leaking critical information from Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the countless repressive dictatorships and regimes in the world will they really achieve anything productive. Or is it only democratic and free societies that deserve their scrutiny?
Imagine if the Wikis could leak the location of the next mass suicide bombing. Now that would be a leak worth hacking for.
A proposition we don't need
Re "To Fiorina, Whitman, green is for wallets," July 29
Framing the issue of protecting the environment or creating jobs is just a creation of spin doctors and PR firms hired by the Republican Central Committee, Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman and the two Texas-based oil companies providing most of the funding for Proposition 23.
The real choice is between protecting the environment or letting oil companies cut corners to increase their profits. California's environmental regulations create better-paying and newer technology-driven jobs that will last much longer than those offered by oil companies, without sacrificing the environment.
Mastering the music
Re "Strains of a dying skill," Column One, July 28
Several years ago, I heard a wonderful concert featuring the oud and other instruments central to Middle Eastern music given by the highly regarded members of the ethno-musicology department at UCLA. It was so inspiring, I entertained a fantasy I might learn to play this instrument, but it is not something one can pick up easily.
I discovered, however, that there is a large community in Los Angeles who also play and teach related instruments, as well as many forms of dance.
I began to study the doumbek. To my surprise, my Armenian neighbors did not recoil as they listened to me repeatedly attempt to master the rhythms that are central to the music. Instead, they encouraged me and shared their love and knowledge of the music.