October 29, 2009

Guantanamo torture songs: How effective might they have been?

By David Paulin

Get ready for more details about the horrors allegedly inflected upon hapless Guantanamo prisoners during the Bush years. As the Washington Post recently
reported, the National Security Archive, a Washington-based independent research institute, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the declassification of government records that may reveal what songs were blasted at prisoners -- for hours and even days at a time – as part of interrogations or punishment.

The FOIA request was made in behalf of what the Security Archive's
website called a "coalition of U.S. and international musicians, including R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Tom Morello and Jackson Browne." In all, the group includes dozens of top recording artists and bands.

According to the Post, some of the songs played at Guantanamo may have been Don McLean's “American Pie”; Bruce Springsteen's “Born in the U.S.A”; the “Sesame Street” theme song; and even the "Meow Mix” jingle from the TV commercial for cat food. (If you've forgotten the "Meow Mix" song, you can listen to it
here. (Warning: If you're one of those who sometimes gets a song stuck in your head, don't listen to “Meow Mix” more than once.)

The Security Archive's executive director, Thomas Blanton, said: "At Guantanamo, the U.S. government turned a jukebox into an instrument of torture. The musicians and the public have the right to know how an expression of popular culture was transformed into an enhanced interrogation technique."

The use of music at Guantanamo raises a question: Just how effective might a song be in getting a prisoner or enemy combatant to reveal secrets? An answer of sorts is provided in a 1961 Billy Wilder movie, "
One, Two, Three." A hilarious and biting satire of East-West relations during the Cold War, “One, Two, Three” featured a gripping scene in which East German police use an American pop song to extract a confession from a young East German student -- a dedicated communist named Otto who despises American culture.

Otto's interrogators, in their choice of music, obviously knew what buttons to push to get the student to make a confession -- and in this case a false one: that he's an “American spy.” The "decadent" American song they played again and again was a 1960 pop hit: "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini."

You can judge for yourself from this famous scene in “One, Two, Three” just how effective the right song might be in loosening up a prisoner.

Interestingly, "Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," according to Wikipedia, was re-released in 1962 to capitalize on the success of "One, Two, Three." However, the song failed to land on the charts as it had when released two years earlier.

Perhaps public revelations about what songs were blasted at Guantanamo prisoners will ultimately give a boost to the careers of aging recording artists demanding to know if their songs were indeed used -- and were part of what one recording artist called a "crime against humanity."

Author's Note: To hear the full version of "Polka Dot Bikini" sung by Connie Francis, click
here. For a Swedish version of "Polka dot Bikini" by Lill-Babs, click here. And for a German version by Gaby Baginsky, click here. The trailer for "One, Two, Three" may be seen here. This article was originally published by the American Thinker.

Zogby poll raises concerns over Mexican immigration

By David Paulin

Why do many Mexican immigrants -- legal and illegal -- have trouble assimilating into American culture? Most of the 10 to 12 million Hispanics estimated to be here illegally are from Mexico. How would granting them amnesty affect future illegal immigration -- especially from Mexico?

Recently, polling firm Zogby International surveyed more than 1,000 Mexican adults across Mexico. The idea was to get the opinions of the average man and woman on the street – all to better understand America's immigration debate from a Mexican point of view, according to the Center for Immigration Studies of Washington, D.C. The conservative think tank is now reporting the results of the Zogby poll.

According to CIS, the survey was the first of its kind to get the opinions of Mexicans, including those entertaining the possibility of immigrating to America illegally.

Many Americans may find the views that Mexicans have on immigration and America unsettling -- and even disturbing.

Critics of an amnesty for illegal immigrants contend it would only encourage more illegal immigration. Well, surprise, surprise: That's just what the average Mexican on the street thinks, too.

According to CIS: "A clear majority of people in Mexico, 56 percent, thought giving legal status to illegal immigrants in the United States would make it more likely that people they know would go to the United States illegally.”

In addition, the think tank stated that: “Of Mexicans with a member of their immediate household in the United States, 65 percent said a legalization program would make people they know more likely to go to America illegally.”

And that raises another question: Just how many more Mexicans would like to immigrate to America? According to CIS: "Interest in going to the United States remains strong even in the current recession, with 36 percent of Mexicans (39 million people) saying they would move to the United States if they could. At present, 12 to 13 million Mexico-born people live in the United States.”

Most Americans would be shocked by how the majority of Mexicans felt about America. According to CIS:

* "An overwhelming majority (69 percent) of people in Mexico thought that the primary loyalty of Mexican-Americans (Mexico- and U.S.-born) should be to Mexico. Just 20 percent said it should be to the United States. The rest were unsure."

* "Also, 69 percent of people in Mexico felt that the Mexican government should represent the interests of Mexican-Americans (Mexico- and U.S.-born) in the United States."

CIS noted that "the perspective of people in Mexico is important because Mexico is the top sending country for both legal and illegal immigrants.

"In 2008, one of six new legal immigrants was from Mexico and, according to the Department of Homeland Security, six out of 10 illegal immigrants come from that country."

CIS noted there are now “10 to 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, seven million of whom are estimated to have come from Mexico. But this poll suggests that many people who might like to come have not done so. This could be seen as an indication that enforcement efforts are effective."

The results of the survey are sure to add to concerns raised by Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington in his 2005 book "Who are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity."

He wrote:

"The persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages. Unlike past immigrant groups, Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves—from Los Angeles to Miami—and rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream. The United States ignores this challenge at its peril.”

He also published a related essay, “The Hispanic Challenge,” in Foreign Policy magazine. It prompted liberals to all but accuse him of being a racist and xenophobe.

The Zogby survey had a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent, “for a 95 percent confidence level,” CIS noted.

This was originally published at the American Thinker.

October 10, 2009

The Nobel Committee and Anti-Americanism

What can explain the Nobel committee's decision -- one that's even got liberals shaking their heads in disbelief? At bottom, the decision is really about anti-Americanism -- and an excellent article in the Weekly Standard touched upon that very issue earlier this week. Jean Kaufman's article -- "Reagan and Obama:
Is America a city on a hill or a country in decline?" -- had a number of compelling explanations for why Obama, and his worldview, made the legs of the Nobel committee members tingle. Obama, she wrote, sees America
...as a nation conceived in original sin, one that has gone on to commit offenses against the world for which it must now atone. And Obama views himself as the special instrument through which America can finally purify herself, join the world of other nations as an equal rather than a leader, and go forth and sin no more.

She added:
...Mitt Romney, speaking at a recent Foreign Policy Initiative conference, indicated "that Obama
shares the view of certain 'foreign-policy circles' that American is 'in decline' and that it is his job to manage America's decline. But that doesn't quite capture the flavor of Obama's mission. Obama is not merely observing a downward trend and trying to shepherd this nation through the process. He believes such a downward direction is the morally proper one for America and Americans, the only way we can be forgiven our manifold sins and emerge purified through humility and sacrifice. Obama also believes that he is the special instrument by which the nation can accomplish this transformation. That, more than any specific policy on any specific issue, is the goal of Obama's presidency: the shriving and humbling of America. That is what Obama means by "fundamental change."

This was originally published at the American Thinker blog.