Swans » From the Martian Desk


Blips #8

by Gilles d'Aymery


December 13, 2004   


"Ours is an age in which partial truths are tirelessly transformed into total falsehoods and then acclaimed as revolutionary revelations."
—Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin, 1974

(Swans - December 13, 2004)   URGENT MESSAGE (through Ed Herman) from Michael Ratner, International Human Rights Lawyer and President of the Center for Constitutional Rights:

Dear Friends: [...] the Center for Constitutional Rights has filed cases in Germany against U.S. officials, from Rumsfeld on down, seeking an investigation for war crimes including torture. Critical to this effort is public support. You can:

1. Send a letter to the German Prosecutor in support by clicking on our website [www.ccr-ny.org] and sending such a letter in German and English, or [directly] at the link below:


2. Forward this e-mail widely to friends all over the world and ask them to do the same.

Thank you!

ELECTION FRAUD: Here is a letter to US Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton (Dem. NY) that tells the story as it is (and it's not a pretty story):

Dear Senators Clinton and Schumer:

1.  I and my wife are constituents of yours.
2.  I am a lawyer by profession.
3.  This year I worked as a voter protection hotline volunteer in Ohio from October 30th through November 2nd.
4.  I learned of massive, systematic, flagrant disenfranchisement and voter suppression, affecting many hundreds of thousands of voters and would-be voters whose rights were trampled upon by criminals.
5.  In addition, since the election, (a) I have learned of many other disenfranchisement techniques which occurred during and prior to the election, and (b) Secretary of State Blackwell has engaged in a systematic effort to defeat the Cobb/LaMarche recount from having any effect.
6.  It is clear to any thinking person that any set of electors appointed by Secretary Blackwell has not been lawfully selected.
7.  In addition to what occurred in Ohio, there is overwhelming evidence that the State of Florida (a) engaged in many of the same techniques employed in 2000 there, and (b) engaged in a massive electronic vote tabulation fraud.
8.  Accordingly, any electors sought to be seated by either Ohio or Florida are without authority under the law.
9.  I am aware that you may not have the ability to prevent Mr. Bush from achieving a second unlawful coup d'état, this one plunging our country irrevocably into dictatorship from its tradition of democracy.
10.  But you are in a much better position than the rest of us to stand up and be counted so that history will be able to say which side you were on.
11.  This matter is of such seriousness to us that I want to make it clear to you that if you fail to oppose the seating of the electors from the states of Florida and Ohio, as you failed to take action in 2000, my wife and I have determined that
     (a)  we will never again vote for you,
     (b)  we will never again contribute to your campaign, and
     (c)  we will urge all our friends and relatives to do likewise.

Sincerely yours,
Ray Beckerman [address withheld], NY 11432

RAY BECKERMAN, I can assure you, is neither a weirdo nor a conspiracy theorist. He happens to be the father of Eli Beckerman and a New York City attorney who graciously offered me some legal advice earlier this year -- not the type of people to suddenly go berserk and fall off the deep end. I suspect that he voted for the fake republican known as John Kerry and I reckon that he may well consider our collective work at Swans with a mix of bemusement and friendliness but, how to put it gracefully, err rather inconsequential... I say this for he certainly cannot be easily dismissed as some kind of crazies, radicals, extremists, un-democratic commies, etc. -- you know the idiotic, but so effective labels that the lib-labs throw at us repeatedly. Ray, for reasons unbeknown to me, became actively involved in this election cycle and has been relentless on this issue of voters' rights, moving sky and earth to expose what he deems massive electoral fraud that occurred on November 2, 2004 in the so-called greatest democracy in the world.

IN HIS OWN WORDS, Ray says: "I have devoted [considerable time] to covering and assisting grassroots activism seeking to (a) set aside the fraudulent results of the 2004 Ohio "election" and (b) investigate and prosecute the crimes committed in that "election" against the citizens of Ohio, the American people, and our American way of life. The evidence is overwhelming that the election in Ohio was stolen. If we permit a second presidential election to be stolen, the rule of law, and with it democracy, are gravely imperiled in this country." To know more and find out what you can do, visit Ray Beckerman's website.

THE SILLY SEASON is upon us again and, faithful to the sham, The New York Times is back with its annual "Neediest Cases Fund," which raises donations during the holiday season from the middle- and upper-class to throw a few crumbs -- let 'em eat cake -- to a handful of poor fellows. It's a perfectly honed narrative that I reviewed last year in The Silly Season Amidst Terminal Decay (Swans, Dec. 1, 2003). Then, I told the story of these two brave souls, Mrs. Lee and Mr. Crater, so "generously" helped by one of the "charities" that make up the NYT Neediest Cases Fund. What happened to Mrs. Lee and Mr. Clark is not a part of this year's narrative. They may as well be back in some shelter...

BUT NO WORRIES, the charade goes on. There're plenty of candidates for touchy feel-good stories. Take Samuel Levayan, originally from Guayaquil, Ecuador -- it's a great tale (meaning sad, feel-good tale). Mr. Levayan left his wife and three children back home and came to the U.S. where he lived with his sister on Rector Street in Lower Manhattan. Following 9/11, they were forced to move to their aunt's place in Queens. Located too far from his work place he was often late, and got fired. Under stress, he moved to a friend's house. But, in 2002, his wife died, so he traveled to Ecuador to fetch his three children. Once back, the friend told him they had to leave the house. Mr. Levayan, out of luck and change and a roof, and now with three kids, contacted Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York (a member of the NYT Neediest Cases Fund), which pointed him toward a shelter. Fortunately, the social worker at Catholic Charities, Ruthie Torres, "just felt compelled to go the extra mile for them." She arranged for Xmas gifts -- "including two bicycles for the girls" -- and found "a rat-infested transitional apartment in the Bronx" where they stayed for 11 months, until, undoubtedly working tirelessly on their behalf, Ms. Torres found a new, more stable arrangement. See what faith-based reality can achieve...simple wonders, no? As Dr. Johnson once quipped, "Wonders are willingly told and willingly heard." ('Pope,' Lives of the Poets, 1779-1781)

NOW, HOW COULD anyone object to such a nice story? Only a curmudgeon, turned into a misanthrope by the seasonal glittering, could see a negative in such a story...right? Well, then look at the new arrangement: First, Mr. Levayan and his three kids moved to an apartment in Harlem, and, second, he got a full-time job with the very same Catholic Charities that helped him. Nothing wrong with this picture, you'll say -- and Ms. Torres, the social worker, will agree with you. She said, "it was remarkable that someone who used to be a case of hers is now her co-worker." Admirable...I'm entranced by such a happy and "generous" ending!

WHAT GENEROSITY exactly? Ah, yes the finer print... Mr. Levayan is paid $1,200 a month by Catholic Charities for a full-time job. The monthly rent he pays for the subsidized Harlem apartment is $137 -- the balance of the rent is paid by Public Assistance -- that is public money. So, if you have not yet seen the hypocrisy in its entire splendor, let me translate from Martian: Public money pays for Mr. Levayan's rent; Catholic Charities pays slave-wages for a full-time worker (a neat way to have tax money subsidize a religious organization!) and gets goodie-goodie publicity for their faith-based initiatives; and the NYT, imbued with bottomless liberalism, laughs all the way to the bank! (Source: "Family With High Hopes After Separation and Loss," by Cate Doty, NYT, December 5, 2004.)

EVEN MORE, talking about cash, hypocrisy, and Wall Street-do-goodness (how much is the NYT stock worth today?), in the NYT Magazine of the same date, is published a full-page ad for Steuban Glass, which is very fitting to this little narrative of ours. It's about a Swan Bowl, entitled "Five Swans a-Swimming." Beautiful picture of a piece of art... The price for this chef d'oeuvre? $53,000. One little bowl would equate to almost four years of Mr. Lavayan's wages (3.68 years to be accurate). Closer to home, this gem would generate about 75 years-worth of the money we have clandestinely raised this year ($700).

HEY, WHAT ABOUT A Swan bowl for Swans? Yup, *sadly,* we are going to have to beg for money next year. But that's another story... Suffice it to say that would Steuben Glass, or the NYT, or George Soros for that matter, afford the price of a Swan Bowl and send us $53,000 on a yearly basis, we would be in a position to keep on going like the battery bunny...

BUT, LEAVE our own travails aside and focus on the hypocrisy -- I am indeed in a curmudgeon's mood... Look at the "Loyal Opposition," according to the good senior Senator of West Virginia, the irreplaceable Robert Byrd, or to follow Edward Herman's nomenclature, the "Cruise Missile Left," which I personally tag the "Cruise Line Left," aka the folk at The Nation and their humanitarian acolytes in the "progressive community." They too "embarked" the silly season with enthusiasm, like last year and for the seventh consecutive year -- except that in their case "silly season" was spelled Oosterdam, the newest Holland America Line's cruise ship. They boarded the ship on December 5, in Lauderdale, Florida, and as I write this they're relaxing in between the enchanted Caribbean islands of the Bahamas, St. Marteen, and Tortola before going back to the hard work of organizing the masses and monitoring the elections in the Ukraine, on December 12.

OOSTERDAM, nationcruise.com informs, is "pronounced OH-ster-dam, [and] named for the east position of the compass, pointing the direction cruising will take in the future. More staterooms with verandahs for private sunning, dining and relaxing. More dining choices including an intimate reservations-only restaurant, the casual Windstar Café, and the Lido Restaurant, now transformed to a culinary courtyard. More ways to pamper and relax in The Greenhouse Spa and Salon, largest and most luxurious in our fleet. More lounges and nightclubs to entertain you. And more dazzling surprises: two elevators are glass, on the outside of the ship with hundred-mile views. A sensational cruising choice."

IT'S THE NATION CRUISE, messieurs, mesdames, tous à bord s'il vous plait! There and then, you can/could get "private seminars and ad-hoc sessions, dining with guest speakers, private receptions, traveling with like-minded Nation readers," with an "all inclusive pricing, a fully escorted cruise, and much more..." From a paltry $4,098 per person for a top category (SS) to a modest, almost working-class-like $1,382 per person for a category J (uh, how much are Catholic Charities paying Mr. Levayan already?). For old Europe and other overseas and Latin-American readers who may not be familiar with the composition of the American "progressive left," Guest speakers included, as usual, the crème de la crème, the who's who of latte liberalism: Victor Navasky (The Nation publisher), Queen Katrina vanden Heuvel (editor), Lookout-fury Naomi Klein, Robert Scheer and whining sonny Christopher (read his whine on Press Action), Calvin Trillin, good ol' Molly Ivins, squinting David Corn, Patricia Williams, William Greider, Jonathan Schell, Amy Wilentz, Naderphobe Eric Alterman, Laura Flanders (nice bod, babe!), and, in their all-inclusive efforts at multiculturalism and minority rights, NYU Law Professor Derrick Bell.

THE NATION CRUISE WAS sold out, all 600 spots...and for cause: This elite, the ladies and gentlemen from the left salons and boudoirs needed a rest after having so brilliantly attacked Ralph Nader for a good two years, embraced the ABB siren-song, and magisterially contributed to the (re)election of Mr. Bush by supporting the fake aristocrat, visionless, pro-war, bland, DLC facsimile republican and his catsup flowery billionaire (by first marriage to the late Senator H. John Heinz III -- a republican of course!). These idiots have yet to understand that between a republican and a Republican, the latter will always be elected...as it was, beside the fraud in Ohio that these good, like-minded people did not care to monitor (hey, it would have conflicted with the cruise's schedule) -- and Ukraine is much more fun anyway, since it can be done from the comfort of your air-conditioned cabins and not in the rainy-cold winter Ohioan streets and precincts!

WE KNOW THE names of the guest speakers but not those of the 600 happy souls. I'd love to get a list of the attendees. I mean, these are the superlatives of the American Left, the sort of people any registered progressive™ (yeah, anything can be registered in this blessed land) looks up to for spiritual guidance and political leadership. Tell you what, I'll make a fair offer: The first concerned citizen who sends me that list will receive either a) a free subscription to Swans, or b) a 6-month subscription to Bruce Anderson's AVA Oregon (that's a $22 value, folks!), or c) a free three-day weekend in Boonville, at Swans' HQ (room and board, but no booze -- don't worry, there are plenty of wineries in the surroundings). Now, since Swans has been free for its eight-plus years of existence, with no ads or commercials plugs (always free of tax, of course), I suppose that only b) or c) will tempt the progressive crowd... Let me know.

TALKING OF Bruce Anderson, I don't know whether you've finally reached to your wallet and taken a sub to the AVA Oregon, but if you had you would have noticed the very first-ever plug for Swans on page 11. It reads, "Ideas, Opinions, Thoughts - Swans Commentary - www.swans.com -- The bi-weekly electronic companion that tells it as it is." Yeah, I know, it was "only" placed on page 11, and the formatting could have deserved a brush up, but I did not ask for it, and did not pay for it either. So, the next time it comes up in Bruce's pages, I hope he will add another short line: "in solidarity!" Thank you, Bruce!

YOU'D THINK that the folks at ZNet or Counterpunch, or, etc., etc., etc., would act alike, but then we would be living in a different world altogether, where people do not sell their own emblazoned thongs to advance so-called real change (if change ever happens beside self-preservation and aggrandizement) and do not board cruise ships in the name of "loyal dissent."

'NUFF SAID, without solidarity and our willingness to put our differences aside we will *never* -- repeat *never* -- be able to overcome... But differences aside do not mean, and should not translate into, fuzzy lib-lab, market-driven goals. People (and the entire planet) first -- or if I were an adept sloganeer, "people first, death to greed!"

MEANWHILE, "THEY" keep killing in the name of freedom and democracy... When "we" finally grasp that "they" means "us," and that we are letting "our" psychotic subculture do the killing in "our" names, so that like-minded people can go on a cruise to perform cathartic sessions on criticism and self-criticism at thousands of dollars a pop, then and only then, perhaps, will there be an awakening of our collective humanness.

QUOTE FOR THE AGES: "War does not determine who is right -- only who is left."
--Bertrand Russell

ANOTHER QUOTE FOR THE AGES: "When the rich wage war, it is the poor who die."
--Jean Paul Sartre

BOONVILLE NEWS: Here you wake up...it's 4:30 in the morning...total quietness and darkness, and fogness (another coined word on my part). You turn on the coffee maker, wait a few minutes, pour some milk in your cup and add the dark golden elixir, get a cig, go outside and inhale and drink your first poisons of the day... Later on, the dawn makes her appearance and you are faced with a bevy of some 40 wild turkeys on one side of the house and five deer on the other -- enough for many Thanksgiving and barbecued dinners (assuming I had a gun and was willing to destroy nature...). Well, rain or shine (it's been raining a "bit" of late) that's a hearted way to begin the day!

Got a generous check from my neighbor, Arlene Hendricks, to defray the cost of the work Craig Titus performed on our common road, at my request. Spent time with Arlene's mother, Mrs. Rummell (aka, Nina), which I am going to do once a week for the foreseeable future and as long as there is a need for it; and began learning about the history of the Valley in the past 30 some years... It's like sitting at the Drive-in with "Uncle Donn" and learn how he once left the Bay Area decades ago, stopped in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge, got out of his truck, and threw, as impatient car drivers were honking in angst, his tie over the parapet of the bridge, went back to his four wheeler and never looked back...never crossed that bridge again... You keep learning about people's lives, and in the process, it helps you to fathom the lay of the land...and who knows, perhaps even yourself!

The lay of the land in Boonville and the Anderson Valley is as much about kindness as it is about bloody nose and self-preservation. Bloody noses are part of the "environment," as the novel Boonville (by Robert Mailer Anderson, Perennial, 2001) and a recent interview by David Severn (the new publisher/Editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser) of Danny ass-whupping Kuny -- former high school in-and-out football coach and pillar of the community (it takes a lot of pillars to build a "community," preferably of the strong oakly sort) demonstrate. This is country, close enough to so-called civilization (105 miles north of San Francisco), but country nevertheless. Everybody knows everybody else's. Have a problem? Will meet you at the Fair playground tonight... Yet, it looks by far much more peaceful than the again so-called civilized San Francisco...until, I guess, one gets a bloody nose!

Just wished, however, they (whoever "they" are) would stop dumping their cars on old Anderson Valley Way, right down from where I live, with those AVA signs -- no it's not an ad for the Anderson Valley Adveriser, it means Abandoned Vehicle Announcement (or whatever) -- and cease and desist from trashing the side of our dirt road with beer bottles, beer and soda cans, and the like...but I suppose it's too much to ask...civilization has long been a discarded commodity, when we are not busy "civilizing" the natives at the barrel of a gun in other god-less countries (our god, or gods?).

Talking about the Anderson Valley Advertiser, a local reader writes: "How can you shamelessly plug for Bruce Anderson's Oregon Weekly and not support your local paper. Shame on you!" Well, hold on dear reader. As much as I enjoy adding to your quality of life, you need to get your facts straight. So, let me help you -- or better said, I'll help you soon, early in the New Year, or in the spring, or anytime soon (how important are egos anyway?). But, in the meantime, know that I have religiously sent original articles to the AVA. That David Severn would not print them is for you to ask him, and for me to respect his decisions. So, long live the AVA (and whatever it becomes)...and, again, thank you Bruce! Onward.

Mr. Kerrent should not be forgotten. Yes, yes, yes, HE called back, three weeks after he said he would... He was very friendly, enquiring whether I had my "problem" fixed? I told him the road he damaged was indeed fixed at the cost of $$$, but the electrical problem was waiting for his divine intervention. He said he would call the insurance company and would call me back right away. That was seven days ago! If you have an electrical problem around your house, I can tell you who not to call! (Two in my book, and counting.) Obviously, the insurance company has no intention to fulfill their obligations...perhaps Mike Shapiro, the real-estate guy, could stop promoting and recommending this particular company (First American)...

The tractor's coming...but Chief Wilson ain't...yet!

Hey, it's been raining of late. I can hear the water flowing down the creek...the sweetest sound, whisper to the soul... Nature's alive and so I am (hopefully).

PEOPLE FIRST: The Colgate Company has announced that it is cutting its work force by 4,400 people. Its stock immediately shot up on Wall Street... Did I say people first? Must be the spirit of the "holidays"...

LIB-LAB CORNER: (hot off the byte press, and courtesy of the Oregonian of fame)...


"Whosoever loses his temper has also lost the argument."
"One dog barks at the shadow, a hundred dogs bark at its bark."
"If you want to be strong, know your weaknesses"
"If the only tool we have is a hammer, we tend to treat everything as if it were a nail"
"Seek not the truth; cease merely to cherish opinions"

"Outside ideas of right doing and wrong doing there is a field. I'll meet you there."

Dear Bruce Anderson,

Without getting into an extended argument over the particulars of your publication, AVA, I'd like to say that I appreciate all the work and passion you have put into your politics and your newsletter. While I may share many of your views, I do not feel comfortable having Sundance represent those views and the manner in which they are expressed. By placing the AVA in our magazine rack it is implied that we support both the views and the manner in which they are expressed. It shouldn't fall upon me or the Sundance staff to take sides or try to defend the allegations made by you in your newsletter. At Sundance our mission is to provide our community with nourishing food in an atmosphere of kindness. I have the ultimate responsibility to decide what constitutes nourishment and what policies and practices express our sense of kinship with all sentient beings, in particular our customers, staff and vendors. Since Sundance cannot be all things to all people, it is a responsibility that is fraught with hazards. Over the years various individuals and organizations with very strong feelings about the rectitude of their product or issue have solicited me, entreated me, demanding that we meet their expectations of what Sundance should sell or espouse. People have demanded that we cease selling any products packaged in plastic, been outraged that we sell any animal products, including cheese and honey, decried the waste of the Earth's sparse resources on shipping, freezing and refrigerating food. People have also insisted that Sundance support a wide variety of causes and candidates, from right to life to right to death, and their opposites. There is no way we can meet everyone's expectations. I am sorry that this makes people angry, but to look upon Sundance as practicing censorship by not selling or supporting each and every request doesn't make sense to me. We all have to make choices. It is ultimately my difficult and provocative responsibility to decide what Sundance sells. It is not that we believe that "our way is the only way." Sometimes it is difficult to keep ourselves from responding viscerally to a perceived threat, attack or shortcoming on someone's part. Yet it is ultimately our response-ability to think before acting, to reflect on all the relevant aspects of the situation. We need to take into account not only where our intense feelings may be coming from within us, but also to try, hard as it may be, to see the other person's side of things, to imagine what it might be like to be in his or her shoes. Then empathy for the other person's feelings and an understanding of the other person's point of view can dissipate the rage we feel.

If we have friends who share our point of view about the "right or wrong" of a situation, it is easy to be sucked into a group mindset that reinforces our sense of righteous indignation. Since we all have reservoirs of anger from our personal histories and from our perception of injustice in the world, we may unconsciously welcome an opportunity to join forces and together reinforce each other's sense of righteous indignation about the current "outrageous miscarriage of justice," Thus anger can be contagious and lead to scapegoating of individuals or entire groups of people. This channeling of anger results in racism, sexism, homophobia and war. It also manifests itself in our workplace when we demonize someone for making a mistake.

If we are ever going to break the cycle of blame and "acc-you-sation," we will need to practice compassion for ourselves and others. We all struggle to bring our uniquely true self forth out of the constraints of family history and the shackles of a society based on power and consumerism. When we say that our mission at Sundance is to be "Individuals nourishing community nourishing individuals," we imply that we are working at cultivating an atmosphere of mutual respect and kindness that acknowledges that everything is interconnected -- that we are all one.

We need to recognize that there are natural consequences for every act, whether we call it Karma or cause and effect. It is not a question of whether we are good or bad people, well- or ill-intentioned in our words and deeds. What we say and what we do create consequences, reverberations that come back to us. If we fail to appreciate that most of us are doing the best we can, if we don't treat others with kindness, respect and compassion in spite of their differences, faults and imperfections, then we perpetuate the kind of prejudice and self-righteousness that bring so much suffering to our world.

We try to respect the rights and responsibilities of others. All we ask is that our rights and responsibilities also be respected. This includes Sundance's right to decide which publications we carry. May all sentient beings be happy, healthy and at peace.

Gavin McComas,
proprietor, Sundance Natural Foods


UNDERSTAND WHY I loathe the lib-labs?...................... No? Then check again Szasz (back at the very top).

And so it goes...

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America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.

Do you wish to share your opinion? We invite your comments. E-mail the Editor. Please include your full name, address and phone number. If we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country.

Please, feel free to insert a link to this article on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, please DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans. This material is copyrighted, © Gilles d'Aymery 2004. All rights reserved.
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This Week's Internal Links

2004: A Case Study In Forensic Irony - by Phil Rockstroh

2004: Diary Of A Man In Despair - by Michael Doliner

Empire Of Amnesia, 2004 - by John Steppling

2004: Reality in Perspective - by Jan Baughman

2004: Another Best and Worst Year - by Joe Davison

2004: The Lost Year - by Eli Beckerman

2004: Perspectives And Opportunities - by Louis Proyect

2004: The Insurgent Word - by Gerard Donnelly Smith

Retrospective On 2004, Or Why I Need More Sleep - by Joel Wendland

Beyond The Beyond: Reflections on a November Visited Upon us . . . Again - by Milo Clark

2004: We Could Use Some People Power In The U.S. - by Frank Wycoff

2004: The Superpower Kept Sinking - by Philip Greenspan

The Message Of 2004 - by Charles Marowitz

2004: A Year Of Frightening Regression - by Edward S. Herman

2004: The Year Of Disillusion - by Manuel García, Jr.

Death Genes: The Second Coming - Book Excerpt by Walker Percy

Libertad Bajo Palabra - Poem by Octavio Paz (also in French and in English)

Plantation Politics? Mimes, Minstrels And Miscalculation - by S. Jeffrey Jones

Letters to the Editor


Published December 13, 2004
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