Letters to the Editor

(May 24, 2004)


Review of Swans' May 10 Edition

[Ed. John Steppling has agreed to write a regular review of Swans editions. Steppling is a LA playwright (Rockefeller fellow, NEA recipient, and PEN-West winner) and screenwriter (most recent was Animal Factory directed by Steve Buscemi). He is currently living in Poland where he teaches at the National Film School in Lodz.]

To the Editor:

There is a sense of near metaphysical delirium running through the commentaries of the left in recent days. This seems an appropriate response to the language of this current administration. Perhaps it's my current location in Krakow, Poland that heightens my sensitivity to this topic (more on this at some point...the Krakovian community of church goers just organized a march of intolerance against the homosexual "threat" this past week), but I think Phil Rockstroh's finely tuned radar again picks up the salient aspects of the ever-more reductive reflex of the religious zealot who seems to exist in the uber-culture's check out line. That religion should dumb down like most other aspects of Western culture shouldn't really surprise any of us; but I fear it's the wedding of cracker born-again bigotry to the maiden of marketing that strikes me as particularly frightening. The average attention span of Mr. and Mrs. America is about the same as a partly housebroken Cocker Spaniel, and so the rush of information that the media spews out -- Abu Ghraib to American Idol to Lakers win four in a row is simply beyond the ability of most folks out there to process very deeply...and, indeed, all of us have problems sticking to a topic for very long (what's going on at the Milosevic trial? Where is Aristide? Where is Charles Taylor? ... In fact, WHO is Charles Taylor?).

This, however, brings me to a few other small but relevant points made in other articles within this past issue of Swans. John Blunt refers to the "democratic UN..." Whoa, let's re-wind that again. Since when is the UN democratic? In what sense? The Security Council, made up of the winners of a war of fifty years ago, is permanent. Add to this the U.S.'s use of its veto power (over a hundred vetoes of any resolution that would condemn Israel for its occupation and practice of assassination) and you have something a bit less than democracy... However, Blunt rightfully points out the corporate carpetbaggers that are selling off the country (like so many others places before), but to suggest a trust in American ideals like the rule of law and governmental transparency is a tad naïve. Ask those inner city kids that sit in criminal courts around the country each day, or increasingly in state correctional facilities, if the rule of law is something for which the U.S. should pat itself on the back? And since when has the US government ever been transparent? Quick, someone help me with this one! But as a Polish leftist (I believe) once said, "if voting changed anything, they would make it illegal."

Joel Wendland, in a useful article, mentions the move toward sovereignty in Iraq... Whoa again, what might this remark mean? Does ANYONE think sovereignty was a goal of the imperialist US government in its occupation of Iraq? Of course not, the goal is control and permanent military bases (remember oil, Saudi Arabia?). I think, as the Note from the Editor suggests, that a re-reading of the articles listed in American Hegemon, especially Ed Herman's, is a useful way to keep in mind what is going on here.

The late Edward Said, in one of his last interviews, mentioned the prevailing sense of unreality he found in the world. Well, if Abu Ghraib and the Nick Berg video don't reinforce his point, then nothing will. Mark LeVine recently posited the idea that chaos was "exactly" what the CPA and US military wanted in Iraq -- destabilization is profitable. Chaos, war profiteering, and the useful economic ramifications of military waste, all brewed up with a dash of Christian fundamentalism, tabloid religious discourse, sound bite inner lives, and a few photos of naked masturbating men in the red-neck porn-a-thon that was the US holding tank in Iraq, are a clearer representation of our current actuality. As Rumsfeld said at his Baghdad pep rally (quoting Lincoln), "America is the last best hope for mankind." Once again, tell that to the guys in D-block at Abu Ghraib or Camp Gitmo, or for that matter, LA County Jail...or to the Native Americans Manuel García mentions in the conclusion of his article...or the rest of the indigenous peoples wiped out by cross-carrying messengers from Christiandom. No, this is a blood soaked nation, beset now by barely supressible nightmares of its countless atrocities and obsessed with its compulsive self-congratulation and increasingly exposed impotence. Kierkegaard said something to the effect that complex questions require complex answers. These days, instead of complex answers, we're getting recycled word viruses (per Burroughs), platitudes, and Pepsi commercials.

To conclude on this past issue of Swans: Milo Clark's chicken parable has never been more relevant, though trying to visualize the ketchup heiress and her skull and bones hubby as a drastic improvement is somewhat of a reach... Still, Clark's wisdom is to be remembered when the walls start to close in on us. Reviewing the Cockburn and St. Clair book on anti-Semitism is a much needed template for discussion of a complicated and thorny topic. Gilles d'Aymery's two part analysis might be looked to as the definitive reference for understanding that a condemnation of Israeli government policy is not to be confused with anti-Semitism. Finally, Philip Greenspan's piece...a tonic and an obvious point, but one too often neglected...and that is that war is about death. Mothers and fathers might want to remember that when they send their sons and daughters off to fight for Halliburton...they might come back in a box.

John Steppling
Krakow, Poland - May 18, 2004


Regarding Gilles d'Aymery's Book Review, The Politics Of Anti-Semitism, Part II: Stereotypes And Other Canards

To the Editor:

Great review of of The Politics Of Anti-Semitism though I would disagree with your criticism of the Christisons. I consider them pretty cutting edge myself.


Ken Freeland
Houston, Texas, USA - May 11, 2004

To the Editor:

It seems to me that a case might be made/pursued under American election laws regarding foreign intervention in American electoral affairs which might mute/ameliorate Israel's influence on American policy. I am not clear what laws are being broken, but a foreign state targeting our congress for either smear or bribe must be anathema to the American electorate, including the 78% of American Jews who do not identify themselves as Zionist. If you have some notion of any organization which is looking into the lawsuit approach to this problem, please advise. Thanks.

Warmest regards,

Pierre Ardans
Longmont, Colorado, USA - May 20, 2004

[Ed. We are unaware of any organization pursuing this allegation. Keep in mind, if you are alluding to AIPAC, that the organization is not financed by the state of Israel but by American citizens and residents.]


Regarding Gilles d'Aymery's & Jan Baughman's Ralph Nader: If Not Now, When? (March 1, 2004)

To the Editor (more specifically, Jan Baughman):

Yes....I'm for a 2 party system in this election. Just get Bush the hell out of there. If Kerry gets elected nothing will happen for 4 years. Good. We need the rest. The whole world needs the rest. Then a real 3rd party can grow. But we MUST get Bush out of there ASAP. I'm just being practical and realistic. And frightened. I'm all for a 3rd party. We need one desperately. We need a real one. Do you know of any? Nader's is a cult of personality, not a real political party with a platform. His platform is Ralph Nader. He has taken money from Republicans in Oregon and Florida. That makes him a Bush supporter. He has no foreign policy, no policy on education, housing, and health care (that makes any realistic sense), rebuilding the national infrastructure (which nobody talks about...you know..transportation, access to telecommunications, roads and bridges), veterans rights, not on anything but killing the corporations...like the one you work for. Now if the Socialist Party put up a real candidate I'd vote for him/her. Or if Bill Bradley would get off his can and run as an independent or the same for Bob Kerrey....how about Friedman from The New York Times....he has incredible insight. But Nader?! Surely you can do better. He is trying to relive his Corvair glory days....back in the 1960s. How pathetic.

Come on Jan...get real...you are way too smart to support Nader. Let's talk about drafting someone good and I will gladly do some work for him or her. But the first order of business is to get rid of Bush. He is very dangerous and there is too much at stake here. This is a frightening crossroads for America and I don't want to see a hack like Nader keep Bush in the White House. God help us all.

Michael Yonchenko
Independent Media Producer
Sonoma, California, USA - May 19, 2004

[Ed. Mr. Yonchenko may want to check out Walter Brown, the 2004 candidate of the Socialist Party USA. He may decide for himself whether Brown is a "real candidate." Of course, the Democratic Socialists (DSA), "a cesspool of hardened reformists" in the words of Louis Proyect, call for a Kerry vote. Bradley/Kerrey/Friedman are all pale mirrors of Kerry and, their insight (a matter of opinion) notwithstanding, would not run on an Independent ticket. In any case, Mr. Yonchenko is contradicting himself. Say Mr. Bradley would run as an Independent instead of Mr. Nader, would this help defeat Mr. Bush? If yes, why? Mr. Yonchenko asserts that Mr. Nader, having gotten money from Republicans, is a "Bush supporter." Mr. Nader has also taken money from Democrats. Does that make Mr. Nader a "Kerry supporter?" Mr. Nader's intentions have never been and are not about "killing the [500/1,000 employees] corporations," but taking power away from the mega-corporations that control the world's polities. Let's not compare apples and oranges, please. Our predicament goes far beyond the Republicrat incestuous pas de deux as G. M. Tamás elaborated in his essay, On Post-Fascism (Boston Review, Summer 2000 issue). Demeaning Ralph Nader and playing the rhetorical flourish about being "way too smart" to support Mr. Nader cannot replace sound reasoning. Surely, Mr. Yonchenko is smart enough to understand that. (P.S. Regarding Thomas Friedman's "incredible insight," have a look at http://www.observer.com/pages/story.asp?ID=9065.]

Regarding John Blunt's Evangelical Democracy: What Gunboat Salvation Won't Fix . . .

To the Editor:

Much like biblical johnny did (turned back to law, and fell, off his humpty dumpty wall, as dead, at the feet of Melchisidec) your Johnny be Blunt started out his Evangelical Democracy article for Swans real good, even exciting; but then turned back to law, like a dog returned to his vomit, and a sow returned to her mire. Too bad, sow sad. No wonder world sow f**ked up I need dyslexic glassed to make it look right.

Daniel Miles
Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada - May 12, 2004

[Ed. Sic]


Regarding Swans and Milo Clark

Aloha Editor!

Many thanks for the intriguing, thoughtful and insightful contributions. I came across SWANS a couple of months ago -- LOVE IT!

I am actually sending a note to Milo Clark: (could you please forward?)

Milo -- would love to meet you some time! I have been a high school science teacher (for 18 years), live on the Hamakua coast (Ninole) and am struggling to create a sustainable farm! I know -- did I read your article in April -- yes, and had to read it twice. Your writing style has a unique "tweaking" flair to it! By this, I mean, the reader must deeply move into the piece, and when the reader finds oneself moving in what seems different or opposite directions, a pause in reading, some conscious thinking is in order... It's like the reader gets pushed into a way of thinking and then pushed back or around...

I was also intrigued with your terrorism article. I was teaching the element of "CONCEPTS" (I actively pursue critical thinking...though that must sound awkward since I am part of the DOE...) and dealt precisely with the idea expressed in your essay -- a "few" got it... but even most of my colleagues are unwilling to deal with the reality of it. That seems to be a recurring theme in your last few articles...

Mike Pacheco
Ninole, Hawaii, USA - May 12, 2004

Milo Clark responds:


Thanks for being a SWANS reader. We deeply appreciate comments and feedback. I like to think my commentaries are thought provoking, reader-involving, rather than rhetorical polemics. The current piece on the symbiosis of Wahabi extremism and Saudi Arabia and what meaning this has for us in the USA will be one of the more important I have contributed to SWANS.

Reform, if that is the word, of public education is a quagmire, not just in Hawaii but in all the states in which I have lived. Hawaii Republican Governor Linda Lingle's proposals, examined with any care, are a big step backward into big brother top down processes disguised as locally focused systems. Ever since I first came to Hawaii in 1975, succeeding administrations have all promised to reform public education. Much money has been thrown around. Rhetoric floods the debates. Little has changed. Kids remain short-changed. Teachers are denigrated. You have a high degree of courage to persist.

Lee and I live on two acres of mini-botanical garden in a rainforest kipuka at the top of Leilani Estates just south of Pahoa. Some years ago, I worked a few acres of organic truck garden near Waimea on Kauai. Now, we buy our vegetables at the Maku'u Sunday market near us or the Wednesday market in Hilo.

Pursuit of critical thinking can lead to headaches of frustration. Welcome aboard.

Milo Clark
from the rainforest of untourist Hawaii


We appreciate and welcome your comments. Please, sign your e-mail with your name and add your city, state, country, address and phone number. If we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country. Send your comments to the Editor. (Letters may be shortened and edited)
Previous || Letters to the Editor || Next

Published May 24, 2004
[Copyright]-[Archives]-[Resources]-[Main Page]