Letters to the Editor

(November 15, 2004)


What the heck, our in-house commie, a very *dangerous* fellow, even takes on the Asia Times, and more...
To the Editor of the Asia Times:

"It's the culture, stupid," the Nov. 5 half-baked musings of Spengler, is of interest because it so clearly reveals the limited cognitive realm this writer exists in. That American "culture" (and we better decide what we mean by that) is corrupt and toxic is hardly news. So we might expect our writer to ask, Why?

The first thing Spengler doesn't examine is how profit and marketing drive the US culture industry. The endless production of cultural product is there to feed an increasingly narcotized public -- an increasingly over-medicated and overworked and overweight public -- as a means of both control and to teach the virtues of consumption. Spengler somehow sees the evangelicals are taking refuge in "moral values" (and he isn't the only one). What values are these? Anti-abortion, anti-contraception (in fact, for many even anti-masturbation) and generally anti-pleasure (practice safe sex by not having sex ... oh, good idea). They are homophobic (how is this a value, exactly? And how does it protect one from the corrupting tide of American liberal culture? Can Spengler answer that one, please?). They believe in the Rapture and in Creationism (now being taught in Wisconsin high schools). Good, that's a way to keep values safe ... deny a couple hundred years of science and rationality.

Spengler's fatuous reductivism makes such discussions pretty pointless. The Christian far right, and those we think voted for [President George W.] Bush because of "values," also embrace a thinly disguised racism. American exceptionalism is what it's called these days. That Spengler can quote Cold War fruit loop Samuel Huntington speaks to his intellectual bankruptcy. "They hate us because of our freedoms"... uh, no, they hate us because colonialism has never stopped, and because we pillage and bomb them and economically exploit them. File this under "duh."

To not mention the colonial experience is a typically Spenglerian bit of myopia. The US empire continues to bomb defenseless countries and to steal natural resources. We have bases all over the world ... is that to "protect our freedoms?" Of course not. The far-right zealots are not really about "values," they are about a bigoted and narrow, intolerant world view where only the true believer is allowed sanctuary.

Here is an idea, Spengler: read up on the IFIs [international financial institutions] and check how economic readjustment works in the developing world. Check the history of Iraq and the rest of the Arab world and see how colonialism affected it. Then check Islamic history and philosophy and find [for] me where this belief system is inherently militant. And then read about the Crusades ... or hell, just read the latest encyclical from the pope (that stalwart paragon of values) to see where Christianity isn't militant.

The cultural decay of America is obvious enough ... but not for the reasons Spengler would have us believe. And most certainly the Islamic world is right to be angry about the imperialist policies of the West. Do not, however, conflate resistance to US hegemony with resentment of our ability to pick from 12 kinds of detergent and do not further the implicit racism of Muslim-bashing neo-cons. Do not apologize for the bigoted and narrow world view, the sex-negative and anti-rational hallucinations of a [Jerry] Falwell or a [John] Ashcroft. Bush has no values except for those of profit and domination. That so many unhappy and confused Americans voted for him mostly speaks to the absence of real alternatives.

John Steppling
Krakow, Poland - November 9, 2004


...And then he still finds the time to deconstruct Swans: John Steppling's Review of Swans' November 1 Edition -- people, this is indeed a *dangerous* fellagah! Ashcroft, Ash-croft, what will we do without you? Arrest him, arrest him!!! Deport him! Oops, he's already in exile...sorry about that.

To the Editor:

Teamate: "What time is it?"
Yogi Berra: "You mean now?"

Well, the great non-event is over. Shrub for four more years. If ever the notion of how pointless electoral politics is in a class-based society, this election certainly underscores it. At least the enemy is in plain view...openly fascistic and contemptuous of the populace. I watched the press conference today where the quisling press corps tossed slow pitch softballs at the president...and he did his best to form coherent answers. The press is a disgrace and one of the vows of this next four years should be to turn off the fucking TV, turn it off and keep it off -- and stop reading any corporate-owned newspaper. As young Asad Hadair writes in a recent ZNet article, now that the ABB strategy failed there is little excuse for not being "radical". You mean now? Yeah.

But on to Swans.

Milo Clark takes a moment to look at the obfuscation of the 9-11 attacks. Now I am always leery of conspiracy theories, per se, but Milo's questions are long overdue for answers. I find all the video footage and photo analysis a sort of Rorschach test for paranoids. I am inclined to always look for a psychoanalytic answer to such things. In this case I have to add, however, that the blanket suppression of all investigation of 9-11 makes me start to ponder what might be going on. I mean why is the government so adamant about not examining what happened? I said a couple weeks back that I knew of house fires in residential neighborhoods that got more thorough investigation. So while I may not grasp what the conspiracy types are going on about when they look at all this video footage, I do know when I smell a cover-up. Cover-up of what? Good question. I hope Milo follows up with a Part Two.

Phil Rockstroh delivers an outstanding article that, for me anyway, really captures something essential and illusive about our national psyche. His psycho-geography lesson reminds me of everyone from Breece D'J Pancake, to Guy Debord and Harry Crews. Southern gothic has gradually morphed into southern brain fried.....and our loss of community, nationally, is revealed in all its stark ugliness. Phil's deft historical sideways glances are even more relevant in the aftermath of the new religious jingoism and madness that seem the latest version of collective self loathing in our failing empire -- but the one that mainstream media idiotically refers to as the "values" issue. Bush won because of "values". Such reductivism is typical of the corporate press these days. Bush has only negative values...same as Kerry. Homophobia is a negative value, misogyny is a negative value, racism is a negative value, and fanatic obscurantist religious dogmatizing also doesn't qualify as something to be proud of, value-wise (which reminds me, where is Hitchens to answer for Bush prosecuting Islamic obscurantists? Does it occur to Chris "freshen up this Mai Tai" Hitchens that Bush and Rove and Ashcroft are every bit as obscurantist as Mullah Omar? Is Christopher's happy creationism now being taught in Wisconsin high schools?). In any event, Phil has written one the best pieces to appear in SWANS since I started these reviews.

Mark Lause gives us a quite tasty history lesson on James Weaver's 1880 Presidential bid -- via a third party. The interesting thing is Lause's analysis of what "winning" means. Too often of late, one heard how voting for Nader (or Cobb, or whoever outside the big two) was pointless because they couldn't win. The ethos of winning looms large in America. There is nothing worse that can be said of someone in the good ol' US of A than to be called a loser. Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing, as one of those redneck football coaches once said (or maybe it was Vince Lombardi...whatever). Indeed, win at all costs ("just win baby"...Al Davis). The Weaver story is well worth pondering. Winning and losing are long-term phenomena. As some other sports oracle said, it's not over till the fat lady sings...or, as Yogi Berra said, it's not over till it's over.

Manual García gives us a short clear set of notes on the Israel/Palestine question...in a week where Arafat seems to have slid into clinical brain death. As García points out, Israel has ALL the power -- all of it. This observation would be a good segue to a number of topics relating to the "war on terror" (sic). All those terrorists................threatening the world's biggest army (like Palestinians threatening the world's third biggest military) with all that money raised by Osama and whoever...and the US defense budget inching toward two billion a day (now THAT'S big money). The Empire has all the power, and yet seems ever more fragile and ever more plagued with emotional and psychic ailments. The dying Leviathan, beaching itself in convulsions of insanity, brought on by its own toxic waste (like those shrieking dolphins that do the same thing, victims of corporate pollution). America the Empire is killing itself while proclaiming its health. But then, as Norman Mailer recently put it, Americans would rather be told they are healthy, than to actually be healthy.

Our fearless leader again dives into an assortment of issues in his Martian blips' section. I was happy to see Gilles touch on the "safety" issue. It does sometimes seem that the authority's structure does nothing BUT sell fear. The sex negative slant will only get more pronounced (guys like Ralph Reed helping it along), homophobia and racism will multiply. A friend who teaches college in Washington DC recently e-mailed me to say a student had written a piece explaining how gay marriage would lead to bestiality. I mean, who knew? All life-negative. The wonderful Henri Lefebvre, in his 1960s book Introduction to Modernity, was already pointing out the life-negative leanings of the new "Marxists" (Marx himself, a rabid anti-Malthusian, hated anything that smelled of life or sex negativity...especially for the poor). Gilles ties these observations into his usual irritation with the "progressive community," and is right to do so. It reminds me what has become of one of my least favorite words: responsibility. I never quite know what people mean when they use it these days, but I usually get the feeling that liberals use it a lot, and usually as a stick to beat up those with few choices in life. It's like seat belt laws....stuff like that. I don't want to wear seat belts, but then I don't live in California anymore; so I don't have to. Ok, well, I fear I am drifting off topic again, so let me conclude by saying I also liked the heads-up on the Schieffer boys. Yeah...free press and all that.

Joe Davison makes some excellent points in his article -- and on a subject not discussed nearly enough; namely the demonizing of any leader who refuses to fall in lockstep with the Empire's plans. Castro, Milosevic, Chávez, Danny Ortega, and back to Lumumba -- and even Saddam...it's a long, long, looooooong list. It's not a question of the moral fiber of a Saddam Hussein, but rather the clear (and Davison charts this beautifully) bias toward anyone with the temerity to resist. The western press is no help in tweezing apart this stuff, but only a cursory examination by anyone wanting a real picture will yield some surprising facts.

And thanks to Gerard for dedicating a poem to me (and Gilles). Not since a girl named Eleanor, in the 6th grade, wrote me a poem, has anyone done that. Though I don't recall hers being about dead horses.

And what do we make of Kerry conceding while so many irregularities remain in Ohio? Imagine a scared puppy rolling over and piddling on itself.

Oops, Boris wants to walk... See you.

John Steppling
Krakow, Poland - November 8, 2004
[ed. 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.]


Post-Election Blues
To the Editor:

There is more circumstantial evidence that the 2004 election was fraudulent than there is that Scott Peterson murdered his wife. Put Diebold Hava on your Google and find out for yourself. The primary concern of many is the lack of a permanent record of the voter's ballots. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires all voting systems print out a paper ballot that can be verified by the voter if necessary.

Title III of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 states: "The voting system shall provide the voter with an opportunity to change the ballot or correct any error before the permanent paper record is produced. The paper record produced under sub paragraph (A) shall be available as an official record for any recount conducted with respect to any election in which the system is used."

This is only one instance where the audacious theft of our Constitutional rights have been abrogated by this administration and its cohorts Diebold and the other system manufacturers who all have ties to General Dynamics and Northrup and the whole military industrial complex.

If we allow the Bush administration to continue to rule we are as guilty as those Germans who passed the infamous enabling acts that put Hitler in power.

John H. St. John
Spring Valley, California, USA - November 11, 2004


Short and Succinct: Manuel García's Putting The Elephant Out
To the Editor:

Mr. Garcia's commentary "Putting the Elephant Out" was refreshingly accurate and well stated.

Henry Pelifian
New Hartford, New York, USA - November 8, 2004


Can you make sense of this one? Our editors can't, so let's just start with a sweeping [sic]: Phil Rockstroh's On Attendance Of A Funeral In The Rural South: Empire, Jesus, And The Death Gene
Dear Swans Commentary,

Three Wishes: Grace=>Mercy=>Peace.
(notably opposite of War<=Sacrifice<=Law)

I'm LOL, and rolling on the floor with the veggie alligators from the witty & revelatory humour of New York Phil Rockstroh, as he tells his puny story of attending a Carolina funeral.

Brave-O to Swans for posting such conclusionary "best way to survive Death Genes is face them and name them;" For the strength of seven deadly sins, which bring forth death to all when allowed to be first finished of twain runners running the human race, also the bottom of the terror-ist barrell, is first of such twainy law law of old dblemindead "Moses Moses" (Ex 3), self-admitted great terror-ist (Dt 34:12) who addead "law worketh wrath" to "my grace is sufficient."

Awareness is prevailing: peace is breaking out worldwide. Keep up the awareness, it's in deed working out for good. God saw "good" x 6, and "very good" 7th time, in Gen 1. So, contrary to popular unbelief, Love(God) isn't blind, eh.

TgooLJCwya. Amen

Daniel Miles in Canadah, eh
www.godshew.org -- www leader for 'fight law vs flush law' - November 1, 2004


More on Revolution and Zionism: See Gilles d'Aymery's comments on Mrs. Erlenda Karlsdottir's Letter to the Editor, in the past issue [Ed. The first letter from Mrs. Erlenda Karlsdottir was received before publication of the last issue and therefore before she could read the response to her letter. Her second letter was received after she'd read the response.]
Dear Mr. d'Aymery:

Thank you for reading my letter, and even answer it, no other leftist ever does. Although I consider myself to be a leftist, it seems to me that Christians are considered Pariahs on the left. Never mind that we probably disagree profoundly on Zionism, but just to be heard is a progress. And if I'd known, you'd actually publish the letter, I would have taken better care of my language. With other leftist magazines I had argued, that the left should reach out to religious people, like Christians and Muslims, since this is the only way to get resistance against imperialism on a broad enough base to actually stop the Empire in it's tracks.

I personally believe that we are at a very dangerous time in history where we on the way of sliding into what Marx called barbarism, which he thought to be the only alternative to communism. Since I'm not a Marxist, my opinion is, that there could be other alternatives, culturally and regionally different ways for a humanist society.

But I agree that absolute inhumane barbarism is a real danger in times when the capitalist system is in such a big trouble as it is right now. And in trouble it is, the stock-market is totally out of bound with the reality of true production and sooner or later it will break.

Of course, as a Christian I believe, that this will not be the end of human history and that there will be light on the end of the tunnel. But how long the tunnel will last and how many generations will have to suffer through it, I do not know. Plans are already made for an endless war in which the Western world will be posed against the Muslim world. The use of atomic and biological weapons is threatened within this war-scenario, just read the PNAC-papers. There are even rumours about reduction of world population by whatever means.

So I think it's time to reach out to all possible allies, even if we disagree with part of their views. So I'm reaching out to you, even while some of the articles you publish, the ones in which some of your authors talk in tones about Christ and Christianity, I find deeply hurtful. Here is a link to my website, where I'm trying to make the point, that religion through the times of human history has been far more than just "Opium for the People," but instead has been in the past the accumulation of human knowledge and wisdom, the expression of human culture and a certain deterrent from greed taking over all. I do acknowledge that religion can be a tool for oppression in the hands of the elite, but it also can be a tool to fight oppression in the hands of the oppressed. As most tools can be used to create or used to kill. http://www.freewebs.com/empirescreamer/religionandpolitics.htm

You will most probably disagree deeply with me. But then, even if you disagree with a viewpoint, isn't it at least worth consideration? And even if you disagree with people in some points, isn't it still possibly to become allies when you have some common ground in other viewpoints and you face a common and rather severe danger? Most of the Left doesn't think so, but I disagree.


Erlenda Karlsdottir
Reykjavik, Iceland - 29 October, 2004


Dear Mr. d'Aymery:

Actually I followed the link to the Shahak commentary of Oded from a left blogger-site.

I did not even know it was a right wing site or I would not have sent it to you. Personally I don't care any more, since I read from many different sources.

And since after reading this piece I also read Israel Shahak's book, I disagree with you about that he would feel ashamed of and what not. He was very much opposed to the racism of his fellow Israelis and towards the expansionist politics of Israel's government and of the support of those politics by the Jewish Diaspora.

He most definitely would not have wanted a special treatment for Israel. Every other country behaving like this would be called a rogue state. And every individual sanctioning such behavior would be called a racist.

There are and have been other anti-Arab racists for sure. But right now nobody treats them worse than Israel does, with the exception of the U.S. of course. And the treatment of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib was the same, as the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, with a special emphasis on sexual humiliation. Pure coincidence, I know.

You can believe whatever you want, it doesn't change the facts.


Erlenda Karlsdottir
Reykjavik, Iceland - November 2, 2004

Gilles d'Aymery responds:

Certainly, Israel Shahak would not have felt ashamed to find himself involuntarily associated with a Judeophobic site. I wrote that he would have been embarrassed...as I would were my name and work posted on such a site. Ignorance usually leads to incorrect conclusions and cannot be claimed as an excuse for the company one keeps (knowingly or not).

It is one thing to criticize, even rage against, the state of Israel's racist, violent, and dispossessing policies toward the Palestinians (America and "its Indians," anyone? -- which is not, actually, a proper analogy -- but one I have used nonetheless), and another one altogether to find oneself deep into Judeophobia's muddy land.

"Facts?" I can't fathom the fact that so many people don't understand the difference. But, I won't hold Mrs. Erlenda Karlsdottir responsible. After all, she admits her ignorance while many activists and others walk blindingly along the squalid beast (Brecht), which, while tamed, remains fecund (cf. fundies and white trash in the U.S.).


Old Acquaintances: John Steppling's Cultural Entropy
To the Editor:

When John Steppling lived and wrote in Los Angeles, he was without peer as a playwright. As we squat here on "The Dream Coast" (his term), waiting for today's national election results, knowing in our souls that this, too, will be stolen from us, all Americans should be reading this extraordinary essay. Or, rather, hearing it read aloud over all radio networks. But of course such poetic genius is beyond our comprehension. Which is probably why we drove him from America. It is good to read his words once again, however distant they seem on (s)election day.

Richard Stayton, editor
Written By, The magazine of the Writers Guild of America, west.
Los Angeles, California, USA - November 4, 2004


To the Editor:

I enjoyed John Steppling's "Entropy" piece very much. Same day I read it my wife, walking to work up 5th Avenue, saw Tony Kushner driving a black Jaguar...fast. (Maybe he had also read the piece and was trying to get out of town.) Anyway, it was good to hear John's voice, like a call to prayer. Things are, as one can imagine, low here. We're all a bit punch drunk from a continuous medley of invisible Masked Monster Tag Team blows. If I could draw, Sue Coe like, I'd do a multiple mock up of those pyramid prisoners at Abu Ghraib, millions of them, democrats all, in positions of ambiguously erotic but forced (?) embarrassments, the red leash collar around the Donkey's joint extended back and firmly secured between W's clenched teeth. Meanwhile, I have a rewritten version of a play, The Ordeal of Nancy F., I could send it to John, if you send a hard mail address. It also speaks, in its way, to the present occasion.

M. E.
New York City, New York, USA - November 8, 2004


OH LA LA... !@#$%^&* Scavenging Revolt: Gilles d'Aymery's blips #5
[Gilles d'Aymery: This needs a bit of explanation for following the thread, published in chronological order. I will make a few short comments placed between brackets beginning with my initials, GA.]

[GA. First, the editor of dissidentvoice.org, wrote an e-mail...]

Dear Gilles,

My name is Sunil Sharma, editor of Dissident Voice newsletter, which you referred to as a "scavenging" website along with Common Dreams and Axis of Logic in your "Blips #5."

I take strong exception to your comment about DV. Take a look through DV on any given day and you'll see the vast majority of articles is original material submitted directly to me. Many of these articles are posted on other websites as the authors send their articles to multiple publications with the hope of getting as wide a reading as possible . . . as indeed they should, especially since they rarely get paid for their writing labors.

If an article first appeared in another publication, I say so, posting a link to that website both at the top and bottom of the article, after having obtained the author's or publication's permission. I choose to link to the original source publication rather than just the original article because it seems to me that readers will then have an opportunity to see more of what that publication has to offer (meaning more page views for them) than if they only visit the original article itself.

I often post articles from Socialist Worker (with proper attribution), for example, which SW co-editor Alan Maass sends me and other publications like CounterPunch, because we share much in common politically and because he wants SW's work to get as wide a reading as possible. The same with Democracy Rising's material, Alternative Press Review, The Free Press, Greg Palast, Media Lens and many others, all of whom send me their material directly for posting.

This hardly qualifies as "scavenging."

As to the Cockburn piece you mentioned. . . I have a relationship with Jeffrey St. Clair at CounterPunch (which Cockburn co-edits). I have written a few articles that CP has published over the years, I've sent them original work from other DV writers to post on CP, and I make it a point to do reviews of their books (I posted three reviews of St. Clair's book on environmental politics, which other outlets refused to review) to help promote them and get their message out. St. Clair graciously gave me permission three years ago to post his and Alex's work, gratis (though I offered to pay a fee). He has been supportive of DV and has expressed the hope that DV builds up its readership. Every article has links to the respective author's earlier work in DV. The embedded links to other Cockburn articles on DV (I don't post everything he writes for CP) is simply easier for me to insert than to try and find it on CP, which isn't easy to do given their website's layout. You're more than welcome to contact St. Clair to confirm this: sitka [at] comcast.net.

You write that DV is "all about" myself, as can be attested from my bio page. That's a bit rich, Gilles, given that Swans, according to its submissions guidelines, demands that contributing writers only submit their work to Swans and nowhere else; even material that appears on that author's own personal website. What that clearly suggests to me is that Swans is only interested in promoting itself. I don't make that demand of writers, and I say in my Submissions page that writers retain full copyright control of their work. The reason is, I want their work to be read by as many people out there as possible, with the hope that their ideas and views will proliferate among the populace, and maybe hopefully some positive change can be affected.

Unlike genuinely scavenging websites like Common Dreams (which has blacklisted articles from DV because I complained about their having posted two DV articles without any mention of us), I don't ask for donations or other contributions from readers. I pay quite a bit of money out of my pocket to provide an internet space for these writers to get heard, and a great deal of personal time doing so. I put this entire website together on my own, there is no staff here. I put in at least 25 hours a week of work into publishing DV, editing original submissions, answering emails, etc., on top of a full-time day job and a busy music schedule at night. I have hardly much of a social life to speak of as a result.

In the case of scavenging websites who post DV articles with proper attribution, like Smirking Chimp, I don't complain to them at all (even if I'm annoyed they didn't ask me or the author for permission first) simply because I'm glad that a larger audience will be exposed to that author's work. Hopefully that writer will gain a larger audience as a result, maybe sell his/her books, promote their website, etc.

I'd be interested in an explanation from you as to how all this makes Dissident Voice more "about me" than Swans' demand of complete ownership and control over the works of its contributing writers, which probably prevents a wider audience from reading their important work. Is it about Swans and you, or the writers and the greater public interest?


Sunil Sharma
Dissident Voice Editor
Santa Rosa, California, USA - November 1, 2004

[GA. There is evidently little difference (!) between the About Page of Dissident Voice and that of Swans, as readers may easily figure out...]


[GA. Then, not satisified enough with his whining dung, he contacted his troops and asked for help, appending his cry-baby prose and the incriminating part of my blips...]

Dear Readers and DV Contributing Writers,

The following is an excerpt of an article from Gilles d'Aymery, publisher and co-editor of Swans (http://www.swans.com/), which I found on the internet today (I did not receive it directly from him), and my reply which I just emailed to him. I encourage you folks to chime in (politely please) if you wish: aymery [at] ix [dot] netcom [dot] com.

-- Sunil

[GA. Mommy, mommy, oh il est méchant le monsieur...go tell him how nice, and good and well-intentioned I am...mommy...]


[GA. ...And the deluge began in short order...listed chronologically (time zones respected)...]

Dear Aymery,

Your spurious allegations against Sunil / DissidentVoice and Les Blough / AxisofLogic were consistent with the devious backdoor way you attacked -- instead of bringing your concerns directly to Sunil & Les, both of whom I have found most pleasant and accommodating persons to deal with.

Such destructive, arrogant and competitive behavior by "progressives" against colleagues smacks of the way our common enemy does business, and only serves them. Granting you the benefit of the doubt Aymery, perhaps you did not take time to actually study and evaluate the substance of Les and Sunil's work. If so you would have realized how invaluable it is and with what integrity they both do it.


Liz Burbank
Seattle, Washington, USA - November 1, 2004

[GA. Glad to contribute to your quality of life, Liz...]


To the Editor:

As one of the writers who regularly sends original work to Dissident Voice, I felt the need to contact you, re: your facile characterization of Sunil's site as "scavenging."

I write articles--sometimes several per week--with the goal of reaching as wide an audience as possible. I rarely get paid...but that's not the point (at least not for me). So, I simultaneously submit my work to 5-10 sites and then hope they are picked up (much nicer than "scavenged," don't you think?) by many more sites. I first came in touch with Sunil when he asked permission to re-post one of my articles (hardly the behavior of a scavenger). After that, I added Dissident Voice to the list of sites to which I submit all my work.

Ironically, one of the reasons I've never submitted work to Swans is the exclusivity demand. Why would I limit myself to one site and one audience if I am writing in the hope of provoking independent thought and a more just world? Why let an article get stale while I wait to see if Swans accepted it and will react angrily if someone else sees fit to share it? In fact, I will often a do a Google search of an article just to see how widely it has been disseminated (and often translated).

In the end, I just want to make clear that Sunil is providing a valuable service to readers across the globe and, in the name of solidarity, I wish other sites would recognize and appreciate that.


Mickey Z.
Astoria, New York, USA - November 1, 2004

[GA. Ironically, it's as well... I have never had any interest in contacting Mickey... Maybe it's due to my allegiance to the real Mouse... Or maybe, I've a certain detachment from so-called "revolutionaries" who market themselves through T-shirts, ***thongs*** and coffee cups emblazoned with their names... I don't know, another mystery of life, I suppose...]


Hi Gilles,

Just a note from a working journalist who has made peace with the fact that my work is likely to be re-published on-line without my being compensated, asked for permission, or even notified. As a working journalist who went to the trouble to obtain a degree in journalism from a Carnegie 1 research institution, I expect to be paid for my writing when it appears in a print publication, though I often allow my photography to be used without compensation, asking only that I be credited as photographer. On-line publication is often different because so few on-line publications are profit-making organizations. I'm delighted that Sunil publishes my work on his web-site, www.dissidentvoice.org, just as I am delighted when Alex Cockburn publishes my work on www.counterpunch.org and when Ali Kahn publishes my work on www.mediamonitors.net. As a matter of fact, had not Ali Kahn encouraged me to write for on-line publications like his, I would probably still be writing exclusively for print media publications that are not able to publish the writing I do for on-line publications. Though I would certainly like to be paid for everything I write, that's not going to happen. Though I don't receive any monetary compensation for the vast majority of my on-line writings, my writing life is enriched by that work, from which I derive a sense of accomplishment equal to that attendant upon the journalism for which I do receive monetary compensation.

I've even come to terms with those, I think scavengers is the term you used, who re-publish my work without notifying me, and many do. Some of those groups I would rather not be associated with, but there is little or nothing I can do to prevent their re-publishing my work, so I simply don't let their use of my work trouble me. Every few weeks I do a google search, using my name and a few of the words that frequently appear in my work, just to see who is re-publishing my work without my permission. I'm always surprised at how the list has grown. And often the surprises are pleasant ones.

I suspect that my experience in that regard is not unusual.

By the way, I have found Sunil, Alex, and Ali to be unfailingly thoughtful, courteous, and professional in every way. I wish I could say as much for all who have published ore-published my work.

Best wishes,

Michael Gillespie
Ames, Iowa, USA - November 1, 2004

[GA. Funny, I can't remember the last time I googled my name... Vive la différence!]


[GA. Then comes Les Blough (Axis of Logic -- or AOL...amusing acronym, no) riding high on his white horse, seemingly ignoring me, but making darn sure to copy me...Hilarious!]

Dear Liz,

Agreed. I found it interesting that Gilles chose not to write to me directly. As such, I offer no reply.

Thanks for sending this along. Otherwise, I'd have never seen it!

Peace and solidarity,

Les Blough, Editor
Axis of Logic Boston, Massachusetts, USA - November 1, 2004


[GA. And Mr. Blough continues with the same technique... "Hey," says the anti-imperialist, revolutionary luminary, "I want to make sure this gadfly -- does he eat frog legs? -- know that I am really, truly ignoring him...so, I'll copy my rant to him." Call it non-ignored ignorance!]

Dear Liz and Sunil,

Mysteries of Gilles d'Aymery and SWANS

I knew the article referenced by Gilles (Cultural Entropy, by Steppling) rang a bell, so I went back and did a little research. It happens that Mr. Steppling, SWANS author, sent me very kind e-mail earlier today, thanking me for the use of one of our original, copyrighted articles which he quoted at length in "Cultural Entropy"! He asked me to pass his email on to our author, which I promptly did. I wrote back to Steppling, thanking him for the quote and asking if he would correct the spelling of the original author's name. Steppling replied with an apology. All in all, we had a pleasant exchange.

We saw Steppling's article in SWANS but chose not to post a reprint. We have 8 regular columnists and publish a great deal of original writing. We do post reprints of articles, but always with proper attribution and credit to author and source. So Gilles' words have added mystery for us. Given Gilles' concern about ethics (i.e. "Talk about ethics! Talk about stealing!"), I cannot help but wonder if his ethics include apologies given when they are due? Steppling knows how to apologize. Is it within Gilles d'Aymery's capacity to do so? It seems to me that Gilles needs to sort out who his enemies are in this battle against war and imperialism.


Les Blough, Editor
Axis of Logic Boston, Massachusetts, USA - November 1, 2004

[GA. This dodo really does not get it. The source *was* the New Left Review, capitch? And what gives him the right to choose whether to post an article or not? Ah, yes the famous provision of Title 17/107... Ah, again, the height of hypocrisy...]


To the Editor:

To someone who has in a rather belligerent manner inexcusably mis-characterized Sunil Sharma and Dissident Voice:

Since (quoting a speaker at a Women's Global Strike for Peace Day) we live not in a society but in an economy (the distorting effect of which is quite evident in your own words) Sunil, who is a musician, of necessity has a day job (as he himself may have told you), yet created and maintains the great gift that Dissident Voice is, because he believes some things should be free.

When I scavenge from his site (which I do frequently -- and often receive notes of appreciation in response from the recipients) I always include his website signature:

>Dissident Voice is a newsletter dedicated to challenging the lies of
>the corporate press and the privileged classes it serves. >

>"To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair
>inevitable." -- Raymond Williams >

>Editor: Sunil K. Sharma >

>DV welcomes your feedback/free use of your country vacation
>home/fine ales/excess wealth.

[here omitting subscription and contact information]

It always heartens me to read that.

On many occasions and in many ways I have been helpfully provided with requested information or corrections, bracingly or gently directed away from despair, and otherwise aided by Sunil (whom I have never met). I well remember the first instance: Charlie Liteky was about to leave for Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness in 2002, and wanted, but had no time to research, a particular citation. I suspected Sunil, to whose Dissident Voice I had become a gratefully amazed subscriber, might know how to find it, so called Sunil (who publishes his phone number), leaving on his answering machine a request for any assistance he could give me. That very day he called, and called again as many times as necessary, to read onto my own answering machine while I was out, every bit of the reference Charlie was seeking, enabling me to transcribe and send it immediately.

Please recognize that Sunil deserves at least the attempt to match his generosity and courage.

Barbara Deutsch
San Francisco, California, USA - November 1, 2004

[GA. Another candidate for sainthood?]


Dear Gilles,

Following your piece titled INFURIATING SCAVENGERS [From "Blips #5," November 1, 2004, I'm getting somewhat confused about what your goals might be.

For one, are you protesting in the name of Cockburn? This would be the first time [and I'm very fond of CounterPunch] that I'd read any of the people posting on CounterPunch complaining that their stuff gets reposted by "scavengers." Moreover, sometimes [as was the case for the great piece you mention] getting through a "scavenger" a piece I appreciate reminds me to go to the original site to see what else they have been posting since my last visit. Actually, it's through the reposting of some of Swans' pieces by "scavengers" that I originally visited your own site!!!

But I have more of a problem with your overall position, considering the greed of some posters. A good example is Fisk and the Independent. Weren't it for the "scavengers," only people who can afford a subscription to The Independent's "Portfolio" could have access to Fisk's articles, which goes directly against our right to know [and do we need Fisk's voice about what's going on in Iraq!!!].... Free Speech, eh? Beyond this, what exactly do you mean with this attack on "scavengers"? Are you fighting for Intellectual Property Rights? I don't quite get what your real point is, here.

As far as I'm concerned, I feel extremely thankful to the labor of love of these "scavengers," particularly Sunil and Tom [you forgot to mention the Information Clearinghouse]. And, if you looked closely enough at their news sites, you'd see that they make sure the original site is mentioned [and linked with, more often than not].

By the way, as a fan of Arundhati, let me thank you for your review of "Arundhati Roy's Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy."

Till later,

Viviane Lerner
Hilo, Hawai'i, USA - November 1, 2004

[GA. Glad you liked the review. It's been published in the AVA Oregon, by the way, as have many other Swans' pieces, which are re-published in print/pulp publications, but not on the Web. One should not confuse the consumerist media like The Independent (UK), whose articles are quickly moved to a for-pay location, and publications like the NLR, whose articles are free to all readers and remain in the same location. One can make the multi-posting case for the former to some extent; but in the case of the latter, the result of the multi-posters' and scavengers' action is literally stealing readers from the publishing source -- a fact so easily provable that it's not even funny...]


Dear Gilles,

Re your interesting blog that Sunil Sharma has brought to his readers' attention, I often find amazing the amount of time and headspace folks on the "left" can give to starting a completely pointless and idiotic fight. If you were so concerned why didn't you contact Alex Cockburn and have done with it? I've found him to be ready with a lucid and helpful reply to my questions and concerns.

This reminds me of an "anarchist" collective here in San Francisco that I would guess probably has 5 members total. They devote sections of their quarterly newspaper to making fun of Trotskyists in a fairly unhumorous and bland sophomoric way. Most anybody reading their paper would already know that Trots can be a real bore--but somehow criticizing them is more important to these people than criticizing imperialist war and a thousand other worthy causes both groups share.

So what I've learned, as someone who is trying to devote my time, work, and hard-earned money to making this a better world, is that I probably shouldn't pay much attention to your website nor to the silly, so-called anarchist paper. Right?

Well, maybe you were just having a confused and bad day. Chill out dude.

David De Neef
San Francisco, California, USA - November 1, 2004

[GA. Right dude, do not pay attention to Swans. In this issue, 15 *original* works are published, in addition to these letters to the editor. Yeah, sure, don't pay attention, for instance, to Louis Proyect's The Sopranos, Capitalism And Organized Crime." We'll all feel like orphans to miss your readership, I guess. However, if you go and read the piece or any other piece, take a moment to look at the source of the file(s)...maybe you'll learn something about why these authors find Swans' no multi-posting policy reasonable, and gladly accepted.]


Hello Gilles,

I thought you might like to hear from someone who posts articles on Sunil Sharma's Dissident Voice. I am grateful for DV's role in getting my messages out. I send my essays to a number of internet publications simultaneously, and am happy when they post them. There is no scavenging and no competition. People like myself don't get paid for our work, though we often go to the places the paid mainstream journalists don't get to. Our interest is not money or prestige, but giving others a glimpse of lives and struggles we have been privileged to share. And we are happy to share our news with DV and others.

Thanks for your interest in the matter!

Annie Higgins
Williamsburg, Virginia, USA - November 1, 2004

[GA. Yawn, I'm falling asleep...]


To Gilles d'Aymery:

Once upon a time, my written work, if not directly related to a journal geared for a specific community of activists, could only be printed in law reviews and philosophy journals.

Because of Dissident Voice, this has changed.

Academic publications have value, but they are limited in their ability to get authors' work out to the public. Academic publications also take a great deal of time with articles; and sometimes I'd like to get a time-sensitive comment out.

Because of Dissident Voice, I can. (Example: www.dissidentvoice.org/Oct04/Hall1026.htm)

Another thing. The area in which I work is at the nexus of what most people would consider two entirely separate fields. Sunil Sharma is uniquely open to acknowledging their interconnections.

Sunil has published my original work through Dissident Voice, and from there (thanks to Sunil's generous attitude), my work has been replicated on Ecofem.org and other sites. This has connected me with others who seek progress in the same fields, including people with whom I am now planning an international conference. Such is the potential of the Internet, when used to empower rather than to restrict.

Sunil Sharma deserves support but never asks for it. Indeed, Sunil makes it downright impossible for all but the most creative to figure out how to give it.

Moreover, the previously-published work that Dissident Voice shares (with clear attribution and links) enables me find other sites of interest to progressive writers; and those sites do take monetary contributions. So in that sense, I'd strongly suspect that the sites linked from previously published articles gain more support from Dissident Voice than Dissident Voice gains from them.

If you do not care for Dissident Voice, you do not have to support it.

But you don't need to diss it.

Very truly yours,

Lee Hall
Devon, Pennsylvania - November 1, 2004

[GA. Yaaaaaaaawn...]


Dear Mr. Gilles d'Aymery

As a consummate Forwarder of topical material, I almost always prefer to credit the originators of the piece at the beginning.

When we are all exposing the various truths affecting our lives, there should be no room for this kind of ego gratification and unnecessary back biting.

I withdrew from ICH, because there were no links to originals.

Working together we can eventually reverse the curse (W. Bush). (Actually I am a Bruins [hockey] fan.)

Shanti Renfrew
Boston, Massachusetts, USA - November 3, 2004 [Ed. City/state not validated. Shanti Renfrew did not answer two polite requests for the information...but the Bruins are in that neighborhood...]

[GA. Good, please refrain from consummately forwarding Swans' work in its entirety. Instead, please disseminate its URL(s) on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. That's another way of working together, no?]


[GA. And we end with a personal correspondence from Liz Burbank, to which I have responded and whose response I will use soon to answer on the merits posited by all those good people. Meanwhile, allow me to direct your attention to the fact that all those good people appear to emanate from America -- an observation worth noting when one wants to ponder behavioral practices on the Internet.]

Hey Gilles,


Is 'multi-posting' a gentler, kinder way of saying 'scavenger'? Are we 'contemptible 'digesters' scavengers because we collect others' work rather than publish original work? If that's the meaning of 'multiposting', I sympathize a bit with the sentiment but basically think it's stupid as well as snobbish -- lowlife 'scavengers' like me, though lower on creativity scales, do after all do extensive research, critical reading & in some cases including mine, often critical commentary -- we locate & help disseminate relatively rare gems like swans, etc., and give them wider more varied audiences. Yes the work is available 'at a click', but first people must know it exists. But if that is not your 'multiposting' mean, do explain.

Liz Burbank
Seattle, Washington, USA - November 7, 2004

[GA. Could someone kindly explain to Liz the difference between a compiler and a researcher? So, an original piece is published on NLR. I get a link to the piece from John in Krakow, Poland; the link is on AOL. AOL indicates the source as DV. DV indicates the source as NLR. Then I receive the piece in its entirety from Liz through her own mailing list, and also from another compiler. Furthermore, though not in this particular instance, I often end up seeing these (articles) also published in pulp. Don't people, when they stop scratching their scrotum and googling their name, see the waste of bandwidth and time to all concerned? Truly mind boggling...]


[GA. Finally, here's an incidental one, from a legal department, no less:]

Dear Gilles D'Aymery, [sic]

It has come to our attention that you have used the term LISTSERV(R)

to describe electronic mail distribution lists in your article, "Infuriating Scavengers" published in Swans Commentary on October 31, By Gilles D'Aymery. [sic] Unfortunately, that term is a registered trademark and should only be used to refer to our e-mail list management software product. For more detailed information please see:


It is a common mistake to use LISTSERV(R) as a generic term. We request that you replace it with another phrase, such as "e-mail list," "mailing list," or "discussion group."

We apologize if this causes any inconvenience. Your attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.

Please contact me with any concerns or questions.


Michelle James
L-Soft international
Mariland, November 10, 2004

[GA. I answered Ms. James as follows:]

Dear Ms. James,

Thank you for your e-mail and for alerting me to the fact that Listserv is a registered trademark. I didn't know this. Thank you. It is of course not a problem for me to correct the text.

Allow me three questions?

1) Is the use of Listserv with a (R) or a (TM) appended authorized?

2) How does it hurt L-Soft when one uses the word in the same context as one would use the word coke to refer to a soda, etc.? (I'm not a lawyer, evidently!)

3) Finally, and out of curiosity, how did you find this particular Web page (I presume that you aren't a Swans' reader) among the millions that are posted on a daily basis? Are you by any chance using the services of allresearch.com?

I would appreciate it if you could answer these questions and, in the meantime, I thank you again for having alerted me. The correction will be made by Nov. 14/15, 2004.

Gilles d'Aymery
Swans Commentary, Boonville, California, USA - November 11, 2004

[GA. Still awaiting Ms. James's response to my question...]
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 November 15, 2004
[Copyright]-[Archives]-[Resources]-[Main Page]