Letters to the Editor

(May 21, 2007)


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Bush and Sarkozy: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #51

Aloha Gilles,

This edition's "intro" sent me right down to the Blips -- that has not happened before! Just had to get your take on the French election; though being a "good American," and located on a small rock in a large Pacific (the Big Island) I have heard relatively little (minus some bits on NPR)...

I guess your soon-to-be wife had it right: "SO lucky, two, wonderful presidents!"

Keep up the great work!

Malama Pono,

Mike Pacheco
Hakalau, The Big Island, Haiwaii - May 8, 2007

[ed. Even worse, Bernard Kouchner, the new French foreign minister known as an ardent "leftist humanitarian," supported the illegal war against Serbia in 1999, and the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. The "Caviar Left," as they are known in France, are essentially Blairists or Clintonians, partisans of the "Third Way," i.e., imperialism lite.]


Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex: Jan Baughman's Eugene Jarecki's Why We Fight (2/27/07)

To the Editor:

This morning I have been watching Why We Fight. I remember Jan had recommended it. I really enjoyed it (even though it's pretty terrifying).

The film has me thinking that maybe we give too much credit to the Bush administration for where we find ourselves in the world. I don't say that with the intent of letting the administration off the hook in any way, but I wonder how different things would be under another president. Although we may not have ended up in Iraq it seems very probable that we would have engaged in conflict somewhere. With the influence of the military-industrial complex as pervasive as it is, maybe we could attribute much of what we are seeing to the progression of both its influence and the acceptance of its influence as "the way things work." The question I am asking myself is whether the military-industrial complex is so powerful that a president hostile to it would be unable to significantly alter the influence the complex has.

I suppose that was basically the point of making the film, but it's interesting to think about. Were you left with the same questions?

Matt Baughman
Houston, Texas, USA - May 18, 2007

[ed. Matt Baughman's brother is currently serving in Iraq in the Marine Corps.]

Jan Baughman responds:

Your comments on the documentary are precisely to the point and why the "Anyone But Bush" election approach has been so misguided from an antiwar perspective. The Democrats are just as enmeshed in the system, and one can see from war-funding activities that their so-called mandate from the 2006 election is going nowhere. So-called liberals in California fall all over Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi because they are Dems and in particular women, but they are multi-millionaires making money off the war industry and not agents for change. The mythicized Bill Clinton was a part of it too, having wreaked his own havoc in Yugoslavia, Iraq, and the Sudan.

How to break out of the complex is indeed a complex question since our economy is so dependent upon it. A little-mentioned fact is that the US military is the largest consumer of oil in the world.

So when we're going to war to "preserve our way of life," that way of life is not merely your or my comfort, but that oil is keeping the military going, which is keeping the wars going, which requires more oil...


Trivializing Gore's Impact: Peter Byrne's How Eugene Luther Gore Vidal Jr. Became Gorino

Dear Swans and Mr. Byrne:

Thank you, I think, for your review of Gore Vidal's latest -- and one hopes, not last -- memoir, Point-to-Point Navigation. The tone of the review blinks between light and dark with the kind of vertigo-making rapidity that is only increased by my own visual and metaphysical astigmatisms -- or would that be "astigmata?" No matter, the good that comes out of this is that because of Mr. Byrne's review, I believe I have at long last chased down and captured my own tail.

Let me explain.

In his review, Mr. Byrne quotes Gore quoting me: (Vidal), "in response, on page 67, quotes approvingly his defender at the time, the San Francisco journalist, Richard Rapaport: '...although it was no secret, his [Vidal's] sexuality was his own damn business and not a thing gentlemen of his generation comfortably advertised.' Princess Margaret would have found the phrasing just right."

The last, "Princess Margaret" portion of this paragraph is Mr. Byrne's construction related to Gore's alleged "name dropping." Frankly, I'm not certain that even a Windsor Princess could sort out the confusion of who quoted whom for what reason, when. Nor do I think that Gore particularly needed me as "his defender at the time," or at any time for that matter. Still...

Gore was nice enough to include in Point-to-Point an excerpt from the piece written by me last year for "West," the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine entitled "The Great Gorino." It was a name I borrowed in part from "Fred" Fellini, as Gore calls him, and in part from the Neopolitan cab driver who took me up the Amalfi to Ravello, that summer of 1982 about which the story in part centers.

That piece, in turn, liberally quoted from a story that I wrote in 1982 for the San Jose Mercury News about that year's California Democratic Primary, in which Gore ran a strong second, and -- I think -- may well have pulled off an upset had the Chronicle's Randy Schiltz not intruded with his own sexuo/political agenda.

In his review, I think Mr. Byrne makes the mistake of trivializing Gore's impact on that race and on his role in American politics over the last forty years. I seem to recall (in my own memoirical haze) a cover of Time Magazine about Gore and his then new novel Burr. Gore's wonderfully contrarian novelic tromp through America's short history has given many of us the courage to ignore the normative palaver of the day and look a little deeper than we might originally have. Nor should we simply think of Gore -- as many journalists did that election summer -- as a wit to be enjoyed but ultimately dismissed as the mere voice of opposition. Reference, in this case, Gore's Lincoln, which is an elegant celebration of an American so great, that Vidalian wit only increases Lincoln's stature.

My heart caught for a moment last October when Gore appeared in San Francisco's Opera House, and we arrived to find that there was only a single chair on the stage for what was billed as an "interview." My own flash -- a correct one as it turned out -- was that the other chair would be of the wheeled variety in which Gore would be rolled onstage. Such was the case, but the elegant wit flashed often rocking the much younger interviewer back with wonderful regularity. At the end, all I could say was "Viva the Great Gorino!"

Finally, if you are interested; here, not as a quote within a quote within a quote, is the story:

The Great Gorino
Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2006

Many things have changed in Gore Vidal's life, yet it's easy to imagine him grumpily surveying the scorched earth of modern American politics By Richard Rapaport, Richard Rapaport is a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies. May 7, 2006

"Hello, this is Gore Vidal," the East Egg baritone announced. "Is Richard there?" I stammered a return greeting as the voice continued, "I read your story . . ." and then halted. On a Sunday in the spring of 1982, my article about Vidal's campaign for the California Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate had appeared in the San Jose Mercury News. Titled "The Plight of the Writer in Politics," it keyed off the upcoming primary pitting Vidal against soon-to-be-ex-Gov. Jerry Brown.

[ed. Read the full article on the Los Angeles Times Web site.]

Richard Rapaport
Mill Valley, California, USA - May 10, 2007

Peter Byrne responds:

Dear Mr. Rapaport and Swans Commentary,

So Gore Vidal's failure to be named candidate in a California Democratic primary in 1982 makes him politically significant to old timers in that neck of the woods. In the larger world he remains a writer, and in much of his work he is a very good one. The mystery I addressed was why he claims to be so much more.

Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy - May 12, 2007


More on Rostropovich: Arthur Lieb & Isidor Saslav's Remembering Mstislav Rostropovich

To the Editor:

James Ulmer, international arts journalist, reports this anecdote about the late Mstislav Rostropovich: "When I was a student at Harvard in the early 1980s one of my classmates was the cellist Yo Yo Ma, later to become celebrated internationally as a cellist and artist. At this time Rostropovich was giving a series of three masterclasses on campus. During one of these Yo Yo Ma was the performer. Rostropovich's advice to the young Yo Yo was to 'open up' his interpretation. He accompanied this advice by throwing his arms wide from his chest. 'Open it up; open it up. Like opening a window!' Thereupon Yo Yo proceeded to play his piece again, this time with more expansion of expression. Rostropovich's new response: 'Yes you opened up a window. But it's a window on New York City.' Evidently not the perfect place to express and interpret music."

Isidor Saslav
Overton, Texas, USA - May 12, 2007


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Published May 21, 2007
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