Letters to the Editor

(February 23, 2009)


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Leaving No Doubt Where the U.S. Stands on Torture

To the Editor:

On February 9th, in response to a question in the course of the first presidential press conference since his inauguration, President Barack Obama stated that...
What I have said is that my administration is going to operate in a way that leaves no doubt that we do not torture, and that we abide by the Geneva Conventions, and that we observe our traditions of rule of law and due process.
Just hours prior to this sanctimonious pronouncement, the Obama administration announced that the current Department of Justice would be continuing the Bush administration's arrogant stonewalling of the attempt by the proponents of human rights to expose the routine CIA practice of extraordinary rendition, the outsourcing of American torture practices, as manifested in the ACLU sponsored Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. lawsuit. Chillingly, a representative of the Obama Department of Justice supported the administration's position by invoking the same state secrets for the preservation of "national security interests" argument that has been trotted out to shroud the brutal criminal acts of every abusive administration since the Nixon presidency. This is change? This is hope? Given our corrupted electoral process, in which a candidate's viability is determined by his or her ability to procure the financial support of powerful corporate interests, we could not rationally expect this or any other administration to correct, or even honestly address, the economic injustices that have come to define the realities of the American caste system. But was it really too much to hope for that this new American president might possess the simple, human decency to put an end to the national shame of state torture? Apparently, it was.

Michael DeLang
Rockford, Illinois, USA - February 12, 2009


Aereopagitica, no less: Raju Peddada's What Is Luxury?

To the Editor:

Raju Peddada's brilliant, measured look at luxury is an absolute kama sutra of how we have fucked with luxury and it has fucked us, that is, is fucking us. He reminds me of what I imprecisely remember of Milton's Aereopagitica. Not its carping at Catholics and its god-fearing blather, but of its prescience about the world we inherited, caparisoned with luxuries, and fucked up. Despite shaking our invincible locks and emulating a New World eagle, pointing our clear, undazzled gaze at the full mid-day beam of a sunny world we never made. And have just squandered. I think the (suddenly controversial) Milton would have been amazed at the wisdom of a small-town Indian's undazzled gaze at our society. His sons Raju and Atman -- still under five -- are not only lucky to have Peddada as a father, who has, according to The Chicago Tribune, used some of their kindergarten art as the basis of corporate rug design, but further lucky to have a smart, beautiful Moroccan mother to share in their upbringing as handsome, swarth, cutting-edge Americans.

Art Shay
Chicago, Illinois, USA - February 9, 2009


Erdogan Meets Peres at Davos

To the Editor:

There was a hero's welcome for Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he arrived in Istanbul's Ataturk Airport on January 30th. Placards read, "Turkey is proud of you." Flowers were thrown. He was returning from the World Economic Forum of Davos, Switzerland. It's where the people running our world gather annually to gloat over their power. This year the millionaires shed a few crocodile tears for having ruined us. As always they strove to project an image of unity at the top and confident control. That's why Erdogan's spat with Israeli's president, Shimon Peres, had some bite. The script called for consigning to the cemetery of fait accompli, without a further peep, the blitzkrieg that killed 1,300 Palestinians. The Israeli PR campaign that accompanied the onslaught was near perfect. Tel Aviv, having miscalculated its propaganda in the 2006 war against Lebanon, worked hard to get its cover story over this time.

Erdogan's party has municipal elections in March and his stance in Davos was in tune with Turkish public opinion. But then the war on Gaza was launched in view of today's Israeli elections. The victory will doubtless go to whoever convinces the voters that they are the more effective killers. However, Turkey's regional alliance with Israel, which took shape in the early 1990s, won't be perturbed by Erdogan's calling the Israeli attack "a crime against humanity." Turkish politicians often deliver pinpricks to their big-time allies. Erdogan's colleagues called the second U.S. incursion (Nov. 2004) into Fallujah genocide. But the "strategic partnership" with the U.S.A., rooted in the Cold War, never faltered. We will have to be thankful for small mercies. It was something that the Masters of the Universe had their digestion challenged after their gourmet spread at Davos.

Peter Byrne
Istanbul, Turkey - February 10, 2009


Economic Options: Why not Debt Forgiveness?

To the Editor:

Why not just use "debt forgiveness" instead of all the bail-outs and prospective mortgage saving plans that are more complicated and yet unproven in success rates?

Debt forgiveness has been a proven fail-safe in the past for many nations, including those of ancient Greece and Rome.

See http://www.efinancialblog.com/history-money-debt-vanquished/

Why aren't President Obama and Congress considering this option instead of throwing money at so many urgent issues? This is NOT the positive change that the American people were promised. This is a continuation of the same failed policies of the past 8 years.

Peter Stern
Driftwood, Texas, USA - February 19, 2009


Rexroth on San Francisco at the Bureau of Public Secrets Web site

To the Editor:

Just added at the Bureau of Public Secrets website: Kenneth Rexroth's review of Harold Gilliam's San Francisco Bay:

The site also presents a rich selection of Rexroth's San Francisco newspaper and magazine columns -- http://www.bopsecrets.org/rexroth/sf . Sometimes chatty, sometimes scathing, but always provocative, Rexroth examined every facet of San Francisco's cultural and political life as it was happening during the pivotal period from 1960 to 1975.

Partial list of contents:

A Night Out in the City
Beckett and Ionesco
The Civil Rights Sit-ins
Kabuki Theater
The Tao of Fishing
Why I Like Opera
Why I Don't Like Jazz Festivals
"Aida" and Ornette Coleman
Pacifica Radio KPFA
Golden Gate Park
The Film "Elektra"
The Chinese Theater
Victor Serge's Memoirs of a Revolutionary
H.L. Mencken
Charles Mingus
Greeks and Buddhists in Afghanistan
The Harlem Riots
Wonder and Meditation in the Sierras
Mysticism, Ethical and Chemical
The Mafia Invasion of North Beach
Proposals for Chinatown
Bob Dylan
Wine -- French versus Californian
After the Watts Riot
Urban Alienation Renewal
Marxism and the Persistence of Alienation
The International Cultural Revolution
The Provos of Amsterdam
Bolshevism as State Capitalism
Tintoretto and the Painters of Venice
Buddhism and Hinduism in India
The May Revolt in France
Radical Movements on the Defensive
The Ecological Revolution
Women's Liberation
Old Chinatown
Bohemian San Francisco Between the Wars
Organized Vice, Then and Now
The San Francisco Renaissance
The Beat Era
Haight-Ashbury and the Sixties
The New Rock Music
End of a Golden Age

Ken Knabb
"Making petrified conditions dance by singing them their own tune."
Berkeley, California, USA - February 22, 2009


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Published February 23, 2009
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