Pic: S W A N S  Commentary - logo © Gilles d'Aymery 1996. All rights reserved. - size 6k

c o m m e n t a r y

(Since 1996)



April 7, 2014

 

Trade liberty for safety or money and you'll end up with neither. Liberty, like a grain of salt, easily dissolves.
The power of questioning -- not simply believing -- has no friends. Yet liberty depends on it.
  ***

 

S U P P O R T   S W A N S

Many thanks to Patrick McClung who sent us a financial contribution all the way from Bulgaria in appreciation of our take on the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and Crimea. Thank you Pat. Good readers, we are in April. Time to start contributing, if you please.

 

Note from the Editors:   As tensions between Russia and Ukraine continue to mount, the U.S. is increasing its funding of the latter (as is typical, in the form of bank bailouts...), along with more "democracy promoting" measures that do nothing of the sort. Look, after 49 years, America's still meddling in Cuba -- at least this time by planting social media and not assassins! As Michael Barker explains, elite manipulation of social change is nothing new, and far-sighted members of the ruling class take great pride in trying to stay one step ahead of those they wish to dominate. Case in point: Peter Ackerman and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. In the U.S., it's been a fabulous week for the elite, thanks to the Supreme Court's ruling that unlimited campaign contributions are an expression of free speech, one-upping its prior ruling that corporations are people. Jan Baughman has a few thoughts on the matter, while Glenn Reed does the smart thing and takes a break from human follies to listen to the bird songs that evoke the spirit of a place.

Books are Raju Peddada's source of comfort; or as he puts it, objects of infinite beauty crafted to carry profound freight that can shape or destroy us. Raju tells how he was recently rescued by Plutarch. For Peter Byrne, they are his life blood; herein he considers Canadian culture through the writing of literary critic Edmund Wilson. We close this short edition with the poetry of Guido Monte on Greek myths. Gilles d'Aymery is off with a virulent San Francisco flu that keeps him in bed. He's been off the computer for almost two weeks.

 

Ecrasez l'infâme

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Patterns Which Connect

Ruling-Class Peace?
by Michael Barker

Systemic violence is a uniquely defining characteristic of capitalism: a soul-destroying system that places profit before human need. By way of a contrast, nonviolent activism offers a potent force for helping foment a socialist alternative that favours the needs of the many against the misrule of the few. Far-sighted members of the ruling class, however, take great pride in (vainly) trying to stay one step ahead of those they wish to dominate, and it is with such thoughts in mind that the highly problematic International Center on Nonviolent Conflict was formed in 2002. Yet despite this Center being a creature of imperial discomfort born from within the heart of the US ruling class, they still receive vital ideological support from a handful of progressives and anarchists.   More...

Michael Barker is an independent researcher who lives in London, England.

 

Bird Sounds And The Spirit Of Place
by Glenn Reed

Bird sounds surround me. I know which they are and can attach names to them. I wonder if that's important in a world where we're erasing those names, one after another.

I'm sitting on the back step, looking out on the small back yard. The temperature has only just crept past 40 degrees and there're a few inches of solid ice at my feet that spreads to a huge mound of snow that was plowed up from a huge storm a couple of weeks ago. It's been diminished as the snow has "compacted," becoming heavier with its concentrated moisture. The surface of the pile is black with the debris from two bird feeders that thrust through the snow beneath a shady hemlock tree.   More...

Glenn Reed is a long-time activist and author from Fair Haven, Vermont.

 

The New World Of Expensive Speech
by Jan Baughman

This week's US Supreme Court ruling on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruled in favor of Shaun McCutcheon, who argued that limits to campaign contributions are a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech, putting yet another chink in the armor of democracy, at least the mythic version of which we still pretend exists. So while protesters are required to pay for a permit to protest, and find themselves fenced and prodded like cattle in free-speech zones, the moneyed can now buy a fast-track pass to influence those in power, or those aspiring to be. Citizens United has become Billionaires Unleashed.   More...

Jan Baughman is a clinical researcher and Swans' co-editor.

 

Arts & Culture

How Plutarch Rescued Me
by Raju Peddada

A few days ago I was at Amaranth Used Books in Evanston, which I haunt frequently. There, as I scanned the shelves, something in the periphery caught my eye. In the corner on the floor was this old and damaged stack of books that Joe keeps as virtual giveaways. Adjacent to it was a dusty blue stack in five volumes, with a gold coin embossed on the covers. A closer look revealed it to be Plutarch's Lives. Oh! I have this!, I thought and moved on. As I was ready to step out of the store, something nagged me -- the blue pile wouldn't relinquish it's grip of me. It was as if Plutarch's invisible hand sprang from the stack, reached over, and yanked me back.   More...

Raju Peddada is an industrial designer who lives in Des Plaines, Illinois.

 

Cold Quebec's Boiling Point
by Peter Byrne

In 1962, Edmund Wilson, the foremost American literary critic of the twentieth century, went to Canada to take the measure of the cultural scene. His findings would go into several New Yorker articles. He admitted he hadn't been comprehensive and that the writers he read and discussed were his personal choice. In 1966 he brought the material together in a book, O Canada, An American's Notes on Canadian Culture. ("O Canada" is the Canadian national anthem.) The book isn't on the same level as the studies that made his reputation. He was almost seventy.   More...

Peter Byrne is an American-born teacher and writer who lives in Lecce, Italy.

 

Multilingual Poetry

Greek Myths
by Guido Monte

in the beginning nothing, confusing chàos
a gaping yawning mouth...
by chàos that's gaèa, mother earth,
then the darkness, beings of erebus.   More...

Guido Monte teaches Italian and Latin literature in Palermo, Italy.

 

 

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