c o m m e n t a r y
June 17, 2013
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. ***
P L E A S E, S U P P O R T S W A N S
Note from the Editors:
"Credibility" is the word of the day, with Barack Obama's increasingly under question of late. He's being attacked -- most vociferously from the right -- over scandals and leaks at the CIA, IRS, NSA, etc. It all seems to come with the job description... The previous administrations' detours from the law are long behind us, but Glenn Reed has not forgotten, as he considers the scorecard for "liberty and justice for all" in the last few months, where torturers are deemed free from prosecution by the US Supreme Court, war criminals get library dedications and praise, and a corporate crook who ruined the lives of thousands gets to serve just a quarter of his sentence. Only in America! In all fairness, the president's criticism comes from his supporters as well, one being Harvey Whitney, Jr. As an adjunct professor, he and his colleagues are suffering the adverse effects of the Affordable Care Act, the untoward consequences of which do not bode well for the fragile state of the higher education system. As to the fragile state of the environment, Michael Barker presents Part III of his look at the seemingly strange bedfellows and their legacy of "spiritual capitalism" within the organic movement.
After all that, it's time for a humorous interlude. Jan Baughman, our house editor and punctuation connoisseur, describes a rant-filled year without access to a comma, while Gilles d'Aymery takes a sardonic look at the state of privacy in the age of digitalism. Peter Byrne turns to satire with a review of George Saunders's newest collection of short stories, and Raju Peddada's travel tale reveals real-life dog and monkey business in India. We close with David Francis's poetic train trip through Illinois and the unusual landmark pointed out by the conductor, Guido Monte's poem inspired by a Luigi Pirandello story, and your letters regarding William Vogt and Michael Barker on population control, and Gilles d'Aymery's The Non-Drumbeaters and Non-Axe-Grinders.
"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your common sense."
Don't believe everything you think!
Patterns Which Connect
I was thinking about the American Pledge of Allegiance just the other day. It was brought to mind at a fundraising event held in a local community building.
Even before I was an avowed progressive, way back in elementary and high school, that pledge made me squirm. It just seemed, well, militaristic? And when I began to question my spiritual beliefs in high school, that line "one nation, under God..." bothered me. Why should I recite lines and allegiance to things in which I did not necessarily believe? More...
Glenn Reed is a long-time activist and author from Fair Haven, Vermont.
The Adjunct Professor Conundrum And The Affordable Care Act
Now that the college academic school year has entered its summer phase, I thought I would take time to explore some of the most important issues facing contingent faculty in higher education. In particular, I feel the need to explore some of the ramifications of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act -- sometimes derisively referred to by critics as "Obamacare" -- and its effect upon the material conditions of the adjunct professor in higher education. More...
Harvey E. Whitney, Jr. is a Ph.D. student in history at Florida State University.
Beyond The Macrobiotic Faithful (Part III of III)
Owing to their fixation upon all that is deemed "natural," the work of macrobiotic enthusiasts has become heavily entwined with more conservative forms of environmental activism, one example being provided by a book published by a group of macrobiotic practitioners called Amberwaves. Edited by Edward Esko and the head of Amberwaves, Alex Jack, the book in question is titled Saving Organic Rice (Amberwaves, 2001), and it carries contributions from the likes of Paul Hawken, Vandana Shiva, Amory and Hunter Lovins -- all of whom focus their writings on saving natural foods from their apparent mortal enemy, genetically engineered crops. More...
Michael Barker is an independent researcher who lives in London, England.
Humor with a Zest
An Uncomma Life
It was an interesting year, but one that I don't care to repeat. Some people go a year without television, or a year without chocolate; me, I went a year without a comma. I dare you to even attempt it.
I didn't choose this path, mind you -- it chose me. It began rather innocuously when I attended a professional conference in San Francisco, which, in my profession, amounts to signing up to receive endless telemarketing calls begging for your business, but I digress. I reluctantly gave my business card to various entities, and found myself entered in numerous door-prize drawings. For whatever reason it was my lucky day, and I won 3 of the 5 prizes: a $25 Starbucks gift card, a Coach handbag, and a Kindle Fire, the latter of which led to this fateful, frustrating, comma-free year. More...
Jan Baughman is a clinical researcher and Swans' co-editor.
Privacy And Digitalism
On June 8, 2013, the thermometer outside the house hit over 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Two days later it was down to 60 degrees -- a 50-degree spread in 48 hours accompanied by dry thunderstorms and lightning, a perfect combination for devastating wildfires. The weather forecasts missed the happenstance altogether, a perfect illustration of the modern technology that adds to the credibility of managing complex systems. In the last month, eons in the fast pace of the TV news cycle, poor Barack Obama has seen his credibility put to task: The CIA was more involved in the Benghazi terror attack than it first appeared. Then the FBI snooped on the Associated Press, and the IRS allegedly targeted members of the Tea Party and other conservative groups. Republicans were up in arms. More...
Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.
Hungry Man, Reach For The Book
George Saunders's Satire For Soft Hearts
Good satire doesn't weep for its victims. It states a bleak case, grotesque and hilarious, and moves on. Check out Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal, Voltaire's Candide, or even Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One. It's up to the reader of satire to make with the morality, the articulating of which, should any strike him, takes place in his mind. This laconic dynamic runs into trouble in a country where looney optimism, identified with patriotism, is de rigueur. American writers can do bleakness. More...
Peter Byrne is an American-born teacher and writer who lives in Lecce, Italy.
Arts & Culture
We hired a private taxi early morning in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, on the 30th of October 2008, for a 3-hour drive into Tamil Nadu. Our destination: Katpadi Junction, where we were to board our train to Mangalore, Karnataka, as reservations were impossible from Tirupati. More...
Raju Peddada is an industrial designer who lives in Des Plaines, Illinois.
I remember on the train
David Francis is an artist who lives in New York City.
the spirit departs
Guido Monte teaches Italian and Latin literature in Palermo, Italy.
Letters to the Editor
On William Vogt and Michael Barker on population control, and Gilles d'Aymery's The Non-Drumbeaters and Non-Axe-Grinders. More...
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