Swans Commentary » swans.com March 14, 2005  



Blips #14
 From The Martian Desk


by Gilles d'Aymery




"Heretics were often most bitterly persecuted for their least deviation from accepted belief. It was precisely their obstinacy about trifles that irritated the righteous to madness. 'Why can they not yield on so trifling a matter?'"
—Leo Shestov, All Things are Possible, 1905


(Swans - March 14, 2005)  A READER, and letter to the Editor correspondent, writes: "I'm very hesitant to include my personal data listed above [ed. in the e-mail]. Hopefully, you are not a CIA front designed to out pinkos and liberals and other 'un-American' thinkers. If you are, you should know that I love my country, I just want to be able to be proud of it."


NO, DEAR READER, I am not a CIA front, and while I cannot assure you that we haven't been infiltrated in some fashion, I doubt that the CIA (or, for that matter, the FBI, or any of the "security" agencies that crisscross this nation) needs a tiny publication like Swans to out pinkos, dissenters, degenerated oddballs and other deviants who happen to think and advocate a social system based on people's needs rather than people's greed, in which the health care, education, housing, feeding of the people (there is more hunger per capita in the U.S. than in Cuba; more uninsured people, more uneducated, more homeless -- again per capita -- than in Cuba...but then, of course, that can't be true for we are No #1, Numero Uno, right?) and ecological sanity become priorities that would displace our current ones rooted in war, violence, destruction, pilferage, hyper-militarization, suppression of civil liberties, sexual repression, faith-based rapture, consumerism as religion, and navel-gazing individualism as the lowest common denominator of our culture.


WHY, OH WHY, would the CIA, the FBI et al. bother with us? We are so marginalized, so fragmented, so constantly infighting -- dwelling in our little chapels where we debate ad infinitum the sex of the angels, the ever-coming revolution, and our own sacred texts, and get excommunicated without notice for deviating un tant soit peu from the party line, that the spooks and their bosses have little to fear from us. Anyway, most of us, and I don't know who us is, perhaps a few thousands baboons, have already been fingerprinted, photographed, interrogated in one fashion or another with the resulting data sagely deposited in FBI files; and if or when one of us comes to a wider attention, they can depend on the Doonesbury Liberals, in cahoots with the neocon punditry, to do a hatchet-job on the poor fellow (e.g., Ward Churchill).


FURTHERMORE, there's no need for infiltrating a small Web publication when they have all the tools to find out each and every visitor to a given site and can track users as they frolic on the Net or surreptitiously intercept all the e-mails to and from their machines (either directly through the ISPs or by capturing TCP packets). In the near future they'll even be in a position to remotely fingerprint the physical device you use to check your e-mail, chat on line or surf the Web, whether you hide yourself behind a NAT or a firewall, have a static or dynamic IP address, or make use of a virtual honeynet, literally "unanonymizing anonymized network," "by exploiting small, microscopic deviations in device hardware: clock skews." Yep, even your friendly computer has DNA! If you don't believe me, just check this article, or better yet, read the paper, "Remote physical device fingerprinted," to be presented by Tadayoshi Kohno at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, May 8-11, 2005. So, no really, you should not worry much about Swans being a CIA front. They don't need us to know all about you!


BUT HEY, as they say, you have nothing to worry if you've done nothing wrong!


WEAK AS WATER: Thinking of the Doonesbury Liberals and Latte Leftists I've not heard much reaction from the Greeny Peas after the Dean's coronation as the head of the DNC, and I suspect they'll keep an equal discretion -- it's called equanimity in their rank and file -- over the news that MoveOn.org, this ABB bastion of online activists which was oh-so antiwar, doesn't call for the troops to come home anymore. Instead it asks its fiery activists to contribute their frequent-flyer miles to the troops. Wow, talk about hard-core, virtual activism! It's not the war they were against, it's the Bush mothafucker's war. Waged by Clinton it would have been just fine, thank ya', packaged in humanitarian clothes like Kosovo and all that ethnic cleansing baloney -- hey, it's on TV, as one of 'em put it to me then. But in your face, up your ass war -- that caaahboy's war -- makes it hard on the digestive system. Send your frequent-flyer miles, board the Prius and ride to the next anti-war vigil -- don't forget the candles. Oh, wait a minute, there are more pressing dangers at stake...Social Security needs help...have to save it...and it's a bit early in the season for nightly peace vigils... Can't bring the troops home anyhow...it's messy over there, see...complex situation...building democracy...blah, blah, blah.


THEY, at MoveOn.org, "a catalyst for a new kind of grassroots involvement," call this "Democracy in Action." "Busy but concerned citizens" require support "in finding their political voice," all 2,000,000 of them who've joined the MoveOn family... Yeah, "The MoveOn family of organizations consists of three entities. MoveOn.org, a 501(c)(4) organization, primarily focuses on education and advocacy on important national issues. MoveOn PAC, a federal PAC, primarily helps members elect candidates who reflect our values. And MoveOn.org Voter Fund, a 527 organization, primarily educates voters on the positions, records, views, and qualifications of candidates for public office." Yum, yum, honeybee, feels good, warms the cottages...pass on the petits-fours, thank you.


HERE'S A TIDBIT of educative information for the busy but concerned Libiots and other environment-friendly Green Beaners as they actively rush from one meeting to another in their priusmobiles: According to Martin Sereno, a professor of Cognitive Science at UCSD, " The amount of oil needed to *make* a new car is about equivalent to the amount it will use during the lifetime of the car. Thus, from the perspective of running the oil down and adding to greenhouse gases, it's probably worse to get rid of a currently running, less-fuel-efficient car (provided it's not a super-size SUV), and replace it with a hybrid, than it is to just drive your less efficient car into the ground." (http://cogsci.ucsd.edu/~sereno/war.html)


REMINDS ME of the late Donella Meadows. She had this to say in 1998:

The manufacturing of my 55-pound computer generated 139 pounds of waste and used 7,300 gallons of water and 2,300 kilowatt-hours of energy. It will use four times that much energy again during its lifetime--energy that is generated by a nuclear power plant, a coal-fired plant and hydropower from the flooded lands of the Cree people at James Bay.

Since I'm a slow adopter of new technologies, I'll use the computer about four years before the industry convinces me that it's too clunky to tolerate. If I resist, replacement parts and software for my "defunct" models will be hard to come by. I have two defunct models in my attic already. By the year 2005, there will be 150 million personal computers in U.S. landfills, filling a space equivalent to a football field stacked a mile high.

If you think this story is complex, you should read the chapter about athletic shoes! (See "Useful Guide to Understanding Where All That Stuff Comes From.")


KEEPING ON with educative tidbits, you may recall that Times Op-Ed columnist Nicholas Kristof was shocked, shocked, shocked by the news that the U.S. has a worse infant mortality rate than Cuba and that Beijing has a better rate than New York City (see my Blips #10, January 17, 2005). Perhaps someone could bring to Kristof's attention UNICEF's latest report from the Innocenti Research Centre in Florence. The proportion of children living in poverty has risen in most of the countries that belong to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the club of the world's developed countries. Some 50 million children live in poverty in those rich countries. The lowest levels of child poverty are in the Nordic countries like Denmark (less than 3 percent). The worst levels can be found...err, in the United States and Mexico (now, why Mexico belongs to this elite club is anyone's guess). Just about 22 percent of the US population under the age of 18 lives in poverty... Hey, we ain't dead last; Mexico is, with 28 percent. I breathe better! Two questions: Have you heard this news on TV? What's the level of child poverty in Cuba? Class dismissed. (You can download the report from the UNICEF Web site, or read a summary in the Swiss press.)


MEANWHILE, not seen on TV, as Christopher James of CDSM UK tell us, Milosevic carries on with his methodical debunking of the Kangaroo Court in The Hague. However, further buried in the main media is the situation in Kosovo, a boiling cauldron readying itself to destabilize the entire Balkans -- assuming of course that since the late 1980s the Balkans embarked, thanks to Germany and the U.S. and the realpolitik cowardice of the French, on a stabilizing journey... This moribund region is falling further into despair thanks to mainly pro-Albanian lobbying groups in the U.S. and western politicking... Jan Øberg's Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (TFF) has compiled a worthy list of some 65 links that document the gravity of the state of affairs. It's worth a visit.


WORTH A VISIT because there's a clear chaotic trend in the making, from the Balkans, to Central Asia, the Middle East and East Asia...always along the black gold lanes... It looks very much like, in the name of the sempiternal cliché, "Freedom and Democracy," the Western Powers are banking on extremism to the detriment of secularism. It's not just the USA...the EU is much a part of this new Great Game, as the two entities wrestle with each other to safeguard their name-your-country's "way of life," while Russia, not yet on her knees, emerging China and India, and Latin America saying "Sayonara," are all knocking on the door of the rich countries. I am not familiar with chaos theories, and I could use some help here; because, undeniably chaos is being wreaked all over the world... The powers that be are not idiots -- arrogant certainly (I would be if I were in their shoes), but definitely not idiots... So, why do they go after any form of secularism and promote fundamentalism galore? Any helpful explanation appreciated...


LASTLY, but not least, here's another news that won't make the News: Did you know that the disability rate for the Vietnam War's veterans was 10 percent and the rate for all the wars of the last century was 5 percent? And you've heard about Gulf War Syndrome, haven't you? According to Arthur N. Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law in New York, "Out of the 580,400 soldiers who served in GW1 (the first Gulf War), of them, 11,000 are now dead! By the year 2000, there were 325,000 on Permanent Medical Disability. This astounding number of 'Disabled Vets' means that a decade later, 56% of those soldiers who served have some form of permanent medical problems!" And where does this "Syndrome," and accompanying disability and death rates come from, dear Dr. Watson? Bernklau: "This malady (from uranium munitions), that thousands of our military have suffered and died from, has finally been identified as the cause of this sickness, eliminating the guessing. The terrible truth is now being revealed." (Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter No. 169) Adds Bernklau, "a special report published by eminent scientist Leuren Moret naming depleted uranium as the definitive cause of the 'Gulf War Syndrome' has fed a growing scandal about the continued use of uranium munitions by the US Military." Well, you didn't get this news from the idiot-box, did you? (And, if you have a minute between two peace vigils with wine and brie, think for a second of the consequences of DU for Iraq and her population...and don't forget Serbia, another target of our humanitarian "Freedom & Democracy" DU'ed crusade.)


QUOTE FOR THE AGES: "Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy."
--Henry Kissinger, quoted in Kiss the Boys Goodbye: How the United States Betrayed Its Own POW's in Vietnam.


BOONVILLE NEWS: Talk about hitting a wall and shooting oneself in the foot... Lacking storage space close to the house for our tools -- in the U.S. a proud homeowner, that is, the owner of a bank-owned home, needs lots of tools around the house -- and having a tractor with a backhoe, we decided to cut a little bit into the nearby hill in order to build an enclosed shed, which could also be used to store dry firewood. No problem, vroom, vroom, vroom...we move a lot of dirt and rock... vroom, vroom, vroom, and here we are, ready to build a sustaining concrete wall, and onward with the shed. Drive down to Jack's hardware store in Philo and talk to co-owner Bill regarding the needed material (concrete, concrete blocks, mortar, rebar and the like). "No prob'," says Bill. "By the way, how long and tall will the wall be?" he asks. Oh, just about 22 feet long and 7 or 8 feet high, says I. "And would you mind telling me the width?" inquires the curious and helpful man. Just about 8 feet wide, I answer. "Well, well, well," says he, "that's just about 176 sq. f., and anything bigger than 100 sq. f. requires a permit from the county; and any retaining wall over 4 feet high needs to be reviewed by an engineer." "Not that I care," continues Bill, "it's your own business but you should know, right?" Right Bill, will be back in the morning to get the material. See ya'. Thanks! "Sure thing," he says.


LATER THAT evening, get a call from the wife -- well we ain't truly married but after 15 years together sharing the good, the bad and mostly the ugly (me), she's entitled to the appellation, (and in countryspeak, the "the") ...and she also has veto power. The wife says, "Gilles, get the permit and bring the engineer to the house." So, next morning, I visit Bill again and tell him about "our" decision. "Glad you came to your senses; that's the right decision," says he, going on, "When you departed last evening, Jack, my partner, asked about you. He said you looked familiar but he couldn't pinpoint you. I told him, it's the French dude who bought Marsha O'Bannon's house on Vista Ranch. He said, ah yeah...and what did he want? So, I told him you wanted to build a retaining wall without engineering guidance. And he said, with kinda whistling tune, tsee, tsee, tsee, this hill muffin doesn't know what he's doing (yep)...tell him he has to...tell him to call Alexis (his wife who happens to be an architect); she'll put him in touch with an engineer... -- anyway, I'm glad you made the right decision. Here's her phone number. See ya' soon." Sure Bill, thanks!


BACK TO THE house, call Alexis; leave a message on the answering machine... A day or so later, she calls back, saying she'll be out of town for a few days. Let's get back in touch around the 22nd. Meantime call Terry The Engineer in Ukiah, tell him I sent you, and he will put you on the road to shed heaven through a Class K permit from the county. Sure thing, Alexis, thanks, I said, adding that on March 22 I should have a little visit to make in Shit Rosa with the representatives of law and order, but since that much anticipated visit has already been postponed three times, who knows, I'll call back then or soon thereafter... Bye... Allo, Terry? Yes? Alexis of Jack's fame in Philo (hard to remember first names but forget about last names since everybody knows everybody's face in Mendoland) sent me. I need a little rescue mission regarding a retaining wall... "Well," says Terry, "I'm off for a few days [strange how people are always off for a few days when you need them!], so tell Alexis to gimme a call when she's back." Ah? Okay... So, I left another message on Alexis's machine... With my luck, it'll be raining again when she's back!


OH WELL, ç'est la vie... At least I did a clean hill cut and honed my skills with the backhoe!


ASIDE FROM THIS on-hold project, got two real "nice" rants about the Anderson Valley Advertiser, but I'll mothball them till next time. Don't want to ire the nutcrackers at the paper down below...at least not today.


And so it goes...

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Internal Resources

Iraq on Swans

America the 'beautiful'

Blips and Tidbits


About the Author

Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



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Letters to the Editor

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URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art11/desk014.html
Published March 14, 2005