Letters to the Editor

(January 17, 2005)


A friendly libertarian message from Portugal, in response to Charles Marowitz's book review on B. Russell, Philosopher, Heal Thyself

To the Editor:

I fear that Charles Marowitz, in his review of Ray Monk's biography of Russell, has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Bertrand Russell did make many errors of judgment, but there is much 'positive juice' to be extracted from reading him, if one is discriminating.

Ray Monk has admitted publicly that his intense dislike of Russell has strongly coloured his own work on him. This implies to me that he did not wish to make the discriminating (let alone sympathetic) judgments one might expect of a biographer -- but rather set out to do a demolition job.

I have written on Russell myself in a slightly different context (http://www.lewrockwell.com/wall/wall12.html) in what I intended (and I hope has turned out) to be a more sympathetic vein, but with my eyes still open.

Best regards,

Richard Wall
Estoril, Portugal - January 3, 2005


John Steppling's Review of Swans' January 3 Edition

To the Editor:

Milo Clark's piece mentions a name that is coming up rather a lot these days...Wilhelm Reich. I take this as a good sign. Reich's "character analysis" has been much maligned...this society would have to do far too much inward searching to accept the idea that society itself is the cause of neurosis. He saw repression as the essential ingredient in emotional unhealth. In other words, if you can't physically surrender (a favorite word of the good Doctor) then your sex will be lousy and you'll develop all manner of emotional and psychological disorders. I like Clark's take on Reich, and on how it relates to the religious fanatics out there. One small observation, and that is that rigid leftists suffer identical debilitating dysfunctions. Judgmental and repressed leftists suffer the same clogged up libidos as the fundie-loons at Bob Jones University. Throw them all in an orgone box.

Jan Baughman's short article observes the ruthlessness of corporate America. Yeah, take the imitation gold watch and fuck off. Milo's asked about morality and ethics in his above mentioned piece, and Jan answers some of that, in terms of today's America. Punishment-addicted and numb...and indifferent to "people." People don't matter, but the bottom line does. Obvious, but good to be reminded.

Interesting review of a bio on Bertrand Russell, by Charles Marowitz. I don't know enough, really, to speak with any authority on Russell. Not on his thoughts, and not on his life. However, opposing any US foreign policy doesn't sound mad, it sounds sane. I guess, for the record, I should add I still admire Che Guevara too. That said, the list at the end...excluding Malcolm (why is he mildewed?) does remind one of "reform" politics in general. The end is always one of submersion in the great uber-capitalist culture of greed. Market your new pants (like Eldridge) or whatever....and commodify your politics. Hey, should I book my berth on The Nation's Cruise Ship Left for next year? Never too early, I suppose.

Our editor's blips are a natural segue here...and it reminded me that I was a bit put off by an open letter from James Petras and Noam Chomsky of late, addressed to Hugo Chavez. Not that it wasn't essentially correct, but rather that, given the big picture, one wonders why not address a few letters to, oh, say Islam Karimov, John Bolton, Tony Blair and David Blunkett, George Bush, Paddie Ashdown or Lord Robertson (well, a bit late for him I suppose) or the new President of the Ukraine....yeah, that might make a hell of a lot more sense than targeting Hugo Chavez. One prisoner.....clearly one who shouldn't have been arrested (and yes, we support FARC)....but ONE. And ok, there have, probably, been others....but compare this to the US prison system. Twelve percent of young black men between the ages of 24 -35 are in jail in the U.S. How about a letter to Al Gonzales? Ask about the 3 strikes law and about the plans for Camp Six....the new gulag of the US empire.....yeah, ask Al about that, and ask him about the death penalty and how many rich white folks have received that big sleep injection. Plenty of letters can/should be written... The why focusing on Castro or Chavez, et al.? Hey, while you're at it, send a letter to the Pope and explain to him how masturbation isn't bad, ok, NOT bad JP....it's a good thing.....warts won't grow on your palms -- it's fine; it's natural.

Ok, where was I? Right....Gilles's blips...where, quoting Chicago researcher David Peterson, we find that the US prison population is now at 6.9 million. Think on that for a moment. Over six million people are locked down or on parole or on probation. How many are innocent, I wonder. A friend of mine just got released from a California prison where he served all of his six-year sentence for credit card fraud. He has spent over ten years of his thirty-three or four in the prison system. He is not a bad person. He is, in fact, a really good person. He is funny and sweet and loves his son. He is bright and curious and never violent. He is, however, a fuck-up. He doesn't think, and nobody has ever taught him how to think. He is impulsive and his friends are all, by this point, repeat offenders. I hope he stays out this time, but I doubt he will. His son is 16 now. He needs his father. Is our nation safer with my friend behind bars? Of course not. He is having trouble, I hear, finding work. Quelle surprise! A nation that needs six million people in one way or another lockdown is a very sick fucking place. People like my friend are simply used for the machinery of the incarceration business. Period. That is his use value. It is deeply deranged and deeply sad statement in regard to our society.

The ever terrific Phillip Greenspan gives us a lighter piece this issue. I was glad to read it....glad to learn something about lyricists I didn't know...but also just to recall how great a lot of American culture once was. Good work, Phil.

A lot of fine and useful information in Gerard Donnelly Smith's piece... Tracing the tentacles of Halliburton gives us a fair idea of how multinational corporation work. So, sure, don't buy from war profiteers....though to really know who they are is far from easy. Smith quotes Ms. Roy at the top...and I was struck by her suggestion not to buy the Empire's idea of history as well. Perhaps this is even more important. The creeping and insidious authority of media tends to obfuscate real history. Real history means real reading and real questioning. Such things are discouraged by the ruling elite these days. Just shop till you drop...then get up and do it again. I think the refusal to participate in this charade is important....and that means no more apologies for the Democratic Party, no more watching CNN, and no more shopping at places like Wal*Mart or Amazon.com. Stop driving if you can, too. Have more sex, and try having better sex. Refuse abstinence! Refuse all faith-based anything. In general, Smith made me feel better -- people are starting to think the great refusal. Refuse! Refuse! Refuse!

Here in Krakow the weather is surrealistically warm. Shirt-sleeve weather in Poland in January. Unheard of. The elected officials in Warsaw just voted to give themselves huge New Year bonuses....HUGE.

Pic: Boris, John's canine companion     Ah, some things never change.....and one of them is that Boris wants a walk.

Do widzenia.

John Steppling
Krakow, Poland - January 9, 2005
[ed. Steppling is a LA playwright (Rockefeller fellow, NEA recipient, and PEN-West winner) and screenwriter (most recent was Animal Factory directed by Steve Buscemi). He is currently living in Poland where he teaches at the National Film School in Lodz. You can find more about his writing on his personal Swans' cove.]


A Loud Supporting Voice [ed. music to our ears... Thank you, Jordan.]
To the Editor:



B  O  N  N  E         N  O  U  V  E  L  L  E         A  N  N  É  E         2  0  0  5   !!!!!!!!!!!!!


Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA - January 7, 2005


Getting Ostrich Heads out of the Comfy Sand...: John Steppling's Empire Of Amnesia, 2004
To the Editor:

Woohoo!! Excellent article and I completely agree with you in that there are too many who are willing to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that what has happened is either okay, or just didn't happen. Now, what do you think we can do about this theft of our history and our perspective? What do you think one can do to pull their heads out of the sand and make them take a good long hard look at what is really happening? What do you think we can do to change the tide? As an individual, I can only try to open dialogue with those around me, share the information I have and do the best I can to remember! Our leaders have to be held accountable! We can whine and cry till death, but that doesn't change what is happening... We need ideas, we need support, we need action! It is articles like this one that keeps that message alive and well. Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion.

Alberta Phillips
Owosso, Michigan - January 9, 2005

John Steppling responds:

Thanks, Ms. Phillips. I think the theft of history, as you rightly put it...is of the utmost importance, almost more important than any other single issue. As for what to do, well, that's a huge topic. I will say, however, that action can take a lot of forms, and just starting to de-program oneself (since we are all marks for the great spectacle) is a good place to start.

Again, thank you for the generous comments.

How to make a buck? See Manuel García's Effects of Iraq War on American Citizens (January 2004)
To the Editor:

While I do not fully agree with this article, I found it interesting. However, could someone please ask the author to tell me what "investments" if any might be the most "profitable" in view of the continuing war in Iraq. The analogies to the Vietnam War are many, but it is still difficult to look into the crystal ball and predict the future. What is going to be the concrete effect on the future of the American Economy and from an investor point of view, what would be a good investment, no a really good investment? Will the future effects of the war on the American Economy cause inflation and the devaluation of the dollar and eventually increase oil prices and additional inflationary prices. Where could a smart investor looking at history and anticipating the effects of the war on the economy make a really good profit?


Glen R. Graham
Attorney at Law
Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA - January 5, 2005

[ed. Manuel García is a scientist (and a Swans' columnist), not an investment consultant... I've forwarded your query to him and he can, if he so wishes, follow up with you personally... I'd rather not see potential newspaper headlines such as, "Attorney Sues Publication For Wrong Advice On Financial Investments." Thanks for reading Swans and best wishes for "a really good investment."]

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Published January 17, 2005
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