Letters to the Editor

(February 28, 2005)


Quaker Love
To the Editors:

I love you guys .... je vous aime ... euh... vous et Jan, et tous les autres. Anyway, I enjoy reading your online journal every two weeks.

Don't get too excited: I don't always agree. And behind some of your authors I see the spectre of armed revolt. Désolée ... but I'm a Quaker ... mais oui, on n'est pas nombreux, mais on existe toujours.

Still, I love the hard-hitting critique. It's almost like Quaker plain speech...

Keep up the good work. Vous êtes formidables !!

Barbara Quintiliano
Malvern, PA, USA - February 14, 2005


A Call to Defend Civil Liberties
To the Editor:

we urge all artists and writers and particularly the "league of canadian poets" and "p.e.n. canada," to address the threat to human rights implicit in the incarceration without trial of muslims under "canadian security certificates," and the ongoing threat to deport refugees;

* "pen american center" has protested appointment of its new u.s. attorney general, elements of its patriot act, and as a plaintiff with others successfully urged its government to change attempted censorship of works from cuba, iran and sudan; the u.s. national writers union has protested on the streets against a mass incarceration without trial of muslims, as well as against the war with iraq;

* why are established canadian organizations of writers, artists, intellectuals, continuing their silences of cooperation with policies of repression?

* we urge all writers, artists, intellectuals, to insist that our professional organizations stop cooperating with u.s. foreign policies that ignore international law, and all insist that our governments reinstate the freedoms withdrawn by the "war on terrorism."

gerald and maas
editions / atelier / night's lantern
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada - February 14, 2005


Milosevic Web Site
Dear friends,

The Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic (UK) has just launched its new website:


Please visit, distribute link and -- if possible -- link to us from your own website.

In solidarity,

England - February 14, 2005


John Steppling's Review of Swans' February 14 Edition

To the Editor:

Arthur Miller's death this month is cause for two obits from Swans. First, Charles Marowitz covers the essentials of Miller's influence in the American theatre. Marowitz is a director himself, and critic, and speaks with an authority only found in those with hands-on experience in a field.

Louis Proyect approaches Miller from a political perspective, which causes me a moment's hesitation. Proyect states that Miller saw art as a means of providing lessons. I don't know whether Miller ever said that, but I sort of doubt it. However, if he did, this marked one of his weaknesses. The left has often (far too often) seen art as instructional. As if the role of art in society were to educate. Art does nothing of the sort, if it is real art. Miller could have been a great writer even with conservative politics -- though of course he wouldn't have been Miller. Maybe it's only a question of how we define "education" or "lesson." My admiration for Miller is more for the man than for the artist. Salesman and The Crucible are seminal plays, but Miller also could be seen to lack the poetics of truly great artists. I found a lack of music in his voice and a lack of exploration in form that has always left me feeling some distance from his plays. That Miller was a gigantic influence is beyond debate, and I suspect he will be remembered for an integrity and commitment regardless of how his plays age. Art does many things, and it's difficult to try and simplify the complexities of how society engages with artists and their works; but it's also important to understand that art is not propaganda, nor is it therapy. Fascists often create memorable art. Brecht was revolutionary in spite of his propagandistic tendencies, and one might argue (as Walter Benjamin did) that Beckett was the most revolutionary writer of the 20th century (not just in an aesthetic sense, but politically as well). Mr. Marowitz, in his piece, is right, however, to point up Death of a Salesman as a rare tragic play from our era. Miller did indeed have a tragic sensibility, and for that alone one would value and remember him. He was a man of enormous gifts and his radicalism shone through more in offhand remarks and actions (like his HUAC posture) than in his theatrical writing. I trust, here in the shadow of his death, that I am not sounding anything like petty criticism --- but only raising questions about how our society looks at culture....even here on the left. Proyect is certainly correct about Miller's endless commitment to free speech and human rights, and like Proyect and Marowitz I feel saddened knowing Miller is no longer out there.

Gilles's piece on witch hunting is right on. The Ward Churchill (though I probably disagree with Gilles's description of Churchill as obscure) attacks are almost funny when one thinks of the things written by folks like Ann Coulter, Bill Kristol, Michel Ledeen, and Sean Hannity (actually, maybe Hannity doesn't know how to write...but ok, things he "said"). The right wing can have Don Imus call Arabs "towel heads" and it won't prevent Dick Cheney from appearing on his show. This hypocrisy is pure fascism. Let's also note the tendency for "historians" and "social critics" these days to pander to the delusions of the New Empire. Eliot Cohen and Cheney's wife have both written smarmy idiotic anti-intellectual histories -- both with great success. Appeal to the values of Imperialism and you're fine....but criticize anything and find yourself under attack. Who appears on network TV? Not Gary Leupp or Mike Davis....but rather guys from the Heritage Foundation and Tony Blankly. Charles Krauthammer gets a lot of air time....not Ward Churchill. By any reasonable standard Krauthammer is a dangerous zealot....by ANY standard. Again though, who does Mr. and Mrs. America listen to while wolfing down those cheeseburgers? (hint: not Churchill). America would be a far better place if it let Ward Churchill speak about Native American genocide, instead of listening to Wolf Blitzer chat with Condi Rice.

Phillip Greenspan points out the misuse of the word "democracy" these days. It has become the default setting for almost all liberals and right wingers alike -- and a fair number of the far left. Castro and Cuba are chastised as undemocratic, and Chávez as a tyrant...when both, by any standard, are far more democratic than the U.S. Kuwait has elections --- uh --- and the name Al-Sabah appears everywhere, and woman can't vote...but never mind, they are on the road to democracy (says our leader in the White House). In Cuba people actually get to vote on things that affect their lives -- working conditions and how roads and infrastructure are to be treated in the future. In the U.S. we get to vote on which millionaire quisling we want as the current "brand" of President. Will the people get to vote on the coming invasion of Syria or Iran? I doubt it.

Greenspan has just been outstanding this year.

Hey, maybe we can vote on whether we want John "death squad" Negroponte to head up the intel services.....you think? Not to forget that our high schools are advertising for soldiers to fight the colonial wars (http://www.counterpunch.org/whitehurst02172005.html). I mention this as part of the fabric of total propaganda now at work under "our" democracy. Who voted for cannon fodder adverts in home room? Not me.

Speaking of Negroponte, pay attention to how democrats reacted. Did you hear any mention of his turning a blind eye (at the very least) to violation of human rights in Central America? I didn't. More democratic rubber stamping of ghouls -- so, again, it's high time to stop thinking this party has any credibility. It doesn't.

Phil Rockstroh has a short amusing (though really it's quite upsetting) take, along with wife Angela's excellent graphics (and I wish Angie would do this more often for Swans) on some basic fundie hypocricies. Speaking of which, this comes out at the same moment as the Jeff Gannon "scandal" -- and I am thinking it's time, yet again, to remember Dr. Freud was basically on to something...violence and repression and self-loathing all go hand in hand.

Milo Clark contributes an analysis of systemic meltdown. It is yet another perspective on the total collapse of all we know. Western civilization is taking the planet with it. Clark is good at this sort of thing, and this particular piece is among his most insightful.

Dave Patterson provides an overview of Canadian progressive blues. I have to say I lack the expertise to discuss the particulars of much of this article, but I did have that sinking feeling I get when I hear something rather too familiar in tone and form. Maybe I have started to doubt any possibility of reform -- well, I know I have -- but it's probably time to really look at the IMPOSSIBILITY of organizing the masses and creating a party of opposition, etc. There is some kind of paradigm shift in consciousness over the last twenty-five years, and one might look for the reasons in marketing and television and the ever more efficient propaganda machine of government. Patterson mentions the "good Germans," as have a lot of people recently, and in this observation he is quite correct. The new "good Germans" are dumbed down and hypnotized by the cathode rays of TV and the endless onslaught of advertising and distraction. Jerry Mander's book of thirty years ago, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, is worth a re-read.
"In a confusing society, with grounding lost and expectations sinking, we have the television itself as the guru-hypnotist-leader, opening a clear channel into surrogate clarity. Always constant. Whatever the changing images on the screen, there is always the light, flickering on our retinas. Whatever the changing words, there is always the even tone. Whatever he says, the voice of Walter Cronkite remains constant, reassuring, unconcerned. Whatever the action, the gestalt continues, program after program, one program merging into the next, images following images, the wider world a distant shadow." (Quill Press, 1977, page 199)
How does one organize the sleepwalking? A recent survey had high school kids in the U.S. expressing agreement with censorship and increased authority. This generation is maybe the third to grow up under serious TV based propaganda -- and the first under the hyper-militarized economy. The results are frightening. I want to believe in what Patterson asks for, but I find I don't. It is, nonetheless, a very useful piece.

As for Krakow, the snow is still here, and we've had another week of minus temperatures. There are, however, signs of spring -- tulip bulbs are on sale at the Rynek and the sense of longer days can't be missed. Boris has a new muzzle, and seems quite pleased with how scary he looks -- but then he's a good Stalinist to the end.

John Steppling
Krakow, Poland - February 23, 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.]


Vive la différence!
Dear Sir:

It is amazing to me how many of your authors moan and bitch about how "undemocratic" America is, and how "democracy" is dead, etc. Have any of these people actually read the Constitution? Are they aware that the word "democracy" doesn't appear once in that document, and the reason for it? Have they read Article 4, Section 4 of said document? It's obvious that yours is a left-wing website, but some of this stuff is frankly idiotic. Let's have some full disclosure here. I am a registered Independent, and as far as I'm concerned, "both" the major parties, as well as Washington D.C., should be forcibly removed from the map. Furthermore, with the exception of a handful of people in Congress, I would have the rest of Congress, as well as most of the higher-ups in the Bush administration, the Supreme Court, the FAA, the CIA, the FBI, the INS, the CFR, the IMF, the Federal Reserve, the Export-Import Bank, the Carlyle Group, the State Department, etc. in concentration camps or worse tomorrow. The vast majority of these people are, plainly and simply, traitors to the Constitution, and traitors to this country, as well as practically everybody in it. In fact, it's one of my fondest wishes, that will obviously never be realized, that people in this country would some day have enough sense to not vote at all, because I'm fairly well convinced that this country could function perfectly well without a President or a Congress for probably fifty years, at least. Take a look at what we've had in the White House and Congress for the better part of the last century and more, take a look at the results, and see if you disagree with this.

Additionally, I'm astonished, although I guess I shouldn't be, by the constant whining and complaining about the "virgin treasury" (I believe that was how one of your authors referred to it) of Social Security, that most virtuous of socialist programs. (After all, it doesn't have the world Social in its title for nothing, right?) Lincoln once said, "If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong." Well, if Social Security is not unconstitutional, then nothing is unconstitutional. [Here, I need to say that I don't need anybody feeding me the garbage that the SCOTUS found it constitutional. The fact that some judges, who owe their positions to politicians in the first place (which fact makes their supposed independence a cruel joke), running scared of FDR, decided to corrupt themselves and completely twist the Constitution into knots to reach their scandalous decision, means absolutely nothing to me. The decisions of the SCOTUS are not law. Only one branch of the three in the federal government makes law, and it isn't the judicial.] What kind of people wail and gnash their teeth over saving a program that is such a blatant robbery and a Ponzi scheme, a program that if administered by anybody in the private sector, would get them carted off to the hoosegow in matching bracelets? Anybody who would defend this criminal enterprise is a certifiable blockhead, and that's the most charitable thing that can be said about them. Would somebody point out to me where it says in the Constitution that the government has the authority to steal money from every working person in this country, every day of their working life, put it into some phony "account" that they can't touch and have absolutely zero control over, and to act as the retirement broker for every person in the country? The only thing to do with Social Security is simple. Completely dismantle it. If I had the power, SS would be completely gone within five years, tops. The government would be forced to pay back everybody (alive, that is, or to their living dependents) who has paid a dime into this scam. They would get every penny back that they paid, with interest, and that's all that they'd get back. None of this crap about SSI, COLAs, or anything else. (What does it take to realize what a freaking rip-off SS is, if not COLAs? The idea that people who don't work anymore should receive raises, at the expense of the sainted "working people," many of whom have to work two jobs to make ends meet, and are lucky if they themselves get a raise, once every three or four years, that's less than the yearly COLA received by a person contributing absolutely zero to the economy, and who are being told, repeatedly, that they had better not count on any crumbs being left when THEY retire, should be enough to wake up even the staunchest Marxist writing for your site.) The government would also be forced to publicly confess that Social Security has been an unconstitutional, vote-buying Ponzi scheme, and nothing else, since the day of its inception. The government would also be forced to state that it was, now and forever, out of the business of managing retirement accounts, because that was something for the private sector to deal with. I'd love to read the howls of protest by your readers and authors if you posted this little bit. I'll fall out of my seat, and scream from the rooftops that Michael Jackson is normal (well, I might need a few drinks first), if I see it published.

Before they start howling, however, they might consider the fact that, in order to pay all of these people back, the government would have to drastically reduce spending in a number of instances, and on a number of other unconstitutional activities and departments (many of which would have to be completely eliminated -- Hallelujah!), including foreign wars. Maybe that would soothe their "progressive" psyches a bit. In any event, whether they want to whine about decreased expenditures on education, welfare, et al., isn't the issue here. Either they believe that we have a Constitution, or they don't. Either they believe that the plain English in that document means precisely what it says, including and especially the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, or they don't. Either they believe that the Constitution is the organic law of this country, and not something to be gotten around by "emanations" and "penumbras" whenever it doesn't give them what they want, or they don't. And, if they don't, then it's fair to call them Socialists, if not out-and-out Communists. (Of course, in the interest of fairness, I must point out that Bush is an out-and-out fascist.) Incidentally, I'm acutely aware of the fact that the Left in this country has increasingly, and deliberately, in unison with unelected judges, who are as corrupt as can be imagined, used the judicial system in this country to impose an agenda that nobody in Congress would have the balls to sign onto.

I'll confine the main part of my venting to these subjects for now, although, God knows, we could go back and forth on any number of things in this clown kingdom.

Anyway, you have a lot of very thoughtful and intelligent people writing for your website. Hopefully, a number of them will finally realize that "both" major parties in this country are the problem. It might be helpful to point out that "both" of these parties, as well as any other political organizations, are private entities, with no other raison d'etre than getting their people into positions of power, and keeping them there. Political parties are not mentioned at all or provided for in the Constitution, and THEY DON'T OWN THE GOVERNMENT, at any level. The thought that any, and I mean ANY politician, and that includes the sainted FDR, gives a damn about you, your interests, your safety, etc. is the very definition of insanity. To these people, you, I, and everybody else are nothing but cattle to be worked and robbed, in order to promote their one-world agenda. The sooner people in this country wise up and realize that the government is the problem, not the solution, a lot of valuable time can be spent on more productive stuff than worrying about which politicians, or party, are/is going to make peoples' lives better. Get rid of the politicians, ALL OF THEM, and watch what happens. By the way, I'm not a complete anarchist, although, given political reality in today's good 'ol U.S. of A., it's worth considering.

Idealistic? Naive? In this country, doubtless. Will it happen in my lifetime? Unh, don't think so. But, ask yourself a question. Who is it that's been in control of the government for the last century-and-a-half? Through every war, tax hike, liberty-killing initiative, boom-bust cycle, inflationary cycle, etc.? We all know the answer. Isn't it, without question, the members of "both" major parties? So, why would anybody be stupid enough to think that, if they just put the "other" party in power, that all of this will change? What, essentially, has changed concerning federal government policy in the last century or so? The people who are really running the show distract people with crap like homo "marriage," which even the ancient Greeks weren't stupid and self-destructive enough to codify, flag-burning, balanced budgets, and other diversionary nonsense, so that the boobs don't pay any attention to what's really going on. The problem isn't "democracy," or the lack of it. It's the crooks running the system, period. A person who convinces themselves that switching interchangable crooks is going to solve their problems, or the country's problems, is practicing self-delusion.

Keep up the good work . . .

Maynard Peterson
San Diego, California, USA - February 24, 2005


International Literature Festival
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

We would be grateful if you would inform your readers that the fifth International Literature Festival Berlin will take place from September 6th to 17th under the patronage of the German UNESCO Commission as part of the Berliner Festpiele. 120 authors from 50 countries from all continents will participate.

This year the Mexican author Carlos Fuentes will inaugurate the festival on September 6th. The focus will be on California, and over twenty writers from the USA will attend. Website: www.literaturfestival.com

Best wishes,

Carmen Frohne
internationales literaturfestival berlin
Berlin, Germany - February 9, 2005


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Published February 28, 2005
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