Letters to the Editor

(April 11, 2005)


John Steppling's Review of Swans' March 28 Edition

To the Editor:

Glad to have Richard Macintosh back, especially with such a good piece. He starts with a quote from General Mattis (one I used myself a while back) on "how much fun it is to kill," which brings to mind, again, just how jaw-droppingly stupid are today's military leaders. I happened to watch Wolf Blitzer on Easter (did his agent come up with that name, I wonder?). He had TWO, yes TWO, US generals on his show....one more stupid than the other. I mean this guy Abizaid is so amazingly dim that he really isn't quite able to talk [ed. see johnabizaid.com.] -- I've heard trained Cockatoos speak better, and the other clown, whose name I have repressed, was even less able to form complete sentences. I wonder at this level of stupidity, that these kinds of MORONS are running the blood bath, that such obviously brain damaged men should have the ability to send others to their death. Has it always been so? I don't know. I do know Richard touches on something pertinent when he mentions this "playing dress up" aspect to the modern spectacle. This runs alongside the infantilizing of the culture -- in all its manifestations. Abizaid seems a mentally limited little man with heaps of resentment and insecurity (like Wolf Blitzer, actually) who expresses himself through clenched jaw and (no doubt) tight sphincter; his beady, raisin-sized eyes darting everywhere except at the person he is talking to, and his pasty white neck folds falling over the starched collar of his khaki uniform...altogether, an unpleasant and rat faced little sadist who probably can't spell "Iraq" without coaching.

This leads, I think rather seamlessly, to Charles Marowitz's fine piece on the BTK serial killer (recently captured in Kansas). Marowitz observes that Dennis Rader, the alleged murderer, was another overly orderly and obsessive character (good quotes and notes from Reich are included by Marowitz) with a fastidious manner and devout exterior. Marowitz points to how many of our current elected officials exhibit exactly this kind of persona. In fact, even a lot of our media talking heads exhibit this quality of squeaky clean anality and compulsiveness. Is it a particularly American characteristic, wonders Marowitz? I would say yes, at least in terms of how it manifests itself these days. It seems to be more embraced in the realm of public discourse than ever before. Rick Santorum and Bill Frist come to mind, not to mention Cheney and Rumsfeld. I've always thought Rummie to be a guy who kicked his dog and yelled at underlings -- a small man with delusions of infinite authority. A man with sexual dysfunction (you know, only a guess) and with that rabid mad dog stare of most sadists. General Mattis is nicknamed "Mad Dog," by the way. Look at the FOX-News kennel; look at that chubby fool who handles economics, or Brit Hume for that matter -- tight sphincters to be sure. I can see them, much as I see Dennis Rader, dogcatcher and anal compulsive -- a man who fell off the edge and began a decade of torture and murder. I doubt Rader was all that different from a lot of folks we see these days, which is part of the point Marowitz is making. Rader also liked the military -- another aspect that is now being "sold" to the average American as a rational existence. So, back to Wolf Blitzer and Abizaid...little men (read Reich's Listen Little Man) with resentments, and suffering the torments, buried deep possibly, of knowing their own inferiority and limitations, and bound therefore to act out over-compensatory acts of aggression (or, with a Blitzer, the faux aggressive act of propaganda).

And this leads me to Phil Rockstroh's excellent piece -- another segue without speed bumps -- on the irrational world of pop-necrophilia. The spectacle needs distraction for the masses; and this season it's been Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson, and Terry Schiavo -- and now that stalwart of upside down morality, the late John Paul 2...and here is a nice overview from Terry Eagleton, professor of cultural theory at Manchester University, in "The Pope has blood on his hands" (The Guardian, April 4, 2005). All death all the time. Well, okay, Jackson isn't about death, he's far worse, he's about sex. Of course, sex is kinda like death, no? Le petit mort and all that. Phil deconstructs the modern distract-a-thon as well as anyone, and this piece is just great.

A note, again, on steroids. Will someone please explain to me why all those drug companies keep making so MANY steroids? I mean the medical uses (burn victims, a few short kids, libidinally-challenged middle-aged men) are quite small -- so why is so much produced?

Milo Clark has a piece that fits right in with this issue's prevailing themes (I like it when all the varied Swans writers seem to be feeling much the same thing...interesting I think, since we all live in different parts of the world). Anyway, Milo cites what I mentioned at the top with regard to Richard's fine piece...and that is the almost unbelievable media distortions that abound these days. Notions of democracy on the march -- I mean, how can these people utter such nonsense and not choke on each word? Democracy? Okay, well, again, it's time to define democracy. All I know is that I don't vote for anything that matters in my life. I do know that the charade in Ukraine and now Kyrgyzstan, are all state department playlets, and will hardly benefit the people of those poor countries.

My wife Anna touches on this, too (and since I am biased, I won't really review her here) with a discussion of freedom. Democracy and freedom, the two most abused words in English. Good work from Anna and Milo.

Gilles's Blips #15 touches on some of this too. What I really liked was video screens in cars and how a bill was actually floated in California that would ban such vids. Not ban video watching per se, mind you, just sex vids. I guess it's okay to drive and watch FOX news or something, just not Debbie Does Dallas, Volume Twelve.

We also get some notes on the new theocracy...and if more is needed, here is a quick reality check: "Faith The Nation," at Media Transparency.

Gilles also has a note on the criminal justice system, a favorite topic of mine. Go to Death Penalty.com for all you will need to know, fact-wise, about how the U.S. likes to jail people.

Philip Greenspan has a short take on the actual advantages of war...and it reminds me of my favorite Onion headline of the last couple of years: "Dead Iraqi would have loved new freedom." (My second favorite was "Pope upset with increasingly healthy attitudes toward sex").

Yeah, war is nothing more than good business. I do wish Philip had gone into more depth -- it's a good topic.

Michael DeLang's introspection asks questions I find difficult to fully grasp. That's just me, no doubt, but I didn't quite track this piece. I am glad he brings up the short road to homelessness, though. I recall the days when I lived near downtown LA and would drive past the First street bridge...where hundreds of men and women (and children) lived in crates and under cardboard. One of these men was named Frank...a highly literate black man of about fifty who had a long term dependency problem with heroin. I'd give Frank what I could, which wasn't much, but DeLang's article makes me wonder where Frank might be today. Frank was a good human being, smart and compassionate and decent. He really was. DeLang speaks with great clarity on this point -- and it's always worth reminding ourselves about the fact that we are all only a couple "fuck ups" away from being under those cardboard blankets. I say "we" knowing that Dick Cheney and Johnny Bolton don't have to worry...but you know, I mean HUMAN BEINGS...not millionaire Martian/robots. I should meditate on this article....maybe I'll have something else to say about it next time. DeLang is an interesting writer to be sure.

And this is yet another segue -- to Nicholas DeVincenzo's short piece on dissent, war, and the suffering that Imperial delusions brings in its wake. A very touching piece, in the best sense of that word.

Finally, two notes. One is that Robert Creeley died on March 30. One of the last of the Black Mountain poets, and a great American writer and teacher. I almost missed noticing his death -- what with so much other worthy news...you know, steroids, Michael Jackson, Schiavo fallout, yada yada yada.

The second note is from here in Krakow, where, with the Popester finally buying the farm, the city has been inundated with media. On every corner one sees Italian news people, UK news people, American news people. Lots of Polish news too, and even some Russians. It's a funny world we live in, when this fatuous old hypocritical fanatic is eulogized, and a great writer like Creeley is all but forgotten. Funny.

From "I Know a Man" by Robert Creeley
As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, - John, I
sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what
can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,
drive, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going.

John Steppling
Krakow, Poland - April 4, 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.]


Debunking the robots: Phil Rockstroh's Some Call It Freedom But It Smells Like Death
To the Editor:

All I can say is WOW, my eyes have been opened to the mindless people of this world, the robots, by the writings of Phil Rockstroh. Keep up the writings, they are being thoroughly enjoyed!

Sara Comstock
Feasterville-Trevose, Pennsylvania, USA - March 28, 2005


Caught flat-footed again... Charles Marowitz's BTK And The Double Life
To the Editor,

BTK's first murders were not January, 1991 but January, 1974.


The 30th anniversary articles did not appear in January, 2005 but in January, 2004. BTK responded in March, 2005.


Diana Magrann
La Palma, California, USA - March 28, 2005

[ed. Arghh! in the past edition, it was Bill Brazell who caught us flat-footed. This time around, Diana Magrann set us straight. We're doing the best we can with our two pairs of eyes, under deadline, but the best is not good enough... Will need to raise money (send check in the order of Swans to P.O. Box 267, Boonville, California 95415-0267, so that we can hire a full-time editor and fact-checker... Meanwhile, I'm always gratified to see readers care enough to correct our little boo-boos. Thank you!]

More "Quotations" -- Gilles d'Aymery's Context And Accuracy: George F. Kennan's Famous "Quotation"

The earliest written reference to PPS 23 by Chomsky that I'm aware of can be found in his books, Turning the Tide: U.S. Intervention in Central America and the Struggle for Peace (South End Press, 1985, chapter two); and On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures (South End Press, 1987, Lecture 1). Both quotations of PPS 23 read the same, and is a tad bit fuller than the version you cite in your article. He then notes that Kennan is talking about the Far East, but that his conceptions apply globally. Here is an extended quote from the latter book:
[Begin Chomsky quote] At the other extreme we find the doves, such as George Kennan, who headed the State Department Planning Staff until 1950, when he was removed in favor of Nitze, being regarded as not sufficiently tough-minded for this harsh world. Kennan's views were succinctly expressed in Policy Planning Study (PPS) 23 of February 1948:
[begin block quote] ...we have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population. . . . In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction. . . . We should cease to talk about vague and -- for the Far East -- unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better. [end block quote]

These particular prescriptions referred to the Far East, but the United States is a global power, and the same principles apply elsewhere, as Kennan and others explained. Thus, in a briefing for Latin American ambassadors in 1950, Kennan observed that a major concern of American foreign policy must be "The protection of our raw materials" -- in fact, more broadly, the material and human resources that are "ours" by right. To protect our resources, we must combat a dangerous heresy which, as US intelligence noted, had been spreading through Latin America: "the wide acceptance of the idea that the government has direct responsibility for the welfare of the people," what is called "Communism," whatever the political commitments of its advocated, in US political theology.

Kennan went on to explain the means we must use against our enemies who fall prey to the heresy that threatens our resources in their lands:
[begin block quote] The final answer might be an unpleasant one, but . . . we should not hesitate before police repression by the local government. This is not shameful since the Communists are essentially traitors . . . It is better to have a strong regime in power than a liberal government if it is indulgent and relaxed and penetrated by Communists. [end block quote]
[end quoting of Chomsky]
Chomsky cites Walter LaFeber's book, Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America, for Kennan's comments to the Latin American ambassadors. Haven't read it myself.

Perhaps that clarifies things. I'm curious if Chomsky has replied to your piece.

Sunil Sharma
Dissident Voice Editor
Santa Rosa, California, USA - April 5, 2005

Gilles d'Aymery responds:

Thank you, Sunil, for this additional information. No, Chomsky has not replied -- I don't think that he even read my piece (I did not send it to him and I doubt he's a Swans reader). The issue remains, in my mind, the accuracy of quotations. I had already raised this matter in a post on Marxmail on December 20, 2002 (see the archives). Time and again, this little collage pops up in various publications and on Web sites, and has taken a life of its own.

I have no bone to pick with the interpretation of and the conclusions reached by reading Kennan's PPS23 -- only the integrity of the quotation. I am, however, mildly bemused when I read various US authors who keep hammering that the foreign policy of the U.S. is neither moral nor altruistic...never was...never will be. This kind of rehashing tends to draw a yawn, like, "Duh! What's new here?" As though the French Mission Civilisatrice had been a model of morality and altruism...! It's always been about raw materials, markets, money, power... Want morality and altruism? Change the system, abolish the military (and the churches), and send the bosses packing...

Popeye and the Kraków Zoo

Hey, Monsieur d'Aymery,

Talk about la nouvelle du jour! Popeye finally joined Schiavo in the tubeless afterlife (netherlife?). Must have choked on his spinach soup one too many times. In 26 years -- I've only known this poppy (but he's never known my legs) -- he managed to emasculate Vatican II and liberation theology (there's not one right wing dictator he did not like, from Franco to Pinochet); help bring misery to Eastern Europe; cover up the biggest sex scandal in the church's history (so far as I know, but then in yesteryears there was neither TV nor lawyers) as he presided over a college of fossilized pedophiles, each one more conservative and reactionary than the other. How did your paper of record characterize the great man in its Sunday supplement (fittingly put together with a baseball preview 2005 supplement -- priorities, non?) "A Catalyst for World Change," no less...with Thatcher, Reagan, Walesa, Clinton, and now Bushieboozook (add Chirac and Blair for good measure). That's a changed world for sure, especially for women... Ever thought about birth control, Mr. d'Aymery?

The medieval man was against abortion, against family planning, against the pill, even against condoms... How many women and kids have died of AIDS in his primal African continent for lack of basic contraception? This modern troglodyte oversaw a genocide of holocaust proportion in the name of a doctrine rooted in the darkness of the Middle Ages.

Poor Annita and her boyish Johnny-Jo in Kraków -- yes, with an accent aigu, like Gérard...éternelle vigilance, Mr. d'Aymery, éternelle vigilance... -- I feel sorry for them. The place must be a mourning zoo, praying for that male chauvinistic and misogynic pig (and making a few zlotys in the doing -- look at the etymology...). Too bad, there's a real nice zoo in Kraków. I was there a few summers back, sleeping under the Grundwaldzki bridge over the Vistula (no, no, not the one over the Odra in Wroclaw, I mean the "Most Grundwaldzki"), close to the Wawel Castle. I hear that they sounded the bell of the Wawel Cathedral for the first time since 1979, just after Wojtyla became Opus Dei Johnny-Jo-Poppy II (I heard its sound all the way from Paris -- that's an iPod miracle, the last achievement of the mummified bod'). But then, what can I say, I tip-toed my way there and found Poles to be poles -- la bêtise au front de taureau. Hopefully Anna will pardon me...she must have read Baudelaire...

Did I tell you that there were swans swimming in the Vistula (Wisla, Vistule, whatever) under the Grundwaldzki bridge, and that the Skalka church is worth a détour, when compared with the ostentatious cathedral? And where, do you think, Popeye stayed when he visited Arboland? (Or is it Popeyeland, poleapopyland? -- la langue de bois...)

Anyways, Anna's élucubrations were a rhapsody in A-Major to my ears. Old fools like you, farting over Marx and tutti quanti, with your hand in your Levi's pocket, massaging the only brain still barely functioning that you aging men brandish with testosterone-loaded candor and pride, can't grasp her subtleness. But she speaks to me in no uncertain terms. Surely, your Janitou would concur. You need more women on Swans, or better, women should take over and send you to pasture. We are the world, as the song goes... Glad García's gone. (He was full of himself.)

One last word: Don't be mortified when iconic lefties, in the United Stables of A-moronia (excuse the neologism), resort to conflated quotations, it's an old trick of the trade, used and abused on our shores too. It's known here as a mental raccourci on the road to intensive care.

Where's Philip Greenspan when I need him? I hope his wife is getting back to speed? Richard Macintosh was missed au Quartier Latin (in the English-spoken section). Back in the saddle he is, and for good cause. I won't play my leg dance with him -- as an old school teacher, he'd only smile -- but the world could use more teachers like Monsieur Macintosh...

You do not want to leave this dreadful place, so be it. I glanced over Monsieur le comte the other day, on his horse in the forêt de Rambouillet. He too had his hand in his pocket. Must have to do with genetics. Tel père, tel fils...

Have you read Phillip Roth lately?

Allez, bon vent. Give 'em hell.

Alouette Arouet
Paris, France - April 6, 2005


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Published April 11, 2005
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