Letters to the Editor

(October 9, 2006)


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Vote for Change in Michigan; Vote Green: Gilles d'Aymery's Voting One's Conscience

To the Editor:

Aymery's essay on the need to vote one's beliefs and conscience rather than out of fear has inspired me to write to Swans about an important anti-war campaign now being waged from the platform of the Green Party ticket in Michigan.

Eight of the candidates running for a range of offices from the U.S. Senate to the State Legislature to the State Board of Education to the boards governing some of the state universities are on the "Stop the War Slate." Though their program raises all progressive issues from combating racism and combating bigotry against lesbian/gay/bi/trans people and defending the rights of workers, the central issue of the campaign is stopping U.S. wars and in showing the connection how the war impacts on all issues important to Michigan's working-class.

The slate's anti-war program coincides closely with that expressed in Aymery's essay. It reads: "Stop the Pentagon's Wars: Immediate and unconditional U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. Bring the troops home NOW. U.S. hands off Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba. End the U.S.-financed occupation of Palestine."

As most Swans readers know, it is unexpected that a really left, independent candidate could win even a local election in the United States. Without proportional representation or government subsidy for campaigns and with no guaranteed media coverage, the elections here are weighed heavily toward those who can raise money, that is, toward the two big capitalist parties. In most states just getting on the ballot is an enormous chore.

On the other hand, once an election period gets underway, even most people on what I'd describe as the social-democratic left seem immobilized waiting for the outcome and absorbed in the fate of the Democratic Party. Attempts to call mass street demonstrations during this period are usually doomed to failure. Under those conditions, by running a campaign on a few trenchant demands the anti-imperialist left can at least get its program before the public, now at a time when polls show the public mood is overwhelmingly anti-war.

Having won ballot status in prior campaigns, the Green Party at least in some states has opened its list to other progressives. An anti-war activist group, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), decided to put up the "Stop the War Slate" at the Green Party's convention in Michigan. The slate and its candidate for the U.S. Senate, Dave Sole, won the nomination by 39 to 11. The Green activists apparently believed that Sole and the others would run a vigorous, articulate campaign and help keep the main issues important to Green Party supporters alive. They haven't been disappointed.

Sole, besides being a founder of MECAWI, has a long record in progressive politics. As a youth he protested the Vietnam War and was arrested for fighting the KKK in the streets of Pontiac in 1972. He fought General Motors's plant closings as co-chair of UAW Local 15's Stop Plant Closings Committee in the 1980s. In 1998 he defied U.S. sanctions and delivered medicine to children's hospitals in Iraq. Sole is president of UAW Local 2334 at the City of Detroit water department and a member of the National Committee of Workers World Party.

Others on the slate include Kristen Hamel for state representative from the First District. Hamel is a former union activist in the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Newspaper Guild of Detroit and a founding member of the Detroit Action Network For Reproductive Rights (DANFORR); also laid-off teacher and teachers' union activist Kevin Carey, who was also chairperson of the Southern Africa Freedom Committee and is running for the State Board of Education. The candidates for Michigan State University Board of Trustees and Wayne State University Board of Governors are students at those institutions.

Sole's opposition for U.S. Senate are the incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow and her Republican challenger, Michael Bouchard. Just as many believe Sen. Hillary Clinton in New York is a progressive -- she is attacked so hard by the rightwing that they improve her prestige among leftists -- so do many people in Michigan believe Stabenow is an opponent of the war in Iraq. Sole has disabused them of that illusion, noting that Stabenow has voted funds for the war on every occasion.

Like most Democratic Party "war opponents," she might point out Bush's blunders in getting the U.S. into the Iraq quagmire, but "now that we're there," she doesn't see a way out. We have to remember that the Democrats will have more authority than Bush regarding reinstating the draft and increasing troop strength in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that they are just as belligerent against North Korea and Iran.

Hamel just wrote to me that she and Sole were at a "town meeting" sponsored by the very mainstream United Way and that "you should have seen the heads nod" when Sole spoke about how the war relates to everything, that we should stop the war immediately and bring the troops home and take back the war budget, that there is no excuse for the poverty and unemployment and conditions facing working people in Michigan.

Thus it is possible to run a campaign on a strong anti-war basis and bring these truths before the public in the United States, but it won't be the Republican or Democratic candidates who do it.

John Catalinotto
New York, New York, USA - September 30, 2006


Obama, Dumb and Extreme?: Gilles d'Aymery's Voting One's Conscience

Dear Swans,

In "Voting Your Conscience" the author attributes advocacy of using nuclear bombs on Iran to Obama.

I happen to agree that Obama is a calculating centrist Dem slicking along party lines, undeserving of office, but he is neither dumb nor extreme enough to advocate the use of (even tactical) nuclear weapons on Iran.

In the interests of your own credibility, you should correct your post if you cannot substantiate the charge.

Nick Albaugh
Hamden, New York, USA - October 1, 2006

Gilles d'Aymery responds: Dumb he is not. Nor is Hillary Clinton. But they are on record that *all* options should remain on the table. What does Mr. Albaugh think the meaning of "all options" is? Does he think that a Democrat would not be dumb or extreme enough to use nuclear weapons? I disagree. It's not about dumbness or extremism, it's about interests and domination.


Where's the Money?: Gilles d'Aymery's Voting One's Conscience

I read the piece and I love it.

I'd love to donate. Tell me how.

I sent your piece to KPFK and intend to send it to local radio stations in the Los Angeles area. I already received one response for an interview.

Thanks a whole bunch, I'm glad you still feel the way you did in 2003.

Donna J. Warren
Green Party Candidate for Lt. Governor (California)
donnawarren.com Los Angeles, California, USA - September 26, 2006


"Western Crisis Group, Looking to Cause Worldwide Conflict": Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #41 on Darfur and the ICG

Dear Mr. d' Aymery,

After reading your piece on Darfur I went to check the International Crisis Group Web site, and wanted to send them the following comment, but then I realized they are not deserving of this lesson, so I'm sending it to you:

I read your Web page "About Crisis Group." It is fascinating! In particular, the last two paragraphs are revealing, there you list the sources of your funding. One thing becomes immediately obvious: There is nothing international about those who support your "work." I would suggest, therefore, that you rename yourselves into:

Western Crisis Group (WCG)

However, looking at your work, the subtitle is also inadequate. I would suggest the following as infinitely more accurate name for you:

Western Crisis Group (WCG)
Looking to Cause Worldwide Conflict

Then again, you never explain what the word "Group" stands for in your name. Let us suppose you drop that, then we would finally obtain some truth in advertising for your organization, as it would then become simply:


Aleksandar Jokic
Note: My first encounter with ICG was in early 1999 when they had produced an unsigned but terribly skewed report on Yugoslavia, urging urgent bombing of the country. I wrote to them asking that they reveal the authors and what their training was, whether for example they are academics with Ph.D.s and if so, in what field; or whether they were perhaps journalists, activists or whatever. I received a curious reply that they are happy I was interested but that they could not publish the names of authors because of security concerns. I wrote back asking why should there be any such security concern if the reports they had been producing were fair and accurate. Was the concern in place because they knew the reports were bogus, made of inaccurate statements and outright lies? I got no response that time, but I think I knew what that meant.


Aleksandar Jokic
Assistant Professor, Portland State University, Department of Philosophy, Portland, Oregon
Director, Center for Philosophical Education, Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, California
Editor, Stoa -- International Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy - September 26, 2006


The Fundamental Weakness of Sustainability: Milo Clark's The Catastrophic Illusion Of Sustainability


Milo Clark's essay on sustainability in Hawaii poses a real intellectual challenge to advocates of it. At first glance I thought he's missing something here. The concept of sustainability includes the goal of localizing everything possible -- food production, stores and services, and employment. Where I live, local food production probably could not support the whole county, but if it replaced a third of current food imported from long distances, that would be something.

In this sense, sustainability is a goal, a commitment or path, on which better solutions are found as one goes along.

But Clark points out a fundamental weakness -- the problem of employment. My community, of 48,000, could do much to reduce its energy footprint, and possibly approach food self-sufficiency, but there is no way that incomes currently earned in nearby finance and retail-focused San Francisco, could be replaced on a local basis. Sustainability in that sense could only be achieved by a radical lowering of standards of living.

And, as Clark points out, sustainability offers no solution to those at the bottom of the income ladder, or not on it at all.

Sustainability is an environmental approach more than a political/economic one. It makes sense in its special area, but is not a universal nostrum.

Bob Wrubel
Sausalito, California, USA - September 26, 2006


The Obedient and Errand Boy, Tony Blair: Karen Moller's Tony Blair: Child Of The Hippie Generation

To the Editor:

While I greatly enjoyed Karen Moller's piece on England in the 1960s, I'd like to know, in what way specifically, has Tony Blair been a "moderating force on Bush"?

I think it's been exactly the opposite: Blair has been Bush's compliant and obedient little errand boy. His behavior has been sad and pathetic. Blair's kowtowing to Bush has caused the deaths and injuries of thousands and has wasted billions that could have done so much good. Blair was arguably the one world leader that might have forced Bush to rethink his plans for this awful war.

So, in what way has Blair "moderated" the actions of Bush?

Steve Nesich
Seattle, Washington, USA - September 26, 2006

Karen Moller responds: Blair recognized the global threat of Islamic fundamentalism and was right to support America after 9/11. French and German lukewarm support was due to traditional animosity and jealousy of the English-speaking world. Blair was aware that Bush had the invasion of Iraq on his agenda but his moderating influence on Bush was destroyed when Chirac threatened to use his veto against America's intervention in Iraq. We now know from the evidence that has emerged that Chirac was not just rattling his balls in an effort to make himself look like a world figure but was protecting his back. Iraq owed colossal sums of money (to some of Chirac's closest friends) from French deals conducted in total violation of international sanctions on Iraq. The same goes for Russia.

Politics of the left in Europe are far from black and white, especially when it comes to the war in Iraq. Speaking for myself, I had doubts that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but I had little doubt that the genocide of Saddam Hussein was evil. War is wrong, but morally is it right to stand by and let a dictator murder and torture helpless people? As Bernard-Henri Levy said, "Better that America topple dictators than prop them up."

I am not alone on the left to believe that once France decided to use their veto in the UN the threat of war against Iraq became an empty threat. From that moment war was inevitable (no doubt that pleased many of the neocons) and Blair lost his ability to influence Bush's decisions.

Isolation is now one of the great fears after the debacle in Iraq. To quote Bernard-Henri Levy again, "Alas Iraq has discredited the great idea of the duty of involvement."


Grossly Misleading: Karen Moller's Tony Blair: Child Of The Hippie Generation

Dear Editor,

I am sure Karen Moller knows more about the Hippie generation than I ever did, but her comments about Roy Jenkins and Tony Blair (Swans Commentary, September 25th) should not go unchallenged. In her fulsome praise for Jenkins's "far-sighted vision" she completely ignores his right-wing, stringent budget when he was Chancellor and his leadership of the "gang of four," which was more afraid of the Labour militants than of the Tory party. In setting up their insipid new party and splitting Labour they certainly helped considerably in empowering the reactionary Thatcherites.

As for Blair, he first of all distanced Labour from the few socialist principles they still had and which at least offered some kind of choice to the electorate, and once in power he moved the party relentlessly to the right, even beyond the Tories, as exemplified by his privatisation plans for the National Health Service. His deceit and lying to embroil Britain in the attack on Iraq (and in my opinion, on Afghanistan) was simply a continuation of his right wing policies. For Karen Moller to play this down as simply "unfortunate" is grossly misleading.

Charles Pearson
Cambridge, U.K. - October 4, 2006


Puff, Puff, Puff, Pfffft...: Peter Byrne's Oriana Fallaci, 1929-2006

To the Editor:

Peter is a little man trying to puff himself up by snapping and snarling at dead giants such as Fallaci.

It's a pity that you gave him a platform.

David Yudelman
Toronto, Canada - September 26, 2006


The Ethics of Bob Woodward. Wait, Bob Woodward *and* Ethics in the Same Sentence???

To the Editor:

As an everyday citizen I find it questionable of the ethics of Mr. Woodward recently. He knew the source of the leaks regarding the investigation of special prosecutor Fitzgerald. Yet, he remained silent? Perhaps a political agenda wanting a hit to come about against the Bush administration? Mr. Woodward has, as so many do inside the beltway, become purely political in their thinking and expressions. I also associate him as a partner in illegal activity with special prosecutor Fitzgerald. He should be investigated, which could possibly disclose that information was being leaked by Fitzgerald to Woodward. A tangled web? I think so and the sooner we start investigating the sooner we will start purging the unethical journalists that reside in our country.

Frank Limbaugh
Newport Coast, California, USA - October 1, 2006


What about Burma?

To the Editor:

It appears we've got another one: The US power-elite have decided to go after Burma as well.

I've checked and this has been going on for years with paramilitary operations amongst the Karen and Shan. Something is needed about this as well.

Richard Roper
Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England - October 2, 2006

[ed. Why not writing a piece on this, dear Richard?]


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Published October 9, 2006
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