Letters to the Editor

(August 28, 2006)


[Ed. As a reminder to Letter writers: If you want your letters to be published, you must include your first and last names and your city and state of residence. Also, please, enter in the subject line of your e-mail "letter to the editor," and specify the article or the subject on which you are commenting. Thank you.]

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Alex Cockburn Holds Firm to his Own Gondola after Reading Peter Byrne's July 31 letter and article, "Venice, Nobody's Town"

Hi there, Gilles,

The story below seems to confirm my analysis, rather than Byrne's. Venice is dying (much faster than it's sinking) because of property values soaring, locals forced out for that reason, dead precincts without shops -- all exactly as I said. I didn't answer Byrne at the time because it seemed to me he was being a bit of a local expert defending his turf, and I thought his riff about following tourists to see what they do was rather silly. A few tourists go look at art. A lot of tourists sit in cafes and pubs and eat and drink, then go to their hotel rooms for other practices. It's not rocket science.

VENETIANS are deserting their city at such a rate that it could be empty apart from tourists in 24 years.

Figures from Venice's registry office show that the city's population has slumped from 121,309 in 1966 to 62,027 this year. The office added that 3,000 of the current residents are foreigners and that a quarter of the residents are older than 64. It estimates the city will be empty by 2030.

"The city's destiny may be to become the Disneyland of Italy. They will open the gates in the morning and close them in the evening, and people will buy tickets," speculated La Repubblica newspaper.

The exodus has been prompted by spiralling property prices, which have increased by more than 150 per cent in the past eight years. Rents are also expensive, with a one-bedroom apartment in central Venice costing £1350 ($A3300) a month. Then there is the cost of maintaining antique houses in Venice's damp climate.

Many residents also blame the stream of tourists for pushing up the cost of living. "The shops, which represent a normal life, bakeries, butcher shops, fruit and vegetable stalls, are all closing. In their place are grand designer boutiques and fast-food joints," commented La Repubblica.

Locals are turning their houses into B&Bs. Last year, 709 buildings were converted into hotels and the local council has received 2835 new requests this year.

"Death in Venice: residents pull plug," Malcolm Moore, Rome - August 27, 2006, TELEGRAPH.


Alexander Cockburn
Petrolia, California, USA - August 26, 2006


Dog is Our Pilot!

Bro. Swanberg,

It seemed today you invited me to write - when you said all you do is write Swan Pl., Fort Worth, Texas - No one believes my stories - I wrote Bro. Hagee - Oral Roberts - Billy Graham & Jimmy Carter - Have been on Webb for one year - I drew a blank - 100%. I will quiet the Webb - Will you help me give God some respect. Please help me give God some recognition that God deserves. If Mel Gibson knew about this he may make a movie. I am 86 yrs. young. I am on the bottom. Please help God move this mountain & give God proper recognition that God deserves. The best deal you had in is the Dog Show. Dogs are God's great gift to humanity. Love in Jesus.

Weldon Hall
Lowell, Aizona, USA - August 5, 2006

[Ed. We received this hand-written letter addressed to Swans' Place on Friday, August 19, with 57 cents Postage Due; not sure what it's in response to, perhaps our critical words on Israel. Mr. Hall included 27 pages of rapture talk (it's scheduled for 2030) and descriptions of the 25 miracles and myriad prophetic dream miracles that he has experienced in his lifetime (e.g., an apple tree that bloomed twice in two months; an azalea that bloomed in the fall; the accident that left his new car "under God's honor of fasting with prayer, without a scratch" [complete with color photos]). Mr. Hall states that "At the Armageddon War, God will raise me from the dead and grave in the great tribulation cemetery, and I will be with My Lord Jesus for 1,000 full years, enjoying the Wal-Mart's and all other things, that I love to enjoy." The thought of shopping at Wal-Mart in heaven makes life worth living for... Mr. Hall notes that he is available for rapture meeting services, when you are available. If you'd like his contact information to help him in his mission, we'll be glad to pass it along. Postage Due, of course. One thing we agree upon: dogs are great.]


5:1 is the ratio of Jews to Palestinians in Israel....

To the Editor:

5:1 is the ratio of Jews to Palestinians in Israel....

....which ratio most solidly grounds Israel's right to exist (admittedly the ratio might have been more like 5:3 if not for the heavy hand of the returning Diaspora).

9:1 is the ratio of Palestinians to Jews in what these days gets identified as the occupied territories: which ratio if anything more sure seals the Palestinian people's claim to (exclusive) domain over what the 1949 world left to them of their original homeland (especially given the 1 arrived illegally).

The post-war powers conceded that the holocaust entitled one race to push another aside in 78% of Palestine. Today, Israel, if anything, is losing population -- leaving no tenable rationalization for overloading its late comers onto the Palestinian 22% real estate leftovers -- doubly overcrowded already thanks to the returning Diaspora displacing a million-plus Palestinians over the sides.

Apartheid South Africa had some purely selfish reasons for dealing as painlessly as practicable with black Africans -- practicable without losing power -- they wanted to exploit black labor. Israel has little to no use for Palestinians -- which inclines every interaction in the direction of the vindictive and the punitive -- Israelis mostly wishing Palestinians would check out (Ariel Sharon made a career of saying: "Jordan is a Palestinian state; Egypt is a Palestinian state").

Could the Israeli recurring nightmare of hate-filled Arabs pushing the state of Israel into the sea be more than anything a product of below conscious fear of severe punishment due for sins of "lebensraum" (Jews not making really good fascists): "The Picture of Dorian Netanyahu"?


Which is a better candidate for "most dangerous terror organization": the fourth military power in the world (IDF) which kidnaps (yes, kidnaps) and kills far and wide with little thought of legitimacy or the fifth military power in the Middle East (Hezbollah) which managed not to kill a single Israeli civilian between the IDF's 2000 evacuation of Lebanon and its 2006 reinvasion, excepting two border clashes with military opposition?

Hezbollah fired 4,000 122mm artillery rockets in the direction of populated Israeli cities, once Israel bombed populated Lebanese cities. As world attention was diverted towards LWII, the IDF pumped 12,000 (!) 155mm artillery rounds into Gaza -- not many of which set fire to empty fields.

Does Israel suffer from "hyperactivity"? Had all of its soldiers had been killed by the resistance groups during recent events there would have been little to do -- a couple of retaliatory strikes. But as long as one of its soldiers was alive out there somewhere Israel felt compelled to do every last crazy thing doable -- not excluding using whole (defenseless) nations within range for extended bombing practice. Should Israeli cabinet members be subjected to EEG testing?


We can win the war on terror, or we can END the war on terror: same difference.

Bin Laden does not need a casus belli to stoke his hate but Bin Laden is not volunteering to go on any missions. Remove most of the casus belli and you end most of the terror where it starts: inside most angry (loners'?) heads.

The Saudi upper-middle class who crashed into Manhattan's skyline were reportedly upset by -- the usual theme -- Israel's partitioning of the Palestinian homeland into hellish open air prisons for Arabs and heavenly suburbs for Israelis plus -- a variation -- sanctions against the Saddam regime which they took to have cost a quarter million Iraqi children their lives.

We finally did the right thing about Saddam. When you have a beef with another government, you blood your own troops; you don't kill their babies. (Whether or not there was anything to the scholarship that estimated the quarter million, the hijackers believed it.)

If the US public ever catches on (meaning if its equally unknowing media ever lets on) that the hurt in the West Bank and Gaza is all Palestinians' -- and their billion-plus Muslim well-wishers' -- let's hope America then moves with all deliberate speed to lift the imposition of our 5 million Israeli friends off 4 million equally deserving Palestinians -- more specifically 400,000 Israelis who now live upon (the choicer parts of) the homeland that the world once told Palestinians they could keep.

Denis Drew
Chicago, Illinois, USA - August 25, 2006

Best sources on day-in-day-out occupation abuse:
Occupation Magazine
The Other Israel


Much ado about Nothing...but destruction coldly defended by Jacob Amir: Letters to the Editor

Hi Gilles,

I read your reply in the Blips and also the reactions of some readers. Here are my comments on both. Again, if you want, you may publish it.

I wonder where did I say that Arabs understand only overwhelming force? It appears that you build your own straw men and then try to destroy them. Maybe the colère continues to boil inside you.

As a human being first and a physician second, I do not condone killing in the name of "never again," or in the name of tribalism, or in the name of anything. And I will be more than happy to live in a world without nation-states, without borders, without armies and weapons, without police and prisons. But, as long as the world is full of nation-states, I will not give up on mine. As long as there are people who want to physically destroy my country I will do my best to thwart their efforts. As the saying goes, if the Arabs lay down their weapons today there will be no violence, if the Israelis lay down their weapons today there will be no Israel.

Contrary to your assumption, Pat Robertson and George Bush are not my friends. Being an agnostic I strongly disagree with both. But, again you continue to fight your own straw men. The nonsense that Hezbollah did not cross the border is apparently unknown to them as they never said that. Also, the Lebanese representative who spoke to the Security Council never claimed that. But some people will eagerly accept any anti-Israeli claim, regardless of how ludicrous it is.

Silvia Tennenbaum asked if Israel will know what to do when faced with the need to talk with the enemy? The answer is a resounding "yes." But this enemy, the Hezbollah, does not want to talk to Israel. It wants Israel gone. Here is what they say:

Even if we get the Shebaa farms back we will continue to fight them until their state is destroyed and the Jews go back to Germany or wherever they came from.

Israel . . . is an aggressive, illegal and illegitimate entity, which has no future. . . . Its destiny is manifested in our motto: "Death to Israel."

There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel.
It would be very interesting to see how Tennenbaum will do talking to Nassrallah. Or for that matter, yourself.

One thing is certain, we, in Israel, (including Gideon Levy, Ze'ev Maoz, Daphna Baram's family, etc.) will not commit national suicide to please you or anybody else.

The "charming" Ms. Alouette Arouet wants to "whap my face" or to give me a "strong kick in my unholy ass." (One wonders whose ass is "holy?"). Is it the custom of French "pacifists" to want to physically attack somebody with whom they disagree? Well, c'est la vie...

Michael DeLang accuses me of lying even though he admits that he has not studied the recent and historical events in the region. One wonders, what would he do, if a group which wants to destroy the USA, exists legally in Canada, fires rockets at Buffalo, crosses the border, kills and abducts American soldiers? And does it not once but several times.

As for the mythology of a "constantly threatened and embattled Israel, surrounded by mortal enemies," DeLang should read the pronouncements of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah and then decide for himself, if this is a myth or not.

Dimitri Oram, should be reminded that the Hezbollah maintained a private army along the border with Israel. The Lebanese army was not allowed to be there. And if that private army, heavily financed and armed by Iran, did not cross the border and kill and abduct Israeli soldiers and did not fire rockets at the nearby towns and villages, Israel will not have attacked. Now Oram has to worry about another Security Council resolution, 1701. That resolution clearly states that the party responsible for the crisis is Hezbollah and that was accepted by all 15 members of the Council, including an Arab country.

All the best,

Jacob Amir
Jerusalem, Israel - August 19, 2006


Sorry, he never Lifted a Jar: Charles Marowitz's Exclusive Interview With William Shakespeare

To the Editor:

In his sparkling interview with the Bard, Marowitz is quite right to deflate T.S.Eliot. Too long has the St. Louis bank clerk overwhelmed the literary establishment with his costive solemnity. His contribution was important. He brought colloquial language back into poetry and as a craftsman shamed slapdash poetasters. But with that came his religiosity and his despair at the end of the middleclass setting of the social tone. However, Marowitz is wrong about the source of G.B. Shaw's hyperbole. The man, whose father was a drunk, never lifted a jar. He was a notorious abstainer. Maybe that was what was wrong with him.

Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy - August 14, 2006


Looking Forward to a Better Future....

Hello, Swans:

Thanks for a wonderful site!

Now that a federal judge has called the Bush administration for what it is, a usurper of Constitutional law, I look forward to reading more of your fine essays!

Daniel Wasil
San Diego, California, USA - August 19, 2006


The Meanings of Words: Charles Marowitz's Blood Brothers

To the Editor:

In his comments on Israel's current Lebanon adventure, offered at Swans, Charles Marowitz accurately suggests the wrong or error of using the words, "right to defend itself," to excuse Israel's slaughter of Lebanese people.

Therein Charles introduces a common concept, the extent of which Charles and nearly all other people verifiably do not yet understand. The concept is fundamental to learning how to solve problems. The rarity of the related knowledge explains such ongoing contradictions as wars, imprisoning people, etceteras.

The following is a test of your ability to recognize and use words that hold their meanings, and thus your ability to convey useful knowledge to others, and to your own mind, with language. You might pass this easy test. If you do, there are more difficult tests that introduce the contradictions of your own institutions. If you fail to pass all such tests, you will not learn how to solve complex problems, and you will live with frustration.

Test Question: If any Democrat or Republican politician has ever lied, which of course they have if their lips were moving, and the Party officers did not therefore formally rescind party recognition of the liars as members or representatives, to preclude the name of the party and its members as being represented by liars, is it possible for you to ever again vote for a Democrat or Republican, to thus identify them as representing you, and claim to be honest, without identifying your inability to use language for useful communication?

The answer is obviously, No.

Any other excuse you use to vote for those folks, such as your right to defend yourself, or vote as you please, may be entirely valid, but does not negate or eliminate the fact that you have inescapably identified yourself as a dishonest person (represented by lying and liars), or a person so ignorant of the meanings of words that your use of language constitutes your creation of self delusions.

While it is easy to never again vote for the United States DemocanRepublicrat Regime, to thus secure your other opportunities to successfully claim to be honest, there are other questions which pit your most cherished institutional illusions against the accurate use of words. What do you perceive of the institution of adults, the creators of wars, that upon accurate questioning, leaves you laughably embarrassed in face of children?

When you learn how to use words with flawless accuracy, and therefore your common errors immediately resolvable upon identifying question of the errors, you can learn how to resolve increasingly complex contradictions, but not before then.

World peace? Too easy, and boring process that might take up to six months because of multiple languages. No government could escape.

But while manifestable by an individual, regardless of opposition, no institution, especially the peace organizations, will allow the invasion of the related knowledge, even if they could understand words that held their meanings, because their own institutional contradictions must be resolved before or at the same time as those of the war mongers. Power, created by any institutions, whether military or peace organizations, can never willingly surrender any portion of itself, and still exist as a concept in the human mind, by design.

The process to resolve inordinately complex contradictions, such as end wars, has always been readily available. It is just knowledge, learned the same way as all knowledge, by asking and answering questions, using plain words that hold their meanings.

May you learn the most knowledge of the most concepts, most efficiently.

Doug Buchanan
Fairbanks, Alaska, USA - August 24, 2006


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Published August 28, 2006
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