Letters to the Editor

(October 8, 2007)


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Decimal Problem: Gilles d'Aymery's Is The USA Heading For Third World Status?

To the Editor:

Please re-examine the proper placement of decimal point in the table of values contained in:
The author has shifted all the values by three decimal points, so that "billions" becomes trillions of dollars.

For example US Imports (2006) in table should be
$287,774.4 million OR $287.774 billion
and not...
$287,774.4 "billion" (10 to 12 power = trillion)
Furthermore in the last paragraph, when he changes from providing whole numbers in text to providing a dollar figure and editorial "billions" the same problem emerges.

At least the final sentence appears to have correct quantities (however scary):
"Over a short period, two decades (1985-2006),
the U.S. has accumulated over $1.375 trillion
in debt with China."
These errors are a perfect example of why scientific notation of large numbers comes in so handy.

Bion D. Howard
Building Environmental Science and Technology
Valley Center, California, USA - September 13, 2007

[ed. Mr. Howard is evidently correct. Fortunately, he contacted us promptly -- just about four hours after the piece had been posted -- and we fixed the errors, thus sparing us a little embarrassment. In guise of an explanation, but not an excuse, for the confusion, suffice it to note that numbers are treated differently in French. Where commas are used in English, French use periods, and where periods are used in English, French use commas. In spite of having lived for some 25 years in the U.S., Gilles d'Aymery keeps the confusion well alive!]


Think of the former Soviet Union: Gilles d'Aymery's Is The USA Heading For Third World Status?

To the Editor:

Gilles d'Aymery's piece on the Third World status of the U.S. is thorough and admirable. I particularly appreciate the reference to William Domhoff's Web site Power in America. He is the ur-source for information about the ruling elite and how it works, and I didn't know there was a current version of his work on the Web.

Why is it that Americans don't see themselves this way, as a Third World country? Without any significant manufacturing base, there is apparently still enough income generated by "services" (a heterogeneous pyramid of activities that has finance and insurance at the top; lawyers, doctors, and accountants in the middle; and retail clerks, gardeners, and home-care providers at the base.) the majority of Americans are able to consume rather handsomely. With the help of Wal*Mart and Costco, I should add.

The other enabler of our deceptive consumption level is the real estate bubble, now ended, in which we financed our consumption with debt. Professor Michael Hudson, interviewed on Guns and Butter this week (archived at KPFA.org), fingers Alan Greenspan's contribution to this in memorable fashion.

Our standard of living deceives us into thinking we're ok. Third World citizens don't live like this! But as real estate values drop, and middle class homeowners no longer have the cushion to draw cash out of their deflating assets, lifestyles will change rapidly.

How many nations have gone from First World status to Third World status so quickly? The Soviet Union immediately comes to mind. Maybe Americans should invest their last few pennies in a good cellar of vodka!

Or contribute to Swans!

Robert Wrubel
Sausalito, California, USA - September 28, 2007


Beware of Profanities: The B. Word!

To the Editors,

I hope that the editors of Swans Commentary will take note of and learn a lesson from the tribulations of David McSwane. The editor-in-chief of The Rocky Mountain Collegian, (Colorado State U.), is in hot water because of the title he gave an editorial. He used an obscene and unspeakable word. I understand it read "Fuck B.!", but with the tasteless B-word spelled out in full. Unite!


Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy - September 28, 2007


Swans Material for a German University Course

To the Editor:

I just got hired to teach an adjunct course starting next month at a university here in Germany, Carl-von-Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, and I'd like to use articles from SWANS as part of the reading material. The course description:

"Changing Perceptions of the USA in the Homeland and Abroad" charts the shift in attitudes of Americans and Germans about the USA. Students will analyze the factors contributing to their personal views of the USA and how these have changed. Using a variety of books, magazines and Web sites, we will review the battle for public opinion currently being waged. We will read, discuss and place in historical context the work of dissident writers.

I'm hoping that you've written about your own changing views of the USA and that you can recommend other pieces by SWANS authors. From the American writers factual reportage would be better than op-ed pieces. For example, although I liked "The Ugliest Americans" in the September 24 issue, it's primarily a commentary and thus for this course not so appropriate.

I'd appreciate whatever recommendations, including book titles, you can send my way. Thanks.

William T. Hathaway
Oldenburg, Germany - September 28, 2007

[ed. Recommended SWANS articles can be sent to Mr. Hathaway at rommel.hathaway AT ewetel.net]


Buber and Basho at the Bureau of Public Secrets

To the Editor:

Here are the latest texts put online:

(Passages from the central work of the great "philosopher of dialogue" whom Rexroth called "practically the only religious writer a non-religious person could take seriously today" and whose philosophy others have jokingly but not altogether inaccurately referred to as "Zen Judaism")

(A critical appreciation by Kenneth Rexroth)

(30 translations of the famous haiku, with a commentary by Zen teacher Robert Aitken)

(Nine translations of the opening paragraph of Basho's travel journal, with links to complete online versions)

(Rexroth's review of some of the above translations)

The Buber and Basho passages are part of a series of comparative translations that also includes Homer, Sappho, Tu Fu, Baudelaire, the "Tao Te Ching," the "Kalevala," and the "Carmina Burana."
See http://www.bopsecrets.org/gateway/passages/index.htm

* * * * *

Texts of related interest at the same Web site:

"Japanese Literature" (Rexroth)

"Lafcadio Hearn and Japanese Buddhism" (Rexroth)

Rexroth's Translations of Japanese Poetry

Ken Knabb
Berkeley, California, USA - October 6, 2007
"Making petrified conditions dance by singing them their own tune."


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Published October 8, 2007
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