Letters to the Editor

(November 5, 2007)


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Great Story: Music Sheet Of Le Déserteur - Boris Vian and Harold B. Berg

To the Editor:

I was just reading the story of "Le Déserteur" written by Boris Vian... and I didn't know that Boris Vian insisted that Harold Berg be listed as a co-writer. What a great song ! What a great story ! Congratulations.

Arnaud Leducq
Radio DJ -- Delta FM
Gravelines, France - October 25, 2007


No Cynicism: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #60

Dear Gilles:

Thank you for your "Tidbits" piece in the latest Swans. As usual it's passionate, concrete and articulate, and makes one marvel at how most people, Americans particularly, are able to live without facing these obvious contradictions in their way of life.

I am not a worshipper of FDR, although I grew up in a solid labor-liberal family, but I must defend him from the charge of cynicism. You recall that FDR was speaking at a time of looming war in Europe, and his speech was meant to reassure our future allies as well as prepare the American public for the coming war. His "four freedoms" particularly refer to the actual assaults that the Hitler regime was already carrying out -- freedom of speech, of worship, and freedom from fear in the form of military oppression. It was not cynical at all to mention these as if they did not, or would not later, exist in American life too. Roosevelt could not have foreseen the military-industrial behemoth that would arise in America after the end of the war.

In mentioning freedom of speech, religion, and freedom from want and intimidation, Roosevelt was of course only continuing the founding language of American liberty (French, too, I would assume). This was precisely the core Enlightenment political vision that was threatened by Hitler. It was the proper rallying cry for the time it was made, however far from those ideals America had already or would later stray.

Of course, I fully agree with those who see WWII as a conflict within the capitalist system, and within that system those Enlightenment ideals have never been more than cloudy rhetoric to mask the naked interests of private wealth. In that sense, Roosevelt simply belongs in a long line of idealistic American leaders, from Jefferson, to Lincoln, to Wilson (or Reagan and Bush, for that matter), who speak of ideals while acting for entirely other reasons. Who can say how aware they were of their own contradictions?

The underlying point of your whole editorial, though, I entirely agree with. It's about time that intelligent Americans wake up from their slumber, and see the world they actually inhabit. Rude shocks await us if they don't.

Robert Wrubel
Sausalito, California, USA - October 27, 2007


The Price is Worth it: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #60

Hey Monsieur d'Aymery,

I wonder, do you think Ben Stein's "better, more dignified planet" also includes the destruction and looting of Mesopotamia's archeological sites and the National Museum, the burning into ashes of the repository of ancient knowledge at the National Library...in short, the eradication of Iraqi history? Would he consider that the looting of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., with its 19 world-class museums and 9 research centers, and the burning down of the Library of Congress, or that of the "Galaxy of Knowledge" (Smithsonian Institution Libraries) would be conducive to a "better, more dignified planet"?

In an ahistorical culture, I can hear Benjie echoing Madeleine: "The price was worth it," or whatever she said regarding the sanctions regime leading to the death of countless Iraqis. After all, $30 trillion is a tantalizing prize. You can build a lot of swimming pools and enjoy the California sunset at will and peace (when the fires stop raging). Gawd bless America. Hopefully, Nicolas Sarkozy will join the circle and move to that blessed country.

By the way, do you and your charming wife own a swimming pool?

Outstanding Blips, Mr. d'Aymery. You've outdone yourself. Time to retire and get out of that hellish country before it engulfs you.

Allez, bon vent. Give 'em hell.

Alouette Arouet
Paris, France - October 31, 2007

Gilles d'Aymery responds: No swimming pool, I am afraid. This country is no more hellish than the one I came from -- yours; only much more powerful with lots of contradictions. I like it a lot and belong to the many, though too few, who want and try to improve it.


Major World Problems

To the Editor:

Your readers may have some interest in the following:

Root Irresponsibility for Major World Problems: the unstated role of Abrahamic faiths in sustaining unrestrained population growth

Anthony Judge
Brussels, Belgium, European Union - November 2, 2007


We Do Not Torture

To the Editor:

I can't take it anymore. Listening to a group of senators grill Judge Mukasey concerning whether waterboarding is torture. The only thing worse than the questions are the judge's answers. I think these conversations may be cruel and unusual punishment, but so much for the eighth amendment...

Maybe I should spend a few minutes explaining what waterboarding is. I know it sounds like a cool new water sport, sort of a cross between surfing and snorkeling. But waterboarding is sort of a cross between surfing, snorkeling, and sadomasochistic bondage, except you skip the snorkel.

You strap the unwilling participant to a board and dunk him under the water for as long as you think he can stand, and then you ask him a question. Unsatisfied with the answer you dunk him again, maybe even for a little longer.

Doesn't this seem like great fun? Yeah, if you're the Marquis de Sade and you are the dunker, not the dunkee. But is it torture? All I can think of is the local bully pushing my head underwater at the local swimming hole, and keeping it there only letting me up for quick breaths. By the time he asked me to say Uncle I would have told him anything he wanted to hear, including that he was a great humanitarian.

But what I would really love to hear is someone on the Judiciary committee ask: "Judge Mukasey, if you don't know whether waterboarding is torture, may we waterboard you, so you can decide one way or another?"

"Sir, I'd rather not," I can hear the Judge say.

"If it isn't torture, then you won't mind us going down to the Congressional pool and strap you down, and ask this one question, right?"

"I'd rather not."

"Sergeant, could you escort the Judge to the dungeon? I mean basement."

To think they could televise it. It would make watching C-SPAN so much better. Heck, I'd even sit through commercials. But waterboarding is so wet. Can't they bring back the rack or maybe thumb screws?

Oh, even better, maybe we could place each of the presidential candidates in one of these honesty facilitators and then have a debate. The longer they talk, the less they say and the less we believe them, the more dunks in the pool or turns of the screws. After all it isn't torture. We would never torture anyone, because we can't decide what torture is. It just might be watching our government in action. Or is it inaction?

James Longo
Hobe Sound, Florida, USA - November 2, 2007


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Published November 5, 2007
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