Swans Commentary: Letters to the Editor - letter196



Letters to the Editor

(August 9, 2010)


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So many streets, so many places: Peter Byrne's Doing India French.

Dear Editors:

As a resident of Pondicherry/Puducherry since late 2007, I find Peter Byrne's take on this town makes an interesting addition to the body of writings and literary references to this quaint Indo-French town: e.g., Yann Martell's 2002 Man Booker Prize winning novel, Life of Pi, opens at the (old) India Coffee House in Nehru Street (old rue Dupleix -- alas, no longer at the dilapidated colonial era building, due for demolition). However, I'm little puzzled by this passage in the article:
"Right. You got it. Now that keeps this neo-Californian on my mind. And today I went to see the Ashram. Strange that great spiritual lump right in the middle of town like a department store. And do you know what street it's on?"

"Rue Saint Gilles, a fine thoroughfare that runs right into the French Consulate and the sea. Alors?"

"So? So this bulldog editor just happens to be named Gilles."

Pierre mused. He seemed pleased by the idea of my French connection, even if it was in California. But he didn't get it.

"Think how I felt there up against the other-worldly Sri Autoblindo Ashram, with a sainted roadway underfoot. Then I looked up and he was above me, spelled out on a street sign, Saint Gilles."
Mr. Byrne has achieved an impressive feat in physically relocating, for the convenience of his narrative on the town, its most important/famous landmark from its current location at Rue de la Marine -- the same street on which the Consulat de France à Pondicherry is located -- to rue Saint Gilles -- do check out the links below:


The most popular tourist destinations are the four beaches in Puducherry, which are Promenade Beach, Paradise Beach, The Auroville Beach, and Serenity Beach. Sri Aurobindo Ashram located on rue de la Marine, is one of the most well known and wealthiest ashrams in India. Auroville (City of Dawn) is an "experimental" township located 8 km north-west of Puducherry. Auroville is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics, and all nationalities. Google Maps link: will be interested to hear more on this civil engineering feat worthy of inclusion in a Discover/National Geo channel program!


Madhavan Rajagopal
Pondicherry, India - July 26, 2010
Peter Byrne responds:

How well I understand Madhavan Rajagopal! Like him I've only been resident for a few years in a small, picturesque city. Here in Southern Italy it also disturbs me when some travel writer blows in from Boston or Vienna and confuses the church of St. Anthony with that of the Madonna of the Graces. (Our town's only claim to fame is its past obsession with building wedding-cake Baroque churches.) I promise to share my thoughts on Pondicherry's booming spiritual industry once I've purged my mind of more worldly things.

Lecce, Italy -- August 1, 2010


Pacing along memory lane: Peter Byrne's Doing India French.

To the Editor:

Peter Byrne's Gallicized view of India resonated in ways he couldn't have imagined. Sometimes a phrase falling from the digitized lips of a fine writer like Byrne bores a hole in your own imagination like a serving of those overchewed Proustian madeleines. To wit: "We could have been steaming up the valley of the Seine through cider and camembert country toward Gare Saint Lazare..." transported me from musky India to the Paris railway station where'd I'd deposited a beautiful Maqui underground worker after a night at the Scribe Hotel that Hemingway had recommended because he'd nailed a Turkish delight there in 1923, one with (he later described in a story) "a low underslung belly" that bespoke sex primarily but also tit-elating belly dancing and jiggling through hookah smoke in an Ankara dive.

And dragged back into Chicago by Peter -- to North Clark Street where I actually photographed a Madame Fifi -- I'm sure not his random Fifi sighting... And for no reason except to intrigue me, Byrne comes up with a song by Boris Vian...the semi-great writer and friend of Sartre, whose wife, I heard somewhere, -- second wife -- was an early Jean-Paul Sartre amie de lit, and a later intimate or more to Sartre's lady, Simone de Beauvoir... A lady, with a gap in her front tooth row, who appeared in the same BBC movie about Simon and Nelson as I did, and as did the smartest woman in the world, Toril Moi, although now in her fifties, still one of the prettiest. Toril is a Norwegian who holds a literary chair at Duke University She has taught French at Yale and Harvard, and has written scholarly articles in at least four languages. She is also the premiere Beauvoir scholar in the world. It was she who told me 15 years ago that Beauvoir would soon be taught in many more colleges than Jean-Paul Sartre. She was right, of course, and I was thrilled that she had read my first book on Algren. And liked it. And now I remember the title of Boris Vian's most famous book and movie, I Spit on Your Grave -- which swept France, Algren recalled, around the time Vian died in 1959 because a young suicide found in a Paris Hotel had the book on his body.

All, all brought to mind by the wordsmith Byrne with some throw-away (to him perhaps?) lines emanating from India, coursing to France, circling to Chicago, and sending me into dozens of recaptured memories -- one of the minor feats a great writer can accomplish without even setting his mind to it. The temps perdu blending with the temps of the reader's time.

Merci, Peter.

Art Shay
Deerfield, Illinois, USA - July 27, 2010


The New Republic vs. Arundati Roy

To the Editor:

Is there anyone who still thinks the New Republic is not simply a PR tool of global capital in the spreading of corporation-democracy by force of arms? Then he should read Isaac Chotiner's attack on Arundati Roy in the July 16th number (republished gleefully July 26th on its site by the Chronicle of Higher Education, that conformist hangout for academics on the make). Chotiner, oddly, is on the defensive and spends almost four thousand words persuading us that Roy is isolated and alone. "Her sympathies only extend to 'out' groups" and she contests "land management ... that allows for large-scale development projects." But of course Roy is not isolated and alone. The voiceless she speaks for in India can be counted in tens of millions. "The capitalist boom" that so enthuses the reviewer works to the advantage of no more than 5% of the population. Roy's criticism of the West that Chotiner says takes "the wildest forms" is in fact shared by most people on earth. In the total picture, it's the New Republic's man who is alone in an upholstered desert.

Chotiner is hurt by Roy's "crude critiques and disgust with America," as if he would be receptive to anti-Americanism provided it was delicate. He's annoyed by Roy's still harping on George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, as if they are passé and not the authors of the present phase of the world crusade against Muslims. Roy's anger is "coarse." She's "unseemly" in her insufficient reverence for the "Twin Towers," as if violent death in numbers was a N.Y.C. exclusive. Chotiner finds Roy "tasteless" when she calls the combined efforts of the U.S. and Mujahideen against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan a "jihad." In short, the New Republic's reviewer is one genteel guy with all the refinement of a drone manipulator in Nevada who never gets splashed by the blood he sheds.

Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy - July 28, 2010


Clarity in the age of obscurity

[ed. This letter was first sent to the Global Research Web site where it was ignored.

On July 5, 2010, Andrew Gavin Marshall published an article on Global Research titled "New Eugenics and the Rise of the Global Scientific Dictatorship" in which he referred to my article "The Liberal Foundations of Environmentalism: Revisiting the Rockefeller-Ford Connection" (which was published in the journal Capitalism Nature Socialism). In this note I simply wish to clarify a couple of minor points that Marshall made in the "Environmentalism as Eugenics" section of his article that referenced my own work.

Marshall is correct to observe that I point out that: "Two important organizations in shaping the environmental movement were the Conservation Foundation and Resources for the Future," but he then quotes me as saying that they helped to "launch an explicitly pro-corporate approach to resource conservation." Although this quote was taken from my article they are not my own words as it was a quote taken from Brian Tokar's excellent book Earth for Sale: Reclaiming Ecology in the Age of Corporate Greenwash (South End Press, 1997). Marshall then writes:
Laurance Rockefeller served as a trustee of the Conservation Foundation, and donated $50,000 yearly throughout the 50s and 60s. Further, the Conservation Foundation was founded by Fairfield Osborn, whose cousin, Frederick Osborn, became another prominent voice in conservation. Frederick Osborn was also working with the Rockefeller's Population Council and was President of the American Eugenics Society.
First of all, Fairfield Osborn had not only helped found the Conservation Foundation (in 1948), but had additionally co-founded Resources for the Future in 1952 (a fact that is overlooked by Marshall). One might also note that in an earlier more polluting phase of his life Fairfield had been the treasurer of Union Oil Company (1915-17), and after founding the aforementioned "environmental" groups he went on to become a leader of Planned Parenthood-World Population, which was launched in 1961.

Next, to prevent any unnecessary misinterpretation, I think it is important to emphasize that Fairfield's cousin, Frederick Osborn, had been one of the founding members of the American Eugenics Society and had headed the organization from 1946 until the year in which he helped found the Population Council (which was 1952). On top of this work, in 1937 Frederick had helped co-found the racist Pioneer Fund, and then served on their board of directors from the group's inception until 1958. [For more on this see, William Tucker, The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund (University of Illinois Press, 2002).]

Resident on the founding committee of the Pioneer Fund is another key capitalist, General William Draper Jr., who served on their board of directors from 1937 until his death in 1972: this notorious individual is "perhaps best remembered as the American government official who most helped Nazi and Zaibatsu industrialists re-concentrate their power after World War II." Draper, like the Osborn family, was needless to say obsessed with population control, and in 1960 he helped co-found the World Population Emergency Campaign, which was able to generate more than a million dollars in funding for the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Of more than incidental value, this later group had been formed some years earlier (in 1948) as the International Planned Parenthood Committee but then changed its name to IPPF in 1952 when it was launched at the Third International Conference on Planned Parenthood in Bombay, India. As Linda Gordon noted in her book Women's Body, Women's Rights: Birth Control in America (Penguin, 1977), the Osborn family were counted as important supporters of IPPF and:
Its headquarters, in London, were provided free of charge by the English Eugenics Society. IPPF work was focused on international population control. In 1961 the U.S. PPFA launched a new division called Planned Parenthood-World Population, which dominated PPFA's whole orientation for the next decade. (p.397)
For a more detailed introduction to this disturbing history, see my articles "Liberal Philanthropy and the 'Birth' of Population Control Environmentalism," and "Planned Parenthood For Capitalists."

Returning to Marshall's discussion of Environmentalism as Eugenics, after discussing my own work he then relies heavily upon the work of the well-known conservative writer Paul Driessen and more specifically his book Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death (Merril Press, 2004). Here I simply wish to draw interested readers attention to my own criticisms of Driessen's book in my article "WWF's Eco Imperialism: Corporate Power and Mining in Mongolia." I might add that in some of my other online work -- that has extended the analyses of my Capitalism Nature Socialism article -- I discuss the toxic history of WWF and highlight the importance of the fact that the Conservation Foundation merged into this organization in the late 1980s (see "The Philanthropic Roots of Corporate Environmentalism").

Michael Barker
London, United Kingdom - July 31, 2010


Follow the money: Gilles d'Aymery's The Miracle Of La Grande Boucle.

Hey Monsieur d'Aymery,

Your estimates about riders' wages appear slightly dated. From a recent AFP update, Contador was negotiating a €4 to 5 million contract before he jumped ship and joined the Saxo-Bank team. It's still peanuts compared to the biggies in other sports, but I would not mind those peanuts...assuming I did not have to break my ass and shatter my beautiful legs for the prize. My way of looking at it is still to hook the golden boy who, like Chelsea you-know-whom, can afford a $4 million 3-BR apartment in Manhattan.

Having yet to hit the jackpot, I may have to become a Tour de France lover, which I am not, and hope for the best. Maybe Contador will notice my legs...and, no doubt, I can learn Spanish in a hurry.

Allez, bon vent! (But keep your stats straight...)

Alouette Arouet
Paris, France - August 6, 2010


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Published August 9, 2010
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