Note from the Editor

Welcome to Silly Season 2004, that time of year when Americans are the consummate patrons of the temples of consumerism where out of indulgence and economic patriotism they keep emptying their already-empty wallets. Survival of the fittest has reportedly played itself out at Wal-Mart where the first shopper in line for a 6 am Black Friday store-opening was trampled by a DVD-hungry crowd... In the spirit of the season, we hear that Wal-Mart is keeping a player on hold for the hapless customer, once she is released from the hospital. In the midst of decay every customer counts...'Tis the season for counting our blessings and for giving, but the non-profits, whose 'profitable and tax-free' business is guaranteed so long as the government doesn't take care of the homeless, hungry, unemployed, uninsured et al., are finding that when the economy is bad, so are the donations. This year, as social services are slashed by the federal and state governments, donations are bad... Have we stumbled upon a new economic paradigm or are we rushing back to the 19th century? If you can't imagine what it's like to be homeless, or think it can't happen to you, read Michael Stowell's first-hand account. One thing is certain, private charity does not work, never did, never will...

Talking of charitable endeavors... With the Iraqi "post"-war celebrations hitting an all time high in casualties and fuzzy planning, it's no wonder US Secretary of State Colin Powell needs Ambien to sleep at night, as Phil Rockstroh describes in his tale of Pharmatopia. Rockstroh paints a picture of drugged masses (you, us, all?) that do not question the systemic decay of neo-liberalism -- but they (you, us, all?) can't think to question. Drugs, legal or not, are a staple of the great American experiment...

Richard Macintosh looks at the daily-fed misinformation and shows that it takes much willingness and time to find the real story. The inanity of propaganda reached new heights with Mr. Bush's clandestine trip to the Baghdad Airport, of which no one (in the mainstream) dares utter a hint of criticism; but Jan Baughman illustrates her take on the event, which is more 'politics as usual' than support for the troops. An idealistic and 'rational' American (there are many out there), she also advocates for less politics as usual and more community involvement. Accordingly, she covers the San Francisco mayoral race and endorses Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez. The Green Party may not be our undiluted cup of tea but it is potentially a real alternative. San Franciscans, vote Gonzalez!

On the education and literary front, physicist Manuel Garcia analyses arrogance among physicists and their lack of a broad education -- to paraphrase Bernard Shaw, specialists are people who know a lot about limited fields and, to a limit, a specialist is someone who knows everything about nothing! Knowing and learning is what graduate student Vanessa Raney is about as she relays her hopes to break new ground and free herself from stereotypes as a future teacher. Louis Proyect reviews the 1987 book Anthills of the Savannah by Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe and describes Achebe's unremitting work on behalf of African peoples; and Scott Orlovsky muses on universal human justice.

Tanweer Akram has compiled an additional dossier on Iraq, with links to news sources, human rights, activist and anti-war groups, as well as books of interest. Finally, our readers have their say.

As always, please form your OWN opinion, and let your friends (and foes) know about Swans. It's your voice that makes ours grow.



America: Myths and Realities

Gilles d'Aymery:  The Silly Season Amidst Terminal Decay

The silly season encompasses the time of the year when America celebrates its endless bounties and unremitting self-declared universal goodness by flooding the Malls in an orgy of bargain-hunting consumerism and cherry-telling stories of charitable generosity and other fairy tales about freedom-loving people. It's the quintessential representation of the American Dream.   More...


Michael W. Stowell:  Homeless

Having gone homeless for eight years, I suppose I am more conscious of the existence of those who are invisible to much of American society. When someone who is obviously a 'street person' confronts you, how do you react? In my experience, most people avert their eyes and do their best to avoid any contact.



Phil Rockstroh:  Of Meds And Mendacity

As of late, Secretary of State Colin Powell has been lying awake at night, staring bug-eyed at the ceiling. We learn this from a recent item culled from The Washington Post: He's using sleeping tablets called Ambien (zolpidem tartrate)...   More...


Richard Macintosh:  Tea Leaves

Aeschylus wrote that "rt, and multiplication of words drifting through tangled evil bring terror to them that hear." But what of those who do not hear? And what of those who see when others have deaf eyes? What of those who see murder, while others glory in the killing?   More...


Jan Baughman:  Campaign Financing

A cartoon about turkeys and other secrecies shrouded in feather-like Americana.   More...


Jan Baughman:  Matt Gonzalez For Mayor Of San Francisco

San Franciscans and their close neighbors watched in horror as the rest of the state swept Arnold Schwarzenegger into the governor's office. . . . Support Matt Gonzalez in his run for mayor of San Francisco on December 7.   More...


Patterns which Connect

Manuel García, Jr.:  Hermit Crabs and Maître d's: Arrogance in Physics

I the article, "Arrogance -- A Dangerous Weapon of the Physics Trade?," J. Murray Gibson, of Argonne National Laboratory, describes the nature of arrogance among physicists as springing from pride in the acquisition of such a grand and difficult field of human knowledge, and the social difficulties the physics profession suffers because of an excessive display of this attitude.   More...


Vanessa Raney:  The Question Of Turnaround

I never thought to associate Chinese with Jewish. It's not that I wasn't open to the possibility, but rather, that it never occurred to me to associate Chinese with Jewish. That is, until I was privileged to see Kristina Sheryl Wong, Leilani Chan and Shyamala Moorty, of TeAda productions in L.A., perform at Scripps College.   More...


Hungry Man, Reach For The Book

Louis Proyect:  Chinua Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah

When Chinua Achebe was a college student in Nigeria in the 1950s, he read Joyce Cary's Mr. Johnson, a smug British satire set in southern Nigeria that viewed Nigerians as rustic buffoons. Angered by this caricature, Achebe resolved to correct the record in Things Fall Apart. Written in 1958, Achebe's first novel castigates British colonialism for imposing Christianity and other alien values on traditional society.   More...



Scott Orlovsky:  Ethics And Priorities: Perspectives On Justice

Justice is no longer innocent
the Attorney General concealed her breast
baptized her in the cloth of self-awareness
now she knows the nature of good and evil   More...


Iraq Dossier

Tanweer Akram:  Additional Resources on Iraq

These resources supplement Swans' Resources on the Iraqi Tragedy and cover information about Human Rights organizations, Activist Groups, News sources, Anti-War Groups and useful books.   More...


Letters to the Editor


On Michael Parenti, Edward Herman and Vanessa Raney.   More...



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Created: December 7, 2003