Note from the Editor

"In the bizarro world that President Bush lives in, it pays -- literally -- to be a miserable failure, a criminal and a corporate con man. Those are just some of the characteristics of the dastardly men and women who were tapped recently to fill the vacancies in Bush's second-term cabinet," writes Jason Leopold (long time journalist and author of the forthcoming book Off the Record: An Investigative Journalist's Inside View of Dirty Politics, Corporate Scandal, and a Double Life Exposed) in an insightful article that regretfully reached us too late to make it in this edition. Leopold reviews the choice of Sam Bodman to serve as Secretary of Energy. "This is a guy," Leopold says, "who for a dozen years ran a Texas-based chemical company that spent years on the top five lists of the country's worst polluters. . . . . [his former company] Cabot is the world's largest producer of industrial carbon black, a byproduct of the oil refinery process." Cabot is also known for "helping to fuel the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo . . . . by purchasing coltan [columbo tantalite] from Congo during the conflict and illegally plundering the country's vast natural resources." It's essentially like choosing the local arsonist to head the town's fire station, or the fox to guard the proverbial henhouse! And like Alberto Gonzales, Bodman will be confirmed by the Senate and the main media won't peep a word about it. Faced with this recurring kind of collusion and corruption is there any wonder why cynicism tends to be so rampant nowadays? Polluters running the environment, which itself has been downright commodified...

Commodification of the whole living system, appeals to the lowest common denominator, the implacable rush to profits, religions as political instruments of control, have invaded the polity to such extent that one can fairly talk of a cultural phenomenon.

Culture, it turns out, was the object of a two-month e-mail correspondence between Phil Rockstroh and John Steppling -- a far-ranging conversation that covers and deciphers much of what Jason Leopold alludes to (and much more), the ruling war/destruction class, the "hyper yang" ascendancy, the Christian fundies, or, in Rockstroh's words, "the enveloping throb of the machine-sex sound of the techno music of a rave," without forgetting machismo ("Bring it on;" see Gerard Donnelly Smith). Part I of their dialogue is published today. Look forward to Part II in the next issue; and read Manuel García in regard to religions as controlling drugs to repress and hyper-control -- the cultural inquisitors...

Then take a moment and look at the hypocrisy behind the "Tsunami relief," which Joe Davison dissects, or deconstructs, with a clear-headed, though heated or outraged, perspicacity.

We know it empirically. It's all about the idiotbox and the dumbing of the masses (drugs, consumption, atomization, sexual repression, abuse, torture, silence). It's what we believe, not what we know. We believe, for instance, that the U.S. has the best health care in the world and we are shocked to learn that Cubans have a lower infant mortality rate than we do. We believe that Palestinians never existed as a people and that the Israelis took re-possession of a land that always belonged to them, when Israelis themselves, in their own words, debunk the myths. We believe that we are fighting for democracy as we are promoting fundamentalism at home and abroad. It's all about beliefs. Gerard Donnelly Smith's allegory, Dumb Prophet, illustrates how the twisted beliefs of one idiot can become civil law...

Could we start thinking (and acting), for a change?

[Personal note (GA): I was enthused by a message from an old-time "friend," Kevin F. Cunningham, who argued that since I did not like what I saw, the logical conclusion is that I should leave the U.S. Thank you, Kevin, that's what friends are for, I suppose.]

As always, please form your OWN opinion, and let your friends (and foes) know about Swans.


Art & Culture

Phil Rockstroh & John Steppling:  America Has Left The Building...
A Conversation About Culture -- Part I

This dialogue took place over the last couple months. The idea was to talk about culture, and about art, and about the role they play (or no longer play) in society.

It seems that man has always searched, both collectively (both transpersonal and political) and individually, for the logos -- the atman, the "self" (per Jung) or Being (Heidegger) or that non-empty void of so many mystical traditions. Art, often, if not always, somehow reflects this. Today, however, art is contextualized in ways that serve the ruling war/destruction class. Reading the year end "best of..." lists, in The New York Times, or anywhere, one tends to feel this trivializing tendency. What might have been of value is quickly neutralized and made into a tool of the forces of domination. The mystical and political has all but disappeared from view.   More...


Charles Marowitz:  Working With Havel

On the day Vaclav Havel was scheduled to attend the first-act run-through of his play TEMPTATION at The National Theatre in Prague, there was a palpable sense of hysteria in the air. The actors, all highly experienced members of a robust and respected permanent company which performed regularly before the upper echelons of Prague society, had never played in a scrappy rehearsal room before an internationally-lauded political icon and ex-President of the Czech Republic surrounded by secret servicemen.   More...


Patterns Which Connect

Joe Davison:  Tsunami Relief: A Study In Hypocrisy

The past few weeks has seen saturation news coverage of the largest natural disaster in recorded history. The tsunami which swept over the Indian Ocean over the Christmas period left in its wake destruction and death on a biblical scale.   More...


Manuel García, Jr.:  God And Country

"If God is everywhere, why do I have to go to church?" The inability of adult authority to give a six-year-old boy an unequivocal answer planted a freethinking seed that flowered into liberation.   More...


Gerard Donnelly Smith:  The Insurgent Word: Bring It On?

Even though Bush has apologized for using the phrase "bring it on," that term has become more firmly entrenched in the American vernacular. For example, this morning I read our campus newspaper, which quoted the cheerleading squad's motto as "Bring it on." Yes, there was that cheerleading movie from 2000 titled "Bring it On." Maybe the squad really means that; perhaps that's where George W. got the phrase. Unfortunately, now the term has acquired a new meaning.   More...


Hungry Man, Reach For The Book

Milo Clark:  Don Lee's Country of Origin

Novelist Don Lee is Korean-American or an American of Korean descent. He is sensitive to racial, ethnic and cultural nuances. Hawaii abounds with people called "hapa." Hapa are multiracial, multicultural and multiethnic. Walking diversity.   More...


Historical Record

Swans' Dossier:  Instructive Quotations
Behind the Israeli Propaganda

Israel "will never withdraw from the occupied territories."
—Menachem Begin's speech on West Bank for Israel independence day, see, New York Times Mid-May 1981.

"For Europe we would constitute over there part of a bulwark against Asia as well as the advance post of civilization against barbarism. As a neutral state we would have relations with all of Europe, which would guarantee our existence."
—Theodore Herzl, Judenstaat, French translation, publisher La Découverte, Paris, 1989, p. 47.   More...



Gerard Donnelly Smith:  The Dumb Prophet: An Allegory of Intelligence

Once a dumb-child who swept the streets outside the temple slipped upon a pile of offal and hit his head. Upon waking up, he found himself none the worse. He did not realize he had been changed, that his thoughts could be heard by others.   More...


Tidbits Flying Across the Martian Desk

Gilles d'Aymery:  Blips #10

Calvin: "Do you believe in the devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption and destruction of man?"
Hobbes: "I'm not sure man needs the help."
—Bill Watterson

A few selected issues that landed on the Editor's desk: Much about torture, the ways it's justified and carefully codified through legalese, Cuban infant mortality vs. the U.S.'s, a puzzling open letter from the tenured left to Hugo Chávez, the bribed media, the generosity of Soros & Co., among other tidbits, including the Boonville News.   More...


Letters to the Editor


A critique of Charles Marowitz's review of Philosopher, Heal Thyself; fan mail for Swans and John Steppling's Empire of Amnesia; a request for investment tips in our war economy (seems that was confused with; and the Good Mr. Steppling's review of our last issue, with some excellent advise that you won't get from Dr. Phil.   More...



– If you wish to receive an e-mail regarding each new rendition (twice a month) with the Note from the Editor and the URL to each article, please send an e-mail with "Subscribe Swans" in the subject line. Please also include your first/last name in the body of the message.



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Created: January 21, 2005