Note from the Editor

"Yesterday, more than 20,000 people perished of extreme poverty," concludes a New York Times editorial (February 27, 2005). The U.S. spends upward of 500 billion dollars a year on its military and wars, and $16 billion in foreign aid. Recently, Richard Manning, the author of Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization wrote that, "Hunger in America is no longer a matter of falling through the cracks, of happenstance and misfortune. Hunger has been institutionalized as a part of the economic fabric, including especially the business of selling food." Can't even feed its people any longer. Half of all bankruptcies in the U.S. come from families without health care, or minimum coverage, and facing a serious medical condition and catastrophic medical bills. Were we to attack hunger with the same fervor with which we attacked Iraq; elevate the urgency of fixing our health care system to that of the malingered Social Security; raise the color code of poverty to red; well, we know what could be accomplished, and the money to do so would be found. Yet our sights are far from our own soil, far away from the Appalachian Mountains, the back roads of Virginia; far from the desires and intellects of artists and writers. Here's a great conversation among three artists, Joe Bageant, John Steppling and Phil Rockstroh; each has a story to tell about what has become a hologram of a country.

How does a culture come to support war and its mongers over basic human needs? Philip Greenspan weaves the threads that connect Adolf Hitler and George W. Bush, with their respective rise to power and entry into war, and compares Bush's social policies (i.e., lack thereof) to Franklin Roosevelt's. It doesn't leave one any more optimistic about learning from history... We would better deal with this strife-rattled world, proposes Charles Marowitz, if we looked to classical theatre to understand the current relevance of, say, Julius Caesar.

Despite the lauding of pundits and politicians alike over "successful" elections in Iraq, don't celebrate too soon -- it is far from a success, and faced with certain US collaboration, its new government holds little chance for legitimacy, explains Michael Doliner. This mess is brought to you by the poster child of democracy, whose economic strength is ever more -- as Milo Clark puts it -- fragile. And yet we still have so many places to go, countries to liberate, leaders to elect, peoples to save... Freedom and democracy are on the march! Advice to Syria, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, to heed the four pillars of democracy: rule of law, protection of minorities, free press, and viable political opposition (do they apply to the U.S.?). Mr. Putin did well to contain himself after W's scolding, but Charles Marowitz, without revealing his sources, provides an inside peek at a follow-up letter that Vlad sent, where he points out a few inconsistencies.

We round out this rendition with even more from Mr. Marowitz in the form of a review of Antony Beevor's The Mystery of Olga Chekhova; a Gerard Donnelly Smith poem on suppressing revolution; and a few blips and letters, including John Steppling's usual review (with a commentary on Arthur Miller).

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


America: Myths and Realities

Joe Bageant, Phil Rockstroh & John Steppling:  The Ghost In The Hologram

As a fan of Joe's, I asked if he wanted to participate in a cyber-conversation with Phil and myself. We purposely avoided any pre-determined topics or rules -- this was meant to be just a friendly talk about the condition of the world (a pretty wide topic, that). Maybe what we all wanted was the kind of afternoon conversation that one used to be able to get at coffeehouses (pre-Starbucks) or bars (pre-Monday Night Football) or even on subways and trains.

So, here it is, from the last booth at the Swans Café...   More...


Patterns Which Connect

Philip Greenspan:  A Comparison Of Three Wartime Leaders

In the first three months of 1933 two new faces emerged to lead the troubled democratic countries of the United States and Germany. On March 4th Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated president of the US. On January 30th, the 51st birthday of Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler was named the chancellor of Germany.   More...


Charles Marowitz:  Learning From The Classics

The flag flies everywhere, even in the hearts and minds of Hollywood producers. An all-engulfing jingoism is fast devouring the nation and I, for one, recoil from it. It is in times such as these, with much of the world rattled by strife and stiffened by fear, that literary and artistic concerns -- rather than serving as diversions -- should become primary activities. We should turn to the classics as we do to trusted counselors whose wisdom has been proven.   More...


Michael Doliner:  New Boots In The Quagmire

In the Iraqi elections on January 31 no list emerged with enough seats to form a government. Some coalition will have to be made. That coalition will require collaboration with the American occupation and either a partition of Iraq or the creation of a phony federation to conceal a de facto partition. These two requirements will lead the government into an impossible position.   More...


Milo Clark:  Fragile

Playing with matches sometimes starts a fire. Sticking fingers in that fire sometimes gets them burned. But not always. Basing economic strategies on that assumption seems like kids playing with fire, giggling back of the barn when one farts. Remember trying to light farts with those big stick farmer's matches?   More...


Humor with a Zest

Gilles d'Aymery:  Freedom And Democracy On The March

Let's see. We've secured Afghans' freedom to grow poppies again and their women are as free as butterflies in the morning mist... Now that everything's going according to plan in Iraq -- we've liberated the country from the bad guys, have had elections, it's now a democracy with the rule of law, protection of minorities, a free press, and a viable political opposition (all criteria Russia does not have) -- it's time to advance freedom and democracy to the needy around the world. There're quite a few candidates that require our benevolent attention.   More...


Charles Marowitz:  Vladimir Putin Writes To George W. Bush

It is always pleasing to see you no matter what the occasion (so long as it isn't at "the ranch" where I am afraid the steaks are somewhat too bloody for my taste and the smell of the stables a bit overpowering), but I must confess, it was difficult for me during your recent visit to Bratislava.   More...


Jan Baughman:  Indecent Capitalism

As the world becomes a more and more evil place, our efforts to purify its citizens' deeds and thoughts take on a paramount importance. And with an already strained and off-the-books budget, one has to get creative. In a brilliant move to clean up the airwaves and at the same time raise money, the House of Representative recently passed the Broadcast Indecency Act (H.R. 310).   More...


Hungry Man, Reach For The Book

Charles Marowitz:  Antony Beevor's The Mystery Of Olga Chekhova

There has always been something captivating about the female spy. The double lives of male spies such such as Guy Burgess, Donald MacLean, Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt, Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames fall into a conventional category of intrigue which hotted up during the Cold War. Their treachery was neatly tucked behind bourgeois facades.   More...



Gerard Donnelly Smith:  Talking Points For Suppressing Revolution

When they have nothing to eat, give them enough to live and they will be grateful; even though your plate still overflows.   More...


Tidbits Flying Across the Martian Desk

Gilles d'Aymery:  Blips #13

"It is more dangerous to be a great prophet or poet than to promote twenty companies for swindling simple folk out of their savings."
—Bernard Shaw, Preface to Misalliance, 1914

A few selected issues that landed on the Editor's desk: on the political incorrectness of poking fun at cartoon characters, the truth behind the assassination of MLK, and protecting America from bad spelling, with a few tidbits about democracy and empire in between.   More...


Letters to the Editor


On Philip Greenspan's thoughts on war and elections; creating a progressive movement in Canada; shock and awe regarding Marowitz's support of Havel; support from the coiner of "corporism;" and John Steppling's wintery grumblings on our last issue, including "who dressed Dick Cheney for his visit to Krakow?"   More...



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Created: March 7, 2005