Skip to Content

"Why are we in Vietnam?" (or any damn place for that matter), revisited

 
 
How long should we wash our hands?
And while we're at it,
How many angles in "Heaven"?
Just to keep things moving,
Five.
 
Dear little Ameise,
How tiny you look today.
Why I would even say
You have shrunk
To the size of an ant.
 
What do you call your monkeys?
Those two,
The ones you put diapers on
And turned them loose
In the sunroom.
 
The sun got angry,
After it asked you nicely
To let it play with the monkeys
But you didn't trust it,
And for good reason.
 

Philly Ceremony: Another History Lesson Trump Will Ignore

Ignorant and unashamed

 
The historic ceremony outside City Hall in Philadelphia recently, that unveiled a statue of a significant yet overlooked 19th Century civil rights leader, contained chilling contemporary connections that radiate the adage: the more things change the more they stay the same.

That ceremony honored the works of Octavius V. Catto, an activist, educator and officer in the Union Army during the Civil War. Several hundred attended the ceremony including Philadelphia’s mayor, decedents of Catto, local celebrities and regular citizens from children to senior citizens.

The Catto statue, the centerpiece of a memorial installation for that man located on the south side of City Hall, is the first ever monument for an African-American individual located on city owned property in Philadelphia, a 335-years-old city with 1,200 public statues.

Philadelphia Mayor James Kenny (l) and sculptor Branly Cadet (r) unveil Octavius Catto statue. LBWPhotoPhiladelphia Mayor James Kenny (l) and sculptor Branly Cadet (r) unveil Octavius Catto statue. LBWPhoto
 
A racist murdered Catto on October 10, 1871 during a riot by whites to keep blacks from voting. During that Election Day riot members of Philadelphia’s police department actively aided the rioters – an incident of race-tainted abusive policing. Abusive and too often racist policing persists today.

Catto helped secure Pennsylvania’s ratification of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an addition implemented nationally in March 1870 intended to ensure voting rights for blacks, ex-slaves and freedmen then excluded from voting.

Today, conservative legislators nationwide are engaged in various efforts to erect barriers to block voting by blacks. Earlier this year, U.S. President Donald Trump created a Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity, which critics proclaim a thinly veiled scheme to suppress voting rights. Catto lost his life battling to break down barriers that blocked blacks from voting.

Why Hasn't Trump Ordered the Military to Puerto Rico?

Missing in inaction:

This article was written on assignment for Salon.com magazine
 

Night satellite images of the island of Puerto Rico taken before and after it was hit by two major hurricanesNight satellite images of the island of Puerto Rico taken before and after it was hit by two major hurricanes
 
It’s been a week since Puerto Rico, the American-owned island colony of 3.4 million, was destroyed by the second of two Category 5 hurricanes that struck it within a brief two-week period earlier this month.

Yet as of today, although virtually all the island’s local farms were destroyed by Hurricane Maria, its electric grid almost totally taken down, its cellular phone system destroyed, its water and sewer systems rendered inoperable and its roads made impassable, and although lack of communications and ability to travel has meant that the fate of millions in the island’s hinterlands and mountains is still unknown to family and friends in San Juan and on the US mainland, the US government in Washington has done almost nothing concrete to bring real, desperately needed help or even food and medicine to the island.

This stands in stark contrast to the aid Washington rushed immediately to Houston and to southern Florida in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

President Trump has cited the island’s technical insolvency (its economy was crushed by the Fiscal Crisis that began in 2008 and by the ensuing Great Recession and its government and various public agencies have been unable to make payments on over $72 billion in bond debt), as being the people’s and their government’s fault. But Puerto Rico, as a colony subject to the rule of Congress and to US federal courts, is not permitted the same recourse of entering into bankruptcy and renegotiating its debt as public agencies and municipalities in the US can do.

Trump alluded to that debt in an incredibly insensitive comment, tweeting: “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.”
He has also blamed the significant lack of aid coming from the US on Puerto Rico’s being an island. As the president put it in a Tuesday tweet: “This is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. And it's a big ocean; it's a very big ocean. And we’re doing a really good job.”

Left unsaid by the president is that Congress has long made transporting goods to Puerto Rico astoundingly difficult and expensive, dating back to the Jones Act. That law passed in 1929 requires, among other things, that all shipping between US ports be done on US-flagged and US-built ships, which of course are among the most costly in the world to operate (and there aren’t many of them). The act includes Puerto Rico’s ports, too. And in Puerto Rico’s case it also imposes huge tariffs on goods imported to Puerto Rico from other countries, like neighboring Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, etc., which are in a good position to deliver aid if they could. (Cuba also stands ready to aid Puerto Rico with both food and medical assistance as it did during the Haiti earthquake, but that is not even permitted by the US.)

When Puerto Rico’s government asked for an emergency exemption from the Jones Act, so that any ship from any nation could deliver needed supplies of medicine, food, water, fuel and emergency equipment like generators and rescue equipment, including from US ports, the Trump administration flatly refused Yet his administration readily waived the act for both Houston and Florida after hurricanes hit there….
 

For the rest of this article, please go to: Salon.com magazine

We're Seeing Freedom of Speech on the Gridiron So How About in Every Other Workplace?

Why don't Americans demand that the 1st Amendment apply on the job too?

 

Football players are a special class of workers. Even the lowliest of them make six-figure salaries, at least for the short time they stay healthy enough to play, but they are, nonetheless workers, and unionized workers at that.

And what is happening right now -- with NFL players, black and in some cases white, and now professional basketball and baseball players too, acting in solidarity to protest racist policing and other issues of equality denied in America by not standing for the traditional performance of the Star-Spangled Banner, and with the subsequent incendiary calls by President Trump for the firing of these protesters by team management -- is shining a light not just on the racist politics of the president, but on the wholesale lack of First Amendment freedom on the job for most American workers.

The reality is that workers in the US, unless they are represented by a labor union -- and even then only a powerful and assertive union -- speak their minds at the risk of being fired, and have no recourse if they are fired for the opinions they express if those opinions aren't shared by the boss.

Freedom of speech, that hallowed and much touted supposed birthright of all Americans, actually only applies during the hours that that we are sleeping, traveling to and from work, on our days off, or at home. And even then, as people are discovering with employers monitoring their personal blogs, Facebook pages and Tweets, and firing them for things they may have said or written, we're not so free
.
Colin Kaepernick (center) takes a knee in protest, loses his ability to play pro ball, but starts a movementColin Kaepernick (center) takes a knee in protest, loses his ability to play pro ball, but starts a movement
 

Hooray for the professional ball players who, following the lead of the heroic former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, are engaging their public protests before the fans and asserting their right to speak their minds about racism and the national epidemic of police brutality against and murders of African Americans.

The Vietnam War As Public Spectacle

Bottom-up Collective Drama or Top-Down Atrocity?

 
The spectacle of warfare, whether by intermittently shocking its public or inuring it to the horrors of combat, serves to normalize a permanent war economy and to make peace an anomaly.
                                                                                                            Jan Mieszkowski, Watching War

 
I wasn’t sure what hat I should wear watching the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick PBS documentary The Vietnam War: An Intimate History. Should I be a professional Vietnam veteran, something I have stooped to? Or should I be a journalist, a fiction writer or a documentary filmmaker? I've done all these things. Maybe I should be an anti-war activist, something I’ve done (some say badly) for over 30 years? I’ve worn all these hats in the context of the Vietnam War. In the end, identity is a fluid and willful thing selectively mined from experience; like everyone else, I'm a human being doomed to live in ever-changing contexts. Holding on to the past is a trap.

One of the many images from Vietnam used to tell stories in the filmOne of the many images from Vietnam used to tell stories in the film

Like Magritte's famous painting of a pipe titled "This is not a pipe," the Burns/Novick film is not "Vietnam" -- it's a TV drama. Questions about historic accuracy and political bias will likely always haunt it. It’s sophisticated cinematic production values and the story-telling questions they raise are important. In one sense, it's a classic PBS documentary. But, then, it's breaking some kind of ground in its mode of telling. If there's a continuum between fiction and non-fiction, this film is somewhere in the middle; let’s call it a hybrid -- in a no-man’s-land or DMZ between fiction and non-fiction. For any work of representational art, constructing a clean narrative from the chaos of life means leaving things out. That's how narrative is refined and distilled. It also opens such a project to criticism from many angles. The use of metaphor and symbol are tools in the process of making sense out of the unfamiliar and the confusing. Without the essential reductiveness, art would be like that Borges story where the map of a country is a 1:1 ratio to reality -- exactly the same size as the country itself.

Burns and Novick say their goal was “to comprehend the special dissonance that is the Vietnam War. ... We vowed to each other that we would avoid the limits of a binary political perspective and the shortcuts of conventional wisdom and superficial history.” They refer to the war as a “Rashomon of equally plausible ‘stories.’ ” Thus, the slogan they put on the movie poster: “There is no single truth in war.” As I watched the first half of the epic unfold, I constantly mulled over the question whether it was true "there is no single truth" concerning the Vietnam War. For one, the slogan seems to contradict itself. I would submit there is a single truth concerning the Vietnam War: It's the fact the Vietnamese people never did anything against the powerful, imperial people who invaded and devastated their country for over a decade. Lately, I've challenge anyone to come up with anything hostile the Vietnamese, our WWII ally, did to us to deserve what we did to them. Self-defense doesn't count. This single truth is hard to dispute, even when it's swamped by an impressive melange of "intimate" cinematic stories set down in the weeds of war where killing is a self-reinforcing, circular nightmare. As many combat vets will tell you, once the firefight starts it's only about killing those who are trying to kill you and your comrades. There's the old truism, the first casualty of war is the truth. That, of course, is another single truth.

Sharing the sandbox

 
 
That’s right,
I want to say something about my compatriates, “us”.
The American People aren’t going to like this.
They like being referred to as The American People;
it makes them feel special.
 
But the American People need to get out more.
They should learn to play better.
They should learn to share the sandbox.
Right across the street are the Mexican People
and they are very nice.
And across the way, there are the Chinese People
who buy our stuff and make things for us.
Many of them are also very nice.
And the German People have some great toys.
 
In fact, there are lots of People in the neighborhood!
 
What if People are just People!
That’s hard for the American People.
But when someone says something about the American People
just who do they think they are?
Whatever happened to “us” or “we”.
 
But hey, I’m just a poet
draining my cup of coffee,
wondering where the poetry has gone?
It’s like the smell of bacon frying somewhere.
It still smells good
but it’s just no use to me.
I’m a vegetarian.
I prefer local and home-grown
And anyway, I am well satisfied
by what’s on my plate.
 
--Gary Lindorff

How Badly Did Equifax Breach Damage Social Security System?

Exclusive: Salon investigation (By TCBH! member and Salon contributor) suggests mySocialSecurity portal at risk

 

XXThis article was written on assignment for Salon.com. To read the full story follow the link below
 

Millions of Americans are worried that their credit information and Social Security numbers may have been among the 143 million records breached in an unprecedented hack that attacked Equifax, the credit reporting company. But there’s more to the story. While Equifax and the Social Security Administration aren’t talking about it, Equifax was also hired a year ago, on a $10 million contract, to “help the SSA manage risk and mitigate fraud for the mySocialSecurity system, a personalized portal for customers to access some of SSA’s services such as the online statement.”

That’s how the company put it in a press release on Feb. 10, 2016. In that announcement, Equifax also boasted that the Social Security Administration “has completed integration with Equifax Inc.”

Despite Equifax’s self-described intimate role in providing security and preventing fraud on the Social Security System’s public access website for current workers and beneficiaries, there has been no indication that the Social Security Administration is concerned about whether weaknesses in Equifax’s own customer portal security — such as the Apache tool on which the company is blaming the breach — might have been involved in its security work for the mySocialSecurity portal.

For the rest of this article by TCBH! member DAVE LINDORFF, please go to Salon.com

Hack of 143 million Social Security Numbers is Really About Our Insecurity and Fear

SSNs should be for Social Security's use, and nobody else

 

The epic breach of data, including 143 million Americans' Social Security numbers, at Equifax, a private credit company that answers to nobody and that gathers information about anybody who spends money or borrows it, whether they like it or not, is causing heart palpitations across the nation.

The New York Times reports that Equifax has been deluged with requests to have their credit information "frozen" so it cannot be accessed by anybody, including lenders. But they cannot do it: it turns out that the Equifax online and phonebank system for dealing with such requests have both become "frozen" themselves and are useless. A snarky Times consumer columnist wonders whether this is because of the crush of calls or is because Equifax simply doesn't want to lose to many credit reports -- the basis for its ability to charge lenders for its credit rating services. He has a point.

No surprise that people are desperately trying to shut their credit reports off. People who live on credit and who have little in their bank accounts, are terrified that hackers will now steal their identities, borrow vast sums in their names, or hack into their retirement accounts and pensions and savings accounts and siphon off what's in them.

But this very fear that wells up in the hearts of the American bourgeoisie is the reason this is all happening.

83 years ago, the Social Security system was established, and everyone who registered received a nine-digit number -- the number of an account into which people paid taxes which, over a lifetime of work, were used to calculate a benefit amount to be paid monthly for life from retirement age until you died, providing everyone with a modicum of financial security.

Originally there were laws that made it illegal for anyone to require a person to provide that number, but then, fear led us to start requiring that the once inviolate Social Security Number be used for many purposes. Gradually, imperceptibly first, the number began to be required, first on income tax forms, then on bank accounts and credit card applications, and finally on just about everything. Today, you can't get a driver's license without showing a Social Security card. You need to show it to get a car loan or a mortgage. Immigration police can demand one "to prove you are a citizen." Apartment owners ask for the number when you sign a lease. Hospitals and doctors require it, since unless you never worked, your Medicare number is the same as your Social Security number.
 

There are so many holes in the security of your Social Security number, the word "security" is really a jokeThere are so many holes in the security of your Social Security number, the word "security" is really a joke
 

Many places ask for the "last four numbers" of your card as a kind of ID, but actually the rest of your number is a code that can be reconstructed, given enough information about your background, at least before 2011, when the agency began generating random numbers for new registrants.

And Americans support this intrusion into their privacy. Why? Because we've been snookered into fearing terrorists, "illegal" immigrants, fraudsters out to steal our money...you name it. The land of the free is not so free anymore with all this identifying that has to go on. You can't go anywhere in secret anymore. Try and use cash to rent a car or rent a hotel room. They all want a major credit card, and that, of course, is linked to your Social Security Number (SSN).

Trump Drops DACA as Well as Child-Maiming Cluster Weapons

The president’s strange way of showing his ‘love’ of children

 

Image drawn for ThisCantBeHappening! by Nathaniel Thompson, reachable at @untilwegetthisImage drawn for ThisCantBeHappening! by Nathaniel Thompson (reachable at @untilwegetthis)
 

When Donald Trump says he “loves children” as he did in trying to make the case that his termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was not a case of child abuse, it’s important to remember that Trump has also amped up US support for Saudi Arabia’s brutal war on Yemen, and has specifically continued to supply the Saudi air force with US-made cluster bombs, the primary victims of which are children.

Here is what President and Commander in Chief Trump really thinks of kids.

 Child victims of Saudi-dropped cluster bombs, and images of unexploded US-made cluster weapTrump's war on children in Yemen: Child victims of Saudi-dropped cluster bombs, and images of unexploded US-made cluster weapons
 

A UN Convention on Cluster Munitions that prohibits the “use, transfer and stockpiling” of cluster bombs and shells was adopted in Dublin, Ireland in 2008, went into force on August 1, 2010 after being signed by 30 nations, and today has 116n countries that have ratified it. Among the holdouts are the US, Russia, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, Brazil and of course Saudi Arabia — all countries that produce and/or stockpile and are willing to use such weapons.

A Tale of Two Critics

Previewing the Burns/Novick PBS Vietnam documentary

 

In the run-up to the Burns/Novick documentary on the Vietnam War to air on PBS beginning the 17th of September, I’ve read two previews that likely define the opposing poles around which critical commentary will grade the film series:
 

“Why the Vietnam War is Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s Most Ambitious Project Yet,” by David Kamp, in the August 2017 issue of Vanity Fair.

“America’s Amnesia,” by Thomas A. Bass, in Vol. 2, No. 4 (August-October 2017) of the Mekong Revie.
 

As I read the tea leaves, the revived debate on Vietnam prompted by the documentary will essentially bypass the old nest of apologists among the surviving neo-cons and the highbrow sages of the National Review and Commentary, and pit forces from the neo-liberal camp, who see the “lessons of Vietnam” as repudiations of the U.S. policy of permanent war targeting international “bad guys” not down for American global hegemony, against the principled crowd of leftists and academics who cut their political teeth during the period of massive opposition to the Vietnam War. We may hear from the right, the diehard revanchists among the Viet Kieu, the rants of Rolling Thunder’s ersatz vets on their hogs, the idiocracy of Trump’s base, or even the Idiot-in-Chief, Trump himself. But their voices on this topic will be ignored as so much extraneous background noise. No one serious, you know, still supports the Vietnam War.

Given what he’s served up in Vanity Fair, I place David Kamp, if only in the utter Arendtian thoughtlessness he brings to the topic, among the temporizers. Kamp’s operative critical pose is ennui chic. He is bored by treatments of the Vietnam War he’s encountered that recycle the “tired tropes… of Hollywood,” and is refreshed in finding that auteurs Burns and Novick have “avoided” them. After all, Lynn Novick instructs the critic in an interview, ““There is no agreement among scholars, or Americans or Vietnamese, about what happened: the facts, let alone whose fault, let alone what we’re supposed to make of it.” Burns punctuates his partner’s hymn to ambiguity, telling Kamp he disdained to give voice in their epic to “avuncular, Monday-morning quarterbacking from historians and scholars who never set foot in Vietnam.”

US soldier uses a flame thrower to torch a Vietnamese peasant hutUS soldier uses a flame thrower to torch a Vietnamese peasant hut
 

There it is: throw out your Gibbon, unless the renowned author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire managed to time travel in the Way-Back machine with Sherman and Mr. Peabody to personally interview the Visigoths as they sacked the Eternal City.

Syndicate content
Loading

Find more artists like Dave Lindorff at Myspace Music

This is the video tape of Davis in Lahore police custody


___________________________

___________________________


Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at livestream.com

Live Stream of the Occupation of Wall Street! The Revolution will be filmed after all! (Courtesy of Globalrevolution)
________________________

Fightin' Cock FlyerFightin' Cock Flyer

Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

Donate $50 to ThisCantBeHappening.net and get a free signed copy, postage paid, of Dave's classic tome The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin's Press, 2006). Just click on the cover image to go to the Paypal payment page, make your payment, and send a note to Dave calling his attention to the payment, and giving your mail address and the name you want the inscription addressed to.

---------------

Have a comment to make?

You can write us at TCBHmail@gmail.com
We may not answer you, but we'll probably read it.



by Dr. Radut