Category Archives: Politics

35 Years After Vietnam


Was it only six years ago when I realized that the Vietnam war, contrary to the historic record, was not over after all? I’m talking, of course, about Vietnam vet John Kerry and what he did (or didn’t) do in protesting a war he once fought in, dredged up during the 2004 Presidential election between Kerry and George W. Bush, whose own military record also came into question.

I admit to have been one of those people who actually supported the Vietnam war in the beginning of 1967. After all, it was an American war, I was an American, ipso facto, Q.E.D. My opposition to the conflict evolved over the next year or so, starting with the Beyond Vietnam speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he died. (Was that just coincidence?)

The group that most influenced me at the time was the VVAW, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. It was one thing for civilians to oppose the war. It was quite another thing to see soldiers who had been fighting the war then come out against it.

In time, I found about some of the history of conflict in Vietnam, the fighting against the Japanese and the French, among others. The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 might have signaled the end of colonial occupation, but it led to greater involvement by the Americans, first in small numbers of analysts in the 1950s to massive numbers troops in the mid-1960s, facilitated in no small part by the prevarication that was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August of 1964.

No doubt that many of the soldiers may have operated honorably, but it’s also true that the My Lai massacre in 1968 was not the only atrocity in this drawn-out engagement. My buddy Steve Bissette wrote a piece about a couple films delineating military failings during Vietnam and a more recent conflict. (I actually chuckled when I discovered his post was dated February 2, for that was the date in 1972 when the draft for those born in 1953 took place; that’s a LONG story.)

My general disinclination towards war is fueled by the belief that even in a “good war” (a true oxymoron), bad things, unintended things occur. Even the “good guys” get it wrong sometimes, regardless of the safeguards. Thus war should always be a last resort, not a first option.

In a bold attempt to be “fair and balanced, I point out to you The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Vietnam War — “the latest installment in Regnery Publishing’s bestselling Politically Incorrect Guide™ (“PIG”) series — [Phillip] Jennings gives you the surprising truth, and backs it up with facts that liberals ignore.”

I should note that I haven’t read the book. Among the assertions:
*The Tet offensive was a debacle for the North Vietnamese
*Communist Vietnam is now trying to emulate a more capitalist approach
I actually agree with both of those statements, but not with most of the others.

Thirty-five years after Vietnam and we’re still fighting the war.

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Pete Seeger: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy from the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Pete turns 91 on Monday.

ROG

April Ramblin'

Fun Interpretation of the Google Books Settlement

What I love about my Bible study: we talk a LOT about current affairs. Part of the conversation recently, in reading the 23rd Psalm, was “What IS evil?’ One of the examples I thought of was the deliberate misrepresentation of the truth with the intent to incite.

We also were distressed about the new Arizona immigration law Two thoughts on that. Remember the Sun City (video) album from the 1980s? Sun City was the resort town in South Africa, which, during apartheid came to symbolize the difference in conditions for blacks and whites. On that album was the song, Let Me See Your ID (video).

The other thing is that famous quote by theologian Martin Niemöller
“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
Having been profiled one or twice (yeah, right), this really disturbs me.
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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow: FOX News, GOP further ‘the un-mooring of politics from fact’ (video)
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Gunn High School Sings Away Kansas Hate Group known as the Westboro Baptist Church (video).
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The vengeance of Bernie Goldberg on the Daily Show (Link to video). I don’t recall Goldberg being quite so wack when he was on CBS.
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Plaque in honor of activist William Moore unveiled. He was a civil rights activist from around my hometown of Binghamton, NY, who was murdered in Alabama in 1963. The local branch of the Congress of Racial Equality, with which my father worked, was named after him. It even rhymed: The William L. Moore chapter of CORE.
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Very soon, you can listen to the sounds of the cosmos yourself. All of the data from the SETI program will soon be available at setiQuest.org to download or play.
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New national park quarters unveiled: U.S. Mint debuts designs for the first five coins in its America the Beautiful Quarters Program, which will honor 56 national parks. The rest will be released through 2021. I probably WON’T collect them; still haven’t found most of the 2009 quarters.
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MAD Artist Jack Davis’ Illustrations of NBC’s 1965-66 Season for TV Guide is really cool, especially if you remember the shows, which I do.
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Angelina Jolie is in the summer movie I can’t wait to see, Salt, which was filmed in part in Albany, NY. The filming caused massive traffic delays for days.
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Siren’s Crush Receives Rave Reviews from NAMM (short video). This is my niece’s group; Rebecca is the brunette female.
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My friend Deborah, who I met in 1977 in Manhattan, and who’s been living in France for the past quarter century, recently bought a beautiful old stone house in Brittany with a plan of partly financing the loan by renting it out as a holiday home.

The Kan ar Vouac’h website and its listing on VRBO are finally done, and she’s hoping to be putting the final touches on buying the final necessaries over the month of May.

I’m told it’s a lovely and reasonable place to stay in Brittany.
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Retiree Bathtub Test

During a visit to my doctor, I asked him, “How do you determine whether or not a retiree should be put in an old age home?”

“Well,” he said, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the retiree and ask him or her to empty the bathtub”

“Oh, I understand,” I said. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

“No” he said. “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”

ROG

The Confederacy? WTF

OK, I was on the road and I somehow missed this: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell proclaims Confederate History Month, for which he later (sort of) apologizes. The President of the United States (psst! he’s BLACK, so OBVIOUSLY, he has a racist agenda) upbraids the governor for leaving slavery out of the equation. Certain right-wing pundits kvetch: “My God, they’re talking about slavery AGAIN? Why can’t they let it go?”, oblivious to the inability of others to let go of a cause that one could reasonably consider sedition. There is an article in Salon which addresses this. I was particularly fond of this comment: “History has a peculiar habit of becoming revisionist drivel when it comes to culture & politics. Romanticized to the point of nausea, even dark days are brightened with an artificial hue.”

The best discussion of this phenomenon appeared even before the McDonnell proclamation. Once more, I must point you to Bill Moyers while I still can; he’s going off the air soon. Specifically, the show broadcast on the anniversary weekend of Martin Luther King’s death, which reflected on his legacy.

“Two talented lawyers who’ve dedicated their careers to fighting inequality, Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson, join Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL to examine justice and injustice in America 42 years after King’s death.”

Specifically to this point about race in America:

BRYAN STEVENSON: Other countries that have confronted historic problems of racism and gross ethnic conflict have recognized that to overcome that, there has to be a period of truth and reconciliation. In South Africa, they had to go through truth and reconciliation. In Rwanda, there had to be truth and reconciliation. In this country, we’ve never had truth and we’ve never had reconciliation. And so, the day to day reality for the clients where I work, the people I work with is one that’s still hurt, angry, broken.

I keep hoping for that “conversation about race” we’ve been promised, so we CAN “get over it.” This seemed obviously to be great opportunity. Yet I’ve seen from more than one quarter that the idea about bringing up the slavery issue is merely liberals being (eye roll) “politically correct”. Not to be confused with “historically correct”, or “factually correct.”

The lawyers make some other interesting points. Much of the conversation after Obama’s election was that “we HAVE overcome”, that the struggle with racism was over, something I always thought was a lot of bunk.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER:…I think individual black achievement today masks a disturbing, underlying racial reality. You know, to a significant extent…affirmative action, seeing African Americans…go to Harvard and Yale, become CEOs and corporate lawyers…causes us all to marvel what a long way we have come.

But…much of the data indicates that African Americans today, as a group, are not much better off than they were back in 1968. When Martin Luther King delivered his…”The Other America” speech.

And interesting observation about terrorism – and some, though by no means all of these groups who idealize the antebellum South, seem to be attracted to a violent fringe element in this country.

BRYAN STEVENSON:…older people come up to me, and they say, “Mr. Stevenson, I’m tired of hearing how we’re talking about– we’re dealing with terrorism for the first time in our nation’s history.” They were antagonized by the rhetoric around 9/11. They would come up to me and they’d say, “Mr. Stevenson, I grew up with terrorism. We had to worry about being bombed. We had to worry about being lynched. We had to live in communities close to each other, because the threat of violence was constant…

Ms. Alexander has written a book about The New Jim Crow, not that dissimilar to the old Jim Crow.

MICHELLE ALEXANDER: …just a couple decades after the collapse of the old Jim Crow system, a new system of racial control emerged in the United States. Today, people of color are targeted by law enforcement for relatively minor, nonviolent, often drug-related offenses. The types of crimes that occur all the time on college campuses, where drug use is open and notorious. That occur in middle class suburban communities without much notice, right?

Targeted, often at very young ages, for these relatively minor offenses. Arrested, branded felons, and then ushered into a parallel social universe, in which they can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in many of the ways in which African Americans were discriminated against during the Jim Crow era…

The Reagan Administration actually hired staff whose job it was to publicize crack babies, crack dealers in inner city communities, in the hope that these images would build public support for the drug war and persuade Congress to devote millions of more dollars to the war.

So that it was possible to convert the war from a rhetorical one into a literal one. It was part of a larger political strategy. And once the media became saturated and our public consciousness began to associate drug use and drug crime with African Americans, it’s no surprise that law enforcement efforts became concentrated in communities defined by race as well.

BRYAN STEVENSON: The reality is, is that in poor communities, the police do raids all the time. I’ve worked in communities where the SWAT team comes and they put up a screen fence around the public housing project. They do searches. They stop people coming in and out. There are these presumptions of criminality that follow young men of color.

And whenever they’re someplace they don’t belong, they’re stopped and they’re targeted. And so– and because you don’t have the resources actually to create privacy and security, you’re much more vulnerable to prosecution… we could do the same thing, but middle class communities, elite schools in this country would not tolerate drug raids from federal law enforcement officers and police. Even if there’s drug use.

And so, there is this way in which resources and economic status actually makes you more vulnerable to criminal arrest and prosecution. And it becomes a self-fulfilling story. So that when I walk down the street in the wrong kinds of clothes, if I’m in the “wrong place,” there’s a presumption that I’m up to something criminal.

It goes on, but the point is that the “good old days” of the 1950s, or the 1850s, weren’t that good for some. Certainly the antebellum South holds no warmth in my heart. The lawyers on Moyers also describe how poor and middle-class whites are manipulated to see blacks as, if not the enemy, then at least people to be suspicious of, a deliberate manipulation going back to Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy”, then perfected by Ronald Reagan. They argue that the huge growthin the prison population makes us less safe, not more.

I mention all of these other issues because I believe these aren’t just individual events, bloopers of a thoughtless politician or pundit, but rather a pattern of racial insensitivity that needs to be continually looked at in the broader context.

ROG

I would Have Voted For Harold Ford


I was mildly disappointed that Harold Ford, Jr., the former Tennessee congressman, has decided this week not to run in the Democratic primary against US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

I’m pretty sure I would have voted for him…in 2006, when he ran for US Senator from Tennessee. He was clearly the more moderate choice in his race against Bob Corker. But it he lost, and many folks thought it was in no small part because of some racially tinged commercials.

In 2010, though, he never identified any particular reason to vote for him. He was evasive in his February 14 appearance on Meet the Press concerning his Merrill Lynch bonuses. His reception at the Black and Latino Caucus, based on what I saw =on television, was lackluster at best. He was one of only a handful of Congressional Democrats to vote for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and his recent conversion supporting gay marriage has been met with a decided lack of enthusiasm. The one thing I would have advised him not to have worried about the carpetbagger charge – everyone else who was so charged (RFK in 1964, James Buckley in 1970 and Hillary Clinton in 2000) not only ran but won.

Whereas Kirsten Gillibrand, who started off as an apparent afterthought of a choice of Governor Paterson, and was thought likely to be primaried from someone on the left, seems to have grown into the role of junior Senator. I watched her during her live video Facebook chat back on February 24, and her command of the issues was very impressive. She was strong in her support of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and believes that the process of hearings that had just started would get to that goal. She also adamantly opposes the so-called Defense Of Marriage Act. She was equally forceful on health care, jobs, tax credits, and reproductive rights. She explained that the agricultural committee she serves on deals with financial derivatives, a vestige of a time when farmers used their crops as collateral.

I should say that while Harold Ford Jr. almost always seems slick and polished, Kirsten Gillibrand trying to read the questions that scrolled by too fast was a bit comical. Still, had Ford actually decided to run, I think Gillibrand would have cleaned his clock. We’ll never know, of course. And with the primary falling so late, in September, it does avoid the internecine warfare that the Democrats are known for, thus giving them a better chance to hold onto the seat.

But that race would have been FUN.

ROG

A Couple Links In Lieu of Actual Content

Maybe it’s because I’ve tried cutting back on caffeine. Surely it has to do with Black History Month at church and a presentation I did at the Underground Railroad conference this past weekend. But I am FRIED.

Fried means going to bed when the child goes to bed, between 8 and 9 pm. Going to bed BEFORE my wife, and if you know her sleep patterns, you’d find that astonishing.
So I’m not going to force it. I’ll give you a couple links. The good news, I suppose, is that I wrote them:

EDIT: POSTPONED UNTIL APRIL (paragraph below)
Over at Trouble with Comics, the esteemed comics blogger Alan David Doane is having Guest Reviewer Month. And guess who his first contributor is? (And yes, ADD, I DO laugh your claim to my “fame”.)

On my Times Union blog, I note how lucky Albany has been with the weather this winter. Those of you from across the country or the world might read that NYC schools and Syracuse University were closed on Friday; Albany got about an inch of slush. Oh, and I dedicate the post to Jason at 2political, who’s in the Washington, DC area and gotten far more snow in 2010 than I have.

Finally, I want to point you to the NYS Data Center blog where I highlight the Modern Mechanix blog.

More content tomorrow, I hope.

ROG

It's Not A Liberal or Conservative Issue

It is my general feeling that amending the United States Constitution is something that should not be suggested lightly. There’s a whole slew of proposed amendments that never really went anywhere.

Still, I’m mulling over this e-mail I got from Uthaclena which reads in part: “As you are undoubtedly aware, the Supreme Court recently decided that Corporations are Persons who are entitled to spend as much money on ‘free speech’ to effect elections as they like. I believe that most Americans, be they Liberal or Conservative, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, or Independent, thinks that this is ludicrous. The ruling legitimizes the business of BUYING elections, which is already a grave threat to our democracy. This is an issue that should unite us despite the partisan contention of the last decade.”

Well, yes. When I commented on the court case initially, my view was what it was, one commenter suggested, because I was liberal. I AM a liberal, but the issue was that the Court seemed to cede power from the people to the corporate state. It seemed radical. People complain about the “activist” court when some “progressive” ruling down. Well, this was the height of judicial activism. Along with the Griswold decision to essentially allow eminent domain for “economic” reasons, this court has put the people last.

So I’m feeling inclined to support such a measure.

“Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards and Congressman John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, have co-sponsored a bill to send a Constitutional Amendment to the States for ratification that would allow corporation’s influence to be limited. The proposal reads:

111TH CONGRESS, 2D SESSION
H. J. RES. ___
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States permitting Congress and the States to regulate the expenditure of funds by corporations engaging in political speech.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Ms. EDWARDS of Maryland (for herself and Mr. CONYERS) introduced the following joint resolution; which was referred to the Committee on __________________

JOINT RESOLUTION
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States permitting Congress and the States to regulate the expenditure of funds by corporations engaging in political speech.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

‘ARTICLE—
‘SECTION 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure of funds for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.
‘SECTION 2. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.’.

You can voice your support of Representative Edwards here.

But more importantly, contact YOUR OWN Congressional Representative and ask them to support this resolution so that it can move forward. If you are uncertain who your representative is or how to contact them, use the locator.

The source article can be read here.

(WARNING! Leftie blog!! ;-)”

ROG