Thursday, October 19, 2017

50 years ago: March on the Pentagon | 21 October 1967

Me and a friend on the bus to DC
Fifty years ago today I was riding a bus from St. Louis to my first national anti-war demonstration. At the time I was a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis, MO with a double-E major. The March on the Pentagon was a massive and militant protest against the American War in Vietnam and it took place on 21 October 1967. Protesters rallied at West Potomac Park near the Lincoln Memorial and marched to the Pentagon. Phil Ochs sang and David Dellinger and Dr. Spock spoke. A rally there was followed by civil disobedience on the steps of the Pentagon. I was among those that marched across the bridge to the Pentagon but I didn't get arrested.  

Che Guevara was murdered on 9 October 
1967 and we were still mourning our loss
as we marched across the bridge to the

This weekend I will be flying to Washington to commemorate the 50h anniversary of that historic protest. These events are being organized by the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee. It begins with a vigil at the Pentagon on Friday, 20 October, followed by dinner at Saigon Saigon, and an all day conference on Saturday, 21 October. You can read complete information on the event website.

I will be tweeting and blogging from the various events so look for my post over the weekend.

After this protest, anti-war activity became the focus of my life for the next few years. By the end of that school year I was president of the Washington University SDS chapter and a veteran of many protests.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Monday, October 9, 2017

From Santa Monica to Syria: It's a small world after all

The Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice had another very successful meeting Sunday evening. Although the house was packed, it wasn't the massive turnout we had last month. The Santa Monica PD only sent four horsemen this time and the Alt-Right groupies were a complete no-show. Word on the street is that they are saying we are no longer considered a "soft target."

From my six years of blogging in support of the struggle against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, @Partisangirl is a familiar adversary. She is one of Assad's best known propagandists. I first mentioned her in August 2012, a year before the massive sarin attack on East Ghouta, in a post titled Fears grow of WMD attack in Syria, which featured this tweet:
In retrospect, that tweet can be seen as part of the long propaganda campaign designed to prepare the way for chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime that would eventually kill thousands.

DIY Division: Neo-Nazi Fighting Club
In the past year or so, much of my energy has been diverted away from Syria, as regular readers of my blog know. First, in an unsuccessful campaign to keep Donald Trump out of the White House by strategically focusing on what proved to be an indispensable element of his victory - the Jill Stein candidacy, and since, in fighting the results of that victory. Most recently, I have been focused on a local struggle in a way I really haven't done since the halcyon days of Occupy LA in the Fall of 2011. Readers of this blog also know this recent struggle broke out when a number of Southern California Alt-Right groups decide to target SMCRJ. We now have identified the Proud Boys, Goyim Boys, DIY Division, Hammerskin Nation, Rise Above and the bloggers Red Elephant and Baked Alaska as among the attackers.

My struggle against Baked Alaska has been up close and personal, as well as over the Internet:

Baked Alaska [Tim Gionet] harassing Committee for Racial Justice in Santa Monica | 6 August 2017
Baked Alaska [ Tim Gionet] marching with racists in Charlottesville, VA | 11 August 2017
So, imagine my surprise at seeing this in @Partisangirl's latest twitter feed:

Worlds Collide - Like the title says "Its a small world after all!"

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Democracy Now: Where Marsha Gelen missed the white supremacy

On Thursday, 5 October 2017 Amy Goodman interviewed the Russian American journalist Masha Gessen on Democracy Now. Gessen made some very important points drawn from her study of totalitarianism in Russia, and what it says about the rise of Trump in America, but when the discussion turned to the main reason Trump won the election, her explanation fell fatally short because the adopted framework was designed to obscure the main problem. The problem I am pointing to is crucial, but easy to miss because it relates to what is assumed and not said when they speak of American voters as the single, undivided entity. In their discussion, it seemed like when they spoke of the American voter, they were thinking only about the white voter.

Given Democracy Now's support for Putin's objectives in the US presidential election, Amy Goodman was most interested in knocking down stories about Russian interference in the election, and any talk of collusion, so she points Gessen in that direction, but Gessen has limited interest in that. She see's it as a distraction. Her main point is that "Americans elected Trump," which leaves her a little short when it comes to explaining why:  
AMY GOODMAN: Masha, you are the author of The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. You’ve been fiercely critical of Russia. You’re fiercely critical of the Trump administration. But you’re also fiercely critical of the story that has predominated now of Russia’s interference with the U.S. election that ended in the victory of Trump. Why?

MASHA GESSEN: Well, because, you know, I just need more things to be fiercely critical of, obviously. But I think—and this is a word that also has almost lost its meaning, because we use it so much—in a way, it’s a distraction. Right? And this is a very difficult point to try to convey—right?—that I think that conspiracy thinking is really dangerous to culture and to political culture. And it’s very hard to stay away from conspiracy thinking when there may have been a conspiracy. Right? We don’t know if there was a conspiracy.

But more important, it creates this fantasy that we can find a reasonable explanation for the election of Trump that will somehow let us out of this national nightmare. And the national nightmare is that Americans elected Trump, and he’s president. Russians didn’t elect Trump. Even if there was collusion, even if every hypothesis that has—that is at play in the Russia investigation is proved, still, Americans elected Trump, and he is president.[my emphasis] 
It is a hopeless banality to point out that Americans elected Trump because the truth it hides is that white supremacists elected Trump. True enough, Russians didn't elect Trump, but neither did black Americans. They voted 88% for Hillary Clinton.  This is a very significant statistical difference given the role that racism has played as one of the foundation stones of American capitalism. Drowning, and then ignoring that difference with the banality "Americans elected Trump" may be par for the course on Democracy Now, but it is most unhelpful in understanding what has happened and why.

Most voters that didn't define themselves as white voted in opposition to Trump because they could see what Trump was peddling. What Trump was peddling, and now, thanks in part to the "don't vote for the lesser of 2 evils" politics of the likes of Democracy Now, is peddling from the White House, more than anything else, is a white supremacist vision of America, codenamed #MAGA. He was elected president because a majority of the white voters bought into it. According to the Pew Research Center:
White non-Hispanic voters preferred Trump over Clinton by 21 percentage points (58% to 37%), according to the exit poll conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool.
Clinton held an 80-point advantage among blacks (88% to 8%)
It is not true that everyone who voted for Trump defines themselves as "white." Trump got 8% of the "black" vote. It is also not true that every "white" who voted for Trump was conscious of doing it for racist reasons, although they had to be willing to overlook his obvious racism, but this was also true of those that argued there was no meaningful difference between the two contenders. What is true is that from the moment Donald Trump came down the escalator to announce his candidacy by denouncing Mexicans as rapists, allegiance to the basic tenets of white supremacy have been the hallmark of his candidacy, and now his presidency. This was something all but overlooked by the white Left as it focused on defeating Trump's main adversary, and it is something they downplay today.

Sensing that it wasn't enough to leave it at "Americans elected Trump," Nermeen Shaikh tried to get Gessen to expand on her answer:
Can you say what you think some of the historical—although not that long ago—reasons are that Trump was elected?
Masha Gessen responds with this "distraction." She talked about how Hitler used the Reichstag fire as an excuse to seize power in Germany in 1934, and added:
Well, I think that that has all happened in this country, and it happened in the wake of September 11th. The state of emergency that went into effect three days after September 11th has never been lifted. It was renewed by President Obama every September for seven years of his presidency, the seven Septembers that he was president. We continue to be in the state of emergency. The War Powers Act passed with one dissenting vote three days after September 11th, continues to be in effect and has been used by President Obama and now by President Trump. And there’s also been a 16-year run of concentrating—increasing concentration of power in the executive branch—under George W. Bush, basically, in the interest of shoring up more military and surveillance power; under President Obama, for some of the same and some other reasons, having to do with a Congress that was intent on paralyzing him. But basically, I think that chain of events did a lot to create the possibility of Trump, to create the very possibility of a politician who could run for autocrat in this country and get elected.
Her answer is a distraction because it really doesn't even address the question, let alone provide a meaningful answer. We aren't suppose to notice because she gives us a history of the growth of presidential powers since 9/11/2001, and then tries to turn that into an answer by saying that created the possibility of someone running for autocrat and getting elected. But Trump won votes by promising to "Make America Great[white] Again", not because he promised to be an autocrat.  His dog whistles are all about racism, not autocracy.

True enough, the legal changes since 9/11 may now legitimize autocratic president powers, but that is a very different thing from exercising them, and Gessen puts forward a very dangerous proposition when she implies "our Reichstag fire" has already happened. It has not. Trump does not yet hold the kind of absolute power wielded by the post-Reichstag Hitler. There may already be laws on the books that would legitimize those powers, and Trump certainly wants them, so we must vigorously fight his attaining them, and it is most unhelpful to say it is a done deal already.

Although, I have learned to expect nothing less from Democracy Now.

The white nationalism of Trump supporters found its compliment in the white Left around such forces as the US Green Party and Jill Stein, Democracy Now and Amy Goodman. They both enjoyed the support of Vladimir Putin in Moscow, who fancies himself the leader of a worldwide white nationalist movement. This is the central problem of our time and these people that fancy themselves "the Left" had better get a grip on it if they are to be of any use to anyone.

What many on the Left don't seem to understand is that capitalism will run its course, sooner or later, given enough time. It is its byproduct, racism, that today poses the greatest threat to the future of humanity.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Put a pin in this: The Mandalay Bay shooter was obesessed witn guns

Few facts have so far emerged about the man who killed 59 concert goers before killing himself that give us a clue about his mentality or his motivation. One of those facts seems to be that he owned at least 42 guns and brought 23 to the hotel room for this operation. There could be a lot for reasons why he might own so many guns. He may have been a collector. He was a millionaire, so if he was into guns he could afford it.

The 23 guns he brought to the hotel room is key. It has been reported that only one was a handgun. I'm willing to wager that he committed suicide with that handgun and he brought it explicatively for that purpose. Clearly, at least one of those guns was a fully automatic machine gun, and it has been reported that he had set up two shooting platforms with tripod-mounted guns, if he had a backup gun for each shooting position, together with the handgun, we are up to five guns already. Given that each additional weapon brought up to the hotel room represented an operational risk, how could he have rationally justified the need for 23 guns for this suicidal lone-shooter operation? The only rational for 23 weapons in the room is that Stephen Paddock had a gun fetish and it played a big role in this shooting spree.

UPDATE: Tuesday 3 October 2017

According to USA Today, Marilou Danley, who is reported to be the shooter's girl friend has been out of the country and is no longer considered a "person of interest."

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Tuesday said Congress is focusing on “mental illness reform” to prevent mass shootings in the future

President Trump on Tuesday called Mr. Paddock “a sick man, a demented man,” adding that “we are dealing with a very, very sick individual.”

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice - next meeting Sunday, 8 October

Since CRJ has normally met on the first Sunday of the month and we have reported that, we wanted to get this announcement out before tomorrow in case someone thought the meeting would be taking place tomorrow.

After much discussion among the leadership of CRJ, Bob Gordh produced this excellent history and description
The Committee for Racial Justice

CRJ originated in response to a single disturbing racial incident.

On May 4, 2011, an African American member of the Santa Monica High School wrestling team was held against his will and chained to his locker by two Caucasian teammates while there were chants of “Slave for sale” and a wrestling dummy had a noose around its neck nearby. This racially charged incident and the District’s slow response were the catalyst for the formation of the Committee for Racial Justice (CRJ). Our 11-person
Steering Committee consists of parents of Santa Monica students, community members and clergy. CRJ membership is open to all. We welcome all people of good will to attend our workshops and join our working committees.

CRJ is committed to combating all forms of racial injustice, whether overt or covert, whether individualized or systemic, that may take place in
our community. While we know that racism affects many cultural groups, we are especially drawn to focus on the severe impact it has on the African
American community.

CRJ has been active in 3 main arenas.

Since early in its existence, CRJ has been active in 3 arenas. First, we have produced a series of workshops on various aspects of the subject of race. We do not, of course, view race as a natural category but rather as a social construct imposed by racism. Racism has had an enormously complex and destructive history in our country. Likewise, it persists today in enormously complex and destructive ways. In common with anti-racists everywhere, we see racism as much more than just a conscious attitude. It can also be an unconscious bias. Moreover it is much more than just attitude, whether conscious or unconscious. It is also an insidious pattern
embedded in the systems by which our society is organized. It manifests itself, for instance, in segregated housing patterns, in enormous racial disparities in our distribution of wealth, in the use of predominantly Eurocentric materials in our history classes, in racially discriminatory policing, etc. The study of race and racism is multi-disciplinary, involving the fields of history, sociology, political science, psychology, economics, religion, literature and other arts, and more. There is so much to learn!

Hence, our monthly educational workshops, which typically feature noted guest speakers, as well as time for discussion and dialogue.

And of course, there is so much to do to undo racism. A regular feature of our workshops, therefore, is to inform our attendees of a variety of opportunities for action.

Second, CRJ works continuously to advocate for Black students in the Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District. We persistently push for policies and practices that will benefit Black students. We do not espouse “colorblindness.” We believe Black students face specific challenges in this society, which is so pervaded by racism, and we believe, accordingly, that they deserve various kinds of support that are designed especially for them. For example, we believe that they deserve courses that are specifically about Black history and culture, as opposed to mere equal access to predominantly Eurocentric courses. It is worth noting that CRJ avoids a binary approach to thinking about race. We do not, for instance, divide individuals simply into racists and non-racists. Instead we recognize that we are all at some point on a continuum. Similarly we see institutions like the Santa Monica schools as being at some point on a continuum. Our goal is to push them to the highest point possible. We believe that not only Black students but all students will benefit enormously as a result. CRJ has created a document called “A Vision for Schools where Black Lives Matter” to guide us in this work. During the 2017-2018 school year we will be campaigning specifically to establish a support group for the parents, grandparents and guardians of Black students for every school in the district.

Third, CRJ works to oppose many forms of injustice in the nation’s criminal justice system: racial profiling and race-based harassment, excessively harsh sentencing laws, mass incarceration, police shootings of Black citizens, discrimination against individuals exiting incarceration, etc. On the local level CRJ, along with the Santa Monica/Venice chapter of the NAACP, the Westside ACLU and the Peace and Justice Committee of the Santa Monica Unitarian Universalist Church, participates in Coalition for Police Reform. It is the mission of this coalition to eliminate racial profiling, as well as the use of unnecessary force toward Black citizens, by the Santa Monica Police Department.

CRJ faces new challenges, seizes new opportunities.

CRJ’s July, 2017, workshop was visited by 5 members of white supremacist hate groups, 3of them wearing bandanas as masks. Throughout the meeting they interrupted and made racist and anti-Semitic remarks out loud. The August meeting was besieged by at least 30 white supremacist disruptors, who tried to invade the hall but were blocked at the door by stalwart attendees. Our research indicated that over 300 neo-nazis were mobilizing to descend on our next workshop. CRJ spearheaded a de-escalation and public safety program for CRJ and its anti-racist allies. Several hundred CRJ supporters turned out for the September 10 workshop. They were fortified by a plan for resistance, the presence of numerous clergy, and a large police contingent. Only a handful of far-rightists dared to show up, and the meeting proceeded peacefully.

Not only are white supremacists attempting to disrupt our workshops. They are also spreading misinformation about us. We have therefore taken up the additional projects of safeguarding our workshops and of sharing our message more broadly. We shall not be moved. We are committed to growing and expanding our anti-racist work in Santa Monica and invite others to join and participate with us.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Friday, September 29, 2017

#TakeAKnee - Why I won't stand for DotardTrump's use of patriotism to cover racism

According to Politico:
Singing the national anthem before National Football League games has been ongoing for "decades," said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.

One aspect of this history that has spawned some confusion in recent days concerns a change made in 2009.

Until that year, players in primetime games would remain inside their locker rooms while the anthem was sung, due to timing concerns for the television networks. After 2009, the players in primetime games have been on the field during the anthem, McCarthy said.
In other words, prior to the election of the first black president, the "respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem," that the Dotard and the other white supremacists are now getting stark, raving mad about was trumped by the "timing concerns for the television networks," and nobody was complaining then.

What Trump called the mothers of the players who took a knee, that's what I call DISRESPECT.
Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

@TwitterSupport: Will you tell us who was behind these suspended accounts?

I just sent this tweet to Twitter. After studying their website for an hour, it was the only way I could find to contact them:
I know that Twitter officials are talking to congressional Russia investigators today about how Russia-linked accounts were used to influence the US 2016 elections. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that the Russian state, under the control of Vladimir Putin, has been massively using computers to create robots with artificial intelligence, to "people" fake social media accounts to push Putin's agenda around the world.

Currently, the focus is on the most recent US presidential election, but we know Russian bots have also been active in recent European elections as well, and are active even today, tweeting on both sides of the #TakeAKnee controversy.

Facebook has gotten the most attention. Especially since they revealed the existence of facebook ads paid for by Russians in rubles, including ads supporting the candidacy of Green Party contender Dr. Jill Stein. There is every reason to believe the Russian influences were even more active on Twitter than on facebook, but so far Twitter has not been forthcoming about the details.

Some sources have cited Russian bots flooding Twitter promoting Putin's views on Ukraine after the July 2014 downing of the Malaysian Air MH17 passenger jet. I think it may go back even further than that. In July 2013, I was mainly blogging about Syria. At the time the Syrian revolutionaries and their supporters were winning the social media war, especially on Twitter. Then, quite aRuptly, there came a flood of pro-Assad, counter-revolutionary tweets. I noticed this trend and wrote the blog post below about it.

With all the talk of possible Russian bots on Twitter, I decided to go back and look at it again this morning. This is what I found in place of the embedded tweets:
Clicking on the links returns this error message from Twitter:

Everyone of the 10 accounts I questioned in this blog four years ago has been suspended, not closed and not just inactive. That means these accounts were closed by Twitter for cause. I believe we are entitled to more information than that.

If you read the blog post, you will see that in 2013, I assumed these fake accounts were of Syrian origin, since I first struggled against them on the Syrian social media battlefield. Now, I think it is probably safe to assume they were Putin inspired and an example of his support for Assad. The only way to know for sure, however, is to see what these accounts tweeted about since they were created in early July 2013. That is actually what I intended to find out when I went back to the tweets and found the accounts suspended. This is not helpful. While I'm glad these accounts have been suspended, it is important that we still have access to their publicly published content.

Like it Never Even Happened! is not a good slogan for a social media company.

As long as the content is not pornographic, it should still be made available with a warning about why the account was suspended. To begin with, these now suspended accounts helped to keep a brutal fascist dictator, Bashar al-Assad, in power. They should not be simply "disappeared" after having done that. Who knows what other damage they did before they were suspended? Twitter knows! They should not keep this info to themselves. They should make a full accounting. When Twitter reveals what it knows about these accounts and why they were suspended. I will report it here. Please Re-tweet this article until they respond.

This is the 10 July 2013 post:

What's up with these Tweets? "Former US Army Vet Who Fought Alongside Al-Qae'a in #Syria Linked to #CIA"

For about a week now my twitter feed filtered for #Syria has seen this same tweet repeated over and over with no link or not a usable one for more info. All of these tweets are worded very closely if not exactly the same, which would seem to indicate some unity between them but they are all from different accounts.

I took a look a some of these accounts and I found an interesting thing. All of these accounts were very new. Most appear to have been started on 2 July 2013, most have only a few dozen tweets and a dozen followers.

Most interesting is that this tweet appears to be the only one from these accounts on #Syria although it may have repeat this tweet a number of time. Most of the other tweets make no sense.

So what is going on here?

Here is a sampling from the last hour that shows what I am talking about:






Just to give you an idea how weird this seems, this is the tweet Scott Luke sent out 1 second before the above:

This guy has sent out 11 tweets most seem like nonsense, this is the only tweet about #Syria or the #CIA, the only other interesting tweets are these:

Which is a tweet that also shows up in many of these accounts.




Here is his next tweet, minutes after the one above:



I could go on and on, but you get the picture. I have looked at many more of these tweets and the accounts that made them than I have listed here and I have found exactly the same pattern. They go back to 2 July and none of the accounts I have looked at have more that 50 tweets and 30 follower, all have this lone tweet on #Syria, often repeated, but no other tweets about #Syria. Curious.

I strongly suspect that something very nefarious is going on here, like a robot invasion, and given that this one tweet ties them all together, I have to strongly suspect that it is the Assad Regime, or its supporters that are behind this.

In any case, I feel that we need to know what really going on here because it feels like somebody is trying to subvert social media big time.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Vietnam War Story Burns & Novick aren't telling

Having now watched the first five episodes of "The Vietnam War" as told by Burns & Novick, I find it a very detailed and sophisticated effort to normalize our collective history of the Vietnam War in such a way that even while we recognize the horror that it was, we feel no collective responsibility for it. Its mission is to prepare the US public to support future US wars wherever in the 3rd world the US may next conduct them. Vietnam need not worry this time; Korea, Iran and Venezuela should be concerned. Its mission is to create a national consciousness about the Vietnam War in which we can look back and see ourselves as "the good guys," flawed perhaps, but still "the good guys." Ken Burns want us to believe that the "better angels of our nature" were still at work in the Vietnam War.

Vietnam:American Holocaust 
To sell this mythology they have to obscure or avoid two important aspects of the Vietnam war story that fly it the face of this good guy image. The first is the sheer meanness and racism of the way the US conducted the war. For 30 years it thought that killing more Vietnamese was the answer. I addressed this aspect in my first blog post on this series and in my film Vietnam: American Holocaust.

The second is aspect I expect this series to continue to avoid is the hint of any larcenous motives for the US war in Vietnam. The motives so far presented are a need to fight communism and a desire to support an independent South Vietnam. These are presented as honestly felt motives even if they latter proved not to be all that. It is nowhere suggested that the US was in it for the money. The image of the United States during Vietnam War is one of an economy that was going well in spite of the burden of the war, when actually it was the other way round; the US economy was doing well precisely because of the war.

The bottom line truth is that US capitalism is addicted to war. The boom times of the '60s required a US war somewhere. It was just Vietnam's turn. Near full employment at home required up to half a million Americans working abroad killing gooks. While an economic and political analysis of why this feature of advanced monopoly capitalism is so well established is beyond the scope of anything I will present here, the temporal relationship is easy enough to illustrate.

To do that I will here present the first thing that comes up in a Google search for "US recession history," which is The History of Recessions in the United States, and add to it my commentary as it relates the corresponding US wars timeline. My comments are in blue type.

US Economy
The History of Recessions in the United States
Causes, Length, GDP, and Unemployment Rates

By Kimberly Amadeo
Updated August 22, 2017

The history of recessions in the United States since the Great Depression show they are a natural, though painful, part of the business cycle

Excuse me! They most certainly aren't "natural." Capitalist crises are caused by the economic inequalities of that system, but that is not the only way to do business.

The National Bureau of Economic Research defines when a recession starts. The Bureau of Economic Analysis measures recessions using gross domestic product.

1945 Recession

This recession lasted only eight months (February to October 1945). It seemed to last longer.That's because GDP continued to fall until it reached -10.6 percent in 1946. This was a natural result of the demobilization from World War II. That happened when the huge demand for military weapons fell off. Government spending dropped, although business spending was robust. Source: “Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, NBER.).

This recession timeline begins after World War II so it doesn't cover the period of the worldwide Great Depression of 1929-1939 or the fact that in spite of all the various government stimulus and social aid programs, it was ultimately the mobilization the for the war that brought prosperity to American capitalism. Amadeo's history of US recessions begins in 1945 with the recession the US economy immediately fell into as soon as war was not the answer to that central question of monopoly capitalism: How do we forestall economic collapse?

1949 Recession

This 11-month recession began in November 1948. It lasted until October 1949, when unemployment reached a peak of 7.9 percent. It was a mild adjustment as the economy continued adjusting to peacetime production.

There was a lot of pented up consumer demand right after the war, but that only carried the economy so far. In less than four years without serious war spending it found itself back in recession again. It's no accident that 1948-1949 saw the rise of the Cold War and its attended arms race. According to, the US defense budget, which had been as high as 41% of GDP during WWII, had dropped down to 7.2% of GDP by 1948, and the country started going into recession. Cold War and Korean War spending pushed the defense budget to nearly 15% of GDP, and it starved off recession again until that war ended.

Recession of 1953 

This recession lasted ten months (July 1953 - May 1954). It resulted from the demobilization after the Korean War. Unemployment didn't reach its peak of 6.1 percent until September 1954, four months after the recession ended.

GDP contracted 2.2 percent in Q3, 5.9 percent in Q4, and 1.8 percent in Q1 1954.

As soon as the Korean War ended, US capitalism began to falter again.

Recession of 1957 

It lasted eight months (August 1957-April 1958). GDP fell 4.0 percent in Q4 1957. It immediately plummeted 10.0 percent in Q1 1958. Unemployment didn't reach its peak of 7.1 percent until September 1958

The Fed's contractionary monetary policy caused it.

Actually, the lack of war caused it, although there was never a total lack of war. In this period the US was already paying for about 80% of the French war in Vietnam, and there were always other military expenditures. They just weren't enough to keep the economy humming along. The contractionary monetary policy was a vain effort fix an inherently broken system with monetary patches. Since the end of the Korean War the economy had been troubled, it would take the Vietnam War to deliver the next decade of prosperity. It would be a prosperity paid for by blood, 98% Vietnamese, 2% American.

1960 Recession

Starting in April 1960, the recession lasted 10 months, until February 1961. GDP was -1.5 percent in Q2, rose 1.0 percent in Q3, but was -4.8 percent in Q4. Unemployment reached a peak of 7.1 percent in May 1961. President Kennedy ended the recession with stimulus spending. His opponent, Richard Nixon, said the recession cost him the election. That's because he had been Vice-President so voters blamed the Republicans for causing it.

This economic survey doesn't delve into what Kennedy's stimulus spending was for. Much of it involved the startup costs for America's direct involvement in Vietnam. It would prove to be just a small down payment for the billions in "stimulus spending" that would use the Vietnam War as its justification and keep the US economy humming along for the next decade.

1970 Recession

This recession was relatively mild, lasting 11 months (December 1969 - November 1970.) GDP was -0.7 percent in Q1, then rose 0.7 percent in Q2, 3.6 percent in Q3, and fell 4.0 percent in Q4. Unemployment peaked at 6.1 percent in December 1970.

The war was wining down and already the effects were being felt.

1973-1975 Recession

This recession lasted 16 months (November 1973-March 1975). The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is blamed for quadrupling oil prices, but the OPEC oil embargo alone didn't cause such a deep recession. Several factors contributed.....

Certainly, Arabs asking a fair price for their oil makes for an easy target, but without a doubt the biggest "contributing factor" to this two year recession following the end of US direct involvement in the Vietnam War was the lack of war to "stimulate" United States capitalism. It would stay in the doldrums until Reagan brought it back with a fresh round of military spending. Now, Trump, who ran as a non-interventionist candidate, has ramped up existing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and is looking to start a big new one somewhere soon, while he brags that the anticipatory stock market is at an all time high.

This is the ugly. ignoble truth about US wars, both now and then. Let's see if Burns & Novick even touch on it in week two.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ken Burn's Vietnam Revisited: This was no Civil War!

When I say that the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary epic "The Vietnam War" is no "Civil War," it has a double meaning. First, as a documentary film and a work or art, it doesn't hold a candle to that seminal work by Ken Burns, The Civil War, but most importantly, the American War, as the Vietnamese refer to it, was a war of independence and not a civil war, as Ken Burns seeks to frame it in his most recent piece.

Of course, in every war of independence, without exception, you will find some indigenous people that take the side of the colonial masters, so there is always room to frame the struggle as a civil war in which the great power is merely assisting one side, and the great power can generally be counted on to frame it that way.

That must be behind the documentary's early assertion that US involvement began in good faith. That is put out there without any proof and backing as though it is beyond dispute. Absent is any discussion of the requirement that the United States periodically make war somewhere just to maintain what we call a "healthy economy."

It's no secret to serious students of US capitalism that it was really the arms buildup for World War 2 that finally dragged the economy out of the Great Depression. It started to slump again as soon as the boys came home looking for jobs. Even post war domestic requirements were insufficient to keep things humming and everyone employed, so they hyped the so-called threat of communism and created a new arms race. They also staged two major hot wars, Korea and Vietnam, that were very profitable for the capitalists as a whole, not just the arms merchants, and very good to the US economy. Its no accident that when the Vietnam War ended, the US economy fell into any extended slump that didn't end until Reagan greatly stepped up military spending again. This is an economy addicted to war, which is why it is looking for another one now in Korea or Iran, perhaps Venezuela.

In the case of the Vietnam War, it was the Vietnamese civilians that paid the price. Burns and Novick put the number of civilians that died from the war at two million. They put the number of Vietnamese combatants killed at one million. They feel no need to be more precise - when speaking of Vietnamese deaths - or elaborate on who was doing the bulk of the killing. Who exactly was up to the task of creating such carnage. Who had B52's and the ability to drop napalm, for example,

Somehow it is considered okay to kill combatants, as though anyone who exercises a right to self-defense or rises to defend their homeland is fair game. South Vietnam was a French/American creation and the ARVN was paid by the US government so it could claim it was supporting one side in a civil war. There is good reason to hold the United States responsible for the vast majority of the deaths on both sides after 1962. So roughly three million Vietnamese were killed, overwhelmingly by US military might, and that didn't just include those bombed by B52s, it included children killed for sport by GIs riding around in trucks. We waged a very mean war. A My Lai every week.

The Vietnam War was a very racist war as it was conducted by the Americans. So far, in episode 1, this piece has done a very good job of hiding that fact. The United States didn't see itself as killing more than three million people in Vietnam, it saw itself as killing more than three million "gooks" in Vietnam, and that made it okay. If that word got mentioned even once in episode 1, I missed it. In anycase, the Vietnam War was carried out in a very racist manner in the way the Americans treated the Vietnamese on all sides and this so far hasn't even been hinted at. This may be were this piece performs its greatest disservice, given that we now have a white supremacist president that is picking a fight with another Asian country.

At every turn it seems to let the imperialists off the hook for this thirty year tragedy. The French took revenge by committing atrocities. Revenge for people standing up for their freedom no doubt.

Truman inherited a very different world than Roosevelt left, to explain their different approaches to the Vietnamese liberation struggle. Did that much change overnight?

The communists were every bit as ruthless as the French. Now that the communists have ruled Vietnam for a few decades, we can compare the treatment of the people under the French and under the communists and see the full extend to which Burns and Novick are willing to distort the facts.

US believe Diem would build a just government, but them he started running us. Until we had him killed,

"History will judge whether the war was worth the sacrifice." No, the Vietnamese people have already decided that independence was worth the extreme costs we imposed.

Economic development was designed to win "Hearts and Minds" not imperialist exploitation

And so is went in episode 1, endings with a salute to American bravery - Yes, the American soldiers in Vietnam were brave. So were the French soldiers that fought to keep Vietnam in imperial chains before them, and the Japanese soldiers before them. They were brave when they savaged Vietnam, raped Nanking and bombed Pearl Habor. Bravery is shown on both sides of a civil war, but again this was no Civil War. Ordinary soldiers ordinarily show extraordinary courage for very despicable causes. It is important that we remember that as this film celebrates American bravery in Vietnam.

Vietnam: American Holocaust

Nine years ago I produced a documentary that people might find useful as a counterweight to this current propaganda effort. I started producing it long before the Pentagon announced its current Vietnam War beautification campaign because I became aware of the developing movement to revise this history in a way that supports future wars. It is named Vietnam: American Holocaust. It was narrated by Martin Sheen and been called "The best documentary ever made on the Vietnam War." by Blase Bopane. David Swanson called it "a powerful documentary" and Ron Kovic said "Every American should see this film!" David Slaky of VFP said "It's the best thing I've seen. I've seen Winter Solider, Hearts & Minds, you name it, I've seen it. This is the best thing I've seen." Scott Camil of 1st Marines, Winter Soldier, VVAW and VFP said "I can't wait to get this into the high schools." David Zeiger, director of Sir! No Sir! called it "Very Powerful" and Stuart Chandler of Rotten Tomatoes said “This is the best political video on Vietnam and its historic relevance to our times I have ever seen.”

A Plot Summary
Vietnam: American Holocaust opens in the present day at the Veterans for Peace Arlington West Memorial to the fallen US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in Santa Monica. Here the strong connection between our current wars and the war in Vietnam is first made. The question of what makes a holocaust is also raised. Then the scene shifts to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. and while the narration continues it is revealed that the youngest US soldier to die in Vietnam was a Black Marine age 15.

A clip of Vietnam era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in Hanoi in 1995 shows him saying that 3.4 million Vietnamese were killed during the war. Further news clips from the time reveal some of the horrors of that war and show that news commentators referred to it as a holocaust at the time.

This is followed by a brief history of the 19th century French conquest of Indochina and the Vietnamese liberation struggle from 1945 through the defeat of the French in 1954. This is done with archival footage, much of it very rare, and Martin Sheen's excellent narration and the voices of the principals on both sides of the conflict. Since the focus of the documentary is the American War in Vietnam the pace slows as more details are given about this part of the history.

The reasons for opposing the Vietnamese independence struggle are given by President Eisenhower in a clip from one of his speeches. Then the young Ho Chi Minh is introduced, with special attention to his time in Harlem, NY and his relationship with Marcus Garvey. Again very old and rare footage is used to illustrate these years while Mr. Sheen describes the crucial events.

The story of the lead up to the American war is presented with footage that also includes Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Diem, Gerald Ford, Joe McCarthy, Nixon, Senator Morse, and many others. We hear Bobby Kennedy question the NSC plans for a coup in South Vietnam only weeks before President Kennedy is assassinated. In another connection to the present conflicts, we learn of the role the Kennedy administration played in putting Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq.

Since the Tonkin Gulf incident played such a big role in promoting and justifying the war, the film goes into considerable detail about it. Through interviews with the captain of the US ship that was allegedly attacked, the chief gunner, a North Vietnamese general and the recollections of pilots that flew air cover on the fateful night, it shows that this attack never happened. Most significantly, using White House tapes released only a few years ago, it shows that McNamara and LBJ had foreknowledge of this phony attack that never took place. This material has never been used in a documentary before.

The next segment illustrates the incredible damage done to Vietnam by the massive US air war which included bombing, napalm and agent orange. With a particularly potent instrumental from the Mama's Boys blues band that provides the sound track for the film, we hear from LBJ, Curtis LeMay, a Hanoi doctor, Vietnamese victims, and American airmen among others in a way that really brings home the brutality of the air war. The agent orange section will send chills up your spine.

From there the film goes into the horrific ground war that was the real holocaust in Vietnam. This is done through the voices of American and Vietnamese soldiers and civilians that give you a real window into the tragedy of war on a human level. The Vietnam War was a My Lai every week and this point is driven home by recounting some of the many other massacres that took place. Extremely graphic images are used in this segment. You are witness to real deaths happening on the screen. You will understand why so many Vietnam vets came home with a great deal of mental anguish because of what they saw in this war.

Finally we return to Arlington West in the present and the Iraq War. Again the point is made that those that forget their history are doomed to repeat it and a plea is made both by Martin Sheen and the director, Clay Claiborne, to stop this madness. 

You may purchase your very own copy on DVD from the movie website: or alternately, from Amazon. Today I also discovered that it is available for bittorrent download, which kinda makes me feel like I've arrived. [Anything worth stealing is worth something.] But you don't seriously expect me to tell you how to find that. In fact I am now seriously considering dropping my opposition to the Copyright Infringement Bill and reversing everything I have said on that subject. NOT!
Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for my posts on the 2016 US Election
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Red Elephant's lament after Santa Monica CRJ victory

Red Elephants is a white supremacist group that wants to turn the United States into a whites-only country. Recently, they have targeted the Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice for destruction. CRJ has been meeting peacefully one a month for more than six years. In July and August "Trump supporters" from the Red Elephants and other "Alt-Right" groups had limited success in disrupting the meeting. They vowed to return in September with "hundreds," but when they saw how the community had turned out to support the committee, they decided to send a few spies instead. The day after this very successful meeting of the Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice, Vincent James, the Red Elephant, posted this video, Anti-White Organizers of White Privilege Seminar Trying To Slander Me, in which he complains about what he feels is mistreatment by his critics. Oh, woe is he! Since he used a clip from an interview he did with me after the August meeting in his "slander" protest, I have crafted a response:

Red Elephants Lament

BTW, these people are obviously well funded. As I publish this, Vicent James and the Red Elephants are Live Streaming the "pro-Trump" MOAR in Washington, DC this morning.

See also:
Progressives rallied & racists ran from September meeting of CRJ
Santa Monica Committee for Racial Justice needs you this Sunday!
Join us in Santa Monica September 10 to defend Racial Justice
Protest against fascism in Venice now!
Six days before Charlottesville, the same racists came to Santa Monica
White nationalists disrupt Santa Monica anti-racist meeting

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for my posts on the 2016 US Election
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Progressives rallied & racists ran from September meeting of CRJ

As this picture shows, these racists brought their foul stench to the July meeting. They came to broadcast their dislike for African Americans, Jews, immigrants, in fact all of humanity. They acted like children, blurting out misplaced statements, and holding up misspelled signs.

In August some of the leaders of this Santa Monica assault marched with the plainclothes Nazis and Klansmen in Charlottesville. The week before they went to Charlottesville, they again tried to invade the Committee for Racial Justice meeting. They did not succeed. Although they came with much greater numbers to the August meeting and tried to bully their way into the meeting, the committee members were able to fight them off and go forward with the meeting as planned.

In their anger and frustration, they promised to return in September with "hundreds." They vowed to "shut the meeting down." They said they were going to make Santa Monica their new "Berkeley."

The CRJ Steering Committee responded by making a broad call to the progressive public to come to Virginia Avenue Park and show their support for the anti-racist struggle by their numbers, and the community responded. The Santa Monica community really turned out, even the Mayor was there, and activists came from as far as San Diego. It was us that came with hundreds, maybe as many as a thousand. Our security reported that a group of plainclothes neo-Nazis were lurking a few blocks away, and a few people thought they saw a red pink elephant scouting the park early on. No doubt, when the racists saw what was waiting for them, they beat a hasty retreat.

Racial Justice Won the Day!

Video report on September meeting of Santa Monica CRJ | 10 Sept 2017

We had a very successful meeting with a packed room while hundreds of supporters celebrated in the park. The Santa Monica Police again showed up in large numbers. I never knew they had a cavalry before! They also brought in help from the sheriff's department and from other local police departments as far away as Alhambra, but they were unneeded. We, the people, had the situation well under control.

Here is the CBS News report on the meeting. Notice that they used my footage of the July and August meetings, without either credit or permission, I should add.

See also:
Join us in Santa Monica September 10 to defend Racial Justice
Protest against fascism in Venice now!
Six days before Charlottesville, the same racists came to Santa Monica
White nationalists disrupt Santa Monica anti-racist meeting

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!
Click here for my posts on the 2016 US Election
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya