Thursday, September 21, 2017

Early opposition to The Vietnam War = Episode 3 = Burns & Novick

Image result for international daysof protest
My first demonstration
The 2d Internationl Days of Protest

Image result for ia drang valley 

Image result for ia drang valley
The battlefield  of the Ia Drang Valley - 1965
Episode 3 of the Burns and Novick epic documentary on the Vietnam War brings us to the commitment of two hundred thousand American ground troops in 1965.  I was a cloistered college student at the time.  But I had a sense of the criminality of our effort.  That is captured by  the memo of then Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton describing our purpose as 70% avoid humiliation, 20% contain China, 10% help Vietnam.

Holy Cross College was not Berkeley.  But one day at Kimball Hall - where we checked our mail - was a group of people from the Catholic Worker movement, the communitarian pacifist group led by Dorothy Day.   They spurred vigorous debate.  What got my attention was that David Miller a Catholic Worker from Syracuse had challenged federal law by burning his draft card. He said, “I believe the napalming of villages is an immoral act. I hope this will be a significant political act, so here.” Miller was arrested, tried, and convicted.  The conviction was affirmed on appeal despite the argument of his eminent ACLU lawyer Marvin Karpatkin that burning the draft card was protected expressive speech.  

I began to regularly attend the Friday night talks at The Phoenix Club's store front on the fraying east end of Main Street in Worcester.  I remember hearing Frank Wilkinson who had been jailed for refusing to answer the notorious question "are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party".  He refused to answer citing the first amendment and went to jail for it.  He spent the rest of his days trying to shut down the House Un-American Actvitiies Committee.

Another Phoenix speaker was Jesuit Fr. Robert Drinan , the Boston College Law School Dean who would in 1970 join Congress on an anti-war platform.  But the most memorable talk was by David McReynolds of the pacifist War Resisters League.  After his talk we went back to the home of the eccentric Abbie Hoffman, a founder of the Berkeley  Vietnam Day Committee which organized the first mass protests against the war.  We watched black and white hand-held film  of protesters blocking troop trains at the Oakland Army Terminal.  We saw footage too of the thousands who in October had joined the International Days of Protest.  I was very impressed by the international aspect which to me added legitimacy.

So I joined the second International Day of Protest in March 1966.  With thirty or so others  I marched in a circle in front of the War Memorial Auditorium.  We carried signs protesting the war.  Confronted by a similarly sized group denouncing us as communists, and threatening violence, the leaders instructed us to put down the signs and disperse.  As I headed through the hostile crowd a fellow student was punched by a man with what we called brass knuckles that tore his face open.  He needed surgery and I am sure he carries the scar to this day.

A year later momentum had shifted against the war.  Instead of joining a modest group of picketers threatened by an angry mob, I met my girlfriend in New York for the massive April 1967 demonstration featuring Rev. Martin Luther King.  We never did get to Dag Hammerskjold Plaza to hear Dr. King's speech because a cloudburst sent us scurrying for cover.

Two decades of work in the anti-war movement, and then the nuclear arms control movement would follow.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Riding the Tiger = The Vietnam War - episode 2 : by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick

American soliders on the back of a jeep
The Vietnam War: A film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick
The Vietnam War
Episode 2 - Riding the tiger
Apropos 1961-1963 they opened with So What, from the Miles Davis classic album Kind of Blue.
Burns and Novick draw substantially on Neil Sheehan. He was a `gung ho' reporter, like David Halberstam, hopping on helicopters in the pre-embedding news control days. There was, at first, no critical distance. They were on the team.
Sheehan was one of that now almost extinct breed - the Ivy Leaguer who headed to the officer corps. (Though Yale restored Navy and Air Force ROTC in 2012).
David Halberstam and Daniel Ellsberg were of the same cohort. In 1971 Sheehan
obtained what became known as the Pentagon Papers which brought the Times a Pulitzer Prize.
Sheehan's principal book is the best take on the war, i/m/h/o: A Bright Shining Lie = John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. It views the war though the vision of Vann, a brilliant and fearless soldier who, though tragically wedded to victory in Vietnam, saw the seeds of defeat where the body counters saw victory.
Daniel Ellsberg, in a post-Tet letter to Vann wrote about the NLF losses "My own attitude about such matters now is that the VC are right to bet that the GVN and U.S. will fail to exploit ​any such `opportunities' and fanaics like you, me (before) and our friends were always wrong to imagine otherwise."
Episode 2 -
George Conk

Catholics - The Vietnam War: A film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick

An American solider showing Vietnamese soldiers how to use a mortar
The Vietnam War: A film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick
Episode 1

The Catholic angle was interesting.  As elsewhere - e.g. China - the converts were presumed to be collaborators and often were.  Diem was an exception there and his Catholicism was part of the reason Catholics rallied to the U.S. cause, though any intense anti-communist was pushing through an open door.

Kennedy's shift from rejection to engagement may have flowed from his Catholic identity.  Every week at mass there was a last prayer - for the conversion of Russia.  Among Catholics an American Navy doctor was much celebrated.  His books Deliver us From Evil and the Night They burned the Mountain were best sellers.  He declared the two greatest evils in the world to be disease and communism.  He served in the effort described to bring fleeing Catholics from the North after partition.  Dooley was forced out of the Navy when his homosexuality became known.  He then set up the jungle clinic which helped to establish his mystique. - gwc

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Chemerinsky brief argues Trump's pardon of Arpaio is void

Chemerinsky brief argues Trump's pardon of Arpaio is void
Updated: A proposed amicus brief filed Monday argues that President Donald Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio is void because it violates the Constitution. The brief (PDF) was submitted to a federal judge in Phoenix who is considering whether the pardon, issued before Arpaio had a chance to appeal his contempt conviction, requires her to vacate the conviction, (sub. req.) reports.

Arpaio was found guilty of contempt for violating a federal judge’s order to stop detaining citizens based only on a suspicion they were in the country illegally. Trump pardoned Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, on Aug. 25.
On one side is the U.S. Justice Department, which is urging U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to vacate all orders in the case and dismiss it as moot.

The Resegregation of Jefferson County - The New York Times

What we call the "but for test" demonstrates that but for slavery and the American system of apartheid known under the sanitized name "Jim Crow" white people would not be trying to escape Black schools and neighborhoods.
The complexity of resisting the resegregation movement turns on the difficult question "whose burden is it to correct the historical error of America's original sin. - GWC
The Resegregation of Jefferson County - The New York Times

Jefferson county resegregstes

The Resegregation of Jefferson County

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Monday, September 11, 2017

More Thoughts on the Intra-Democratic Divide – Talking Points Memo

There is a well embedded meme that the way for the Democrats to win is to go back to "Black and white unite and fight" - that is appeal to working class solidarity.  That hasn't worked out so well in the past.  And it's even harder with increased atomization of the workforce and deeply embedded clashing universes of discourse.

There are many divides in the country besides race - religion, gender, class, etc.  I think it is plain that the driving force in the election of Trump was race.  He did put it at the center of his campaign from the first moment, didn't he? Therefore I conclude that the Sanders campaign is wrong: economic appeals will not overcome the deep divides.  It's going to take more fine grained appeals than that - to recover those white Obama voters who turned to Trump in 2016,  - gwc
More Thoughts on the Intra-Democratic Divide – Talking Points Memo
by Josh Marshall

A big chunk of the left of the Democratic party – a lot of labor liberals, a lot of people who supported Bernie Sanders say you re-polarize the electorate around class and economic issues and gain back some of those Trump voters that way. In its crudest form (and there are less crude forms) this is the ‘ditch the identity politics and focus on unifying class issues’ argument. There are numerous problems with this argument, both moral and strategic.
For starters, I think it greatly overstates the appeal of social democratic economic policy to big chunks of the electorate. It also tells half the party’s voters that critical issues to them need to take a back seat to economic and class politics, with the implicit message that those are the ones that really matter. Enough of ‘identity politics’, let’s focus on the real stuff.
What it all comes down to is that once you get beyond Trump’s hardcore racist revanchist base, there are a lot of voters who supported Trump. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Only Problem in American Politics Is the Republicans

Photo published for The Only Problem in American Politics Is the Republicans

Let's get this straight.  The problem is not "partisanship". It's not economic anxiety of the white working class. It is the deeply embedded racism and ignorance of most white voters in the U.S.  They have produced a party that is hostile to government, and undemocratic.  The problem is the GOP.  there is no equivalence among Democrats. - gwc

The Only Problem in American Politics Is the Republicans

by Jonathan Chait

"whatever the very real flaws in the American political and electoral system, it is simply impossible to design any kind of a system that can withstand a stress test like a major party captured by a faction as radical as the conservative movement. Its absence of limiting principles to its ideology, indifference to empirical evidence, and inability to concede failings of its dogma lead to an endless succession of failures explained away to the base as faintheartedness.

The doom loop Drutman describes is, in reality, both sides responding to the phenomenon of Republican extremism. Republicans are sealed off in a bubble of paranoia and rage, and Democrats are sealed off from that bubble. Democrats fear Republican government because it is dangerous and extreme. Republicans fear Democratic government because they are dangerous and extreme."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Cold Warrior Who Never Apologized - The New York Times

The Cold Warrior Who Never Apologized - The New York Times
by Jonathan Stevenson
As Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, wrote in his book “Dereliction of Duty,” the early stages of the Vietnam War caught America’s military leaders flat-footed. Having gone through World War II and Korea, they were all ready for a conventional war. But insurgencies and unconventional warfare were something else. As a result, they were inordinately acquiescent to the wishful thinking of their civilian overseers — and no one thought more wishfully about the war than Walt Whitman Rostow.
A Yale Ph.D. and a Rhodes scholar, Rostow left his academic perch at M.I.T. to join the State Department under John F. Kennedy; he was later Lyndon Johnson’s national security adviser during the center-cut of American involvement in Vietnam, from April 1966 to January 1969. More than anyone else, he epitomized the overweening confidence of the civilian strategists of the era — he was the best and the brightest of “the best and the brightest.” He could lay distant claim to operational warfighting competence, having selected bombing targets as a major in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. But like many other prominent civilian strategists of the day, he was by training and disposition an economist and a technocrat.
In his 1960 book “The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto,” Rostow posited that robust growth was a nation’s best insurance against the political emergence of Communism, and cast growth as a multistage process that depended crucially on a “takeoff” period propelled by rapid expansion in key segments of an economy. Though criticized as tendentiously Western-centric, the book attracted Kennedy’s attention. In a matter of months, Rostow moved from holding forth in the academy to planning America’s strategy in Vietnam, tightly guided by his ideas about economic development.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

How Trump Won: Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

Check out @AdamParkhomenko’s Tweet:

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Collateral Damage: The Arpaio Pardon and Separation of Powers - Lawfare

Metaphoric mastery.
Collateral Damage: The Arpaio Pardon and Separation of Powers - Lawfare
by Josh Blackman (South Texas College of Law)
***As a constitutional matter, the pardon power belongs to the President, and the President alone. If Trump wants to reverse the processes established by his predecessors, that is entirely within his prerogative. But the Executive Branch had imposed long-standing institutional constraints on that awesome power with very good reason. Here, Trump has untied himself from the mast, retweeted the Sirens' call, and crashed into the shoals.***

Fordham Backs Ignatian Call to Maintain DACA

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Dear Members of the Fordham Community,

This week I signed the Ignatian Network’s letter: Maintain Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), thus recommitting the University to the principles that have guided Fordham throughout its history. I urge you all to do likewise.

I know that Father McCarthy has already shared the letter with you: I follow up on his message to stress the importance that the University attaches to this issue. Fordham sees and embraces undocumented students as valued and loved members of our community. The University stands with these students, and we will do all we can to be effective advocates for them.

I do not have to remind you that we live in deeply unsettled times. The rise of hate speech and undisguised hostility toward immigrants and anyone considered other, the horrific drowning of Houston and parts of Louisiana with its attendant loss of life and human suffering (including some families in the University community), and political and cultural divisions that seem to grow deeper by the day, call us urgently to live out the lessons of the Gospel and our Jesuit principles.

We must do what is in our power to aid and protect the most vulnerable among us, at the University, and around the globe. Here, at Fordham, in one of the world’s capital cities, some of us live lives of relative ease and privilege. I call on you to join me in whatever way you can help heal our society and our world.

You and your loved ones are in my prayers, today and always.


Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
President, Fordham University

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Trump Ignores Mexico's Offer to Help Victims of Hurricane Harvey | Foreign Policy

Trump Cares More About Ideology Than the Victims of Hurricane Harvey | Foreign Policy
by Jeffrey Lewis

At this dark time, Mexico offered to help, as good neighbors do.
It did so despite the seemingly endless barrage of insults that Trump has directed toward the country, including this past week’s repetition of the claim that Mexico will pay for his delusional border wall (something it has made clear it will not do).
Mexico’s offer of aid is not empty or symbolic.
Bedeviled by seismic activity and in the path of many a hurricane, Mexico has developed some of the most effective search and rescue capabilities of any country in the world, and its military excels at domestic disaster recovery missions.
Having that kind of experience and expertise in Texas and Louisiana right now to supplement the work of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, state and local governments, and volunteer first responders could radically improve the states’ abilities to aid their people.
Mexico has also been generous toward its northern neighbor in the past during times of crisis.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2012, the Mexican government offered, and the George W. Bush administration wisely accepted, assistance that saw Mexican troops on U.S. soil for the first time since the Mexican-American War. Mexican soldiers distributed more than 170,000 meals, delivered more than 184,000 tons of supplies, and provided more than 500 medical consultations to people across Louisiana and Mississippi.
Bush, a Texan who understood the importance of what he characterized as perhaps America’s most important relationship, personally thanked the Mexican soldiers providing assistance in Biloxi, Mississippi.
But the Trump administration has failed to take Mexico up on its offer to help with recovery efforts. This refusal increases the danger that the people of Texas and Louisiana face with each passing moment.

Monday, August 28, 2017

It’s Time: Congress Needs to Open a Formal Impeachment Inquiry - Lawfare

by Jane Chong and Benjamin Wittes
Last Tuesday, the New York Times published a foggy story noting that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell "has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond."
The time for musing has passed. It’s now time to begin a serious conversation about the impeachment and removal of President Trump by opening a formal impeachment inquiry.
The evidence of criminality on Trump’s part is little clearer today than it was a day, a week, or a month ago. But no conscientious member of the House of Representatives can at this stage fail to share McConnell’s doubts about Trump’s fundamental fitness for office. As the Trump presidency enters its eighth month, those members of Congress who are serious about their oaths to "support and defend the Constitution" must confront a question. It’s not, in the first instance, whether the President should be removed from office, or even whether he should be impeached. It is merely this: whether given everything Trump has done, said, tweeted and indeed been since his inauguration, the House has a duty, as a body, to think about its obligations under the impeachment clauses of the Constitution—that is, whether the House needs to authorize the Judiciary Committee to open a formal inquiry into possible impeachment.
It’s not a hard question. Indeed, merely to ask it plainly is also to answer it.>>>

Arpaio Pardon Would Show Contempt for Constitution

President Trump Pardons Sheriff Joseph Arpaio

The President...shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
Article II, Section 2, Clause 1

Ex parte Garland 71 U.S. 333 (1866)

Arpaio Pardon Would Show Contempt for Constitution - Bloomberg
by Noah Feldman // Bloomberg View

Is Accepting a Pardon an Admission of Guilt?
by Eugene Volokh //WaPo

Trump's Law and Order is Weak on the Law
by Maggie Haberman // NY Times

Trump's Pardon Follows the Law Yet Challenges It
by Adam Liptak // NY Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s decision to pardon Joe Arpaio was characteristically unconventional. It came late on a Friday night as a hurricane bore down on Texas. It concerned a crime some said was particularly ill-suited to clemency, and it was not the product of the care and deliberation that have informed pardons by other presidents.
But it was almost certainly lawful. The Constitution gives presidents extremely broad power to grant pardons.
Last month, a federal judge found Mr. Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff, guilty of criminal contempt for defying a court order to stop detaining immigrants based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally. The order had been issued in a lawsuit that accused the sheriff’s office of violating the Constitution by using racial profiling to jail Latinos. Mr. Arpaio had faced a sentence of up to six months in jail.
Mr. Trump thus used his constitutional power to block a federal judge’s effort to enforce the Constitution. Legal experts said they found this to be the most troubling aspect of the pardon, given that it excused the lawlessness of an official who had sworn to defend the constitutional structure.
Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard, argued before the pardon was issued that such a move “would express presidential contempt for the Constitution.”
Continue reading the main story
“Arpaio didn’t just violate a law passed by Congress,” Professor Feldman wrote on Bloomberg View. “His actions defied the Constitution itself, the bedrock of the entire system of government.” By saying Mr. Arpaio’s offense was forgivable, Professor Feldman added, Mr. Trump threatens “the very structure on which his right to pardon is based.”
It was the first act of outright defiance against the judiciary by a president who has not been shy about criticizing federal judges who ruled against his businesses and policies. But while the move may have been unusual, there is nothing in the text of the Constitution’s pardons clause to suggest that he exceeded his authority.
The president, the clause says, “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”
The pardon power extends only to federal crimes. Otherwise, presidents are free to use it as they see fit. As the Supreme Court put it in an 1866 decision involving a former Confederate senator, Ex Parte Garland, the power “is unlimited.”
“It extends,” the court said, “to every offense known to the law.”
In a tweet last month, Mr. Trump indicated that he had studied the matter in the context of the investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. “All agree the U.S. president has the complete power to pardon,” he wrote.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Behold Our Child King = Peter Wehner - NY Times

In case you think Wehner is a RINO, think again.  He is as died in the wool as one can be - praised by Robert George as "the conscience of the conservative movement".
Behold Our ‘Child King’ - The New York Times

by Peter Wehner (After serving in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations, Wehner was deputy director of speechwriting for President George W. Bush and a senior adviser to the Romney-Ryan 2012 presidential campaign.)
consevative as you get.
***A confrontation is inevitable. The alternative is to continue to further tie the fate and the reputation of the Republican Party to a president who seems destined for epic failure and whose words stir the hearts of white supremacists.

We are well past the point where equivocations are defensible, and we’re nearly past the point where a moral reconstitution is possible. The damage Mr. Trump has inflicted on the Republican Party is already enormous. If the party doesn’t make a clean break with him, it will be generational.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Trump Takes Aim at the Press, With a Flamethrower - The New York Times

Trump Takes Aim at the Press, With a Flamethrower - The New York Times
by Jim Rutenberg
Every time you think President Trump’s anti-press rhetoric can’t get worse, he finds a way of surprising you and not surprising you all at the same time.
That he will attack journalists on a regular basis should be expected at this point, and it is. The surprising part comes when he manages to outdo himself. After all, he couldn’t possibly top “enemy of the people,” could he?
Yet there he was in Phoenix on Tuesday, telling a crowd of thousands of ardent supporters that journalists were “sick people” who he believes “don’t like our country,” and are “trying to take away our history and our heritage.”
The moment matters. Mr. Trump’s latest attack on the media came at a time of heightened racial tension stoked by a white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville, Va., and continuing now in the national debate over removing statues that commemorate Confederate figures from the Civil War. Mr. Trump’s speech in Phoenix reprised a question spawned by his raucous rallies during the presidential campaign: How long before someone is seriously hurt, or worse?
“Coming off the violence in Charlottesville, with tensions so high and the kindling so dry, it felt like President Trump was playing recklessly with fire, singling out a specific group of people — the media — for disliking America and trying to erase our country’s heritage,” Jim VandeHei, chief executive of the Axios news website, told me. “He’s just wrong to paint so wildly with such a broad brush, and, worse, putting reporters at real risk of retribution or violence.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Why Vietnam Was Unwinnable - The New York Times

Why Vietnam Was Unwinnable - The New York Times
by Kevin Boylan
Although the United States undoubtedly had the means to prevail in Vietnam, the war was unwinnable at the level of commitment and sacrifice that our nation was willing to sustain. As the renowned historian George Herring put it, the war could not “have been ‘won’ in any meaningful sense at a moral or material cost most Americans deemed acceptable.”
Perhaps the key lesson of Vietnam is that if the reasons for going to war are not compelling enough for our leaders to demand that all Americans make sacrifices in pursuit of victory, then perhaps we should not go to war at all. Sacrifice should not be demanded solely of those who risk life and limb for their country in combat theaters overseas.