From Social Contract To Occupy Wall Street

The decade of the 1920s was one of industrialization and economic growth, globally. This relatively peaceful and prosperous period ended with the onset of a quarter century of economic hardship and armed conflict.

In 1927, a civil war broke out in China that would finally end with the victory of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949. In 1929, the New York Stock Exchange crashed, and the Great Depression began. Two years later, a period of 23 years of continuous international warfare began.


The period of open warfare, which includes the 1939-1945 interval labeled “World War Two,” began in 1931 with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, and ended in 1953 with the armistice ending the shooting of the Korean War.


The United States of America emerged from the period of economic depression and world war as the supreme global power by 1945, and it would revitalize its non-communist European and Asian allies, and former enemies, during the period of postwar reconstruction from 1945 to 1953.


As the combatant nations of WWII recovered and reconstituted themselves in the immediate postwar years, they were each motivated by revulsion over the recent past, gratitude to the millions of soldiers and workers who brought about the collective liberation, and hope for a brighter future, to develop some form of social contract between the people and their governments, the labor force, and the industries. In the United States, this social contract was a bipartisan support for popular New Deal and progressive collectivities like Social Security, public education, unionized labor, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), as well as the postwar G.I. Bill (educational and housing benefits for veterans). In the non-communist European states it was a social democratic form of government, which managed many nationalized popular benefits. In the communist states, the socialized benefits were offered in exchange for unchallenged political control by Communist Party authority.


The next twenty years (1953-1973) were the golden age of capitalism and Soviet communism, a period of unexcelled economic expansion resulting from vigorous industrialization coupled with distributive social contracts.


Despite increasing population, productivity slackened in the 1970s, and given the unavoidable increase of social costs, the expansion of prosperity stagnated. By the end of the decade, plutocratic political pressure in the West had built up enough to increasingly detach government from stewardship of the social contract, and more closely focus it on corporate interests. In 1978, the People’s Republic of China abandoned central planning and began command capitalism.


Over thirty years of neoliberalism followed in the capitalist world, to the present day (from about 1979 to 2011). Non-communist neoliberalism is “free,” or market-driven (with varying interventions by governments), while a command form of neoliberalism is used in the People’s Republic of China, directed by its exclusive national party.


At the beginning of the 1990s (between 1989 and 1991) the economically and politically stagnant Soviet Union and its satellite empire in Eastern Europe disintegrated, and the many independent states formed out of that former political monolith were absorbed into the capitalist world.


During the 1980s and 1990s, the United States was de-industrializing (“outsourcing”) to increase corporate profits by decreasing its domestic labor costs. Many newly industrializing states (NIEs) in Asia and Latin America were taking advantage of this expatriation of American industrial capacity, by offering to host foreign-owned industrial facilities, and offering their people as a lower-cost substitute labor force.


Japan was a leader in outsourcing production throughout Asia, but it only did so after achieving full employment in Japan, and only to increase its total industrial output to feed its export (mainly U.S.) market. While the portion of Japan’s labor force in industry has dropped since before the 1990s, the affected workers have been shifted to service industry employment, so full employment has been maintained (about 4% unemployment during the 2000s).


As in the major industrialized states during the 1970s, productivity gains in the 2000s in the now more developed NIEs were not always capable of outpacing the growth of population and the increasing costs of social needs and unexpected losses. So, the returns from some outsourced investments were diminished from initial expectations. The perceived lethargy of industrial development anywhere to yield profits quickly enough increased investors’ fever to decouple profitability from productivity. The first decade of the 21st century was one of frenzied speculation in financialized paper (e.g., derivatives, hedge funds), and was facilitated by the deregulation of the US banking industry in 1999.


The financial system collapsed between 2007 (burst housing bubble, banks insolvent) and 2008 (stock market crash, public bail-out of banks), after thirty years of de-industrialization accompanied by a trend of growing income inequality. From a rate of 4.5% in early 2007, the official US unemployment rate shot up past 10% by January 2010, and remains above 9% today. One should double these numbers for a more realistic estimate of unemployment.


The combination of heavy personal debt and lack of jobs (for skilled labor and professionals) has spurred many people across the United States to congregate in public protests, to move themselves beyond fearfulness in isolation to a release of their anger, by channeling it into a joint sense of purpose for social change. These are the people of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement in its many locations.


The sense of purpose for social change has two parts: a change of self image so one interacts in a new and more effective way with the rest of society, and the taking up of some form of political activism so as to help move the larger society to change in desired ways. How these two factors are proportioned within any particular individual is determined by their unique circumstances.


OWS is the human face of debilitating debt and unemployment, and it will disappear when popular debt relief (e.g., for underwater mortgages and student loans) and the widespread availability of skilled employment occur. How long it will take the U.S. to arrange for popular debt relief and the widespread availability of skilled employment is unknown. Equally unknown are how many political and thus economic changes will have to be made in the course of arriving at popular debt relief and a full employment economy, but ultimately that point will be reached because it is the most stable arrangement for US society. Resistance to achieving this stable social state will only delay the inevitable and increase the quantity of blood, sweat, tears, and money needed to achieve it.


Every desire for social change held by every person in the OWS movement can be reflected in one simple phrase: renew the social contract.


OWS is an awakening. People who had thought of themselves as law abiding, hard working, loyal Americans ready and willing to take their places in society as contributors are waking up to the fact that they have been pushed out of American prosperity, and they want in.


OWS is a protest about being personally saddled with debt, primarily for homes and education, sold under promises of a better future, and then government allowing the lending institutions to destroy the economy necessary to support those rosy futures, at a handsome profit, without penalty, and — most galling — without canceling the essentially fraudulently-created debt on the mortgage holders of financially inundated real estate or evaporated professional careers.


The young people of OWS are the cadets of the bourgeoisie who have been excessed by the time of their graduation. A soulless nation is eating its young: for decades by incarcerating rather than employing blacks, and now, because of a tightening of the money situation for plutocrats, even throwing over the white cadets who have been training to man the occupations that will continue America’s bourgeois economics during the next two decades. The graduates of 2006 to 2016 may be a lost generation, as this is an ageist society. When the economy recovers, maybe by 2016 (since neoliberalism is likely to persist), employers will look to fresh graduates to fill the available slots; once five years out of school, you are obsolete.


OWS has social and political impact primarily by being LARGE and PRESENT. It has to be the elephant in the middle of the nation’s view-screen in order to cause a course correction. The longer OWS endures, the more likely it is that the political class will agree to work toward debt-cancellation and job growth, since these will make OWS disappear.


Can enough new jobs be created soon? Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (international business editor at The Telegraph) has the idea that a US economic turnaround (more jobs) will occur within the next few years, brought about by the exploitation of new domestic sources of petroleum (oil shale and tar sands) and a reversal of outsourcing (or, a return to domestic industrialization). This is just one indicator of rational expectations (devoid of environmental concerns) for a resumption of economic growth.


What about reform of the financial industry? Nicholas Kristof, a conservative pundit at The New York Times, is advocating reform of the financial industry because he understands that hubris by the plutocracy could lead to a disastrous popular backlash (the ultimate conservative nightmare is communism). Mainstream voices for financial reform know that wonderful profits can easily be made the old fashioned way, as was the case under Glass-Steagall banking regulations between 1933 and 1999.


And, what about debt relief? Wall Street certainly loves the idea when it applies to banks. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, recently stared down the European banks and made them accept a 50% writedown of their Greek debts. The stock market zoomed 300 points, because investors are far more concerned with the “stability” and continuity of the eurozone financial markets than they are with a few banks losing a few 10s or even 100s of billions (half made up with public bail-outs), so long as the game and the global banking casino are not shut down by a currency (euro) and credit market (banking industry) collapse.


Obviously, the concept of debt relief will be pushed and expanded further and further, because the debt burden everywhere is like a bone caught in the financial world’s throat. Once it is finally swallowed or coughed out, then the feasting can begin again. When debt is cancelled, people are free to borrow, spend, create, and expand productivity, that is to say generate earnings and profits. The next Steve Jobs may be milling about in an OWS throng, just waiting for student loan relief to set him capitalistically free. So, we can expect that when OWS people begin speaking the language of demands, one of the items included will be relief of students’ loans for education.


The young generation in OWS wants the freedom to advance their bourgeois, capitalist aspirations; they want to be the Steve Jobs and Barack Obama of the 2020s. They do not want to shrink their vision into re-entering a proletarian life, nor to occupy their minds and time with “organization” for proletarian-type unions like the UFW (United Farm Workers), nor consign their aspirations to distant hopes for an elusive millennialist “revolution.”


OWS is a leaderless coincident mass awakening, it is not a popular uprising in the style of the Mexican or Russian (February) Revolutions, and it is not organized in the sense of being hierarchical and regimented. The cadets manning OWS will never adopt Marxism, essentially none have flocked to the red banner.


The people in OWS are shackled by debt and economic fear, and they are gathered to celebrate the freeing of their minds from a number of illusions. Individually, they may go on to be active politically, each in their own way, but all are quite unlikely to relinquish their identification with the American bourgeoisie (“middle class”), or to relinquish their new and painfully-realized mental freedom by submitting themselves to the blinkered thinking of any political ideology that seeks to exploit their massed energy, or to direct their social purpose.


Renew the social contract.
 
Timeline: 1945 Social Contract to 2011 Occupy Wall Street

1945, Europe and Japan ruined by World War II

Civil War in China (1927-1949) interrupted by Japan’s occupation of Manchuria (1931-1945) and Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)

Postwar rebuilding in Europe, 1945-1956:

U.S. role:

  • 1944, Bretton Woods system of currency relations to US dollar
  • 1945-1948, $12B in U.S. postwar aid to Europe
  • 1948-1952, $13B in Marshall Plan aid to Western Europe
  • (US GDP in 1948 was $258B)

Soviet role:

  • 1945-1954, Soviets extract 23% of East German GNP
  • 1945-1954, slow release of German POWs, forced laborers
  • 1949 Cold War split formalized, West and East Germany created
  • 1949-1956 East and West evolve comprehensive social contracts

Western European states (Atlantic Alliance) 1949-1956:

  • renew politically as social democracies
  • much foreign aid in, rapid growth, more satisfied population
  • have extensive political freedom on account of prosperity
  • 1954, West Germany gains full political and economic autonomy

Eastern European states (Warsaw Pact) 1949-1956:

  • reformed as Soviet communist satellite states
  • reparations or little aid, slow growth, less satisfied population
  • very limited political freedom in exchange for social contract
  • 1953 East German and 1956 Hungarian revolts suppressed

Postwar rebuilding in Japan, 1945-1960:

1945-1952, US aid of $1.9B while Japan under occupation:

  • this equaled 15% of imports and 4% of GNP, in forms of:
  • 59% food, 15% industrial materials, 12% transport equipment

1953, US military spending (Korean War) is 7% of Japan’s GNP

  • by 1960 US military spending in Japan less than 1% of Japan’s GNP

Economic growth 1953-1973:

“Golden Age” in Western Europe, Japan, and Soviet Union
economies achieve “full employment”
labor cooperation exchanged for social contract
productivity and gains due to industrialization, and:

  • government (trade) policies
  • exports
  • technology
  • cooperative labor

Economic stagnation 1971-1979:

1971 collapse of Bretton Woods currency relations to US dollar.

(The Vietnam War had accelerated inflation, and faith had been lost in the US’ ability to cut budget and trade deficits. “On August 15, 1971, the United States unilaterally terminated convertibility of the dollar to gold. As a result, ‘the Bretton Woods system officially ended and the dollar became fully fiat currency, backed by nothing but the promise of the federal government.’ This action, referred to as the Nixon shock, created the situation in which the United States dollar [not gold] became the sole backing of currencies and a reserve currency for the member states.”)

1973, first oil crisis
(Arab boycott over US aid to Israel in 1973 Arab-Israeli War)

1973-1974, stock market crash (20+ years of steady growth ends)

1978, People’s Republic of China abandons central planning

  • a centrally planned economy is replaced by command capitalism

1979, 2nd oil crisis
(U.S. opposes Iranian Revolution)

Thatcherism and Reaganomics

  • Margaret Thatcher, UK Prime Minister, 1979
  • Ronald Reagan, US President, 1981
  • lower productivity after 1960s, higher population and social costs
  • government increasingly oriented to corporate interests
  • retreat from New Deal and post WWII social contracts
  • trend of increasing income inequality begins

30 Years of US Neoliberalism, 1981-2011:

Ronald Reagan Administration (R), 1981-1988:

  • breaks the air traffic controllers union in 1981
  • “supply side” and “trickle down” economics, and tax cuts
  • deep recession of 1982 with 10% unemployment
  • stock market crash of 1987
  • Savings and Loan crisis, a $125B public bail-out
  • deregulation and hostility to regulate
  • no change to the minimum wage
  • raised national debt from $997B to $2.85T
  • the share of US income received during 1980-1988 by the:
    — 5% highest-income households grew from 16.5% to 18.3%
    — 20% highest income households grew from 44.1% to 46.3%
    — 20% lowest income households fell from 4.2% to 3.8%
    — second poorest 20%, fell from 10.2% to 9.6%.

George H. W. Bush Administration (R), 1989-1992:

  • recession in 1992 with 7.8% unemployment
  • developed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

Bill Clinton Administration (D), 1993-2000:

  • 1994, enacts North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  • 1996, ends Aid to Families with Dependent Children,
    — (fulfills promise to “end welfare as we have come to know it”)
  • 1996, Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
    — (significant precursor of the Patriot Act of 2001)
  • 1999, signs Gramm-Leach-Blyly Act,
    — (this repeals Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, bank deregulation)
    — (see ENDNOTES for more on Glass-Steagall)
  • 2000, signs Commodity Futures Modernization Act,
    — (legalizes over-the-counter derivatives)
  • federal budget surpluses 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 (Fiscal Years)
  • War on Drugs swells prison population from 1.4M to 2.0M

George W. Bush Administration (R), 2001-2008:

  • 2001 and 2003, total tax cuts of $1.3T, aimed at the wealthy
  • 2002, No Child Left Behind Act (push to privatize public schools)
  • “War on Terrorism”:
    — 2001, Patriot Act (curtails civil liberties)
    — October 2001, invasion of Afghanistan
    — March 2003, invasion of Iraq
  • 2002, stopped funding the United Nations Population Fund
    — (UNFPA promotes family planning in the developing world)
  • 2005, response (and lack of) to Hurricane Katrina
  • 2008, Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the $700B bail-out

Barack H. Obama Administration (D), 2009-present:

  • failed to use Democratic majorities in congress to pass reforms
  • September 17, 2011, Occupy Wall Street begins; what now?
     
    ENDNOTES

“The People Cry Out Against the New Great Depression”
by Manuel Garcia, Jr.
http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/the-people-cry-out-against-the-new-great-depression/
(Glass-Steagall Act and financial reforms are described)

“Some Central Themes of the Occupy Protesters”
by Associated Press
http://youtu.be/3zXk_2_LCR8
(video on income inequality)

“Graphic of US Income Inequality, 1947-2011”
by Robert Reich and New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2011/09/04/opinion/04reich-graphic.html?ref=sunday

“United States Income Distribution 1947-2007”
by wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:United_States_Income_Distribution_1947-2007.svg

“Where’s My Job?” by ConnectTheDotsUSA.com
http://www.connectthedotsusa.com/pdf/WheresMyJobSlides.pdf

“Owe Dear”
by The Economist
http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/07/world-debt-guide
(global debt map)

“World Power Swings Back to America”
by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8844646/World-power-swings-back-to-America.html

“Crony Capitalism Comes Home”
by Nicholas Kristof
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/27/opinion/kristof-crony-capitalism-comes-homes.html

“Calling Bankers’ Bluff, Merkel Won Europe a Debt Plan”
by Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/28/world/europe/europe-in-accord-on-basics-of-plan-to-save-the-euro.html?_r=1

“Another Idea For Student Loan Debt: Make It Go Away”
by Petra Cahill
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45040659/ns/us_news-life/

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From Social Contract To Occupy Wall Street
7 November 2011
http://www.swans.com/library/art17/mgarci32.html

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The Idea of America

52 State Flag (proposed); if add Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

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The Idea of America

America is an idea struggling to free itself from slavery and the many degradations that slavery entails: conquest, genocide, racism, classism, sexism, exploitation imposed by fear of starvation, and regimentation into legions of thuggish enforcers and cannon fodder used as pawns for self aggrandizement by the kings, queens, bishops, executioners, and judges of the social order.

There is rebellion trembling in the souls of the people, looking up to the fabled blue sky of their dreams from the dank dark depths of their wells of desperation; and looking out with bleary eyes to the hazy lost horizons for unrealized promises, from the burnt lands and baking deserts of their isolated naked vulnerability.

What do you do when you fall far from help? You sit waiting until you can get up, and then you go on. On!

Those that survive to do this embody the earth tremors of the idea of America struggling to erupt into freedom ruled by justice, fortified by intelligence, ennobled by compassion; an eruption that will inevitably require a crisis that may unleash tragic cruelties because the unyielding resistance against the pressure for social change — by the slaveowners, the speculators, the profiteers — could only be broken by a terrible and searing explosive force.

The idea of America will find its lasting peaceful freedom in solidarity by the resurrection of America in the aftermath of its last death in its last civil war. Who can know if they will live to see this? All that we can know is that the idea is undying.

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The Smoke Rings of My Mind

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The Smoke Rings of My Mind

I landed in college as a green wide-eyed freshman, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (NOT Penn State!), in September 1968. This was an explosive year, to my mind the most pivotal one in the United States since 1945. My dorm room was in a short cul-de-sac second floor hallway of the large antique pseudo Oxford-Cambridge style ivy-festooned stone masonry men’s dorm quadrangle building off Spruce Street.

I felt really good to finally have gotten out of the prison day-camp Catholic boys high school I’d been in for 4 years, and out of the nice suburban North Shore Long Island town my family lived in during my adolescence (before that being in New York City); and I had a brand spanking new draft deferment that I thought would insulate me from the carnage of the Vietnam War, which was at its peak at that time with the Tet Offensive.

In fact, Lyndon Johnson’s televised speech with the surprise announcement that he would not seek reelection in November 1968 happened two days after my 18th birthday, after which I had to troop down to the post office and register for the draft. That didn’t feel too good believe me, because I’d watched the news and read the papers daily all through high school. Those were my “Greta Thunberg” years, 1964-1968: from the Bay of Tonkin con-job and 1965’s Marine invasion of South Vietnam — “escalatio” as Tom Lehrer called it — to Tet, erupting on January 31, 1968, and pulsing through three bloody phases that year; when I was dreading the fucked-up situation the adults were shoving my way (you know: die for us, it’s good for “the country”).

My own priorities were: #1, study engineering so I could become the next Enzo Ferrari and build my own sports cars; #2, find receptive female companionship to find an outlet for my raging testosterone levels; and #3, stay out of Vietnam. I was not wise as an 18-year-old, I was NORMAL, having been instructed about women (“girls” was the pre-feminist term used then) by Beach Boys songs (those cherub troubadours of the white colonial culture of the Occupied Territories of Mexico’s northern part of Baja California) and Sophia Loren movies.

In the decades since then I’ve come to realize how difficult it is for women everywhere, and most certainly in the United States with its huge proportion of knucklehead males, to accept becoming the “second mothers” to so many needy fake-macho lunkheads: pickings for good husbands, mates and sperm donors (drones in the Bee World) can be slim for so many alert and intelligent women.

But, in the fall of 1968 I was feeling good and with high hopes. I burrowed enthusiastically into my school work and got on the Dean’s List. Three of us in our hallway were socially awkward and stayed in at night from lack of alternatives and fear blunting initiative. Besides, all the coeds had lots of upperclassmen to pick from and who owned cars and had money to spend. So, Joe Williams invited two or three of us to listen to his Bob Dylan records (note: using a plug-in electric machine that played vinyl discs to produce recorded music sounds).

Now, I had heard all the pop music of the day every day before that, because I had gone to my somewhat distant high school in a carpool driven by a neighbor boy’s father (a NYC fireman with rank, so lots of time to call his own), in a Ford Econoline van (a very cute unsafe-as-hell design), and Robert (the son) would put on the radio for every trip. Beside hearing it all in this way (the grating falsetto Sherry Baby too, too many times, but the Rascals on “Good Lovin’” was the best), and outside school it was so easy to hear spillover sounds from radios playing everywhere. At home I listened to the classical music and Spanish Zarzuelas (operettas) so close to my heart. So, by September 1968 I knew about Dylan’s hit songs up to that point.

But, Joe Williams said we had to hear Dylan the right way. Joe turned us on to grass: marijuana. We would sit up through the night listening to Dylan’s 1965 and 1966 albums: “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” and “Blonde on Blonde.” We laughed our asses off totally stoned listening to “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” — “everybody must get stoned!” — yeah. It was so hilarious to read the “adult” press on this, where the experts saw in this song a deep poetic cry of alienation. Man, the adult world is just one big blivet of puffery.

I had heard all the popular folk music during its period of prominence, which coincided with the Civil Rights movement from about 1961 to its crescendo in August 1963 when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed his dream to the nation and world from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (which is my favorite single building in Washington D.C.), until its triumphs with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

At that point Bob Dylan checked out of the topical political protest folk singer-songwriter role he’d mastered, and moved on artistically. No creative person can stand typecasting. Dylan’s early career in pure folk music was masterful, but I wasn’t into folk music. I turned onto Dylan when he went electric. For me a good song has both good words (even poetry) plus lots of really good instrumental music. And this essay is, believe it or not, about that.

Bob Dylan went on tour in 1966, backed by a 5 piece rock band, 4 of whose musicians (except the drummer) were a longtime group that would emerge on their own in 1968 as “The Band.” Dylan was booed at all his concerts in Europe and at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, as a “traitor” to the pure folk music style his earlier audiences had typecast him into. Even his pals Pete Seeger and Joan Baez were put off. Why?

In the late 1930s, Frank Sinatra exploded into popularity because he revolutionized how pop music was delivered to the fans. Earlier singing phenomena, like Bing Crosby, knew how to croon with projection to make up for the deficiencies of the crude electrified public address systems of the times, if one even existed in the halls they sang in. By Frank’s high school years (which he bailed out on) microphones and amplifiers were improving significantly (“modern” hi-fi equipment was finally introduced by RCA in 1941).

Tony Bennett has perceptively pointed out that with this new equipment Frank Sinatra did not need to project, so he “made love to the microphone” and sang in a very intimate style, and which every listener in the dance halls and over the radio broadcasts felt was delivered just to them, person-to-person. The Bobby-Soxers went ape-shit over this, a mega-scale precursor to the Beatlemania of 20 years later.

This is where Frank Sinatra was a pivotal figure in the evolution of broadcast popular music: he had that smooth melting crooner’s voice (and had even taken voice lessons from an ex-Metropolitan Opera vocal coach), he had lovely breath control (much learned from Jo Stafford, listen to her meltingly wonderful “The Nearness of You”) with which to fashion long lingering phrases, and he had that intimate emotional and yet cool even vulnerable at times feeling, which he conveyed so convincingly.

Bob Dylan’s folk music was conveyed to his initially small audiences in just this intimate way. Even without a P.A. system, a non-projective (non-operatic, non-Irish tenor) style of singing was just fine in the always small coffee houses and folk clubs of Greenwich Village in the 1950s and early 1960s. And of course, Dylan’s albums from 1961 to 1964 carried his recorded intimate-delivery folk music far and wide.

Now, the American folk music of the early ’60s was nothing like the polished hip big band standards that Frank Sinatra put out, but even at its most angry, and ‘protesty’ and ‘shouty’, the folk music of those years was essentially intimate (think Phil Ochs): it spoke to the personal feelings for and dreams of social transformation in each of the audience members, and with minimal acoustic instrumentation. Those songs were usually not stadium-sized sing-along sonic-boom anthems like Freddy Mercury’s “We Will Rock You,” even though Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-changin’,” and “Blowing In The Wind” sort of became ones.

So by 1965, Bob Dylan was typecast by his folk fan base as “their” intimate public voice. But by then Dylan had gotten stoned and was now deep into making group electric music for being stoned. That was the first pop music that could burrow into your stone-cave and light up the panorama movie screen of your stone-mind with its soundtrack — for so many of us lunkhead males, and also for plenty of girls (sorry: women) as I soon learned from direct experience —: the blazing folk-rock of Dylan in 1965 and 1966: “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” and “Like A Rolling Stone.”

The poor folkies who wanted to be aurally cuddled by their post-Beatnik second daddy folksong troubadour wailed about their Big Brother’s abandonment of them. This is where Bob Dylan is a pivotal figure in American (U.S.) broadcast popular music: his was the folk-blues phantasmagoria of proto-rap lyrical torrents cascading out on streams of blazing hot blues-rock electric music that engulfed the newly stoned minds of the emerging adolescent and young adult nymphs, and the innocent drones and satyrs scheduled as cannon fodder for the Vietnam meat-grinder. That was me.

In 1969, I lost my deferment (2S) and was classified as ready for war right then (1A), because of some screw-up where it was reported to the draft board that “my” grades were failures. For those people any boy Garcia was the same person, so I get pegged with someone else’s failure. When I called the draft board to complain about this clerical error, telling them I could send them a copy of my dean’s list letter from the school, the old lady scarecrow on the phone just said to me “once we start the process we just keep going.” Up to 1968, 50% of the Vietnam War casualties among U.S. soldiers were Blacks and Latinos, always sent out “on point” by their white-boy lieutenant platoon commanders ‘leading’ their men, from the rear, into jungle ambuscades (I heard about such things from first hand recollections by Puerto Rican veterans who survived their 1960s in Vietnam).

So I basically lost my mind, desperate to achieve my goal #2 before being done in by a failure to meet goal #3; and I kept up my studies in the hopes of being ultimately able to proceed with my career ambitions to do engineering and science in a creative way, should I survive. I eventually lucked out by getting a very high number in the draft lottery of December 1969, and so I was passed over for being inducted into the U.S. military.

And during those years of 1968 and 1969, I listened to much music designed to accompany being stoned: Dylan, Doors, Janis Joplin, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and even Crosby Stills and Nash. Janis and CSN were favorites in the girls’ dorms (dorms were segregated by sex in those days, so making an overnight stay involved careful planning and inside help to pull off, like a bank heist caper). I learned much about all this music from the young ladies — all of them far more socially aware than me, keenly informed about pop music, and all very bright — who accepted me into their group company to listen to records at night.

After 1969 I started becoming an adult, but that is another story. Last tip: put Crème de menthe into your bong instead of water, especially helpful with hashish.

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This Is Now (U.S.A.)

Tower of Babel, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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This Is Now (U.S.A.)

In his CounterPunch column on 30 October 2020 [1], the editor-publisher, Jeffrey St. Clair, made the following refreshing comment:

“In his resignation letter, Greenwald goes a little far in claiming his story was ‘censored.’ Call it the victim of a strong editorial hand. Cockburn used to apply his frequently to my stories and his normal scalpel was replaced by a ruthless chainsaw whenever my subject matter strayed onto the fraught terrain of climate change, assault weapons or catch-and-release trout fishing.”

I have had the same experience with my articles and papers in every single publication I have submitted them to (even CP). I came to learn that each journal has its ideological boundary, within which is its acceptable orthodoxy, and outside of which is rejected heresy. The arbiter determining the exact contour of that boundary is the editor, and moreso when also the publisher.

This is not necessarily bad if the precepts of the orthodoxy and contour of its boundary line are clearly stated, and uniformly adhered to. Then you as a reader and writer know how to pick and choose what to get into, or not. We all prefer to sing in our own choirs and thus perpetuate a world of mutually repellant cacophonous babel, because it is so much easier to maintain our ignorance and prejudices that way.

Having said this, I have to add in all fairness that CounterPunch has been the most tolerant of any journal toward my submissions (better than 50%). If you want to eliminate all censorship and editorializing on your writings, then just publish them yourself in a blog, or just don’t bother. Believe me, most people don’t want to hear or read what you think, however much your ego would be pleased to think they do.

At this point I thought I would editorialize a bit more on the editorial just cited.

+= Jeffrey St. Clair
– = MG,Jr.

+ Biden losing Texas because he made little to no effort to secure the Hispanic vote and couldn’t effectively distance himself from Obama’s inglorious record as deporter-in-chief will be one of the most biting ironies of this strange campaign.

+ The Biden campaign has made two shrewd strategic decisions: One, to limit Biden’s own appearances; and two, to keep Bill Clinton off the campaign trail, even though Bubba might have drawn some bigoted white men over to Biden in Georgia and South Carolina.

– Spanish speaking Americans are most likely voting overwhelmingly for Biden anyway as the obviously preferable lesser evil to raging Trumpian Hispanophobia. We (i.e., ‘Hispanics’) always know that U.S. elections are competitions between two corrupt gangs of ‘pasty-faced knuckle-headed palookas’ (a fabulous phrase from the Three Stooges) united by capitalist ideology. We make inroads as we can with young new progressives, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and with the numerous non-PFKHP activists over the years. Also, in time we will demographically bury PFKHP Trumpphilic America, because we are way better lovers.

+ Usually, the lies get more grandiose the closer we get to an election. This year, however, there’s been a refreshing outbreak of honesty. Biden has pledged that he will “not end fracking.” And Trump’s chief staff Mark Meadows has vowed that Trump “will not control the pandemic.”

– It’s all about the money. It has always been all about the money. This is the United States you’re talking about: “Capitalism is a religion. Banks are churches. Bankers are priests. Wealth is heaven. Poverty is hell. Rich people are saints. Poor people are sinners. Commodities are blessings. Money is God.” — Miguel D. Lewis

– Fracking = fossil fuel = power for U.S. military machines = international political power = profits = careerist orgasms; therefore the Next White (or Whitened) Guy In The White House is 100% for it.

– “Controlling the pandemic” is a tax on “the economy” a.k.a. the exclusive corporate casino subsidized by the public, both by their tax submissions and by their acquiescence to death by incompetence and neglect. Also, laissez-faire as pandemic control is the mentally easiest policy for PFKHPs to manage.

+ The grooming of AOC for a leadership position in the party seems to be well underway. Consider her placid reaction to Biden’s retreat on fracking: “It does not bother me … I have a very strong position on fracking … However, that is my view … It will be a privilege to lobby him should we win the White House, but we need to focus on winning the White House first.”

– Lighten up on AOC. She and Greta Thunberg have done more to wake people up to working for a better U.S. and better world than all the U.S. politicians and pundits of the last 50 years, excepting the activist kids of 2018 from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

– AOC has made the most startling and effective puncturing of the PFKHP political bubble since god knows when, and has near-instantly built up a political potential so threatening to PFKHP patriarchal control that its flaccid intelligentsia across its entire spectrum for reactionary Trumpofascism to Pelosischumer liberal pablum has been driven into apoplectic frenzies of attack against the future that AOC personifies: young, female, feminist, inclusive, non-PFKHP (and non-‘Karen’), multilingual, socialist, smart, honest, engaging and effective.

– Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s newly reelected Labour Prime Minister, is another personification of that advanced political future (a reality in New Zealand, as yet a dream in the U.S.). The fact that AOC is also urban and a Puertorriqueña is icing on the cake (for this Nuyorkino). The great fear in weakling PFKHP minds is demographic dilution, and they see their projected image of that fear as AOC, before whom they tremble: rage as pretense for fear.

+ Who will tell DiFi? McConnell, just after the Senate voted to limit debate on Amy Coney Barrett: “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

– Climate change (crisis, emergency, catastrophe) is a universally acknowledged fact, often brutally so in the wake of hurricanes, floods, droughts and wildfires. The culpability of major corporations in fueling global warming by the overproduction and sale of fossil fuels and petroleum products (like plastic by the Coca Cola Company) for the last half century, and of doing their utmost to cover up the scientific findings about the root causes of global warming (that’s where “anthropogenic” comes in) so as to continue maximizing their profits by destroying the environment, are all now public knowledge.

– Therefore, it is inevitable that the public will increasingly point the accusatory finger at the oil companies (for CO2 pollution fueling global warming) and plastic producers (for ocean and biodiversity destruction) in the form of class action lawsuits. The evidence of guilt is overwhelming; there is no exculpatory evidence. The only way that future corporate defendants would be able to secure favorable judgements once they have been harpooned by such lawsuits would be to advance payments now into insurance policies known as campaigns to install as many corporate-friendly judges into the higher echelons of the corporate-friendly U.S. judiciary as possible, and as soon as possible. This is how to buy judges legally in the United States, where “justice” is a commodity.

– And that is what the frenzy to install Amy Coney Barrett into the Supreme Court was all about. Her daddy was an oil exec, so she’s part of the family of the petrocorp ancien régime. Her religious fundamentalism is incidental to the corporatocracy (though it’s a great distraction for the hoi poloi); it’s all about the money.

+ Reporter: “What do you say to Philadelphia residents that are outraged by yet another unarmed Black man being shot by police?”
+ Biden: “What I say is that there is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence.”

– Except by the PFKHP supremacist U.S. military abroad, and occupation troops (a.k.a. ‘police’) domestically. It used to be called “manifest destiny,” now it’s called “exceptionalism.” What the ancien régime fears most is having its own tactics used against it, and its various euphemistic expressions of that fear, as given by Biden here, are its most forthright admissions of guilt.

+ It’s become a fixture of American political culture where those who later apologize for being wrong about a disastrous policy (regardless of the body count) are given more attention and credibility than those who made the right call from the beginning.

– This is because such heartwarming forgiveness is dispensed by the U.S. mass media, which in aggregate is the privatized propaganda ministry that touts disastrous-for-the-public corporate-friendly government policies with alacrity. These are sinners forgiving their own sins, which the public had to become impoverished and bleed and die to underwrite (as in the 2008 financial meltdown, and Vietnam and Iraq Wars).

+ In the last two years, Trump’s Department of Energy has blocked the release of more than 40 reports on renewable energy: “They just go into a black hole.”

– The U.S. Department of Energy is a government agency for the maintenance of U.S. nuclear weapons capability, infrastructure and production. Anything else they may do is auxiliary. While there is much more that the US DOE could do to further renewable energy (I know, I used to work for them through a contractor, and my renewable energy reports just ended up on my blog), that is not a concern of the petrocorp ancien régime that owns the government.

– It may help to remember that John Jay, an author of the Federalist Papers and the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was fond of saying: “The people who own the country should run it.” By “people” Jay meant wealthy merchants and slave-owners like himself. This is what the Supreme Court has always been about (with the exception of a few deviations by people like William O. Douglas, Thurgood Marshall and surprisingly by Earl Warren): the defense of property against democracy.

+ The Arctic’s giant methane deposits are beginning to leak their climate-wrecking fumes. Adjust your doomsday clock accordingly.

+ A worst-case climate scenario could produce almost $500 trillion in damages—about twice all the wealth in the world today. A best case still inflicts about $30 trillion in damage, a new study in Nature estimates, with intermediate scenarios between $69 trillion and $131 trillion.

+ According to a post-debate Morning Consult poll, only 28% voters oppose transitioning away from the oil industry. 52% of independents support transitioning away, and even 41% of Republicans.

– The exploding magnitude of the problem of global warming is only matched by the degree of reluctance by politically organized human society to reformulate its civilization into balance with Nature, and thus into harmony with the continuation of biodiverse Life-On-Earth. The mental inertia behind our non-action is from the static self-images many people have of themselves (‘I have to keep living and working this way because I can’t imagine otherwise’), and from our near-universal fetishizing of money.

– “The economy” is an artifice that can be constructed any way “we” want — so people could easily be made more important than profits — and money is just a token that is easily printed on government paper, and is now even generated as electrons vibrating in computer memory circuits. It doesn’t matter how much “money” it costs to formulate a decent society in harmony with Nature; money is shit, and shit is fertilizer.

+ Trump’s war on wolves just went nuclear…
+ The decision to remove the protections for gray wolves across all 48 states is going to have lethal consequences in Wisconsin, where the state’s “wolf hunt” will be immediately reopened.

– What it really is, deep down, it is the pleasure of inflicting cruelty on the helpless by terrified weaklings.

+ Ned Norris Jr., Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, on the border wall’s desecration of Indigenous sacred sites: “As Americans, we all should be horrified that the Federal Government has so little respect for our religious and cultural values.”

– It’s all about the money; it is the pleasure of inflicting cruelty on the helpless by terrified weaklings; it is so much easier to maintain ignorance and prejudices that way; it is a reaction to the increasing fear of demographic dilution and the puncturing of the political bubble of PFKHP patriarchal control; it is manifest destiny and exceptionalism; it is the fearful wrath of the American money-constipated ancien régime.

– Capitalism must die for the world to live.

[1] https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/10/30/roaming-charges-high-anxiety/

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On Voting U.S.A. 2020

Many Americans are confused, conflicted and concerned about how and for whom they should vote by 3 November 2020. I say “by” because we all have the option to vote by mail, even though that option is imperiled in much of the country by campaigns of voter suppression and mail tampering by the crooks, criminals, cranks, crack-pots, conspirators, conspiracists, con-men and con-molls of the Trump mind-pithed death-cult.

The United States is not a country of overwhelmingly democratic sentiment. It was, after all, founded by a propertied and slave-owning White Male grande bourgeoisie resistant to colonial taxes imposed by 18th century Imperialist England; and it has resisted every popular social movement since to expand the franchise to life, liberty, prosperity, equality under the law, freedom of self-expression, and participation in democratic governance.

It is a country with the most propagandized population on the face of the Earth, ruled by a corporate-owned political class of mediocrities whose worship of power reveal their deepest instincts to be authoritarian, materialistic, careerist, sexist, white supremacist, and xenophobic. As a result, the “right to vote” is a precious commodity however unevenly it may be available and however tenuously it may affect the course of governance in favor of the public good.

The way for a citizenry to safeguard and expand any right they have been granted by their government is to use it massively, often and vigorously, even when the expectation of its transformative power is low. Today, the single best possibility for approaching a socialist-inspired revolution in the United States would be the overwhelming participation in knowledgeable voting by young Americans; those between the ages of 18 and 44, and most particularly those between the ages of 18 and 30. They should “all” register to vote, learn the realities about the available candidates, and vote carefully — not lackadaisically — at every opportunity available to them, so as to advance their interests which are uniformly: anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-discriminatory, anti-sexist; and socialist, environmentalist, responsive to the global warming climate crisis, and thus most widely beneficial to the overall public good.

The 24% of Americans below the age of 18 are ineligible to vote. Of the older, eligible 76%:

– 16.78% are between 18 and 30 years old,

– 19.82% are between 30 and 44 years old,

– 26.4% are between 44 and 65 years old,

– 13% are 65 years or older (to ~100 years).

Thus, people 18 to 44 years old make up 36.6% of the population, while people 44 years and older make up 39.4% of the population. [1], [2]

U.S. Demographics 2010-2018

Older people are generally more conservative (reactionary) and consistent voters, while younger ones are generally more progressive — but unfortunately for themselves — less consistent, less informed and more lackadaisical voters.

What young Americans need to do in their own economic, political and social interests is to massively, knowledgeably and consistently vote despite having realistically low expectations of any rapid and significant socialist improvements resulting from any given U.S. election. Persistence is required for this “water on stone” process of national transformation.

Youthful outbursts of violent and destructive frustration in reaction to the intransigence of the status quo will be quickly quenched by far superior government firepower (applied with far lower moral restraint); and youthful surrender by escapism into sensory bubbles will simply mire them more deeply in the control and exploitation mechanisms of the ageist ‘corporatocracy’ managing national affairs.

What youth has on its side electorally is numbers, and a commonality of shared dreams and prospects which are being grossly abused by the status quo. The median age of the U.S. population is 38 years. There are as many eligible voters under the age of 46 (38% of the population) as over the age of 45 (38% of the population).

If young Americans can coalesce on a generalized socialist vision and stick with it even as they age, and they persist in applying that vision through their social practices and through the legal yet highly flawed mechanisms of voting in the United States, they would be able to shift the direction of all national policies.

It is important to remember that not all older voters are reactionaries, many of us still retain the dreams and visions of our glory days even if we appear to be feeble wrecks incapable of implementing anything. So the central cohesive element needed for a socialist transformation of the U.S. political economy is a strong popular and continuing socialist mindset — and thus allied progressive civic movements — among America’s young people.

The difficulty in sustaining such a socialist youth movement today is the obvious disincentive given by the nearly-guaranteed piss-poor results of U.S. electoral politics. We all know this is civic failure by design to maintain corporate-funded political corruption administered by careerist mediocrities. Rooting out that cancer will take a long time, perhaps an eternity (that is to say till human extinction). But offering it no resistance would be the ignominious suicide of human decency and our public moral character; and such resistance must necessarily be a multi-generational effort.

So I say vote we must even though it stinks. Offering American youth incentives of utopian hopes as likely outcomes from electoral “victories” in November of 2020, is dishonest. What is honest is telling them to be steeled by Raymond Aron’s observation that: the choice in politics is never between good and evil, but between the preferable and the detestable. Most of the time in U.S. elections we are not offered the opportunity to choose what and who we really want, we are only offered a very constrained set of options that range from the truly detestable to the relatively preferable.

What I see as the greatest failure of civic insight among American voters is them being overwhelmingly identity voters. Most people vote for reflections of themselves — really for reflections of their self-illusions — instead of for “imperfect” candidates of integrity committed to policies aimed at the overall public good. Identity politics is the greatest propaganda coup ever perpetrated on the American public by the American capitalist ‘corporatocracy.’

The drumbeat to vote for who looks like you and sounds like you and feels like you, or like your avuncular uncle, or like your wise and feisty aunt — without a thought as to who actually owns these candidates or what they are financially obligated to actually do and not do once elected — is unrelenting and earsplitting. Just turn on your TVs and computer mass-media streams and you get inundated by that propaganda.

The second greatest failure I see among progressive American voters is the inability of many of them — by their unwillingness — to be pragmatic when it comes to voting. Voting is a gross, slow, cumbersome and inaccurate tool for social change and improvement. It entirely lacks the sharp rapid elegance of a skillfully deployed scalpel (and the political equivalents of scalpels are bloody revolutions, which are more often tragic catastrophes), and it lacks the sustained political pressure of continuing mass movements.

Yes, it is easily possible to have a very far advanced socialist ideal in mind when voting, but no your co-visionary utopian political aspirants and microscopic political parties have no statistically significant probability of gaining any political power. So voting “for them” is purely an act of politically ineffectual egoism: you voted for your self-image. You will feel good about it, and that’s all. Voting for the country means getting over yourself. This is a major hurdle among people indoctrinated since infancy to mindless selfishness — and individualistic “exceptionalism” — by mass media in the service of your exploitative capitalist overlords.

In 2020, Americans have a civic duty and moral obligation to dethrone the Trump and Republican malignancy. Doing so will not immediately usher in a New Socialist Millennium, nor a United Federation of Planets, not any scintillating utopian fantasy of fully enlightened government. It will just be a necessary first step to a long, long projected recovery of political decency in this country. To accomplish that step — and the many needed after it — we have to accept reality, defy the propaganda, get over ourselves, persist in our socialist mass movements acting for political reform and the good of all, and persist in our voting despite its many deficiencies.

So far as I can tell, for the first time in its 208 year history The New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals as well as the oldest continuously published one, has editorialized to endorse an electoral choice in a U.S. election: vote Trump and his partisans out. [3]

They begin that editorial with:

“Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”

The list of particulars that follows from this point in the NEJM indictment of the Trump Administration and its allied state government partisans is clear and damning (more than 200,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, a number equivalent to half the American fatalities in World War II); after which they conclude with the following:

“Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”

To my mind, this should be the central focus of our pragmatic voting in 2020. It’s not about “you,” it’s about “us.”

Given human nature, there will always be new generations of fascists, bigots, religious fanatics, capitalists, careerists, exploiters, would-be slavers and criminals in American political life. So there can never be an enduring final victory of political good over political evil. To socialize a capitalist society, especially one as militarized, regressive and imperialistic as that of the United States, would take much more than just voting. The effort to advance American societal decency must necessarily be a continuing process of indeterminate duration.

Our utopian socialist visions should be used as compass needles to point our efforts past ourselves and in the direction our grudgingly pragmatic and personally imperfect steps should take on the way to that far horizon of our aspirations.

I have already mailed in my ballot. I wish more of my choices could have been reflections of how I like to think of myself, but “you can’t always get what you want.” [4]

NOTES

[1] Demographics of the United States
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States

[2] Population of the United States (2020 and historical)
https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/

[3] Dying in a Leadership Vacuum
The New England Journal of Medicine
8 October2020
https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2029812

[4] You Can’t Always Get What You Want
https://youtu.be/krxU5Y9lCS8

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I Rebel, Therefore We Exist, 2019

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I Rebel, Therefore We Exist, 2019

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke of her origins and family today (19 October 2019), I remembered my own story because they are so similar. My mother, too, is a lovely Puertorriqueña; I too was born in the Boogie-Town island stolen from the American Indians (Manhattan); we too lived in Parkchester, in the Bronx, in a basement apartment (concrete floor, concrete walls, tiny windows at the top at shoe-level to the sidewalk); I too have felt the glass ceiling pushing me down (my whole career), along with other melanin-rich talent.

My rebellion was never as brilliantly insightful nor as spectacularly successful as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, but it still goes on in my own idiosyncratic and annoying way (my unpopularity is deserved, and I’m proud of it). So I can easily bypass the cynicism and miffed sense of superiority of the self-regarding left intelligentsia who are so obviously jealous of the genuine popularity — and political effectiveness — of Alexandria and Bernie.

I can relish the first possibility for a real change in American politics, economics and life that I’ve seen since my heart sank on November 8, 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected president, defeating Jimmy Carter, and since December 8, 1980, when John Lennon was murdered and Ronald Reagan went on the air to defend guns and the NRA. It was so clear America was plunging into an abyss as blithely and stupidly as the British, French and Germans marched into World War I in 1914; and America has in every way, hasn’t it?

Maybe now, 39 years later, enough people have been hurt by the institutionalized criminality of the American political economy that many of the survivors of those times — the workers, not the parasites — and our new, younger generations are really ready to join up and actually create a successful revolution. I have no shame in appearing to be “utopian” or “dreamy” or “immature” or “foolish” or “naïve” in holding and vocally proclaiming such a hope and such a wish. Bernie’s got 9 years on me, so I’ve seen almost as much as he has of 20th and 21st century American and world history; and I know what can be because it already was once, I lived in it. And I want the best of the past for my three children (two older than AOC). And for their children if they have them, and for everybody’s children, and all children everywhere.

I want the thieves robbing today’s youth of their futures — as they rob and have robbed their wage-slave parents and grandparents — along with the unctuous slimy hypocritical bottom-feeding careerist political ass-kissers (you see them daily on TV) — who tell you a decent life for you is impossible, or costs too much, and who pimp justice to claw their way to the top — to rot in a hell for them where they are discarded, ignored, profitless and robustly taxed: a new American society that is socialist, and democratic, and universally just, and enthusiastically ethical and intelligent.

Vision must precede any reality that one wants to realize, and so in these times don’t repress your vision out of fear of the future or (worse yet) fear of your public image being ridiculed. Let your vision be grand, let it soar, because we want that vision to take us as far as the yet unknown political opportunities of the next year may allow us to go. Don’t be so fearful of being disappointed by the “imperfections” of whatever the political outcome is in 2020 and beyond, that you repress your thinking and emotions in favor of the entirely possible “impossible dream” that Bernie Sanders (above all others) has articulated to the nation.

The “revolution,” as Bernie calls it, will never be perfect, no revolution ever is, but that is not the point. The goal is to get as much revolution as American politics, physical reality, and the inherent chaos of the universe will allow the American people, united in both uplifting aspiration and just purpose, to achieve. And not just in 2020, but continually from this moment on.

So, again, I don’t care how foolish I look or sound. Over my life I’ve seen too much lying, betrayal and exploitation palmed off as “the way things must be,” and I also know the opportunity of a lifetime when I see it. We blew it in 2016, but by now it should be obvious to everybody that a tsunami of change must drown the cold dead vampire of American capitalism, beginning with the ballot boxes on November 3, 2020, and then continuing far beyond electoral politics into every aspect of American society and American life.

So go ahead, be “foolish,” have a dream, have vision, pump out the vibes, because every revolution is powered by a unity of human aspirations, and every advance of civilization occurs as a jolt along the fault-lines of human society: by revolution. “I rebel, therefore we exist.” (Thank you, Albert Camus.)

Videos of Bernie and AOC, 19 October 2019

“Bernie’s Back” Rally with AOC in New York
19 October 2019
[complete speeches by all, at the rally today]
1:31:50 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
1:51:10 AOC ->to-> Bernie
2:52:04 end of Bernie’s speech.
https://youtu.be/0HbS65oiN18

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Endorses Bernie For President
19 October 2019
[Solo studio video appearance, 3:05]
https://youtu.be/DDGf39NkZe0

AOC’s Bernie Endorsement: HIGHLIGHTS
[Excerpts of AOC’s address at the 19 Oct. 2019 rally, 5:54]
https://youtu.be/QW-Nx1g8EpI

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Through My Lens, Clearly

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Through My Lens, Clearly

For me, the 1950s ended in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the 1960s began in 1959 with the Cuban Revolution. I remember the elation in my family, in New York City’s Upper West Side (136th Street, and Broadway), when the Batista Regime in Cuba collapsed in January 1959; and I remember our dumbstruck terror in October 1962, listening to President John Kennedy speaking on our black-and-white TV, wondering if my grandparents would be radioactively incinerated in Havana before we were similarly dematerialized in New York City, or vice versa.

That is how my political consciousness was born; its coming-of-age and definitive molding was done later by the Vietnam War, and the many insistent demands by my government that I sacrifice myself to it. I escaped by dumb luck, for which I am eternally grateful. With the particular curvature and polish of my own idiosyncratic lens for political consciousness, I have come to resolve images of our collective reality that I sometimes feel a need to project, as here today.

People can’t be changed, they either evolve on their own, or they persist as they are to the death. The best you can do, for the rare few, is tell them the truth if they ask.

We live in a world rich in its diversity of intolerance of independent thought and self-directed living. Expressions of personal independence and creativity are threats to the slavish conformity of the mass of fearful repressed people hiding in their submissiveness to traditional ideologies that give them status in social hierarchies that limit the full human potential of the individual. This maintains, without merit, the elevation of patriarchs and power-hungry mediocrities who clip the wings of the human spirit and direct the enforcement of their systems of mental and physical imprisonment of the masses serving them.

Bigotry is popular because it makes stupid people feel intelligent, and weak people feel strong. President (sic!) Donald Trump’s popularity rests on people’s desire to be bigoted and respected for it. Bigotry will exist as long as there are ignorant people who are fearful. Such bigoted people love fascism because under it they can stay bigoted and be proud of it. Fascist bigots, like Trump, don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want to be made to feel ashamed. That is why publicly recognized fascist power-seekers always try to silence their critics: first by ignoring them, then by ridiculing them, then by judicial attacks against them, or by veiled calls to their followers to sprout proxies who will make illegal attacks on their critics, and ultimately if they gain dictatorial power they have their critics killed.

Evangelical Christianity is a cult of fear, and for its men also a cult of patriarchy. Politically, it is irrational Republicanism; socially, it is white supremacy and the subjugation of women. Why do such Republican women remain Republican? Because their bigotry, which is fear, is so embedded that it overpowers their self-respect, which is courage. Evangelical Christianity sees Islam as its reflection and its rival, which is why it hates Islam. In practice, their religion is a hate crime. Heraclitus was so perceptive to write, in about 500 BC, that “bigotry is the disease of the religious.”

The problem of race bigotry in America is like the problem of climate change. It is of our making, and we know how to fix it, but we never will. People are too invested in their ignorance for that to ever happen, and afraid if they let it go they will be weak in a changed world.

Arresting climate change would require the universal application of human intelligence, indiscriminate compassion, worldwide solidarity instead of personal selfishness, and thoughtful discipline instead of thoughtless waste. We are doomed. Climate Change is only a problem for the young, bequeathed to them by the old, who won’t notice it anyway because they’re comfortably done, and will be gone soon (geologically speaking).

I probably should not bother writing about the Climate Change Crisis anymore. Everyone everywhere now knows that it is real, and most have felt its first unpleasant effects. So, some Green Energy actions will now happen in response, probably too few, too weak and too late, but at least a start now that the Global Mind has opened to the truth.

Also, I really don’t need to write any more Jeremiads against Republican Party partisans (there are plenty of others to do that nicely), because it is now obvious to everyone everywhere — even the U.S. corporate media (though it puckers their sphincters to mouth it) — that the Republican Party is just a fascist conspiracy to eliminate democracy in the United States of America, and replace it with an authoritarian corporatized xenophobic bigoted Fundamentalist Christian White Supremacy theocratic oligarchy, to drive us all expeditiously to extinction under their self-satisfied obsessively avaricious command. Thieves lie, and liars steal. For them, it is better for humanity to die out badly than for the stupid, bigoted and greedy to be bypassed. Capitalism is fossil-fueled greed with a total lack of imagination, and a bodacious military. Capitalism is the ideology of parasites.

Who built the United States of America into the richest country in world history?: enslaved and exterminated Native Americans, enslaved Africans, dispossessed Mexicans, and exploited European and Asian immigrant laborers. Who produces American wealth today?: the wage-slave descendants of all of these, who only gain a pittance from their harvested labors. What salve are these squeezed working people given for the bruising sacrifices they make of their humanity into the endlessly grinding engines of obsessive greed?: a patriotism deficient in human solidarity but voracious for taxes. But, don’t think of it as taxes, think of it as tithing to the War Religion.

So in my lens’s focus today I find the following: For the world: Capitalism must die for the World to live. For my country: Tribalism is America’s fatal flaw. Resentment, envy and a fanatical sense of entitlement are its corrosive agents. A generational overturning led by socialist youth is its only hope. For myself and every other person: It’s not what happens to you that determines whether you are a success or failure at life, but how you deal with it. As Thucydides quoted Pericles: “Honor is the only thing that does not grow old.”

And now, back to the bread and circuses.

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Happy 200th, Herman!

Herman Melville, 1870

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Happy 200th, Herman!

The first of August 2019 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Herman Melville, author of Moby-Dick or, the Whale (1851), as well as numerous other novels, short stories and much poetry.

Because of the depth of his thought as well as the range of his invention, Herman Melville (1 August 1819 – 28 September 1891) remains America’s greatest writer of literary fiction, and also one of its superior poets. I consider Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910) the quintessential American novelist because his masterwork, the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), is such an exquisite encapsulation of anti-slavery and anti-bigotry moral principle within a widely popular coming-of-age boy’s adventure story. But Melville is America’s deepest literary artist, his novels are metaphors for long-running threads of reality entwined as the American experience.

While Mark Twain’s facile humor and droll prose made him very popular with his 19th century audiences — both through publications and with live appearances — Herman Melville remained largely neglected during the last forty years of his life, by a reading public that was alienated by the complexity of his art. That complexity resulted from the combination of his literary sophistication, strongly influenced by the poetic language and moral insights of both William Shakespeare and the King James Bible; his personal philosophical thought as the fundamental source for his writing; his morally enlightened (non-racist) attitude about the world’s people; and the wit of his continuing critique, embedded in his fiction, of Americans’ myopic for-profit utilitarianism and obsessive hucksterism and con-artistry, which continues to this very day.

Herman Melville, 1860

I am no amateur scholar of Herman Melville and his literature, nor do I pretend to be. I am just one of millions of readers who since 1851 have been entranced by Melville’s masterpiece, Moby-Dick. I have read this book at least three times since 1961. With each reading I was older, more experienced, and was able to gain more insight about and appreciation for the literary use of the American language, and 19th America, out of the richness of Melville’s prose. I used the image of Captain Ahab’s monomaniacal and fatal obsession to hunt down and kill the white whale Moby Dick, in a recent article of my own, as a metaphor for humanity’s current obsession to continue racing with its self-destructive fossil-fueled capitalism, which is the profligate source of greenhouse gas emissions causing anthropogenic global warming climate change.

Many readers today would find Melville prolix, abstruse, convoluted, and with a confounding multifarious vocabulary. This obviates Melville’s work from achieving instant contemporary mass pop-appeal. However, that prolixity, abstruseness, convolution and wide-spectrum vocabulary we grumble about now could reflect the devolution of Americans’ thought processes and language from a measured 19th century pacing of consideration to a hurried jittery 21st century attention-deficit superficiality: the shorn American language of today, our no-brainer “New Speak.”

Herman Melville, 1861

Herman Melville gained popular success as an author with his initial novel Typee (1846), a romantic account of his experiences of Polynesian life, gathered during his time as a whaler and seaman in the South Pacific between early 1841 and late 1844. Typee was followed by a sequel, Omoo (1847), which was also successful and paid him enough to marry and start a family. His first novel not based on his own experiences, Mardi (1849), was not well received. His next fictional work, Redburn (1849), and his non-fiction White-Jacket (1850) were given better reviews but did not provide financial security. (1)

Moby-Dick (1851), although now considered one of the great American novels, was not well received among contemporary critics. His psychological novel, Pierre: or, The Ambiguities (1852) was also scorned by reviewers. From 1853 to 1856, Melville published short fiction in magazines which were collected in 1856 as The Piazza Tales. In 1857, he traveled to England and then toured the Near East. The Confidence-Man (1857) was the last prose work that he published. He moved to New York to take a position as Customs Inspector and turned to poetry. Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866) was his poetic reflection on the moral questions of the American Civil War. (1)

In 1867, his oldest child Malcolm died at home from a self-inflicted gunshot. Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land was published in 1876, a metaphysical epic. In 1886, his son Stanwix died of apparent tuberculosis, and Melville retired. During his last years, he privately published two volumes of poetry, left one volume unpublished, and returned to prose of the sea. The novella Billy Budd was left unfinished at his death but was published posthumously in 1924. Melville died from cardiovascular disease in 1891. The 1919 centennial of his birth became the starting point of the “Melville Revival” with critics rediscovering his work and his major novels starting to become recognized as world classics of prominent importance to contemporary world literature. (1)

Most of Melville’s works can now be found on-line. (2)

Herman Melville, 1868

A most interesting and knowledgable commentator on Herman Melville’s works is Louis Proyect, both because of his familiarity with Melville’s texts, and because of his discussions of how Melville’s themes are critically reflected in the social contexts of both the 19th century and today, and of how Melville’s anti-racist attitudes contrasted favorably with the “utilitarian” consensus of his times, and even ours. (3), (4), (5).

To end this commemoration of Herman Melville and his literature, on the occasion of his 200th birthday, I borrow the following paragraphs from Louis Proyect (3). Mark well what ye read here, for we need slake our forgetfulness and remember this conviction today.

Melville’s Redburn is one of his lesser-known books, but it comes as close to a conscious expression of the world we are trying to build as will be found in all of his works. He writes:

There is something in the contemplation of the mode in which America has been settled that, in a noble breast, would forever extinguish the prejudices of national dislikes. Settled by the people of all nations, all nations may claim her for their own. You cannot spill a drop of American blood without spilling the blood of the whole world. . .Our blood is as the flood of the Amazon, made of a thousand noble currents all pouring into one. We are not a nation, so much as a world. . .Our ancestry is lost in the universal pageantry; and Caesar and Alfred, St. Paul and Luther, and Homer and Shakespeare are as much ours as Washington, who is as much the world’s as our own. We are the heirs of all time, and with all nations we divide our inheritance. On this Western Hemisphere all tribes and peoples are forming into one federated whole; and there is a future which shall see the estranged children of Adam restored as to the old hearthstone in Eden.

Herman Melville, 1885

Notes

(1) Herman Melville
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Melville

All images of Herman Melville here are from Wikipedia.

(2) The Life and Works of Herman Melville
http://www.melville.org/

(3) Deconstructing cannibalism
5 January 2016
https://louisproyect.org/2016/01/05/deconstructing-cannibalism/

includes Louis Proyect’s articles:

Shakespeare’s Tempest and the American Indian
6 December 1998

Herman Melville’s Typee: a Peep at Polynesian Life
18 October 2004

(4) The Confidence Man
23 December 2013
https://louisproyect.org/2013/12/23/the-confidence-man/

(5) Herman Melville and indigenous peoples
16 February 2008
https://louisproyect.org/2008/02/16/herman-melville-and-indigenous-peoples/

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F. Scott Fitzgerald and Lost American Lyricism

 

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F. Scott Fitzgerald and Lost American Lyricism

For me, the American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was an English Romantic Poet like John Keats (1795-1821), who experienced during his college years — that pivotal time of transition from youth to adulthood — the shock of World War I destroying the Belle Époque and unleashing the blaring, crass, destructive, frenzied and wasteful Youth Quake sociological explosion known as the Roaring Twenties, when the prewar Gilded Age was resuscitated — to eventually reach its apotheosis in Trumpian America — during the postwar prosperity of a hypocritically repressed Prohibition America that was an economic bubble flinging open the starting gates to the modernization of American manners, morals, rhythms, fantasies and expectations, and whose totality we have all experienced as the 20th Century, which we can date as the zeitgeist from 1919 to 2019.

The zeitgeist now is of self-evident global warming climate change, openly acknowledged by all except intransigent ultra wealthy buffoons clinging to their hoards and their pathetically transparent propaganda intended to ward off just taxation.

Fitzgerald was a literary artist, a lyrical romanticist who became the hip young voice of the 1920s outburst because he was able to apply his 19th century mindset and literary facility to articulate — as deep psychological insights of general applicability — his personal youthful experiences and observations of transiting through the World War I cultural shock wave thrusting his generation into the manic modernity of a vastly industrialized, depersonalized and entertainment-obsessed America.

It was because Fitzgerald’s conceptions had been formed in a previous social paradigm that he had a basis from which to objectively evaluate the new psycho-social realities of the 1920s. Younger and less alert people, whose entire awareness of social life awakened during the 1920s, lacked such a contrasting mental framework because they were blindingly immersed in, and distracted and buffeted by their times. Fitzgerald was young enough to be completely hip to and synchronized with the 1920s, but not too young to be unable to understand where the 1920s had emerged from, how they were different from the prewar past, and how they were experienced as matters of personal and societal character.

Fitzgerald, along with his older English contemporary W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), have given me the deepest psychological insights into women as men experience them, and into personal character as it expresses itself through interpersonal relationships, especially between the sexes.

A similar transition of American life occurred forty to fifty years later when the Vietnam War shattered the stability and stasis of 1950s America, from which erupted the cultural efflorescence and political turmoil of the late 1960s, which like the late 1920s burned off the general prosperity that had been accumulated during the economic boom hot-housed during the preceding period of victorious peace.

Culturally alert writers of the 1960s included Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007), Joseph Heller (1923-1999), Malcolm X (1925-1965) with Alex Haley (1921-1992), and Tennessee Williams (1911-1983). These writers were as different from F. Scott Fitzgerald as he was from Mark Twain (1835-1910), and none of these others matched Fitzgerald for lyricism, except for a memorable passage in Twain’s Huckleberry Finn — on the Mississippi River in early morning — and the calmly eloquent and reflective moments in Tennessee Williams’ dramas.

Fitzgerald was 14 when Twain died, and when Fitzgerald died at age 44 in 1940: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was 18, Joseph Heller was 17, Malcolm X was 15, Alex Haley was 19, and Tennessee Williams was 29. W. Somerset Maugham was 22 when F. Scott Fitzgerald was born, 36 when Mark Twain died, and 66 when F. Scott Fitzgerald died.

Twain’s war shocks were the American Civil War (1860-1865) and the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), while Vonnegut’s and Heller’s were World War II (1941-1945), primarily, and also the Korean War (1950-1953, for the hot war) and the Vietnam War (1954-1975, for the American phase).

Fitzgerald’s life was so timed that during the third decade of his life — and prime adult years — he also experienced the societal shock of the Crash of 1929 and its immediate aftermath, the Great Depression (1929-1942), when the outlandish and dissipative prosperity of 1920s capitalism collapsed into the socio-economic wreckage of the 1930s, with his own personal circumstances tumbling into ruins along with the times.

I find Fitzgerald’s keen insights on personal motivations and character, and on interpersonal relationships, to be far superior to those of both earlier and later American writers because of how his English Romantic Poetic frame of mind processed his experiences with youthful success and the allurements of fame while confronting the postwar shock of the new in the 1920s, followed by the collapse of illusions with the loss of wealth and social status in the 1930s, and all of that filtered through his intense emotions pulsing out of his marriage to and care for Zelda Sayre, his socially advanced and schizophrenic wife, and mother of his only child.

I can see why Fitzgeraldian lyricism was stripped out of American writing in reaction to the serial disappointments of the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the sterility of the Tailfin ’50s, and the Vietnam War, and why Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) and imitators of his arid style became popular to this day, given the post World War II re-acceleration of life’s American rhythm, and the relentless commercially driven dumbing down of the American mind.

The loss of lyricism from American literary fiction, since that of F. Scott Fitzgerald, is not a sign of its increased artistry and insight, but of the opposite.

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“Fifty-Year” Look Back At Lived History, 1963-2013

This essay is a summary of U.S. history, which I lived through from 1963 to 2013 (primarily during the 1960s and 1970s). This essay is simply a combination of two of my items published by Swans (now gone) in 2013. I wrote them for the benefit of younger people. In writing these essays, I did make an effort (research) to verify my statements of fact. I am posting this compendium here because 2018 is the half-century mark after 1968, which I consider the most consequential year in U.S. history since 1945.

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013, Part I: 1963-1968
18 November 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci75.html

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013, Part II: 1968-2013
2 December 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci76.html

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“Fifty-Year” Look Back At Lived History, 1963-2013
(Part I, 1963-1968)

(November 18, 2013)   November 22, 2013, is the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of US president John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We can expect many commentaries on, remembrances of, and uses and misuses made of this anniversary during this month of November. My contribution to that chatter is this look back at the last fifty years in American history, from my personal perspective. I make no claims of scholarship, inclusiveness, balance, or attitudinal and interpretive “correctness,” only that the following characterizes how I remember what I’ve chosen to focus on with respect to the “big picture” of American history that I have lived through.

Before 1963

The America of November 1963 was a country that had seen the collapse of European colonialism in Asia and Africa during the post World War II period of 1945-1960. America’s own imperialistic Monroe Doctrine presumptuousness was sorely tried by the Cuban Revolution of 1959, which openly declared itself communist in 1961. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 had brought the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Russia) dangerously close to nuclear war, but was fortunately defused, and subsequent diplomacy led to a treaty limiting nuclear weapons testing.

There had been about 100 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, primarily by the U.S. and the USSR, during the period 1951-1956 (there had been about 9 between 1945 and 1950). The annual number of nuclear tests jumped to over 40 in 1957, and over 100 in 1958. There was a voluntary halt to testing during 1959-1960 (except for a few tests by France) in response to public fears about the radioactive fallout contamination of the milk supply. The peace symbol, which is now an icon of our culture, was designed by Gerald Holtom in 1958, and first popularized as a badge by Eric Austen, both nuclear disarmament advocates in Britain. In 1961 — John Kennedy’s first year as US president — the USSR launched a major series of over 30 nuclear tests, and the U.S. mounted about half that number. This weapons race accelerated wildly to a frenzied peak in 1962, with 140 tests performed (over 90 for the U.S. and nearly 40 for the USSR). Except for 1958 and 1962, there have never been more than about 90 nuclear tests in any year (and from 1971 usually under 60), and only very few since 1992, the last year of US testing (post 1992 testing has been by France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea). The numbers I quote for nuclear tests in a given year are read off a chart and rounded. (1)

The environmental movement was born on September 27, 1962, with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, on the ecological devastation caused by pesticide pollution.

In 1963

The negotiations initiated in October 1962 to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis blossomed into the crafting of, signing (August 5, 1963), US ratification (September 24, 1963), and implementation (October 10, 1963) of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which banned nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.

The Civil Rights (anti-apartheid or anti-segregation) movement for black Americans had been very vigorous in the southern U.S. from the beginning of John Kennedy’s presidency in 1961. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream speech” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.

From 1961, John Kennedy had sent US military advisors to aid the anti-communist Ngô Ðình Diêm regime of South Vietnam in its fight against a communist insurgency (the will of the peasantry) allied with communist North Vietnam. By late 1962, there were 12,000 US soldiers in South Vietnam. Disappointed with Diem as an anti-communist unifier for North and South Vietnam, Kennedy approved a CIA program to aid Diem’s generals in a coup to produce new leadership, which occurred on November 2, 1963, with the deposed Diem summarily executed.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a disaffected American seeking glorious recognition as a leftist hero, acted as a freelancing James Bond (the world’s favorite fictional Tory) to impress the Dirección General de Inteligencia de Cuba (DGI, the Cuban intelligence service) by assassinating President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The DGI had been locked in a battle with the CIA to keep Fidel Castro from being assassinated, a project pushed hard by the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert. Lyndon Baines Johnson, John Kennedy’s successor, stopped the CIA’s Fidel assassination program shortly after taking office. The Soviet Russian intelligence service (KGB) had found Oswald too unstable to rely on as an agent, and happily let him return to America from his self-imposed exile in Russia (October 1959 to June 1962). The DGI had the difficulty of being a much less powerful organization situated far closer to its small nation’s overwhelmingly superior enemy. Thus, the DGI unlike the KGB might be willing to exploit the improvisations of a volunteer useful idiot. Oswald spent the last week of September 1963 in Mexico City, visiting the Cuban and Russian consulates seeking a visa to travel to Cuba, and as a consequence met DGI agents. The DGI was too professional to compromise itself by inducting a delusional American outcast into its ranks, but the DGI seems to have been either gutsy enough or desperate enough to allow Oswald to imagine he would be welcomed in Cuba should he accomplish something of significant value for the Cuban Revolution. Oswald returned to Dallas on October 14, 1963. (2)

During 1964-1968

1964:

The Beatles conquer America by capturing the hearts of its teenage girls. We boys had no choice but to follow.

Lyndon Baines Johnson wins a landslide electoral victory over conservative Republican Barry Goldwater (Au-H2O), who had said in his nomination acceptance speech, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” The Johnson campaign exploited Goldwater’s strident public image with the most explosive political advertisement ever devised, the famous Daisy commercial. (3)

The Johnson administration bequeathed America the national tragedy experienced as the Vietnam War (between 1964 to 1968, after which the Republican administration continued it till 1975), but also the towering civil rights triumphs codified by three laws:

– Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin by federal and state governments as well as some public places.

– Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits states and local governments from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

– Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, creed, and national origin.

1965:

Unsafe At Any Speed, Ralph Nader’s book about deficiencies of automotive design as regards passenger safety, launches the consumer product safety movement.

President Lyndon Johnson sends American troops into South Vietnam; by July there are 75,000. On July 28, Johnson announces he is increasing the troop level to 125,000 and doubling the monthly draft calls (from 17,000 to 35,000). A gradual and sustained aerial bombardment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), Operation Rolling Thunder, had begun on March 2, 1965, and would continue until November 2, 1968.

1967:

Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) valves, which are simple pollution control devices, are mandated for internal combustion engines. This was the first regulation for automobile exhaust pollution control. Since Silent Spring in 1962, numerous concerns had combined into a broad environmental movement: the flooding of Glen Canyon on the Colorado River in 1963 behind the new Glen Canyon Dam, the logging of old growth redwood trees, air pollution — smog — caused by auto and truck exhaust gases, river and coastal pollution from industrial and farm wastes, and the danger of ecological damage by oil spills from offshore drilling platforms, which infamously occurred at Santa Barbara, California, in 1969.

The Six Day War, between Israel and the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, takes place in early June. Israel is victorious, and the present Palestinian crisis of Israeli occupation begins.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara is captured and executed on October 9, 1967, by the Bolivian military aided by the CIA. One of many blows by a perpetually petulant US establishment vainly seeking a satisfying vengeance for the Kennedy hit.

1968:

The Tet Offensive, launched by the Communist Party of Vietnam on January 30, stuns the Johnson administration as well as the US public. It was now clear that the American war for South Vietnam was futile, but nevertheless it would continue till 1975.

On March 31, Lyndon Baines Johnson announces that he will not seek reelection; it is a presidential election year. Robert F. Kennedy (John Kennedy’s younger brother and attorney general) was a senator at that time, and had announced his own bid for the presidency on March 16.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated on April 4, in Memphis, Tennessee. Major rioting breaks out in many cities. Because of the extensive damage and fires caused during these urban riots, and the deployment of National Guard troops to restore order, the television images of these scenes on US soil had an eerily disquieting resemblance to images of Stalingrad in 1943, Berlin in 1945, and Hue and other Vietnamese cities besieged during the previous three months during the Tet Offensive. Many Americans became very frightened, and a diversity of Americans had their various prejudices deepened.

Robert Kennedy is assassinated after a campaign speech in Los Angeles on June 6 by a resentful Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship, Sirhan Sirhan, who is still serving a life sentence for that crime. Robert Kennedy had captured the imagination of liberals, especially young ones, who were ignorant of his earlier political career (as a McCarthy-type commie chaser, and the zealous prosecutor of the Fidel assassination project) and crushed by his loss. Robert Kennedy had been deeply affected by John Kennedy’s death and the politics behind it, and as a result he had undoubtedly become much more sympathetic to the aspirations and suffering of marginalized populations, like the Mexican-American farm workers that Cesar Chavez was organizing in California’s Central Valley. However, the degree to which Robert Kennedy had become more “revolutionary,” or “socialist,” or just moral after 1963, and how such a presumed deepening of compassion and conviction might express itself politically, are matters of pure speculation mooted by his death. Hubert Humphrey, the vice president and eventual 1968 Democratic nominee for President, was the quintessential mainstream liberal politician of the 1960s.

Richard Milhous Nixon, a Republican from California, wins the 1968 presidential election with a campaign promoting “law and order” and appealing to anti-civil rights southern white resentment (Dixiecrats become Republicans). Nixon’s winning concept was called “the southern strategy.” It would become the formula applied by all subsequent Republican presidential contenders to this day, very effectively by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, who vastly increased the formula’s content of rhetoric and cant on fiscal soundness and the evils of taxation, but unsuccessfully by Willard Mitt Romney in 2012 because of the changed demographic composition of the American electorate since 1968 and 1988.

Notes to Part I

1.  Nuclear Weapons Testing,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_testing

2.  Manuel García, Jr.,
“Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate”
Swans, 23 April 2012,
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci46.html

Some Words About JFK,
see the section “Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate”
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/11/20/some-words-about-jfk/

3.  Daisy Commercial (1964),
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Id_r6pNsus

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“Fifty-Year” Look Back At Lived History, 1963-2013
(Part II, 1968-2013)

(December 2, 2013) This two-part series is a look back at the last fifty years in American history, from my personal perspective. The thread of my historical narrative begins in Part I (1963-1968). (1)

Enjoy the show.

The Vietnam War and the US Presidential Election in 1968

On January 30, the Communist Party of Vietnam launched its stunning though costly and ultimately stymied Tet Offensive across all of South Vietnam. For the Vietnamese Communist Party, the Tet Offensive was a propaganda victory and foreign relations coup; for the Johnson administration and the American public it was a crippling blow to self-confidence about the conduct of the war. The number of American troops in Vietnam peaked at 543,482 in late April.

The year was the most expensive in the Vietnam War with America spending US$ 77.4 billion (US$ 519 billion in 2013) on the war. The year also became the deadliest of the Vietnam War for America and its allies with 27,915 South Vietnamese (ARVN) soldiers killed and the Americans suffering 16,592 killed compared to around two hundred thousand of the communist forces killed. The deadliest week of the Vietnam War for the USA was during the Tet Offensive, specifically February 11-17, 1968, during which 543 Americans were killed in action and 2,547 were wounded. (2)

On March 31, Lyndon Johnson announced in a nationally televised address that he would not seek reelection as US president in the November election. That same month, to encourage the North Vietnamese to begin negotiations, he halted the aerial bombing of the northern portion of North Vietnam, which includes those regions surrounding the capitol city Hanoi but not those areas bordering the 10 kilometer-wide 1954 treaty line — the DMZ or demilitarized zone — marking the separation into North and South Vietnam. The parties agreed to conduct the negotiations in Paris, and met for the first time on May 10. However, the North Vietnamese were adamant in demanding the Americans halt all aerial bombing in the North before discussing anything else, which Johnson finally acceded to on October 31, after which serious negotiations began. (3)

On November 5th, Richard Milhous Nixon, a Republican from California, won the 1968 presidential election with a campaign promoting “law and order” and appealing to anti-civil rights southern white resentment (Dixiecrats become Republicans). Nixon’s winning concept was called “the southern strategy.” It would become the formula applied by all subsequent Republican presidential contenders to this day, very effectively by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, who vastly increased the formula’s content of rhetoric on fiscal soundness and cant on the evils of taxation, but unsuccessfully by Willard Mitt Romney in 2012 because the demographic composition of the American electorate had changed significantly since 1968, and 1988.

The Arc Of American Liberalism

The years 1964 through 1980 spanned the arc of American liberalism, arising out of the optimism of the Kennedy administration and plunging into the sour witless eruption of neo-liberalism: Thatcherism (1979) and Reaganism (1981)
.
The legislative triumphs of civil rights occurred during the same years as the vast expansion of the Vietnam War, 1964 to 1968. The accumulating costs of that war combined with the growing costs of social welfare programs to cause fiscal problems and a mild recession in late 1969 through 1970, and a monetary crisis in 1971 (the Nixon Shock, the end of the Bretton Woods system of international financial exchange, and the beginning of the present situation of freely floating currencies).

The Oil Crisis of 1973 (the Arab Oil Embargo in retaliation for the US support of Israel during its October 1973 war with Egypt and Syria) introduced Americans to the energy crisis: shortages of gasoline and fuel oil, with a quadrupling of prices. The recession triggered by the 1973 oil crisis lasted until 1975. By that time, American economic productivity (or profitability) had fallen from its peak levels during the previous thirty years of the post World War II boom (Les Trente Glorieuses), in part because advanced automation could now replace more human labor, and in part because of increased foreign competition, since the post WWII recovery of Europe and Japan had advanced rapidly though the 1950s and matured in the 1960s.

The reductionist quest for profitability led to the “outsourcing” and “offshoring” practices of seeking minimum cost foreign labor (with minimum investment in foreign health, safety, environment, and taxation) to produce products for sale and consumption in the United States. The inflation of the 1970s coupled with slow economic growth (“stagflation”) spurred the intensification of well-financed campaigns by corporate interests to acquire political influence, which could be used to lower corporate taxes, eliminate or loosen government regulations on business practices, and break unions. This neo-liberal ideology of corporatism above all considerations of social democracy became the American paradigm with the arrival of the Reagan administration (1981-1988), and continues to the present despite its destruction — catastrophically in 2008 — of the American economy for over 90% of the population.

The long, horrible, drawn-out bleeding of the Vietnam War was totally unnecessary. The 1973 Oil Crisis was never addressed as it should have been, by the development of sustainable, non-nuclear energy and power sources not based on fossil fuels (or combustion). I think of how much better off Americans and the world would be today if these two problems had been solved compassionately and intelligently. The successors of the Vietnam War have been briefer, more streamlined, and far too numerous. The newest American wars are now carried out as computer games of automated assassination, equipped with real remotely-controlled unmanned bomber aircraft and missiles, and programmed directly from the White House. The energy crisis that erupted in 1973 has now metastasized into the anthropogenic global warming problem. To my mind, the way to move the United States beyond its present glut of drone wars and military adventurism and wastefulness, as well as most effectively address the energy and global warming dilemma, is to be found by abandoning neo-liberalism and embracing its exact opposite, social democracy.

Vietnamization For “Peace With Honor,” Mega-Death For “Credibility”

For Americans, the Vietnam War had a slow buildup. It began during the Harry S. Truman administration with the behind-the-scenes provisioning with military equipment for, and the financing of, the French colonial forces in Indochina in 1945-1952. The Dwight D. Eisenhower administration (1953-1960) continued this support after the French defeat in 1954, with the propping up of anti-communist regimes in the southern half of Vietnam, and supporting anti-communist factions in Laos.

The forces of communist North Vietnam completed the north-south Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1959, along the eastern margins of the countries west of Vietnam: Laos in the north, and Cambodia in the south. This route for the clandestine re-supply of communist forces in South Vietnam would be the key to the eventual communist victory in 1975. The trail was camouflaged to evade aerial surveillance and bombardment. American aerial bombardment along the Ho Chi Minh Trail between 1964 and 1973 was so intense that Laos has the sad distinction of being the most bombed country on a per capita basis.

During the Richard M. Nixon administration (1969-1974), the American bombardment of North Vietnamese military activities in eastern Cambodia was secretly expanded to include an invasion with ground forces (in 1970). The officially neutral Cambodian government, led by Prince Sihanouk, had publicly protested the violations of its territory in the east, but quietly accepted both: the North Vietnamese infiltration, in order to maintain the possibility of good relations with the Vietnamese communists who Sihanouk saw as the inevitable victors; and Sihanouk accepted some of the American bombardment of the North Vietnamese in Cambodia’s east so as to placate the Americans, discourage the Vietnamese communists from openly invading and occupying Cambodia, and to keep the small Cambodian communist factions from gaining popular support. Unfortunately, the American bombardment was so massive, unrelenting, and deadly, that many survivors among the rural population in both Laos and Cambodia became radicalized and joined the communist forces in their countries, who all swept to victory in 1975.

Richard Nixon knew the Vietnam War was a lost cause, and his plan to gain “peace with honor” and extricate the United States from the meat grinder of war-making was to build up the military forces of the anti-communist regime in South Vietnam while simultaneously withdrawing American personnel. This was called “Vietnamization.” From a certain distance, Nixon’s plan had a reasonable cast to it. The idea was to prosecute the war by substituting well-trained and amply equipped South Vietnamese troops for American troops, and in so doing show the world that the United States “kept its promises” to allies, and it would thus retain its “credibility.”

You have to hear Henry Kissinger’s leaden intonation of “American credibility” to understand why an additional 21,257 deaths of Americans in Vietnam, and over a million Vietnamese deaths, and hundreds of thousands of combined Laotian and Cambodian deaths had to be sustained between 1969 and 1975. The arc of American mortality because of the Vietnam War, grouped by presidential administration, was a follows: 9 Eisenhower (1956-1960), 191 Kennedy (1961-1963), 36,756 Johnson (1964-1968), 21,195 Nixon (1969-1974), 62 Ford (1975-1976), and 7 during 1987-2006. (4)

The Vietnamization process to retain “American credibility,” that is to say the international reputation of the American foreign policy-making elite, was based on thinking in which individual American lives were mere ciphers to be churned in the calculations of force projection to gain diplomatic advantage for elite geo-strategic gamesmen, while the individual lives of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians were not even considered up to the level of ciphers. A ceasefire, truce, declaration of defeat, withdrawal of American forces, and less violent consolidation of communist power in Indochina could have been accomplished much sooner, with the stated goal of stopping bloodshed and limiting casualties by accepting the inevitable. That course of action would have lost the United States one form of “credibility” but it would have gained it another I think far more valuable.

The Nixon-Kissinger Vietnamization policy was an egotistical face-saving crime of genocidal proportions. Thinking back to it leaves me wondering if human history is farcical tragedy or a tragic farce.

Some Incidents In The History Of My Times

The following incidents made impressions on me, for one reason or another.

20 July 1969. Neil Armstrong lands on the Moon, and a gesture is fulfilled. The other side of the coin was the CIA-sponsored killing of Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Bolivia on 9 October 1967. The American Gods must be propitiated. (5)

1 December 1969. The first Draft Lottery, and the beginning of the end for antiwar protests in the U.S. For my little story about that see (6).

22 April 1970. The first Earth Day, the environmental movement at its height, the most radiantly hopeful day I ever had dreaming about the future. It was pure bliss, and I was also in love.

7 November 1972. Richard M. Nixon wins a landslide presidential electoral victory against antiwar Democrat George Stanley McGovern. I liked McGovern.

11 September 1973. Chile’s Marxist president, Salvador Allende, dies and his government falls in a very violent coup led by a fascist Chilean general, Augusto Pinochet, aided by the CIA as directed with disgusting enthusiasm by Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor to Richard Nixon, and then Secretary of State (from 22 September 1973).

17 June 1972 – 9 August 1974. The Watergate scandal unfolds, Nixon resigns, and his former vice president, Gerald Ford, advances to the presidency and pardons Nixon, immunizing him from all Watergate-related prosecution, making Ford unelectable in 1976.

20 November 1975. Francisco Franco, the pseudo-fascist monarchist-authoritarian Spanish dictator, dies, and Spain carefully emerges out of its enforced medieval slumber of 36 years.

1977-1980. The Jimmy Carter administration is the twilight of American political liberalism (the unifying concept being the social welfare state), which effectively ends in 1978 as Carter’s initiatives became more militarized.

18 April 1977. Jimmy Carter addresses the nation on energy. This could have been the start of the sustainable and solar energy revolution in America, but it wasn’t. Think of how much better served and secure we would be today if it had.

28 March 1979. Three Mile Island nuclear accident, a partial meltdown of a commercial nuclear reactor at a power station in Pennsylvania. The worst such accident in the U.S.

15 July 1979. President Jimmy Carter addresses the nation on its “crisis of confidence” during its 1979 energy crisis (oil and gasoline shortages and high prices, consequences of the Iranian Revolution). This address would become known as the “malaise speech,” though Carter never mentioned “malaise.”

August 1979. Paul Volcker is appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve by President Jimmy Carter, and his monetary policies cure the persistent inflation of the 1970s and early 1980s.

1979. Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, initiates the covert transfer of billions of dollars in arms to the Afghan mujahideen militants opposed to the Soviet military forces that had invaded in support of the allied central government, which itself faced insurrection. Osama Bin Laden, from Arabia, led one such mujahideen group in the ensuing Afghan War prosecuted by the Soviets. That war proved to be a quagmire for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and drained sufficient resources and caused enough human suffering and resentment among Russians that it initiated the political instability that eventually led to the collapse of communism in the USSR.

4 November 1980. Ronald Reagan is elected president, and the neo-liberal shredding of the 1945 postwar social contract begins. My heart sank that day, and of Americans I thought: “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” (An anonymous ancient proverb wrongly attributed to Euripides. This variant is spoken by Prometheus, in The Masque of Pandora (1875) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.)

1980-1988. The Shah of Iran is deposed by the Shiite theocratic Iranian Revolution of 1979, and American embassy personnel are held as hostages for 444 days, being released shortly after Reagan’s inauguration. Iraq under the control of its dictator, Saddam Hussein, attacks Iran in 1980, initiating an eight year Iran-Iraq War during which the United States government aides Iraq by providing satellite reconnaissance information about Iran to the Iraqis, and eases the transfer of materials and technology that Iraq uses to fabricate and then deploy chemical weapons against Iranian troops, and later dissident Iraqi populations. It is estimated one million lives were lost in the Iran-Iraq War.

1981-1989, The Reagan Administration launched proxy wars against the peasantry in Central America (Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras). The underlying conflicts between an impoverished peasantry and a wealthy land-owning elite that sponsored the national military and police establishments had erupted into armed struggle (again) after 1959, becoming ferocious by the late 1970s. Using the excuse of fighting communism putatively infiltrated into Central America by Cuba, the Reagan administration supplied and funded local anti-communist and reactionary militias as proxy military forces, to destroy popular social democracy by despicable terrorism. These proxy militias, or “contras” (“against” the revolutions), were usually police and army personnel acting out of uniform in Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras, or in Nicaragua they were former police and army personnel of the Somoza regime, which had been deposed by the Sandinista Revolution of 1979. The savage cruelty inflicted on the ethnic Mayan peasantry by the contra forces reached their crests of genocidal magnitude under Reagan Administration sponsorship. These Central American Wars all trailed off in the 1990s.

20 August 1985 – 4 March 1987. Iran-Contra Scandal. (7)

26 April 1986. A nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power station in the Ukraine explodes, spewing radioactivity far and wide, and the fuel core melts down. The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident until the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011. Also during 1986, Ronald Reagan has the solar hot water system removed, which had been installed on the roof of the White House during the Carter Administration. The spirit of Earth Day 1970 had been executed.

17 October 1987. “Black Monday” stock market crash. The Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced a drop of 22%. Alan Greenspan had just been appointed as chairman of the Federal Reserve by Ronald Reagan, replacing Paul Volcker. This crash occurred during the midst of the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s.

23 June 1988. In testimony before the US Senate, NASA scientist James Hansen stated that anthropogenic global warming had begun.

22 November 1988. Twenty five years since the assassination of John Kennedy, and twenty five years before today [2013].

9 November 1989. The Berlin Wall falls, communism in Eastern Europe crumbles. I was elated and exhausted. I believed nuclear disarmament was now immanent, as well as a revamping of the US war economy (Defense Department funding) into a robust “peace” and “green” economy. Clearly, I was naively delusional.

2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991. The Gulf War (Persian Gulf War, First Iraq War) is successfully prosecuted by a NATO combined force under US direction, acting to reverse the annexation of Kuwait by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. America’s ally to punish Iran during 1980-1988 had since fallen out of favor. The chemical and biological weapons, and some nuclear technology held by the Saddam Hussein regime were now seen as intolerable threats to American interests.

26 December 1991. The USSR formally ceased to exist. The twelve republics that had comprised the USSR were declared independent.

Into The 21st Century

William Jefferson Clinton Administration (1991-2000)

Bill Clinton is a 1960s center-right Republican dressed up as a 1960s liberal Democrat. He went along with deregulating the banks (repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933) and financial industry (signing the Commodity Futures Trading Act of 2000, allowing easy trading in derivatives), which together set up the casino environment that would lead to the publicly-damaging financial collapse of 2008.

George Walker Bush Administration (2001-2008)

G. W. Bush spent profligately on tax cuts for the rich, and the Iraq War (20 March 2003 – 15 December 2011), using the 11 September 2001 attacks as an excuse. The loose money policy of Alan Greenspan, chairman at the Federal Reserve, fed a housing bubble that peaked in 2006, deflating into an expanding financial crisis in late 2007, and a catastrophic banking collapse in October 2008.

Barack Hussein Obama Administration (2009-2016)

Barack Obama is a corporatist Democrat in the Clinton mold, and shepherds the financial industry’s interests by managing the economy with a bias for public austerity maintained to preserve speculator (a.k.a. investor) accumulations (gains), and the continuing regime of insufficient regulations and taxes on trading. Keynesianism to lift the economy out of its chronic joblessness is denied. The current official unemployment rate (based on definitional sophistry) is about 7%, the real unemployment rate is about 23%. (8)

Obama is a master of symbolism, and much of a wishful-thinking public allows that symbolism to distract them from reality.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, today’s [2013] leading Democratic Party contender for president

Hillary Clinton is the presumed frontrunner in the race to become the Democratic Party’s nominee for president in the 2016 election. She has already captivated the attention of those Americans for whom the symbolism of “the first female US president” overwhelms all rational considerations. So, perhaps the underwriting of her presidential campaign will pay off for corporate America, in giving the first female president the historic privilege of privatizing Social Security, and staking multi-millionaire Wall Street gamblers with an abundance of other people’s money they can play with risk-free. The symbol-awed will never notice.

Notes to Part II

1.  Fifty Year Look Back 1963-2013,
(Part I: 1963-1969)
 [above here]

2.  1968 in the Vietnam War
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_in_the_Vietnam_War

3.  Paris Peace Accords
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Peace_Accords

4.  Statistical Information about Fatal Casualties of the Vietnam War
U.S. National Archives
http://www.archives.gov/research/military/vietnam-war/casualty-statistics.html

5.
“Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate”
Swans, 23 April 2012,
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci46.html

Some Words About JFK,
see the section “Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate”
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/11/20/some-words-about-jfk/

6.  The Promise Of Remembered Soundtracks
7 October 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci72.html

7.  Iran-Contra Affair
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Contra_affair

8.
“Official” US Unemployment Rate
http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000

“Real” US Unemployment Rate
http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-charts

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