- The United States and the World, from the 18th Century to Today: Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Winter 2020
- The Economy is ________? Fake news about U.S. economic strength (with updates)
- David Barsamian @ UH
- Trump Tax Returns? Really?
- “The Commodification of the Vietnam War: Popular Culture and American Militarism”
“The Commodification… on Vietnam: The Commodity Ken Burns’s Wa… on Ken Burns’s War Sto… Vietnam: The Commodi… on Vietnam: The Commodity Janice Harper on Rope-a-Dope Trump (Don’t… Scott on Does Russia Matter?
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The United States and the World, from the 18th Century to Today: Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Winter 2020
Over the past year or more, there’s been a consistent narrative that the U.S. economy is doing well and on the uptick. While most recognize that Trump’s descriptions of a “perfect economy” or “the best economy in history” are absurd, the liberal, mainstream media consistently talks about the “strong economy” in the U.S and cites it as a campaign asset for Trump. But in its own pages, adjunct to its declarations of economic strength, are countless stories and examples of the opposite–that the U.S. economy is not doing that well, and more importantly that mega-millions of people are living in precarity, are vulnerable, are suffering.
To be clear, the establishment media has a real and personal interest in portraying the economy in positive ways–they fear more people becoming critical of capitalism (the numbers are growing significantly) and they don’t want the Bernie Sanders-type politicians being able to cite the reality of capitalism in America today. They may loathe Trump, but still prefer him to an outright critic of the system. Indeed, in February 2020, polling showed Trump had the highest approval marks on his handling of the economy of any president in the past 20 years.
The “strong economy” narrative generally pivots on two points–stock market levels and unemployment data. The stock market is at record highs, over 29K, so if one is invested or has a 401 (k), then things are probably looking up. But, as one of the charts below shows, that’s a small percentage of Americans. As for unemployment, it is significantly low, but where that would usually lead to a significant increase in wages, it has not. Wages are static.
For some time I’ve been meaning to write a piece on this topic–claims of economic strength amid countless stories of economic struggle–but that would require work, and as Homer Simpson said, trying is the first step toward failure. So I’ve collected a sampling of articles I’ve saved in a folder I have labeled “U.S. Economy 2019” and I’m posting the links below as a resource to anyone who wants to know more on the issue. I’ve tried to group the articles by topic, but it’s not the best-organized thing you’ll ever see. Still, the news and the data is there. While there’s a fair number of articles and studies below, it’s a tiny share of what I’ve seen and what’s out there on the topic. It’s not hard to rebut the idea that the economy is strong….
The overall theme of all this information is that Capitalism is deficient and not getting better. The vast majority live in precarity at best. Media narratives of a “strong economy” are the real fake news.
Note: Many of the cites below are articles, but mostly based on fed data. If possible (meaning, if easy) I’ve used establishment sources to show the various economic problems facing the U.S. Among the sources to check are the Federal Reserve Board and its constituent banks, the International Monetary Fund, Wall Street bank reports, the Wall Street Journal, trade associations, and of course the Grey Lady and WaPo. Plenty of lefty publications have great economic work, usually better actually, but I’ve avoided them below for the most part just because it’s easier to quote internal ruling-class stories about the economy. I would strongly rec, however, Michael Roberts Blog. It’s a must-read.
New Articles Posted (2/16)
Industrial production declines 7th month in a row
New Articles Posted (2/5)
Long-term decline in manufacturing jobs
David Barsamian Speaking @ UH
Wednesday, April 3d, 4:00 p.m.
210 Agnes Arnold Hall
“Rise Up & Resist!”
David Barsamian is the founder and director of the Alternative Radio Network, and frequent collaborator with Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Edward Said, and others.
“Rise Up and Resist!” When is enough enough? In the face of evil what does it take for people to move from passivity to active resistance?
Event Sponsored by the Arab-American Education Foundation Chair in Modern Arab History
So several media outlets are reporting that the new House in January is going to demand Trump’s tax returns (See Here).
Really? That’s at the top of the “to do” list??
The election was about health care, gun safety, immigration, wages, etc. and they’re still obsessed with what a bag of shit Trump is. Is there some magical line where if you just discover one more piece of disgusting personal info about Trump, or expose one more hypocrisy, he’ll suddenly fold and become vulnerable?
The man isn’t subtle or covert–he’s not some Wizard hiding behind a curtain (well, maybe a Grand Wizard). He’s been repudiated by millions already, and still has open followers. In 2016, it was possible to say that we didn’t know what he was really about. In 2018, DeSantis and Kemp ran campaigns that would make George Wallace and Ross Barnett proud, and won. Like the Yankees and Notre Dame, you hate Trump or love him . . .
Trump doesn’t care what the media or Dems say and his people don’t care. So his tax returns show he’s a rich guy who cheated on his taxes . . . that makes him a “capitalist.” It’s not his Achilles heel. It’s a waste of energy.
This is why American politics, and esp the Dems, are utterly incompetent. Instead of dealing with problems real people face and reckon with their own failures (Klansmen were elected governor in FL and GA), they play these games.
3 red states expanded Medicare, 2 southern states increased the minimum wage, 3 states legalized weed in some form, FL gave the vote back to 1.5 million people. Polls showed majorities are sympathetic to immigrants and opposed to Trump’s hard line. Most people opposed Kavanaugh. I don’t know if that means Americans are progressive, but it surely means that the media and Dems either don’t know or won’t tell you what this country really is about.
Last night, “Trump Sucks” was enough to take back the house. Relying on two more years of that, or the Mueller investigation, or another woman coming out with some story about Trump isn’t going to damage him. Two GOP reps under indictment won last night . . .
Obviously, it’s good to see Trump experience some failure. But waiting on a Hail Mary play from a Blue House of Reps isn’t going to go far. So it’s time to shitcan Pelosi (and Schumer and Hoyer and Clyburn) and do something serious.
By the way, when’s the last time you heard someone from the GOP use the word “bipartisanship?”
From Condemnation to Restoration
(Talk at Université Grenoble Alpes, 25 April 2018)
Capitalism, Politics, Power, and History
Gramsci and the cultural politics of the elites
Debord’s “spectacle” and “the autocratic reign of the market.”
Tom Frank’s “Conquest of Cool”
“Selling” the 60s and the Vietnam War
Vietnam and the Woodstock Generation, an American Dilemma
Country Joe and the Fish, “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag”
Hair, “The Flesh Failures”
Merle Haggard, “Okie from Muskogee”
Jerry Jeff Walker, “Kickin’ Hippies’ Asses”
Johnny Cash, “Singing in Vietnam Talking Blues”
From War Crime to Noble Cause
Jimmy Carter: “well, the destruction was mutual. . . . We went there to defend the freedom of the South Vietnamese. And I don’t feel that we ought to apologize or to castigate ourselves or to assume the status of culpability.”
Ronald Reagan: “It is time we recognized that ours was, in truth, a noble cause. A small country newly free from colonial rule sought our help in establishing self-rule and the means of self-defense against a totalitarian neighbor bent on conquest.”
Russian roulette in VC prison in Deer Hunter
Rambo Revives Vietnam
POW/MIA (Mythmaking In America)
“Culture Wars in the 80s”
Draft Dodgers Come Home to Roost
Quayle, Clinton, Bush and the Working-Class War
Rehabbing the Vets … their image at least
The “Sixties” for Sale
Kerry Not So Lucky/Obama “pallin’ around with terrorists”
Swiftboated: “We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service as easily as this administration has wiped their memories of us. But . . . all that they can do by this denial is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission, to search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbarous war, to pacify our own hearts, to conquer the hate and the fear that have driven this country these last 10 years and more and so when, in 30 years from now, our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say ‘Vietnam’ and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory but mean instead the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning.” (1971)
American Militarism and the Legacy of Vietnam
Ken Burns’s Vietnam today: “begun in good faith, by decent people.”
Hannah Arendt: It is not surprising that the recent generation of intellectuals, who grew up in the insane atmosphere of rampant advertising and were taught that half of politics is “image-making” and the other half the art of making people believe in the imagery, should almost automatically fall back on the older adages of carrot and stick whenever the situation becomes too serious for “theory.” To them, the greatest disappointment in the Vietnam adventure should have been the discovery that there are people with whom carrot-and-stick methods do not work either.
50 years ago on February 27th, 1968 Walter Cronkite went on national TV with his “Report From Vietnam,” and rattled America. The most trusted newsman in the country at the time and a supporter of the war until then, Cronkite, in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, had a change of heart. Now he urged that Lyndon Johnson begin to disengage from the war–“not as victors but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.” It had become plain to him that the United States would not soon or successfully conclude its involvement in Indochina. “If I’ve lost Cronkite,” the president lamented, “I’ve lost middle America.” LBJ, it went without saying, had lost the war as well.
The story of Tet since then tends to focus on Cronkite. Because he was so pessimistic, yet influential, he missed the reality of the fighting in February 1968–the U.S. in fact had “won” the Tet Offensive but was undermined at home by Cronkite’s reporting, and rapidly growing antiwar sentiment, and thus had that “military victory” turned into a “psychological defeat.” The war was won in Vietnam but lost at home . . .
Barely known but occurring on that same day, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle Wheeler, returned a four-day trip to Vietnam where he had assessed the aftermath of Tet. Despite these revisionist claims of Tet as a victory, Wheeler’s analysis wasn’t much different than Cronkite’s and, since he was the JCS Chair and had just returned from meetings with Commander William Westmoreland and the rest of the U.S. military leadership team in Saigon, his words hit harder.
The Chair’s appraisals contrasted sharply with public optimism about the war. As Westmoreland publicly continued to claim success–concluding that he did “not believe Hanoi can hold up under a long war”–Wheeler told reporters that he saw “no early end to this war,” and cautioned that Americans “must expect hard fighting to continue.” Privately, Wheeler was more pessimistic. It was “the consensus of responsible commanders” that 1968 would be a pivotal year. The war might continue but would not return to pre-Tet conditions.* Clark Clifford, the incoming Defense Secretary, put it bluntly; Wheeler had “presented an even grimmer assessment of the Tet offensive than we had heard from Westmoreland and Bunker.”
“There is no doubt that the enemy launched a major, powerful nationwide assault,” Wheeler observed. “This offensive has by no means run its course. In fact, we must accept the possibility that he has already deployed additional elements of his home army.” The JCS chair also admitted that American commanders in Vietnam agreed that the margin of success or survival had been “very small indeed” during the first weeks of
Tet attacks. The enemy, with combat-available forces deployed in large numbers throughout the RVN, had “the will and capability to continue” and its “determination appears to be unshaken.” Although the Communists’ future plans were not clear, he warned, “the scope and severity of his attacks and the extent of his reinforcements are presenting us with serious and immediate problems.” S
everal PAVN divisions remained untouched, and troops and supplies continued to move southward to supplement the 200,000 enemy forces available for hostilities. The MACV, however, still faced major logistics problems due to enemy harassment and interdiction and the massive redeployment of U.S. forces to the north. Westmoreland in fact had deployed half of all maneuver battalions to I Corps while stripping the rest of the RVN of adequate reserves.
Worse, Wheeler, though surprisingly pleased with the ARVN’s performance, nonetheless questioned its ability to continue, pointing out that the army was on the defensive and had lost about one-quarter of its pre-Tet strength. Similarly, the government of the RVN had survived Tet, but with diminished effectiveness. Thieu and Ky faced “enormous” problems, with morale at the breaking point, 15,000 civilian casualties, and a flood of about one million additional refugees, one-third in the area of Saigon–all part of the huge task of reconstruction which would require vast amounts of money and time. The offensive moreover had undermined pacification.
Civic Action programs, Wheeler admitted, had been “brought to a halt. . . . To a large extent, the VC now control the countryside.” He added that the guerrillas, via recruiting and infiltration, were rebuilding their infrastructure and its overall recovery was “likely to be rapid.” Clearly, then, the military had developed its analyses and policy recommendations in February 1968 from candid, at times desolate, views of the effects of Tet.
Later claims of success aside, in February Wheeler at best found the situation “fraught with opportunities as well as dangers” and conceded that only the timely reaction of U.S. forces had prevented Communist control in a dozen or so places.” While Harold K. Johnson, the Army chief-of-staff plainly admitted that “we suffered a loss, there can be no doubt about it,” Wheeler’s euphemistic description of Tet was that “it was a very near thing.”
Subsequent events in 1968, especially the so-called Mini-Tets in May and August, cost the VC/PLAF/PAVN forces dearly and the U.S. and southern Vietnamese militaries rallied to create better conditions, something of a stalemate. But the decisions made in the aftermath of Wheeler’s report and similar analyses from Vietnam had been made–the U.S. would “Vietnamize” the war, essentially conceding that the influx of over 500,000 American soldiers had not defeated the Communists in Vietnam.
The Americans couldn’t wait until the dust settled late in 1968 to do otherwise; Cronkite had shocked Americans with his bleak report (only months after they had been assured there was “light at the end of the tunnel”) and Wheeler had unnerved official Washington. Now, when American scholars continue to peddle the “Tet as Victory” line, Wheeler’s report and the overall level of military candor about the parlous nature of the war needs to be a huge part of that dialogue . . .
For more on this, see my article in Jacobin, “The Story of the Tet Offensive”
*For Wheeler’s report, see in Neil Sheehan, et al, eds., The Pentagon Papers–New York Times Edition (New York, 1971), 615-21.
I’m in Venice this semester as a visiting professor, so I’m not keeping up with U.S. politics like I normally would. But I woke up to another report of a mass killing at a public place, another school.
Yesterday, after class, a student here said he had a question about Texas. He’d visited there last year and was “scandalized” by the public display and worship of guns. Asked why Americans were so obsessed with guns and why there was so much gun violence, and most importantly why they didn’t do anything about it. In Italy, a white anti-immigrant zealot killed 5 people last week and it’s a huge story, because it’s so rare. (To prove “self-defense” in the use of a gun here, you really have to show that your life was in danger and you had to shoot someone . . . not simply assert that you feared your “castle” might be violated, or saw someone with dark skin running from your house, or wear a badge).
I talked to him for at least 20 minutes and had no useful answers.
“The Script” for gun killings immediately went into effect. Politicians and personalities are offering their “thoughts and prayers” as always.
A lot of people are rightly condemning the NRA’s stronghold on this issue, which has been a political reality for generations and hadn’t budged. Screeds about the NRA are approaching “rain is wet” category.
I’m seeing a lot of self-described radicals cue up their lines about The Patriarchy, Privilege, and other such things, again. That most of the victims in these mass killings are white and male and that the shooters don’t issue any political manifestos doesn’t seem to fit into the narrative, but what the hell, when you’re on a roll . . .
I’m also seeing a lot of self-described radicals who cue up their lines about The Patriarchy, Privilege, and other such things, again, angrily dismiss claims of mental illness as a mere “alibi” to apologize for The Patriarchy, Privilege, and other such things. If a mass killing isn’t the time to discuss the American mental health crisis, then I can assume there isn’t one, and we’re spending too many resources and too much time talking about mental health?
Lefties who want to gun up for the Revolution because The Man is well armed . . . look in the mirror, you’re not John Brown, you’re a living satire. The Man has drones and nukes–good luck with your revolution. Those guns you get will far more likely be used against yourself or a family member. Every time a “radical” calls for lefties to go out and buy guns, the suits at Smith & Wesson smile and pop another bottle of champagne, and laugh at you.
There is only one thing in common in every single one of these mass attacks–a Gun.
There is one thing in common probably in all of them but surely in the vast majority–a history of psychological disturbance, red flags all over the place, some type of punishment, jail time, whatever, and a long trail of warnings all over the internet and among friends (and not infrequently some military experience). Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris from Columbine, Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary, Devin Patrick Kelley in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Omar Mateen at the Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, this kid . . . and so it goes–all of them showed clear signs of being a threat to use arms and commit violence.
Two-thirds of gun deaths are Suicides so while these mass attacks are terrifying and far-too-common, they do remain statistically small. Easy access to guns for a depressed person makes it easy to kill oneself.
It’s Occam’s Razor time here: Mental Health needs to become a huge national priority, not only because of gun deaths, but just because . . . Look into the backgrounds of mass killers, and you’re not gonna come away thinking “wow, there were no signals, who could’ve seen that coming . . . .”
Guns . . . oh, hell, what’s the point. If a classroom of slaughtered 2d Graders doesn’t provoke action, what will?
Too bad Barack Obama’s not still president. He was so good at shedding crocodile tears at the obligatory memorials for these victims, while doing nothing.
Guns and mental illness–it’s not that hard.
Have a great day. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.