The Oft-Forgotten Vietnam War Doc

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This post is from one of my favorite bloggers, Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist.

With all the press (the positive reviews and also some fascinating critical views) about the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick series on Vietnam, Peter Davis’ brilliant 1974 documentary seems to have been forgotten–once again. When the 1983 PBS series Vietnam: A Television History came out, I was in college majoring in journalism. I was fascinated by the miniseries based on Stanley Karnow’s tome. My mentor, William A. Dorman, a professor of journalism at CSUS, told me to skip the book and the miniseries and watch “Hearts and Minds.”

In a fraction of running time of the 1983 PBS series, I found “Hearts and Minds” a much better presentation of the U.S. involvement in the war. It asks the hard questions. The comparison of the 1983 series with “Hearts and Minds” seems very familiar when reading the criticisms of the Burns/Novick work visa vis the 1974 Davis film. In trying to be fair and balanced the Burns/Novick series misses the mark when it comes to the U.S.’ costly Cold War doctrine and its toll on Third World countries like Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Full disclosure here: I have not seen the Burns/Novick work yet. Like all TV series I view, I’ll binge watch all the episodes over a few nights some time in the future.

Here is the Davis film on Vimeo.com. I believe it is also available on Amazon Prime for a few dollars.

via The best documentary on the Vietnam war — Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Interview with David Doel

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David Doel at work on The Rational National

I don’t spend a lot of time on YouTube, but when I do I check out short clips from hour-long shows like Democracy Now!, Majority Report, Thom Hartmann Program, and Democracy at Work. There is one channel, however, I religiously check out every day: David Doel’s The Rational National.

The show’s subject matter is always fascinating and Doel’s insight and the even-handedness towards his subjects is refreshing in this divisive political climate. Personally, I’m a bit of a crank and would handle some of these subjects with anger or frustration. Some of my sounding boards (wife, sons, Facebook friends) would agree my passion gets the better of me and muddles my arguments at times. That’s part of the reason why I admire Doel’s fairness and criticism.

The thirty-two-year-old has been a video editor for a national broadcast news station, a freelance writer covering the video game industry, a web marketing specialist for a tech company, and a political candidate. Doel currently runs Eleven21 Productions where he has produced a number of projects including music videos and events. He focuses most of his energy these days on his YouTube channel, The Rational National.

He was gracious enough to answer some questions via email.

Burger Scoot: What inspired you to start The Rational National YouTube channel?

David Doel: Coming off a short run as a political candidate in the 2015 Canadian federal election, I wanted to continue discussing ideas I felt passionate about. So I decided to combine my interest and brief experience in politics with my work experience in video production.

You are Canadian and yet, from most of the subject matter on your channel, you are obviously very interested in US politics. Why?

I got into politics in my early to mid-20s, spurred by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. So growing up on a diet of American politics, in some ways I felt I knew more about the American political system than that of my own country’s. On top of that, Canadian politics is less of a spectacle; most Canadians are really only familiar with their own Mayor, MP, Premier, and of course Prime Minister. Whereas being a politician in the U.S. is essentially like being a celebrity. It’s a lot more about the individual than it is about the party, and it’s discussed nationwide. So someone from Oklahoma has a better chance at knowing who Elizabeth Warren is than someone from Nova Scotia knowing who Kathleen Wynne (Ontario’s Premier) is. Because of that, the market for political discussion occurs on a much larger scale; not just in terms of population (with America having ten times more people than Canada) but also just because of the constant national political discourse occurring in America. As an outsider, I feel I have a unique perspective from a country that already experiences many of the benefits, like universal healthcare, that American will one-day have. And by offering that perspective, I hope to educate people that progressive policies are not as scary as the Republicans and many Democrats make them out to be.

You ran for Parliment in 2015 on Green Party of Canada ticket. What was it like to be on that side of politics?

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Doel debating

Running for parliament was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I naturally overthink everything, so I felt completely unprepared for the experience, but in many ways, you can never really be prepared to do a completely new thing. I jumped into it because my local Conservative MP, apart from being terrible in other ways, used cannabis as a way to try and fear-monger for votes. He was spreading lies about how legalized cannabis was ‘destroying’ Colorado and other states. Those blatant lies bothered me to the point that I felt like I had to do something, and it was the final push I needed to contact the Green Party; a party that already impressed me with their progressive platform and leader Elizabeth May. What scared me though were the debates, before this, I had only had horrid memories of public speaking in elementary, high school, and college. But to my surprise I discovered how much I enjoyed speaking at the debates once they finally got going – when you’re passionate about issues and the policies you’re putting forward, the talking comes naturally. But the days and hours leading up to them is a level of anxiety I’ve rarely had to face.

Do you have any interest in running for office again?

I’ve thought about running again, but haven’t come to a conclusion either way. I think we truly underestimate how much we expect a politician to be educated on. At least that’s one of the pressures I faced and why I dreaded the debates. You’re expected to be an expert on all topics, yet realistically, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’re well-versed on everything. In some ways, I think politicians should really just be the mediators between the people and the experts on each topic. I mean, it’s kind of supposed to be that way, but it’s rarely communicated as such. 

Have you taken part in any direct action in American or Canadian politics (aside from your MP bid)? 

For me, The Rational National is my way of taking action. I try to play to my strengths, and one thing I do understand is how people think. So knowing that, I try to take a rational approach to arguments that don’t just shame the uneducated, but actually educates them in a non-confrontational way.

You are obviously a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders. Are there other American politicians that you admire? Is there anyone you would like to see run for president in 2020?

I think sincerity and genuine care for people are tough qualities to find in a politician, and those are the ones I gravitate to. So other than Bernie, Nina Turner is a huge standout. And I’m going to make a prediction here and say that Nina will become President at some point in the future. She has a passionate way with words that can communicate with people across political spectrums. I’ve seen it in the reactions to videos I’ve done covering her. She’s the only person where Trump supporters openly admit they’d vote for her. People, on the whole, are angry at the establishment, and when they see someone that really does care about them, whether it’s Bernie or whether it’s Nina, they recognize it. And like Bernie Sanders, Nina Turner has the power to unite the country.

You have been critical of American political commentators like Joy Reid. Are there any commentators in mainstream US media that you like?

I enjoy Rachel Maddow, I just wish she covered more topics than the Trump administration. I understand why she’s focused on it and why she feels she needs to focus on it, but for my own selfish interests, I wish she went into other topics like she did before the 2016 election result. She’s incredibly talented at story-telling, which is vital to educating people on topics they may know nothing about. She’s also become a little too cozy with establishment figures over the past few years, which bothers me as well. There really is no one in mainstream media that I can name who is completely indebted to objectivity like they should be.

There has always been a struggle between progressives that try to change the Democratic Party from within and those who have abandoned the party and have either registered independent or joined third parties like the Party for Socialism & Liberation, Socialist Alternative, and the Green Party. I know that I have often been on the fence on this issue, but have now decided (for now, at least) to try to change the Democratic Party from within. Do you have an opinion on this?

I think you do everything possible on all fronts. That said, I think change from within the party has the highest chance at being successful simply because the skeleton of a nationwide party is already in place – which is the toughest part of building a third party; well that and trying to convince people to vote for a third party. Many people now are aware of how corrupt the political system is and are actively trying to change it with groups like Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, who are aiming to vote out corporate Democrats. Bernie’s right when he says it requires a political revolution for change to occur, and I think we’re seeing the beginning stages of that revolution now. But we don’t need to make the revolution tougher than it has to be, and by primarying out corporate Democrats with progressives, it’s a quicker path to victory than starting from scratch with a new party.

(Political) Podcast Junkie 

bike helmet portraitSince I started riding my bike to work about four years ago, I have had much more time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. As I discover new podcasts the time spent on audiobooks naturally diminishes and if I get bogged down in an uninspiring audiobook I end up overdosing on podcasts. Nearly all of these podcasts are about politics.

I’ve listened to “This American Life,” “Serial,” “Stuff You Should Know” numerous podcasts on the yogic life, various titles published by The New Yorker, and Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History.” My interest in these is ultimately transitory. I would always go back to the political podcasts.

Currently, I am listening to about ten to fifteen hours of podcast programming throughout the work week. I tend to clean up my habit over the weekend mostly because the podcasts I listen to don’t publish on Saturday or Sunday. I get down to about an hour each day–usually last week’s dregs that I didn’t finish. Then Monday rolls around, and I’m looking for the good stuff again. My name is Jack, and I’m a political podcast junkie.

Here are my favorite podcasts, in no particular order. By the way, if you think I’m missing a good one let me know, just don’t suggest “Stuff You Missed in High School.” I’ll take ice picks in my ears first!

The Intercept from Spoken Edition
Type: News/Politics
Drop frequency: two or three times each weekday
Drop length: Varies between about 8 to 20 minutes

The Intercept is one of the best investigative journalist sites on the web. Started by Glenn Greenwald (who is best known for being one of the journalists that broke the Edward Snowden story) and Jeremy Scahill, the site also has heavy-hitters like David Dayen, Matt Taibbi, Lee Fang, and Naomi Klein. Spoken Edition is a service that reads selected articles from the latest editions of “The Intercept” as well as “The Huffington Post,” “Reuters,” “Wired,” “Time,” “Playboy,” “Slate,” and about ten other publications. If you like your podcasts in shorter run times check out Spoken Edition’s offerings at http://www.spokenedition.com/

The Daily and The Daily 202’s Big Idea from the New York Times and Washington Post, respectively
Type: News/Politics
Drop frequency: one each weekday
Drop length: Around 20 minutes and 5 minutes, respectively

“The Daily” and “The Daily 202’s Big Idea” are polished straight news services that give the listener a top story from the day’s two top papers as well as briefings. Neither of these shows challenges the corporate media’s take on current affairs, but they do offer the listener relatively well-investigated stories, and they are convenient if you didn’t get to read much of the newspaper in the morning.

Economic Update from Democracy at Work
Type: News/Politics
Drop frequency: Every Thursday (roughly)
Drop length: About an hour

Ever since my older son turned me onto this American economist’s work, I’ve been listening to his insightful critiques on corporate America and neo-liberalism. Wolff’s podcast is not about dry economics, but where business, government, and the human condition meet. Wolff calls the podcast “a weekly program devoted to the economic dimensions of our lives–jobs, incomes, debts–those we have, those coming down the road, and those facing our children.” If I were forced to delete all the podcasts from my phone except one, this would be the one that would survive.

Intercepted with Jeremy Scahill from The Intercept
Type: News/Politics
Drop frequency: Every Wednesday
Drop length: About an hour

Scahill is a founding editor of the online news publication The Intercept. He is also the author of two important books: “Blackwater” an in-depth and damning expose on the private American military company of the same name and “Dirty Wars” about the US’ expansion of war, assassinations, black sites, torture, and lack of accountability. His podcast is hard hitting and, at times, hilarious.

FiveThirtyEight Politics from FiveThirtyEight.com
Type: Politics/Political Polling Analysis
Drop frequency: Every Monday with occasional “Emergency Podcasts.”
Drop length: Around 40 to 50 minutes

Hosted and produced by Jody Avirgan and features political writers, Clare Malone and Harry Enten, and Editor in Chief Nat Silver, “FiveThirtyEight Politics” covers the latest in U.S. political news and how the current events may bode for candidates. The show also does an excellent job illustrating how good and bad polling affects the elected officials and candidates for posts. “FiveThirtyEight Politics” also evaluates the validity of current polls and surveys.

Start Making Sense from The Nation Magazine
Type: News/Politics
Drop frequency: Every Thursday
Drop length: Around 35 to 45 minutes

Jon Wiener, the host and a Contributing Editor to The Nation Magazine, is best known for his 25 year battle with the FBI over the release of the Bureau’s documents on John Lennon. He also was a consultant for the documentary “The U.S. Versus John Lennon.” “Start Making Sense” usually features two short pieces. If you like the longest running progressive magazine in America (150 years!), you’ll like this podcast.

On the Media from WNYC Studios
Type: News, Politics, media
Drop frequency: Once a week (roughly)
Drop length: Varies between about 20 to 50 minutes

Press critics Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield co-host this award-winning program that focuses on the how politicians and newsmakers spin the news. In these Trumpian days where the media is being attacked, OTM does an excellent job explaining how often the media itself is the news.

Edge of Sports with Dave Zirin from The Nation Magazine
Type: Politics in sports
Drop frequency: Every Tuesday
Drop length: About an hour

Sports Editor for The Nation Magazine Dave Zirin talks about the politics in college and professional sports. Favorite parts of this hour-long show: “Just Stand Up” and “Sit Your Ass Down” praise and harsh criticism, respectively for sports/public figures words or actions over the last week. Also, there’s “Kaepernick Watch” where the host updates his listeners on the ex-NFL quarterback’s politics and social work since the embattled athlete took a knee.

Democracy Now! from Pacifica Radio
Type: News, Politics, media
Drop frequency: one each weekday and frequent extended interviews
Drop length: About an hour

If you don’t watch Amy Goodman and company on PBS, or subscribe to the show on YouTube.com, you should at least check out the podcast version. (They also have a smartphone app.) Goodman’s guests are the vanguard of investigative journalists, activists, and authors: Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Naomi Klein, Matt Taibbi, Lee Fang, Jeremy Scahill, and Ralph Nader, to name only a few. I don’t listen to this as much as I used to, but I often watch the show on YouTube.com. Goodman is the best journalist you can see on your TV. It is tragic to say she has no real competition.

MLB podcasts
What: Major League Baseball
Drop frequency: Roughly every day
Drop length: From about 25 to 59 minutes

I’ve got four MLB podcasts on my phone. I listen to Statcast Podcast every week. It’s a little over my head, but I’m intrigued at such arcane metrics as hit probability, exit velocity, spin rate, Expected Weighted On-base Average, and barrelThe Ringer MLB Show is another podcast I rarely miss. Nothing mysterious like what exactly is “barrel,” just talk about why older players are less likely to be considered for Cooperstown, and predictions on who will be the Wild Cards and how the post-season will turn out. I occasionally enjoy Cut4cast, but it can be annoying when the co-hosts try too hard to be funny–laughing at their own jokes. I rarely listen to Fantasy Baseball 411 but keep it on my phone because it might come in handy next season. I might end up in two fantasy baseball leagues next year! How does fantasy baseball work, anyway? I still haven’t looked it up. When April comes along, I just may write a post about my rookie season(s).

Each week, listening to political podcast after political podcast, I have moments of clarity. Moments when I will stop my bike on the work commute, halt the podcast that is informing me of some committee’s decision to limit my rights or fuck over the already disenfranchised and–yearning for some beauty in this world–I’ll swipe to a different type of podcast. A podcast where people talk about the most beautiful game on Earth. Maybe it will be two guys talking about Giancarlo Stanton’s dingers, or Billy Hamilton’s incredible speed on the bases or in center field, or maybe how many batters Chris Sale K’d last night. Maybe it will be someone recapping Aaron Altherr’s inside-the-park grand slam, or how long it has been since a left-handed first baseman like Anthony Rizzo played third base. Maybe someone will point out how the sad Phillies have a promising rookie from my hometown of Sacramento and my alma mater, Sac State! Or perhaps, a podcast will find something promising to say about my Oakland Athletics. (Alas, if the A’s are mentioned in a show, it’s usually about players who are leaving the club.)

My Struggle
I get frustrated at players, teams, owner, and commentators, but those moments can’t compare to the red-hot anger I feel when I hear of another Trump chestnut. Not to mention how his base doesn’t seem to notice what a dumpster fire of a presidency his is. Or, for that matter, how the GOP-controlled Congress is using these high-profile incidents as cover to push through regressive legislation. “The dumpster fire, electorate! Keep your eyes on the dumpster fire!” All the while my dysfunctional Democratic Party continues to take the cynical route and ignore the new voices on the left that could be its/our salvation: Kshama Sawant, Zephyr Teachout, and Nina Turner, to name only a few. Never heard of these people? Well, it just so happens this post has some podcasts for you to sample! When I’m about to scream and ride my bike down the embankment and into the Sacramento River, I opt to cut over for some baseball talk.

Notice the tone switch of those last two paragraphs: from Idyllic to Angry; from Tranquil to Turmoil; from an inside-the-park grand slam to, well, a dumpster fire? Why is the former clearly the place I need to hang out and the latter the one I visit the most? Not sure, but I was this way before podcasts–and the intranet for that matter–were around. I almost always prefer to be outraged, I guess. I blame it on a college professor who pushed the red pill.

I think A. Bartlett Giamatti is right, baseball really does “break your heart,” but it’s like a first lover’s jilt, compared to the slap in the face of bad politics, yet I keep coming back, red face and all.

I couldn’t have said it any better

Dear Frank Can I call you Frank? This is just pastor to pastor. Feel free to call me Peter. Anyway, I have to say I was flattered when I learned that your Decision America Tour took a detour off the beaten path to call upon us “small community churches.” We are nothing if not small. […]

I was meaning to address this grave problem with my fellow Christians back in September of 2016 when I received Franklin Graham’s Decision 2016 Election SpecDecision-September-2016ial in the mail. I don’t subscribe to any publications by the Billy Graham organization, but since I am a Christian, I guess some targeted advertising group pointed the publishers my way. I never did respond to this disgraceful publication that attempts to tell the brethren, in so many words, that Donald Trump was a more Godly choice for a president than Hillary Clinton. I may have used Twitter and/or Facebook to object, but nothing detailed like this open letter.

Let me be perfectly clear, I was no fan of Clinton. I couldn’t stand her neo-liberal politics and hawkish approach towards the Middle-East. I couldn’t see her being any better a president than Obama. Also, I can see some fundamentalist Christians taking exception to her as a prospective president, but I would hope if Graham couldn’t get behind Clinton as a “lesser of two evils” option he would at least be quiet this presidential election. After all, Trump did an excellent job revealing to the American public he was lacking in Christian character.

Read this open letter below from a pastor who calls himself “Peter” printed in Trinity’s Portico that says all the things I wanted to say and more when I flipped through Graham’s mailer in anger and frustration.

via An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor — Trinity’s Portico

No surprise here:

The pathetic and predictable response from U.S. lawmakers and the corporate media to Trump’s Syria airstrike.

I wish I were surprised by the number of U.S. lawmakers that supported President Trump’s airstrike on an air base in Syria, but I am not. While I wasn’t surprised that virtually all GOP lawmakers and most of the Democrats supported the strike I was disappointed that Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont wasn’t on the right side. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii, on the other hand, is becoming my new Capitol Hill hero.

What most definitely was not a surprise was how the corporate media gleefully played along with the action. During the strike, we got to learn about how cool Tomahawk missiles are and how “presidential” our bigoted president can be by launching nearly sixty missiles into a war-torn area, and how this aggressive action can actually improve his image among the corporate media. And what the fuck! Did Brian Williams actually quote Leonard Cohen? Jesus! Do any of these schmucks ever step back from their bullshit and ask any of the serious questions? Mind you, I am not surprised at this, just tired of it. Perhaps because I am a student of journalism, I can see the lack of analysis. Still, one would hope Prime Time Poet Brian Williams or Russian Conspiracy Theorist Rachel Maddow would be learned in the ways of the Inverted Pyramid. Wishful thinking, I suppose. Another thing I won’t be surprised about is when the fog of war lifts and the damage is assessed, the corporate media will report on the deception as if it had no responsibility for it.

I follow alternative media sources because, in times of conflict and national security events, the corporate media almost always follows the Official Line and that has helped shape public opinion which has kept us in foreign wars and prevented us from thinking outside the proverbial box for political solutions. It is the corporate media that keeps people like Obama, the Clintons, the Bushs, and even Trump in power and marginalizes alternative voices like Bernie Sanders. A recent example of how the corporate media–often mistakenly referred to as the “liberal media”–acted to keep us insulated from thought outside the established boundaries occurred when “Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI) got shelled by the corporate media for her criticism of the missile strike. How dare the Congresswomen offer a different narrative than the one we are spoon fed from the military industrial complex, its generals, lawmakers, and media! She also received some flak when she (along with Dennis Kucinich) visited Assad back in January 2017.

As Jeremy Scahill–an investigative reporter and co-founder of the excellent online magazine The Intercept— said on his April 12 podcast, Intercepted:

As we’ve seen time and again throughout the history of U.S. wars the public is often not presented with evidence, not to mention solid evident, that what those in power–the Administration, other powerful individuals–are alleging is actually true or that it’s the full truth. As journalists, our job is to hold those in power accountable–whether Democrats, Republicans, or some other iteration. And part of that means demanding evidence. Particularly when it means war or military strikes–when people are going to die not just U.S. soldiers, but also innocent people on the other end of our missiles and our bombs and guns. Everyone knows the old adage “trust but verify.” For journalists that shouldn’t be the policy–it should be “distrust and verify.”  The great I.F. Stone put it best, “All governments lie.” And they lie to justify wars and aggression.

 

Neo-liberalism: How we got in this mess

I wouldn’t say “It’s all Reagan’s fault.” Every president since Reagan has embraced the neo-liberal project. Bill Clinton did plenty of damage while he was president embracing the project and betraying the working people of America he was supposed to support–being a Democrat and all. He’s the guy who signed off on the dismantling the Glass-Steagall Act and helped create NAFTA and CAFTA. Still, one could go back to find the smoking gun–Lewis Powell’s 1971 Memorandum, but whoever you want to blame, neo-liberalism has been here for over thirty-five years and it doesn’t look like it’s leaving anytime soon. Here’s an excellent history lesson from Professor Richard Wolff explaining the whole corrupt mess.