Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The "Incident" Over the Tea in Boston

On this date in history, 1773, the "incident over the tea" took place in Boston Harbor, as a number of men, lightly disguised as "Indians," boarded a ship anchored in the harbor, broke open all of the chests containing tea, and dumped the contents and chests overboard--all while a crowd of several thousand watched silently from the docks.In response, the British government in London ordered the port of Boston closed. This in turn provoked the various colonies to call for a meeting in Philadelphia to formulate a protest. Eventually, events led to the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolutionary War, and the establishment of the United States of America.

This act is generally portrayed as a reaction by the Americans to the ideal of "no taxation without representation; however, the Tea Act actually reduced the tax paid on tea. It did promise to vigorously enforce the prohibition on importing tea other than from the East India Company, and promise prosection of smugglers. Among the most prominent smugglers of tea (and other goods) was John Hancock (the guy with the big signature).

What often gets overlooked is the role of the "lower sort" in this protest. As Alfred Young demonstrated in The Shoemaker and the Tea Party, the support of these kinds of people was instrumental to accomplishing this particular incident, as well as enforcing the boycott that preceded it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pro-Labor Republican?

Sarah Palin, the gift that keeps on giving, on the Hugh Hewitt radio show yesterday:

The money quote:
"We’ve gone through periods of our life here with paying out of pocket for health coverage until Todd and I both landed a couple of good union jobs,"
The interviewer being Hugh Hewitt, there was no real follow-up on this point, of course.

Joe and Jill Six-Pack (aka Todd and Sarah Palin) benefited from their "good union jobs," so surely Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin supports the Employee Free Choice Act--right, Governor? Being in a union family, she must also be aware of how Taft-Hartley tilted the playing field in favor of management, and supports amending the Labor-Management Relations Act to rollback those stipulations--right, Governor? And Senator McCain, surely you agree with your veep choice, and believe that it is important enough to suspend your campaign to parachute return to Washington to introduce this legislation, right?

It's what Teddy Roosevelt would've done, after all.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Billionaire Bailout

Because of the "principled" opposition of an overwhelming number of Republican US House members, the Billionaire Bailout flamed out this afternoon. In my opinion, this is a desirable outcome--if Wall Street is really in need of a huge bailout, then they will have to accept some stipulations that they have resisted to this point. In my view, those stipulations should be (in order of importance):

1.) Changes in the bankruptcy law that allow judges to change the terms of mortgages, so that people in danger of losing their homes can find a way to stay.

2.) An equity stake for the taxpayer in any company that accepts money for this bailout, along the lines that the Swedish government imposed in the early 1990s. If Wall Street's losses are going to be socialized, so should the profits.

3.) Greater regulation of the financial industry, to prevent another fiasco like this happening ten years from now.

4.) Executive compensation should be brought in line with performance--no more Carly Fiorina-style golden parachutes.

Now is the time for tough bargaining on the part of Democratic Party leaders--put together a package that Main Street can support. As for the opposition from Wall Street, I'm reminded of one of my mother's favorite sayings: "Beggars can't be choosers."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Labor and the Civil Rights Act

On this date in history, July 2, 1964, Lyndon Johnson cajoled and twisted the arms of enough congressmen to pass the Civil Rights Act. This landmark piece of legislation segregation in schools, public places, and employment. It also ensured that the Democratic Party would become the minority party in the South; despite Johnson's landslide victory over Goldwater in November 1964, Goldwater won the in the formerly "Solid South" states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, in addition to his home state of Arizona.

Since the ostensible subject this blog is suppose to cover is all things labor, I would like to focus on the effect of this legislation on the labor movement. As a means of combatting segregation in the workplace, the act provided for the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). During its early years of existence, the EEOC filed few cases.

Griggs v. Duke Power changed that posture dramatically. Duke Power before the passage of the Civil Rights Act had maintained a strictly segregated workforce, with African Americans relegated to the laborer occupations. To maintain this system after the passage of the Act, the company changed the requirement for any position other than laborer to be limited to high school graduates. This eliminated nearly all African American candidates, while "grandfathering" whites in better postions who had not earned a high school diploma. Because the requirement of a diploma was "race neutral," lower courts had ruled that the company was justified in making this change.

The US Supreme Court, however, ruled that the company had to prove that the requirements were "reasonably related" to job qualifications if these changes had a disparate impact on ethnic groups, and overturned the decision of the lower court. During this same time frame, the "Philadelphia Plan" was implemented. In Philadelphia, the construction trades were especially obstinate in removing obstacles to hiring more African Americans on construction jobs. In 1968, Johnson's Secretary of Labor, William Wirtz, attempted to implement the first Philadelphia Plan, which would set "affirmative action" goals to hire African Americans in greater numbers for projects paid for by the Federal Government. Wirtz backed down under pressure from the building trades, however.

Since labor unions had led the opposition to Nixon in 1968 (nearly succeeding in electing Hubert H. Humphrey), Nixon felt no such compunction to buckle under to union pressure. In fact, Nixon saw this as a "wedge" issue, to further divide the labor/liberal opposition--which it certainly did.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

JAMES BROWN! Ladies and Gentlemen

Just to counteract that little throw-up taste in you mouth from that last post:

The End of Racism

Not so fast there, Dinesh D'Souza

Let the Texas Republican Party know how you feel about their marketing campaign.

"A Third-Rate Burglary"

On this date in history, five burglars were arrested in the offices of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters on the sixth floor of the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. Three of the men--Eugenio Martinez, Virgilio R. Gonzales, and Bernard L. Barker, were Cuban exiles who had taken part in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. The fourth man, Frank Sturgis, was described by DC police as a "soldier of fortune," who had led three three Cuban exiles during the Bay of Pigs incident. The fifth man gave police the name of Edward Martin; his real name, however, was James W. McCord, who was employed with Richard M. Nixon's Committee to Re-Elect the President, known by the acronym CREEP. Later, two co-conspirators, E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, were also indicted.

Hunt encouraged the men to plead guilty, as he planned to do, assuring them they would receive light sentences and that their families "would be taken care of." Hunt had readily supplied the Cuban exiles (whom he had led during the CIA-directed Bay of Pigs operation) with money, but had cut off funds when the men threatened to tell police what they knew. Hunt appealed to the men's patriotism, and promised that the money would flow again. Unfortunately for Hunt, however, his wife died in a tragic plane crash just days before with $10,000 in cash in a briefcase; this money is eventually traced back to CREEP.

Despite the scent of scandal wafting through the campaign, Nixon wins a landslide victory over the Democratic Party candidate, George McGovern, in the fall. The story of the attempted cover-up would not die, however, as two enterprising journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, kept digging for information and interviewing sources, guided in part by a source cultivated by Woodward known as "Deep Throat," after the adult movie popular in 1972. As the story "gained legs," it spurred investigations by the FBI, the US Senate, and the US House, culminating in this episode:

Monday, June 16, 2008

"A House Divided . . ."

As a number of bloggers have noted, today is the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's "House Divided" speech, given in the "old" Illinois State House, which now serves as Lincoln's Presidential Library. This video will give you a flavor of how it went down:

The camera movement is a little stiff, but what do you expect for 1858?

Anyway, what inspired me to write about this speech was on opinion piece placed in today's local newspaper, the Toledo Blade. In an otherwise fine article about the signifcance of the speech, author Nick J. Sciullo hauls off and accuses Lincoln of being an abolitionist Um, not really. Lincoln was anti-slavery, but never made the leap to abolitionism until it became a war-time expedient. Historian George Frederickson, in one of his last publications, seriously considered Linclon's ever evolving position on race, and argues that, while Lincoln never publicly argued for the equality of the white and black race, he was Big Enough to be Inconsistent

Events this month also illustrate the complex drama of race as it has played out in this country, since in less than two weeks we will also observe the 30th anniversary of the University of California Regents v. Bakke, which established in law the concept of reverse discrimination.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

1909 Hawaiian Sugar Plantation Strike

On May 9, 1909, Japanese workers on the Aiea Plantation walked off their jobs, demanding higher wages and improved working conditions. Japanese workers had been imported to work on sugar plantations for the previous 15 to 20 years, to replace Chinese workers who began organizing for better wages and working conditions. The Chinese workers were imported to replace native Hawaiian, who had died off in alarming numbers since their exposure to European diseases in 1798; many who survived the invasion of the microbes succumbed to overwork when sugar cultivation was introduced to the islands.

By early June, some 7,000 Japanese workers and their families were on strike on Oahu. On June 12, these strikers were charged with inciting disorder. On the previous day, three strike leaders--Makino, Negoro, and Soga, according to the New York Times--were arrested. A large crowd of strikers peacefully assembled outside the jail in Honolulu, chearing loudly when any of the three appeared.

The strike continued into August, with the Hawaiian Sugar Growers Association hiring strikebreakers from the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere--and paying them $1.50 a day. That was more than double what Japanese workers were being paid at the time ($.60 a day), and fifty percent more than the $1.00 a day the Japanese workers were asking for. By the end of the month, most Japanese workers were back on the job, working under the new lower wage.

Factory Girls

Ten years ago on this date, Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturer of America (MMMA) agreed to a $34 million settlement of the allegations that the company's female workers were insulted and groped and management did nothing to stop it. In 1994, 29 female employees filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that the company was complicit in allowing male workers on the shop floor to sexually harass them. In April 1996 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought suit on the behalf some 300 to 500 female workers at Mitsubishi's Normal, Illinois plant. The complaints were some of the most egregious that the EEOC had handled to that point; besides the groping of genital areas, women were also subjected to pornagraphy in the workplace, including graphic drawings on automobiles as they came down the assembly line.

The Mitsubishi plant is one of the few Japanese "transplant" factories that is unionized; UAW Local 2488 represents production workers at this location. Unfortunately, the union did nothing when female members of the local raised complaints with local officers. When the EEOC first filed suit, Mitsubishi bused hundreds of workers to the EEOC offices in Chicago to protest the decision. But afraid of the repercussions that "bad publicity" would generate for the already stuggling operation, the company hired former Bush I labor secretary Lynn Martin to study the company's labor relations practices, and by 1998 decided to settle the suit out of court.

Monday, June 09, 2008

"Have You No Sense of Decency, Sir?"

On this date in history in 1954, attorney Joseph N. Welch confronted Senator Joseph R. McCarthy during a hearing on the threat of communistis in the United States Army. McCarthy, using the bullying tactics that had proven so successful, "exposed" a young lawyer in Welch's firm as a suspected communist. Welch's reaction to McCarthy's reckless behavior is credited with giving courage to others to stand up to McCarthy, and is credited with beginning McCarthy's downfall.

What get overlooked in this sequence of events is the role that Roy Cohn played in this tragi-comedy. Cohn served as chief counsel for the Senate Subcomittee on Investigations, and therefore became responsible for feeding names of suspected communists to McCarthy. To assist him in this endeavor, Cohn enlisted the assistance of a long-time friend, G. David Schine. Many other staffers on the subcomittee suspected that Cohn and Schine were lovers, which may explain the vehemence with which they pursued other suspected homosexuals in the US government. Schine was drafted into the Army in 1952, soon after he and Cohn began an investigation into suspected communists in the Army.

Although it is difficult to ascertain from the video link above, the homosexual nature of the relationship between Cohn and Schine was widely suspected. Although this transcript does not clearly illustrate it, Welch during the hearing "baits" Cohn about his relationship with Schine. Although Cohn readily handles the questioning from Welch, McCarthy jumps to the defense of his chief inquisitor, and gets back at Welch by accusing a junior member of his firm of belonging to a communist "front" organization, the Lawyers Guild.

The Army-McCarthy hearings have long been credited with "bringing down" McCarthy, but a greater factor was the fact that the investigation and hearings never produced their own Alger Hiss moment; with know one ever brought to trial after being "exposed" by McCarthy, his momentum was impossible to sustain.

With the kangaroo court proceedings getting underway at Guantanamo Bay, it is perhaps more important now than it has been in the recent past to recall that, faced with similar circumstances, some Americans placed the importance of the rule of law before their fears of some bogey man that was used to further political ends.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Another "On This Date in History" post

On this date in history, this performance took place at the Fillemore East in New York City:

When the Levee Breaks

First, a refresher--

Then go here, and read the whole thing. I don't have much going on today, so I can wait for you ...

... dum da de da dum, or you're back!

I was in Gulf Coast Mississippi in June of the following year, where we (my wife, sister-in-law, and her husband) worked out of a Methodist church in Moss Point, Mississippi. In our one week there, we were able to get a family, whose home had only suffered flooding from the storm surge, close to being able to move back into their home. We replaced the lower half of the interior walls of their house with new drywall, killed the black mold that had grown in the space between the drywall and outside wall, and replaced the wall sockets that had been damaged by the salt water from the storm surge (the house, by the way, was about a half a mile from the Gulf--so that gives you an idea of the strength of the storm surge).

The point being, even without politicizing the Federal response to Katrina, the hacktastic Bush Administration's response was woefully inadequate; when they went looking for scapegoats to blame their failures on, it cost the lives of hundreds of people.

D-Day, the 6th of June

The Allied attack on the fortified defense postions along the beach in Normandy, in northern France, began at dawn on this date in 1944. Officially known as "Operation Overlord," D-Day quickly became the widely accepted term for the commemoration of this event. I have chosen below less well-known footage of the invasion:

Roosevelt and Churchill had been under pressure from Stalin to open a new front on the war, to relieve the intense pressure that the Red Army, which had defeated the German Army to at Stalingrad the previous year.

Storming the beaches of Normandy was first a logistical difficulty, because of the resources needed to to put thousands of allied (British and Canadian, as well as US) troops necessary to take and hold the positions long enough to provide a jumping off point to re-take France. Most of the troops in the invasion were transported from the troopships to the beaches via the Landing Ship, Tank (LST). Most soldiers contended that the initials stood for Large Slow Target, which this footage from the beginning of "Saving Private Ryan" amply illustrates:

I have used this footage several times in the classroom, because it allows students, I feel, to vicarously experience what the invasion felt like for the grunts--the seasickness, the fear, the fatalism. Then the doors open on the craft, and the soldiers are under such heavy fire that many do not make it out of the boat.

One also gets a feeling for the carnage the war caused, and the personal bravery, as well--but also, near the end of this clip--

the occasional war crime (shooting surrendering prisoners) as well.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Unwitting Iranian Dupes

Or, maybe it should be Iranians dupe nitwits?
Did Iranian agents dupe Pentagon officials?
John Walcott | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: June 05, 2008 10:39:07 PM

WASHINGTON — Defense Department counterintelligence investigators suspected that a small group of Pentagon officials who'd collected dubious intelligence on Iraq and Iran from Iranian exiles might have "been used as agents of a foreign intelligence service ... to reach into and influence the highest levels of the U.S. government," a Senate Intelligence Committee report said Thursday.

A top aide to then-secretary of defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, however, shut down the 2003 investigation into the group's activities after only a month, and Pentagon officials never followed up on investigators' recommendation for a more thorough investigation, the Senate report said.

The revelation raises questions about whether Iran may have used a small cabal of officials in the Pentagon and in Vice President Dick Cheney's office to feed bogus intelligence on Iraq and Iran to senior policymakers in the Bush administration who were eager to oust the Iraqi dictator.

Iran, which was a mortal enemy of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and fought a bloody eight-year war with Iraq during his reign, has been the primary beneficiary of U.S. policy in Iraq, where Iranian-backed groups now run much of the government and the security forces.

The aborted counterintelligence investigation probed some Pentagon officials' contacts with Iranian exile Manucher Ghorbanifar, whom the CIA had labeled a "fabricator" in 1984. Those contacts were brokered by an American civilian, Michael Ledeen, a former Pentagon and National Security Council consultant and a leading advocate of invading Iraq and overthrowing Iran's Islamic regime.

According to the Senate report, the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity unit concluded in 2003 that Ledeen "was likely unwitting of any counterintelligence issues related to his relationship with Mr. Ghorbanifar."

The counterintelligence unit said, however, that Ledeen's association with Ghorbanifar "was widely known, and therefore it should be presumed other foreign intelligence services, including those of Iran, would know."

Stephen Cambone, then the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, shut down the counterintelligence investigation after only a month, the Senate report said

Wait, wait, it gets better--

During the Rome meetings, Ghorbanifar also laid out a scheme to overthrow the Iranian regime on a napkin during a late night meeting in a bar. "The plan," said the Senate committee, "involved the simultaneous disruption of traffic at key intersections leading to Tehran that would create anxiety, work stoppages and other disruptive measures" in a capital city famous for its traffic congestion.

Ghorbanifar asked for $5 million in seed money, Franklin told the committee, and indicated that if the traffic jam plan succeeded, he'd need additional money.

"The proposed funding for, and foreign involvement in, Mr. Ghorbanifar's plan for regime change were never fully understood," the Senate committee said.

Nevertheless, Ghorbanifar's proposals grew more ambitious — and expensive. A February 2002 memo from Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman referred to an unnamed foreign government's support for a Ghorbanifar plan that would cost millions of dollars. A later summary referred to contracts "that would assure oil and gas sales in the event of regime change". The U.S. ambassador to Italy said that DOD officials "were talking about 25 million for some kind of Iran program."

After Franklin and Rhode returned from the Rome meetings, the Senate report said, two series of events began to unfold in Washington that were typical of the gamesmanship that plagued the Bush administration's national security team.

"First," the report said, "State Department and CIA officials attempted to determine what Mr. Ledeen and the DOD representatives had done in Rome, and second, DOD officials debated the next course of action."

When the CIA and the State Department discovered that Ledeen and Ghorbanifar were involved, they opposed any further contact with the two. Ledeen's contacts, the Defense Human Intelligence Service concluded, were "nefarious and unreliable," the Senate committee reported.

According to the report, Ledeen, however, persisted, presenting then-Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith with a new 100-day plan to provide, among other things, evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that supposedly had been moved to Iran — Saddam Hussein's archenemy. This time, the report said, Ledeen solicited support from former speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich and from three then-GOP senators, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Rhode and Ghorbanifar met again in Paris in June 2003 with at least the tacit approval of an official in Cheney's office, the Senate report said.

He reported back to officials in the Pentagon and the vice president's office, but "there is no indication that the information collected during the Paris meeting was shared with the Intelligence Community for a determination of potential intelligence value," the report said.

This is like hitting the motherlode of Republican stupidity--Cheney, Rumsfield, Feith, Cambone, Gingrich, Brownback, Kyl, Santorum--all under the spell of some self-styled "Middle East Expert"--Ledeen--who neither writes nor speaks neither Arabic or Farsi, and gets played like a Stradivarius by some two-bit con man. Move over, Doug Feith, there's a new stupidest f**cking guy on the planet

Hat tip to Atrios

Wonder why Feith left this little episode out of his book?

The 1998 Flint Strike

On June 5, 1998, workers at the Flint Metal Center went out on strike.
The overriding issue is outsourcing-transferring work to low-wage or non-union shops in this country and abroad. Through plant closings and consolidations, speed-up, technological improve ments and increased overtime, GM has eliminated hundreds of thousands of union jobs over the last two decades.

Workers stayed on strike for 59 days, eventually costing GM more than $2 billion dollars, because the Metal Center and Delphi East (which also went out on strike over the same issues)supplied parts for 16 assembly plants--the result of GM's (then) new reliance on "just in time" parts supply. A more thorough examination of the implications of this strike is undertaken by geographer Andy Herod (warning: large pdf file).

The 1968 California Democratic Primary

The 1968 California Democratic Party primary election took place on June 4, and is infamous because of the tragic assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel after his victory speech after midnight on June 5. In the days before 24 hour news channels, most Americans didn't find about about this event until the next morning in the newspaper.

Kennedy entered the Democratic primaries after Eugene McCarthy had proven Lyndon Johnson beatable after McCarthy's narrow loss in the New Hampshire primary in mid-March of 1968 (yes, kids, we use to have an primary election season that only lasted four months). Kennedy did not have enough delegates to win the nomination outright going into the July convention in Chicago, but he did have the backing of many old-line Democrats, including Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley.

That convention fight was ended by an assassin's bullet. Sirhan B. Sirhan, a Palestinian, sits in a California prison after being convicted for this crime; there are those who claim that he was not the triggerman, or that there were others involved. LA police found an entry in Sirhan's diary that noted "RFK must die before June 5"--the one year anniversary of the Six Day War. Sirhan was the one grabbed by eyewitness Roosevelt Grier, a member of the (then)-Los Angeles Rams' "Fearsome Foursome."

I would like to leave you with a speach that RFK made in the aftermath of an earlier tragic assassination in April of 1968.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

We Remember

... even if the government in China tries to erase the memories.

The events leading up to the massacre at Tianamen Square were a series of protests by labor organizations, students, and intellectuals against the economic policies of the Chinese government. While most of the western media attention focused on Tianamen Square in Beijing, like protests took place throughout the country. These protests were largely peaceful until the Chinese army moved in to crush the rebellion on this day in 1989. The resulting deaths ranged somewhere between 200 (the Chinese government figure) and 3000 (the high end estimated by student protest leaders--and the Chinese Red Cross.

The "lone protester" who stood in front of the tanks advancing on the square the next day became a symbol for the resistance showed by the protesters, but did not prevent thousands being swept up in a nation-wide dragnet which, along with continued use of brutal force, ended the protests.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

If You Knew Suzi

You wouldn't be hanging out here

Monday, February 18, 2008

9/11 Really Did Change Everything

In looking for blogging fodder, I learned, courtesy of the Associated Press, that on this date in history ten year ago: President Clinton's foreign policy team encountered jeers during a town meeting at The Ohio State University while trying to defend the administration's threat to bomb Iraq into compliance with U.N. weapons edicts. On this very same date, five years ago: Declaring that America's security should not be dictated by protesters, President Bush said he would not be swayed from compelling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to disarm

Makes you wonder how different the world would be if we had a competant President and NSC chief on August 6, 2001.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Bombing of Dresden

On this date in history in 1945, the allied bombing attack on Dresden commenced. Between February 13 and February 15, 1,300 allied bombers dropped 3,900 tons (that's 7,800,000 pounds) of explosives and incendiaries on the city, creating a firestorm in the center of the city that completely detroyed that section; it also killed somewhere between 24,000 and 40,000 civilians--the greatest number of civilians killed in an attack until August of that year (Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Did that attack constitute a war crime? Since the victors of wars define that, and rarely charge themselves, that answer is self-evident. There were truth-tellers who survived that attack, however, including a young American prisoner-of-war, kept safe in an underground slaughterhouse by his captors.

That witness went on to write a number of well-received books, including the one adapted into the movie above.

Monday, February 11, 2008

How Many More Have To Die for This Woman's Incompentence?

Elaine L. Chao is the nation's 24th Secretary of Labor, proudly following in the wake of Frances Perkins, the first woman to hold this post. Except that Frances Perkins cared for the well-being of workers, and Elaine Chao could give a shit about them.

Under Sec. Chao, mining fatalies have spiked upward during her seven years in office. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), nominally in charge of promoting worker safety, has seen its budget continue to be slashed, despite the increase in worker injuries and deaths on the job in relation to the number of manufacturing jobs held in the economy.

Does Sec. Chao ever have to answer for her dismal performance in office. Has the New York Times or Washington Post ever questioned her when there is a workplace disaster? If somebody at those two newspapers cared about the fate of workers, maybe asking her those questions might be a place to start.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Nixon and Vietnam

Today is the anniversary of Richard M. Nixon's announcement that an accord had been reached to end the Vietnam War--"peace with honor" had finally been reached. Of course, this was much the same "peace" agreement that Henry Kissinger reached in October 1972, when he raced back from Paris in time for the fall election claiming that "peace is at hand." Only the "government" in South Vietnam was adamant that the agreement reached was unacceptable, since it left the National Liberation Front (popularly known as the "Viet Cong") intact and in place throughout the south.

Bargainers from North Vietnam with incentive to return to the bargaining table (they expected the US government to prevail upon their puppet regime in the south to accept the deal cut in Paris, and refused to re-negotiate the terms they initially agreed to), "Operation Linebacker II" dropped 15,237 tons of ordnance on the People's Republic of Vietnam between December 18 and 29--which is why the mission is popularly known as the "Christmas Bombing." Both Operation Linebacker I and II are used to justify the concept of "strategic bombing," military operations with "minimal" civilian casulties. Plus, the civilian casulties that result are the fault of the hostile government (in the American view, and the American view is the only one that counts) placing civilian installations too close to military targets.

The end result of this carnage was that the United States got the People's Republic to agree to the same terms they agreed to the previous October, and Nixon then prevailed upon the president of the Republic of Vietnam (the official name for the US-supported government in the south) to accept the terms agreed to by the US and North Vietnam the previous October.

The video above poses the question as to whether Henry Kissinger (and by extension, his boss, Richard Nixon), is a war criminal. The synchronicity between the events in Vietnam, and the largely ignored other news of today are always of interest to those persons looking for such connections.

Birthday greetings ...

... go out to Robin Zander, singer for the Rockford's greatest rock 'n' roll band.

Monday, January 14, 2008

...Segregation Forever

Today is the forty-fifth anniversary of George Corley Wallace's swearing-in for his first term as governor of Alabama. After being defeated in the 1958 governor's race by John Patterson, Wallace, according to some--and largely corroborated by Dan T. Carter in his excellent political biography of Wallace, The Politics of Rage--stated that he would never be "out-niggered" in another election. To this point, Wallace had been a protege of "Big Jim" Folsom, governor of Alabama in the 1950s notable for his progressive racial politics. With the rise of "massive resistance" throughout the South in the wake of Brown v. Board of Ed., racial tolerance was no longer tolerated in the white South. At his inauguration on this date, Wallace's speach ended famously, "...segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segegation forever!"

In June of 1963, Wallace made his famous "stand in the schoolhouse door," orchestrated by Wallace and the federal government so that Wallace could make good on his campaign promise, while avoiding the violence that swept the University of Mississippi the previous fall, when US Marshalls had accompanied James Meredith to register for classes at Oxford (the recently retired senior Mississippi senator, Trent Lott, was attending Ole Miss at the time, by the way--no doubt leading cheers). The man standing in front of Wallace in the photo is Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach (with his arms folded, looking impatient), assigned by Attorney General Bobby Kennedy to see that the two students--Vivian Malone and James Hood--were allowed to register; after Wallace made his speech, he stepped aside and the two were allowed through the schoolhouse door.

Wallace is a seminal, if often overlooked, political figure in the 1960s. In his Presidential campaigns in 1964 and 1968, Wallace was the lightening rod for what we have come to call "white backlash." Nixon was fearful in 1968 that Wallace's run as an independent would siphon off enough votes from white voters to throw the election to Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey. The photo above, by the way, is of Wallace speaking at a Barry Goldwater campaign function. As Dan Carter argued in his book, Wallace and the path he blazed in national politics played a vital part in the resurgence of conservative politics--a role that you won't find mentioned in Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism(no link--you can find it on the remainder table at your local bookstore in a couple of weeks), even though Wallace's politics is perhaps the closest we have come to fascism in this country.

Wallace was particularly effective in courting white working-class voters, not only for his racial stance, but because of his economic populism and his derisive put-downs of "pointy-headed intellectuals." Both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan (and their handlers), learned much from the two Wallace camapaigns in the Sixties. Wallace's national political career when he was shot and paralyzed by a demented loner from Milwaukee, Arthur Bremer. Wallace spent the rest of this life in a wheelchair, most of it in pain. He attempted another Presidential run in 1976, but the press concentrated on his poor health, and the try was quickly aborted. he was elected governor of Alabama again in 1982 as a born-again Christian, who had made amends with civil rights leaders in the state--and won. Wallace died on September 13, 1998, just weeks after his 79th birthday.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The French Bastard

No, not Nicolas Sarkozy--William the Conqueror. Today is the 232nd anniversary of the publication of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, the little 46-page pamphlet that presented a philosophical underpinning for casting off the bonds monarchy, since "A French bastard landing with an armed Banditti and establishing himself king of England against the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original." And those terms could not be expressed much more plainly than that.

A failed stay-maker (in the age of corsets), and an unsuccessful tax collector, Paine made his way to "the colonies" after a meeting with bon vivant Benjamin Franklin, who provided him with a letter of introduction. Paine arrived in Philadelphia late in the fall of 1775.
Using Franklin's letter, Paine quickly obtained a position with one of Franklin's printer friends. Paine rather quickly absorbed the rebellious spirit of the "lower sort" in the city, who were eager to throw off the yoke of monarcial repression; many of their "betters," then in session in the city as the Continental Congress, were more circumspect in this regard.

Paine's little pamphlet, published on this date in 1776, both distilled the sentiment on the street, and persuaded enough members in the Congress that seven months later, a majority of the members of congress were willing to sign a Declaration of Independence.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Flint Sit Down Strike, Part III

Mich. governor Frank Murphy
Photo courtesy of Detroit News
Murphy's refusal to use the Michigan National Guard to remove the strikers meant that GM officials could not count on the government to assist them in breaking the strike, but was not enough to bring the corporation to the bargaining table. In order to accomplish that, the union had to prove not only that they could hold the factories that they already occupied, but that they had enough support among autoworkers in Flint to seize other plants.
Aerial view of the Chevrolet complex along the Flint River, ca. 1937
Photo courtesy of Detroit News

The difficulty in accomplishing this was that the membership of the union in Flint was rife with spys. In the LaFollete hearing after the strike, it was discovered that GM spent thousands of dollars on maintaining its spy network in the plants that it operated; while having no idea of the size of the operation, its was evident to those union officials running the strike in Flint that GM was aware of most things the union planned. In response to this situation, Bob Travis devised a plan to bait the corporation into protecting the wrong strike target. At a strike strategy meeting, it was made known that the next target for a strike attempt was Chevrolet Plant 9. After the committee broke up, Travis called back several trusted associates to fill them in greater detail--that the real target was Chevrolet Plant 4, which made nearly all the engines for the Chevrolet Division.

The next day, a large contingent from the union attempted to take Plant 9. They were met with an even larger contingent of GM security. While engaged in hand-to-hand combat in the plant, a second union contingent arrived at Chevrolet Plant 6, and were met my a detachment of security personnel from Plant 9, with backups from the security force at Plant 4--leaving the real strike target only lightly guarded. The union was able to occupy the plant with minimal resistance, and production of engines was shut off.

Bowing to reality, the corportation finally began negotiating with the union in good faith, and on February 11, 1937--a month after the Battle of Running Bulls--GM and the UAW signed their first contract agreement.