PBS

Ken Burns’ New PBS Documentary On The Vietnam War Due In September

Ken Burns, the brilliant documentary producer, is about to present to America what may be his most brilliant series yet, on the Vietnam War, scheduled for 18 hours on PBS in late September.

Burns, of course, produced series on the Civil War, Baseball, National Parks, Jazz, The Roosevelts, The War (World War II), The West, New York, Prohibition, Jackie Robinson, and other creative films, many of which have been seen as the best documentaries ever produced.

No one can accuse Burns of not tackling difficult subjects, and this new extended series, will be exhaustive in covering all angles of the impact of the Vietnam War on Southeast Asia, as well as the United States.

With the Vietnam War now part of the past for 42 years, since its ultimate end in 1975, it is time for a thorough study of that war which divided America like no event since the Civil War, and Ken Burns does a superb job!

The President of Vietnam was greeted at the White House last week by President Trump, with nary a mention of the fact that we fought there for a decade, and lost 58,000 military personnel. As I watched, I wonderered why there is still so much tumult over Cuba, with the hint that Trump would cut back on the advancements in the relationship between America and Cuba made under Barack Obama, a nation where we lost no combat troops.

A Sobering Centennial: America Enters “The Great War” On April 6, 1917

It has been a century since America entered world affairs in a full sense, as on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson spoke to Congress and asked for a declaration of war against the Imperial German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Turkish Empire, and allied with Great Britain, France and Italy, in what was called “The Great War” at the time, and later World War I or the First World War.

The controversy over whether Wilson could have kept us out of the war has raged for a century, and his handling of the war effort, and the promotion of restriction on civil liberties during the war has remained highly contentious, and has caused Wilson to decline from Number 6 in the C Span Presidential poll of 2000, to Number 9 in the C Span Presidential poll of 2009, and now Number 11 in the C Span Presidential poll of 2017, all participated in by reputable scholars.

American sacrifices in war had been avoided, as America remained isolated from world affairs and foreign conflict until 1917, but in the last century, we have been in many major wars since then, including World War II, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan War, along with many other foreign interventions in Latin America and the Middle East.

No one can be anything but sober to realize that when Congress voted for war on April 6, 1917, it transformed America in a permanent way, helping to create the concept of an American Empire, and America as a world leader since the end of World War II.

And now, with Donald Trump, the whole history of American foreign relations is in flux, and we face many challenges and crises in international affairs, and the hope is that we will avoid further military conflicts in the future, but hard to believe that is the scenario under Donald Trump.

PBS will have a six hour presentation on The American Experience on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings April 10, 11, and 12 on America and The Great War, our nation’s engagement in the First World War, from many different perspectives, highly recommended to all who read this blog.

Trump Declaration Of War On The Arts, Humanities, PBS, National Public Radio, And Woodrow Wilson International Center For Scholars

Donald Trump’s budget proposal is a declaration of war on the arts, humanities and history, undermining artists, museums, and cultural organizations, although the total budget of all cultural institutions supported by federal money is minuscule, just a few hundred million of 1.1 trillion of total annual discretionary spending, about .0003 percent of the budget.

All the creative work of the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts would be wiped out, and there would also be elimination of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting which provides funding for PBS and National Public Radio, and of the Woodrow Wilson International Center For Scholars.

So all funding for cultural and educational institutions would be ended, a repudiation of the value of intellectual pursuits, and closing down agencies that have done so much good for America, opening up the eyes and minds of tens of millions of Americans who were educated by the creative work of intellectuals in all fields of the arts and humanities.

We are seeing the suppression of our institutional memory of knowledge.

This move by Trump would repudiate all the good work done in the arts and humanities by Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression via the Works Projects Administration (WPA) to keep the cultural community alive and thriving.

It also is 52 years since Lyndon B. Johnson made a major commitment to culture and the arts, through the establishment by Congress of the NEH, PBS, NEA, and the Wilson Center.

All decent people must fight this anti intellectualism full throttle!

Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address And First Actions Show America Is In Massive Constitutional Crisis, Greater Than Watergate!

Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address and first actions in office show America is in a massive constitutional crisis, greater than Watergate!

Trump’s speech was the most negative, darkest speech ever given on Inauguration Day, when usually the rhetoric is lofty and positive.

He talked about “Carnage” in the nation after eight great years of positive change under Barack Obama.

He is so insecure that he continues to brag about his accomplishments, even today while visiting the CIA headquarters in Virginia, an agency he had been highly critical of, as they investigate any Russian connection during the Presidential campaign, and with Trump still applauding Vladimir Putin of Russia, while strongly attacking NATO and the European Union, undermining our alliances from Truman to Obama.

And his changes in the White House website within an hour after Barack Obama left office is alarming–wiping out the sections on Gays and Lesbians, Civil Rights, Health Care, Immigration, Native Americans, Violence Against Women, Disabilities, Climate Change, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Public Radio, PBS, and with more certain to come.

Trump also signed into law the wiping out of an Obama initiative to lower mortgage insurance fees to help new homeowners, causing an estimated $500 increase annually, which will force some out of the home market, people who are struggling to be able to buy The American Dream, their own home.

How can Trump say he is for the people, and that they control their government, when only the wealthy and powerful will benefit, and many groups of people will suffer, massively, by his narrow mindedness and bigotry?

Trump is already in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, with conflicts of interest all over the world, making profit off being President, and putting his foreign properties under threat of attack. Just the Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, a few blocks from the White House, is a violation of the Constitution, and leading early to impeachment resolutions.

We are in a nightmare situation, and the fear that Trump will suppress the free news media, form an enemy’s list like Richard Nixon had, and try to curb freedom of assembly, and who knows, possible thoughts of Martial Law that might be endorsed by a right wing Attorney General, Jeff Sessions!

The Need For Strong Backing Of Journalism To Hold Trump’s “Feet To The Fire”!

It is urgent that all Americans realize the overwhelming importance of strong backing of major newspapers and magazines, as well as PBS, NPR, CNN and MSNBC to hold government leaders’ “feet to the fire”, to hold them accountable on government policy.

Donald Trump’s attack on the news media is an alarm bell in the night.

Without a free press, specifically print media and electronic media, our democracy can be taken away from us, and no journalist or media source can allow themselves to be intimidated, and must pursue the truth about government leaders and policies without fear of retribution.

If we lose freedom of the press, then our basic civil liberties are threatened, and that is why such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center and others like them, must be fully supported in fighting in court to prevent the loss of freedom in any form.

There are cynics about the news media, but such publications as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and major journals of opinion, both in print and online, must be vigilant and not allow themselves to be threatened, as they are the first line of defense for all Americans.

At the same time, CNN and MSNBC must work at being more accurate and less motivated for profit, as many Americans who do not read news online regularly, rely on them to do the job that we used to expect automatically from such media luminaries in the past, such as Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, and others, including Diane Rehm on NPR, who just retired, and will be greatly missed!

Donald Trump Promoting Long Term Racism And Nativism In Children: What A Tumultuous Future For America!

The saddest and most tragic effect of the Donald Trump candidacy for President is how he is promoting long term racism and nativism in children, which guarantees a long term tumultuous future for American race relations.

White children are taunting their Hispanic-Latino and Muslim school mates,that they will be deported and barred from America, and that is cannon fodder for the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups to recruit teenagers and young men and women in their 20s to incite racial violence and persecution over the long haul.

A third grade boy in North Carolina has written, as part of a class assignment, to Donald Trump, deploring his racism, nativism, and other prejudiced statements, that harm children, and shows a very perceptive young man who is ashamed of what Trump is doing as an adult, who is supposed to be a role model, but is anything but that.

It is infuriating that Trump accused Cokie Roberts, the PBS journalist formerly with ABC News,  who was on Morning Joe this morning, of being “nasty”, by bringing up the effect Trump is having on children.  And for Trump to claim he has not “heard” or “seen” that, is aggravating, as just because he, personally, has not heard or seen it, is just an indication of how ignorant he is, and his attempt to deny reality as a result!

Trump is already damaging America in a long term manner, long after he leaves the scene, and that is a sin beyond redemption!

America’s Fascist Demagogues In History: Huey P. Long, Joseph McCarthy, George C. Wallace, Patrick Buchanan!

The United States has had its Fascist demagogues in the past nearly hundred years of our history, but luckily, they “burned out” very quickly.

We had Democratic Governor and Senator Huey P. Long, who condemned the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the early 1930s era of the Great Depression.  He had a big following on radio; drew large public crowds; preached “Every Man A King” and “Share The Wealth” as he attacked Wall Street; had his own group of “storm troopers” to protect him;  and made clear that he hoped to come to power on a national level, having alienated his Senate colleagues and the President by his tactics and showmanship.

His potential threat disappeared, however, when he was assassinated in the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge in September 1935, a mystery that still exists today, as covered in Chapter 7 of my book, ASSASSINATIONS, THREATS, AND THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY: FROM ANDREW JACKSON TO BARACK OBAMA (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, August 2015).  He reminded many of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, both of whom had not yet become as aggressive and warlike as they would become in the mid to late 1930s and early 1940s.

Then we had evil personified in Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, who stirred fear and insecurity in America in the early 1950s, when he accused Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower and many government and other public figures of being Communists, or “soft on Communism”.

He ruined thousands of people’s lives, caused their deaths or complete destruction of their lives, but it was all a ploy backed by right wing conservatives, who continue to honor him, even after his political downfall in December 1954 when the US Senate condemned him, and his early death of alcoholism in May 1957.  This despicable man was a true Fascist demagogue with too many people ready to back him, but his cockiness and arrogance and false charges finally brought him down.

Then we had Democratic Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama, who sowed racism in America as he stood in the door of the University of Alabama in 1963 to attempt to block integration of the state university, and allowed police brutality in Birmingham and elsewhere, leading to the bombing of a black church and the death of young girls in the explosion.

A true Fascist demagogue of the worst kind, he actually gained five states and 46 electoral votes as a third party candidate for President in 1968.  Then, while running in 1972 again, he was shot and paralyzed for life by an assassin, a tragic event for sure, but brought on by his notoriety and demagogic nature.  Wallace’s story is well covered in Chapter 11 of my new book mentioned above.

And then we had Patrick Buchanan, an aide to President Richard Nixon and President Ronald Reagan, who promoted nativism and racism and antisemitism, including Holocaust denial,   as he campaigned against President George H. W. Bush in the 1992 primaries; against Bob Dole in the 1996 primaries;  and then ran as a third party candidate of the Reform Party in 2000.

Due to confusion in Palm Beach County, Florida, Buchanan gained 4,000 votes that were intended by voters for Al Gore, but mistakenly, these elderly, mostly Jewish voters punched the wrong hole on the “butterfly” ballots, and by doing so, caused the election of George W. Bush statewide, officially by a total of 537 votes, sadly denying Al Gore the Presidency, despite his national popular vote lead of 540,000!

Buchanan clearly was and is a Fascist demagogue, who, however, has become someone ignored, and no longer has a major media presence in his later years, as he once did on cable television as a political commentator on MSNBC and CNN, although he still is on Fox News Channel and PBS.

And now we have, at the least, two Fascist demagogues, now considered the front runners in the Republican race for President—Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz!  Again, the fight against right wing Fascism and its elements–racism, nativism, misogyny, antisemitism—remain a battle decent people must fight with every ounce of their energy!

45 and 40 Years Ago: Times Of Shame!

PBS last night had three hours of documentary coverage of two tragic events, occurring 45 and 40 years ago at the end of April.

In 1970, Richard Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia, an escalation of the war in Vietnam, causing massive anti war demonstrations, and the massacre of students at Kent State University in Ohio by the Ohio National Guard, a total of four killed and ten wounded; and Jackson State College in Mississippi, the killing of two students by state troopers and local police. This tragic event was covered in “The Day the Sixties Ended”, an hour presentation.

Then, five years later, on April 30, the final evacuation from Vietnam, two years after the Paris Peace Accords supposedly guaranteed two separate Vietnams, after 12 years of war, and 58,000 Americans had been killed, took place. About 130,000 South Vietnamese were evacuated, but hundreds of thousands were left behind, and ended up in re-education camps of the Communist Vietnamese government, or were “Boat People”, many of whom died in the South China Sea. A few hundred thousand ended up in the US, and others, in the Philippines and several other nations, but it was a tremendous human tragedy. These tragic events were covered in “The Last Days in Vietnam”, an award winning documentary put together by Rory Kennedy, the youngest child of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, born months after his assassination in 1968.

The sad part about these events in 1970 and 1975 is that most Americans have no awareness of these events, and we continue to make similar mistakes, as in the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan, but causing the loss of American lives and treasure, and the massive loss of life among the people of those nations.

Both 1970 and 1975 are times of shame, but most Americans, being clueless, makes it ever more a shame!

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Second Bill Of Rights (January 11, 1944) Not Yet Achieved In 2014!

Now that THE ROOSEVELTS series on PBS, the seven part series presented to the nation by the great documentarian Ken Burns, is over, many thoughts and emotions cross one’s mind.

FDR offered so much to the nation in his New Deal, and in his leadership of the struggle against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan in World War II.

But what struck this author more than any of this, while watching this 14 hour series over the past week, is an often forgotten speech, the State of the Union speech of January 11, 1944, delivered by FDR in a joint session of Congress.

The speech dealt with the issue of a “Second Bill Of Rights”.

FDR knew that the Bill Of Rights had made America the beacon of the civilized world, with the basic civil liberties it granted to all Americans.

But FDR was looking ahead to the end of World War II, and envisioned a nation that would extend the concept of a bill of rights to other issues that affected all Americans.

So FDR called for a future guarantee of everyone having a decent job with a living wage; a guarantee of decent housing for all Americans; a guarantee of a decent supply of food, clothing, and leisure for all; a guarantee of a decent education providing opportunity for all to advance; an expansion of Social Security beyond the beginning of the concept nine years earlier in 1935; and  provision for a decent health care system for all Americans.

Now 70 years later, none of these have been accomplished, although Social Security has improved tremendously for the elderly, and for women who are widowed and children who lose a parent or are orphaned: Medicare has done so much to help the elderly and disabled; and ObamaCare, under great duress, has provided health care for millions of Americans who never had health coverage before.

But yet, conservatives and Republicans are out to make Social Security and Medicare privatized, and want to destroy ObamaCare!

But we have too many people who cannot find work, due to the Great Recession of George W. Bush and cannot even gain extension of the New Deal concept of unemployment compensation; many Americans live in substandard housing; many people go hungry and live in dire poverty; many have to work multiple jobs and cannot have time for leisure, with most Americans not able to have vacation time, less than any European democracy, or Canada or Australia;  and many children are denied a good education system and can only gain minimum wage employment as adults.

The right wing extremists are trying to destroy the New Deal and Great Society reforms, and return American to a century ago before there was social justice and economic opportunity and political reform offered, starting with the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.

How can any decent American not rise up in protest and anger at the selfishness and greed of the elite one percent and their propagandists, who do not care what happens to anyone other than their own class?  Why is acquisition of obscene wealth and power so important that these right wingers have no humanity, no common decency, no desire to see their fellow Americans have a chance to succeed as they were given?  Why is the hatred of taxes so vehement, as if one can take his or her wealth to the grave, or give it in obscene amounts to offspring who will never know responsibility or the virtue of accomplishing on their own?  What is wrong with this nation, that 70 years after the “Second Bill of Rights” speech of FDR, we have made very little progress on the goals of the speech, and have even backtracked on them, and we have evil forces wanting to destroy the most significant programs of the New Deal and Great Society?

Important Anniversaries To Commemorate!

The last few days have seen some important anniversaries worthy of mention.

On September 14, the day that THE ROOSEVELTS Ken Burns series started on PBS, it was the 113th anniversary of the accession of Theodore Roosevelt to the Presidency, due to the assassination of President William McKinley, who had been shot on September 6, and died eight days later.  It was no accident that the Ken Burns series, the best documentary in many years, started on that significant day, marking the beginning of the transformation of the American Presidency over the next century and more!

On September 17, two important anniversaries were noted.  The 227th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution by the Founding Fathers, a group which saw a need for a strong national government and broad interpretation of the Constitution, as shown through Article 1, Section 8, the “elastic clause”, was celebrated as Constitution Day.  The right wing conservatives and most Republicans of the 2014 variety, including the despicable Tea Party Fascists, have tried to distort the Constitution and the Founding Fathers, and this warping of the Founding Fathers must be fought to reverse the damage done by these groups!

Also, September 17 marks the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, at Antietam, Maryland, in 1862, the 152nd anniversary of that tragic event, and an important moment for the Union in its battle, under Abraham Lincoln, to preserve the Union.

Also, today, September 18, is the 163rd anniversary of the NEW YORK TIMES, still the best newspaper in America, despite some notable shortcomings over the years.

So we have a lot to note and commemorate in mid September!