Is the Vietnam War an echo of the Afghanistan War?

Bill Moyers wonders, as we all do, if Obama’s escalation of the Afghanistan War is a repetition of LBJ’s escalation of the Vietnam War in 1964.

War Memories

Our country wonders this weekend what is on President Obama’s mind. He is apparently, about to bring months of deliberation to a close and answer General Stanley McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan. When he finally announces how many, why, and at what cost, he will most likely have defined his presidency, for the consequences will be far-reaching and unpredictable. As I read and listen and wait with all of you for answers, I have been thinking about the mind of another president, Lyndon B. Johnson.

I was 30 years old, a White House Assistant, working on politics and domestic policy. I watched and listened as LBJ made his fateful decisions about Vietnam. He had been thrust into office by the murder of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963– 46 years ago this weekend. And within hours of taking the oath of office was told that the situation in South Vietnam was far worse than he knew.

Less than four weeks before Kennedy’s death, the South Vietnamese president had himself been assassinated in a coup by his generals, a coup the Kennedy Administration had encouraged.

South Vietnam was in chaos, and even as President Johnson tried to calm our own grieving country, in those first weeks in office, he received one briefing after another about the deteriorating situation in Southeast Asia.

Lyndon Johnson secretly recorded many of the phone calls and conversations he had in the White House. In this broadcast, you’re going to hear excerpts that reveal how he wrestled over what to do in Vietnam. There are hours of tapes and the audio quality is not the best, but I’ve chosen a few to give you an insight into the mind of one president facing the choice of whether or not to send more and more American soldiers to fight in a far-away and strange place.

Granted, Barack Obama is not Lyndon Johnson, Afghanistan is not Vietnam and this is now, not then. But listen and you will hear echoes and refrains that resonate today.

[Click to continue reading Bill Moyers Journal . Watch & Listen | PBS]

Transcript here, and video here

The exact circumstances are different, but what the fuck is Obama doing? What’s the end game of escalation of the war? Will the Taliban ever throw their hands up and walk away? No, they will not, and even if they do, there is a thousand other offshoots of fundamentalists willing to step into the breach and fight The Great Satan. Are we as a country committed to staying permanently in Afghanistan? In Iraq? In Pakistan? At what cost? Can we afford to piss away trillions of dollars of our national budget protecting the interests of a few? What benefit to our nation does continuing the Afghanistan conflict actually accomplish?

As LBJ repeatedly says, sometimes you have to let the dominoes fall.


Death of Newspapers as explained by David Simon

David Simon1 was interviewed by Bill Moyers (video here if you missed it) about what fictional tales like The Wire can say about our corrupt institutions that journalism cannot. About 2/3 through the interview, Mr. Simon reminded me of how newspapers, as a business, made decisions to increase their profits at the expense of newsgathering, and thus sowed the seeds of their own destruction:

BILL MOYERS: I read something you recently told “The Guardian,” in London: “Oh, to be a state or local official in America…” without newspapers. “It’s got to be one of the great dreams in the history of American corruption.”


DAVID SIMON: Well, I was being a little hyperbolic. But-

BILL MOYERS: But it’s happening. I mean, it’s becoming true.

DAVID SIMON: Yes. It absolutely is, it absolutely is. To find out what’s going on in my own city I often find myself at a bar somewhere taking, writing stuff down on a cocktail napkin that a police lieutenant or some school teacher tells me. Because these institutions are no longer being covered by beat reporters who are looking for the systemic. It doesn’t exist anymore.

And this is not all the Internet. This was a– you know, there’s a lot of the general tone in journalism right now is that of martyrology. Of-

BILL MOYERS: Being martyrs, right.

DAVID SIMON: Yes, we were doing our job. Making the world safe for democracy. And all of a sudden, terra firma shifted, new technology. Who knew that the Internet was going to overwhelm us? I would buy that if I wasn’t in journalism for the years that immediately preceded the Internet because I took the third buyout from the “Baltimore Sun.” I was about reporter number 80 or 90 who left, in 1995. Long before the Internet had had its impact. I left at a time– those buyouts happened when the “Baltimore Sun” was earning 37 percent profits.

You know, we now know this because it’s in bankruptcy and the books are open. 37 percent profits. All that R&D money that was supposed to go in to make newspapers more essential, more viable, more able to explain the complexities of the world. It went to shareholders in the Tribune Company. Or the L.A. Times Mirror Company before that. And ultimately, when the Internet did hit, they had an inferior product– that was not essential enough that they could charge online for it.

I mean, the guys who are running newspapers, over the last 20 or 30 years, have to be singular in the manner in which they destroyed their own industry. It– it’s even more profound than Detroit making Chevy Vegas and Pacers and Gremlins and believing that no self-respecting American would buy a Japanese car in 1973. That– it’s analogous up to a point, except it’s not analogous in that a Nissan is a pretty good car, and a Toyota is a pretty good car. The Internet, while it’s great for commentary and froth doesn’t do very much first generation reporting at all. And it can’t sustain that. The economic model can’t sustain that kind of reporting. And to lose to that, because you didn’t– they had contempt for their own product, these people. I mean, how do-

BILL MOYERS: The publishers. The owners.

DAVID SIMON: Yes, how do you give it away for free? You know, but for 20 years, they looked upon the copy as being the stuff that went around the ads. The ads were the God. And then all of a sudden the ads were not there, and the copy, they had had contempt for. And they had– they had actually marginalized themselves

By the time the Internet had its way, I mean, they’re down to 180 now. You don’t cover the City of Baltimore and a region like Central Maryland with 180 people. You don’t cover it well.

And the institutional knowledge of the place disappears. And so that was– I was being a little flippant with “The Guardian” but what I was saying was, you know, there’s going to be a wave of corruption until they figure out the new model and reestablish– the institutional memory of these places, there’s going to be a wave of misbehavior.

[Click to read more of Bill Moyers Journal . Transcripts | PBS David Simon]

Remember this fact next time you hear a Sam Zell type complain about why they are cutting staff, again.

  1. famously of The Wire, but other things too, including a series in production about musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans called Treme, in post-production []

Soros on The Credit Crisis of 2008

“The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What It Means” (George Soros)

Quite enjoyed the clarity of the discussion between Bill Moyers and George Soros. I don’t have the training or experience to have an informed opinion as to what they actually said, but it sounded like sense.

In his new book, THE CREDIT CRISIS OF 2008 AND WHAT IT MEANS, George Soros explains the credit crisis through the lens of his conception of financial markets and human affairs, a theory he calls “reflexivity.” What we are seeing, according to Soros, is not just the deflation of the housing bubble, but that of a much bigger “super-bubble” twenty-five years in the making. Based on too much credit and too little regulation, the super-bubble has supported an unsustainable world order, where the United States consumes more than it produces.
In his interview with Bill Moyers, Soros lays out several short-term prescriptions for dealing with the crisis, one of which — directly injecting cash into banks in exchange for a share of the company — was authorized in the $700 billion bailout, and is being considered by the US Treasury.

But along with stopping the slide into more dire financial straights, Soros also has a vision for a post super-bubble world. For Soros, this unraveling, though inevitable, need not cause too much despair. Consumption has been the motor of our economy for 25 years, he explains, and now that motor is gone. But we can create a new motor to deal with one of the main aspects of our over-consumption problem — energy. Combating global warming will require a huge amount of effort — the amount of change and development that can restart an economy. Soros goes on to explain:

I think we all have to consume less. We will consume less because we will have to. And rather than being unemployed, let’s keep employment up. We’d use it for dealing with global warming. That, I think, is the way that this could work in the right way.

[From Bill Moyers Journal . George Soros | PBS]

If you missed the broadcast, there is a streaming video at, and transcript here.


Bill Moyers vs. Fox “News”

Fox News aka Faux News is journalism for those who despise journalism. I assume Bill O’Leilly will edit this footage to make it appear that Moyers won’t appear on Fox “News”.

I still wish Bill Moyers would run for President.

At the National Conference for Media Reform 2008. Fox personality Bill O’Reilly producer, Porter Barry ambushes PBS Bill Moyers to pepper him with questions regarding his political affiliations and his “refusal” to appear on O’Reily’s show. Moyers disputes Fox’s “facts.”

Uptake Political Correspondent Noah Kunin was nearby and obtained this raw video.

The refusal was actually that Bill Moyers said the condition would be that Bill O’Leilly would have to appear on Bill Moyers show first, for an one hour interview, and that somebody would have to ask Rupert Murdoch about the assertion that invading Iraq would lead to oil prices falling to $20/BBL.

BILL MOYERS: I want Bill O’Reilly to ask his boss [Rupert Murdoch] where is the $20 per barrel oil? … Rupert, you said one reason for going to war with Iraq was so we could get $20 per barrel oil. Oil is now $137 per barrel. It’s wrecking our economy… Is Rupert Murdoch responsible to the American People?