Flag in Chains

Flag_in_Chains_Collection_University_of_California_at_Berkley 1965 by Marc Morrell

Nick Walsh presents a three-part story about a significant public controversy related to the Vietnam War that happened in my home town of Decatur, Illinois. Using sources from the archives of the Decatur Herald and Review, the Decatur Tribune, Millikin University’s Decaturian, and recent interviews with the one of the controversy’s key figures, Walsh covers how the situation developed, how the public and authorities reacted, and how the court case surrounding the exhibit of Flag in Chains unfolded. I remember the anger of these times fairly vividly. It seemed as if everyone in our community was forced to choose sides.

By using their talents to confront the issues of their time, artists take on a certain amount of risk if their perspectives are contestable in the court of public opinion.  While not directly about the Vietnam War, the story of “Flag in Chains” reflects sentiments and convictions rooted in the national discourse of that era.  Decatur residents were sporadic in giving their opinions about the war throughout its duration.  However, public debate reached a crescendo in 1969, as emotions stemming from the war were channeled into dialogue surrounding a controversial legal case that involved the owner of the Decatur Herald and the Daily Review and a Millikin University art professor.  This collision of patriotism and free expression provides a glimpse into the conscience of Decatur residents during the Vietnam War.

Here are links to all three parts of Walsh’s report.

Flag in Chains: A Collision of Sentiments (Part 1) | RE:DECATUR

Flag in Chains: A Collision of Sentiments (Part 2) | RE:DECATUR

Flag in Chains: A Collision of Sentiments (Part 3) | RE:DECATUR

The 2016 Bottom Line

Chris Hedges gets to the bottom line of the 2016 U.S. elections.

I intend to devote no more time to the upcoming presidential elections than walking to my local polling station on Election Day, voting for a third-party candidate, most likely the Green Party candidate, and going home. Any further energy invested in these elections, including championing Bernie Sanders’ ill-advised decision to validate the Democratic Party by becoming one of its presidential candidates, is a waste of time. Every action we take now must be directed at ripping down the structures of the corporate state.

Source: Chris Hedges: America’s Electoral Farce – Chris Hedges – Truthdig

Thoughts on 2016

Tony Wilsdon analyzes U.S. politics in flux ahead of the 2016 elections.

The central contradiction of our time is that capitalism is in decline, which means the system’s ability to make concessions has been significantly narrowed. Corporate profitability has been maintained by massively increasing exploitation while in the public sector there is endless austerity. Both major parties lie to the public to get elected, and then do the dirty work of big business once in office. Behind both parties and the mass media lies an elite 0.01% whose massive wealth rests in ownership of shares in big companies, financial institutions and real estate and other assets. They plough money into the two parties to represent their interests. They flood the corridors of Washington with their paid representatives to make sure pro-big business policies are enacted. These corporate-serving politicians from both parties then have to come back to the public with a new story as to why we should put faith in them again. As the cracks grow between corporate politics and the needs of the 99%, so the cracks grow in the political system, and so the opportunities grow to build a new political party of the working class and the poor.

Read the Article: 2016 Presidential Campaign Underway | Socialist Alternative

Charade of the Union

Eric Ruder weighs in on SOTU 2015.

“Memories of another second-term Democratic president came flooding back. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, when Democrats controlled Congress during his first term, Clinton didn’t mention raising the minimum wage in his public statements. However, once the Republicans swept into Congress in 1994–riding a wave of discontent with Clinton’s broken promises–Clinton regularly used the issue to put the Republicans on the spot, trapping them between a broadly popular measure and their corporate backers who detested the idea.”

via Obama’s Charade of the Union | SocialistWorker.org.

My SOTU 2015 Post-Mortem

I did not watch the 2015 State of the Union Address, nor the GOP response. I didn’t have the stomach for the theatrics this year. I did, however, read the President’s speech in full last evening, and this morning I took to Facebook, prior to reading any other analysis or reactions, to sketch out my thoughts. What follows is a reposting of those thoughts, polished up a tiny bit.

As usual, President Obama is extremely good at saying the things that many of us are thinking. He says them powerfully and eloquently, turning phrases in a way that stir up strong emotions. He may even believe them himself. This is a good thing to be able to do when one is speaking truth to power, and when one’s rhetoric can rouse people to unite for the purpose of making things better.

The problem with the 2015 State of the Union speech is that he wasn’t speaking truth to power. He is the power, and his actions over the past six years have been entirely contrary to the spirit of these words. From the very start of the speech, he painted an absurdly rosy picture of the “state of the union.” If anyone has paid attention to the conditions that gave birth to the economic crisis, they will know that it is far from over. Some of his statements about our wars and protection of civil liberties were outright lies, and his statements about climate change and protecting the environment were laughable, coming as they did from “the fracking president.”

For those who are inclined to believe that somehow, now unconstrained by the need to run for office again, the “real” Obama is coming out, and that he will be a champion of the people, I would ask you to look back at every speech the man has given, and think about how you felt at the time. Think of how you were inspired – how you were given to hope – and then think about what actually happened after each of the speeches.

Our fundamental problem is that we judge these politicians by what they say, and not by what they do. We judge them based on whether or not they are personally like-able, and by how we perceive their style. We on the Left allow ourselves to be bamboozled and co-opted, time and time again, by pretty words from the Democrats. What we should be doing is building an independent party of the working people that will truly stand for the best interests of the majority of us.

Liberals and other Democrats may make all of the excuses you would like. You may say that Obama’s heart is in the right place, and that it’s those damnable Republicans in congress who have tied his hands, but it just doesn’t wash. The reason Obama has been ineffective is that the people know in their hearts that his words and actions don’t match up. Otherwise there would have been a groundswell of support so large that it could not have been ignored, even by the GOP.

Pointless And Utterly Pointless

From Doug Mataconis:

“Last night’s State of the Union Address was about what everyone expected it would be. The President set a broad, ambitious agenda that Congress will promptly ignore, Republicans put out another sacrificial lamb to tackle the worst job in America, and, after reading through the speech, it became clear that my instinct to skip the speech altogether was the right idea after all.”

via An ‘Ambitious’ Yet Pointless State Of The Union, And An Utterly Pointless Response.

SOTU 2015 Full Text

Do these words from last night’s State of the Union Address ring true to you?

“America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.”

Read the speech: President Obama’s State of the Union Address — Remarks As Prepared for Delivery — Medium.

Delusion and Deception in the SOTU

From Patrick Martin:

“Aside from the delusional character of the speech, perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of Obama’s remarks was the fact that, for the vast majority of the population, it was a non-event. Obama stands at the head of a state apparatus that, increasingly, is talking to itself.”

Read the full article: Delusion and deception in Obama’s State of Union – WSWS.

The Deep State

Long time Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren writes about the real rulers of the United States.

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose.

Read More: Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State | Blog, Perspectives | BillMoyers.com.

Toward an Independent Politics

From Socialist Worker:

The Democratic Party is a capitalist party, not a party representing the working class. No matter who votes for it–and, of course, the majority of Democratic voters are workers–the party apparatus itself is set up to reflect, and to some extent, organize the political interests of big business.

The mechanisms by which this takes place are hidden in plain sight: a campaign finance system that channels corporate money to political candidates; a network of think tanks and academic institutions that articulate the positions of Corporate America; a lobbying machine that applies continual pressure to legislators, the executive branch and the unelected government bureaucracy, at the federal, state and local level, to carry out the corporate agenda.

Read the full editorial. Declaring independence from the 1 Percent | SocialistWorker.org.

Benghazi Truth Bomb

President Barack Obama has waged illegal wars (Libya), armed Islamic fundamentalists (Syria), provoked civil wars (Ukraine) and asserted the right of the president to order the assassination of any person, including American citizens, without trial or even a hearing. The Obama administration has built up the infrastructure of a police state, greatly expanding the US spying apparatus and seeking to monitor and collect the telecommunications, email and Internet activities of virtually everyone on the planet.

But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is pushing for an investigation, not of any of these countless crimes against international law, the US Constitution and basic democratic rights, but of … White House talking points on Benghazi.

Read More: The Benghazi diversion – World Socialist Web Site.