All posts by Stacy Taylor

A Vietnam Postscript

DSC00331I wasn’t at all sure what to expect in my visit to Vietnam. Probably a lot of Pho, I figured, that bland noodle dish that has become ubiquitous in west coast strip malls. Part my confusion was because Vietnam is a communist country, and I had little idea what exactly that even meant anymore. Waves of goose-stepping soldiers and boastful displays of missile launchers, as we recently witnessed in Pyongyang?   Glum internal-security apparatchiks keeping a watchful eye on anything non-conforming? A grim population of robotic drones, their shoulders to the wheel,  grinding out 12 hours workdays? A stark unavailability of consumer goods?

Actually, none of those clichés turned out to be reality. No soldiers, few cops, a friendly, albeit a reserved, population, and stores, galleries, and boutiques dealing in luxury goods. In the center of Saigon is a 5-story shopping mall, named Saigon Centre, “your fashion destination”, that makes the Century City Mall in L.A. look like a flea market.

DSC00395In the southern coastal area, the beaches are lined with high-end resorts, mostly catering to European tourists, fancy, French-inspired restaurants, and beachfront Tiki bars, in addition to the quaint fishing villages you would expect to see. Mui Ne beach, near the fishing town of Phan Thiet, is the kite surfing capital of the world.

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Most of the tourists I bumped into in the more affordable beach areas were Russians , by and large a dour and humorless lot, clad in their uniforms of tank-tops, baggy shorts, and rubber flip flop sandals, swilling beer and vodka from mid-morning on. The high end resorts were populated mostly by slender, fashionable Asians, sipping Mojitos and taking selfies. The locals were concentrated in nearby fishing coves, mending their nets and selling their catch, or drying anchovies in the sun in preparation for the production of their famous fish sauce, nước mắm .

Residents of Ho Chi Minh City still refer to it as Saigon, and  the old, ornate French architecture co-exists alongside shiny new high-rises. The streets are teeming with motor scooters and pedestrians. In fact, there was little on display, either culturally or economically, that screamed “communism”. Marijuana is openly sold and smoked on the side streets and, at night, young Vietnamese hipsters pack the bars and discos.

DSC00448There is the Ben Thanh central market (cleaner and more orderly than similar ones found in Latin America), along with a few other reminders of Vietnam’s 2nd world status. Aside from the Gothic and Romanesque architecture, some of the remaining vestiges of the French occupation include hundreds of little open-air coffee shops, family owned and operated, along with lots of food stalls selling ham-and-cheese baguette sandwiches, known locally as bánh mì  . Yes, there is also Pho. I did not sample it. I would prefer to imagine it better than the chicken soup version available in the states.

DSC00361Aside from trying to wrap my mind around abstractions like “communism”, “socialism” and “planned economy”, I obsessed a bit on the war and what thoughts the Vietnamese people harbored when confronting American tourists. After all, it was my generation and my country that shredded and incinerated their country, while dispatching 2 million souls in the process. I did visit the War Remnants Museum, originally called the The Exhibition House For Crimes of War and Aggression ( the name altered as part of the 1995 deal that allowed trade between the U.S. and Vietnam). There  was still a pavilion devoted to American war crimes, that included dozens of enlarged photos of the aftermath of the My Lai massacre and the effects of agent orange. While viewing the depressing exhibits, the Dylan song A Hard Rains Gonna Fall kept looping in my brain. It was, to say the least, a sobering experience.

The only conversation about the war I had in Vietnam was with a Mekong Delta tour guide who spoke decent English. He took a somewhat sanguine approach to the war, suggesting that neither the U.S. combatants nor the Vietnamese resistance had much choice in the matter. He told me about his father, a “collaborator” who had provided some kind of conveyance service to Americans in Saigon, but then fled in fear when the Army of North Vietnam triumphantly entered the city in 1975. He died of cancer after 9 years of exile in the Soviet Union, never seeing his family again.

Meanwhile, all I could think about was a tidbit from history. Ho Chi Minh was a notorious admirer of America’s revolutionary history and practically begged the U.S. to merely recognize his revolution, unsuccessfully of course. When he drew up the constitution for the new country he would ultimately lead, this was the preamble: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It has taken centuries of war and occupation, first by the Chinese, then by the French and the United States, and years of recriminations, re-education camps, and purges, but my feeling is that Vietnam is finally approaching the ideal embedded in those famous words.children of saigon

 

The Election is Rigged

The U.S. voter in the presidential election of 2016 is fucked.

How we got to this pathetic juncture, ostensibly choosing between one or the other of the most detested presidential candidates in electoral history, is pretty straightforward. The United States, despite the trite and continuous rallying cries of American exceptionalism, is a stupid and uninformed country.

That’s why, in the days after 9-11, the most memorable signs of U.S. patriotic solidarity were  massive American flags flying from the roofs of gas-guzzling SUV’s, and Country & Western singers drawling childish, bellicose ditties about “shock and awe”, and kicking Muslim ass.

That’s why the cretinous George W. Bush could  tell Americans that the most patriotic act they could perform was to go shopping, while, like a political pickpocket, he was simultaneously cracking down on civil liberties at home and lying this country into a tragic war in Iraq.

And few of us back then gave a shit. “Let’s nuke the sand niggers!” was the rallying cry of the American mob, which then had the audacity to whine about energy independence while driving trucks that got 8 miles-per-gallon.

Bush was the proverbial one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind, just slightly smarter than his demented supporters, skillfully manipulating with fear a paranoid public that was already softened up for warrant-less wiretaps, NSA anal probes, and jingoistic and chauvinistic political rhetoric. In what other environment could a smug prick like Dick Cheney, a certified war criminal that should have been hauled before the Hague a decade ago,  enrich himself financially on the blood of American soldiers and the destruction of Iraqi civilization?

Those who stood up to these atrocities were marginalized as traitors and cowards.

And then we gave a negro the keys to the kingdom and the whole thing began to seriously unravel.

This is the toxic environment that spawned such idiocies as The Tea Party movement, open-carry fanaticism, birtherism,  the so-called “sovereign movement”, and a palpable intolerance for anybody or anything strange or foreign. Ironically, while tea baggers and their freshly-minted enablers in Congress were whining about marginal tax rates and Obama’s birth certificate, the American middle class was being gutted by a cabal of sleazy investment bankers and Wall Street charlatans that, to this day, have not been held accountable for the rape of the American economy. But when the Occupy Wall Street folks mustered up the gumption to stand up to the insanity, the lies, and the thievery, they too were marginalized as losers, un-American free-loaders who couldn’t or wouldn’t  find suitable employment.

And let’s not downplay the media’s role in all of this, wallowing as it does in the raw sewage of “pussy gate”, Hillary’s trail of murdered interlopers, Anthony Weiner’s cock shots,  Bill Clinton’s “serial rapes”, and that’s to say nothing  about its daily bread-and-butter programming: the sheer monotony and banality of traipsing out campaign “surrogates” to argue incessantly over shit that only political insiders care about. All the while, exalted commentators speak the nonsensical journalistic argot of the moment, rattling on about “optics”, “pivots”, “narratives”, “outliers”, and “paths to victory”.

And that’s the so-called “mainstream media”. No small wonder that millions of Americans are turning to imbecilic “alt” news sources like Breitbart,  Prison Planet and Info Wars, websites operated by sweaty, drug-impaired paranoiacs like Alex Jones and Matt Drudge who just make shit up and get away with it.

So is it really all that surprising,  in the national election of 2016, that we are left with a nearly untenable choice between a globalist, Wall Street insider, a self-styled heir to American political “royalty”, running against an intellectually challenged, minority-hating ignoramus who is willing to say or do anything to get into the White House?

Take America back? Too late. We are too fat, stupid, and lazy for anything more strenuous than regurgitating somebody else’s ridiculous talking points and watching sports on TV.

We have only ourselves to blame for this mess because we looked the other way for way too long as we whistled through the graveyard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Various Dipshits Chime in on the Dallas Tragedy

“Liberal politicians who label police as racists–specifically Hillary Clinton and Virginia Lt. Governor Ralph Northam–are to blame for essentially encouraging the murder of these police officers tonight,” Corey Stewart wrote in a Facebook post that has since been deleted, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

That would be Donald Trump’s Virginia state campaign chairman reacting with breathtaking ignorance to last night’s violence in Dallas.

And this would be a Facebook post this morning from former San Diego talk show host and professional douchbag Steve Yuhas:

“From the White House to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – not to mention the obvious members of the Congressional Black Caucus – they’re partly to blame. What did they think would happen when they spared no opportunity to demonize police? Now they got what they wanted – a group of savages right here in America acted out in a way that is almost too horrific to describe, picking police officers off because they wanted to kill white people on that particular day. America’s Benghazi is Dallas and just like Benghazi, the White House is silent.”

And remember Joe Walsh, ass-faced former Republican congressman and full-time deadbeat dad? Here’s a few of his tweets from last night:

“When Obama goes after cops it opens the door for anti cop rhetoric and action.”

“10 Cops shot. You did this Obama. You did this liberals. You did this #BLM.”

“It’s time 4 patriotic Americans to stand up & stand against all the Cop haters – from Obama to the thugs on the street.”

And why didn’t Rudy Giuliani get the memo that nobody gives a shit about him anymore? He told Brian Williams on NBC this morning that Black Lives Matter was directly responsible for the police murders. “The reason cops feel that there is a target on their backs is because of groups like Black Lives Matter.” The sometimes cross dressing former prosecutor went on to make the preposterous statement that since “only” 1% of the murders of blacks in the U.S. were caused by the police,  why do we get so bent out of shape?

The fascist sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, David Clarke, had this to say on the odious “Fox and Friends” show this morning:

“I want to know whether we have heard from the cop-hater in chief Obama yet on this? Have we heard from Mrs. Bill Clinton, who threw up the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter yesterday? They exploited a situation, two situations, one in Louisiana and one in Minnesota. Horrible situations, no doubt, but again, especially the commander in chief opens his mouth, and he sticks his foot in it.”

And the ever-dependable Rush Limbaugh on his radio show this morning referred to Black Lives Matter as a “terrorist organization” committing mass murder”.

Trust me, these random comments barely scrape the surface of the dumb-fuck “thinking” that’s floating around out there this morning.

Of course it might be instructive to hear directly from “the cop-hater-in-chief”, Barrack Obama. It was, according to right wing psychotics, these quotes about the police-related deaths earlier in the week that led directly to the Dallas murders:

“They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve,”

“To admit we’ve got a serious problem in no way contradicts our respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day,” Obama said. “It is to say that, as a nation, we can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement.”[Associated Press, 7/7/16]

And here, finally, are Obama’s comments about the Dallas incident. The next time someone accuses him of “politicizing” and “exploiting” tragedies, remember what the no-nothing right wing echo machine was up to this morning.

We Can’t Handle the Truth

blair bush caricatureThe U.K. has finally released the long-threatened Chilcot report, the results of a lengthy investigation into decision-making blunders in the build-up to the murderous invasion of Iraq. The report excoriates  Prime Minister Tony Blair for his blind faith in George W. Bush’s criminally negligent miscalculations and lies concerning WMD’s, and Iraq’s role in global terrorism, and demonstrates how both Blair and Bush ignored vital information about the likely  disastrous consequences of such a folly.

The report is  quite a bombshell in England, even 13 years after the war commenced. The foppish Blair was forced again into his best Hugh Grant impression before the press cameras to stammer his way through the standard I-was-acting-on-the-best-available-information excuse ( the same excuse Hillary Clinton uses when questioned about her affirmative Iraq invasion Senate vote). Family members of dead British soldiers are demanding that Blair  be put on trial for war crimes, and there are MP’s who now agree that there are grounds for such a prosecution.

The response to the Chilcot report on this side of the pond has been a bit more muted, largely because we are in the throes of a full-blown swoon over Clinton’s email server. The Bush administration’s response was predictable:

“Despite the intelligence failures and other mistakes he has acknowledged previously, President Bush continues to believe the whole world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power,” Bush’s spokesman Freddy Ford said in a statement.

“He is deeply grateful for the service and sacrifice of American and coalition forces in the war on terror. And there was no stronger ally than the United Kingdom under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair.”

The little chimp couldn’t even bring himself to make a direct statement.

But despite the distractions of our clown show presidential race, and our national obsession over Email-gate, the timing of the release of this report is the perfect reminder of exactly who is to blame for creating the turmoil and the power vacuum that has led to the rise of groups like ISIS. This is important because of a recent statement from the cranky John McCain that Barrack Obama’s Middle East policies are to blame for ISIS, a slander that was immediately reiterated by Donald Trump, and then parroted by the jack-offs at Fox News and the right wing echo chamber.

It is, of course, a convenient bald-faced lie that a chicken hawk like Trump can hide behind to burnish his tough-guy credentials, the insinuation being that Clinton’s policies would merely mimic those of Obama.

Meanwhile,  British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is dealing more directly with reality. In the wake of the Chilcot report, he stated publicly that the invasion of Iraq led directly to the rise of ISIS, contradicting the popular bullshit notion that the Syrian civil war led to the groups creation.

Tony Blair and England were certainly duplicitous in aiding and abetting the Bush/Cheney war crimes. But now, at least, Britain is owning up to its failures. One day, maybe, the United States will reach that same level of national maturity and be honest with itself, but, if this presidential race is any indication, it’s not likely to be any time soon.