Wednesday, March 24, 2010

America's war in Vietnam -- or "Uncle Ho's" 15 million killed and wounded (going by WWII casualty ratios) out of 35 million Vietnamese.

America's war in Vietnam -- or "Uncle Ho's" 15 million killed and wounded (going by WWII casualty ratios) out of 35 million Vietnamese.
In 1965 -- the decision year -- the free world was still shaking over two little countries almost taking over the world for ironically because they lacked natural resources. Now the two biggest countries in the world were coming after us with leaders only slightly more sensible then "Uncle Ho" and with bombs that could leave a half mile deep crater where Hiroshima used to be.

In 1965, Russia was graduating twice as many scientists and engineers as us and its economy was growing 7% a year to our 3%. Communism was at high tide and its leaders were upfront about "burying" us.

The big lesson of WWII was supposed to be Munich: if the democracies had not allowed Hitler to take Chezoslovakia unopposed there supposedly would have been no WWII. This was so deeply ingrained at the time I only recently realized that if Hitler was willing to invade Russia he was going to war period. (If Hitler had given back France and apologized saying he really did not want any more territory in Europe -- beyond a portion of Poland -- the democracies might have ended up sending him tanks to defeat Godless Russia.)

Have your read Bernard B. Fall's "The Two Vietnams"? Ho executed 50,000 peasants and sent 100,000 more to concentration camps for being capitalist exploiters -- even though 98% of the peasants in the north owned the land they tilled. But Communists must have their land reform. In the year of the Hungarian revolution Ho's home province revolted and an army division was sent to quell it killing 6,000 farmers (and wounding 24,000 more?).

This is why the south actually put up a fight -- for all the corruption and inefficiency. Had Ho been allowed to win in 1966-67 he would have undoubtedly wheeled right and gone on taking whatever was in his hyper, hyper path building strength along the way -- possibly (and this was the biggest worry) followed by every less fanatic Communist beginning to (by invasion or revolution or both) in whatever direction they thought the democracies might not put up a fight.

In the end Ho's carnage may have been mostly for nothing in his terms: the south was probably too war weary to try imposing collective farming. For our part, by 1975 we had won globally so we (not South Vietnam) could afford to lose locally.

Oh; and in the end we withdrew our financial and air support just as the south took over all the bloody ground fighting -- just when there was no longer any fundamental pressure on us to do so -- talk about all for nothing. 

 I date Vietnam War years as After Westmoreland: A,W.  (numbers are approximate)

After Westmoreland the US gave up on his truly murderous strategy for our young men as well as being certainly unwinnable: attrition, against a Ho Chi Minh who would have been willing to see everybody in Vietnam croak as long as the last breath was taken by a communist (not much of an exaggeration).  We had stretches of bringing home 3,000 body bags a month -- the goal being, in Westmoreland's own words, to reach the "cross-over" point at which the North could not replace soldiers faster than we could kill them (his own words!).

3 A.W.  The US ambassador to Vietnam could now drive anywhere in the countryside without a military escort.  The Viet Cong guerrilla army having been reduced to totally non-Southerners, consequently leaving NVA main force units (those guys you see in We Were Soldier Once and Young) eating grass and without ammunition.

It was easily practicable to "win the hearts and minds of the people" simply because the Viet Cong were so hated.  The movie Full Metal Jacket portrays the Viet Cong during the battle of Hue calling in police and teachers and government office workers, etc., for "re-education" and shooting them in mass graves (depicted under white powder).  The movie says the body count was twenty,  Wikipedia call the civilian and POW count possibly as high as 6800!

Starting from his struggle to take over the North (more below) Ho and friends only approach to recruitment was to kill and kill and kill anybody who didn't see things their way.

NVA main force units -- hiding most of the time as guerrillas -- needed to have supplies of food and ammunition hidden in place before the troops would arrive to attack.  Once the countryside was wrested from VC control it was no longer practicable to cache supplies or maintain cave systems. 

A.W. 4 1/2  The North tried an out and out Korea style conventional invasion -- beaten off with 50% casualties.

A.W. 5  The US Congress cuts off the money and supplies the South needed to continue the war along with US air support -- all reduced to a trickle.  The South begins rationing bullets and artillery rounds.

A.W. 7 1/2  The North -- having harvested a few more crops of eighteen years olds -- finally sent them to overrun the US Congress-disarmed South in six weeks.
 * * * * * * * * * 
In the 1950s, Ho Chi Minh's life long approach to winning supporters began typically by sending terror squads into villages, lining up some boys who joined a government program (e.g., education) and shooting them.  When that village was rendered sufficiently docile a maintenance team would come in and the terror squad would move on the next village (ink blot style).

(N.B.  Vietnam was no longer a colony in 1949.)

After Ho won the election in the North -- population 13 million; 98% of the peasants owned the land they tilled (70% in the South) -- Ho shot 50,000 peasants as capitalist exploiters and sent 100,000 to re-education camps.  Had some formula according to how many pigs farmers owned, etc.  (Communists have to have their land reform -- even they admitted they may have gone too far.)  A year after Ho took over his own home province rebelled -- the army crushed this, killing 6,000 peasants.  For the early Ho, see: The Two Vietnams by Bernard Fall -- a French political scientist who was allowed free rein to move about the North while the fighting was still going on there.  Killed when his jeep hit a mine in 1967.  I found his book too dry and scholarly to read when I was in my 20s.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ronald's McDonald's "Obesity House"?

Ronald's McDonald's "Obesity House"?

This morning my McDonalds on Western Avenue asked me to pay $1 for a cup of water with its Big Breakfast. When I balked and walked the manager caught me and claimed the rule was just for customers 17 to 25 years old (I wonder if they card) because teens fill the cup with soda pop when no one is looking.

In this era when excessive sugar (especially from soft drinks) is blamed for the epidemic of obesity (especially teen) and diabetes (personally diagnosed with Type II) should restaurants be legally permitted to twist customer arms to imbibe more than they want to of the most unhealthy foods.

Last year the same McDonalds tried issuing only tiny 4 ounce glasses if you requested water. They gave that up -- perhaps because we customers simply brought our own 8 ounce store glasses (which we saved whenever we could get them). I no longer patronize a McDonalds up on Howard since they only give you a 4 ounce glass of water at the counter and you cannot even refill it at the open machine.

Recently at a McDonalds over on Clark I thought I could get around their 4 ounce at the counter policy by drinking the whole 4 ounces at the counter (did not take long :-]) and asking for more. For some reason the employee took it personally and filled my glass so completely with ice that there was next to no water inside it. That makes three out of three around my way waging war on plain water.

Aren't there rules that restaurants which serve X number of people must have comfort facilities, etc.? Isn't it more important to protect the health of people who may already suffering from a medical condition that can be worsened by intake of sugar or even caffeine (e.g., caffeine and food together raise blood sugar more than food alone)? Aren't there rules against cooking with harmful ingredients like trans fats -- and against selling cigarettes to teenagers? Isn't it just as important to protect Chicago restaurant patrons from being tugged into intaking food groups which are lately recognized as proliferating -- and exacerbating -- major diseases?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Say taxi meter rip-off?

Say taxi meter rip-off?

In 1974, after the last successful unionized taxi strike in New York City, the taxi meter was raised to $2.65/mile (in today's money * -- nominally $.60) -- said union being subsequently disbanded via a switch to leasing to so called "private contractors." By early 2004 the New York meter had sunk to $1.75/mile (in 2010 dollars -- nominally $1.50) -- for cabbies who serve the only place on earth (or in history) where wealth is a plateau not a pinnacle, lower Manhattan.

Later on in 2004 the New York meter was raised to a tad more than $2.25/mile (nominally $2.00) -- after average income in America had grown 166% since the last successful strike. Today inflation has shaved the meter back to $2.00/mile -- 65 cents short of 1974's rate. Oh, and under the lease system -- unlike the previous 60/40 (or was it 50/50? -- it's been so long) commission system -- the shortfall comes all out of the driver's pocket...

...effectively cutting his income in half? Did someone say New York Taxi meter rip-off?