Sunday, April 26, 2009

Kent State Remembered: May 4, 1970

South Vietnamese national police chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan kills
Vietcong suspect Nguyen Van Lem; Saigon, February 1, 1968.

(Photo by Eddie Adams.) All photos: click to enlarge.

Napalm victims, village of Trang Bang, June 8, 1972. Children,
l. to r.:
siblings Phan Thanh Tam (12), Phan Thanh Phuoc (5),
and Kim Phuc (9); their cousins Ho Van Bo and Ho Thi Ting.
(Photo by Nick Ut)

Historical background

In the spring of 1970, President Nixon announced a major escalation of the War in Vietnam--he had ordered the bombing of neutral Cambodia. In response, college students across the country chucked academics and engaged in massive protests.

Like many others, the protests at Kent State University were predominantly peaceful and nonviolent. Predominantly but not entirely. An ROTC building did manage to burn down--how, no one knows, to this day. Units of the Ohio National Guard were dispatched to Kent.

Around noon on May 4, about 1,500 protesters--mostly students--and scores of Guardsmen were standing on a large lawn known as the Commons. A Guard commander ordered the protesters to leave the Commons and disperse. They complied. Most walked up a hill and continued down the other side, heading towards parking lots and a practice field at the bottom. In formation, the troops followed the retreating students, occasionally lobbing tear gas.

The Guard went up the hill and halfway down the other side. Satisfied that the protesters had dispersed as ordered, the Guard commander ordered the troops to turn around and return to the Commons. Up the hill again they marched, moving in the opposite direction from the students.

As they reached the top of the hill, members of one Guard unit--Troop G--in unison stopped, whirled around, aimed, and unleashed a volley of fire at one of the parking lots. They shot rapidly for 13 seconds, firing a total of 67 rounds of .30-06 ammunition, then ceased.

The volley killed four students, one of whom was a no less than 300 yards away. Nine people were injured, some seriously, including one who was permanently paralyzed. No Guardsman was punished for what appears to be a clear case of premeditated murder.

Ohio National Guardsmen with military M-1 rifles, fixed bayonnets

The Commons (foreground) and the hill. Most students and troops
crested the hill to the right of building, Taylor Hall. Here the
students are herded by the troops, marching some distance behind.

A personal note

In the 1970s, as a graduate student, I taught writing courses at the University of Pittsburgh--not far from Kent State University.

I've since forgiven my students for many things; as, I hope, they have forgiven me.

I do remember one of my students saying, or perhaps writing, in I think 1974, "I knew Allison Krause a little. We went to the same school. She always was a troublemaker. She got what she deserved."

Fortunately, uncharacteristically, at that moment I was at a loss for words.

Him--whoever he was--I can forgive. I'll even bet that now he too, if he remembers those words of his, regrets them. But Nixon and Kissinger . . . . If I were a better Christian, perhaps I could forgive them too. . . .

But I'm not.

The Kent State massacre on May 4, 1970, was a defining moment of my life. It made me somewhat wiser, long before I had any wish to be wise; and it made the road I was travelling somewhat harder, as it remains.

First responders.
"Tin soldiers and Nixon comin' / We're finally on our own."

Mary Ann Vecchio, age 14, kneels by the body of Jeffrey Miller

R.I.P. (l. to r.:) Allison Krause, William Schroeder, Jeffrey Miller,
Sandra Scheuer. Nine others were wounded.

New World Notes # 62 features commentary by me, a talk by Jello Biafra--given at Kent State University, May 2005--and 2 songs by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I begin by talking about the first photograph of the National Guardsmen, above.

Catch New World Notes (all times Eastern) . . .

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Things They Don't Tell You!

New World Notes News
Volume 2, Number 16 -- April 28, 2009

This week in New World Notes, #61 -- April 28 & May 1:

As a school subject, American History is unique in one respect. The more you've studied it, the dumber you are--that is, the less about the subject you know correctly. So states James W. Loewen, a professor of sociology at UVM, citing a pile of published research studies. Even odder, UVM stands for University of VerMont (some say). The state university here in Connecticut tried something similar once, UCNIC--University of ConNectICut--but it didn't catch on. The NIC sounded too Soviet (cf. Sputnik, peacenik).

Some claim that the M in UVM stands for at Montpelier. As Daffy Duck used to say, this is a canard. Some (see first Comment to this blog entry) go so far as to claim UVM stands for
Universitas Viridis Montis. If my Latin serves, this means either "The most virile Mountie in the Universe"--obviously a Canadian TV contest-show for beefcake fans--or else "University of the Green Mountains." Take your pick. IMHO, one makes as much sense as the other.

But I digress.

Top: James W. Loewen. (All photos: click to enlarge.)
Bottom: Note contents of bucket.

A new edition of James Loewen's study of school American History courses and textbooks is out--Lies My Teacher Told Me--and in a radio interview Loewen tells funny, interesting, and occasionally depressing stories of what he discovered in researching the book.

American History courses present every character as a spotless hero (save possibly Lee Harvey Oswald); show Progress as always in action; say nothing negative about any public figure; take care not to offend any potential purchaser; won't touch sex, religion, or social class with a 10-foot pole; and seem more interested in turning students into flag-waving patriots than into well-informed, critical-thinking adults.

Think of the textbooks you once used. Which subject had textbooks with a grandiose title? Let's see. . . . There was Principles of Chemistry. Algebra I. Introduction to English Literature. Basic Spanish. And--with the red, white, & blue cover depicting the waving flag--Triumph of the American People. That would be the History textbook, right?

Loewen notes that no Chemistry textbook is named Triumph of the Molecule.

Michael Parenti (top), George Carlin (bottom)

Loewen's indictment of how we teach history is terrific. But he stops short of considering seriously why the books and courses are the way they are. In Michael Parenti’s useful terms, Loewen constructs a liberal complaint, not a radical analysis. So the installment supplements Loewen’s talk with a few recorded words by Parenti and by George Carlin. Each of this pair argues that mediocre, flag-waving public education serves the economic and political interests of certain powerful elites.

History Counts

The Loewen interview is snipped from a recent installment of a very interesting radio program, History Counts. It’s produced in Connecticut by Ken MacDermotRoe and broadcast twice a month by community alternative radio station WPKN, in Bridgeport. You can catch WPKN’s broadcasts on the Internet ( Even more conveniently, you can listen to History Counts at any time online or download a free copy in .mp3 format. The blog you're now reading has a link to History Counts's Web page near the top of the gray sidebar.

Too sexually explicit for textbooks? Sex, religion, and
social class are the three taboo topics in American History
texts. (Photo: "V-J Day" by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1945)

Song played: Chumbawamba, Her Majesty

Coming soon:

  • May 5 (Tuesday): Kent State Remembered
  • May 12: Energy Disaster Anniversaries: Three-Mile Island (1979), Exxon Valdez (1989)

NB: Lego photos by Balakov. More of them--plus the original photographs--here:

Catch New World Notes (all times Eastern) . . .

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Men and War

New World Notes News

Volume 2, Number 15 -- April 21, 2009

This week in New World Notes, #60 -- April 21 &24:

Men run the world. The world is seriously messed up. Could there be a connection?

Particularly when it comes to war--which seems to be everywhere and never-ending. Do we have so much war because we have so many men running around and--worse--making most of the decisions?

Graphic by Eric Drooker

A number of thoughtful people say yes--and the only real question is how much the problem ultimately is caused by biology (testosterone) and how much by socialization.

I hesitate to latch on to any single "root of all evil." And in this world of Hillary Clintons and Nancy Pelosis and Condoleeza Rices and Tzipi Livnis--to say nothing of Margaret Thatchers, Indira Gandhis, and Benazir Bhuttos--I think we can at least rule out testosterone as the ultimate cause of war. But that doesn't let men off the hook.

Utah Phillips
(All photos: click to enlarge.)

This week New World Notes features three voices, all male, each discussing how the American style of manhood leads to war. The voices belong to Utah Phillips (the U.S. war in Korea), Bruce Springsteen (Vietnam), and George Carlin (Gulf War I). Phillips and Springsteen each tell a story from their personal experience; Carlin discussses broader economic and social forces. In this performance, from the early 1990s, Carlin is as angry, as bitter, and as profane as I've ever heard him.

Song played: Bruce Springsteen, The River (live)

Soon to Come -- Date of first scheduled broadcast [on WWUH] listed:

  • April 28 -- The Things They Don't Tell You! (Lies, distortions, and propaganda in your American History textbooks and courses. No wonder you hated History class!)
  • May 5 -- Kent State Remembered

Catch New World Notes (all times Eastern) . . .

Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Independent Journalism (I): Jeremy Scahill

New World Notes News

Volume 2, Number 14 -- April 14, 2009

This week in New World Notes, #58 -- April 14 &17:

At every opportunity, we have given the corporate-controlled media all the brickbats and spitballs we had available. But in keeping with the show's new Corporate Motto--Always Look On the Bright Side of Life (see last issue)--this week we let a smile be our umbrella. As my auto mechanic keeps advising, Positive to positive, and negative to ground! Cheerful chap, wot?

Some fine print-journalism and fine photojournalism are being done today, especially by "independent journalists." The term is hard to define. As a very rough definition, consider the category to include all journalists who don't receive a regular paycheck from a mainstream, corporate-owned "news-gathering organization."

Jeremy Scahill at work: abroad and at home.

New York Times reporters are Out. Veteran correspondents Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn are In (Britain's Independent being owned by a nonprofit foundation). Seymour Hersh is In (works for Conde' Nast). Anyone on network TV is decidedly OUT.

Needless to say, In are many talented young journalists who are freelancers or practically so. Notable among these many talented people are three award-winners who have done some fine reporting on (and in) the Middle East: Dahr Jamail, Mohammed Omer, and--our focus this week--Jeremy Scahill.

Scahill--author of the recent book, Blackwater--is a very good reporter and a perceptive and often funny storyteller. I'll read aloud his fine story about a police riot in Miami that the mainstream media pretended not to notice.

L to R: Print journalist Dahr Jamail (U.S.), documentary
John Pilger (Australia), print journalist and
photojournalist Mohammed Omer (Palestine)--in London,
June 2008, where Jamail
and Omer shared the year's
prestigious Martha Gellhorn Award. On his way home to
Rafah (Gaza Strip), Omer was detained, beaten and seriously
injured by Israeli security forces in the Occupied West Bank.

Then Scahill will talk about how he stumbled into the "Alternative" press, about what happened when he appeared on cable news shows and began condemning the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and--less amusingly--about the U.S.'s decade-long unreported war against the people if Iraq (throughout the 1990s).

Yes, Clinton killed nearly as many Iraqi civilians as both Bushes combined. Scahill and Kathy Kelly (NWN #39, December 2, 2008) were both reporting from the scene, trying to get Americans to see what was happening.

Alas, a black former football player was charged with killing a pretty white woman.

Amateurs like Scahill and Kelly can waste their time however they like. Serious, professional corporate journalists know the real Story of the Decade when it comes down the pike in a white SUV!

Top: Seymour Hersh (U.S.). Bottom: Robert Fisk (Lebanon & U.K.)

So you might have missed the story about the million Iraqi civilian deaths. our "leaders" caused. Deaths from malnutrition. Deaths from diseases that should have been prevented and could have been treated, but for the US-UN "embargo." Deaths from the bombing that never stopped between the two official Gulf wars. Deaths ordered by Clinton--whom we eventually impeached for ejaculating without a license.

Song played: David Rovics, Miami

Soon to Come -- Date of first scheduled broadcast [on WWUH] listed:

  • April 21 -- Men and War
  • April 28 -- The Things They Don't Tell You! (Lies, distortions, and propaganda in your American History courses and textbooks. No wonder you hated History class!)

The late, great I. F. Stone (right).

Catch New World Notes (all times Eastern) . . .

Top illustration:
The antithesis (and possibly Antichrist): corporate hack Roland Hedley.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Can Technology Save Us?

New World Notes News
Volume 2, Number 14 -- April 7, 2009

This week in New World Notes, #58 -- April 7 &10:

Did you hate Day of the Jackal because you knew that the plot to kill DeGaul would fail? How about The Greatest Story Ever Told? Did you ever think there was even a chance that Jesus would plea-bargain the charge down to Practicing Medicine Without a License and get off with "time served"?

This week's installment of NWN is about the near-future Critical Petroleum Shortage. Its title is, Can Technology Save Us? And you already know the answer--better than the U.S. Department of Energy does (or pretends to).

On one of its Web pages the DOE has a breathless account of how hydrogen will keep our SUVs running throughout the forseeable future. No lifestyle changes required! 50 years from now, the grapes sold in New York State will still be grown in Chile and shipped northwards economically. And if the U.S. has any jobs available other than currency arbitrage, you can still drive 50 miles to work!

Right. And thanks to nuclear energy, electricity will be so cheap to produce, they'll just give it away. Industry flacks were actually saying this in the early 1960s. I remember. So it must be true.

Two nuclear-industry P.R. flacks explain the benefits of Clean
Energy For Tomorrow ... Today!
Oops, wrong picture. This is
actually Jello Biafra (left), playing a Zombie mayor, in a scene
from the major motion picture,
RetarDEAD. The lady on the
right looks a bit un-dead, too.

Don't worry about the fact that it requires so much fossil fuel to produce enough hydrogen to drive 100 miles that you'd save energy by burning gasoline instead. Scientists will surely solve this problem Real Soon Now. Look how well they solved nuclear waste disposal!

This week's show presents two funny and intelligent views on why high-tech won't forestall the disruption that Peak Oil will cause.

Jello Biafra addresses the matter indirectly by discussing--with a good deal of wit--the down-side of two "new technologies" that many expected to enhance personal freedom and transform the world: cell phones and especially the Internet. Thanks in part to these technologies, we now have less freedom and more social alienation.

Then urban-design theorist James Howard Kunstler tells of his unhappy but funny failure to get Silicon Valley "genius dudes" (at Google) to comprehend that technology cannot replace energy. You can turn petroleum into jet fuel or into Ipods. But you can't turn Ipods into jet fuel. Like, sorry, Dude!

Which brings us back to Jesus. Or rather, to Monty Python's Brian . . . on a hilltop in Palestine, crucified along with several other culprits, all singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!" as the camera slowly pulls back and the closing credits begin to roll.

So this installment takes these folks' advice by viewing the impending breakdown of what now passes for civilization with a certain amount of humor and good cheer.

  • When you're chewing' on life's gristle,
    don't grumble . . . give a whistle!
    And this'll
    help things turn out for the best!

By the way, WHUS broadcast this installment on April 3. As they say, consult station listings for the installment they'll broadcast on April 10. (You won't find the answer, but you might find some additional shows you want to check out!)

Song played: Chumbawamba, The Wizard of Menlo Park

Catch New World Notes (all times Eastern) . . .

Soon to Come -- Date of first scheduled broadcast [on WWUH] listed:

  • April 14 -- Independent Journalism & Alternative Media: Jeremy Scahill
  • April 21 -- Men and War

Personal Note:

On April 3, I delivered a paper at a conference--Teaching Peace Across Disciplines: Strategies of Peace, Global Sustainability, & Conflict Transformation--held at Central Connecticut State University. It was sponsored by 4 NGOs and 3 local colleges/universities including WWUH's gracious host and licensee, the University of Hartford. I met some really interesting people there and expect some of them will speak on future installments of NWN.

My talk was titled, "Composing Language, Promoting War, Creating Peace." Complete with photo ("slide") illustrations & 10 pages of handouts. OK, I overdid it a little. The whole shebang was based largely on what I learned while putting together NWN's four recent shows--and four blog entries/newsletters--on media distortions of the Israel-Palestine conflicts.

It's rare that I find cause for optimism . . . but encountering a handful of young, educated, enthusiastic graduate students and young professors committed to making positive change in the world . . . . As we used to say, 'way back when, What a blast from the past! A little good news! . . . The first since November 4. . . .