Happy National Vietnam War Veterans Day!

Monday, March 29th will be National Vietnam War Veterans Day, as we all know.

“National Vietnam War Veterans Day,” according to Wikipedia,* “is a U.S. holiday observed annually on March 29. It recognizes veterans who served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. It should not be confused with Veterans Day.”

This particular day was chosen because “on March 29, 1973, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) was disbanded and the last U.S. combat troops departed the Republic of Vietnam.”

MACV was the successor to MAAG, the Military Assistance Advisory Group, which was sent by Harry Truman, in 1950, to help the French hang onto what was then its colony of French Indo-China.

“The President claimed they were not sent as combat troops, but to supervise the use of $10 million worth of U.S. military equipment to support the French in their effort to fight the Viet Minh forces. By 1953, aid increased dramatically to $350 million to replace old military equipment owned by the French,” Wiki says.

“The French Army, however, was reluctant to take U.S. advice, and would not allow the Vietnamese army to be trained to use the new equipment, because it went against French policy. They were supposed to not only defeat enemy forces but to solidify themselves as a colonial power, and they could not do this with a Vietnamese army. French commanders were so reluctant to accept advice that would weaken the time-honored colonial role that they got in the way of the various attempts by the MAAG to observe where the equipment was being sent and how it was being used. Eventually, the French decided to cooperate, but at that point, it was too late.” Dien Bien Phu was about to fall—see below.

In order to wrench ourselves out of this flashback, we’ll try to sum up: on Monday, we’re supposed to “recognize”—whatever that means—those who willingly or not became entangled in a misguided effort to perpetuate colonialism, enrich drug kingpins, and prop up lying politicians—a bloody farce that lasted for 23 years.

Take that, Afghanistan, you stripling of 18 years.

In keeping with tradition, Monday will see those who dodged the draft during the 1960s, and have advocated for war ever since, publicly apologize for their hypocritical pusillanimity. Meanwhile, politicians of every stripe will visit the graves of those who died in vain to satisfy the fantasies of the misguided and pray for wisdom.

Haha—just kidding. In fact, hardly anyone is paying any attention. The Masonic Lodge at 1021 Turner St., Auburn, Maine will host a Vietnam Veterans Day, and the Lowell, Mass. Vet Center is staging a Vietnam War Veterans Virtual Recognition Day, at which “a virtual pinning of Vietnam Veterans will take place alongside family members who attend the virtual event,” which sounds virtually fantastic. For our part, we’ll mark the event by recommending a few books:

The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, by Alfred W. McCoy, Cathleen B. Read, and Leonard P. Adams II, Harper & Row, 1972: First McCoy et al. show how France used the profits from its opium monopoly in Vietnam to defray the cost of administering what amounted to one gigantic slave labor camp. The book then explains why the Viet Minh were able to win at Dien Bien Phu: French opium purchasers cheated indigenous sellers. The picture becomes complete as the authors show how the OSS’s WW II collaboration with the Mafia evolved into CIA complicity in the heroin trade which spread from Vietnam—where top government officials profited—right back to our shores. Available in full, online at https://renincorp.org/bookshelf/politics-of-heroin-in-south.pdf.

Chasing Shadows, by Ken Hughes, University of Virginia Press, 2014: The author uses Nixon’s own tapes to create what the Washington Post called, “the best account yet of Nixon’s devious interference with Lyndon Johnson’s 1968 Vietnam War negotiations.” It’s impossible to say if Johnson’s efforts would have brought peace. For all his earlier errors, though, it is clear that he was desperately trying to achieve it. It is equally clear that Nixon made sure he failed.

Fatal Politics, by Ken Hughes, University of Virginia Press, 2015: Knowing that the corrupt South Vietnamese government would fall soon after U.S. troops left, Nixon knowingly “kept American soldiers in Vietnam into the fourth year of his presidency, at the cost of thousands of American lives.” Also drawing on the years Hughes spent listening to Nixon’s tapes, this volume establishes how Nixon and Henry Kissinger created the myth that Congress was to blame for the fall of South Vietnam.

* Wikipedia is sometimes disparaged as a source of reliable information. In a nation which has elected the likes of Richard Nixon to its highest office, and where Fox “News” is bundled into every basic cable package, we reserve the right to treat an online free-content encyclopedia, written collaboratively by largely anonymous volunteers who write without pay, much as we would any other potential source of information.

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Once again the Flag Police find themselves in ambiguous circumstances. A violation has obviously occurred: the fly end of this flag is ragged and tattered from top to bottom. Who, though, is the perp? The pole in question stands in front of the former home of a popular quasi-governmental agency, which it was clearly intended to represent. At the end of August, 2019, however, that outfit was run out of town in a public/private real estate grab. Going after the former tenant would be adding insult to injury. Clearly it is the landlord which must be held to account. How can that be accomplished, though? Seventeen years ago that faceless federal bureaucracy announced its intent to “relocate the functions from this property to another location in Portsmouth.” Five years ago it “officially began its disposal process, declaring the building to be surplus to its needs.” And yet, there it stands: ugly as ever and almost entirely empty. Cite that agency and grow old waiting for a response? Or wait and risk legal retaliation from the bristly and litigeous new owners? Decisions, decisions….

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Meanwhile, Down At the Railyard…

We don’t always read Railway Age, but when we do direct our browser to the monthly trade journal for the rail transport industry, it’s to get the skinny on Pan Am, Portsmouth’s Award-Winning Local Railway.

It’s about time we did, too—the only railroad on Earth known to have usurped the name of a formerly-great, defunct airline has been on the market for about a year. If the transaction goes through, we will lose our excuse to write about its present owner, Timothy Mellon, who is a fascinating guy.

Railroad acquisitions are inherently rather complex deals and are subject to considerable regulation—even we know that. Curiously, the parties involved seem to have thought otherwise, judging from the latest Pan Am-related story in Railway Age, headlined “CSX-Pan Am Deal a ‘Significant’ Transaction: STB.”

The story, by William C. Vantuono himself, Railway Age’s Editor-in-Chief, cites a filing by the Surface Transportation Board in the Federal Register, dated yesterday: “The submission is styled as an application for a ‘minor’ transaction seeking Board approval…. The Board finds that the Proposed Transaction would be a ‘significant’ transaction.’”

Surely “significant” means more regulatory hoops to jump through than “minor.” Considering that last year Mellon donated $10 million to the pro-Trump America First Action Super PAC, we’re guessing that decision will raise Mellon’s blood pressure—particularly since he seems to be from the class of persons used to getting their way without a whole lot of argument.

In 1957, when he was a teenager, “[his father,] Paul Mellon, his sister Ailsa Mellon-Bruce, and his cousins Sarah Mellon and Richard King Mellon, were all among the richest eight people in the United States, with fortunes of between 400 and 700 million dollars each (around $3,600,000,000 and $6,400,000,000 in today’s dollars).” – Wiki.

His Wikipedia entry includes some choice selections from his self-published autobiography. He characterizes social safety net programs as “Slavery Redux,” writing that, “[f]or delivering their votes in the Federal Elections, [recipients] are awarded with yet more and more freebies: food stamps, cell phones, WIC payments, Obamacare, and on, and on, and on. The largess is funded by the hardworking folks, fewer and fewer in number, who are too honest or too proud to allow themselves to sink into this morass.”

Now 78 years old, Mellon is apparently ready to take off his work gloves and dusty boots, lay down his pickaxe, and sit on the porch, reminiscing about the old days, working on the railroad.

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Collect From the Rich? Heaven Forfend!

“High-Income Taxpayers Who Owe Delinquent Taxes Could Be More Effectively Prioritized,” runs the exquisitely euphemistic headline of a March 10 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration [TIGTA].

Bloomberg’s Laura Davison, writing on March 15th, was a little more direct: “The Internal Revenue Service has failed to collect more than $2.4 billion dollars from wealthy individuals who owe the federal government back taxes…

“Auditors were only able to recoup about 39 percent of the more than $4 billion in unpaid taxes owed by a group of rich taxpayers with an average annual income of nearly $1.6 million, the report found. The findings suggest that the IRS should place more emphasis on a taxpayer’s income when determining whether to pursue an audit case…”

Surely the auditors just need a little more time to figure this problem out. It’s only been going on since the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913.

“The findings are the latest in a series of government accountability reports that recommend the IRS do more to pursue high-income taxpayers after audit rates dipped to historic lows in recent years. The dearth of examinations has prompted Democrats in Congress to pursue legislation that would mandate higher audit levels of businesses and wealthy individuals.” Those Democratic bastards probably grew up at the knee of Willy “That’s Where The Money Is” Sutton….

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Given the lovely forecast, we suggested to our Wandering Photographer that Saturday, March 20th, would present a perfect opportunity for capturing the first day of Spring. Subsequently he submitted the image above: a reader in Market Square soaks up the last of the afternoon sun; true to form, metadata reveals that it was taken Sunday, March 21st.

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America the Broke

A company which we will not name, in order to avoid any potential libel suits, has sent us a press release about how people make ends meet when they’ve been denied unemployment benefits.

“When denied unemployment benefits,” the release says, “29 percent of people are going into credit card or loan debt to cover expenses.”

Here’s the kicker: “Maine (52.4 percent), New Hampshire (47.7 percent) and Missouri (46.2 percent) are the states most likely to have residents rely on credit cards or loans to meet spending needs.” And here we thought Yankees were supposed to be canny and frugal.

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Important If True

The following came directly from the Democratic Party. It must therefore be considered no more or less reliable than Hereditary Governor Chris Sununu’s Inescapable Weekly Covid-19 Blatherathons on NHPR.

That said, National Vietnam War Veterans Day is just around the corner. Surely such veterans make up a large proportion of the residents at the New Hampshire Veterans Home.

Concord, N.H., March 19th—Late last night, Governor Sununu released a sham report that failed to investigate what caused the COVID outbreak at the New Hampshire Veterans Home. The outbreak led to the deaths of 37 veterans, and resulted in 93 residents—37 percent of the 250 residents at the facility—and 102 staff contracting the virus.

In a blatant attempt to avoid scrutiny, Sununu touted the sham report at a press conference without providing the actual document to reporters in advance. After outcry from the families of veterans and the public, Sununu had finally agreed to provide a report on the deaths at the Veterans Home, but he did not deliver one yesterday.

The so-called “report” does not even attempt to assess what could have prevented or mitigated the outbreak at the Veterans Home. Rather, it simply provides the results of an examination of the Veterans Home’s compliance with COVID protocols on one day—March 12, 2021—five months after the first reported death and seven weeks after the outbreak ended. Nowhere in the report does it mention concerns about testing lags at the start of the outbreak, a lack of PPE, staffing shortages, or residents having to wait days for the COVID vaccine. It also does not address Sununu’s summer 2020 veto of HB 1246, a bill that would have provided $25 million for long-term care facilities like the Veterans Home to prepare for COVID outbreaks. In fact, the report makes only passing mention of the deadly outbreak at all.

Though the report does not evaluate the State’s handling of the devastating Veterans Home outbreak, it still includes some alarming revelations. The report notes that, as of March 12th, less than half of Veterans Home staff had received the COVID vaccine, that Veterans Home staff still needed additional training on PPE use four months after the tragic outbreak, and the facility did not have basic cleaning supplies in the staff kitchen.

In contrast to Sununu’s eight-page sham report that does not assess what caused the outbreak at the Veterans Home, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released a 174-page report from an independent investigation that thoroughly examines what caused a COVID outbreak at Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke. Sununu has ignored calls for an independent investigation into the outbreak at the Veterans Home, refusing to release documents regarding the state’s response to the outbreak at the New Hampshire Veterans Home.

“The sham report that Chris Sununu released, in lieu of an actual investigation, is a disgrace to our veterans, to their families, and to the staff at the New Hampshire Veterans Home who deserve answers on the outbreak that took the lives of 37 veterans,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “It’s absolutely shameful that Sununu has refused to actually investigate the cause of the outbreak and protect the health and safety of our veterans and nursing home staff—and instead is just trying to protect his political future and cover up his failure to mitigate the outbreak. Our veterans and their families deserve so much better from Chris Sununu.”

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