Friday, December 25, 2009

War and Beatles


She said she loves you!
And you know that can't be bad...
She loves you,
And you know you should be glad, oooooooo!

The Beatles touch down at John F. Kennedy International Airport on the afternoon of February 7th, 1964. Two days later, 73 million Americans watch "these youngsters from Liverpool" on the Ed Sullivan Show and the British Invasion begins. The Beatles' first American tour starts in August and cris crosses the country. (My own sister went to the show at The State Fair Coliseum in Indianapolis and came back hoarse and red eyed.) Their concerts are nearly impossible to describe. Imagine thousands of teenage girls, most of them with tears in their eyes, screaming so loud no one can possibly hear the music. Hundreds faint from exhaustion and have to be carried out.

Lyndon Johnson is President and there are just over 16,000 American military "advisers" stationed in Viet Nam. The corrupt and incompetent South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem had been assassinated the year before and during the ensuing political turmoil, the Viet Cong had increased their hold over the rural population to over 40%. South Viet Nam owes its very existence to American military support.

By the summer of 1964, thousands of NVA regular troops are pouring into South Viet Nam via the Ho Chi Minh trail to join with over 50,000 Viet Cong guerrillas and the fall of the country to Communist forces appears imminent. In August, 10 miles off the coast of North Viet Nam in the Gulf of Tonkin, the USN destroyer Maddox is fired on by three North Vietnamese patrol boats. There are no U.S. casualties. Backed by strong public support, Johnson decides to retaliate with the first ever bombing of North Viet Nam by 64 Navy fighter bombers. Two are shot down, and Lieutenant Edward Alvarez becomes the first American prisoner of war. In the years that follow, Lt. Alvarez will be joined at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" by over 600 downed U.S. airmen. Lt. Alvarez won't be released until February 12th, 1973, three years after the Beatles had broken up.


Everywhere people stare
Each and every day,
I can see them laugh at me
And I hear them say...

Hey you've got to hide your love away!

Despite repeated attacks on American forces in South Viet Nam (which by December of 1964 number over 24,000), and with an American public and Congress apparently hungry for a fight, Johnson holds off escalating the war until March of 1965, when he authorizes "Operation Rolling Thunder", with over 100 American bombers attacking targets in North Viet Nam. Intended to be short lived, the operation will go on for over 3 years. Also in March, 3500 U.S. Marines arrive in South Viet Nam to defend the American air base at Da Nang. 20,000 more troops are sent in April. By year's end, the U.S. will have over 180,000 troops stationed in Viet Nam, yet over half the countryside will be controlled by the Viet Cong. Over 90,000 South Vietnamese troops will throw away their weapons and desert. Almost 1900 kids are sent home in body bags.

By February, global sales of Beatles albums top 100 million. The Beatles' second American Tour starts on the 15th of August with the amazing concert at a packed Shea Stadium. 10 sold out concerts and 16 days later it ends at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Queen Elizabeth II appoints the "Mop Tops" Members of the Order of the British Empire. In protest, several MBE members return their insignia.


Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear,
No one comes near.
Look at him working,darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there...
What does he care?

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

The war in Viet Nam drags on. Anti-war protests begin to break out across the country. B-52 bombers, armed with up to 60,000 pounds of bombs each, are used against the North for the first time. By December, 389,000 American troops are in Viet Nam. 5800 of our soldiers are killed in action. The New York Times reports that over 40% of the economic aid going to South Viet Nam winds up stolen or on the black market.

In March, John Lennon makes his now famous comment that the Beatles are bigger than Jesus. From 1966 to present, world wide Bible sales average around 3 million copies a year. Revolver sells 1.2 million copies in 9 days - and eventually reaches over 5 million total. The Beatles begin their last and final tour of America in Chicago on the 12th of August and finish it 18 days later at Candlestick Park. From this point on, the Beatles will retreat to the studio.


Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Now the pace quickens. In 1967, across America, hundreds of thousands march in protest against the war. Martin Luther King declares "the poor white man and the negro" bear the burden of the war's hardship. President Johnson makes repeated peace overtures but all are rejected by Hanoi. The fighting is fierce. Due to often indiscriminate bombing, civilian casualties in the North number in the thousands. At the end of 1967, Robert McNamara has resigned as Secretary of Defense after privately concluding the war is not winnable. By then, one million American servicemen will have fought in Viet Nam.

Energized by a blossoming protest movement, a counter culture begins to emerge. The Beatles are experimenting with LSD and Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - which includes the quintessential Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds is released.


Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life...
You were only waiting for this moment to arise,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

The fiercest fighting of the war occurs in January of 1968 during the Tet Offensive, when 84,000 Viet Cong, backed by an unknown number of NVA Regulars, attack cities and towns across the South. The climactic battle is at Hue, where during the entire month of February, South Vietnamese troops and 3 U.S. Marine battalions retake the old Imperial City street by street and house by house. Over 5000 of the enemy are killed in this battle alone. Tet ends with a resounding South Vietnamese victory, but support for the war falters as the American public nightly endures graphic scenes of the savage, often confusing violence.

In March, over 300 innocent civilians are slaughtered by American soldiers at Ma Lai. Lyndon Johnson's approval rating falls to 36% and he announces he will not run for re-election. During 1968 over a thousand U.S. servicemen a month lose their lives. At the end of the year, we have nearly half a million troops in Viet Nam.

1968 is the Beatles' high water mark. Magical Mystery Tour is a mixture of psychedelic pop, influenced by the group's short and ultimately disagreeable sojourn in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Then follows the incomparable White Album in 1968. John Lennon, an early opponent of the war, begins to speak out and attracts the notice of the FBI. He is now preoccupied with Yoko Ono and tensions which will ultimately split the group apart begin to surface.


And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted,
there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer,
let it be.

Richard Nixon is inaugurated on January 27th, 1969. He has run on a campaign to wrest "Peace With Honor" from the seemingly endless war in Viet Nam. U.S. troop levels will peak in April of that year at 543,000 and steadily decline after that. But the war will go on until the Paris Peace Accords are finally signed on January 27th, 1973.

During these 4 years, the Nixon Administration's continued prosecution of the war divides the American public to an extent not witnessed since the days of the Civil War. American troops will mount attacks deep into Cambodia. South Vietnamese forces suffer repeated defeats, yet Nixon will claim Vietnamization a success. Starting in April of 72, North Viet Nam will suffer the worst aerial bombing of the entire war, along with the mining of its harbors and coastline.

By the middle of 1972, U.S. troop levels have dropped to 69,000, and by November of that year, only 16,000 advisers remain. On January 27th, 1973, Lt. Col. William B. Nolde is the last American soldier to be killed in Viet Nam.

The Beatles' last two albums are Abby Road, released in 1969 and Let It Be, in 1970. Both albums feature a number complicated themes - and a diversity which reveals that John, Paul, George and Ringo may have reached their limits as a group. And so it is. After Let It Be, the band will not perform together again. Paul McCartney will file for formal dissolution of the Beatles in 1970. But legal disputes will go on and the final dissolution will not take effect until 1975.

What did we learn?

The War in Viet Nam cost America over 58,000 killed in action and over 300,000 wounded in action. Of the wounded, 75,000 were classified as severely disabled and 23,000 as 100% disabled. The average age of those who served was 19.

These are the numbers, but they really don't tell us anything. On your computer, type in "Danny Fankboner" (funny name, that). What comes up first is a listing on for Private First Class Daniel Ross Fankboner, who perished in Viet Nam on 7 December, 1969. His name is listed on panel 15W, line 035 - and he was a friend. Of what importance was his life when weighed against the larger aims of greater men trapped within the vortices of history? I don't know.

Another friend of his leaves this message:


You were my first love. I remember you coming to my house party, as we called it then, and the shock of my parents when they met you!! We laughed so hard!!!

I have never forgotten you and never will. We were determined to make the world a better place, weren't we? Well you did, honey; you kept me free and safe.

I just wish you had not done it with such a great sacrifice. I will love you forever, Danny.

No one expected the South Vietnamese to hold out long after we left. Saigon fell in April of 1975 and we all remember the heartbreaking images of desperate people waiting to board the last helicopter to leave the roof of the U.S. Embassy. We left a lot of our friends behind.

To date, the sales of Beatles records have exceeded one billion units. John Lennon fought an order for deportation which had been obtained by the U.S. Government as a result of his anti-war activities. The order was finally overturned in 1975. But there remained one hurdle he could not overcome. On December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman waited outside Lennon's apartment at the Dakota in Manhattan. When Lennon returned from a recording session at 10:59 PM, Chapman shot him four times in the back and he rapidly bled to death.

As a young man, I spent a great deal of my time protesting the war, but I probably spent just as much time listening to the Beatles. If we are indeed the sum of our experiences, over a million men and women fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia helped build the largest part of one side of who I am. Four kids with three guitars and a drum set built most of the other.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Politico reported yesterday that some Republican Senators are "steamed at (Al) Franken because partisans on the left are using a measure he sponsored to paint them as rapist sympathizers — and because Franken isn’t doing much to stop them." Oh my!

It looks for all the world to me like these poor saps were just innocent victims of the same kind of "drive by" set-up Franken used in books like "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them". You know the M.O. Franken offers up this idealistic crapola in the form of an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill which everyone with half a brain knows is just plain unrealistic. Subsequently the Senators who live up to their responsibilities and vote against it are raked over the coals in the media. The Huffington Post even reports the creation of a mock website, Republicans For Rape. Don't go there, its really, really sick, and has the names and pictures of the 30 senators who had the moral fiber to stand up and try to vote this bit of legislative grand-standing down. Men like David Vitter and John Ensign, whose concern for all women, not just their wives, has been well documented hither and yon.

As we all know by now, the amendment would prohibit funding for any contractor who requires an employee, as a condition of employment, to sign an agreement which in effect surrenders their right to due process in certain instances, most notably rape.

Well any jackass can easily see how this would hamstring defense contractors in the performance of their duties while defending this country from God knows what. After all, we can't have a bunch of bed wetters out there being allowed to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights when we have Enemies of Liberty to fight. To drive this point home, in an op-ed for the The Tennessean, Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker wrote:

"We voted against the amendment because it was overly broad, banning arbitration in too many cases where it would benefit employees.

...This amendment had nothing to do with criminal charges. Arbitration agreements do not in any way limit a prosecutor's ability to bring criminal charges against those who commit crimes.

...When Senator Franken offered his amendment, he said it was inspired by the experience of Jamie Leigh Jones, a woman who was raped by her coworkers, whose horrific story has incensed us all. Ms. Jones took her case to court and won because the courts decided that the arbitration clause in her employment agreement should not prevent her from pursuing her sexual assault claims in court.

...If the Franken Amendment had simply done what Senator Franken said it would do - preserve employees' rights to their day in court if they are victims of rape in the workplace - we would have voted for it in a heartbeat. But the Franken Amendment simply went too far."

Well now doggonit that sounds perfectly reasonable to me. After all, Jamie Jones got her day in court anyway, didn't she? Let's google that and see... OK, here's something. Its an opinion submitted to the Tennessean a day after the Alexander/Corker op-ed. In it ordinary citizen Sheila Hobson, a "human resources manager who lives in Goodlettsville" writes:

"I read the response of U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker (Tennessee Voices, Nov. 10) regarding how they voted against the "Franken amendment'' because it was too broad and went too far.

...Would they be satisfied with "using arbitration to resolve certain claims" as a way of dealing with this horrific crime, if their daughter, wife, sister or mother was brutally gang-raped as former KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones was?...

Alexander and Corker also stated, "Ms. Jones took her case to court and won because the courts decided that the arbitration clause in her employment agreement should not prevent her from pursuing her sexual assault claims in court.

In a Larry King interview with Ms. Jones last week, she stated that Halliburton had appealed this decision and that she had been fighting for her day in court for four years.

"That is four years of reliving the hell she endured, again to have to fight the same employer that will not allow her any justice in seeing her rapists prosecuted in the U.S. judicial system.

The vote for the Franken amendment was 68 to 30, which included all female GOP senators voting for passage. Alexander, Corker and 28 other male Republican senators voted against the amendment. Basically, that was 30 men who said that it is permissible for big businesses like Halliburton to use arbitration instead of our criminal justice system to deal with violent crimes."

Waitaminit. Could it be that Lamar and Bob might not be giving us the straight skinny? I mean, did Ms Jones really have to re-live 4 years Hell while trying to get her case heard in civil court? Well let's see then. On July 28th, 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang raped when she was all of 19 years old. This incidentally is about the age of Corker's two "college age" daughters, Julia and Emily (we won't go there). Here are the details:

"According to Jones, on July 28, 2005, several of her fellow KBR employees offered her a drink containing a date rape drug, of which she took two sips. The men then allegedly engaged in unprotected anal and vaginal gang-rape upon her while she was unconscious. She was able to name one of her attackers based on his confession to her, but was unable to identify the others due to her unconsciousness. Further, the lawsuit filed by Jones' attorneys cites the following: "When she awoke the next morning still affected by the drug, she found her body naked and severely bruised, with lacerations to her vagina and anus, blood running down her leg, her breast implants ruptured, and her pectoral muscles torn – which would later require reconstructive surgery. Upon walking to the rest room, she passed out again."Jones' account was confirmed by U.S. Army physician Jodi Schultz. Schultz gave the rape kit she used to gather evidence from Jones to KBR/Halliburton security forces, after which the rape kit disappeared. It was recovered two years later, but missing crucial photographs and notes.

Jones was confined by armed guards to a shipping container containing only a bed, under the orders of her employer, KBR. She says she was denied food, water, and medical treatment. After approximately one day, says Jones, a sympathetic guard gave her a cell phone and she called her father, Tom, who in turn contacted Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) who contacted the State Department. Agents were dispatched from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and removed Jones from KBR custody.

In May 2007, a State Department diplomat recovered the rape kit from Halliburton and KBR. However, notes and photographs taken by Schultz (of Jones the morning following her rape) were missing, undermining any chances of bringing the case through the criminal courts."

We now know that Ms Jones was unable to get help from the Department of Justice in pursuit of her case, and had to file a civil suit on her own. It wasn't until "September 15, 2009 the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled Jamie Leigh Jones' federal lawsuit against KBR and several affiliates can be tried in open court."

And that adds up to 4 years of living Hell in my book. Oh and by the way, the sweeties at Haliburton with their million dollar attorneys are still fighting this tooth and nail and Jamie's fight isn't over yet.

So it looks like I was wrong about this whole thing after all. When Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker wrote: "Ms. Jones took her case to court and won." They were pretty much lying through their teeth. To this date, Jamie hasn't won jack shit. About all she has now is the right to go broke trying to get some kind of compensation from the chicken shit assholes who did this to her.

Could it be they were lying about the rest of the amendment? Let's take a look at the text:

"Sec. 8104. (a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any existing or new Federal contract if the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier requires that an employee or independent contractor, as a condition of employment, sign a contract that mandates that the employee or independent contractor performing work under the contract or subcontract resolve through arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention."

And that looks pretty straightforward to me. All it is saying is that contractors paid by the government don't have the right to force their employees to sign away their rights to due process in an American court of law.

Let's have a show of hands here. How many of you reading this ever remember having to sign a contract, as a condition of employment, which requires you to give up any legal recourse to the enforcement of your constitutionally guaranteed civil rights?

I didn't think so. Businesses here in this country deal with all kinds of litigation every day. Consumers sue over shoddy products, employees make claims of workplace discrimination or sexual harassment and so on. Sometimes businesses win and sometimes they lose. Sure, its "unwieldy", but that's how the system is supposed to work.

Here's another blantant lie: Lamar and Bob accuse Franken and his amendment of "banning arbitration in too many cases where it would benefit employees.". Bullshit. Go back, look at the text and tell me where it says that. Under the amendment, companies like KBR would still have every right to offer arbitration. And you can bet your sweet ass they're saying this because, like every one with half a functioning brain cell knows, you would have to be out of your mind to accept arbitration when the very company you are suing gets to pick the arbitrator and the rules of arbitration.

Which makes me wonder what in Hell Lamar and Bob were talking about when they said the amendment "simply went too far.". Maybe if the amendment had been limited only to "gang rapes which occurred on July 28th, 2005 in Iraq" they would have been more inclined to give it a thumbs up.

All of this brings up an interesting question:

What kind of disgusting excuses for Senators are these 30 Republicans who had the nerve to stand up in front of the American people and say that some of the men and women who go out and risk their lives for this country should denied the same constitutional rights which we, safe here at home in our warm beds enjoy?

But you know I can't just leave it at that. These same thirty men had an opportunity to make a stand on the same principles which they say gives America the moral authority to actually be in places like Iraq in the first place. And they threw it away. What worthless buffoons they are.

What cowards!