Small nations have learned from the Tet Offensive — while the White House hasn’t

❝ The attacks erupted before dawn on Jan. 30, 1968 and escalated to new levels of ferocity the next day. It turned out that tens of thousands of communist soldiers had begun a coordinated series of surprise attacks on more than 100 cities and U.S. bases in South Vietnam, taking the Americans and their local allies by surprise on the lunar new year of Tet.

North Vietnamese Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap had planned the offensive to break the will of the United States and South Vietnam and end a long stalemate in the struggle by the North to reunite with the South under communist rule. And while Giap’s forces were eventually pushed back with huge losses, he did accomplish his wider objective of undermining American and South Vietnamese confidence in the war effort…

❝ The attacks erupted before dawn on Jan. 30, 1968 and escalated to new levels of ferocity the next day. It turned out that tens of thousands of communist soldiers had begun a coordinated series of surprise attacks on more than 100 cities and U.S. bases in South Vietnam, taking the Americans and their local allies by surprise on the lunar new year of Tet.

The lessons of Tet still resonate. “Tet shaped the world within which we live today: In an era when Americans still don’t fully trust government officials to tell them the truth about situations overseas, and don’t have confidence that leaders, for all their bluster, will do the right thing,” writes Princeton historian Julian Zelizer in the current issue of The Atlantic. “Tet is an important reminder that for liberals and conservatives sometimes a little distrust is a good thing. Particularly at a time when we have a president who traffics heavily in falsehoods, Tet showed that blind confidence in leaders can easily lead down dangerous paths.”

Say it again, Julian. Trust in a pathological liar isn’t likely to turn out well.

This is Iceland

this-is-iceland
Click the image to visit the site

❝ I am one of the many people who are in love with the sparse, hypnotic and majestic landscape of Iceland and its wonderful people. In case, you need more convincing, check out this website and some stunning photographs. Then pack your bags and go visit. It might be cold in winters, but still stark and amazing. Iceland haunts me!

Om Malik

Millennials are not owned by credit cards

saupload_hello_kitty_credit_card

Data from the Federal Reserve indicates that the percentage of Americans under 35 who hold credit card debt has fallen to its lowest level since 1989, when the Fed began collecting data in a standardized way…

Some older Americans have also been shedding credit card debt since the financial crisis that began in 2008. But for no other age group has the decline in the proportion holding credit card debt been more rapid than it has been for young Americans…the data from the Survey of Consumer Finances shows.

Their reluctance could have lasting repercussions for millennials, as well as for the financial system and the economy. Early use of credit cards has, in the past, helped young Americans develop a comfort level with credit that can last a lifetime and lead to a succession of big purchases financed by debt. Without a substantial credit history, it is much harder to take out a home mortgage, for example…

The resurgence of overall credit card use in the United States over the last year or two has been driven largely by subprime borrowers, according to the Federal Reserve…

But it is clear to economists who study payment patterns that millennials are gravitating toward payment methods that skirt both cash and credit. Why carry cash when you can whip out a debit card for the smallest transaction — a sandwich or a bottle of soda — or use an app like Venmo or an online payment service like PayPal? All of those typically draw funds directly from a bank account…

Recent data has also suggested that millennials are using credit cards less than people of a similar age did in the past — and that they are taking on fewer auto loans and mortgage loans than people of similar age did before the financial crisis.

Many young people carry burdensome loads of student debt, making it hard for them to take on any more debt — and giving them a sour taste in their mouths when it comes to credit of any sort. The average American under 35 now has $17,200 of student debt, 182 percent more than Americans of the same age had in 1995…

Then there are the young professionals who are able to get a card, but have seen the strain that debt put on their families and friends during the financial crisis.

There just may be another quality involved. I have no study at hand to prove it – but, I’m beginning to believe in what I call the George Carlin effect. That is, lots of young people already feel they have enough “stuff” without owning a car or a house.

Guess I’ll have to suggest the question to someone reliable – like the Pew Foundation. Maybe they’re already asking the question?

Obama names an LGBT landmark – Stonewall Inn – as a national monument


Memorial to Orlando victims outside the Stonewall InnKathy Willens/AP

President Obama is designating a new national monument around the Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement.

The Stonewall National Monument in New York City will be the first addition to the National Park System specifically highlighting the history of the LGBT community.

The monument covers nearly 8 acres in New York’s Greenwich Village including a landmark gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. In June of 1969, patrons at the bar fought back against police persecution — an event that’s widely seen as a watershed in the campaign for LGBT rights.

“Raids like these were nothing new, but this time the patrons had had enough,” Obama said in a White House video announcing the new monument. “So they stood up and spoke out. The riots became protests. The protests became a movement. The movement ultimately became an integral part of America.”…

Designation of the Stonewall monument comes just days before the first anniversary of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. It also follows less than two weeks after 49 patrons at a gay bar in Orlando, Fla., were killed in a mass shooting.

Like most advances in civil rights for Americans, religious conservatives recognize the change as somehow limiting their own freedom. A critical point of hypocrisy that unites the politically backwards of America with their peers in history. Fools who believed that hating other human beings on the basis of skin color, religion [or non-religion], where their parents were born, etc., were characteristics that should define full citizenship in the Land of the Free.

Not worthy of much more than contempt.

Cartoon of the day

Thanks, gocomics,org

There are some sharper cartoons around, today, that might fit the edges of this blog better. But, I just couldn’t pass this one up.

My favorite bumper sticker, here in New Mexico, says, “Hey, man, I’ve been this way since 1969.”

Actually, I’ve been this way since about 1955. 🙂

100 years after 1st birth control clinic opened, conservatives still hate freedom of choice

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Outside the crumbling Brooklyn building where the first U.S. birth control clinic opened 100 years ago, Alexander Sanger reflected on the move that landed his grandmother in jail and fueled a controversy over women’s reproductive rights that has raged ever since.

“This is where it all started,” said the grandson of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger in his first visit to the Brownsville, Brooklyn, site where she started her clinic in 1916.

“She threw down the gauntlet and said, ‘Preventing women from contraception is inhumane,'” said Sanger…

Some of the reproductive rights battles that Margaret Sanger fought a century ago were remarkably similar to the challenges facing Planned Parenthood today, particularly organized religion’s objection to sex education, her grandson said…

The religious-liberty fight over contraception is back in the U.S. Supreme Court, which will rule by July on whether religious groups deserve a blanket exemption so that they do not have to pay for their employees’ contraceptive coverage as mandated under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act…

Opponents have waged a decades-long string of attacks on abortion providers, the most recent in November when a gunman killed three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic. Since 1993, there have been 11 murders and 26 attempted murders due to anti-abortion violence…

Planned Parenthood itself is in the crosshairs, with the Republican-led Congress voting as recently as this week to cut all of its federal funding, although Obama, a Democrat, has vowed to veto the measure when it reaches his desk.

A USA Today poll in December found Americans overwhelmingly oppose cutting off federal funds for Planned Parenthood. Some 59 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats are against the idea…

The controversy was well under way 100 years ago when Sanger and her sister, both trained nurses whose mother died young after giving birth to 11 children, opened the clinic. They fitted women for diaphragms, which were the most effective birth control available at the time but were illegal under the federal Comstock Law against distributing materials that could be used for contraception.

One patient turned out to be an undercover police officer, and nine days after the clinic opened in the low-income Jewish and Italian neighborhood, it was shut down, and Sanger was under arrest

Today about half of the 6.6 million pregnancies annually in the United States are unintended, a higher proportion than in Europe…

“It’s still the poorest of the poor who are having more children than they want, who are having children earlier than other women, who are not getting access to preventive methods when they need them – whether it’s in Brownsville or Rio de Janeiro,” Sanger said. “That same struggle was my grandmother’s struggle, and it is mine.”

The fight remains the same, the enemies of knowledge and progress remain. People who fear education, freedom, individual liberty – diminishing numbers continue to gather inside the mouth of the little intellectual cave they live within and try to hold off their fears with chants and weapons.

The rest of us embrace the dawn.

We may never find aliens if they’re hip to encryption

snowden tv

Edward Snowden has strongly defended citizens’ rights to encrypt their messages, and has taught journalists how to use encryption to protect themselves from spying programs.

But the NSA whistleblower sees a downside to encrypting so much information: aliens may not be able to spot signs of intelligent life.

Snowden, appearing on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk podcast via a video link from Moscow on Sept. 18, told the astrophysicist how encryption could interfere in our attempts at alien communication.

Done properly, encrypted communication—encoded so that only the intended recipient can read the information—can’t be identified and is indistinguishable from random behavior, Snowden said.

“So if you have an alien civilization trying to listen for other civilizations, or our civilization trying to listen for aliens, there’s only one small period in the development of their society when all of their communication will be sent via the most primitive and most unprotected means,” Snowden said. “So what we are hearing that’s actually an alien television show or, you know, a phone call … is indistinguishable to us from cosmic microwave background radiation.”

Although as Tyson noted on his podcast, alien species might not be so keen on encryption. “Only if they have the same security problems as us,” he told Snowden.

You might hope that some other species with sufficient advancement in science to track down our wee ball of mud in the night sky – might also have moved to social development more reliant upon science and less dependent on superstition and imperial amorality. And may have grown beyond our need for encryption.