Wednesday 8 May 2024

hardhat riot (11. 546)

As our faithful chronicler reminds, on this day in 1970, around noon a group of more than four-hundred construction workers—many working on the World Trade Center—converged on a group of anti-war protesters, mostly college students picketing the New York Stock Exchange and rallying on the steps of Federal Hall, originally a Customs House on Wall Street, setting up a memorial for those killed at Kent State four days prior and calling for an end to the fighting in Vietnam and Cambodia, release of political prisoners and an end to military-related research on university campuses. By lunch time the clashes turned violent with some eight hundred office workers joining the ranks of the agitating construction workers, breaking through a thin line of police separating the two sides and pursuing students and onlookers and beating them safety equipment and tools. Law enforcement, sympathetic to the counter protesters, did little to intervene or stop the melee. Two weeks of protests followed before the demonstrations, pitting labour union leaders against pacifists, subsided and towards the end of the month, the organiser of the initial riot and a delegation of representing some three-hundred thousand unionised trade workers, were invited to the White House to meet with president Richard Nixon, who said he sought to honour those labour leaders “and people from Middle America who still have character and guts and a bit of patriotism,” accepting hard hats as a gift. For his loyalty and role in starting a culture war, a values war that divided traditionally shared sentiments among Democratic voters, that leader Peter J Brennan was appointed secretary of labour and the cabinet official outlasted the Nixon administration and served under Ford as well.


one year ago: an early fifth century bog man

two years ago: the Nebra Skydisc

three years ago: a classic Eurodance number, assorted links worth revisiting plus more photographs from Pete Souza

four years ago: the death of Tito (1980), more links to enjoy plus Russian borderlands

five years ago: more links worth the revisit plus Heath Robinson contraptions

Thursday 23 November 2023

kid, have you rehabilitated yourself (11. 133)

Courtesy of Open Culture, we are treated to an animated version of Arlo Guthrie’s counter-culture Thanksgiving tradition—the talking blues spoken-word track for his eponymous 1967 album, a lightly embellished account of the artist’s arrest for littering, illegal dumping, a run-in with the law that jeopardised his suitability for the draft for the Vietnam War, the record protesting US involvement in the conflict. Alice Brock, the titular hostess, bailed Guthrie and his co-accomplice out of jail. Despite violent content and outdated, objectionable language bordering on slurs, no radio station observing the tradition of airing it on the holiday, no fine has ever been issued by the American Federal Communications Commission and with subsequent performances, the artist has changed a few lyrics and lines and inserted some topical asides. The arresting authority, William J “Officer Obei” Obanhein, whom became a life-long friend with Guthrie after the song was released, was a model for Norman Rockwell (previously) appearing as a police figure in his depiction of the inauguration of John F Kennedy and schools de-segregation but not, despite popular and fitting misconceptions, The Runaway, which featured another state trooper at Joe’s Diner in a neighbouring village.

Tuesday 11 July 2023

operation sober popeye (10. 872)

Also known under the codenames Motorpool and Intermediary-Compatriot and repudiated as an unacceptable tactic in warfare after leaks in the Pentagon Papers and unwelcome press coverage with a US Senate resolution passed on this day in 1973, the military cloud-seeding program carried out from 1967 to 1972 attempted chemical modification of the weather with the aim of extending monsoon seasons and disrupting the North Vietnamese supply-chain along the Ho Chi Minh Trail by soften road surfaces and causing landslides. Operations in secret extended over Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Despite its highly classified nature, the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, the unit chiefly responsible for the tests, publicly and prominently used the slogan “make mud, not war.” The American people deciding that such measures had no place on the battlefield, weather disruption falls presently under the auspices of the Environmental Modification Convention.  


one year ago: the Hollywood Bowl (1922), Avogadro’s Number (1811) plus Fischer v Spassky (1972)

two years ago: Fleetwood Mac by Fleetwood Mac (1975) plus a megalithic stone ship in Sweden

three years ago: a visit to the Ehrenburg on the Ehrbach

four years ago: a delayed release of “Space Oddity” (1969), the uncontrolled deorbit of Skylab (1979) plus France approves a digital services tax scheme

five years ago: a collection of samurai clan banners, a disclaimer on social media that comes too late, America’s garbage politicians sit for a family photos plus Trump attends a NATO summit

Tuesday 21 March 2023

goodwill sample displays (10. 626)

Reversing his tone from a wide-ranging and contentious press conference delivered five days before that forbid the Federal Bureau of Investigations from turning over its findings to a special congressional committee investigating the Watergate burglary and threatened to re-enter the Vietnam War and eliciting such a negative public response that a law was passed prohibiting the US from engaging in conflict in Indochina without the approval of Congress, Richard Nixon on this day in 1973 distributed fragments of lunar rocks to the fifty states of American and every country of the world collected during the final Apollo mission. Presented on wooden plaques with a miniture flag that went into the orbit around the Moon and back, each gift (see also) included a message of peace, acknowledging that the exploration of our satellite was an international effort and than humankind could surely achieve harmony on Earth.

Friday 27 January 2023

paris peace accords (10. 500)

Negotiations finalised between Lรช ฤแปฉc Thแป and Henry Kissinger on 24 January and nearly derailed the day before by the Battle of Cแปญa Viแป‡t, the treaty officially known as the Agreement of Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Viet Nam (Hiแป‡p ฤ‘แป‹nh vแป chแบฅm dแปฉt chiแบฟn tranh, lแบญp lแบกi hรฒa bรฌnh แปŸ Viแป‡t Nam) was signed on this day in 1973 at the Hรดtel Majestic on Avenue Klรฉber in the XVIe arrondissement by representatives of the governments of the United States, the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) and the Republic of South Vietnam (the Provisional Revolutionary Government, representing South Vietnamese communists). All US and allied forces agreed to complete withdrawal in exchange for the release of prisoners-of-war, with all parties acceding to an immediate cease-fire, the establishment of council of national reconciliation, a peaceful reunification free of foreign interference, withdrawal of foreign troops from Cambodia and Laos and financial aid from the US for war-ravaged Indochina. Despite also securing a commitment from America to replace materiel and armaments on a one-by-one basis, congressional support for further appropriations evaporated and lapsing during the Watergate scandal, North Vietnam made their final offensive operations in April of 1975, precipitating the fall of Saigon and the capitulation of the Republic of Vietnam.

Monday 23 January 2023

6x6 (10. 492)

zhengyue 2: the second day of the Lunar New Year is considered the birthday of all dogs 

only took the m’f’er fifteen tries: Randy Rainbow lampoons Kevin McCartney with a parody of ‘Master of the House’ from Les Misรฉrables 

i shot the serif: US Department of State drops the typeface Times New Roman in favour of the more legible Calibri font  

yellow magic orchestra: watch performances by the Japanese group that created some of the most innovative and influential acts in electronic music  

odonymy: more open etymological street maps—see also  

tet: a short, hand-drawn game about cooking and serving a Vietnamese holiday meal—via Waxy

Thursday 19 January 2023

7x7 (10. 481)

distressed property: no interested buyers for North Hollywood Crypto House—via Miss Cellania  

rabbit on the moon: some communities following the luni-solar calendar readying for the Year of the Cat

cartoon dynamo: a century later, a 1923 editorial foreshadows automated art 

high stakes brinksmanship: the US Treasury turns to extraordinary measures to avoid default on debt repayments  

peer-reviewed: many scientists disapprove of ChatGPT cited as a contributing author on research papers  

unbuilt: rendered images of Frank Lloyd Wright’s unrealised architecture  

childhood lottery dream home achieved: a selection of properties on the market, courtesy of Zillow Gone Wild

Saturday 1 October 2022

the new people (10. 183)

Produced for a single season and clocking in at forty-five minutes per episode (a rarity for regularly-scheduled programming), the 1969 Aaron Spelling and Larry Gordon collaboration for the ABC network was developed by Rod Serling (under the pseudonym John Phillips—see previously) and centres around the struggle for survival of a group of American college freshman returning from a trip in Southeast Asia (to present as goodwill ambassadors during Vietnam) whose plane crashes on a deserted island in the Pacific, which had been slated and provisioned for a nuclear-test that never took place. Foreshadowing the later ABC series Lost, it explores rather melodramatically the premise of Lord of the Flies, killing off all of the adults and letting the young fend for themselves—plus the counterculture adage of the time not to trust anyone over thirty—and is echoed in Logan’s Run and the Star Trek episode “Miri.” Here is the pilot with the full series available online:

Friday 15 July 2022

hanoi jane

On this day in 1972, American activist and actor Jane Fonda was visiting Hanoi to survey the damage that bombing campaigns were having on civilian infrastructure—specifically the dams used to mitigate flooding by the Red River—and was photographed afterwards seated on a North Vietnamese Army anti-aircraft battery. The pictures were first published by a Polish newspaper before circulating widely and effectively ostracising Fonda from the entertainment industry and whilst pride for speaking out against the war was regretful over the bad optics of a momentary lapse of judgment that was both galvanising for those predisposed to hostility and jingoism and propaganda for the other side.

Sunday 15 August 2021

i have directed secretary connolly to suspend temporarily the convertibility of the dollar into gold or other reserve assets, except in amounts and conditions determined to be in the interest of monetary stability and in the best interest of the united states

Effectively ending the economic arrangement among Canadian, Western Europe, Australia and Japan since 1944, the Bretton Woods system (see previously), the first fully negotiated monetary order recognised across independent polities that regulated exchange rates by pinning national currencies to the price of gold under the supervision of the International Monetary Fund, American president Richard Nixon announced, unilaterally, that on this day in 1971 the dollars could no longer be freely converted to their worth in gold. Rendered a fiat currency instead of a representation of intrinsic value, only upheld by the consent of the parties engaged in trade for goods or services, many other signatories soon followed suit and untethered their money. This jarring economic policy change was the culmination of several intervention strategies undertaken by the Nixon administration to curb inflation incurred as the world reserve currency (privilรจge exorbitant as the US could print money at virtually no cost, but subsidised by the rest of the world, each bank note expatriated cost face value in actual goods), preceded by wage and price freezes and raising tariffs. Loosing the ability to service indebtedness over the war in Vietnam, Nixon accused other nations of gaming the system and using established conventions to devalue their currency to maintain a competitive advantage. The US dollar dropped precipitously in value shortly thereafter and led to the the stagflation that typifies the decade and general failure of wages to rise proportionally with the increasing prices of vital things like healthcare, education, rents and food.

Saturday 27 February 2021

report from vietnam

On this day in 1968, CBS affiliates broadcasted respected television news anchor Walter Cronkite’s scathing assessment of US prospects, having been dispatched to cover the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, privately urging commanding generals to find a dignified way to extricate themselves from this quagmire. Editorialising the closing statement, Cronkite said: 

We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. They may be right, that Hanoi’s winter-spring offensive has been forced by the Communist realization that they could not win the longer war of attrition, and that the Communists hope that any success in the offensive will improve their position for eventual negotiations. It would improve their position, and it would also require our realization, that we should have had all along, that any negotiations must be that—negotiations, not the dictation of peace terms. For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. This summer is almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation—and for every means we have to escalate, the enemy can match us, and that applies to invasion of the North, the use of nuclear weapons, or the mere commitment of one hundred, or two hundred, or three hundred thousand more American troops to the battle. And with each escalation, the world comes closer to the brink of cosmic disaster. To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honourable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could. 

Following this addendum, debriefed President Lyndon Baines Johnson announced that, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America,” ultimately contributing to LBJ’s decision not to seek another term in office, announcing his plans at the end of the following month.

Saturday 4 July 2020

honor america day

Though intentionally apolitical nearly to the point of obfuscation and denial, the Fourth of July celebrations held in Washington, DC in 1970 branded as Honor America Day could not ultimately separate themselves from the milieu of war and social injustice and incivility that it tried to rise above.
Richard Nixon’s milquetoast and hardly objectionable gala, orchestrated by hotel magnate J Willard Marriott, secured universal and neutral celebrities like astronaut Frank Borman, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Glen Campbell, et al—though to pull back the curtain a bit all were at least ostensibly supportive of the expanding war in Vietnam that had crept into Laos and Cambodia and had resulted in massacres domestically, at least to the point where they could be reliably trusted not to turn on the hosts and protest.
Unlike the pomp and pageantry of Nürnburger rallies of recent years, this asymmetrically white and mainstream celebration was not meant to cause more division than was already baked into the ongoing tensions but inevitably attracted protests and counter-protests. Conservatives, neo-Nazis, members of the religious-right plus the so called Silent Majority clashed and the event ended in tear-gas.  

Saturday 13 June 2020

the pentagon papers

Leaked to the press by military analysist turned activist Daniel Ellsberg who had researched and contributed to the study and recom- mendations to the US government, the Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force was published on this day in 1971, revealing crucially that successive administrations had deceived the public and the US legislature on its prosecution and expansion—mission creep—of the war in South East Asia. The exposรฉ helped inform the growing sentiment opposing the war and intensified the movement against it. Nixon’s hatchetmen (nicknamed the White House plumbers as they were to see about a leak) went after the credibility of Ellsberg and the papers, bringing up charges of treason, which were later dropped during the Watergate investigation as an unlawful intimidation tactic.

Sunday 7 June 2020

an absurd and immature antic

With an albeit split but precedent-setting decision issued on this day in 1971, the Supreme Court of the United States of America overturned the charges of lower jurisdictions and absolved the defendant of the crime of disturbing the peace by his choice of attire while in the corridors of the Los Angeles Courthouse.   Three years prior, the then nineteen year old defendant, Paul Robert Cohen, was arrested for wearing a jacket that bore the words F*ck the Draft (see also here and here) when called to a hearing—Cohen removed the offending article when entering the courtroom and taking the stand, however.
The bailiff communicated this to the judge, whom had Cohen taken into custody after his testimony and arraigned. Arguing that his behaviour was provocative and calculated to shock by announcing his views on the war in Vietnam, the county court ruled that his wardrobe choice was below the minimum threshold of civility and not suitable for public view. The case was elevated and the California Supreme Court concluded that neither itself or the lower courts were competent to determine what language was suitable for public consumption without overstepping their powers and trouncing on rights of free speech and referred the matter to the national high court to decide. Despite the chief justice instructing his associates that it would not be necessary to “dwell on the facts”—in effect, an order to censor the wording on the jacket, which was immediately ignored, and the dissenting argument characterising the provocation as the above and thus not a form of protected speech, the case was ruled in favour of Cohen, enshrining the right to express such sentiments and to not have them silenced and suppressed prima facie.

Wednesday 29 April 2020

operation frequent wind

Beginning on this day in 1975, on the anniversary of the war’s spillage cross borders into Cambodia five years prior, the US launched its final phase of evacuations and air-lifts of “at-risk” Vietnamese and American citizens from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) as the People’s Army of Vietnam rapidly advanced on the city. Over the course of two days, over seven thousand individuals were taken by helicopter, and images—especially of the US Embassy, intended only as a secondary evacuation point and reserved for diplomatic staff, which was quickly overwhelmed with desperate residents loyal to the South Vietnamese government. The helicopters ferried evacuees to an awaiting fleet of ships in the bay but as numbers massed and the helicopters clogged the decks, many were shoved into the sea to make room for more passengers.
Secondary, self-evacuees that were not part of this ending phase but were eventually in US custody for processing as refugees ultimately numbered over one hundred and forty thousand, though still only around one tenth of the number that Kissinger and Ford had prepared for. The secret signal to alert people to procedure to assembly areas as the operation (the original code-name Talon Vise changed to the above after it was compromised) was about to commence was to be broadcast on Armed Forces Radio with the code: The temperature in Saigon is one hundred and five degrees and rising—followed by the incongruous playing of Irving Berlin’s I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, something that perhaps makes one want to heed disc-jockey banter and the rhetorical question “Is it hot enough for you?”

Tuesday 17 March 2020


Captured by Pulitzer Prize winning Associated Press photographer Slava “Sal” Veder on this day in 1973, the moment of reunion on the tarmac at Travis Air Force Base in California between a just released US prisoner of war, held for five and half years in Hanoi, and his family—captioned Burst of Joy—came to symbolize the beginning of the end of the US aggression in Vietnam and signaled the time for healing and reconciliation to start.
Among the first soldiers to be redeployed in Operation Homecoming, the spontaneous, happy image belies a grim reality, like the war itself (see previously)—there being nothing redemptive to the latter tragedy even in terms of good optics, with the marriage on the verge of collapse due to the stress of the soldier’s confinement and infidelities and reflects its opposite side as well with all the lives of Vietnamese and Americans that were beyond restoration. The couple reunited under orders, it was later revealed.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

the ballad of john and yoko

A week after Linda Louise Eastman (*1941 – †1998) married Paul McCartney, John Lennon (*1940 - †1980) and Yoko Ono had their wedding service in Gibraltar on this day in 1969, traveling to Amsterdam five days later for their honeymoon.
Knowing that their marriage would be a big press event, the couple decided—at the height of the Vietnam War—to put the media attention to good use and staged the first of their weeklong Bed-Ins for Peace. An international contingent of journalists were invited into their bedroom in the presidential suite of the Hilton Hotel daily from nine o’clock in the morning until nine o’clock at night. Afterwards they dashed off to Vienna, sending acorns to heads of state around the world in hopes that they would plant them and rear oaks as symbols of peace.

Saturday 3 November 2018

silent majority

Echoing the 1919 turn of phrase employed by Warren G Harding during his campaign in the aftermath of World War I that was meant as a euphemism to distinguish the quick from the dead (with those who’ve passed then and now far outnumbering the living and by extension more moral weight like all future generations), Richard Milhous Nixon popularised the appeal to the quiet in a speech on this day in 1969:
“And so tonight—to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans—I ask for your support.” Assuming that those who were not actively protesting Nixon’s policies, joining the counter-culture and rallying against the Vietnam War were in fact an overshadowed demographic and gave Nixon their tacit approval. Casting this idealised demographic against a “vocal minority” was a strategy of divide-and-conquer and the “disenfranchised” were not the precarious, forgotten or downtrodden but rather the comfortable who aspired for more and were menaced by those that had less. It was effective.  This demographic of Middle America (though now more international in its application) has gone through many incarnations since—from the Angry White Male to the Soccer Mom, Loggers, Coal Miners and many other labels before returning to its original form. If one does not speak up, it becomes much easier for others to speak for you.

Wednesday 31 October 2018

october surprise

We’re all probably too fatigued already to weather another political bombshell and while the term was informed during the previous US election-cycle and came into common-parlance during the following presidential run-off between Richard Nixon and George McGovern, on this day fifty years ago (1968) President Lyndon Johnson announced probably the first non-spontaneous, last-minute policy shift by ordering cessation of all bombardment in North Vietnam.
Johnson cited progress in the Paris peace negotiations as his motivation but his opponents accused him of making a desperate overture to voters and as a sort of retribution for a series of unfortunate coincidences that tarnished his campaign in 1964 and nearly cost him the election: the unexpected retirement of Nikita Khrushchev, a gay sex scandal of one of Johnson’s top aides, a successful nuclear missile test in China and Labour taking control of the UK. The Vietnam October Surprise failed, however, to carry Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s vice president, to victory and the Nixon administration continued hostilities. Ironically, the subsequent October Surprise in 1972 that helped the incumbent hold office and defeat Barry Goldwater was a promise delivered by Henry Kissinger that “peace was at hand” and that ground forces were to be withdrawn from Vietnam in the following year.

Thursday 1 February 2018

an unlikely weapon

Fifty years ago today, combat photographer and journalist for the Associated Press Eddie Adams whilst on an extended assignment to cover the Vietnam War was in Saigon at the exact moment to capture the summary execution of Vietcong prisoner Nguyแป…n Vฤƒn Lรฉm by South Vietnam’s national police chief Nguyแป…n Ngแปc Loan.
The widely circulated and iconic image coincided with the start of the Tแบฟt Offensive and caused many Americans to question whom their allies were in this battle and their motivations for being in it in the first place and was the impetus for burgeoning protests. Though winning a Pulitzer prize for the picture the following year, Adams did have misgivings and wondered if the brutal act was not done to play to the press and reflected on the impact the photograph had had on its subjects’ lives and was far prouder of his later work with refugees that persuaded President Jimmy Carter to grant asylum to two hundred thousand boat people. Adams’ corpus of work is archived by the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.