Vietnam I: Ancient History

Vietnam I: Ancient History
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 56:04
 
1X

Well, here we are folks. The beginning of the Vietnam series and very probably the end of SFD. We’re starting, literally, with the dawn of human history and carrying it all the way up to the 1700s. Like the folks over at Blank Check, we’re connoisseurs of context, and to get Vietnam right in a way that the Americans didn’t from 1946 to 1975, and in a way that even Ken Burns failed to get it in 2017, we’ve got to go way back.

It’s going to be a little tougher to get photos for this one, given that our big timeline begins around 2000 BC and gets more concrete around 221 BC, but let me try. First, though, if you want to get a visual for the cold open, there’s this.

You can just make him out there behind the microphone on the right, but that’s Ho Chi Minh on September 2, 1945, officially declaring Vietnamese independence. We’ll get more into this in the next show, but there were Americans in Ho’s audience, Americans that had helped him to fight against the Japanese, and, implicitly, against French designs on his country.

Then we’ve got the maps.

As always, click the image to bigify

This is your real basic relief map. The thing that I like about it, given that it’s modern, is that, as far as I can tell, the major roads it includes are somewhat like the road network that grew up from the end of the imperial period through the French colony and the war. Somewhat.

It gets really big, even after I cut out half the map

And here we’ve got a vintage French colonial map of Indochina, and you can see how they bundled Cambodia and Laos up with Vietnam, as well as the way they split Vietnam up into three distinct (and separately administered) regions: Tonkin up north, Annam in the middle, and Cochinchina in the south.

 

Here we’ve got a temple statue of a Hung King, one of the pseudo-mythical line of kings that ruled the Vietnamese from the time they came down from the highlands to settle the paddy land of Tonkin around 3,000 years ago until 221 BC.

This guy is Qin Shi Huang (“First Qin Emperor”) or Shi Huang Di (“First Emperor”), the man who ended the Warring States Period of Chinese history by uniting the disparate Chinese people under one government for the first time. He’s also the dude who had the Great Wall built and spent a lot of time drinking poisons like mercury in the pursuit of eternal life. He sent this dude to conquer Tonkin:

This is Zhao Tuo or Trieu Da, an officer of one of the southern Chinese kingdoms annexed by Shi Huang Di. He joined up, became a general, and took most of northern modern Vietnam.  When the Qin dynasty, and the empire Shi Huang Di had built, collapsed, Zhao Tuo declared himself king (and then emperor) of Nanyue or Nam Viet, comprising parts of southern China and northern Vietnam.

Chinese reconquest followed, and Vietnamese independence after that. Just like in the episode, though, we’re going to skip most of the intervening years because they’re not entirely relevant to us. By the eighteenth century, though, Vietnam was split between two powerful families, the Trinh in the north and the Nguyen in the south, with the Le Emperors nothing more than captive figureheads in the court at Hanoi.

Rebels from Tay Son village in Annam, fed up with the corruption of the Nguyen and the costs of their wars against the Trinh, Siam, and Cambodia, rose up to challenge the status quo. They wrecked the Nguyen, killing nearly all of the family, and then marched north and destroyed the Trinh. The last Le Emperor escaped to China and sought help from his imperial counterpart. That army of 200,000 the Tay Son also crushed.

The aforementioned Battle of Ngọc Hồi-Đống Đa

While all this was going on, though, the last surviving Nguyen scion, Nguyen Anh, had escaped to Siam, modern Thailand.

Just before his flight, Nguyen Anh met one Pigneau de Behaine, a French Catholic priest living in Vietnam. Behaine was looking for a way to secure a legal position for Vietnamese Catholics, and backing a contender for the throne seemed like a pretty good move.

Behaine sought help from his own monarch, Louis the XVI.

This Louis XVI

Louis signed the Little Treaty of Versailles, promising military aid in exchange for Catholic concessions, but the Revolution and his subsequent unheaddening (along with the opposition of the Irish, sort-of-also-American governor of French Pondicherry in India, Thomas Conway) torpedoed that plan.

Behaine raised his own money, munitions, and mercenaries in Paris by appealing to sympathy for embattled Vietnamese Catholics, and sailed back to Nguyen Anh. Because of a confluence of factors (somewhat covered in the show), Nguyen Anh was in the process of taking the country back from the Tay Son, a conquest he completed in 1802. Behaine didn’t live to see it though, having died in the defense of a fortress, like any normal missionary Catholic priest.

Nguyen Anh renamed himself Gia Long and founded the Nguyen Dynasty, which would last right up until the death of Vietnamese Imperialism in 1945. The country was re-united for the first time in over a century, and the new emperor’s rule was long and just.

Unfortunately, it also ended just a few short years before the French arrived in force, holding rifles this time, not crosses nor bibles.

Bayart, Jean-Francois. “Africa in the World: A History of Extraversion.” African Affairs, 2000, 217-267.

Ellsberg, Daniel. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York; Viking Press, 2002.

Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Very Small Place. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966.

Fall, Bernard. Street without Joy: Indochina at War, 1946-54. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1961.

Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness. New York: Macmillan, 1963.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972.

Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Herr, Michael. Dispatches. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Hickey, Gerald Cannon. A Village in Vietnam. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1964.

Huntington, Samuel. “The Bases of Accommodation.” Foreign Affairs, 1968.

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Lacouture, Jean. Ho Chi Minh: A Political Biography. New York: Random House, 1968.

Lacouture, Jean. Vietnam: Between Two Truces. New York: Random House, 1966.

Maclear, Michael. The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam, 1945-1975. New York: Avon Books, 1982.

Moore, Harold G., and Galloway, Joseph L. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. New York: Random House, 1992.

Niehbuhr, Rienhold. The Irony of American History. Chicago: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Vintage, 1988.

 

Vietnam: A Plan

Vietnam: A Plan
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 13:36
 
1X

Writing on the first script starts in earnest this week, and I thought everybody deserved to know more or less where we’re headed. This episode gets into all that, and, for anybody following along, gets into some of the books that are going to be the backbones of the series:

Ellsberg, Daniel. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York; Viking Press, 2002.

Fall, Bernard. Hell in a Very Small Place. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966.

Fall, Bernard. Street without Joy: Indochina at War, 1946-54. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1961.

Fehrenbach, T. R. This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness. New York: Macmillan, 1963.

Fitzgerald, Frances. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972.

Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Herr, Michael. Dispatches. New York: Knopf, 1977.

Hickey, Gerald Cannon. A Village in Vietnam. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1964.

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Lacouture, Jean. Ho Chi Minh: A Political Biography. New York: Random House, 1968.

Lacouture, Jean. Vietnam: Between Two Truces. New York: Random House, 1966.

Maclear, Michael. The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam, 1945-1975. New York: Avon Books, 1982.

Moore, Harold G., and Galloway, Joseph L. We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. New York: Random House, 1992.

Niehbuhr, Rienhold. The Irony of American History. Chicago: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Vintage, 1988.

 

SFD Short—Monopolies

SFD Short—Monopolies
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 34:02
 
1X

It’s the last of all news shows, folks, and it’s barely newsy at all. We’re talking about monopolies in the American economy, which was, incidentally, the subject of Robert Reich’s last book, Saving Capitalism.

The show explains itself, and as it promises, here’s some graphs for you:

This is an Econ 101 graph of perfect competition. S is supply, D is demand, MC is marginal cost, and P is price. Then we’ve got something more complicated, monopoly:

MR is marginal revenue, MC is marginal cost again, ATC is average total cost. Without getting into the technical stuff, which you can find right here, a monopoly produces quantity where marginal costs are equal to marginal revenue for units produced, that’s line Q1, but they charge price P, much higher than what would be determined in perfect competition, and they take home the difference as profit.

Likewise, since for monopolies, the marginal cost curve acts as the supply curve, everything in that triangle that says deadweight loss is product that the firm would have produced in perfect competition but now does not.

I’m not even going to try to type this one out, but here’s a video.

Diminished US Power—A Conversation with Rob Morris

Diminished US Power—A Conversation with Rob Morris
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 1:56:09
 
1X

I’m getting back on track after my internet outage, and as promised, here’s a make-up of a sort for those last couple of weeks. This is the show that Rob and I recorded back in December, and which went up earlier this week as the December news show on Patreon.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this is going to be the second-to-last news show, since I’ve got to just buckle down on the four or five plates I’ve got spinning already. The Patreon site will keep trucking, hopefully with some support, but from here on out, the only exclusive content will be whatever I can cook up that doesn’t fit into the normal podcast, rather than a regular thing.

I got a short story published yesterday, so that might be worth checking out. I’m the Michigan correspondent at 50 States of Blue, and I get paid based on pageviews, so you might add that to your bookmarks, at least if you live in the Mitten State, and I wrote one of the last pieces to ever appear on the Awl, which I’m pretty proud of. Everybody who isn’t Bruno, get on Twitter and talk to me about stuff.

SFD Short—The Point

SFD Short—The Point
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 33:56
 
1X

Hey folks,

Boy do we have some housekeeping. You probably noticed there hasn’t been a show the last two Mondays. That’s because fourteen full days ago, my internet went out, and it didn’t come back until pretty upsettlingly recently. I let everybody who’s checked the Facebook know, but if you’re just engaged with SFD through the shows, a total lack of internet and Mexican cybercafes understandably not liking when you upload huge files on their connections is the reason we’ve been out for a while. The good thing is that I had a show recorded and ready to upload literally five minutes before the connection went down and I kept writing new shows even without internet. So, here’s the way things are going to work out.

We’re just going to eat those last two weeks. It’s a crummy hand, but every once in a while that’s what Mexico deals me. To make up for it, I’m going to release the December news show this week (I know, I know) both on Patreon and on the podcast. Then I’m going to take one of the shows I wrote on the off-time, about monopolies in the American economy, and that’ll be a Patreon show with a very short exclusive window.

And then we’re going to change the setup here.

I’m going to have to wind down Patreon-exclusive offerings. What with the new job, some journalism I want to get done before I’m out of Mexico and onto law school, and the show, the actual SFD show, I’m just not going to have time. If anybody feels like that’s a good reason to bail on Patreon, I totally understand, thanks for the help so far.

That’s all contained in the show intro, but I wanted to double up just in case. I appreciate everybody’s patience, and we’re once more, Mexico willing, back on track.

The image up top, for anybody who’s interested, is from a very underrated little movie (that, while it’s about Indonesia, seems to me to be Vietnam movie, sort of) called The Year of Living Dangerously, that’s got Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver when they were practically teenagers.

Liberal Arts, Again

Liberal Arts, Again
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 33:10
 
1X

I’ve been saying, for longer than it was exactly true, that everything’s bad and it’s only getting worse. The world’s come around to my point of view though, and at least in the US, almost a year out now from the inauguration, it certainly seems to be going that way. The President’s interviews, when anybody can work up the stomach to go read them, are getting less and less coherent all the time; the man’s tweets more unhinged; the Mueller investigation ever closer even as the Republican Congress shows itself totally unwilling to accept the results and Republicans in investigatory committees complicit in covering up wrongdoing. The country’s shaking itself apart up top, and while the reason those people are there might well be down to grand historical forces, the stuff they’re doing now that they’ve arrived is down to deeply broken humanities and very personal failures.

I think some of that’s down to education, and like all people who think a problem’s due to lack of schooling, I think it’s down to the right or wrong kind of education, and that’s what we’ll get to in this show.

Liberal Arts is the previous show on this subject, and Liberal Arts is the previous essay.

Musical credit to Ryan Little this time out.

SFD Short—Maintenance

SFD Short—Maintenance
Safe For Democracy

 
 
00:00 / 27:19
 
1X

Well, my face isn’t totally unstuffed-up yet, but I think the nasal quality has dropped out enough to record, and I want my shows to hit the top of the week again.

Check out our Patreon!

Talk to me on Twitter!

This is the Isaiah Berlin essay

And this right here is the last chapter of the Myth of Sisyphus by Camus

SFD Short—Land and Food and Capitalism

SFD Short—Land and Food and Capitalism
Shorts

 
 
00:00 / 39:16
 
1X

We’re talking about capitalism, and specifically the ways in which unrestrained, industrialized, late-stage capitalism like ours works to destroy, reconstitute and commodify widely-available goods, usually in such a way as to create a population that is so repressable, the state and its corporate partners don’t even need to repress it.

Big ask for one show. But it’s a reachable one, I think, and everything’s pretty damn interesting on the way there.

Sign up on Patreon.

RATE THE SHOW.

Enjoy this one, folks.

Some stuff that might be interesting to folks based on the episode:

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food

The Mexican milpa planting system

And what’s kind of my experience thereof

A history of bread

Adult dorms

SFD Short—Trickledown

SFD Short—Trickledown
News

 
 
00:00 / 27:01
 
1X

I have a whole new show all written up but between family stuff and, well, more family stuff, I haven’t been able to find a time to actually record and edit it here in Tennessee. Tomorrow, though, I’m on a plane, and I’ll be into Guadalajara and back to my desk by 5am EST on Friday.

This is my last news show (until Rob and I go up as December’s), and my last get-out-of-jail-free card, so expect real new content to be coming at you every week (and, after this Monday, when I’ve got a wedding, every Monday) for the foreseeable future.

It’s going to be so good to be back, folks. I hope you’re pumped for it too.

In the meantime, this is the best news piece I’ve put together, I’m pretty sure, and well worth hearing.

As per the show, here’s the chart from the Economic Policy Institute that really clinches the issue: