Vietnam: A Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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

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:

SFD Short—Corruption

It’s pretty straightforward on this one; October’s news show on Corruption just in time for December. Enjoy folks. Patreon people, appreciate the patience while I’m on my monthlong, sabbatical-type trip to see my folks in the US.

I don’t do a lot of heavy quotes in this one, but I do lean very heavily on my sources, so here’s something we’re more used to from the history shows.

Arnsdorf, Isaac and Vogel, Kenneth P., “Trump Received $1.6 Million from Secret Service.” Politico, 22 September 2016.

Beauchamp, Zack, “How Donald Trump’s Kleptocracy Is Undermining American Democracy.” Vox, 31 July 2017.

Bertrand, Natasha, “Top Democrat: Trump’s DOJ Nominee Helped Russian Bank Sue over Trump-Russia Dossier.” Business Insider, 25 July 2017.

Cassidy, John, “Republicans Just Caved to the Big Banks and Exposed Trump’s Sham Populism.” The New Yorker, 25 October 2017.

Friedman, Dan, “Trump Just Blew Off a Deadline for Implementing Russian Sanctions He Approved.” Mother Jones, 11 October 2017.

Green, Miranda and Tatum, Sophie, “Pruitt: Scientists Receiving Federal Grants Will Be Cut from EPA Advising Roles.” CNN Politics, 18 October 2017.

Korte, Gregory, “As He Chairs Trump’s Opioid Commission, Christie Champions His Home-State Drug Companies.” USA Today, 19 October, 2017.

Kravitz, Derek and Shaw, Al, “Trump Lawyer Confirms President Can Pull Money from His Businesses Whenever He Wants.”ProPublica, 4 April 2017.

Nazaryan, Alexander, “Trump Administration: The Most Corrupt and Unethical in American History?” Newsweek, 23 September 2017.

O’Connell, Jonathan, “Trump D.C. Hotel Turns $2 Million Profit in Four Months.” The Washington Post, 10 August 2017.

Petulla, Sam, “Tracking President Trump’s Visits to Trump Properties.” NBC News, 10 August, 2017.