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The Best Picture winner at this year’s Academy Awards was Spotlight, which seemed an excellent choice to me. That powerful ensemble performance showed a handful of daring investigative reporters at The Boston Globe taking on the political and cultural establishment of their city, breaking the story of how the Catholic Church had long shielded its numerous pedophile priests. The focus was less on the scandal itself and more on the obstacles faced by the journalists, including the widespread disbelief that a cover-up so vast could have remained in place for so long.

A couple of decades earlier, a college friend of mine then living in DC would occasionally regale me with stories of the bizarre lunatics he encountered in his neighborhood. There was one gentleman who regularly occupied a particular street corner with a home-made sign, declaring that he had been sexually molested by a Catholic priest and denouncing his church for protecting such individuals by concealing their abuses. Sometimes all that separates the discounted ravings of street madmen and a long series of international headlines is merely the willingness of a few bold journalists to ask some probing questions.

These thoughts came to mind as I read the various public tributes to Sydney Schanberg, whose distinguished journalistic history came to its end a few weeks ago. Naturally, the majority of the coverage focused on the years he had risked his life during the war in Cambodia, since those had led to his Pulitzer Prize, and later gained him permanent fame in the Oscar-winning film The Killing Fields. But his career spanned more than half a century, of which only a few years were spent overseas as a foreign correspondent, and in many respects those other, later years provide a story every bit as interesting, and perhaps even more relevant today, given the ills that currently plague our society. The plot lacks an uplifting happy ending, but that just makes the tale a more realistic one.

Soon after his return from Cambodia and his Pulitzer Prize, he was named Metropolitan Editor at the New York Times, with one-third of all the newspaper’s journalists serving under him. But just a few years later, he was gone, and his lengthy Times obituary devoted only a couple of sentences to his post-Cambodia years at the newspaper, though his longtime friend Charles Kaiser provided far more of the details in a recent Vanity Fair piece.

In one of our conversations, Syd casually mentioned that although major newspapers are very eager to uncover corrupt practices in distant lands such as Afghanistan or Bosnia, they are less happy when their employees undertake similar efforts closer to home, especially in their own city. And although I never pressed him to clarify what he meant, I sensed he was speaking from personal experience.

According to my late friend Alex Cockburn, the long-time Press Clips media critic at The Village Voice, Schanberg’s focus on the more sordid aspects of his newspaper’s editorial support for the West Side highway project eventually outraged top management, leading to his removal. He had spent 26 years at the Times and the 1984 triumph of The Killing Fields had established him as one of the world’s most famous journalists, perhaps only trailing Woodward and Bernstein of Watergate fame; but in August 1985 he was supposedly escorted from his desk out the front door in the course of a single day.[See below]

Even while still at the Times, he had grown concerned at the decline of journalistic rectitude in the face of financial temptations, such as the growing possibilities for vast wealth opening to those newsmen who seized a lucky opportunity while never rocking the political boat. For example, he once told me the story of a newly hired network news anchor, just arrived in New York City, who joined a group of prominent local journalists for lunch. The newscaster’s entire conversational focus was on the remarkably luxurious interiors of some of the Upper East Side co-op apartments he’d recently seen on a visit, and the chance he himself might have to live in such splendor. The anecdote was prompted by the case of a different network anchor, ABC‘s Peter Jennings, who’d spent his entire career in the news business but managed to leave an estate worth $50 million to his heirs, an outcome that an old-fashioned reporter might view as unseemly.

Certainly, the remaining thirty years of Schanberg’s own career demonstrated a very different lodestar. For years he had received reports from his military contacts of American POWs still held after the end of the Vietnam War, but his beat was the domestic politics of New York City and State, so he turned those tips over to his Times colleagues, who made little effort to energetically investigate them. However, once the Senate POW Committee hearings began in 1991, he immersed himself in the issue, eventually publishing dozens of columns and articles on the topic over the next couple of years.

The great irony was that although the hearings actually caused the release of a vast quantity of new evidence, much of it strongly supporting the case for the abandoned POWs, the American political establishment instead seized the opportunity to end the nagging controversy by declaring the POWs a myth and the issue closed once and for all, with nearly our entire mainstream media following their lead. Thus, Schanberg began pursuing the massive scandal at exactly the point at which the American media had suddenly lost almost all interest, and he spent the remainder of his life doggedly pursuing a topic that caused him to receive what he later called the “Silent Treatment.”

 

Schanberg’s story might surely make a very powerful film or documentary, demonstrating the darker realities of contemporary American journalism, but only if the huge hidden scandal that he had spent a quarter century seeking to reveal were actually true. The evidence of the abandoned POWs seems overwhelming to me, but I am hardly an expert on Vietnam, and must simply weigh the facts and opinions presented by others.

For example, a few years ago Schanberg’s journalistic integrity and excellence were hailed by Joseph Galloway, an award-winning military affairs writer specializing in the history of the Vietnam War, who included this appraisal:

More recently, Schanberg’s was among the few voices calling to account two U.S. senators, John McCain and John Kerry, both Vietnam veterans, for manipulating the findings of a special Senate committee to cover up the truth: that the Nixon White House, directed by President Nixon and his war planner, Henry Kissinger, left hundreds of living American POWs behind in the hands of their captors when we evacuated Vietnam.

On the other hand, I also recently discovered a totally contrary view advanced by Rick Perlstein, a highly-regarded author of books on the conservative political culture of the Goldwater and Nixon Eras, who denounced belief in the abandoned POWs as a ideological myth born of rightwing paranoia, tainted with sharp racialist sentiment. He favorably cited the views of H. Bruce Franklin, a Maoist cultural historian, whose 1991 analysis I have already rejected as factually shallow, but he more heavily quoted from the conclusions of mainstream historian Michael J. Allen, whose work Until the Last Man Comes Home he described as “the definitive book on the subject.”

Through the modern miracle of Amazon.com, Allen’s book was soon in my hands, and I spent a day or two carefully reading it, hoping to decide how effectively the author refuted the factual claims of Schanberg and others.

In most respects, Until the Last Man Comes Home seems a fine work of academic scholarship, well-written, published by a university press, and featuring glowing blurbs from other historians. The main text runs 300 pages with over 100 additional pages of footnotes and bibliography, along with a lengthy index. But when I turned to that index, the name “Sydney Schanberg” was nowhere to be found.

The absence of any reference to the most prestigious figure in the pro-POW camp troubled me, but I explained it away. After all, Schanberg’s remarkable 8,000 word expose on the POW cover-up had been rejected by every mainstream publication and had only been released on a website in late 2008, perhaps after the Allen’s 2009 book had already gone to press, while nearly all his numerous earlier pieces from the early 1990s had either run as newspaper columns or otherwise appeared outside of mainstream outlets. Allen may have just disregarded these as superseded by later analysis.

However, the next lapse I discovered seemed completely inexcusable. The most comprehensive recent presentation of the pro-POW case is surely An Enormous Crime by former U.S. Rep. Bill Hendon, who also worked as a Pentagon intelligence analyst specializing in POW issues and as an investigator for the Senate POW Committee. Given Hendon’s background, he seems well suited to provide an inside perspective on the topic, and his 600 page volume exhaustively documents the factual details and entire history surrounding the alleged abandonment of the POWs, providing a cornucopia of evidence, much of it seemingly persuasive. The hardcover edition was released in Spring 2007 by an imprint of Macmillan, a mainstream publishing house, but although Allen’s very extensive bibliography lists some 250 books, Hendon’s is not one of them. Refuting Hendon’s arguments is one thing, but simply ignoring them is quite another.

As I started to read the actual Allen text, I better understood why including those missing works might have constituted a problematical distraction from the central flow of Allen’s narrative. Although Allen thoroughly explores the political, ideological, social, cultural, psychological, and historical aspects of the Vietnam POW movement, he devotes relatively little attention to the factual question itself: did the abandoned POWs actually exist? Page after page is given over to the complex internal politics and interpersonal disputes of the various POW activist groups, but it would also be nice to be able to decide whether their basic beliefs had indeed had merit.

Consider, for example, the claim that soon after Reagan took office in early 1981, Canada passed along a diplomatic overture by Hanoi offering to return the remaining American POWs they held in exchange for a payment of $4 billion, representing the cash they had been secretly promised in the original peace agreement but never received. Schanberg devotes several long paragraphs to this vital piece of evidence, and Hendon’s book gives it four full pages. Together, these sources provide the names of several former government officials attesting to the reality of this crucial incident, including with sworn testimony, but it receives no mention whatsoever in Allen’s book. On the other hand, Allen does devote nearly a dozen pages to the American Civil War and the stories of the missing soldiers and POWs in that 19th century conflict.

Going down the list of the major evidentiary findings provided by Schanberg, few of them are mentioned, let alone effectively refuted by Allen, who seems equally ignorant of the 600 pages of material provided by Hendon. If one side in an ongoing historical debate provides a vast quantity of seemingly persuasive evidence, while the other side simply avoids the argument, what conclusions should be drawn by a fair-minded outside observer? Attempting to debunk a controversial hypothesis by ignoring all the most powerful “smoking guns” then casually dismissing the remaining evidence as merely circumstantial is unlikely to persuade any neutral third-party who is provided the two opposing arguments. Perhaps this explains why the mainstream media has been so reluctant to offer space to both sides of the POW argument, and has instead declared the entire matter “Case Closed.”

Allen’s apparent unwillingness to pursue leads found in non-mainstream publications may have caused him to miss important and persuasive evidence. For example, he correctly emphasizes that Sen. John McCain played an absolutely pivotal role at the Senate POW Committee Hearings: he was only former POW among the members and also the most ferocious opponent of the POW activists. Indeed, Allen argues that McCain alone possessed the “moral authority” to defeat the POW advocates in the important arena of public opinion. Then, near the very end of his book, Allen separately mentions “the furious smear campaign” McCain later endured at the hands of some of those activists and veterans groups, who accused him of wartime treason and all sorts of other moral failings, but dismisses these charges as the unsubstantiated attacks of extremists, who typified their ideological movement.

This might seem a plausible analysis, but additional facts change the picture. In an article last year, I pointed out that there seems to be overwhelming evidence that McCain did indeed spend his time as a POW doing enemy propaganda broadcasts for Hanoi, which would surely mark him as a “traitor,” and that he very likely later invented his tales of torture as a preemptive defense against the risk of a court martial upon his return. McCain’s wartime behavior was apparently quite well known in POW circles, and a short wire story in a 1969 edition of Stars and Stripes magazine described his radio broadcasts on behalf of his Communist captors. Indeed, I now possess a recently located audio file of one of McCain’s wartime Hanoi broadcasts, which seems absolutely genuine to me.

The former top-ranking officials of the Nixon Administration and their Pentagon allies were obviously the persons most eager to expunge the widespread popular belief that they had abandoned American POWs, and these same individuals surely not only knew of McCain’s true wartime record, but also possessed the hard evidence to prove it and destroy him politically. These hidden facts may easily explain why McCain acted as such a ferocious bulldog at the hearings, regularly denouncing both his opposing senatorial colleagues and even the relatives of unreturned POWs in extremely harsh and personal terms. Under such a reconstruction, the senator’s “moral authority” may have been considerably less than what Allen assumes.

There are times when a concerted alliance of powerful American elites are determined to establish a particular narrative history of events, facts be damned, and under such circumstances the mainstream media often serves as their handmaiden. A massive and perfectly-timed cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, sharply slanted coverage in major newspapers, and selective statements by influential public officials may succeeded in achieving this during the Senate POW Committee hearings. And once such an official narrative has been established, later editors may easily be persuaded that any attempts to reopen the issue are either just “old news” or instead are based on wild “conspiracy theories,” long since debunked. Under such circumstances, even an individual of Sydney Schanberg’s stellar journalistic reputation may find it impossible to break through these thick walls of silence.

Meanwhile, Michael J. Allen may be a perfectly fine young scholar, but he was apparently still untenured at the time this book, his first, appeared in print, and I suspect his academic career path would have become considerably more difficult if he had suggested factual conclusions totally divergent from those of nearly the entire American political and media establishment.

These sorts of practical realities must be considered whenever we analyze controversial topics upon which our elite establishment has already proclaimed its definitive and final verdict. Principled journalists and historians may seek to speak truth to power, but the converse may be a more typical outcome.

[Correction: I have been reliably informed that elements of Alex Cockburn's account of the circumstances surrounding Sydney Schanberg's departure from The New York Times were seriously mistaken. Although his Times column was cancelled, he was actually offered another position at the paper by the publisher, but preferred to leave instead and soon began writing a column for NY Newsday, where he remained for the next ten years.]

For Further Reading:

 
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Last week America suffered the loss of Sydney Schanberg, widely regarded as one of the greatest journalists of his generation. Yet as I’d previously noted, when I read his long and glowing obituary in the New York Times, I was shocked to see that it included not a single word concerning the greatest story of his career, which had been the primary focus of the last quarter century of his research and writing.

The cynical abandonment of hundreds of American POWs at the end of the Vietnam War must surely rank as one of the most monumental scandals of modern times, and the determined effort of the mainstream media to maintain this enormous governmental cover-up for over four decades raises serious doubts about whether we can believe what our newspapers report about anything else.

A couple of mainstream academics, one liberal and one conservative, whose names would be recognized as those of prominent public intellectuals, dropped me notes strongly applauding my effort to reopen the POW controversy and help get the truth out at last.

But the vast majority of my readers, perhaps being of a younger generation, were quite surprised to read my presentation, presumably having always vaguely assumed that talk of the “abandoned POWs” was just some Hollywood-inspired myth of the 1980s, generated by the success of the Rambo movies of the Reagan Era and continued by the populist paranoia of Ross Perot, before gradually fading away with the passage of time. I can’t really blame them because until just a few years ago that was exactly my own impression.

As someone who was just a child during the Vietnam War and had no familial connection to the conflict, I’d paid little attention to the history. During the late 1970s and afterward, the newspapers had gradually informed me of the POW activists, with their wild talk of Americans still held for years after the war in secret prisons of Communist Vietnam and the dark accusations they made of government conspiracies working to suppress that truth.

Naturally, I’d discounted such claims as the most obvious lunacy, on a par with UFO abductions, and never doubted that the advocates were exactly the sort of rightwing crackpots the media had always suggested. Every now and then lengthy cover stories had appeared in The New Republic or The Atlantic Monthly, among my favorite publications, strongly reinforcing that established verdict, and I always read those, nodded my head, and thought no more of the topic. For thirty-five years I never once considered the possibility that the POWs might have actually existed.

But perhaps it is exactly that past ignorance and disinterest in the Vietnam War and the ensuing POW controversy that affords me some reasonable objectivity on the issue, allowing me to analyze the facts much as I would a historical puzzle from Ancient Greece. And once I finally encountered both sides of the story in late 2008, the evidence in favor of the reality of the POWs seemed absolutely overwhelming.

 

When I discovered Schanberg’s stunning 8,000 word expose online, an article rejected by nearly every significant publication in America, my first step was to locate copies of the conflicting articles that had once seemed so persuasive to me, and reread them much more carefully. Once I did that I realized that the factual argumentation they had provided had been extremely thin. Their contents heavily focused on the cultural and ideological aspects of the POW movement, with the possible reality of any POWs casually dismissed upon rather scanty evidence. What I had been reading was cultural criticism rather than investigative journalism.

To a considerable extent, the rightwing POW activists played into the hands of their critics by presenting the facts of the case upside down, framing their arguments in a way sure to attract the scorn of most reporters. Activist rhetoric was heavy with denunciations of the “treacherous” Communists in Hanoi, who cruelly kept our American POWs still imprisoned despite the peace agreement that ended the war. To any objective journalist, this surely sounded paranoid and ridiculous. Why would the Communists want to keep the American POWs? Out of pure evilness or something?

But the reality was exactly the opposite. It was the American government that had been treacherous, by refusing to pay the Vietnamese the $3.25 billion in reparations that they had demanded at the Paris Peace Talks as a price for ending the war and returning the POWs. If you buy a car and you refuse to pay, is it “treacherous” if the car dealer never delivers your vehicle?

The problem had been that for domestic political reasons the Nixon Administration chose to pretend that the promised payment of the money was unconnected with the prisoner return, instead labelling it “humanitarian assistance.” Unsurprisingly, Congress balked at providing billions in foreign aid to a hated Communist adversary, and Nixon, weakened by the growing Watergate Scandal, couldn’t admit that unless the money were delivered, Hanoi would refuse to return the remaining POWs.

This very simple and plausible reconstruction seems to have been completely ignored by the prestigious magazines that covered the controversy. For example, the July 1985 TNR cover story by James Rosenthal, a television journalist, ran nearly 3,000 words, but never raised this possibility, instead being overwhelmingly devoted to ridiculing the POW activists and their celebrity enablers, while questioning their motives. The supposed non-existence of the POWs was established by quoting a few government reports and official declarations. Rosenthal particularly emphasized that the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) discounted any evidence of surviving POWs, apparently being unaware that, as Schanberg notes, his immediate DIA predecessor had long held exactly the opposite position, believing that the data indicated the existence of live POWs; after a bitter bureaucratic struggles, he had been forced into retirement over that very issue. Missing that sort of important detail represents the difference between publishing a solidly researched article and just a bit of casual beltway opinion journalism.

 

Even more drastic was my reappraisal of the December 1991 Atlantic Monthly cover story by H. Bruce Franklin. Entitled “The POW/MIA Myth” and running a remarkable 15,000 words, this lengthy debunking had appeared in one of America’s most prestigious outlets for longform journalism at the very start of the Senate POW Hearings and must have heavily influenced the perceptions and tone of the daily print journalists who covered the hearings, while reporting the public statements of the various witnesses and the positions taken by Senators John McCain, John Kerry, and the other Committee members.

The very first sentence of Franklin’s article noted that 69% of the American public then believed that live POWs were still being held in Southeast Asia, but he not unreasonably attributed much of this belief to the various popular Hollywood movies of the 1980s. Franklin is a cultural historian rather than an investigative journalist and he seems to draw on few sources of information beyond the regular newspapers, yet casually ridicules a 60 Minutes producer whose five year investigation had concluded that the POWs definitely existed. Given his own expertise and background, it is hardly surprising that Franklin devotes as much as 90% of the piece to the “cultural” aspects of the POW phenomenon—the rightwing activists who believed it, the hucksters who profited from it, the unrealistic plots of the Hollywood action movies that glorified it.

In a particularly ironic turn, he mocked anyone who might believe in an “enormous conspiracy” by the various arms of the U.S government to suppress the truth about the POWs. Ironic, because Franklin himself was an unrepentant radical Maoist who been one of the very few tenured professors fired during the campus turmoil of the 1960s when he incited riots at Stanford and organized attacks on university buildings. Apparently, he firmly believed that government officials all lied about Vietnam during the war itself, but became scrupulously honest once it had ended.

Franklin’s naivete is almost charming. In 1985 President Reagan’s National Security Advisor was secretly caught on tape admitting that POWs were probably still alive, a statement exactly contrary to his official public position. But Franklin attributes this stunning gaffe to the distorting psychological influence of the Rambo movies then playing in the theaters.

He also persuasively argues that Reagan himself firmly believed in the reality of the POWs and during his term of office made various secret attempts to rescue them, but uses these facts merely to portray the Gipper as ignorant and delusional, never apparently considering the possibility that the president of the United States might have access to better intelligence sources than those of a Maoist professor of cultural studies.

Meanwhile, Schanberg noted sworn testimony by Reagan’s National Security Advisor, revealing that early in the administration an offer had been received via a third country suggesting Hanoi would return the surviving POWs in exchange for a payment of $4 billion (the difference from the original $3.25 billion presumably representing nearly a decade of accrued interest). Perhaps this development, rather than Hollywood action movies, helped explain the president’s beliefs.

Indeed, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Franklin’s piece is that although he devotes 21 pages of magazine text to exhaustively exploring almost every cultural aspect of the so-called “POW Myth,” including detailed plot summaries of several Hollywood action movies, he never once even mentions the $3.25 billion in reparations that America had promised Vietnam and then never paid, which likely constitutes the key to the entire political mystery. I find that omission highly suspicious and wonder whether he (or his editor) feared that providing such a telling clue might lead his readers to reconsider the entire logical framework being presented to them.

As mentioned, Franklin was an especially fervent opponent of the Vietnam War and he surely must have retained a burning political hatred for Henry Kissinger and the other Nixon Administration alumni whom he blamed for the disaster. But these individuals were obviously also the central figures behind the POW cover-up, and by applying a thick whitewash of cultural critique to the massive scandal, he helped ensure that none of them were ever called to account for their misdeeds by the American people. The term “useful idiot” surely comes to mind.

Over the years it has become quite apparent that major media outlets are sometimes enlisted as weapons in a subterranean propaganda war, and one must wonder whether publication of the massive Franklin cover story, timed to precisely coincide with the launch of the Senate POW Hearings, might have been an instance of this. Certainly there were powerful political figures very eager to bury the scandal once and for all, and what better way to do so than by providing a prestigious national platform for a cultural critic whose greatest personal specialty was the literary interpretation of science fiction, having him produce an article focusing so heavily upon the cultural and ideological shortcomings of the POW advocates while rather casually dismissing the possible factual basis of their case. Surely there must have been numerous investigative journalists available who might have used the same venue to provide the magazine’s elite national readership with a much more realistic and balanced assessment of the facts. But perhaps that’s exactly the point.

For Further Reading:

 
Sydney H. Schanberg, center, in Cambodia, August 1973
Sydney H. Schanberg, center, in Cambodia, August 1973

The death on Saturday of Sydney Schanberg at age 82 should sadden us not only for the loss of one of our most renowned journalists but also for what his story reveals about the nature of our national media.

Syd had made his career at the New York Times for 26 years, winning a Pulitzer Prize, two George Polk Memorial awards, and numerous other honors. His passing received the notice it deserved, with the world’s most prestigious broadsheet devoting nearly a full page of its Sunday edition to his obituary, a singular honor that in this degraded era is more typically reserved for leading pop stars or sports figures. Several photos were included of his Cambodia reporting, which had become the basis for the Oscar-winning film The Killing Fields, one of Hollywood’s most memorable accounts of our disastrous Indo-Chinese War.

But for all the 1,300 words and numerous images charting his long and illustrious journalistic history, not even a single mention was made of the biggest story of his career, which has seemingly vanished down the memory hole without trace. And therein lies a tale.

 

Could a news story ever be “too big” for the media to cover? Every journalist is always seeking a major expose, a piece that not merely reaches the transitory front pages but also might win a journalistic prize or even change the history books. Stories such as these appear rarely but can make a reporter’s career, and it is difficult to imagine a writer turning one down, or an editor rejecting it.

But what if the story is so big that it actually reveals dangerous truths about the real nature of the American media, portrays too many powerful people in a very negative light, and perhaps leads to a widespread loss of faith in our major news media? If readers were to see a story like that, they might naturally begin to wonder “why hadn’t we ever been told?” or even “what else might be out there?”

Towards the end of the 2008 presidential campaign, while John McCain battled Barack Obama for the White House, I clicked an intriguing link on a small website and discovered Syd’s remarkable expose, one which had been passed over or rejected by every major media outlet in the country, his enormous personal reputation notwithstanding.

The basic outline of events he described was a simple one. During the Paris Peace Talks that ended the Vietnam War, the U.S. government had committed to pay its Hanoi adversaries $3.25 billion in war reparations, and in exchange would receive back the American POWs held by the Vietnamese. The agreement was signed and the war officially ended, but the Vietnamese, suspecting a possible financial double-cross, kept back many hundreds of the imprisoned Americans until they received the promised payment.

For domestic political reasons, the Nixon Administration had characterized the billions of dollars pledged as “humanitarian assistance” and Congress balked at appropriating such a large sum for a hated Communist regime. Desperate for “peace with honor” and already suffering under the growing Watergate Scandal, Nixon and his aides could not admit that many hundreds of the POWs remained in enemy hands, and so declared them all returned, probably hoping to quietly arrange a trade of money for prisoners once the dust had settled. Similarly, Hanoi’s leaders falsely claimed that all the captives had been released, while they waited for their money to be paid. As a result, the two governments had jointly created a Big Lie, one which has largely maintained itself right down to the present day.

In the troubled aftermath of America’s military defeat and the Nixon resignation, our entire country sought to forget Vietnam, and neither elected officials nor journalists were eager to revisit the issue, let alone investigate one of the war’s dirtiest secrets. The Vietnamese continued to hold their American prisoners for most of the next twenty years, periodically making attempts to negotiate their release in exchange for the money they were still owed, but never found a American leader daring enough to take such a bold step. The Big Lie had grown just too enormous to be overturned.

Over the years, rumors surrounding the remaining POWs became widespread in veterans’ circles, and eventually these stories inspired a series of blockbuster Hollywood movies such as Rambo, Missing in Action, and Uncommon Valor, whose plots were all naturally dismissed or ridiculed as “rightwing conspiracy theories” by our elite media pundits. But the stories were all true, and even as American filmgoers watched Sylvester Stallone heroically free desperate American servicemen from Vietnamese prisons, the real-life American POWs were still being held under much those same horrible conditions, with no American leader willing to take the enormous political risk of attempting either to rescue or ransom them. Over the years, many of the POWs had died from ill-treatment, and the return of the miserable survivors after their secret captivity would unleash a firestorm of popular anger, surely destroying the many powerful individuals who had long known of their abandonment.

Eventually, America’s bipartisan political leadership sought to reestablish diplomatic relations with Hanoi and finally put the Vietnam War behind the country, but this important policy goal was obstructed by the residual political pressure from the resolute POW families. So a Senate Select Committee on the POWs was established in order to declare them non-existent once and for all. Sen. John McCain, a very high profile former POW himself, led the cover-up, perhaps because the very dubious nature of his own true war record left him eager to trade secrecy for secrecy. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, our media declared that the abandoned POWs had never existed and closed the books on the long, lingering controversy.

As it happens, not long after the committee issued its final report and shut down, a stunning document was unearthed in the newly-opened Kremlin archives. In the transcript of a Hanoi Politburo meeting, the Communist leadership discussed the true number of POWs they then held and made their decision to keep half of them back to ensure that America paid the billions of dollars it had promised. Former National Security Advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger both stated on national television that the document appeared genuine and it seemed undeniable that American POWs had indeed been left behind. Although the national media devoted a couple of days of major coverage to this uncomfortable revelation, it then reported denials from both the U.S. and Vietnamese governments, and quickly dropped the story, returning to the official narrative: There were no abandoned POWs and never had been.

 

As I reviewed Syd’s massively-documented 8,000 word exposition, and confirmed for myself that the bylined Sydney Schanberg was indeed the Sydney Schanberg, I experienced a growing sense of unreality. I was reading what might rank as “the story of the century,” a scandal vastly greater and more gripping than the sordid political abuses of Watergate or Iran-Contra, a tale of national treachery suppressed for forty years by our government and our media, but now broken by one of America’s most distinguished journalists. The gravest possible charges were being levied against Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, coming right at the height of his presidential campaign. And not one word of this was being mentioned in any of our mainstream media outlets, while almost all of the thousands of political websites, large and small alike, remained just as silent. From that day forward, I have never looked upon our national media with the same eye.

Everyone to whom I showed the article was just as shocked as myself, except for one or two individuals with a strong Vietnam War background, who privately confirmed that it was all probably true.

The election came and went with McCain’s defeat, and the incoming Obama Administration began coping with the intensifying financial crisis, but I still couldn’t put Syd’s remarkable article out of my mind, nor the deafening silence it had received. Perhaps, I thought to myself, the piece had been ignored because it appeared on a small website with few readers, and the unprepossessing circumstances of its release had raised serious doubts about its credibility.

At that time I served as publisher of The American Conservative, a small but generally well-regarded opinion magazine, and I eventually decided to commit my publication to providing the story the wider attention it so obviously deserved. By October I had gotten in touch with Syd, and spent several hours with him on the phone, explaining my interest, gaining his trust, and also assuring myself that he was still just as solid and sober a journalist as he had always been. I began preparations to republish his long expose as the cover story of one of my issues, making it the centerpiece of a symposium on government cover-ups and media lapses, with a special focus on the POW issue.

TAC-McCainPOWs As part of that plan, I recruited a number of strong participants for the symposium, including Andrew Bacevich, the well-known military writer, the late Alex Cockburn, and even a former Republican House Member, who had independent evidence confirming the POW facts. Syd wrote a 2,000 word introductory piece entitled “Silent Treatment,” recounting his unsuccessful efforts to persuade any mainstream media outlet to investigate the scandal, and I added an introduction, providing my own perspective on the story and its implications.

My magazine had tens of thousands of regular readers, and with the story’s prestigious placement and Syd’s stature bolstered by the symposium contributors, I felt confident we would attract a great deal of mainstream attention. I was on friendly terms with quite a number of established reporters and opinion columnists, and sent them advance copies of the material, speaking with some of them by phone, and discovering that all were as shocked by Syd’s revelations as I had been. Yet the result once again was utter and complete silence from mainstream media outlets, and no response to any of my follow-up notes. I was later told that one of America’s best-known investigative reporters read the story and found it stunning, yet he never said a word about it in public.

Although totally boycotted by the establishment media, the article and the related pieces were heavily discussed and reviewed on several popular alternative media websites, left, right, and libertarian, so the facts must have come to the attention of many of the regular journalists who frequent those sources of information, and the cover story of our very next issue provoked considerable mainstream coverage. But Syd’s “scandal of the century” had seemingly vanished into the ether.

Not long afterward, Syd published a collection of his articles in book form, with his McCain/POW expose being one of the last and longest pieces. David Rohde, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning war reporter then at The New York Times, described the outstanding journalism contained within, writing that “Sydney Schanberg is one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century,” and the praise from Pulitzer Prize winner Russell Baker was equally fulsome. Joseph Galloway, a journalist who had authored major books on the Vietnam War, explicitly contrasted Syd’s integrity with the shameful reticence of nearly all other journalists who failed to acknowledge the reality of America’s hundreds of abandoned Vietnam POWs. So the historical truth seems to be known and generally accepted within informed circles, but no mainstream publication has been willing to allow it to reach the eyes or ears of the general population.

I do believe that the evidence is simply overwhelming to anyone with an open mind, and the universal silence of our media is the only slight contrary indicator. A few months ago I served on a government secrecy panel with Daniel Ellsberg, whose role in leaking the Pentagon Papers had established him one of America’s leading voices on cover-ups of embarrassing military secrets. A major portion of my talk focused on Syd’s POW findings, and the way in which the government and media had successfully colluded to keep the story hidden for over four decades. Ellsberg found the claims totally astonishing, and saying he’d never previously heard a word about them, eagerly took home copies of the article and some related material. At the dinner reception the next evening, he told me he’d carefully read them, and was fully convinced that everything was probably true.

At one point I also received a note from an elderly, rather prominent mainstream conservative academic. He told me that at the end of the Vietnam War he had been a young intelligence officer in Washington, and even after all these decades the abandonment of American POWs still made him sick to his stomach. He said he hoped that someday there might be a U.S. President willing to tell the American people the truth of what had actually happened. I asked him for permission to publish his remarks, even anonymously, but got no reply.

Syd had always believed that the American media was simply scared of his story, with its troubling implications, and I tend to agree with him. Just as the government has maintained its cover-up for all these years because admitting the truth would destroy too many reputations, crucial elements of the media may feel the same way. There is the famous precedent of Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty, whose reports from the Soviet Union regularly ridiculed claims of any significant Ukrainian famine during the 1930s and thereby helped ensure that nearly all of America’s elite media discounted and ignored the reports that millions were dying. The Times took nearly sixty years before finally admitting its error.

And the cautious and hierarchical structure of mainstream journalism probably produces a cascading effect. The editor of any media outlet who might consider covering the POW scandal would naturally conclude that “it can’t possibly be true or it would have already reached the headlines of one of America’s leading publications.” Meanwhile, the editors of any one of those latter outlets would note Syd’s 26 years as a star journalist at the New York Times, and wonder why our national newspaper of record would be ignoring the story if it had any substantial basis in reality. And perhaps the editors making such decisions at the august Times itself would be ashamed to admit that they had completely ignored the facts for so long. A story which is “hot” will surely boost a journalist’s career, but one which is “too hot” might risk destroying it.

Sometimes lower-ranking individuals are reluctant to stick their necks out on something so explosive, or even to trouble their superiors on the matter. Syd once told me that some years ago, he had dinner at his home with a retired Executive Editor of the Times, who was astonished to learn of the explosive POW findings, and dismayed that his own newspaper had never covered any of it at the time. “Why didn’t you come to me yourself?,” he asked. Syd responded that he considered it inappropriate to make a personal appeal for coverage on a story of such great significance, and that the material should stand or fall on its own journalistic merits. They parted with some angry words.

The historical events under discussion took place over forty years ago, and I am sure that many would suggest that they have little relevance today. I was just a child when the Vietnam War ended, and barely have a memory of it. The American troops deliberately left behind to die by our own government numbered less than one percent of their comrades who fell in battle, and merely the tiniest sliver of the millions of overall fatalities in that misbegotten war.

But from the very first time I have never believed that Syd’s remarkable findings would significantly alter our view of the Vietnam War or even of our political leadership. The meaningful issue is not whether the Vietnamese Communists held our prisoners for ransom or whether American leaders sought to escape embarrassment by hiding that reality, but rather whether our supposedly free and vibrant mainstream press can be trusted on anything important, with a cover-up of such length and magnitude suggesting a negative conclusion. I think it would be an important and absolutely fascinating exercise for some enterprising media journalist to go around to a considerable number of the appropriate editors and reporters, bring them face to face with Syd’s remarkable findings, and ask them what did they know, when did they know it, and why did none of them ever decide to report it?

The media is an enormously powerful and shaping force in our society, and receives far less scrutiny than it should. Taken together, it constitutes the sensory organs of the body politic, and if these grow unreliable, the results for our society can be disastrous, just as an animal in the wild with failing eyesight must surely face its doom.

 

Twelve months ago I would have been quite pessimistic that Syd’s revelations might reach the media headlines in the foreseeable future, but today a confluence of independent factors may have made that a real possibility.

Most pundits have been flummoxed by the recent rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, whose repeated victories over their establishmentarian opponents seemed to violate every rule of modern political campaigns. But I think the obvious explanation is the visceral, burning hatred of so many Americans, both left and right, toward what they perceive to be the total dishonesty and corruption of their reigning political and media elites.

Last year I published an article gathering together the limited available evidence concerning John McCain’s true wartime record, and demonstrating that it seemed at utter variance with that presented by the media. In many respects, my piece was a coda to Syd’s own POW expose, and I was gratified at the very kind words he extended to my work. John McCain is currently up for reelection in Arizona this year and deeply unpopular, with the latest poll putting him at below 40% in his own Republican primary.

Much of my analysis had focused on the strong indications that McCain spent nearly his entire imprisonment as a leading Communist collaborator, whose widespread propaganda broadcasts rendered him the “Tokyo Rose” of that era; later he concocted false claims of torture in order to protect himself against plausible accusations of treason. Although the evidence I found of McCain’s broadcasts seemed persuasive, it was from secondary sources and inexact. But now the actual McCain tapes have been located and may soon be released. I’ve listened to one of them myself and it exactly matches the descriptions contained in my article, while an actual audio file naturally carries much greater evidentiary weight. And the very tight connection between McCain’s deep wartime secrets and those surrounding the abandoned POWs ensure that if the first gains the awareness of the general public, the second will almost inevitably follow. McCain’s sordid wartime record would represent the triggering fuse that might ignite a massive national political explosion.

Will the Arizona voters learn the true facts about John McCain? Perhaps, perhaps not. Trump is very much a loose cannon, whose 10 million agitated Twitter followers constitute an enormous alternative media distribution channel, and one which served him very well during the primaries. Just a few days ago, Trump held a remarkably hostile meeting with all the Republican senators, at which he threatened to personally ensure the defeat this year of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. Apparently, he confused Flake, who is not up for reelection in 2016, with McCain, who is, and the latter has also been a major target of his political wrath.

Syd despised Donald Trump and everything he stood for, so it would be ironic indeed if Trump became the inadvertent vehicle of “the great cleansing of the Augean Stables” that Syd had sought for so many years.

 

I doubt if one Americans in twenty is aware that over forty years ago, his government deliberately abandoned hundreds of POWs in Vietnam, and then spent four decades desperately covering up that enormous crime, with the media being a willing co-conspirator. But even if our citizens remain ignorant of that particular dark deed, over the years they have strongly come to suspect their elites are guilty of a vast number of equally heinous offenses, some of which are plausible and others ridiculous; and who can reasonably blame them? If our entire media would willfully ignore “the story of the century” as massively documented by one of its most distinguished members, who can say what other matters might remain hidden from public view?

For years I’ve been telling my friends that unless and until our major media publications are finally willing to report Sydney Schanberg’s stunning POW expose, I simply won’t trust a word they write about anything else. And perhaps that is the most important legacy of one of America’s greatest journalists.

 
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As a software developer and company co-founder who has lived in Palo Alto since the early 1990s, I understand the extraordinarily important contribution that immigrants have made to our technology industry over the last half century and the crucial role they play in maintaining American competitiveness.

I’ve found it unfortunate that for years top Silicon Valley companies have faced a desperate shortage of H-1B visas, which are intended to allow them to hire foreign workers possessing unique skills. These severe immigration restrictions have led top companies such as Facebook, Google, and Apple to lobby Congress for an immigration reform package that includes a large expansion of this visa program, currently capped at 85,000 per year. However, these efforts by the tech community’s FWD.us and other groups have ended in repeated failure.

One reason for this political failure has been the scandalous nature of the current H-1B visa system. Although originally intended to apply only to unusually skilled individuals, the visa program has been misused as a means of eliminating the jobs or driving down the salaries of ordinary American tech workers.

Over the past year, The New York Times has described how a large fraction of annual H-1B visas are captured by low-end outsourcing companies such as TCS, Cognizant, and Infosys, which are then hired by corporations such as Disney to replace their in-house tech workers with cheaper immigrant labor.

Longtime American employees are forced to train their immigrant replacements, then eliminated in mass layoffs so that these wealthy corporations can boost their profits. Since so many of these H-1B workers are paid less than their American counterparts, this process also exerts continual downward pressure on the incomes of tech workers throughout our economy.

Under such circumstances any significant expansion of H-1B visas is merely a recipe for destroying one of the few remaining well-paying job categories in our society and further impoverishing the American middle class. This is a clear violation of the legislative intent behind the creation of the H-1B visa program.

The obvious solution to this political and economic dilemma is not to expand but instead to reform the H-1B system.

H-1B visas constitute a scarce government resource that is now being provided under an annual first-come, first-serve procedure, with companies allowed to submit an unlimited number of individual applications. This is a totally absurd allocation model, and allows companies to easily game the system. As a result, in 2014 outsourcer TCS received over a dozen times the number of H-1B visas for its low-end immigrant tech workers as did Apple for its elite hires.

The obvious solution is to switch to a market-based alternative, with the government instead auctioning off these visas, thereby providing those crucial immigration slots to the companies to which they provide the greatest value.

Under such a reform proposal, the Googles, Facebooks, and Apples of our country would easily outbid the outsourcing firms, whose only competitive advantage is the low salaries they pay their immigrant workers. And since the former might end up bidding $20,000 or more merely for the right to hire a particular foreign worker, there would be absolutely no downward pressure on the wages of America’s millions of existing technology workers. Meanwhile, any additional costs incurred by these top companies would be negligible compared to the value of the lost business opportunities they currently suffer when they are unable to hire the extremely talented foreign workers they require.

Sometimes the best means of fixing a broken system is simply forcing it to comply with its original intent.

Ron Unz, a former theoretical physicist and software company co-founder, is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in California. He wrote this for the Mercury News.

(Reprinted from The San Jose Mercury News by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Economics • Tags: H-1B, Immigration, Silicon Valley

The greatest problem with most universities today is that tuition is much too high, forcing an entire generation of students into long-term debt-servitude. Total student loans now exceed $1.2 trillion, and millions of students will probably never be able to pay them off.

During the mid-1970s, tuition at UCLA, Berkeley, and the other UC campuses was only $630 per year. Now the annual cost averages around $15,000, having increased many times faster than inflation.

An important factor has been the huge rise in educational expenses. Undergraduates now enjoy four years of access to nicer food, fancier dormitories, and Olympic-quality swimming pools, but must then spend 10 or 20 years paying back the crippling student loans that covered those temporary luxuries.

However, the biggest factor in rising expenses has probably been the huge growth in the administrative staff. A couple of decades ago there was one administrator for every two faculty members, and now the numbers are roughly equal. Doubling the number of these non-teaching administrators, some of whom receive outrageous salaries, explains where much of the extra money has been going.
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One way of cutting tuition would be to persuade the state legislatures in California and around the country to allocate many billions of additional taxpayer dollars to increase public subsidies to their state colleges and universities. But most government budgets are very tight, so this seems unlikely to happen.

Therefore, the only apparent means of substantially lowering tuition is to drastically cut the expenses, especially those unnecessary administrative costs. Liberals and conservatives should unite behind this important political project, backed by the millions of students who desperately need cuts in their extremely high college tuition.

Ron Unz is chairman of Free Harvard/Fair Harvard, a slate of candidates running for the university’s Board of Overseers on a platform of immediately abolishing undergraduate tuition. He is also a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in California.
(Reprinted from Zocalo Public Square by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Academia, Tuition
Keeping English, Raising the Minimum Wage, Fixing Immigration
RonUNZ

I’m willing to take clear stands on issues, including some controversial ones, regardless of ideology or political orientation. Maybe you’ll agree with me and maybe you’ll disagree with me, but at least you’ll know what I believe.

As a U.S. Senator, I’ll carefully listen to both sides of every issue, do my own research, and support the policies that I believe are best for our country and the American people. But here are some of the major issues currently driving my campaign.

And here’s some additional information on who I am and where I stand:

If you find my forthright stand on these controversial issues refreshing in a candidate, you can DONATE HERE—but nothing over $99!

 

Keeping English in the Schools

All immigrant children must be taught English as soon as they enter school if they are to become successful, productive members of our society. As a U.S. Senator, I would propose federal legislation requiring English in our public schools.

For decades, millions of students from a Hispanic family background were automatically placed in Spanish-almost-only “bilingual education” programs, and as a result they had a very difficult time learning how to properly read, write, or even speak English.

Then in 1996 a group of immigrant Latino parents in downtown Los Angeles, led by a leftwing ex-Catholic nun, began a public boycott of their local elementary school for refusing to teach their children English. Their protest received widespread media attention, and I eventually contacted them, surprised at the outrageous nature of the system.

The following year I launched the “English for the Children” Prop. 227 campaign, aimed at dismantling California’s heavily entrenched “bilingual education” system and requiring that all children be taught to read, write, and speak English in our public schools.

We were opposed by nearly all the powerful political interests in California. The Chairman of the State Republican Party and the Chairman of the State Democratic Party both opposed Prop. 227, as did all four candidates for Governor, Democrat and Republican alike, while President Bill Clinton came out to California to campaign against us. Nearly every major newspaper in the state urged a No vote, as did every major union, and we were outspent on advertising 25-to-1. Nonetheless, we won in a landslide, by the widest margin of any contested initiative since Prop. 13 in the 1970s.

Within months, most California schools began teaching their million-plus young Latino students in English rather than in Spanish, and the results were remarkable. All the major newspapers that had strongly opposed Prop. 227 began running numerous stories about how well the new system was working, how easily Latino children were learning English, and how happy their parents and their teachers were with the changes.

The founding president of the California Association of Bilingual Educators declared himself a born-again convert to English immersion, and promoted the change in the Washington Post and CBS News. The liberal Democrat who served as President of the State Board of Education followed a similar path. Within four years the academic test scores of over a million immigrant students increased by 30%, 50%, even 100%.

I launched similarly successful “English for the Children” initiative campaigns in other states, including Arizona and Massachusetts, usually winning in huge landslides. Due to my efforts, bilingual education largely disappeared from schools all across the country, with more and more states following California’s example and recognizing that intensive English instruction was the best educational approach to take with young immigrant children.

In California itself the issue had been entirely dead and forgotten for a decade or more, with almost everyone perfectly content with the new system and nearly a full generation of young Latinos having grown up learning English perfectly well as soon as they started school.

Therefore, I was totally outraged in 2014 when the Democrats and Republicans in the State Legislature united to attempt to completely repeal my Prop. 227 on the November 2016 ballot and reestablish the disastrous system of bilingual education in California.

This proves just how absurdly out of touch the political establishment of both political parties has become and was the main reason I decided to run for office.

 

Raising the Minimum Wage

A much higher minimum wage would solve many of our serious social and economic problems, while supporting conservative principles. As a Republican U.S. Senator I would propose raising the American minimum wage to $12.

Not only do I strongly support a large increase in the federal minimum wage, but I believe that I have already played a major role in moving that issue back to the center of American politics.

Just a few years ago, raising the minimum wage was an issue almost entirely ignored by political leaders, even Democratic ones.

A large fraction of all Republicans believed that the minimum wage was an old-fashioned idea that made no economic sense, and were glad that inflation had drastically reduced its value since 1968. Even many Democrats agreed with this.

Then in Fall 2011 I published a 12,000 word article advocating a very large rise in the national minimum wage as the simple solution to many of our most complex and intractable social and economic problems. My suggestion of $12 per hour was enormously higher than anything previously supported by almost any prominent liberal or Democratic policy advocate, let alone any significant number of elected officials.

James Galbraith, a prominent liberal economist picked up on my idea and began promoting it in his writings, as did leftwing journalist Alexander Cockburn in the pages of The Nation and elsewhere. The centrist New America Foundation solicited an additional 4,000 word minimum wage paper from me, and Ralph Nader enlisted my support for launching a major minimum wage lobbying campaign in Congress, while various union-backed groups began similar efforts in cities and states.

By January 2013 President Obama had unexpectedly made a hike in the minimum wage an important element of his State of the Union Address, although he was merely proposing a $9 figure, while Economics Nobel Laureates Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz had dropped their long opposition to minimum wage laws, and become influential advocates.

Then at the end of 2013, I suddenly launched a $12 per hour minimum wage initiative campaign in California, generating a great deal of state and national media coverage, winning over influential centrist journalists, and allowing me an opportunity to present my advocacy in a wide variety of major publications.

Although my measure failed to quality for the ballot, my arguments won over Phyllis Schlafly and several other prominent conservative figures, greatly broadening the ideological backing for the idea. Raising the minimum wage is a natural issue for conservatives since it cuts social welfare spending and raises the value of work, while forcing businesses to pay for their own employees rather than shifting the costs to the taxpayer. And very low-wage jobs are the magnet that draws most illegal immigrants.

In direct response to my campaign, efforts were launched in Los Angeles to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15, which became law the following year. Similarly, a few weeks after my effort was launched, Sen. Mark Leno introduced a bill into the California Legislature to establish a statewide $13 minimum wage, and after lengthy political battles, this figure was eventually raised to a $15 level and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in April 2016.

I helped achieve all these results without holding any political office or having any major public platform. As a Republican U.S. Senator from California I would be an extremely effective advocate for enacting a much higher nationwide minimum wage.

 

Solving Our Immigration Problems

Immigrants are generally fine people, but immigration is too high, causing our society all sorts of problems. As a U.S. Senator, I would propose cutting legal immigration and drastically reducing illegal immigration.

I doubt there are many political figures in California with stronger pro-immigrant credentials than my own.

When Gov. Pete Wilson began attacking immigrants in his 1994 reelection campaign, I challenged him for renomination, shocking political observers by capturing 34% of the vote as a pro-immigrant conservative Republican. Afterwards, I was a top featured speaker at the enormous 70,000 person march against Prop. 187 in Los Angeles, the largest pro-immigrant protest in America history but boycotted by virtually every other politically prominent non-Latino.

But over the last dozen years or so I’ve concluded that our national immigration levels are too high and should be sharply reduced.

Mostly due to immigration, America’s population growth rate has been the highest in the developed world, even twice as high as that of China. An exponentially growing population puts enormous pressure on our environment and natural resources while reducing our quality of life. I was born in Los Angeles in the early 1960s, when California was truly the Golden State. Since then, our population has increased by 150%, mostly due to immigration, and many things are much worse, while we now suffer from a severe water shortage.

Even more serious is the negative economic impact on most of our working population, which is forced to compete for jobs and wages with new immigrants, who are often desperate to take any job at all. I believe it’s more than pure coincidence that over the last forty years our immigration levels have been very high and during that same period the incomes of most ordinary Americans have stagnated. Probably the group suffering the most economic harm by being forced to compete for jobs with new immigrants are already established immigrants.

Substantially reducing our legal immigration rates would make sense, but such a change would have little impact unless something is also done to drastically reduce the possibility of continuing illegal immigration.

Most illegal immigrants are perfectly fine people, and many of them have established strong roots here and become part of our society. They’re hard-working and productive, and don’t commit much crime. But something must be done to prevent additional illegal immigration in the future.

The overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants come to America for jobs, and our media pundits correctly say “they take the jobs that Americans won’t.”

But the reason that Americans won’t take those jobs is that the wages are too low, and only recently-arrived illegals are desperate enough to take such terrible jobs. A much higher minimum wage would make such jobs much more attractive to native-born Americans and existing immigrants, and the job-magnet that produces illegal immigration would begin to disappear, making other border-enforcement mechanisms much more easier to implement. The government could even heavily subsidize the return of unemployed illegal immigrants to their home country.

Minimum wage laws are far easier to enforce than immigration laws, and very stiff penalties for repeated violations, even including prison sentences, would ensure almost total compliance.

Once the magnetic lure of American jobs disappears, traditional immigration enforcement measures will become much more effective and future illegal immigration will be reduced to very low levels.

By sharply reducing legal immigration and enormously reducing future illegal immigration, the economic prospects and quality of life for most existing Americans will be greatly improved, including for both legal and illegal immigrants currently living here.

So the first and most important step in solving our immigration problems is a large hike in the national minimum wage.

 

Cutting College Tuition

The gigantic increase in college tuition over the past few decades has condemned an entire generation of young Americans to decades of debt-servitude. As a U.S. Senator, I would propose forcing universities to cut their costs and cut their tuition.

Over the last couple of decades tuition at most public and private colleges has increased to enormous and unreasonable levels, and as a consequence student loan debt now exceeds $1.2 trillion dollars, inflicting huge financial burdens on young Americans.

Most absurd is the situation at Harvard and other very wealthy schools. Although the annual investment income on their enormous endowments may be twenty-five times the size of their net tuition revenue, they continue to extract enormous tuition payments from American families. Harvard and its peers have become gigantic, tax-exempt hedge-funds that run high-tuition colleges off to one side, an absurd situation.

I recently organized a slate of candidates, headlined by Ralph Nader, to run for the Harvard Board of Overseers on a platform demanding that Harvard immediately abolish college tuition. If we are successful in achieving this goal, then other very wealthy elite universities such as Yale, Princeton, and Stanford would probably soon follow.

Once our most elite national colleges have eliminated tuition, there will be enormous political pressure on the much larger number of public colleges and universities to focus as strongly as possible on reducing their tuition. During the mid-1970s, tuition at UCLA, Berkeley, and the other UC campuses was just $630 per year, but today the figure is closer to $15,000 per year, having increased many times as fast as inflation.

Many analysts have pointed to the huge growth in the number and salaries of college administrators, who now sometimes outnumber faculty members, as responsible for the huge rise in college costs. I believe our public colleges and universities, including the prestigious University of California system, should take all possible steps to reduce unnecessary costs, thereby allowing a sharp reduction in tuition.

 

Admitting the Iraq War Disaster

Despite being total failures, the same people responsible for the Iraq War still dominate the foreign policy of both the Democratic and Republican Parties. As a Republican U.S. Senator I would work to remove them from all national influence.

A decade ago my old friend Bill Odom, the three-star general who ran the National Security Agency for Ronald Reagan, publicly declared that the Iraq War was the “greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history”.

He was exactly correct then, and his judgment seems even more prescient today, as the rise of the Islamic State and other powerful extremist groups has led to an endless cycle of war and terrorism in the Middle East, now directly threatening European and American cities. Furthermore, prominent economists have estimated that the long-term cost of the war to our country may run as high as five trillion dollars.

Most of our recent foreign wars in the Middle East area, under both the Bush and the Obama Administrations, have been expensive and immoral foreign policy disasters. Republicans Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan were right about these issues, as were all the other experts, both liberal and conservative, who have been saying the same thing.

I don’t necessarily claim to have the solutions to the ongoing Middle Eastern crisis, but nothing useful can be accomplished until we admit that the Iraq War was a total disaster and absolutely not in our national interest. Today, the exact same individuals who promoted the war still absolutely dominate the foreign policy of the Republican Party and are also very influential within the Democratic Party. Until we completely repudiate them and their dreadful mistakes, we will not be able to move forward.

A few weeks ago in a Republican presidential debate, Donald Trump strongly denounced the Iraq War and the lies of the Bush Administration that promoted it, sending shock waves throughout the Republican Party establishment. Just days later, Trump won an overwhelming landslide victory among the Republicans of ultra-conservative and pro-military South Carolina, demonstrating that “a silent majority” of ordinary Republican voters may understand what most of their leaders do not.

I am very encouraged by these developments and hope that other Republican leaders may find the courage to take the same position.

 

Opposing Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is unfair to white people, Asian people, and everyone else. As a U.S. Senator I would propose completely dismantling it.

I’ve been totally opposed to Affirmative Action for forty years because I’ve always consider it unfair. I came from a liberal Democratic family background, and the single biggest reason I became a Republican under President Ronald Reagan was his strong public opposition to Affirmative Action.

Over the years I’ve probably published over 100,000 words regarding Affirmative Action, possibly more than almost any other Republican policy writer. During the 1980s and 1990s, the vast majority of prominent Republicans and conservatives took positions very similar to mine.

Unfortunately, since the beginning of the 2000s, the Republican Party and most of the Conservative Movement have begun retreating on this important issue, rarely talking about it and often even supporting it under another name. President George W. Bush gave speeches advocating “Affirmative Access.”

In late 2012 I published a 30,000 word cover story, The Myth of American Meritocracy, focusing on the extremely corrupt and unfair admissions practices at our elite colleges. The article was widely praised as one of the best published that year, and inspired much subsequent political and legal effort.

One of my central findings was the very strong statistical evidence for Asian Quotas in Ivy League admissions, although these are endlessly denied by the university administrators, just like their predecessors had denied the existence of Jewish Quotas during the 1920s. The 1978 Supreme Court decision in the landmark Bakke case was based on Harvard’s claim that it did not use quotas, so perhaps 35 years of legal support for Affirmative Action has been based on fraud.

Racial quotas and Affirmative Action in general are totally corrosive and dangerous policies in a multi-ethnic society such as the United States and should be eliminated.

I believe the issue is crucial to America’s future and my position today is exactly the same as it was when I followed Ronald Reagan into the Republican Party.

 

Controlling the Wall Street Casinos

Because of unfair government policies, Wall Street has grown rich while Main Street has grown poor. As a Republican U.S. Senator, I would favor ordinary Americans against the interests of the Wall Street Oligarchs.

Some prominent international economists such as Michael Hudson have characterized most of our entire bloated financial services sector as parasitic on our real economy, and such an analysis sounds plausible to me.

Over the last forty years, Wall Street has gotten richer and richer while the incomes of ordinary Americans have completely stagnated, and I think there may be a connection between these two development.

And when these lucrative gambling casinos overextended themselves and faced collapse and bankruptcy during the 2008 financial crisis, the politicians they controlled, Democrat and Republican alike, rushed to bail them out with taxpayer dollars. Now they’re back to doing better than ever before, while most Americans have still not yet recovered from the Great Recession.

Economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz has describes America as having a government “Of the One Percent, By the One Percent, and For the One Percent,” and I agree with him.

We need to return to having a government run for the interests of the American people rather than owned and controlled by financial manipulators.

As a U.S. Senator I would oppose future bailouts and support Bernie Sander’s call for a Tobin Tax on financial transactions to reduce Wall Street speculation.

 

Ending Our One-Party Political System

America has become a One-Party state, with both the Democrats and the Republicans controlled by the same people. As a independent-minded U.S. Senator, I would work to give Americans a real choice in Washington.

The endless foreign and domestic policy disasters of the Bush Administration directly led to the election of Sen. Barack Obama, who was almost universally perceived as Bush’s polar opposite on all issues. His vote represented a national mandate to repudiate all of Bush’s policies.

Instead, President Obama immediately reappointed Bush Defense Secretary Robert Gates to continue his management of our foreign wars, reappointed Benjamin Bernanke to run the Federal Reserve, and promoted Bush appointee Timothy Geither to be Treasury Secretary. He continued Bush’s unpopular foreign wars and financial bailouts, leading many critics to eventually speak of the Bush/Obama Administration.

In many respects, America’s political system has evolved into a one-party pseudo-democracy, in which most of our top political leaders distract the voters by noisily attacking each other on all sorts of hot-button but insignificant issues, while remaining in almost lock-step agreement on most major foreign policy and economic matters because they are in thrall to the same major donors who control them.

I’m trying to offer voters a real choice on the issues in my U.S. Senate campaign, and I will accept no donation over $99.

 

Knowing Where I Stand

I’ve published a half million words on public policy issues, and everything is online and searchable. Read my writing and you’ll know where I stand.

MeritocracyCover-Front Most candidates running for office and other politicians have talking points or position papers prepared for them by their staff, which are often based on polling results, focus groups, or the views of their political consultants. Sometimes they understand what they’re saying, but many times they don’t. And as the polls and the consultants change, their positions often change as well.

I’m not a politician but over the last twenty-five years I’ve published many hundreds of thousands of words of articles and columns on all sorts of issues, including controversial ones, and in nearly all cases, what I’m saying today is very similar to what I was saying in the early 1990s. Therefore, it’s unlikely that I would suddenly change my positions if I were elected to the U.S. Senate.

All my writing is online and searchable, so that anyone who wants to find my position on an issue can easily do so.

My most important articles have also been collected together in a 700 page book, which includes a very comprehensive index. Just look in the index, read the text, and you’ll discover my opinions.

 

Exploring My Background

Over the years there have been several major profiles of my activities and background in the major media.

TNR-UnzThis Man Controls California
Ron Unz’s Improbable Assault on the Powers That Be in California
The New Republic, Monday, July 19, 1999, Cover Story

The California Entrepreneur who Beat Bilingual Teaching
The New York Times, Sunday, June 14, 1998, Front Page

Hooked on Politics
The Los Angeles Times, Thursday, July 16, 1998

Ron Unz, Swim Instructor
The Economist, Saturday, May 2, 1998

 

Considering the Opinions of Others

I’ve been well known for decades to prominent journalists and academics, and they’ve formed a clear opinion of me.

I’ve never held elective office, but I have organized and led numerous major political campaigns over the years and also written a great deal on public policy issues, and my qualifications for serving in the U.S. Senate must largely rest on that background.

When I published my collected writings last year, several prominent academics and journalists contributed some very kind and generous remarks about my work and my activities, which I provide below.

With high intelligence, common sense, and advanced statistical skills, presented transparently and accessibly, Ron Unz has for decades been addressing key issues in a rapidly changing America, enlightening us on the implications and effects of bilingual programs in American schools, clarifying the issues around crime and immigration so often distorted in political and popular discussion, placing the question of an increased minimum wage effectively on the national agenda, and addressing most provocatively the issue of affirmative action and admission to selective colleges and universities, revealing some aspects of this ever disputed question that have never been noted or discussed publicly before. He is one of our most valuable discussants and analysts of public issues.
—Nathan Glazer, Professor Emeritus of Education and Sociology, Harvard University, and author of Beyond the Melting Pot.

Few people on the planet are smarter than Ron Unz or have more intellectual curiosity. This fascinating and provocative collection of essays explores a remarkable range of topics, many of them high profile, some of them arcane. Unz’s analysis is always serious and invariably challenges prevailing wisdoms, which is to say there are a lot of controversial arguments in this book. No one is likely to agree with every one of his conclusions, but we would be better off if there were more people like Ron Unz among us.
—John J. Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, and author of The Israel Lobby.

Ron Unz is a brilliant essayist. His interests run from ancient history and black holes to contemporary issues like racial quotas and the minimum wage. He moves swiftly to the heart of a subject with cogent analysis and limpid argument. This collection of essays sparkles with unexpected gems ranging from critiques of the mainstream press to appreciation of dissenters from common wisdom such as General Bill Odom and Alexander Cockburn. In every paragraph of these essays the reader enjoys a penetrating intelligence at work.
—Nicholas Wade, former writer and editor for The New York Times, and author of Before the Dawn, The Faith Instinct, and A Troublesome Inheritance.

Over the past two decades as an original thinker and writer Ron Unz has tackled complex and significant subjects such as immigration, education, economics, race, and the press, pushing aside common assumptions. This book brings together in one volume these pieces from a variety of publications. Unlike other essayists on culture and politics, Unz shreds ideology and relies on statistical data to support his often groundbreaking ideas, such as his 2010 essay on “The Myth of Hispanic Crime.” And his 2014 efforts to put a $12 an hour minimum wage bill before California voters is an example of how the action of an individual can draw public attention to an issue he believes is necessary for the economic health of the Republic. Anyone reading this book will learn a great deal about America from an incisive writer and scholar who has peeled back layers of conventional wisdom to expose the truth on issues of prime importance today.
—Sydney Schanberg, Pulitzer-Prize winning former reporter and editor for The New York Times, whose story inspired the 1984 film The Killing Fields.

Provocative and fearless, sometimes infuriating, and quite often, persuasive. And when American’s low-wage workers get their coming big raise, the apostate conservative Ron Unz will deserve a decent share of the credit.
—Prof. James K. Galbraith, author of The End of Normal and Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe .

 
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I was very unhappy with the unfair and inflammatory article that the Harvard Crimson ran regarding my political associations, and they suggested I submit an op-ed in response. I provided the piece below, which they requested be trimmed for length prior to publication, which I did.

They then notified me that after further consideration, they had decided that most of my points were irrelevant or unfair and should not be published: I could only make the arguments that they themselves approved. Perhaps they felt that the effectiveness of my response might risk “confusing” some of their readers.

Several individuals have emphasized to me that outrageous character assassination based on guilt-by-association must be answered quickly, so here’s the rebuttal that the Crimson refused to publish, and you can decide for yourself if their decision was appropriate.

I appreciate that the Crimson has afforded denied me an opportunity to reply to their highly misleading article of the 14th, featuring the particularly lurid headline “Overseers Candidate Donates to ‘Quasi-White Nationalist’ Group,” and supposedly documenting my links to various rightwing extremists. Coming at the peak of alumni voting, such unfair accusations have the potential to torpedo our Free Harvard/Fair Harvard slate of Overseer candidates.

Over the last dozen years I’ve certainly provided donations to a very wide range of political groups and individuals, including leftwingers, rightwingers, and libertarians. Many of these groups are on the political fringe and espouse controversial views on all sorts of different issues. I might agree with them on some things and disagree with them on others, but frequently find their ideas a useful counterpoint to the conventional wisdom presented in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, which I spend hours closely reading every morning.

Much of the Crimson article focused on my financial support to VDare, a rightwing and very hard-core anti-immigrant webzine, with the dollars representing less than 1% of my total donations over the last decade. Since immigration issues have always been one of my main interests, I read VDare quite regularly and am on friendly terms with their staff. But as everyone knows from the hundreds of thousands of words I have published on immigration-related topics, I’ve always been one of America’s leading pro-immigrant voices, hence almost invariably on the exact opposite side from VDare. I find it odd that the Crimson article left out that significant detail, which surely would have made their account of my donation seem even more shocking and newsworthy.

Sometimes headlines may be factually correct but highly misleading. For example, back in 1994 I was a top featured speaker at the gigantic 70,000 person march in Los Angeles against Prop. 187, the largest pro-immigrant political protest in American history but boycotted by virtually every other prominent non-Latino political figure in California. As it happens, many small Communist groups participated in that rally, waving their Communist flags. So the Crimson could have run the lurid headline “Overseer Candidate Marched with the Communists in Los Angeles.” Accurate, but perhaps a bit skewed and misleading.

Similarly, the Crimson alludes to individuals supporting the assassination of police officers. The reference was to a piece I ran a couple of months ago by Bob Trivers, a brilliant evolutionary biologist but also a completely unrepentant radical militant, who had once served as the only white member of the Black Panther Party. It’s absolutely correct that he has advocated the assassination of “racist” white police officers, a view I personally do not share and one which is probably more extreme than anything VDare or any of my rightwing columnists has ever proposed. But the column was drawn from his recent book, which was widely praised by some of the world’s most prominent public intellectuals, including Richard Dawkins and Harvard’s own Steven Pinker. So perhaps the Crimson should run a headline “Richard Dawkins Praises Book Advocating the Assassination of White Police Officers.”

I reject “guilt by association” and just because I am personally friendly with various people, publish their writings, or even provide them some financial assistance, that does not necessarily mean that I endorse everything they say. For example, I very strongly disagree with Sen. Bernie Sanders on a whole host of important topics, but since on balance I like his positions much better than those of his competitors, he is my favored presidential candidate, and the only one to whom I have donated. Similarly, during the last couple of presidential elections I wrote in Ron Paul’s name at the top of the ticket, not because I agreed with him about everything, but because the other choices seemed so unsatisfactory.

I have a long record of closely associating with people of sharply different views. I am often identified as the former publisher (2006-2013) of The American Conservative (TAC), an opinion magazine that absorbed over 60% of my donations over the last decade. TAC was co-founded by Pat Buchanan and always had a strongly Buchananite stance on immigration, trade, and social issues, positions I did not share. However, I strongly supported their lonely opposition to the disastrous foreign wars of the Bush Administration, afterward continued by the Obama Administration.

Anyone who wishes to know my own views may easily examine my writings over the past twenty-five years, given that all 500,000 words are online and fully searchable. Furthermore, my most important articles are collected in a 700pp book together with a very comprehensive index. Just look in the index, read the text, and you’ll discover my opinions.

Over half my writing has dealt with matters of race, ethnicity, and social policy, including immigration, affirmative action, and bilingual education. Although often controversial, my articles have won praise from some eminent scholars and journalists, situated all across the ideological spectrum. If Crimson journalists wish to denounce me, they are free to do so, but they should focus on my own views rather than those of other people I happen to know.

 

Although the Crimson never revealed the source of their accusations, these almost exactly match the contents of a “dossier” someone forwarded to me around the same time, a file apparently prepared by some activist group and intended to cast me in an extremely unfavorable light, especially on racial issues.

I was stunned by the contents, since the Stasi-type researchers who compiled it were not only extremely malicious but also ignorant and incompetent, even getting wrong such simple factual details as the name of my webzine.

For example, they characterized my $600,000 grant to Gregory Cochran as secret, even though his University of Utah announced it at the time in a public press release, boasting that it was larger than a MacArthur Fellowship. Dr. Cochran is an extreme rightwinger, who has stubbornly disputed my own immigration writings and even banned me from his website when I demonstrated the logical flaws in his “Gay Germ” theory. However, he is also a brilliant evolutionary biologist whose Accelerationist theory is hugely important, very possibly worth a future Nobel Prize. His press release emphasized that theory, but the ignorant Stasi investigators have apparently never heard of it.

The dossier sought to tar me as a nasty “racist,” opening with mention of my supposedly sinister phrase “the End of White America.” Indeed, two of my longest and most important articles on America’s ongoing racial transformation have been “California and the End of White America” in 1999 and “Immigration, Republicans, and the End of White America” in 2011, and I would urge everyone interested in the topic to read them. The former caught the attention of CBS News, which invited me to discuss my ideas on their morning show, available on YouTube for anyone for anyone who wants a taste of my views without reading 20,000 words of text.

In another particularly egregious case, the Stasi researchers claimed that I had endorsed a particular “white nationalist” political strategy although one of my aforementioned articles had actually totally debunked that theory. Since my article was 12,000 words long and the Stasi agents so lazy, I can understand why they never bothered reading what I actually wrote.

Finally, here’s a last, telling point. As I’ve said, the entire corpus of my writings of the last 25 years is conveniently available on the web in fully searchable form. Yet although the Stasi researchers exhaustively worked to portray my racial views in an extremely negative light, they did not include a single sentence of my own in their malicious dossier. So if they failed to find a single “incriminating” sentence anywhere among my 500,000 words of articles and columns, what does that indicate about the accuracy of their conclusions?

 

Victory Night for Prop. 227 in 1998. Credit: Sacramento Bee/Chris Pizzello/AP

As some of you may have already heard, a few days ago I made a last-minute decision to enter the U.S. Senate race for the seat of retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer in California. I took out my official papers early Monday morning and returned them with the necessary 65 signatures of registered voters on Wednesday afternoon, the last possible day for filing.

I am certainly under no illusions that my candidacy is anything but a tremendous long-shot. Over the two decades that have passed since Gov. Pete Wilson’s Prop. 187 campaign, California has been transformed into what amounts to a one-party Democratic state, with Republicans holding not a single statewide office and barely one-third of the State Legislature; GOP presidential campaigns rarely invest any time or money in hopeless pursuit of California’s 55 electoral votes. With the sole exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger—who was obviously a special case—not a single Republican has won a top-ticket statewide race since 1994, with candidates often losing by 20-25 points despite spending many millions or even tens of millions on their campaigns; and virtually all down-ticket Republican candidates have generally lost by comparable margins.

But the flip-side of this difficult situation is that the California Republican Party is so extremely feeble these days that my entrance into the race would hardly face strong GOP rivals. Neither of the other two Republicans running has ever held any elective office or boasts significant political accomplishments, they were tied at 3% in the most recent polls, and after a full year of campaigning, each had only raised about $50,000. As most readers are well aware, I’m hardly an ultra-wealthy “checkbook” candidate able to spend unlimited sums, but dollars in that sort of range I can easily handle.

The primary factor behind this sudden decision on my part was the current effort by the California Democrats and their (totally worthless) Republican allies to repeal my 1998 Prop. 227 “English for the Children” initiative. Although the English immersion system established in the late 1990s was judged an enormous educational triumph by nearly all observers, and the issue has long since been forgotten, a legislative ballot measure up for a vote this November aims to undo all that progress and reestablish the disastrously unsuccessful system of Spanish-almost-only “bilingual education” in California public schools:

After considering various options, I decided that becoming a statewide candidate myself was the probably the best means of effectively focusing public attention on this repeal effort and defeating it.

An important factor in my decision-making was the strong likelihood that Donald Trump would be the Republican presidential nominee. He and his campaign would almost certainly support keeping English in the public schools, but for obvious reasons he would hardly be the best political figure to be strongly identified with the No campaign. However, if I were a statewide candidate myself, heavily focusing on that issue, my standing as the original author of Prop. 227 would give me an excellent chance of establishing myself as the main voice behind the anti-repeal campaign. I also discussed the possibility of this race with some of my fellow Harvard Overseer slate-members, and they strongly believed that my candidacy would be far more likely to help rather than hurt our efforts, which this was another major consideration in my decision. Furthermore, running for office provides me with an opportunity to raise all sorts of other policy issues often ignored by most political candidates or elected officials.

This last point is one that I have frequently emphasized to people over the years, that under the right circumstances, the real importance of a major political campaign sometimes has relatively little connection to the actual vote on election day. Instead, if used properly, a campaign can become a powerful focal point for large amounts of media coverage on under-examined issues. And such media coverage may have long-term consequences, win or lose.

Just as a minor example, the 65 valid voter signatures I filed on Wednesday afternoon have already generated a bit of media coverage for the November attempt to repeal Prop. 227, which had previously received virtually no attention whatsoever. Even this handful of glancing discussion might mean that ten times as many Californians are now aware of the repeal effort as had been the case a week ago.

In 1998, our Prop. 227 was publicly opposed by President Bill Clinton, the Chairmen of both the California Republican and Democratic parties, all four leaders in the State Legislature, all four candidates for Governor, nearly every newspaper, every political slate, and every union, and we were outspent on advertising by a ratio of 25-to-1. Yet we won with 61% of the vote, probably the biggest landslide of any contested initiative since the legendary Prop. 13 in 1978, and easily outscoring both the previous Prop. 187 and Prop. 209, although each of these had been backed by many millions in television advertising. So the “English” issue is potentially a very strong one. Indeed, a few years later it seems likely that my similar Massachusetts initiative was accidentally responsible for launching Mitt Romney’s political career.

 

At this point, the crucial question is whether my campaign will last three months or eight, namely whether I can make it past the primary on June 7th. Under California’s unusual “top two” voting system, all candidates regardless of party affiliation are placed together on the primary ballot, and whichever two get the most votes go on the general election. As I’ve mentioned, the legacy of Pete Wilson’s Prop. 187 campaign has reduced the once-mighty California Republican Party almost to the ranks of minor party status, and it is quite possible that the November ballot will see a Democrat-vs-Democrat match-up.

The overwhelming favorite in the Senate race is California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a moderately liberal and somewhat bland San Francisco Democrat, who recently received the official Democratic endorsement, drawing nearly 80% support at the state party convention. The most recent statewide poll put her at 27%, far ahead of the 15% going to her Orange County opponent, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who is regarded as something of a loose-cannon and is not particularly popular among her party colleagues. But each of these Democrats was still vastly ahead of the two Republicans in the race, who, as previously mentioned, were tied at just 3% each and had campaign war chests only a tiny fraction of the funds available to Sanchez, let alone Harris.

With one small exception, I have been almost totally out of California politics for over a dozen years, and my name is hardly a household word. So running as a Republican in this very unpromising political landscape, I would certainly place my chances of outpolling Sanchez in the primary and reaching November at considerably less than 50-50, with very long odds against my actually being sworn in as U.S. Senator in January.

Since I’m rather likely to lose, I don’t want to feel guilty about taking people’s money for a hopeless effort, and therefore won’t accept any donations over $99. Given that I’ll be saying some things and taking some positions that very few candidates ever do, donors can mentally budget their $99 contributions as providing a bit of “ideological entertainment value.” And it’s certainly been a very strange election year, with a Reality TV star having become the towering colossus in the Republican presidential race and a Socialist from tiny Vermont giving Hillary Clinton a huge battle on the Democratic side, so I suppose that anything could happen.

Indeed, the political affiliations of California registered voters are perhaps a little less unpromising than I have so far implied. These days, California registration is 43% Democratic and 28% Republican, but with independents having rapidly increased to 24%. And whereas the two other Republicans in the race are both long-time Republican Party activists and functionaries, rather unlikely to be able to draw significant independent or cross-over support, my obvious status as a complete political outsider with highly eclectic ideological positions and allies might prove potentially enticing to the nearly 60% of Californians who are not registered Democrats and even perhaps a noticeable slice of those who are. The massive national enthusiasm for both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders has certainly demonstrated the considerable popular dissatisfaction with the political establishments of both parties, and all four of my current opponents in this race certainly fall into that latter category.

Furthermore, the public seems to have a great longing these days for “political authenticity,” the sense that a candidate for office is more than merely the synthetic creation of his consultants and donors, robotically repeating his memorized and focus-group-tested slogans and buzzwords. In this regard, at least, I am quite strong, having published over the years a very wide variety of articles on all sorts of political topics, including highly-controversial ones, which because of my intended Harvard Overseer campaign, I recently collected and published as a 700pp book. My views on various policy issues may be dull or inflammatory, but they are certainly my own, and if I said exactly the same thing ten and twenty years ago that I am saying today, I am much less likely to suddenly change my views if I do somehow manage to reach high office. So any voters or donors who support me can feel reasonably confident that they know what they are getting.

With my unplanned candidacy just a few days old, my overwhelming need is merely establishing the rudiments of a plausible campaign. This includes providing a simple campaign website that can conveniently make available the full range of my policy positions and past writings. So this is the current focus of my efforts, and the next few months may be interesting and eventful ones.

 
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Over the last few months I’ve been much too preoccupied with my Harvard University Overseer project to pay much attention to the unfolding saga of the presidential race; I’ve closely read my morning newspapers as I always do, but not watched a single one of the endless debates. Still, even out of the corner of my mind’s-eye, the rise of Donald Trump certainly seems the political story of the decade or even the half-century, with the loud-mouthed Reality TV star now having a good chance of seizing the Republican Party nomination against the ferocious opposition of nearly every significant Republican faction and pundit.

But although I’ve been just as surprised at this remarkable development as anyone else, in hindsight perhaps my astonishment was more than it should have been. Based on absolutely everything I’ve read in my daily NYT+WSJ, Trump certainly seems an ignorant buffoon and a loose cannon, but being a loose cannon, he rolls around randomly, not infrequently in the correct direction, which is more than I can say for nearly all of his Republican rivals.

Consider the Iraq War and its aftermath, surely one of the central geopolitical developments of the last few decades. In the mid-2000s, my old friend Bill Odom, the three-star general who ran the NSA for Ronald Reagan, accurately characterized the war as “the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history.” Yet today that calamitous legacy and its five trillion dollar total cost is warmly embraced by many of the top Republican leaders and publicly criticized by almost none of them.

However, just a couple of weeks ago, Trump blasted the war and the Bush Administration lies behind it on nationwide television during a Republican debate, inducing total shock within the Republican commentariat, shock that turned into apoplexy when he immediately afterward won a landslide victory in ultra-rightwing and pro-military South Carolina. Sometimes a single bold and honest statement delivered on national television can cut through endless layers of media lies and propaganda, and I only regret that Gen. Odom was no longer around to witness it.

Earlier this year, an ardent Trump supporter declared that his favored candidate was 95% a clown but 5% a patriot, and therefore stood head-and-shoulders above his Republican rivals, and this sounds about right to me.

 

The sheer worthlessness of today’s Republicans was brought home to me more directly in the last couple of weeks as I undertook a long-deferred but sadly necessary task.

As many are probably aware, my most significant achievement to date has been the series of “English for the Children” initiative campaigns I launched starting in the late 1990s, campaigns which over a few years time largely dismantled America’s disastrous system of Spanish-almost-only so-called “bilingual education” first in California and then across the rest of the country. The results were so overwhelmingly compelling, both educationally and politically, that the “English Wars” successfully concluded over a decade ago, with the failed programs largely disappearing from the schools and the very term itself almost entirely vanishing from the lexicon of the national media.

These days, it is naturally assumed by everyone that young immigrant children will easily learn English within a few months of starting school, and many millions have successfully done so, with enormous consequences for the future of American society. The entire controversy has been long forgotten by almost everyone.

Unfortunately, back in 2014 the California Republicans voted without dissent to place on the November 2016 ballot a measure completely repealing my old “English for the Children” Prop. 227 initiative and encouraging the reestablishment of Spanish-almost-only instruction throughout California public schools. Although at the time I wrote a couple of columns denouncing and ridiculing their stupidity, there really wasn’t much else I could do with the vote being so far away, and since I was heavily preoccupied with other matters, I placed the matter on the shelf:

California Republicans Vote to Restore “Bilingual Education”

English and Meritocracy: The Gullibility of Our Political and Media Elites

But 2016 has finally arrived, and in late February I decided I might as well begin organizing a No campaign for the November vote. So with considerable annoyance I dragged 25 large boxes of my old “English” materials out of the storage unit in which they’d been quietly gathering dust for over a dozen years, and began sorting through the contents.

My nostalgia was enormous. I looked over hundreds of news stories from leading publications all across America—left, right, and center—declaring the total failure of bilingual education and the remarkable, almost astonishing success of “English for the Children.” Although all of these news articles and many others are still available on our old “English” website in HTML form, the dramatic improvements in bandwidth and storage since the early 2000s have now allowed me to scan the articles themselves and display them in their original form, which much better preserves their original impact. All of this old material is now available in PDF packages on the simple but utilitarian “Keep English for the Children” website that I built over the last couple of days, located at www.KeepEnglish.org.

Given that a younger generation of journalists and political activists may never have even heard of “bilingual education,” there are considerable public benefits for their convenient access to these stories of the past, allowing them to learn from the hard-won wisdom of their elders. Therefore, here are links to some of the (rather large) PDF packages containing much of this important material:

The Prop. 227 Campaign

The Prop. 227 Aftermath

The Later Campaigns

Public Opinion on English in the Schools

Also, a couple of hundred television clips and interviews, including numerous long debates, one of them held at Harvard University, are available at our YouTube Channel:

 

MeritocracyCover-Front I first began collecting and organizing my old print articles early last summer, believing that having them all conveniently available in book form would be useful for my planned Harvard Overseer campaign. Now at very long last the regular hardcover edition of The Myth of American Meritocracy and Other Essays has been delivered from the printers and is available for easy distribution and open sale at Amazon.com, with a Kindle edition to soon follow.

Unsurprisingly, the entire process took far more time and effort than I ever expected, and given the relative paucity of nonfiction collections by mainstream presses, required quite a bit of thought to issues of organization and design, as well as the aesthetics of layout and typeface. The magnitude of this initial effort meanwhile persuaded me to incorporate more and more of my material into the text, since I would hardly be likely to publish any second collection in the future.

As a result, the volume ultimately came to include virtually all my print articles of the last thirty years and a few of my more recent web columns, thus pushing the length past 700 pages, including a lengthy and comprehensive index. When I cautiously opened my first shipped box this afternoon, I was quite pleased with the physical quality of what I held in my hand, and the first book published by the newly established imprint Unz Review Press seems of fully professional quality.

Given the absence of costly overhead and my lack of mercenary motives, I have priced the thick, attractive hardcover edition at an inexpensive $19.99. Free Amazon shipping is a nice option, though it may be another week or so until the Amazon.com’s own sales page is ready, displaying the book just like any produced by Harcourt or the Free Press, and also allowing international shipments and sales. Any journalist, writer, or academic wishing a complimentary copy for their personal use need only contact me to receive one.

The Table of Contents provides the organization and range, and my Preface provides a bit of explanation:

When considering a collection of previously published articles, unexpected patterns may appear. Such was the case as I reviewed the contents of this book, containing works originally written over a span of thirty years.

The earliest of my pieces are academic papers on the history of Classical Greece, attempting to reconstruct the true events of that era from sources that are often fragmentary, unreliable, and contradictory. Scholars in that field must seek to extract a measure of factual reality from a mountain of propaganda and distortion, knowing full well that embarrassing details are often completely omitted from the narratives of our informants.

While doing such research during the early 1980s I often told my friends how different ancient historical analysis was from that of modern times since “everyone knows” the basic facts about the wars and other major events of the twentieth century.

I was naive. There is a fitting symmetry that one of my earliest papers provided a careful analysis of the source material indicating that Alexander the Great had younger brothers whom he murdered when he came to the throne, while one of my most recent articles applied the same sort of critical analysis to present-day evidence, suggesting that the Vietnam military record of supposed war-hero Sen. John McCain may have actually been rather similar to that of the notorious “Tokyo Rose” of World War II fame. Over the last dozen years I have discovered that we live within the distorted matrix of “American Pravda,” and that determining the true events of our world requires much more effort than merely scanning the morning headlines of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

These writings also trace the evolution of my views in topics of race, ethnicity, and social policy, long my primary area of focus and the one that accounts for more than half the pages of this volume. In late 1999 I published a 9,000 word cover story on California’s racial transformation in Commentary, flagship organ of the neoconservative movement. That exposition took a strongly positive view of the immigration trends in our society, a stance I had also taken in numerous previous pieces. But a dozen years later America’s economic landscape had greatly changed, and when I published my 12,000 word sequel describing the racial transformation of our entire nation, it ran in The American Conservative—a leading anti-neoconservative outlet—where I argued that immigration levels were now far too high, also outlining a viable political strategy to curtail them.

That latter suggestion proposed a very large hike in the minimum wage, and this topic soon became the focus of much of my subsequent writing and political activity, which had previously had little connection to economic issues. I would like to think that my work has played a significant role in helping to move that important idea back to the center stage of American political life.

And then there is “The Myth of American Meritocracy,” the title piece of this collection, running well over 30,000 words with its many footnotes and appendices. Although our elite educational institutions have almost entirely ignored the massive, quantitative documentation that racial discrimination and endemic corruption lie at the heart of our allegedly meritocratic society, many of their victims have come to recognize the injustice of their situation, and I strongly doubt that our current system will long survive unchanged.

 

But why a book?

In an age when the Internet has so rapidly displaced traditional printed matter, does a bound collection of my writings make any sense, especially since nearly all of these are already available online?

I think so, and if you are holding this book in your hands, you might agree.

Different types of media are suitable for different forms of writing. The sort of short opinion pieces that once graced the op-ed pages of our vanishing newspapers are conveniently browsed on the web, just like the numerous informal blog posts that have largely replaced them. With attention spans dropping, much political debate is circumscribed by the 140 characters of a Tweet, but it is difficult to imagine such transitory sloganeering having much value in printed form. Meanwhile, popular fiction of any length is easily digested on a tablet or kindle, since a story is often read in short snatches of time, with the reader moving forward and rarely looking back.

But my own writings tend toward serious non-fiction of considerable length, with over half this book consisting of major articles running 4,000 words or more, many of them much longer than that. I find that material of such heft is best read in printed form, and a stack of twenty or thirty 8.5”x11” sheets obtained from a website is far less convenient for such purposes than the pages of a professionally typeset book.

Examine the table of contents, explore the pages herein, and judge for yourself whether this product is worth the paper on which it was printed.

I was enormously gratified by the remarkably kind and generous cover quotes my advance proofs received from several prominent academics and journalists, and with more than a little embarrassment, I make these available below:

With high intelligence, common sense, and advanced statistical skills, presented transparently and accessibly, Ron Unz has for decades been addressing key issues in a rapidly changing America, enlightening us on the implications and effects of bilingual programs in American schools, clarifying the issues around crime and immigration so often distorted in political and popular discussion, placing the question of an increased minimum wage effectively on the national agenda, and addressing most provocatively the issue of affirmative action and admission to selective colleges and universities, revealing some aspects of this ever disputed question that have never been noted or discussed publicly before. He is one of our most valuable discussants and analysts of public issues.—Nathan Glazer, Professor Emeritus of Education and Sociology, Harvard University, and author of Beyond the Melting Pot.

 
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About Ron Unz

A theoretical physicist by training, Mr. Unz serves as founder and chairman of UNZ.org, a content-archiving website providing free access to many hundreds of thousands of articles from prominent periodicals of the last hundred and fifty years. From 2007 to 2013, he also served as publisher of The American Conservative, a small opinion magazine, and had previously served as chairman of Wall Street Analytics, Inc., a financial services software company which he founded in New York City in 1987. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University, Cambridge University, and Stanford University, and is a past first-place winner in the Intel/Westinghouse Science Talent Search. He was born in Los Angeles in 1961.

He has long been deeply interested in public policy issues, and his writings on issues of immigration, race, ethnicity, and social policy have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, The Nation, and numerous other publications.

In 1994, he launched a surprise Republican primary challenge to incumbent Gov. Pete Wilson of California, running on a conservative, pro-immigrant platform against the prevailing political sentiment, and received 34% of the vote. Later that year, he campaigned as a leading opponent of Prop. 187, the anti-immigration initiative, and was a top featured speaker at a 70,000 person pro-immigrant march in Los Angeles, the largest political rally in California history to that date.

In 1997, Mr. Unz began his “English for the Children” initiative campaign to dismantle bilingual education in California. He drafted Prop. 227 and led the campaign to qualify and pass the measure, culminating in a landslide 61% victory in June 1998, effectively eliminating over one-third of America’s bilingual programs. Within less than three years of the new English immersion curriculum, the mean percentile test scores of over a million immigrant students in California rose by an average of 70%. He later organized and led similar initiative campaigns in other states, winning with 63% in the 2000 Arizona vote and a remarkable 68% in the 2002 Massachusetts vote without spending a single dollar on advertising.

After spending most of the 2000s focused on software projects, he has recently become much more active in his public policy writings, most of which had appeared in his own magazine.


Personal
Classics
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
Hundreds of POWs may have been left to die in Vietnam, abandoned by their government—and our media.
The unspoken statistical reality of urban crime over the last quarter century.
Talk TV sensationalists and axe-grinding ideologues have fallen for a myth of immigrant lawlessness.
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?