Friday, July 21, 2017

My War Stories.......

People have asked me to share my "war stories" about Vietnam. 

I have no war stories. I was not in daily combat. I was in a military support command. We re-stocked, re-assigned, re-supplied and basically ran the Army's entire logistics operation in Vietnam. The big advantage to having a job like that was that you could have something of a normal life, an illusion of safety, and, in my case, having the opportunity to travel around Vietnam while performing your duties. Many people were not interested in traveling, or learning, or experiencing. They just wanted to do their time and go home. I was eager to learn everything I could while doing my one-year tour. 

My life was rarely in jeopardy, but when it was you lived second to second. A sniper’s bullet flying within inches of your head in the middle of the night while on guard duty on a dark mountain ridge. Or upon waking in the morning, you discover a deadly Bamboo Viper sleeping under the head of your sleeping bag. Or one moment you are flying in a helicopter doing your job and suddenly experience a near mid-air collision.  Or you get stranded in an unknown area of Saigon one night at curfew because your mission ran late and have to spend the night with an unknown family in an unknown location, in an unknown situation, with your whereabouts being unknown to your superiors. 

My story is not what happened to me as much as it is about what I learned. I try to show that in everything I do. I do not glamorize or romanticize war or the military. I am not particularly proud of what we did there. But, it is what it is. My words, actions and art are a direct result and reflection of my time in Vietnam and of the things I observed there. They are my story. 


Many Vietnam Vets have used their experiences in the war as a catalyst and fuel for causes and projects they immerse themselves into to try to make the world a better place. I know of some and I call them my friends. 

John McCain. Not my hero......

I am very sorry to hear about John McCain’s cancer prognosis…..but I have never liked John McCain much and I have never considered him a “Hero” and I will not be shamed into changing my position now because he is sick. 

John McCain has excellent healthcare coverage, yet he has spent his life in a political party that constantly seeks to take away benefits from average American citizens, including veterans. He will have the best chance of anyone alive to fight this uphill battle against this terrible disease. 

John McCain’s hero status has largely been promoted by John McCain himself. There were over 800 POWs in Hanoi who suffered at "The Hanoi Hilton" during their capture by the NVA. John McCain is the only one we we hear about on a constant basis. Let's not forget, those 800 men were all being held prisoner by an enemy, who did not start the war, for bringing indiscriminate death and destruction by the most powerful nation on earth to a defenseless people in a third world country. 

John McCain is the guy who returned home from being a prisoner of war, in 1973, to a former beauty queen wife who stood by him while he was being held prisoner for five and a half years, but who had been disfigured in a terrible car crash three years earlier. Her car had skidded on icy roads into a telegraph pole on Christmas Eve, 1969. Her pelvis and one arm were shattered by the impact and she suffered massive internal injuries. When Carol was discharged from hospital after six months of life-saving surgery, the prognosis was bleak. In order to save her legs, surgeons had been forced to cut away huge sections of shattered bone, taking with it her tall, willowy figure. She was confined to a wheelchair and was forced to use a catheter. Through sheer hard work, Carol learned to walk again. But when John McCain came home from Vietnam, she had gained a lot of weight and bore little resemblance to her old self. He divorced her in 1980. According to Carol McCain….”Not because of the accident but because he wanted to be 25 again.”

John Sidney McCain III was a well known "hot dog aviator”, careless pilot, who graduated at the bottom of his class and who was also the arrogant, troubled son of Four Star Admiral John Sidney McCain Jr, (the Commander-in Chief of the US Pacific Command during the Vietnam War, and thus his commanding officer) whose routine daily job was to drop bombs on innocent, unseen men, women and children from 40,000 feet.  Not the acts of a hero. Had he never got shot down, we would know nothing about him.  He may be considered a patriot by some…but, to me, he is not a hero. 

To me, heroes are people who save lives. A guy who flies a helicopter into a hot LZ to take out wounded. A guy who falls on a grenade to save his comrades. A guy who carries his comrade to safety in a deadly firefight. Guys who speaks out against war atrocities………..like Tom Glen, and Michael Bernhardt of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade, who blew the whistle on the Mai Lai massacre of 1968 which saw the murder of over 500 innocent women and children. To his credit, he has personally faced his former enemies with grace and forgiveness. 


I have the utmost sympathy for John McCain and his family in view of this announcement and have compassion for the battle they face and respect for the lifetime of public service he has given. I do not wish him harm or ill but I do not consider him a hero. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

The USA only has a TWO Party System.......Like it or not......

The United States of America has a TWO party system. Like it or not. And to win in a two party system, you have to support one of TWO parties. All the idealism and perception of political purity and romanticizing about a Third Party will not change that…and demanding it will lessen your chances to win.
As long as we let extremists from either party create chaos and divide us, the majority of people in this country lose. Extremists have no desire to compromise or work together for a better country for all. They only want what they consider to be an ideal society in which their illusions flourish.
What we end up getting is an intolerant, closes minded, hateful atmosphere where nothing gets done. It is a standoff. It is a stalemate.
That is not the kind of society I want to live in. I realize that I am not going to get everything I want, but I am willing to get most of what I want in exchange for Progress.
To believe in idealistic illusions and political purity only damages the Democratic process and will eventually destroy our Democracy. All we have to do is look at The Tea Party and Donald Trump.
Democracy IS compromise. Democracy is working together. Sadly, Right and Left Wing zealots will never understand that or admit they are NOT Democratic. Anything else is a dictatorship. That is why they are to be avoided at all cost.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bernie Sanders Needs to Stand Down, Join Up and Get In Line

Bernie Sanders is NOT a Democrat. He never has been. And he has spent his entire career trashing Democrats…………and continues to do so to this day. 

I don't care if he caucuses with Democrats. He is not our friend any more than Joe Lieberman was. He ran as a Democrat while still an Independent. He is still an Independent. He used the DNC for his own agenda. He is a total opportunist and self-centered as hell. He cares only about being in the headlines. 

Over his LONG political career (not an outsider) he has done very little except to stand on the outside screaming accusations and lies. He has done little more than run his mouth. Hillary Clinton’s list of Progressive accomplishments far out shadows that of Bernie Sanders. 


If he wants to be a Democrat, he needs to join us and get in line. We don't need to join him. Nobody asked him to reform the DNC. We owe him nothing!! He is not the leader of the Democratic Party. We are.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Quiet Night in Saigon.....

While serving in Vietnam from 1967 until 1968, I often volunteered to do “Official Courier Runs” to U. S. Army Headquarters-Vietnam in Long Binh, about 24 miles outside of Saigon. You see, back in those days, although we had computers (IBM 1005s, which were so big they fit into semi-trailers) we had no way of transmitting the information so we had to hand carry the paperwork, in the form of printouts, from place to place.
Leaving my compound in Quy Nhon at early dawn, I would take my “Priority Two” Travel Orders to the airfield and wait for a flight. There were almost no direct commercial flights in those days, so we had to do “military hops” from place to place until we got to our desired destination. I flew on everything, from private aircraft of very high-ranking officers as well as military normal aircraft, “Hueys”…(UH-1 Iroquois), to CH-47 Chinooks,  C-130 Hercules’ to C-123 Providers to DHC-4 Caribous, to get where I was going. My Priority Two Orders made that possible. I basically always got the next flight out.
When doing courier runs to Headquarters, you got an automatic free three-day pass. The trick was……if you arrived at your destination early enough on the first day and got your mission done, you would have two days of free R&R. That was always my goal. Saigon was very fun in those days and relatively safe…….during the day. On a particular trip in 1968, I did just that.
I arrived at Tân Sơn Nhất Airport in Saigon in late afternoon after a long, multi craft hopscotch trip across Vietnam from Quy Nhon. I walked across the tarmac to the heliport opposite to the main terminal to try to arrange for a flight to Long Binh, where the US Army Vietnam Headquarters were. That was my destination.
At about 3:30 PM, I finally caught a hop to Long Binh arriving at around twenty minutes later. I immediately grabbed my suitcase and parcel containing the computer print outs that were destined for USARV and jumped out of the Huey. The helipad was directly beside the headquarters building, so it was a short walk to the statistics office where I was to drop off my paperwork.
Having completed my mission, I went back to the helipad and waited for the next hop back to Tân Sơn Nhất Airport.
I arrived back in Saigon about 5:30 PM. I hired a cab to take me to my hotel in downtown Saigon….about 20-25 minutes away, depending on traffic. In those days, there was a curfew which started at sunset and went to sunrise. Since Saigon is only 10-12 degrees or so off the Equator….it has pretty much 12 hours of daylight. 6PM is the beginning of darkness.
As we approached downtown, the cab driver turned and said to me that he needed to drop me somewhere because he needed to get home before curfew. I was taken aback. He wants to drop me in the middle of nowhere at sundown in Saigon?? No…I don’t think so. I argued with him and told him he needed to take me to my hotel immediately. He refused. As the argument proceeded, we reached an impasse. He was not budging. He needed to get home to his family.
It was then, and only then, ever, that I have ever pulled a gun on another person. I reached down and pulled my .45 automatic out of it’s holster and pointed it at his head. I said he need to take me somewhere safe. He promised.
He drove a short way and then pulled up in front of a rather large house, by Vietnamese standards. The house was surrounded by a wall and gate. He quickly opened my car door and ushered me through the gate and to the door of the house where a woman was waiting. He introduced my to a friendly woman and explained to her, I guess, in Vietnamese, what the circumstances were. She welcomed me into her home, where she introduced me to her husband, and family, including a small boy with a small white dog. She showed me to a room at the top of the stairs and, although she could not speak English, indicated to me that this was my room.
As I was settling in, I noticed the small boy, with his dog, looking at me through a small open window between the stairs and my room. We smiled and waved at each other and attempted to connect. (I took a great photo of them, but, somehow, through the years, I have misplaced it.) After about one hour, the boy returned and indicated that it was dinner time.
I went back downstairs and was greeted by the family and invited to sit down at the table. This family was obviously very westernized, as most Vietnamese did not sit at dinner tables. They normally sit on the floor. We smiled and I expressed my approval of the food and my appreciation to them for providing me with a well needed home cooked meal.
It was easy to forget, at that moment, that I was in an unknown location, with unknown people in the middle of a war zone. Nobody in the Army, or anywhere else for that matter, knew where I was. I could have easily “disappeared”, but, as has always been the case, I trusted the Universe to take care of me.
After dinner, I excused myself and returned to my room. I was tired after a long day of traveling.
In the morning, I awoke to a sunny, beautiful day. I was served a small breakfast by my hostess and then bid her and the family farewell. I grabbed my small suitcase went out into the busy street and hailed another cab, which completed the trip to my hotel.
Since that time, and often, I wonder about the family. I wonder if they were OK after hosting a US soldier in their home. But that is assuming that they were aligned against the VC. Maybe they were, in fact, VC sympathizers. Maybe I had spent the night with “the enemy”.
I will never know……but I will always remember the great and unexpected experience I had one evening in war torn Saigon. And I hope they are safe and know how much their kindness meant to me on that very unusual night in a far off place called Vietnam.
It would be nice to know.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Force and Violence


I remember, while taking Taekwondo from the ROK Tiger Division in Quy Nhon, Vietnam back in 1968, I noticed that all my teachers were Buddhists. They used to invite me to spend time with them on our days off and visit Buddhist Temples and shrines around the city. 

Going anywhere with the ROKs was being the safest you would ever be in Vietnam. They were known for their ruthlessness and the extreme force with which they would use to quickly dispel any conflict that may arise. When they traveled down the streets, either in a vehicle or more importantly, the path ahead would clear for you. People went into their homes and closed the doors and windows. 


The United States Forces in Vietnam often used the Korean Army in situations where it might be politically or diplomatically impossible for the US to do something directly. One instance we witnessed in Quy Nhon during the famous 1968 Tet Offensive, a period that totally reversed the momentum of American-Vietnam War, when the VC took control of the local radio station. The ROKS were called in, the job was done. They gave the intruders 30 seconds to get out of the building, after which, being ignored, they destroyed the building. 

I asked my teachers one day, “As Buddhism is such a peaceful and pacifist philosophy, how do you justify the very aggressive nature of what you do here and the use of your martial art form, which, unlike some forms of martial art, when used to it’s highest capacity, is fatal?”

My teachers answered….”Because we do not support violence, we use our extreme force to quickly stop violence anywhere we can and remove it’s effects as quickly and efficiently as possible, using a maximum amount of force for a minimal amount of time, thus restoring peace.”


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Our people? What does that mean exactly?




We have been herded into groups. The powers to be have found out a way to get us to retreat and circle the wagons around our own particular special interests. Black Lives Matter. Gay Rights. Women’s Rights. Elder Rights. Voting Rights. The environment. Religion. Sex. Animal Rights. It is called “Identity Politics”.

And here we stay. Holding off the advances of Fascist thought and action. Just thankful that we still have that small space to cower and huddle in..surrounded by “our people”.

Our people? What does that mean? 

Black? White? Latino? Asian? Middle Eastern? Gay? Straight? Bi? Trans? Women? 

The fact is, there are only two kind of people in the world. 

  1. One wishes to live in peace with others and the world, and just wants to be left alone to live as they wish. 

  1. The other wishes to dominate and dictate to others to live as they command, based on race, religion, culture, power or resources or their own social view.

It really is very simple. There are integrationists and segregationists. There are lovers and  haters. There are those who are tolerant. There are those who are intolerant. Those who want to cohabitate and those who want to dominate. 

If we wish to have any chance at all, we need to step out from inside our own special interest groups and realize that we need to unite, as one people who support freedom, social justice and equal opportunity for all, as one voice that speaks for truth, regardless of the underlying special interests we might represent. 

By keeping us in our own little groups and causes, they weaken us. They take away our power to confront and combat their dictatorial actions. 

My people? My people are those who think like me. Who are willing to listen. Who are willing to learn. Who are willing to grow. Who inter-act within larger world as opposed to focusing only on their own little world. 

Not all those who share your family, race, religion or culture are your “people”. Those who wish you no harm are your people. 

We now have a World Economy. We have, what will soon be, a World Government. We need to start thinking in terms of World Social Justice and move away from provincial, narrow interest movements that only sap our energy and weaken our ability to fight. 

It is still “We The People”. But now…….it’s world wide. Take a world view. 


Co-Dependent. Inter-Dependent. United as One. Speaking as One. 

Life in late 60’s Midwest.

Today, in 1969, I arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota to finish out my 18 month Army service commitment. I was assigned to the Minneapolis AFEES station, located in the Federal Building, located at Third Avenue And Washington S. 

The midwest back then was a hot bed of activism. Minneapolis had protests of some kind every day it seemed. The Federal Building was a straight shot from the University of Minneapolis down Washington Avenue, making it an easy target and rallying point to voice displeasure with Nixon’s government. 

I had just arrived back from one year of service in Vietnam. When I went to Vietnam, in December of 1967, I knew very little about it or the war that was going on there. I had not yet taken a position on the war, although I did have some strong feelings aligned with the anti-war movement. 

It did not take me long after arriving in Qui Nhon, Vietnam, where I served my year long commitment, to figure out just what was going on in Vietnam and to form a strong aversion to it. 

Basically, the Vietnamese people were only trying to get back their independence from colonial powers….a fight that they had been waging for most of their existence. And we were considered just another colonial power. The Vietnamese people were blackmailed into accepting our assistance by agreeing to doing it our way. 

When I arrived in Minneapolis, I became a roommate with one of the guys already assigned to duty at AFEES. Most of the single guys, of which I was one, lived around the University district, which at the time was in constant evolution surrounding social issues. It was almost as if the movement was an organism unto itself. People just hopped on for the ride. And what a ride it was. 

I became friends with many people directly involved in “the movement”. I knew many organizers and significant players, as well as dozens of members of one small movement or another. 

I spent my weekends involved in marches, sit-ins, protests and just hanging out with like minded people, learning and observing. 

It was an easy choice for me. These people needed my perspective as a soldier and I needed their emotional energy to validate my strong anti-war, anti-corruption, anti-military industrial complex stands. My value as a person “on the inside”, especially the fact that I worked at the Induction Station, grew day by day. It was not long before I was pulled closer into the center of operations.

One particular evening, one of my friends, introduced me to a person who wished to talk to me. He was a leader in the local SDS faction. He explained that they needed some ‘special access’ to The Federal Building to carry out their ongoing protests against the government. He told me all I needed to do is leave one of the basement doors ajar when leaving for the evening. 

Well, the choice was easy for me. I am not stupid. I told him that I would, in no way, jeopardize the safety or security of anyone, or my own future for an obvious act of direct action against the government of The United States………especially since I was, at that time, a soldier, which made my exposure even more dangerous. 

I continued to be involved in protests, demonstrations and was well aware that many of those groups were infiltrated by FBI and that my photos and files still exist somewhere in a dusty file cabinet. 

Ultimately, through a series of events, seemingly unconnected at the time, the Army figured out a way to punish me. They gave me an Article 15 and took away my combat grade of E-5 which I earned in Vietnam about a month before I was discharged. 

It has been a long fight. The fight continues. 

It is time to reflect and relearn the things we learned in the 60s. The fight is exactly the same. 



Monday, January 2, 2017

SIGNS OF A SOCIOPATH

1. Recognize the signs that someone is sociopathic. Sociopaths have a personality disorder that prevents them from feeling empathy for others. Although they often seem friendly and likable, they use their charm to get people to do things for them. The following traits are common among sociopaths:

Superficial charm; everyone seems to like them.

Lack of remorse; they don't feel guilty when they've done something wrong.

Lack of empathy; they don't seem to care when someone else is hurt.

Propensity to lie; they do it casually, like it's nothing.

Incapacity for love; those closest to them realize something is missing.

Egocentricity; they light up when they're the center of attention.

Delusions of grandeur; they often perceive themselves as superior to others.

2. Understand what drives a sociopath. Sociopaths aren't driven by the desire to make the world a better place, help others or be accountable in their closest relationships. "Doing the right thing" is not a motivator for a sociopath; rather, sociopaths are motivated by having power over other people and using it to get what they want: more power, money, casual sex and so on.

Even if a sociopath takes an action that appears to be good-hearted or kind, there's usually an ulterior motive.
Sociopaths often cheat on their partners, since they don't feel guilt for doing so.

3. Realize that sociopaths are expert manipulators. They're dangerous because they're capable of making people do whatever they want.

Sociopaths use a variety of strategies to cause people in their lives to do things for them. They often pit people against each other to achieve their own ends, or have others lie for them to cover up the truth.
Sociopaths are often at the center of love triangles, or the people to break up a marriage.

In a workplace setting, they might undermine coworkers to make themselves look good in front of the boss.

In a friend circle, a sociopath might cause drama that forces people to take sides, while he or she coolly controls the entire situation.

4. Don't expect a sociopath to care about your feelings. A sociopath does not care who gets used or hurt, because sociopaths have no conscience or scruples against taking gross advantage of your kindness and goodwill. A key characteristic of a sociopath is that they can not comprehend that others have feelings or can be hurt by their actions.
Sociopaths don't change to become empathetic. No amount of "talking it through" or giving the person extra chances is going to make him or her a better person.

If you can distance yourself enough to realize it's not really about you, you'll have more power to stand up to the sociopath.

5. To deal with a sociopath, think like one. Once you recognize that someone in your life is a sociopath, you'll be able to see what drives the person and where his or her weak points are. If you try to handle the person like you would someone without a personality disorder, you'll just end up getting frustrated or pulled back into the person's drama.

When you interact with a sociopath, keep your guard up and resist the temptation to talk it out or change the person.


Remember that sociopaths aren't motivated by love, but by power, so you want to show them you won't give them power over you.

LIFE IS DIFFERENT NOW



I am so fortunate to have grown up in the 1950s and 1960s. There was still a real world out there.
Kids played outside, with each other, instead of being immersed in video games or TV or cell phones. The world was not yet dominated by corporations and national chain stores. There was individuality and originality. Songs had no “method”. Music all sounded different. TV was only on a few hours a day and there were only three channels.
Most people had a job and a decent income that could help raise a family. You were most likely assured of a lifetime job with a company and a reasonable, secure retirement after putting in your 20 years.
There was racism. Plenty of it, but we lived in a nation then that was locked in a struggle to grant equal right to minorities and women….to right the wrongs of an otherwise great nation. There was a sincere sense of hope and direction.
The 80s ended all that.
Since Ronald Reagan, our country has been in rapid decline. We have lost our neighborhoods. We lost our communities. Mom and Pop businesses have been devoured by big business. Jobs were traded for profits. Benefits were traded for profits. Security was traded for profits. Job loyalty was traded for profits. Bigotry, intolerance, national arrogance and bullying reared it’s ugly head once again under the facade of “American Exceptionalism”…brought on by a B-actor cowboy on horseback who played on the fears of a declining white America.
The Fascists have turned everyone against everyone else, in an attempt to divert our attention from their actions to completely and totally take control of everything we have. People retreat into their own causes, their own small communities and their own personal cyber world, building walls to protect what little they have left. Meanwhile, your security, dignity and hopes wither like a house plant in the corner that has been neglected.
The individuality of our cities has been replaced with cloned national companies. Identical shopping malls are planted in every community. Small business has been smothered. Community identities have been smashed and replaced with national models.
The big-business propaganda will blame it on “government regulations”, but fail to tell you that “Big Business” has written almost all of the laws since 1980 by the use of high paid lobbyists in Washington DC to further their own interests. The people are no longer represented. Money is now the thing that determines our future, with all profits going to the top, with NO "trickle down"..while they continue to poison our food, pollute our cities, our air, our water and our lives in the name of Shareholder profits.
Wars are no longer fought for Freedom, but for Corporate Interests abroad. Soldiers are used and then thrown away, no longer able to depend on a grateful nation, but discarded by ungrateful oligarchs.
We have an entire generation that has been raised in a cyber world, devoid of personal contact, unstructured by knowledge of history and how to control their government and lacking perspective and compassion for their fellow man.
It is now nothing more than utter survival. A total sense of self-identity with little regard for what is moral and right. The vision of the future is reduced to personal gain. Acceptance of evil is now considered the norm....just the other side of life. People avoid it by ignoring it....living in denial until it towers over their own tightly woven lives.
Truly a very different world than the one I grew up in.
Happy New Year…….I guess.