hazardous duty

I carried the caskets.  I folded the flags and handed them to mothers and fathers.  I stood surrounded by rage and grief, and a lot of it was directed at my person, at the uniform I wore.

When the family found out I’d been in Vietnam, they’d cluster around and ask questions; “what was it like over there?”  But in their faces and eyes I saw a desperate need to know if their son’s death had meant something – if the war effort had been worthy of his death.

In my heart I knew their son didn’t die for “freedom” or “democracy,” but for power and profit.  Face to face with a grieving family, how could I say something like that?


Facebook Shit

Over half the posts I see are political and most refer to the US – Republicans, Democrats, Green parties, Tea parties, primaries, elections, religions, bathrooms, Trump, Hillary, Obama, Sanders, laws, corruption, colossal stupidity, etc.

After 40 years of study, including personal involvement with the mighty US war machine, it’s my very humble opinion that any significant change in the US, or in the West generally, will come only through immediate, violent revolution.

This does not seem likely.


“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

We all know this isn’t true. Words not only hurt – “nigger,” “fag, “cracker,” “bitch” – but they also kill – “terrorist,” “militant,” “drone strike,” “a resolution authorizing military action.”

When is “free speech” not free?

As a sociologist, I participated in studies about conflict resolution. I learned the two most effect methods were “mediation” and “avoidance.”

Mediation is self-explanatory – the introduction of an “objective” third party. But the idea of avoidance allows a powerful insight into “free speech.”

In terms of quality and credibility, I had always regarded Breitbart News on the level of the National Inquirer. In fact, I often thought that’s where we should find it – at the supermarket check-out counter, right next to celebrity trash and aliens in the basement.

I thought it was crap. I disagreed with its content. Therefore, I avoided the damn thing.

But if I should intervene somehow to impede or stop Breitbart from broadcasting its crap, then I’ve set a trap for myself. If Breitbart can be stopped, then so can I.

Instead of preventing certain people from speaking, we ought to teach our kids to listen carefully, question closely and know their history . . . and they too will learn to avoid Breitbart poison.


During my tour in Vietnam I witnessed how the US saved the Vietnamese people from the terrible clutches of communism. The US dropped more explosive tonnage on that country than was used by all sides during both world wars, including millions of tons of chemical weapons – all in the name of “humanitarian intervention.”

Does this sound familiar — smashing a country to pieces in an effort to “save it?”

Now, a generation later, US “policymakers” have learned their lesson – instead of employing large numbers of US troops, they create armies out of thin air.

The fact that a series of US governments continues to wage illegal warfare is an illustration of the utter failure of US educational system.

Have a nice trip!

In the spring of 1967 I was a green Army recruit at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I had just spent two months learning to be a clerk typist, and our company was awaiting orders for permanent assignment.

I got in trouble off-base – I stole a car – and became embroiled with both civilian and military police authorities. The civil charges were dismissed because the owner of the car didn’t press charges – I didn’t get very far, about 300 feet – but the military law came down differently.

Although I was free from civil authority, the military confined me to barracks – I was not allowed to leave the company area or the base. Meanwhile, my company received orders and everyone shipped off to Germany.

I was bored out of my mind confined to the empty barracks – a giant dormitory with 30 bunk beds and only one occupant, me. I was caught up in the infinite corridors of military bureaucracy. This is when I first discovered reading for pleasure. One month went by, two months. Finally, I won an appointment with the Post Chaplin, a full colonel, a Catholic priest, and I complained about my indefinite status.

The good father held up his hands and said, “Okay, just a second.” He picked up his phone and called “Sgt. Warren.” He told the sergeant about my predicament and asked him to help me. The Catholic colonel hung up and told me to go to personnel and find Sgt. Warren.

I zoomed over to personnel, happy at the prospect of a possible ending to my in-between status. I found Sgt. Warren, and the priest’s friend handed me my orders, still warm from the copy machine.

“Thanks,” I said, and then I read the orders. They told me to report to the 90th replacement company, Bien Hoa, Vietnam.


Peninsula Osa is not only the most biologically intense place on Earth, but also has wide-spread deposits of gold, platinum and other minerals – the product of volcanic actions millions of years ago.

During 2 years of dire poverty I survived by panning gold in our stream. I paddled upriver and traded the gold for supplies. It was damn hard work – standing in the cold water, digging down to bedrock, washing pans of material all day for a few grams. Occasionally, I’d find a nugget that allowed for a few luxuries.

There had been many gold mining operations on the Peninsula, but the government – in the interests of environmental protection – stopped issuing large-scale mining concessions. Still, there are many small-time miners working the streams with pans and shovels.

I saw a 16 pound nugget one time. Many years ago a gringo owned a mining operation across the Boca from me, on Isla Violin. One day, the front-end loader kicked out a little rock of gold. The worker jumped off the machine, rolled the rock into the bushes and went back to work. Later that night he snuck out of the dormitory, retrieved the gold rock and paddled away. He sold the nugget and had enough money to buy a lot and build a house and auto-repair business.

While panning and working our own stream, I ran into a vein of platinum. According to an assay done by the Ministerio de Minas, the concentration was .9 grams of platinum for every kg of material! But that’s a different story . . . .