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Guns and Religion in a Small Town on Memorial Day

An anti-war vet in Trumpland

      When the legend becomes fact, print the legend
                  - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

I attended a "Salute to Veterans" this past Memorial Day in Waldoboro, Maine, organized by the town’s Historical Society at the headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and co-sponsored by the American Legion. For someone with my antiwar resume, albeit a veteran of a Vietnam combat unit, stepping over the threshold of a VFW Post can feel like crossing into hostile territory. I might exhibit a similar compunction about taking fermentation at certain blue color taverns in the Rust Belt, despite the fact that many of the regulars would pretty much look like me, white seniors with European roots – except maybe they voted for Trump and I didn’t. It’s not just politics; it’s a class thing. I spent my first eleven years in a working class subdivision while my dad, employed at a defense plant, “broke through the line” into management. We moved up and I went to college, then left my hometown in the dust.

The POW/MIA guest setting; and attendees at the Memorial Day event (Photos: Michael Uhl)The POW/MIA guest setting; and attendees at the Memorial Day event (Photos: Michael Uhl)

Most of those I sat among that afternoon in Waldoboro probably hadn’t been to college – an opportunity with far reaching class consequences - but they’d remained rooted in their communities. Being there, it was as if I’d been whisked back to some mothballed version of where I’d grown up in the fifties. All the musty forms and rituals were intact. The interior of the hall was a shrine to soldierly service. All manner of war and military memorabilia displayed on walls and tables. Mannequins outfitted full fig in uniforms of various epochs. Two rows of chairs faced the stars and stripes and the flags of all the services that stood tall across the front of the room. Stage-set on the left flank was an empty table with a single place setting and chair, the ubiquitous homage of the mainstream veteran service organizations to the MIAs.

One elderly lady saddled in beside me and sparkled brightly, “don’t worry, I won’t bite you.” Was she in the Ladies Auxiliary linked to one of the co-sponsors, I asked? She nodded yes without comment. The chair of the local Historical Society stepped to the podium, asked the body to stand, then summoned the Color Guard, having carried two flags to the rear, to proceed forward and return the standards to their stanchions. Two of the more senior men, costumed with bits and pieces of their old uniforms – both wore sergeant’s stripes – fairly dragged the heavy poles up the aisle. “It weighs a ton,” one of them grumbled under his breath, but loud enough to make his audience, including me, smile and nod in sympathy.

We, the birds in the field

A bird flies up from the tall grass when I enter the field.
Somewhere deep in that wild place
Is a nest, I wanted to say “concealed” for the hidden rhyme
But the image is the important thing:

Me, barefoot. Bird, flying up.
Even if I were a predator
I would not be able to find her nest.
But I don’t need to find its exact location

Any more than I need to worry about rhyming.
This is a poem about a bird’s desperation
As the tractor mows closer and closer.
The farmer and I have agreed

To save one. Go around.
That is how I mow the stone circle

Socialist Labour Party Candidate Jeremy Corbyn Closes 20% Poll Gap to Deny Tories a Parliament Majority

Historic upset in UK snap election

 

The British Labour Party and its party leader Jeremy Corbyn didn’t win Thursday’s snap election called last April 18 by Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, yet it was it nonetheless a historic victory for Corbyn, the British left and for the concept of socialist revolution in a democratic society.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with a socialist, anti-war message, has upended British politicsLabour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with a socialist, anti-war message, has upended British politics
 

From the time Corbyn, a long-time hard-left anti-militarism back-bencher and protege of the late Tony Benn, was elevated to the leadership position of the Labour Party back in September 2015, he has (like Bernie Sanders in the US last year) had to combat a concerted effort to unseat him by the Labour Party establishment. Only last year, 172 elected Labour Party members of Parliament (that was out of a total of 232) cast a vote of no confidence that forced Corbyn into a party leadership election which he resoundingly won with over 60% of the votes of dues-paying party members.

When May, back in April, at a time when polls showed her trouncing Labour by a 20-25% margin, called a snap election for June 8 (after earlier promising that she would not do such a thing), the Labour establishment figured it would turn out a disaster and finish off Corbyn as party leader. Seven leading Labour MP’s announced that they weren’t going to run for re-election on a ticket headed by Corbyn, with several even saying publicly that they preferred May to Corbyn. Virtually the entire British news media, from the BBC on down, piled on, deriding Corbyn as a ‘70s relic out of touch with British voters.

At first, amid all that Corbyn bashing, it did seem as though the contest would be a historic wipe-out for the Labour party, which was already on its knees following an embarrassing performance in the 2015 electoral outing which left Conservatives with a 330-vote majority (just 4 more than needed to form a government), and Labor, at 232 seats, looking like it might be down for good. But then Corbyn, who during the 2017 campaign came out with a truly socialist manifesto calling for improved funding for the gutted and struggling National Health System, an end to tuition for college and university, a major campaign of building more public housing, better funding for public education, and, most importantly, an end to reflexive British support for America’s endless and ever expanding global War on Terror, something started to happen. Suddenly his poll numbers turned around dramatically, and as the days until June 8 voting ticked off, the margin between Labour and the Tories kept dwindling. Meanwhile, Corbyn’s popularity kept rising, eventually passing Prime Minister May’s numbers in some polls.

Even two brutal terror attacks, in Manchester and then in London, failed to significantly dent Corbyn’s charge — in large part because instead of reflexively hunkering down and supporting more draconian security policies as US politicians of both parties do each time some terror attack happens or some alleged terror plot is “disrupted,” he declared that the attacks proved that “the war on terror has been a failure.” Corbyn also took the offense and denounced his opponent May who, as home secretary of the Conservatives before becoming prime minister had overseen the defunding of 22,000 ordinary police officer positions — furloughing roughly a fifth of the country’s police force. “You can’t keep people safe on the cheap,” Corbyn declared on the stump to loud cheering.

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May Neck-and-Neck in Final Stretch of UK Election

Standing against 'War on Terror' and austerity proves popular

 

This article was written for Salon Magazine
 

A funny thing is happening on the way to the June 8 snap election in the United Kingdom. Despite two vicious terror attacks apparently inspired by ISIS — the Manchester Arena bombing that killed at least 22 people, many of them children, and another on the iconic London Bridge that killed seven and left 22 critically injured — polls suggest that British voters aren’t fleeing in panic to the current Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May. In fact, contrary to all expectations, they continue to swing toward May’s hard-left Labour Party opponent, Jeremy Corbyn, with the latest poll showing the two parties neck-and-neck.

May launched her campaign on on April 18. With polls showing her party anywhere from 15 to 20 points up on Corbyn and Labour at the time, and the favorability gap between her and Corbyn even wider, she hoped for a blowout victory that would boost the Tories’ position in Parliament to a record level. But since then she and the Conservatives have been watching their support crumble as Corbyn’s has grown. Now many British news organizations are talking about a Tory “collapse.”

It’s now being suggested, even in the right-leaning media, that when the votes are counted Thursday evening, Britain could face an unexpected and murky situation...

Some polls have British PM Theresa May tied with Labour challenger Jeremy Corbyn in tomorrow's snap electionSome polls have British PM Theresa May tied with Labour challenger Jeremy Corbyn in tomorrow's snap election
 

For the rest of this article, which appears in today's Salon magazine, please click here or on the image above.

My Vietnam War, 50 Years Later (Part One)

A REMF Way Out In The Front (A Personal Essay)

Click here to go to My Vietnam War, 50 Years Later, PART TWO: "Memory, Writing and Politics"
 

Each of us carried in his heart a separate war which in many ways was totally different . . . we also shared a common sorrow; the immense sorrow of war.
                                        - Bao Ninh, The Sorrow Of War

It’s hard to believe that 50 years ago I was a 19-year-old kid in Vietnam sitting on a mountaintop near the Cambodian border in the forests west of Pleiku trying to locate equally young North Vietnamese radio operators with a piece of WWII RDF equipment I’d been told was obsolete. I was part of a two-man team, working in conjunction with two other two-man teams; our job was to listen for enemy broadcasts, which were sent in coded five-letter groups of Morse code. Sometimes we searched and located random operators. Other times, we’d get an intel lead on when an operator would come up. Using the silver-alloy rotating antenna of the obsolete PRD1, we obtained a bearing that was then plotted on a map; hopefully, the three bearings would provide a tight fix and locate the operator. We’d give the map coordinate to division G2, who would assign some death-dealing operation to search and destroy whatever was on or near the coordinate. Throughout it all, I remained relatively safe, while the men I most respect in this business of war -- the mostly drafted infantrymen, or “grunts” -- did the dirty work “humping the boonies” with weapons and packs. I went to Vietnam on a troop ship (a rust-bucket named the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey) in August 1966 with an Army Security Agency company; once we arrived in division base camp in Pleiku, seven of us were assigned to a tactical DF team with, first, the 25th Division, then the 4th Division. I later spent some time at a cushy strategic DF site in Camrahn Bay.

Aboard the WWII-era USNS Hugh J. Gaffey headed under the Golden Gate to Vietnam, August 1966Aboard the WWII-era USNS Hugh J. Gaffey headed under the Golden Gate to Vietnam, August 1966

In one operation, our teams hunted down an operator known to us as SOJ. It took us 30 days. Each day, the operator would use a different frequency and call sign; it always amazed us clueless kids that G2 Division Intelligence knew this. Sure enough, at the prescribed time, there he was. First thing, we’d locate our coordinates on the map by sighting on road intersections or hilltops. Our team sergeant inside a box on the back of a three-quarter-ton truck at base camp would plot our bearings and, hopefully, get that tight “fix.” The NVA radio operator we were looking for was attached to what was presumed to be a large dug-in unit HQ; the operator was transmitting to a larger HQ over the Cambodian border. They knew we were looking for him, so every day this operator with a leg-key and a comrade with a bicycle generator would go to a different location at some distance from his unit. Over 30-days, a pattern developed, and G2 figured where the dug-in unit must be. Some combination of long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP), 105mm or 155mm howitzers, F4 Phantom jets and the ultimate weapon, infantry grunts, located the unit and destroyed it and all the soldiers in it -- presumably including my counterpart radio operator, whose Morse key characteristics we had developed a sensitivity to. A large arms cache was discovered. My comrades and I were each given an Army Commendation Medal for the operation. Today, I actually feel pretty rotten about my part in all this. As I’m wont to do these days, I like to ask anyone who expresses anything positive about the war, can you tell me anything -- anything! -- that the Vietnamese did against us here in the United States. Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh guerrillas were our ally in World War Two against the Japanese who had driven the colonial French army into its barracks as the French government collapsed and collaborated in Europe. Terrorist acts? Not a hint. Well they were communists, weren’t they? Yes, but they also quoted the US Declaration of Independence at the end of WWII, hoping the US would support their liberation from French colonialism. It was not to be; we supported French re-colonization, which led to 30 years of terrible war on the Vietnamese. And a US retreat based on the war's ultimate immorality.

My Vietnam War, 50 Years Later (Part Two)

Memory, Writing and Politics

 
Click here to go to My Vietnam War, 50 Years Later, PART ONE: "A REMF Way Out In The Front"
 
                                                                  MEMORY, WRITING and POLITICS
 
That writer’s place inside the imaginative mind where things rise from the unconscious and find their way outward to the fingertips and onto the keyboard to become words -- that place is neither fact nor fiction. This is a fact. Donald Trump has made this fact more clear than maybe anyone ever has in modern memory. In that writer’s place, I’ve always employed Bao Ninh’s character Kien from The Sorrow Of War and the ill-fated 27th NVA Battalion as stand-ins for the unit I helped locate for death and destruction. I see the lush terrain of Vietnam’s Central Highlands now in my mind as an opening master shot in a movie. The camera is looking out the open door of a Huey in the early dawn hours. There is actually no door at all on the chopper, and cool air is rushing into the passenger compartment where I sit on a canvas seat with no seatbelt holding my M14 rifle. (In 1966, REMFs still had long, wood-stocked M14s.) Everything is green and gold from the rising sun. I’m stunned looking at the winding Se San River like a golden snake slithering through the forest reaching to the horizon. This was probably the most amazing, most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. The image and moment is seared into the creases of my mind.

DF team member and jeep at a firebase, in the Central Highlands and Chinook lifting a load on a slingDF team member and jeep at a firebase in the Central Highlands, and Chinook lifting a load on a sling

Earlier that morning, I’d leaped up onto the top of our three-quarter-ton truck’s box, and as an olive-drab behemoth, two-prop Chinook slowly lowered itself down toward me, I’d slapped a metal ring onto a hook below the massive copter’s belly. Out the door of the Huey, over the Se San River, I watched the truck with its box containing maps and DF paraphernalia trailing in the wind on a sling beneath the Chinook; a jeep and trailer had been driven inside the belly of the beast. Our mobile DF operation was headed toward the border as part of a huge operation to engage and clear the NVA streaming down from the north via the Ho Chi Minh trail and into the Highlands. There is an amazing sense of power one gets -- especially as a kid -- from being a small part of such a powerful and immense army of men. I realize now we were looking for young Vietnamese men like Kien and the 27th Battalion.

American Conservatives Love to Bash Canadian Health Care — But U.S. Corporations Love It

So do Canadians, for the last almost half century:

 

Canada's affordable, efficient and widely popular single-payer system saves millions for U.S. corporations. That's the main reason many of them shifted production into Canada. But if they know Canada's system is so good, why aren't executives of the parent companies here in the US lobbying for it?

To read this story by Dave Lindorff, please go to Salon.com

Neurology Study Reveals What We Already Know: People of Color Get Worse Healthcare

Maybe one day we’ll spend more energy addressing racism instead of continuing to prove it exists

 

In the most recent issue of Neurology, Dr. Altaf Saadi and colleagues reveal the disheartening news that African Americans and Hispanic Americans receive lower quality neurologic care than their white counterparts.

Analyzing data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey from 2006-2013, they found that Black patients were 30% less likely to see an outpatient neurologist even after adjusting for social factors such as insurance coverage. Hispanic patients were 40% less likely.

They looked at neurologic diseases such as stroke, headache, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. According to the CDC, strokes kill over 130,000 Americans each year, about 5% of deaths. Strokes are also the leading cause of long-term disability. Furthermore, the risk of stroke is nearly twice as high for Black Americans as opposed to whites. Yet, despite higher rates of stroke, Black Americans are seeing neurologists, the experts on strokes, less.

The authors postulate that there are likely simultaneous factors. The first factor they cite is low health literacy. Not only are patients unaware of all the possible follow up care that can prevent another stroke or minimize the impact of a recent one, folks might not even recognize the symptoms of stroke, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease to begin with.

Folks of color are more likely to have their care across more than one healthcare system making it difficult for the primary care doctor, the emergency room doctor, the neurologist, and the hospital doctor to coordinate their care. If you live in the Southeastern United States, the number of neurologic specialists is far lower than anywhere else in the country.

And finally, the impact of implicit bias and stereotyping cannot be underestimated. Though most doctors are well intentioned and would like to be “color-blind” study after study has shown that we have also absorbed the subtle messages that society sends us that folks of color are inferior or less deserving of care. As this study points out, even at high volume specialty sites, Black and Hispanic patients get delayed care compared to whites.

But perhaps the most distressing part of this article is that time and resources were put towards it at all. We already know that Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, get lower quality care and that they die younger because of it. David Hatcher, former Surgeon General reports that from 1991-2000, 880,000 excess deaths could have been averted had the health of Black Americans matched that of whites.

Hounding Trump and Trumping Up Russia as America's New Enemy

Dave Lindorff and Kevin Zeese on Sputnik Radio's 'Loud & Clear' with host Brian Becker

Sputnik Radio's 'Loud&Clear' with host Brian Becker (click on the image to hear the segment with Lindorff and Zeese)Sputnik Radio's 'Loud&Clear' with host Brian Becker (click on the image to hear the segment with Lindorff and Zeese)

Dems Doom 2018 Chances by Labeling Trump a Russian Puppet, not Just Another Sleazy Plutocrat

Chasing red squirrels in DC

 

Democratic politicians, aided and abetted by their journalist supporters in publications like the Washington Post, New York Times and at electronic news organizations like CNN, MSNBC and NPR, are playing a dangerous game focusing their anti-Trump “resistance” energies on trying to revivify the moribund Cold War with Russia and China.

You hear almost nothing out of Democratic Party establishment figures about the continuing economic crisis facing most average and poor Americans, who continue to struggle trying to get by on lower paying jobs than what they had before the Great Recession (supposedly ended!), or working at part-time jobs, living from paycheck to paycheck while the rich get richer, and having the traditional tickets out of their family’s predicament -- a quality public school education and then college for their kids, a home they can finance and ultimately own, and a secure support system for their parents, and eventually themselves when they reach retirement age -- undermined and threatened with death by a thousand cuts -- all taken from them.

Instead, the American public hears from Democrats and a liberal media how President Trump is in some kind of conspiracy with the evil Russians, who we’re told insidiously helped destroy America’s election system, handing the presidency to Trump instead of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

There are so many things wrong with this picture.

First off, Russia these days, almost three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is not America’s enemy -- something that at least half of Americans understand instinctively, including most of those who voted for Trump in November. 86,000 US tourists and business people visited Russia in 2015, part of some 33 million who visited the country from around the globe to make it the ninth-most-visited country in the world.

XXXX
 

Forbes magazine, when tensions between the US and Russia were high amid Democratic Party charges that Russia was trying to throw the election to Trump last August, published an article reporting that billions of investment dollars were flowing from the US into Russia from a Fortune 500 list of America’s biggest firms, including PepsiCo, Procter&Gamble, McDonald's, Mondelez International, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson as well as resource companies like Cargill, Alcoa, and General Electric.

Russia, let us not forget, has been keeping the primarily US-owned and funded ISS space station staffed with its Soyuz rocket ferries, while the US flounders, trying to find the funding to develop a reliable transport system of its own following the forced retirement of the ill-conceived space shuttle.

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Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

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by Dr. Radut