Don’t Fear the Penguin, Part 3 – Linux Publishing Tools


At one time, Linux aficionados who write – especially self-published authors – faced the hassle of getting access to a system running Windows or Mac to get their books ready for publication. Those days are over. The open-source world offers increasingly powerful tools for writers. Though I’m not aware of a Linux version of the popular writer’s tool Scrivener at this time, I’ve never really felt a need for it, except for its handy e-book conversion feature. Now there are other options.

The first is Calibre, a general-purpose e-book management program created by Kovid Goyal. The program allows you to catalog your e-books, read them on your computer, and synch with your e-reader device. More important to me as an author is the e-book conversion feature. Calibre lets you import your word processor document, apply formatting, and generate features such as tables of contents. It also lets you view and manipulate the raw HTML code that comprises your book, which is really handy for both editing and troubleshooting. I want to give props to the program’s creator, because when I posted a question on the program’s forum, he answered it personally.

At this point I must note that there are two ways a writer can proceed in book creation, One way is to do the formatting in a standard word processor and a conversion application to get it ready. I’ve tried this in the past (on my first book Centrifugal Force) and it was a troublesome approach. Conversion tools inevitably mess up some of the formatting, particularly if you’re using Open Office or Libre Office rather than Microsoft Word. The better approach is to do as little formatting as possible up front, saving if for the publishing program. With this approach it’s helpful to use unique and consistent text markers for specific features of the book, for example, to use asterisks or hash-tags to indicate scene transitions. These can be updated by using the search/replace features of the publishing program. This is how I did my second book, Fidelio’s Automata — and I didn’t have to reboot to Windows AT ALL to do the conversion.

This brings us to the topic of desktop publishing. For those of you have never used one (PageMaker and QuarkXPress ) are popular non-free options), it’s a whole different animal than word processing. Desktop publishing applications are focused on layout, and making the printed matter look good. Word processors do this, but not well. For example, I’ve gone through a rather involved process to make Open Office suppress page headers on the first page of each chapter. Another important consideration is that just-in-time publishers like Lightning Source require a very specific type of PDF (PDF/x-1a:2001) to be submitted for book manufacture. Yes, any good word processor can export a generic PDF, but can they embed fonts and do other necessary setup?

For desktop publishing, the Linux world has Scribus. In the past the program had a number of serious problems. The worst was that the stable version didn’t create the correct PDF formats; for that you had to use an unstable beta version of the program. As of version 1.4.5, this is fixed. Another weakness affects Scribus’ most powerful feature, its scripting facility, which allows you to perform repetitive programming tasks quickly. Scripts must be written in the Python language, which isn’t at all difficult for someone who already knows programming. The difficult is with the program’s library functions, which the script must access to do anything useful. The Scribus help files contain a reference, but it’s not thorough enough. It took me hours of tinkering to figure out how to do search/replace within a multi-page document. It’s also not totally intuitive how to insert or delete pages without corrupting the left/right formatting. As with most open-source programs, there’s an online forum; unfortunately most participants seem to be doing short works like newsletters or fliers, not novels. There are “how to” books for Scribus, but I hate buying a general-purpose book to learn one task. Sometime soon I will convert my notes into a quick step by step guide for novel creation, which I’ll make available for 99 cents on Amazon, along with my custom python formatting scripts.

As you’d expect both of these programs are also available for Mac OSX and Windows.

Next week’s installation, if I don’t get distracted by any wacky news events, will discuss Linux tools for musicians.

About the illustration: some people are crazy enough about Linux to get the Mighty Penguin Tux embedded in the skin. Tattoo by Kyle Dunbar.


Time to Abolish Reality?


I’m a writer of fiction, which means I spend a lot of time inventing scenarios that aren’t real. I also like to think that I’m good at distinguishing an actual news stories from a hoax. Occasionally I’m fooled, because reality itself has become strange – such as the story of a kid being expelled from school for doing PHP, which the administrators didn’t realize was a programming language. Thankfully, that was a hoax. Two days ago, for the first time, I was taken in by a story that appeared to be straight out of The Onion, but was actually real.

It appeared on Alex Jones’, a site well known for conspiracy theories and making innocuous events seem menacing. The headline was “Trannies want you to say ‘birthing individuals’ instead of ‘pregnant women.’” The gist of the article was that LGBT activists had persuaded the Midwives Alliance of North America to adopt politically correct language (such as ‘pregnant people’ instead of ‘mothers’) on their website. A group of midwives complained about this in an open letter, and a transsexual activist in turn accused them of ‘trans hatred.’

I was flabbergasted to discover the story was no exaggeration, but 100% real. The MANA website does indeed contain this bizarre PC language, and I quickly found a post by Trevor MacDonald on the Huff Post Parents blog, called “Transphobia in the Midwifery Community.” Mr. MacDonald, as a parent, don’t you have better things to do?

Being a conspiracy buff, I tend to see everything as connected. Mr MacDonald’s rantings bring to mind one of my favorite topics, magical thinking. Perhaps because we humans are the only animals with language, we ascribe to it more power than it actually has. This is why the ancient Hebrews considered the ‘name of God’ to have immense power; thus they mandated death by stoning for anyone uttering it casually. Likewise, Muslims see the Koran as being more than the message contained on its pages; therefore its ‘desecration’ will provoke violent protests. Millions of people seem to live in a Harry Potter world, where uttering the name ‘Voldemort’ will bring the Dark Lord to their door.

Such beliefs aren’t confined to the religious. Our society is awash with secular ‘social justice’ activists who flip out over mere words. Conservatives see this as the influence of Antonio Gramsci, a Marxist theorist who advocated promoting revolution by attacking the cultural foundations of society. That may be so, however, I blame the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

Sapir and Whorf were two linguists who never actually collaborated. Their ‘hypothesis’ is the idea of linguistic relativity, that a language determines the way its speakers experience the world. Benjamin Whorf is best known for his study of the Hopi language, in which he speculated that its lack of past tense verbs influenced the way its speakers experienced time. This idea was all the rage in the psychedelic 1960′s. It was the basis for Robert Heinlein’s 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land, in which the lone survivor of a Mars expedition is discovered, having been raised by the spirits of deceased Martians. His knowledge of the Martian language gives him a special view of the universe, as well as psychic powers. As much as I enjoyed the book, it was, alas, fiction. Even Whorf’s theories appear to have fallen out of favor in the linguistic community.

In other words, though language may influence our view of the world, it can’t change reality. Wishing for something won’t make it so. Even surgery can’t change biology. Woman can have babies; men can’t. If the facts of life intrude on someone’s fragile self-concept, that’s unfortunate.

Transsexuals have more serious issues to confront than ‘transphobic’ speech. A 2013 survey found straight Americans to be more accepting of gays and lesbians that they are of transsexuals. Perhaps it’s squeamishness; the thought of a man having his genitalia removed makes many of us cringe. Despite having these feelings myself, I support transsexuals in their personal struggles.The transsexuals I’ve met seem to just want to be accepted for who they are.

On the other hand, if I were an evil doctor bent on destroying the LGBT movement, I would secretly promote the social justice warrior mentality. Nothing scares the straight world more than outsiders who want to ‘corrupt’ their children and forcibly change their lifestyles. This is why Americans perceive ISIS/ISIL as such a threat, and why many people suspect it to a gigantic psy-op – evil, murderous and barbaric, but a psy-op nonetheless.

Yes, I support the LGBT community’s quest for acceptance and equality. But attacking the straight world for being straight is not the way to accomplish that.

Illustration is “Cinny Bun System” by Thunder Falcon on


Linux Art Tools for the Talented (and untalented)


The movie Naked Lunch would not have been nearly so dark if, instead of turning into a cockroach, the protagonist’s typewriter would have turned into an adorable penguin. So in honor of the second installment in my Linux posts, which deals with image manipulation programs, I decided to create one. Unfortunately, due to my lack of artistic talent, it ended up looking more like penguin roadkill than anything – but you get the idea.

For what it’s worth, I did the attached illustration with the GIMP, an open-source image editing program similar to Photoshop, without the hefty price tag. The name is an acronym, GNU Image Manipulation Program. (The word “Gnu,” which you’ll see applied to a lot of things Linux, stands for “Gnu is Not Unix,: a bit of computer geek humor.) Like many of these open-source programs, it has versions for Windows and MacOS as well as Linux. The GIMP has a steep learning curve, but you don’t need a manual, just Google. There are thousands of fellow GIMP users out there who are more than willing to help you. Like any serious imaging program, it lets you work with layers and transparency. I have used GIMP for finalizing the cover art for my last two books. Once the artist has completed the illustrations, I use it to add the title and author name, the back cover blurb, and the lettering on the spine. GIMP saves images to its own format, XCF, but you can export things as PNG, JPG, and all other major formats. When I imported the Fidelio cover art from a Photoshop file; it wouldn’t display correctly, but I was still able to extract the layers and paste them into a new document. All in all, the GIMP is a very powerful program.

Inkscape is another image program I’ve recently started using. Unlike GIMP, it’s not a photo editor but a vector drawing program. It’s more equivalent to Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. Vectors are not fixed-size pixel drawings; rather they’re abstract mathematical objects that can be scaled up or down with ease. I’ve got a lot of experience with the latter because I use it in my day job to create files for our laser engraver. Therefore I was looking for an equivalent program I could use on Linux. The first thing I tried was to import a Corel Draw file. It was only partially successful, as the “hairline” (zero width) vectors did not come across. It does far better if you export from Corel to SVG format. Inkscape does, however, have its own hairline vectors, a necessity for drawing “cut” lines for the laser. As with the GIMP, Inkscape also has versions for Windows and MacOS.

In the Linux world, one of the paradigms seems to be, why use an existing application when you can create your own? Consequently there are many open-source graphics programs to choose from. The ones I mentioned above are the ones I use the majority of the time. However, I can’t neglect mentioning a handy little program called xfce4-screenshooter, which in Ubuntu Linux pops up every time to press the Print Screen Key. It shows a thumbnail of your screen image, and gives you the option of saving it, copying it to the clipboard, opening it in a graphics viewer or editor, or posting it to ZimageZ, a free hosting site for images and photo galleries.

Penguin photo from


Emperor Penguin of the Arts


I think it’s safe to say that the days when few people had heard of Linux (and its Penguin mascot Tux, as shown above) are over. It still has a “for nerds only” reputation, which I would like to dispel. Over the years this free, open-source operating system has been adapted to run on almost every kind of hardware for just about every purpose. It’s now full of excellent tools for writers and artists, and musicians to the point where it can challenge Mac for the crown of the creative persons’ preferred OS.

I’ve been using Linux since the early 1990′s, not long after uber-hacker Linus Torvalds first created it, deriving it from AT&T’s powerful and versatile Unix operating system. At that time, it was a place where only true techies dared venture. Over the years Linux has evolved from an engineer’s toy to a tool friendly enough to be used by the masses. Though you won’t see it advertised on product packaging, Linux integrates easily with a wide range of hardware: everything I need to interface with my PC, from Android phones to MIDI keyboards.

Unlike commercial systems like Microsoft Windows, developers don’t need anyone’s permission to create their own distributions (or “distros”) of Linux. There are many, and I’ve tried most of them, but settled on Ubuntu, currently one of the easiest distros to install, maintain and use. (The name is a Bantu word meaning “human kindness.”) Ubuntu is available for free download from, though the site requests a modest donation to fund further development. Like all open-source projects, they also depend on the help of volunteer developers and testers to create these amazing projects.

Recently, though, another distro has become my favorite – Ubuntu Studio, available from Studio is a modified version of Ubuntu that comes pre-loaded with many tools (also free) that are useful for writers, artists and musicians. Though not all of my favorite programs are pre-loaded, most are easy to get, with an amazing tool called “apt.” Apt helps you find these applications on the Internet, and automates their download and installation. Another reason I prefer the Studio version is that it uses the older desktop-icon based user interface. The mainstream Ubuntu distro looks and feels somewhat like Windows 8, which I find rather annoying. As with most Linux distros, Ubuntu works on all Windows-compatible PC’s. The installer includes a tool that allow the user to shrink the Windows partition on their disk drive, so that a Linux partition can be installed alongside. When the computer starts up, it displays a start-up menu from which one can choose either Linux or Windows.

In the following posts I’ll detail some of the programs I use on Ubuntu in my creative endeavors. In compiling the list, I realized it was far too long for one post. For now, for the sake of those who fear they’d miss their Microsoft Office if they switched over, I’ll briefly mention the application that I’m using to created and edit this article.

Open Office and Libre Office are two versions of a free, open-source office suite similar to Microsoft Office, but not as gratuitously complicated. They provide excellent replacements for Word, Excel, and Power Point, which I use on a daily basis. These programs can inter-operate with MS Office by exporting Microsoft formats such as “doc” and “xls.” (The version I’m using can’t output the newer formats, such as docx and xlsx, but it can read and convert them.) Open Office (available from is the original, which I prefer because I’m familiar with it. Libre Office, which now comes standard on most Linux distros, was split off from Open Office by members of the original development team, but has a similar feature set and interface. By the way, these programs are, like many other open source applications, have available versions for Windows and MacOS.

As I anticipated, this post has gotten plenty long. Next week we’ll discuss free graphic application that are just as powerful as Adobe’s pricey products Photoshop and Illustrator.


Neoconservatives Always Lie

Social Justice Warriors beware: it’s out and on Amazon, SJW’s Always Lie, by Vox Day, a.k.a. Theodore Beale, of “Sad Puppies” and “#Gamergate” fame. “Social Justice Warrior” is a tongue-in-cheek term for the enforcers of political correctness, the folks who seek out and decry “offenses” against the “victims” of Western society such as women and minorities. In the past, few dared speak out against them, but in his new book, Vox Day rises to the challenge.

I share Vox Day’s disdain for the SJW, even though I agree with many of their purported ideals, such as tolerance and fairness. My problem is with their ruthless tactics, their humorlessness, and their need to silence dissenting voices. Their behavior shows that their true priorities are not to help the powerless, but to achieve power and domination over others.

In recent years, SJW’s have run amok in Western society. They look for slights, real or imagined and are quick to demonize random individuals, ruining peoples’ careers for innocent remarks or actions taken out of context. A recent example is Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt, hounded by SJW’s because of a harmless joke he made about female scientists. He gave an apology which his accusers refused to accept, and which ended up costing him his university position. Other victims of SJW attacks have included celebrity chef Paula Deen, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, and Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson.

Day’s book describes the ways in which SJW’s operate; how they ambush their victims with bad publicity (“step 1, ‘point and shriek’”), demanding repentance for their supposed offense. Once their target apologizes, they increase the pressure, not relenting until the offender has been humiliated, fired from his or her job and otherwise ostracized. Although Day concentrates on the hard-core leftists who have come to dominate our universities and corporations, it’s really not about the ideology. Anyone can adopt these tactics, and the neocons (short for neoconservative) have done this in a big way.

Consider how the neocons have attacked their opponents since coming into prominence on “the day that changed everything,” 9/11/2001. Rather than pushing for enforced equality and diversity like the SJW’s do, they advocate wars around the world and expansion of the police state, for our “safety,” of course. In the early days of the Iraq War, they went after all the voices of sanity, including Phil Donahue, the Dixie Chicks, and libertarian radio host Charles Goyette, getting them banished from as many media outlets as possible. If this doesn’t seem like proper conservative behavior, that’s because it’s not. Neocons are the intellectual heirs of former Trotskyite Marxist Irving Kristol, who adopted conservative rhetoric to mask his totalitarian agenda.

The SJW’s have, of course, demonized Day for his controversial views on such topics as immigration and race versus IQ. I recommend that you put your opinions of his politics aside and read the book anyway. It’s brief, well written, and it can be helpful for anyone – conservatives, libertarians, or independent-minded progressives – who might fall prey to unwarranted SJW attacks.

I applaud Vox Day for writing a concise and humorous book that exposes the formula of attack-and-smear politics. His account of the #Gamergate scandal gives a perfect example of SJW lies in action. After allegations of harassment made by female game developer Zoe Quinn, the gaming media engaged in a witch hunt, condemning video gamers as racist, misogynistic white males. The gamer community fought back in an email campaign that got many of these nerd-hating journalists fired. Day’s story of the “Sad Puppies” movement in science fiction – which opposed the unacknowledged existence of a political litmus test in the Hugo Awards – will inspire anyone who wants to strike back against thought control.

All in all, I’d give the book four out of five stars. My main complaint is that Day didn’t delve further into analyzing Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals (the 1971 book that inspired a lot of this PC nonsense) and skip the rehash of his feud with fellow sci-fi writer John Scalzi. I could care less if Scalzi is a “lying SJW” who inflates the stats for his website traffic.

The hopeful message in Day’s book is that we can defeat the SJW’s if by resisting them, begining with an utter refusal to apologize when targeted. Presidential candidate Donald Trump has employed this strategy with great success. The neocons will be a tougher nut to crack. They don’t just call for their enemies to be fired and shunned, they cry “treason” and call for their enemies (Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, etc.) to be assassinated by drone strike. But liberty and justice shall prevail, because we now know that the neconservatives, like their cousins the SJW’s, always lie.


Sympathy for the Puppies


I’ve been following the Hugo Awards controversy with great amusement. First there was the rebel alliance of Larry Correia‘s Sad Puppies, then the “faceless minions” of Vox Day‘s Rabid Puppies, threatening to overthrow the alleged leftist bias of science fiction. Now the Social Justice Warriors of the Empire have struck back: at this year’s Worldcon, the more “progressive” elements of sci-fi fandom banded together to declare five major categories as “no award.” Supposedly this was to deny the Puppies and their “right wing” followers the chance to select their preferred winners.

So whom should I support? On the one hand, I hold many of the SJWs’ liberal social views on topics such as religion, gay marriage and reproductive choice. On the other hand, when I say I support diversity in views and lifestyles, I actually mean it. I would never reject a book simply because its author was an evangelical Christian, Mormon, white nationalist or some other such demonized category. Nor would I automatically advocate a work because its author was, for example, black or transgender. It would have to be good. I award no points for political correctness.

Of course, this being theoretically a free country, the anti-Puppy fans had every right to do what they did, but in my view, their actions were extremely childish and counter-productive. Not only did they punish works whose authors were actual right-wingers, but anybody that the Puppies happened to recommend, including those of their “progressive” ilk.

Don’t get me wrong; if certain people want to criticize other people and/or shun their works for their sincerely held beliefs, they have every right to do so, for whatever reason.You’re free to assume that I’m gay because the protagonist of Fidelio’s Automata is gay. It doesn’t matter, and even if it didn’t, it would be none of your beeswax. If that bothers you, don’t read it. On the other hand, am I sufficiently loyal to the LGBT cause? Yes, to the degree that it doesn’t impinge on our First Amendment right of free association. Oops, did I just advocate freedom? I’m sure I didn’t earn any SJW brownie points with that one. In fact, anyone reading any of the preceding blog posts would probably assume I’m far left, far right, or just plain crazy. It’s probably not beneficial for boosting my readership, but I can’t seem to help myself.

One of these days, I hope the sci-fi Left will grow up and stop obsessing about the opinions and identity of authors, and concentrate on quality of the writing. Until that glorious day, I am one with the Puppies in that I totally agree with is that this modern-day resurgence of political intolerance is un-American and just plain wrong.

Photo courtesy of (Not that my own dogs aren’t cute in their own way, they’re just far out of puppy-hood.)


Fidelio’s Automata is now in print!

To prove this site is not just about sedition, but sci-fi as well, I’m announcing the release of the print edition of my new book Fidelio’s Automata, To celebrate, I’m having a sale on Amazon. The e-book versions of Fidelio, as well as my previous book Centrifugal Force, will be available for $0.99, starting Sunday for four days only!

Many of the low-priced books on Amazon are not much more than pamphlets, for which 99 cents is an appropriate price. Less than a buck is a real bargain for a 300-page steampunk adventure. Escape to the America of 1901 – an exciting time when technology was transforming the world. It was the era of the innovators: Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright Brothers, and many others. As one would expect from the genre, in this alternate history things turn out a bit differently.

Fidelio Espinoza, a brilliant and idealistic young Cuban, arrives in the United States with the goal of perfecting his spider automaton, a machine that will free humans from the dangerous, backbreaking work of mines and factories. Here he meets Hank, a cowboy turned Quaker who has vowed to atone for his sinful past, in particular, his participation in the recent war with Spain.

Despite all the progress and social upheaval of the Gilded Age, this is a time when Fidelio, a gay man, must hide his true nature or risk ostracism or worse. For the devout Hank their friendship poses a dilemma: should he respond with judgment or acceptance?

After a prototype of Fidelio’s creation falls into the wrong hands, he and Hank join forces with eccentric genius Nikola Tesla to prevent this creation from being used in the service of oppression.

Memo To Social Justice Warriors: Bite Me


This is the Confederate Battle Flag. If I say I’m not posting this for racial reasons, would you believe me? Let me further state that as an anarchist, I don’t support any government, though it’s an indisputable fact that the people of the CSA had every right to secede from the USA, despite Lincoln’s nonsense about an Indivisible Union. It’s in the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution, look it up. (Note to Jon Stewart: the Confederates did not make war on the Union, it was the other way around!)

I like the Confederate flag because it’s a symbol of rebellion, and of all the Southern rednecks who stubbornly cling to their way of life, in defiance of Yankee political correctness. But if you want to believe that this view makes me a racist, so be it.

But I absolutely am not aiming this at blacks. If you’re African American and this flag offends you, that’s unfortunate. I feel I must make a statement, one that is aimed at my fellow whites, in particular those brainwashed fools willing to sacrifice free speech for their vision of socialist egalitarian utopia.


By the way, here’s an even more offensive flag. This 38-star flag was flown by the US Cavalry during their relentless war of genocide on the Plains Indians. Many of the leaders of American forces were victorious Union generals such as Sherman and Sheridan, the latter who said, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.”


Next is the flag flown by US forces in Vietnam, an intervention that cost the lives of at least 1.5 million Vietnamese. Recently released government records (again see book by Nick Turse) have shown that the My Lai Massacre was not an anomaly, but typical of US war strategy. How’s that for racist?


The next racist flag belongs to the nation that keeps the 1.8 million people of Gaza in a confinement very similar to that of Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto in the 1930′s. Israel is relevant because as our “ally,” its right-wing Zionist government receives billions of our tax dollars, with which it buys weapon to oppress the Palestinian Arabs. By the way, the Basic Laws of Israel are expressly racist, favoring Jews over all other Israeli citizens.

I could go on and on about the racism associated with various flags. That’s because no nation has a monopoly on evil. Unfortunately, suspicion and even hatred of people outside of our group is a part of our DNA. We can’t stamp it out, we can only suppress it, which is inherently dangerous. That’s why it’s a good thing that nuts like Dylann Roof have the right to express themselves freely – had anyone in that Charleston church been paying attention, they might not have welcomed this monster to their prayer meeting.


Finally, if I haven’t offended enough groups, here are is my rendition of the controversial state flag of Mississippi, which I have altered to commemorate the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. As I’ve said before, I have a soft spot in my heart for Southern rednecks, but if they can’t take a joke, they can bite me, too.

Note: Historical and population data from Wikipedia, flags courtesy of Wikimedia commons. These are all believed to be in the public domain. Permission to reuse my own derivative work, the Gay Mississippi flag, is hereby granted to everyone.


My Memorial Day Message – Why I Don’t Support the Troops

It’s a tired old phrase, but we still hear it each time the US government attempts another ill-fated intervention overseas. Even if we’re anti-war, they tell us, we should still support the troops. I say that’s wrong. The following example will illustrate what I mean.

Let’s consider one of the most contentious issues in America today – abortion. Assume that your best friend has decided to move to Washington, DC and become a full-time campaigner on that issue. And your friend’s stand is 180 degrees opposed to yours.

Let’s say you’re pro-life and she’s pro-choice. Would you say, “I support you”? Of course not. Her cause condones the killing of unborn babies.

That goes the other way, too. You’re adamantly in favor of the right of a woman to choose and she’s against it. What she’s doing will set women’s rights back 50 years.

In neither case do you wish her any ill will. You don’t want her plane to crash on the way to DC, nor should she be killed by some deranged fanatic who takes the cause much too seriously.

You speak to your friend, and she admits that she’s having second thoughts, but it’s too late. She’s already signed a contract to serve as director of NARAL or National Right To Life. Do you urge her to see through her commitment? Or do you hope she’ll resign, even if it causes her and her family financial hardship?

The latter, of course. This issue is more important than your friend’s economic well-being. You offer to help her out financially, anything you can do to change her mind.

This is exactly how I feel about the troops. I care about what happens to them. I know they joined the military with the best of intentions. But they’ve made a mistake.

I’m not saying that no one ought to defend this country against a genuine threat. But Washington’s imperial interventions have nothing to do with national defense, and everything to do with projecting power overseas and generating obscene corporate profits. Even if the enemy is as vile as ISIS, there is no way you can fight them without taking innocent lives. What’s worse, your presence as the representative of a nation which local people on both sides despise for its ham-handed interference, will damage the cause you purport to be helping.

This is my message to the troops: call it quits and come home, as soon as possible. If there is any legal or non-felonious way out, take it. Instead of feeling obligated to stick it out with your comrades, urge them to do the same. If you can get out by claiming mental hardship, do it. Chances are, if you’ve seen any sort of combat, you’ve already been traumatized in some way.

If you have to take a dishonorable discharge, do it. If you were counting on the GI bill to get your education, make that sacrifice, even if you’re the sole supporter of your family. I and my fellow anti-war activists will support charities such as Courage to Resist and the War Resisters Support Campaign to help you out. If you need to go to Canada, do it, though be warned – the right-wing pro-war Harper government has been denying war immigration status to American war resisters.

Furthermore, I call on all pro-peace businesses to give preferential hiring to veterans whose records have been blemished by acts of conscience.

To all my fellow Americans, I say: Support means approval. Don’t give approval to evil, even unwitting, unintentional evil. Support those who do the right thing and leave the military.


Celebrating the Fall of Saigon

It was 40 years ago this week when I heard the news about the Fall of Saigon. I was a senior in high school, on break from rehearsal of the play Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. My reaction was immediate: I let out a whoop of joy. “It’s over! The good guys won!” I don’t recall my classmates’ reaction; perhaps they looked at me like I was crazy. They knew me to be a radical. Forty years later, I stand by that reaction.

You may dismiss me as a traitor; be my guest. To me, getting this country involved in an unnecessary, immoral war was the actual betrayal, and JFK, LBJ and Nixon were the traitors.

“My country right or wrong” was the watchword for lots of folks in my parents’ generation. That attitude was not just misinformed, it was utter folly. The whole purpose of a constitutional republic, which the US supposedly is, is to allow the people to correct their leaders when they are wrong. In a functioning system, there is no blind trust, no embarrassing secrets shielded by “national security.” The Founding Fathers would have been appalled at our gullibility.

You may say I’m insensitive to the Americans who died there; not so. I understand that most of those young men who went were drafted or volunteered after being brainwashed to believe the country needed protection against the fairy tale of falling dominoes. Our intervention in Vietnam had nothing to do with freedom; it was a violent invasion by a nuclear power against a weak, backward nation which had never attacked us. (The Gulf of Tonkin Incident was, of course, a fabrication which our corrupt, complicit media never bothered to expose.)

I would have preferred that the whole male cohort aged 18-25 had gotten up and high-tailed it for Canada, which is exactly what I would have done, had I been drafted. I would do it still, if a similar situation arose. “You would let someone else do the fighting,” you say? No, if I had it in my power NO ONE from America would participate in foreign wars, not in Vietnam, nor the more recent idiotic crusades in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I have no illusions that the North Vietnamese or the Viet Cong were angels. No doubt many of their enemies perished after the fall. Yet they may have seemed kind and gentle, compared to the brutal senseless violence of the American occupation. (See Kill Anything that Moves, by Nick Turse.) The one morally correct thing the US government did was to welcome as refugees many of the Vietnamese who had foolishly sided with them, thus any Communist bloodbath was averted.

And speaking of bloodbaths, what of the genocide that happened next door in neighboring Cambodia? Was that the fault of peaceniks like me? No, the fall of Prince Sihanouk’s government was largely due to Nixon’s secret bombing campaign, which paved the way for the psychopathic Khmer Rouge. Those with short memories may not recall that the US opposed the Communist Vietnamese government when it intervened in Cambodia to restore order. That was hardly one of the high points in our history.

So say what you want, I’m glad Saigon fell, because the US elites who had perpetrated this incomprehensible war crime deserved to get a metaphorical black eye. Too bad they weren’t charged, tried and convicted as well.