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My Books

This is the post excerpt.

I have been writing since I was six years old. I now have five novels and seventeen stories in print. Adelaide Books in New York published my latest novel, Secretocracy, in March 2020. It will bring out my newest collection of short stories, Coming to Terms, in July 2020

My first published book, Friendly Casualties, was a novel in short stories derived from experiences in the thirteen years I trundled between the U.S. and Vietnam to provide signals intelligence support to U.S. Army and Marine combat units fighting in South Vietnam. The first half of the book is a series of short stories in which characters from one story reappear in another. The second half is a novella that draws together all the preceding tales.

No-Accounts came from my years of caring for AIDS patients. It tells the story of a straight man caring for a gay man dying of AIDS. I got into helping men with AIDS to help me cope with the horrors of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. When I was with my patients, men suffering more than I was, my unbearable memories went dormant.

Next came The Trion Syndrome. It begins with the Greek Trion legend about a demigod so brutal to the vanquished that the gods sent the Eucharides, three female monsters, to drown him. The protagonist, Dave Bell, is haunted by half-remembered visions of the war in Vietnam. At his lowest point, he recalls that he killed a child. Dave considers suicide, but a young man appears and helps him. It is his illegitimate son, a child he had tried to kill through abortion, who now helps him find his way home.

Last of the Annamese was published in March 2017. I used this novel to confront my memories of the fall of Saigon from which I escaped under fire. Once again, the image of the boy-child recurs, as the protagonist, Chuck Griffin, a retired Marine, grieves over the loss of his son, killed in combat in Vietnam. He returns to Vietnam as a civilian intelligence analyst after the withdrawal of U.S. troops and encounters Vietnamese boys whom he tries to save during the conflagration.

Secretocracy, published in March 2020, tells the story of an federal intelligence budgeteer persecuted by the Trump administration because he refuses to approve finds for an illegal operation. Coming to Terms, out in August 2020, is a new collection of short stories about people trying to work through the downturns in their lives.

Dak To

Announcement from the Florence Bain Senior Center:

The 1967 Battle of Dak To: Tuesday, August 10, 1 pm (Hybrid). Dr. Tom Glenn will do a presentation on the 1967 battle of Dak To in the western highlands of South Vietnam. This is a conflict he was very much involved in during the late summer of 1967. Glenn pulled together signals intelligence indicators and predicted a major North Vietnamese offensive intended to destroy the U.S. 4th Infantry Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade, both operating not far from the village of Dak To. He briefed the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division that his unit was about to be attacked by a multi-division North Vietnamese force. The general didn’t believe him. Join us virtually or at the Bain Center to learn what happened next. Presented by Dr. Tom Glenn. Click link below to join. https://howardcountymd.webex.com/howardcountymd/j.php?MTID=m79febc06796d4b34095d62b7bd9fe0db Meeting #172 927 0999 Password: Summerfun50+

If you wish to attend in person, the Bain Center address is 5470 Ruth Keeton Way Columbia, MD 21044 410-313-7213.

Hope to see you either online or in person.

My Food

I am uncommonly healthy for a man my age. And I claim credit for my health. I get plenty of sleep—sometimes as much as twelve hours in one day—lift weights for several hours every other day, and stick to a low-fat, high-nutrition diet consisting of multiple vegetables, three or four fruits, the equivalent of one egg a day, little meat, almost no starches, and no sweets at all. One indication of how spare my diet is shows up in my daily weight. If I eat away from home—at a restaurant or friend’s or relative’s house—my weight goes up.

For most of my life, I was a runner as well as a weight lifter. I thoroughly savor both forms of exercise, and I regularly enjoyed the euphoria of a runner’s high. Then I had knee replacement surgery. The surgeon botched the operation. I now walk with a slight limp and can no longer run. That means I have to work all the harder when I lift weights.

I limit myself to two meals a day. My evening meal is nearly always a large vegetable plate followed by a small bowl of homemade soup and a single piece of fruit. My mid-day meal follows a three-day cycle: eggs and a small serving of meat, beans and rice, and split pea soup, always followed by two to four pieces of fruit. The two soups I enjoy and my beans are prepared according to recipes I developed myself which emphasize onions, garlic, various spices, bullion, and a small quantity of roast pork pulverized in a Cuisinart processor.

I know that my eating habits put me at odds with most Americans, but I have no complaints. My observation is that nearly all Americans are overweight; downright obesity is commonplace; and our life expectancy is only 78.6 years, compared to an average of 82.3 years for equivalent countries—we rank 26th of 35 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries for life expectancy. I already exceed even the OECD average.

More next time.

The IRS

According to a report from the National Taxpayer Advocate, a government watchdog, at the end of the 2021 filing season in May, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had a backlog of 35 million tax returns that still needed to be manually processed. The backlog is nearly three times larger than it was in 2020, and a fourfold increase from 2019.

Meanwhile, the agency’s budget has fallen by something like 20 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2010, resulting in the elimination of 22 percent of its staff. At the same time, the number of taxpayers has grown, and shifts in global economic structures have resulted in changes to the mix of income sources the agency has to deal with.

Why is the IRS being crippled to make it unable to fulfill its mission? Primarily because of Republican sabotage of the agency. The modern GOP is committed to lowering federal taxes on the wealthy, irrespective of the nation’s contemporary tax rates, budget deficit, or national spending. Some Republicans have even called called for repealing the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and making federal income taxes unconstitutional. The 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913, allows Congress to levy a tax on income from any source.

Specific numbers: Since 2011, Congress has been cutting the IRS’s budget, which fell from $14 billion that year to $11.5 billion in 2020. As a result, the agency’s enforcement division cut its payroll by 30 percent—even as the number of individual tax returns in the U.S. grew by more than 7 percent.

Because of the IRS’s incapacitation, the U.S. is losing approximately $1 trillion in unpaid taxes every year, most of which redounds to the benefit of the nation’s wealthiest one percent. The rich are paying less tax while the rest of us pay more.

It’s time that Biden and the Democrats attacked this problem. The well-to-do should be paying higher taxes than the middle and lower classes. It’s time to restore justice.

The Montagnards

Press reports on the Olympics gymnast Sunisa Lee, a member of the Hmong tribe from the Vietnam highlands, reminded me of my time in her part of the world. Reading about her brought back memories of the Montagnards, of which the Hmong were a part.

During the thirteen years from 1962 to 1975 when I spent more time in Vietnam than I did in the U.S., I frequently worked in the mountainous area known as the Central Highlands or Western Highlands. This area, located along the Cambodian and Laotian border, was mountainous and sparsely populated, a rough and rocky terrain with little vegetation. The Hồ Chí Minh trail, used by the North Vietnamese to infiltrate troops into South Vietnam, wound through mountains on both sides of the border. The highlands were the home of non-Vietnamese tribes known as the Montagnards, a French term meaning “mountain people.” The Vietnamese called them người Thượng, which means “highlanders.”

There were thirty or so distinct Montagnard tribes living in the highlands, the Hmong being one of them. They numbered two and a quarter million people in at least six different ethnic groups, each with their own language. They had originally lived in the lowlands, but before the ninth century they were driven into the mountains by the Chams and Cambodians before the people we now call the Vietnamese came down from southern China to inhabit what we now call Vietnam.

During my time in the highlands, I regularly ran into tribal members who didn’t look anything like the Vietnamese. I couldn’t speak their language, and they knew no English, so we did the best we could to communicate in Vietnamese. But their accents were so pronounced that I had a hard time understanding them, and, more often than not, we ended up using sign language.

The Montagnards, historically persecuted by the Vietnamese, were fiercely anti-Communist and fought along side U.S. troops against the North Vietnamese. I’m sure that after the North Vietnamese conquered South Vietnam, they persecuted the Montagnards mercilessly. I know that many of the mountain people fled to the U.S. and are still living here.

So it is with a heavy heart that I recall the Montagnards, reminded by Sunisa Lee. Her success in the Olympics bears witness to the fact that even the downtrodden can excel.

Guns

My guess is that it’s obvious that I love the U.S. I put my life on the line repeatedly for the good of the country before I retired to write full time. Because of that love, the country’s flaws especially aggrieve me. Two of my pet peeves are U.S. gun violence and our failure to address climate change. I’ve written about both here before and no doubt will again. Maybe if I beat the drum long enough, people will listen and take action. I’ll start today with firearms deaths.

The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population but owns 46 percent of its guns. We have 120.5 guns for every hundred people, the highest ratio in the world. Every year, we kill more Americans with guns, and 2021 is on track to be the deadliest year in our history—so far this year, we have killed almost 12,000 people.

The ratio between the number of guns owned and the number of people killed in a country is roughly the same throughout the world—the more guns, the more killed. So the way to reduce the number of gun deaths is to reduce the number of firearms in the hands of the civilian population. Taking guns away from policemen on their beat would also decrease the total slain. We know from watching the British whose bobbies are mostly unarmed that it can work.

The two arguments I run into whenever I plead for the reduction in firearms are that (1) the U.S. is a gun culture, and (2) criminals would always find ways to get guns, putting the rest of us at their mercy.

The gun culture argument is easily dispelled. If the culture is costing us upwards of 20,000 deaths a year, we as a nation, led by our federal government, must change our culture. And if we seriously reduced the number of guns in the population’s hands and cracked down on firearms imports and smuggling, we could reduce the number of weapons in criminal hands to close to zero.

None of this would be easy, but we have shown that we as a nation can take on tough problems and solve them. Let’s tackle gun violence now.

U.S. Taxation

I pay a hefty sum every year in federal taxes. So does everyone else I know. But the wealthy, I’m learning, do not. According to ProPublica, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Elon Musk, and many other wealthy people regularly pay little to no taxes compared to their wealth. The details: in 2007, Jeff Bezos, now the world’s richest man, did not pay any federal income taxes. He did it again in 2011. In 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk, the second-richest person in the world, paid no federal income taxes. Michael Bloomberg managed to do the same in recent years. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn did it twice. George Soros paid no federal income tax three years in a row.

Yet ordinary American citizens pay enough that it hurts. In recent years, the average American household earned about $70,000 annually and paid 14 percent in federal taxes. Why do ordinary people make sacrifices to pay taxes while the rich pay nothing?

The answer is the way American tax laws are written. The wealthy have available to them endless loopholes and options that allow them to declare their money nontaxable. I can’t do that. Nor can you. It’s long since time that Congress update, modernize, and revise from the ground up the way we pay federal taxes. The little guys have already suffered too long to benefit the well-to-do.

The George Washington University Bicentennial

My masters and doctorate alma mater, George Washington University (GWU), turned two hundred years old in February 2021. Its history actually dates back to George Washington himself, who directed in his will, before his death in 1799, that fifty shares in the Potomac Company, an organization devoted to improving navigation on the Potomac River, be used to support a university in the District of Columbia. But it wasn’t until more than twenty years later, on February 9, 1821, that President James Monroe signed the Act of Congress that created that university. At first called the Columbian College, Congress changed the name to Columbian University in 1873. Then, in 1904, Congress approved a name change to the George Washington University.

I began my graduate work at GWU at the end of the 1960s amidst frequent missions to Vietnam. My undergraduate grades from the 1950s at the University of California, Berkeley, were poor enough that GWU admitted me provisionally. I had lived for years in the belief, instilled in me by my high school advisors, that I wasn’t really bright enough to go to college, so I didn’t try to excel. But when I got into graduate school, I was determined to do well. To my surprise, I found the coursework likeable and not very difficult. I got straight As all the way through and graduated from the doctoral program with honors.

My doctoral dissertation, published in 1983, is titled The Reflexive Mind: Thinking about Thinking in Government. The book dwells on how people think and why they choose (for they do indeed choose) the modes of thought they favor. Now almost forty years later, the dissertation is ensconced among the learned documents of GWU and is part of GWU’s two-hundred-year history.

I wasn’t able to complete my doctoral studies until 1983 because I was constantly being sent abroad on intelligence missions and working ten-hour days and weekends while I was in the states. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, those who suffered during those years from my dedication to my country and my determination to get an advanced degree were my four children who saw a lot less of me than they had every right to expect.

So here I am today, authorized to call myself Dr. Glenn, honored with a medal for the lives I saved during the fall of Saigon, the author of six books (besides my dissertation) and seventeen short stories, and blessed with four wonderful adult children. As my alma mater celebrates its 200th birthday, I bow in respect and gratitude for my tiny part in its glorious history.

Trees

I have written several times in this blog about the magnificent trees that surround my house. From the deck looking north from the back of my house, I see a pond perhaps a hundred feet in diameter encircled by the most splendiferous trees I have ever seen—dozens of them, all at least twice as tall as my split level house. They are of endless variety with leaves of all shapes and sizes and shades of green. Their glory brings to mind a poem I knew as a child. It’s worth quoting in its entirety:

Trees

by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

Death in Combat Essay to Be Published

Last week, the publisher of the Marine Corps Gazette informed me via email that he will publish an article written by the man in prison with whom I have been communicating regularly for the last four years. Our letters to each other started when he read one of my books and wrote to me. We have been writing two or three times a week ever since.

This man, whose name I’m not using to protect his privacy, was in Vietnam while I was there. He was navy corpsman, a medical technician caring on the battlefield for Marine Corps fighters wounded in combat. He served with the 1st Marine Division in the Chu Lai area of South Vietnam in 1967. In the summer and fall of that year, I was operating in the central highlands, a few miles west of the 1st Marine Division, but I never met him.

The man was wounded twice. For his service, he received a Purple Heart, a Gold Star (for the second wounding), and a Bronze Star with “V” for valor. He suffers, as I do, from Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), a psychological wound to the soul resulting from combat. We are brothers in arms.

After we started communicating, it became obvious to me that he had a flare for writing. So I encouraged him to write for publication. At my behest, he wrote a number of different articles and one short story that I then edited and put in the required format for submission. Several have been published.

But the piece that moved me most was his essay about coping with death in combat. In it, my friend describes watching his fellow combatants killed before his eyes. I myself observed multiple deaths on the battlefield and was struck by the accuracy and veracity of his words. I was determined to get his piece published, but I wanted it to appear in the most prestigious of all military periodicals, the Marine Corps Gazette. I submitted and waited. And waited. And waited.

Then, last week, I got word that the Gazette has accepted the piece and would publish it later this year. I immediately wrote to my friend. We are celebrating together, even though at a distance, even though we have never met face-to-face.

I have always believed that true merit will ultimately be rewarded. The publication of my friend’s essay by a leading periodical is one more piece of evidence that I’m right.

The Polygraph

For almost forty years, the U.S. government required me to take a polygraph—the technical name for the lie detector—test to maintain my security clearances and my employment doing classified work. The tests, every five years, were among the most unpleasant experiences I and other employees had to endure.

During the test, wires were attached to various places on my body to measure my emotional reaction to questions. The purpose was to uncover actual treason against the U.S. or practices or actions that might make a person susceptible to blackmail and, thereby, to revealing classified information to enemies of the U.S. But the polygraph only measured physical reaction, not the reason for it, and many of us found the questions shocking enough to bring on an emotional response. We would be asked, for example, if we were hiding criminal acts or illicit sex. We were asked about having engaged in specifically named and described homosexual practices. I reacted emotionally to such questions and was therefore initially suspected of being guilty of having committed them.

That meant that the test was prolonged as the polygraph technician went back over those questions to see if I would still react. Since I knew that I was being tested in precisely that way, I was even more alarmed.

Sooner or later, the test would end, and the technician always concluded that I was innocent but shocked. Over the years, I grew more relaxed, and the tests went faster. By the end of my career, the polygraph was nothing more than a minor nuisance to be endured.

And yet I wonder how many employees lost their jobs because of the polygraph even though they were innocent of the practices being questioned. And I wonder if the polygraph, an unreliable apparatus at best, is still in use.