KOREA ON STEROIDS

Posted: June 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

Six months ago the world was on edge as we watched North Korea firing test missiles over the sovereign country and American ally of Japan. We bristled as the North Korean leader declared that he could hit Washington and our own President had earlier noted that North Korea would be met with fire and fury like the world had never seen. America was on the edge of a precipice that could spiral the entire world into the dark depths of another war. Then suddenly, as if the clouds parted and the sun shone through, everything changed.
North Korea announced that they wanted to send athletes to the winter Olympics that were going to be held in South Korea. That shocked the free world but there was more to this gesture. North Korea sent cheerleaders; quite an unprecedented move. Then as the games began the leader of North Korea sent his sister to the Olympics as an official guest. By the time the games ended the sister had invited the president of South Korea to meet with her brother. This led to an invitation for President Trump to meet with the leaders of North and South Korea.
Everything fell into place to prompt the meeting. Sanctions have finally hit hard on North Korea. We are no longer turning a blind eye to countries and companies that circumvent the sanctions placed on the North. North Korea is in a cash crisis with little trade outside its’ own borders and aid from other countries is drying up. China is very cautious as it sees North Korea going rogue with a nuclear warehouse. Russia would love to prop North Korea up but it has financial problems of its’ own. Basically, North Korea is broke and there is no one to lend it cash.
As the meetings take place between North and South Korea and the United States we must be cautious. In the past the North has made promises, the United States backed off from pressure placed on the country and then the North never follows through. This can not happen this time. We have the foot on the throat and we should not let off at all until we see actual activity to destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and agreements in place for intense ongoing inspections. Then sanctions can be lifted. Following that America can discuss moving industry into the North and let the North get a taste of a market economy.
Both China and Russia have been silent but you can bet that they are conferring behind the scenes. China does not want a unified Korea. It does not want to see foreign troops on its’ border with Korea and North Korea is now a buffer keeping foreign troops away. Putin and Russia would also like to be a part of the negotiations but it has nothing to offer. It would be interesting to know what Russia is doing at this time to influence North Korea’s decisions. It is part of the Russian DNA to make their presence known, even if it is behind the scenes. Look at how Putin influenced the war in Syria.
Let us all say a little prayer and hope this set of meetings finally leads to peace on the Korean peninsula.

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EDUCATION RETHINK – REVAMP

Posted: June 10, 2018 in Uncategorized

Several years ago I wrote about our need to increase our Votech Education in the United States. At that time it was a forward looking commentary that addressed a requirement that was beginning to unfold in our great nation. Today our Votech Education is a distinct requirement for a nation hungry for trained men and women that can handle tools, operate heavy equipment and are willing to carry a great nation on their shoulders.
In the 1950s and 60s it was common for high schools to have a shop class. Saws would whirr as students learned the attributes required to build a birdhouse and then move on to other more complex wood working projects. Farmerville High School had a better situation to prepare students for a better life; the Union Parish Votech was a block away and students were allowed to substitute some formal high school education for votech training. Farmerville and Union Parish had it right. Welders, mechanics, secretaries and even nurses flowed out of the Union Parish Trade School and into society.
Unfortunately, things change over time. In the mid to late 50s the Russians launched Sputnik and the space race was on. It became less alluring to make a living with one’s hands and the nation stressed brain power; college and an office setting. Over time the shop classes disappeared. As public education funding began to get cut or funding did not keep up with education inflation, the votechs declined or disappeared across America.
America is experiencing a rebirth; a renaissance. We are at an unemployment level that has not been see in twenty years and unemployment levels among Hispanics and African Americans are at all-time lows. Unfortunately, we are not ready for this success.
America needs skilled craftsmen that can rebuild and grow our nation. We have to look at this skillset development as a two phased approach. The immediate need requires a collaboration between industry and government. Due to the immediate manpower needs the industries will have to lead the development of the tradesman with financial and training support from an appreciative nation.
We also need to look at the big picture and redevelop our trade skills. High schools must continue to develop the core education requirements; reading, writing and arithmetic. After that the individual student can take either a classical education or a trade education. This is a look-forward approach that will take time, money and a dedication to rebuild our country. Additionally, private votech schools need to be encouraged to develop and expand to provide skilled labor much as the private colleges do today.
The important thing to remember is that we are in a major need for skilled labor. Due to the shortage companies will be competing for scarce resources. This means that there will be a demand for scarce resources which usually dictates an increase in wages. Wage increases correspond to inflation. Increasing the available labor pool can help to mitigate this type of inflation pressure.

SWING OF THE PENDULUM

Posted: June 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

For several years I have written about our nation and in many cases the economy. Recently I woke up and realized that everything that I had felt would benefit the American economy and the American ideal had been implemented; and at this point in time it appears to be working.
The economy is now healthy and that is good for America specifically and it is good for the world in general. America is the largest economy in the world and it is the locomotive driving the world economic picture. As long as the United States does not take advantage of other countries and portrays a fair, honorable nation with integrity; we are again in a position to lead the world for decades to come.
The unemployment rate is now at 3.8 % and is at an eighteen year low. This is a great statistic. We had a very good set of May statistics with 215,000 jobs being created. I had originally called for 315,000 jobs a month being created; however, the increase in job creation has been going on for so long that to have such a large growth at this time would actually cause wage pressures and we don’t have the ability to immediately fill so many jobs. The pendulum has swung in the job market and we need to be satisfied with what we have and keep the growth going at a manageable level. We do not want the rate to swing too far. Also, other factors show us how good we are doing. The African American unemployment rate is the lowest since the statistic began being captured. The same is true for the Hispanic work force. Job opportunities are with us and it cuts across ethnic boundaries.
The tax cuts have gone into place and we are now spending more. The personal tax rate is lower and there is more spendable cash available. As important as the personal tax rate is, the corporate tax cut will increase the growth of America. Industries are using the money that use to be going to the Federal government for taxes and are investing in their own companies. Businesses are expanding which is leading to good construction jobs to upgrade and build facilities. Businesses are paying more to their employees through bonuses and wage increases and corporate America is expanding and hiring more employees. As nice as the tax cuts are we must also keep in mind that we don’t need to slash taxes beyond what is needed to keep key government services open. Institutions that do not generate taxes but that are needed and must be kept strong and viable. Military, emergency response and education are key to the strength of a great nation and we must be careful to not cut funding for these social requirements. The tax cut pendulum has swung but we must be careful not to let it swing too far.
These are a couple of examples of how our country is morphing back to where it was during some of our proudest moments. We are in a renaissance of regaining the greatness we held in the past. Make no mistake we still have improvements to make that will impact our nation. At this juncture in our development the single most important factor that must be overcome is the divisiveness that has perpetuated itself into the grain of America. The ease that we can criticize while hiding behind a computer screen, our lack of caring for how we use our words and the use of profanity in our everyday conversation gains no benefit for a great nation other than to tear it down. This will only perpetuate a growing wedge that is today splitting our great nation. This is one place that we need the pendulum to swing back to a more neutral position.

 

 

A GLIMPSE AT THE FUTURE

Posted: June 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

I love oil and gas. The thrill of the wild-catter rolling the dice on an educated guess and sinking a hole that could bring riches or financial failure is a fun story. What was romantic was the win or lose adrenaline rush that fueled the excitement of the oil man in remotes part of America like Spindletop in Texas or Smackover in Arkansas or offshore Louisiana and the desolate oil fields of Arabia, Iran and South America. Anyone with a sense of adventure could not help but be drawn to the oil fields of the world.
I grew up hearing stories of my parents living in boarding houses in South Louisiana where the only language spoken was Cajun French. Stories of working in the derricks and drilling from wood platforms in Louisiana swamps, the first offshore rigs, would be talked about at dinner. It was no wonder that I would embrace the idea of working overseas after leaving the navy and my appetite for adventure was quickly filled by the deserts of Arabia.
The oil and gas industry was founded and developed in the United States. It was here that Drake drilled his first oil well in Pennsylvania and it was here that Rockefeller built an empire from oil which made him one of the richest men in the world. As the world overtook American oil production we saw Arabia become the leading oil exporter while countries like Brazil, Venezuela and Russia posted large gains in oil production. America was slowly decreasing in recoverable oil reserves and overall oil production was dwindling. America was slowly becoming inconsequential.
Plato said “Necessity is the mother of invention” and this quote is no more evident than in the oil and gas business. The oil shale that held billions of barrels of unrecoverable crude has been known for decades. Rising oil prices coupled with improvements in exploration and production techniques became the mother of invention. America has risen to become the third largest producer and this comes with a large drop in oil prices over the last several years.
Oil and gas is exciting. It fueled a world that needed power to grow. It heated a cold world in winter, created electricity to cool a hot world in summer, powered our cars, ships, planes and trains and is used to make our plastics and pave our roads. It is everywhere but there is that storm cloud on the horizon that will eventually make major impacts on the oil and gas industry. The new necessity that fuels the mother of invention calls for pure clean cheap energy that will never run out and will provide jobs for a new generation. I saw this last summer.
While traveling across Texas in a tired oil field a pumpjack could be seen slowly working up and down as it lifted crude oil to the surface. Then I saw the iconic picture of old versus future. A glimpse of what is coming to the world as it coexists with what we have today was visible from the road that ran through the high plains of west Texas. A lone pump jack was in operation on the side of the road but a mile behind it stood behemoths standing a hundred feet in the air, slowly turning and generating clean low-cost electricity. A wind farm of uncountable wind turbines dwarfed our small pump jack. The same west Texas that provided oil for a hungry country is being transformed into a world of wind powered electric generation. The future is among us.
Wind power provides a small 6.33% of our electricity but this is growing and as time goes by the percentage will increase. In Amarillo where oil hands would live and work, the trailer parks now house workers that build and maintain the huge wind farms.
Alas, for those purist that love the smell of crude, the sound of the drill turning to the right 24/7 and the excitement of waiting to see if a well will be made; don’t go out and sell your Halliburton stock or throw up your hands in despair. It will be decades before the demand for oil and gas reaches a major all-time low. Electric cars are coming quickly but in 2012 there were over a billion cars in the world with 250 million in the United States. Many new gas fired power plants have come on-line. Also, wind power and solar power cannot replace crude as the source stock for the chemical industry. Wind farms will continue to grow but oil and gas will be with us for a long time to come.

America is made from a special breed of man. In the beginning immigrants poured into the New World searching for diverse dreams such as religious freedom, wealth, power and any number of personal goals. It took a unique person to leave home and family with the knowledge that they would never return. It was this initial spirit that grew a great nation. Occasionally we experience a glimpse of what it took in the early of our nation for early America to not only survive but to thrive.
Last week I helped a friend tick off one of his bucket list items. Bonnie and I RVed with Steve and Sandra Post the full length of the Natchez Trace. This is now a National Parkway that is administered by the United States Park Service. The Trace is officially 444 miles long and runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Today the trace is a very well kept two lane road, manicured with numerous rest stops. These are reminiscent of the road side rests that predated the Interstate Road System. Travel is pleasant as you move along at a maximum posted speed of 50 MPH. This is a far cry from the original trace; especially when the perilous travel was by foot through Indian land that was laden with thieves, rogues and highwaymen.
The Natchez Trace came into existence due to commerce. Settlers known as “Kaintucks” raised crops and other commodities during the year. They would then build large flat bottom boats, load their produce and go down the local rivers to the Mississippi and on to Natchez and New Orleans where the produce was sold. The boat could not go back upstream so it too was sold. The men would then pack away their load their muskets and walk overland for 440 miles to Nashville. The trace also provided transportation for frontiersmen and settlers living in the newly acquired territory of Louisiana which was located west of the Mississippi River. Boats would carry these Americans to Natchez for the cross-country trek to Nashville. They could then continue their travels in a less dangerous condition to Washington, New York or other Eastern population centers.
In 1803 the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France and in one fatal acquisition America added a large amount of natural resource rich territory to the fledgling country west of the Mississippi River. Soon after the acquisition President Thomas Jefferson selected a member of his staff to lead an expedition across America and document what had been purchased. This staff member had no formal education prior to his 13th birthday but his life on the frontier, his army training and his extremely keen mind made him perfect to lead the Corps of Discovery. He selected his former Army commander, William Clark to co-command the expedition and thus Merriweather Lewis and William Clark began what is now known as the Lewis and Clark expedition.
After two years of unbelievable deprivation, the expedition returned to Washington with incredible stories of the west accompanied with scientific data and maps. Merriweather Lewis and the Corps of Discovery had become a resounding success. Lewis was awarded 1,600 acres of land by Thomas Jefferson and was made Governor of the Upper Louisiana Purchase. He made his office in St. Louis.
His governorship’s success is mixed and he used personal finances to fund several projects. Some of these fundings were denied reimbursement by the War Department and he had to sell personal assets, to pay the debts owed by America.
In 1908 Lewis, armed with his newly completed expedition journals, loaded onto a flatboat for New Orleans. He would then take a ship from New Orleans to Washington where he would publish his journals and appeal to the government for reimbursement of funds that the government owed him. While on the Mississippi River he changed his mind, got off the boat at Natchez and went overland on the Natchez Trace.
Seventy miles from Nashville Lewis stopped at Grinders Stand; an Inn on the Trace. It was here that Lewis’s life ended. Originally it was stated that Lewis had committed suicide. This was later challenged when it was understood that he had been shot in the stomach with a large caliber bullet and he would then had to reload his pistol and shoot himself in the head. The controversy continues but if a person visits the Park Service visitor center they will hear that it is assumed that Lewis committed suicide.
Today Grinder’s Stand is a well maintained location by the United States Park Service. At the end of the rest area is a large monument that states that below the monument lies the remains of Merriweather Lewis. It is people like Lewis that displays the fiber of America that built our great Nation into what it is today. Ironically, two years following Lewis’s death the United States Government awarded the reimbursement of funds to the Merriweather Lewis estate.

MOTHER OR MOM

Posted: May 13, 2018 in Uncategorized

From the early days of our country the mother was the quiet unsung hero of the family. She worked in the fields, kept the house in order, cleaned and most importantly she kept the blood line alive; she gave birth. Mother was important and the term mother and mom were synonymous. Things have changed since those early days and unfortunately we see many instances where a biological mother is truly not “Mom”. Mom is the person that a child can snuggle up to and feel safe. Mom is the one that shows unconditional love but at the same time provides the guidance to a child as he or she traverses the early years of life. She is the one that sooths the bumps and bruises of life, the one that quietly cries inside when a child hurts while swelling with pride when the child accomplishes some goal. So, last week we didn’t just celebrate Mother’s Day, we celebrated Mom’s Day.
Mother’s day was officially given birth in America in 1908 by a lady named Anna Jarvis. As with other holidays, Mother’s Day was met with commercialism and the marketeers found another special day to promote materialism. Jarvis did not embrace the commercialization of her new founded holiday and spent the last half of her life trying to get it removed from the calendars.
The celebration known as “Mothering Day” was a celebration held in England and other parts of Europe. This celebration was held on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Purpose of the celebration was to go home to the “mother church”. This later evolved to celebrating Mother. Children would present their Mothers with flowers and other tokens of love and appreciation.
Mother’s day is not a Christian religious holiday and transcends religious preference to honor mothers around the world. Mother’s Day is non-religious in the West but many countries link the celebration to a specific Religion. In Thailand the holiday is celebrated in August to be in sync with the existing queen’s birthday. In Ethiopia a feast and celebration is held to honor motherhood. The Hindu’s celebrate the “Mother Pilgrimage fortnight” while Egypt began celebrating Mother in 1956, This honor of Mother has spread to other Mid-East countries.
It has been said that after the death of a loved one, the pain will eventually go away. This may be true but when it comes to Mother, the pain never truly goes away. It was said that during the civil war when thousands of men walked directly into the fire of the enemy. The carnage was incredible as men laid dying on the battlefields of the like of Gettysburg and Shiloh. It was reported that amid the groans and screams of the dying, men could be heard crying out for their mothers.
Wishing all Mothers and Moms not a happy Mother’s Day but a blessed Mother’s Year.

VOLUNTEERISM IN AMERICA

Posted: May 13, 2018 in Uncategorized

America is a benevolent country. We may complain and grown when we give in our everyday life for those we feel are not needy; however, when dire circumstances arise the American genetics are such that we rush to the aid of the needy and do so without question. America is a country of volunteers that do not require a dreadful situation to respond to. Our daily lives are affected in a positive way from the quiet American that volunteers to help those in need or to keep our status of life at this current high level of society. Other Americans volunteer for services that keep us safe, free and protected and do so for pay but who place their own lives on the line to keep us safe.
The word “volunteer” was first recorded in the mid-1600s for non-military service and was recorded in 1755 for volunteering for military service. America is a prime example of how volunteers fill a gap in society where neither government nor civilian industry provides support.
Volunteering in America took on new meaning in the 1800s during the country’s “New Awakening”. In he 1850s the YMCA and the YWCA consisted of young volunteer men and women that helped the needy. In the 1860s women volunteered to be nurses during a civil war that tore our great country apart. The 1900s saw volunteer organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Lions Clubs and other benevolent organizations formed and provided help to those less fortunate. The Great Depression displayed America at its’ best when helping those in need. As the years went by Americans looked beyond its’ borders and left our country to help those in need overseas. The Peace Corps is a legacy to Americans desire to help mankind. When living overseas I worked with husband and wife teams that had been members of the Peace Corps and though the pay was very small the satisfaction they received was greater than any financial benefit.
Volunteers are among us throughout our society. Go to a hospital and see the volunteers that give their time to help others. Visit a public park or campground and see the many volunteers that support these facilities for no pay at the local, state and national facilities. Walk through a museum and observe the welcome that is provided by a volunteer that is happily giving time so that others can have an enjoyable experience. Volunteers fill a need in our youth sports programs, scouting activities and school programs. If it were not for volunteers our country would be a far bleaker place than we see today. Then let a natural disaster strike and watch American volunteerism take hold. Groups such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, private charities and even our own Cajun Navy swing into action to provide help for those in need.
There is a second group of volunteers. These are paid a living wage but are never fully compensated for the work they perform. The one thing in common is that they have entered this category of professionals to help mankind and not only seeking a paycheck. Unfortunately this group has been ill-treated on occasion by the same society that they have volunteered to help. This category of volunteers are composed of our police forces, our EMTs, our fire fighters, our military and anyone else that volunteer to help others and place their lives in jeopardy to do so.
Thank you to all the volunteers that makes our society a special place to live in.