Last week we celebrated a special birthday; the United States Navy. It is especially special to me. All my young life I wanted to be in the navy. During summers of my Junior High years I would visit the navy recruiter, Chief Hillard Meeks, when he would come to the draft office in Farmerville. My room quickly filled with posters and brochures, courtesy of the United States Navy. After High School graduation I entered college but still had this need to fill so even through I had two deferments I dropped out of college and with my friends Bill Rainwater and Marlin Maddox, we headed to boot camp. And why would a person not want to be a part of an organization steeped in so much history and prestige.
Th U.S. Navy has its’ roots with the American Revolution. The Continental Navy was founded on October 13, 1776. This is the year before the Declaration of Independence was signed and this small collection of ships was formed to stand up to the largest navy in the world. During a naval battle in 1779 a British Captain was engaged with an American ship. The British captain hailed the American ship and asked if it would like to surrender to which the American Admiral, John Paul Jones, responded, “I have not yet begun to fight”. The battle continued and the Americans won the battle. Following the end of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Navy was disbanded due to a lack of funds.
Pirate attacks on commercial ships coupled with an increased concern of attacks from foreign nations prompted the first U.S. President, George Washington, to create a permanent standing navy in 1794. For eight years our fledgling country had no standing naval presence until the new navy was formed. This small navy was outnumbered 50 to 1 by the largest fleet in the world; the British Navy. In the War of 1812 the U.S. Navy performed well as the United States battled this massive military force.
American respect grew on the oceans around the world. Pirates continued to ravage American ships and the war against the Barbary Pirates ensued. Finally the U.S. Navy landed a detachment of their marines on the Tripoli coast leading to the defeat of the pirates and lauding the victory as a part of the Marine Corp Hymn.
In 1845 the second military academy was founded. This academy at Annapolis, Maryland as dedicated to Naval and Marine cadets and has seen at least three graduates from the Union Parish community. Annapolis provided naval officers that fought against each other during the Civil War; a war that saw the introduction of steam ships, metal clad vessels and the first submarine used in combat.
Who could not love Teddy Roosevelt. Winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Nobel Peace Prize, author, boxer, Ivy League graduate and prior to forming the Spanish American War Rough Riders he was the Undersecretary of the Navy. It was during the Spanish American War that America’s Navy became a world class navy as it defeated the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay and later at Santiago, Cuba.
America entered World War I and like all the other navies around the world, women were only allowed in the navy in the capacity of nurses. In 1916 the U.S. Navy became the first navy to enlist women into the navy for clerical work. This remained until 1972. I was stationed at Annapolis when the Navy experimented with placing women in Deck Assignments on shore and our small unit at Annapolis was selected to run the experiment. Two years later I saw the first woman in the Seabees at Gulfport, Mississippi. This quickly expanded to allowing women on ships as is now the practice.
The first aircraft carrier was launched in 1922, These vessels expanded in size in scope and would eventually overtake the battleship as the flag carrier of the United States around the globe. America took a black eye when attacked at Pearl Harbor but the air craft carrier fleets proved to be a deciding factor in the winning the war in the Pacific. It was on an American battleship that the surrender of Japan was signed.
The American Navy proved its’ metal during the Korean War, the Viet Nam War and then Desert Storm and the other Mid-East Battles.
The goal of the U.S. Navy is to keep the sea lanes free for democracy and it has performed miraculously. There is something special when one of America’s behemoths cruises into port with the stars and stripes flying in the breeze. Proud of our great navy and Happy Birthday.



For many years I have defended the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the citizens of that desert sheikdom. As a very small child my mother told me about being in San Francisco after World War II and attending the opening ceremony of the newly created United Nations. She spoke specifically of the elegantly dressed Saudi Arab delegation in their flowing robes marching into the great hall. We were fascinated about the country from the writings of T.E. Lawrence and then later when the book was turned into the academy award winning movie “Lawrence of Arabia”. Then as the world grew up and a thirst for oil expanded we tasted brinksmanship from the Saudi led OPEC as an oil embargo was placed on the United States in the early 1970s and we ran dangerously low on imported crude. Oil had become a tool, a bargaining chip, for the Mid-East.
The embargo was short lived and full diplomatic relations were restored between the United States and Saudi Arabia. When I arrived in Saudi in the late 1970s the country looked like a full force military operation. Large Mercedes trucks carrying construction materials were clogging the roads. Men could be seen driving large steel wheel rollers down the road to and from their homes. The port at Dammam had ships waiting for weeks to unload their cargo and the ARAMCO port at Ras Tanura was filled with tankers waiting to get their supply of crude oil. Construction was everywhere and there was even a story that huge ice bergs may be brought to ports to get much needed fresh water. There was a cry in the United States that we were sending all our money to Saudi to pay for the oil when in actuality Saudi Arabia ran a trade deficit with the United States.
I enjoyed going to the local Arab town and sitting with the older men on rugs, drink tea and listen to stories. There was even a time that I visited a Bedouin tent in the desert and accepted the hospitality of fresh dates and camel milk. All that I met were very friendly, all liked Americans and their lifestyle was totally non-aggressive. Life was peaceful and stress less.
While the average Saudi lived a middle class life style there were some very successful business men that counted their wealth in billions, not millions. Osama Bin Laden’s grandfather was from Yemen, started a construction company that received exclusive rights to upgrade the Holly City of Mecca. Today the Bin Laden company grosses over two billion dollars a year. Another man, Adnan Khashoggi, became a billionaire as an international arms dealer and was close to the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia.
The Royal Family was very sensitive to negative press. I had a young Saudi take my office when I move to a design office in Al Khobar. One day I received a call that said the man had been arrested for writing negative articles in a local paper. His office had been searched and I was told to not go through the police barricade tape across my old offices door. He had been terminated from Aramco and finally six months later he showed up at my new office to visit. He was very pale but otherwise healthy. I do not believe he ever wrote again.
Over the last several years Saudi took broad steps to improve the plight of females. Women can now drive and hold jobs on the local economy. These new freedoms provide a new perspective on the Kingdom and coupled with the ability to now invest in Saudi and the possibility of ARAMCO to be broken up for partial sale, Saudi Arabia is rolling into the 21st Century with a new modern vigor. That is why the prospect of a Saudi hit squad assassinating dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi is saddening and sickening. At first it seems impossible but when viewing in the perspective of a new Kingdom power grab where many people have been imprisoned, including royal princes, where negative press is not tolerated and a time in the world where governments have grown up, the idea of Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination is plausible.
I hope that sometime and somewhere Khashoggi will walk back into the light of day and he proves the neigh-sayers wrong. Unfortunately the story going around is that a hit team from Saudi Arabia assassinated Jamal in the Saudi Embassy in Turkey and then dismembered the body with a bone saw. Hopefully there will be some closure to this story. At the time of his disappearance Jamal was writing for the Washington Post and a resident of the United States where freedom of the press is a right by way of the Constitution.

We have witnessed over the last month a spectacle in Washington that places a nation that was once revered as the torch of Democracy to instead appear to act like a banana republic more intent on political gains than the good of the nation. Part of the problem lies in many of our national leaders not even realizing what their actions are causing. Instead of pulling our nation together as one they are in fact driving a wedge between the forces of liberalism and conservativism in the name of win-at-all cost.
Political parties have a tendency to morph itself to fit the environment that the cpounty transitions to. Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Emancipation Proclamation, was a Republican. The Democratic party of the 1920s was the home of the KuKluxKlan and the party practically rioted at the 1924 convention when a motion was made to write the KKK out of the party. Today the Democratic party is the party of the minority while the once blue collar Democrats are migrating to the Republican party.
The national Democratic party took a que from a notoriously popular Louisiana politician of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Serving as the 38th Lt Governor of Louisiana and three nonconsecutive terms as the 45th Governor of Louisiana, Earl Kemp Long was politically inept and had a keen understanding of what it takes to win. During the early years of integration Earl took this opportunity to solidify the African American vote, break down voting barriers and thus build a new base of new voters that would support him. The Democratic party is resurrecting this strategy with immigration measures that, if going unchecked, would allow undocumented immigrants to pour across our borders. Later as the masses increase to be given the right to vote. This in turn builds a block vote for the Democratic party to rely on. This will then in turn provide a base to change the customs and norms that our nation was built on.
We have recently witnessed many acts of horrendous actions that have taken place within the chambers of national leadership around the world. There was one news cast showing two legislatures in the Thailand assembly actually coming to blows on the house floor. Then we have seen the sickening sad video of Saddam Housean’s guards walking up behind opposing legislatures sitting in the Iraqi legislative assembly, escorting them out of the chambers to be executed. While America has not gotten near these lows, we are at a low point for our great nation and the spectacle of a Supreme Court Confirmation is saddening.
It is not just the legislatures, it is a small body of America that believes that mob rule is the answer to problem solving. Shouting and jeering under the pretext of freedom of speech when a public speaker is in front of a crowd is a mockery of what free speech truly is. The person standing on that platform has the right to free speech and the minority in the crowd not allowing this to happen are impeding this right. Accosting Senators when the cameras are on in the halls of our hallowed institutions discloses a sad day for our country. This mob rule is a figment of only a very small segment of our nation but leads one to believe that the entire country is in this frenzy. Unfortunately the good natured majority of Americans are standing back watching in shock and silence as this spectacle unfold.
Make no mistake about it, we do have leaders in Washington that are just as dedicated to our great nation as were our founding fathers and in many cases these brave elected men and women make up the majority of the committees that they serve on. It will be up to these individuals to become the leaders that bring some sense of unity to America.
I am an optimist and feel that America can reconcile itself. We have the leadership in America to make this happen. I am also a realist and understand that anything short of a war will not cause these deep wounds to heal quickly and once again bond our nation for a common cause.
We have a lot of soul searching to do in America and this needs to take place at the individual citizen level. Our glass is not half empty it is half full. We have a country of great beauty where opportunities abound. In the old days of the Soviet Union walls were built to keep the people of the Soviet Union in. How many border check points do we have looking for Visas to exit America and how many want to come to our great country to seek the freedoms and opportunities we offer to the citizens of America.
Come on America, wake up and smell the roses and don’t say it smell like cow dung.

Last week my friend Jene Barron published the second part of his story of the Columbian Airplane loaded with marijuana that crashed in Union Parish. Jene is an accomplished author and historian and did a very good job in capturing the essence of the crash and subsequent incarceration of the men that manned the plane followed by the escape of the leader of the group. A very well documented story but there is more to this and the roots are found not in America or Columbia but instead in Saudi Arabia.
In 1978 I loaded my wife and six-month-old daughter on a plane and left for my first job following college. We were on our way to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian American Oil Company but first we had to go through a one-week orientation in Houston.
The first morning of orientation, thirty or forty families met in a large room for breakfast. Bonnie, Sarah and I sat at a large round table where we were joined by another family. Hernando Hernandez, his lovely wife Elsa, twin boys and daughter were also going to Dhahran where he would be a material’s specialist. We shared stories about home and became friends. I told him I had been to Nam with the navy and he told me that before immigrating to America he was a pilot for the Columbian Air Force. Over the next few months I would see Hernando at the mail center court yard in Dhahran. This was an open area between the mail center and the commissary and at the end of the day it was a good place to visit with friends.
My father was good at keeping me updated on what was happening in Farmerville so he would send me cut out articles from the Gazette. One afternoon in 1979 I opened my mail and read about the marijuana plane crash, how one had died and leaned the name of the leader, Panilla. Then my friend Hernando walked by. I told him about the crash and provided him the name of the leader while showing him the picture in the Gazette of Panilla and the two others. The story said that Panilla was working for the Columbian Civil Aviation Agency.
Hernando told me that he knew Panilla. They had actually flown together on a search and recovery mission when a Columbian aircraft had crashed. Hernando had been Panilla’s co-pilot. Hernando also said that their general in Columbia had retired and was the head of the country’s Civil Aviation Agency. I remembered thinking that this was really getting interesting.
A few weeks later I bumped into Hernando and he told me that he had written to a close friend in New York and told him about Panilla. His friend had also flown for the Columbian Air Force and knew Panilla and the General and like Hernando had immigrated to the United States. He told Hernando that he was going to visit his mother in Columbia and would go visit their old general; the man that was then the head of the Columbian Civil Aviation Agency.
About six weeks later I saw Hernando again and asked if his friend had gone to Columbia. He told me he had just heard from him. His friend had gone home to Columbia and went to the general’s office to visit. He told the general that he had heard that Panilla had crashed a plane load of marijuana in some “Podunk” town in Louisiana. The general angrily shot back at the man, denied the story and said it was a total lie. Panilla had taken leave, the general said, and was in the Columbian mountains on a camping trip. A few days later a car pulled up to the curb in Farmerville, Panilla climbed in and was never seen in America again.
The only question I have has to do with the Federal side of this. How could a federal prisoner just disappear and why were prosecuted federal prisoners remaining in Parish custody and not immediately moved to a Federal facility.
Good job on Jene’s story. Can’t believe it has been this long. As for Hernando; he went to work for Texaco, moved to Kuwait and left shortly before Saddam Hussein invaded.


Posted: September 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

Over the years there has been discussion about the importance of athletics in high schools. Detractors of school athletics declare that it is a useless part of school curriculums; a needless expense that does not need to be integrated in the daily lives of our students. This reasoning is absurd and reflects the polar opposite of the spirit that built our great nation.
Athletics in American School teaches the student athlete discipline as well as a work ethic not found anywhere else during the high school years. The student athlete learns important lessons about life that will remain with the young man or woman throughout life. Dedication to a cause, physical conditioning and teamwork are all characteristics of athletics that will be instilled in the student athlete. It is these attributes that were present in the men of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, or charged up San Juan Hill or who refused to leave their posts and died at the Alamo. Yes there is a place in our schools for athletics.
Recently the commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference was being interviewed. A question was asked if college athletics should be paid. He said they should not and the experience they gain in school is quit rewarding. He quoted a past commissioner who said that next to the United States Army, nothing prepares an individual for the future better than school athletics.
In 1944 America was at war and was about to invade Europe at a point in time that is commonly known as D-Day. General George Patton addressed his troops just prior to the invasion. Many of these young men were fresh from the United States, had never seen combat and a large number of them had hardly been out of their hometowns. Patton was famous for his fiery rhetoric and in his speech to the troops of the 3rd Army he referenced athletics and how important it is in the American culture. The following is part of this speech and was captured in the opening scene of the Academy Award Winning Movie, “Patton”.
“Men, this stuff that some sources sling around about America wanting out of this war, not wanting to fight, is a crock of bull++++. Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle. You are here today for three reasons. First, because you are here to defend your homes and your loved ones. Second, you are here for your own self respect, because you would not want to be anywhere else. Third, you are here because you are real men and all real men like to fight. When you, here, everyone of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball players, and the All-American football players. Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American.”
See you Friday at the game.

Last week America was treated to a most despicable example of what America is not supposed to be. In my last article I stated that the confirmation hearings of Judge Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court of the United States was a circus filled with lions, tigers and magicians. Unfortunately, the spectacle that took place last Thursday in the hallowed halls of the United States Senate proved me right and I so wish I would have been proven wrong.
The role of the Legislative branch of the United States government is well documented. “Established by Article I of the Constitution, the Legislative Branch consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which together form the United States Congress. The Constitution grants Congress the sole authority to enact legislation and declare war, the right to confirm or reject many Presidential appointments, and substantial investigative powers.”
The Senate of the United states is considered to be the upper house of the Legislative Branch that also includes the House of Representative. Since the Senate is elected to a six year term instead of a two year term associated to the House of Representatives, the Senate can be more far looking in the work they perform. I consider the Senate to be the elder statesmen of our great nation; entrusted to be the keepers of the decorum, the great traditions of our founding fathers and the moral fiber of America. What the world witnessed at the last confirmation hearing of Judge Kavanaugh is anything but these virtues and shows the absolute bottom of any sense of order or respect as is associated to what is supposed to be the senior legislative sector of the United States Federal Government.
We witnessed political folly at its’ worse. A young lady that has definitely had some traumatic sexual assault in the past was brought to Washington to be used as a pawn in this game. She stated she is terrified of flying so the Senate committee contacted her legal team and offered to fly to California to talk to her in either private or in public. At the hearing in Washington she stated she was unaware of the offer. By getting the lady, Dr Ford, to Washington she could then be showcased to the public. She had also been guaranteed anonymity but this did not happen and her name was leaked to the media and she will be forever tormented by dissidents. There was a call to not have old white men interrogate her. The Republicans brought in a female prosecutor with deep knowledge in sexual abuse to question Dr. Ford. This was then met with cries that the Republicans should have performed its’ own questioning even though the interrogation was very respectful and non-intrusive.
Judge Kavanaugh did not receive the same respect accorded Dr. Ford. This also caused the two sides of the Senate to tear into each like a pack of wild dogs. A very distinctive and senior chamber of the United States Government was relegated to tribal warfare reminiscent of slings and arrows launched in Biblical times.
There was a silver lining to this travesty of our great American government that has been deeply wounded. Last week I stated that there will be a delay tactic proposed to slow down the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh. This was achieved when Republican Senator Flake proposed to move the vote to the Senate but only after the FBI investigated the sexual conduct allegations. While the delay tactic worked, in this case it is appropriate and the one week for the investigation will cause no political advantage; but this has to be the end and the vote needs to take place the end of this week or early next week. This one achievement by Republican Senator Flake may be the one action that can potentially begin a healing process that will begin to mend our great nation. For years I have said that our leaders must reach across the aisle and put America first and this one action may be the beginning of this respect.
The real loser in these proceedings is America and its’ citizens. Let us hope that what unfolds this week will lead to a healing that is desperately needed. It will be an uphill battle though. Most people have their minds made up and instead of weighing the evidence presented with an open mind they will be looking for confirmation of their own biased beliefs.
One thing are certain; this will be one interesting week.

Today we are in a time of recognition, a time where the woman is finally recognized for the value that the gender has provided to our great nation. Long the individual that sat in the background and provided support to the husband; the lady of the family has moved to a status where gender is erased and ability to achieve is the primary factor in a person’s ability to achieve.
While researching one of my books I discovered a letter that was addressed to a lady in Wyoming. The letter was dated 1928; a time that women were supposed to be in the kitchen and taking care of babies. They were not to be in a leadership role and were certainly not to be involved in politics. Women had been given the right to vote via the 19th Amendment of the Constitution only eight years earlier in 1920.
There were several aspects to the correspondence that I found interesting. The letter addressed, among other things, a discussion around prohibition and implementation of the Amendment that banned the sale of alcohol for human consumption. The tone of the letter was discussion between two adults on an equal plane with no regard to gender. Another aspect of the letter that caused me to take note was the letterhead that identified the lady as vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
The woman in the correspondence began her career as a kindergarten teacher. In 1900 she married a Tennessee lawyer. Together they moved West and settled in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Eventually her husband ran for public office, moved up through the ranks and was elected Governor of Wyoming in 1922. Two years later he died in office and his wife was elected to replace him as Governor for the remainder of his term. This made her the first female governor in the United States. Ironically she refused to campaign for her initial election but despite this her supporters took the initiative to help her and she was elected. She continued her husband’s policies which included reduced taxes, aid to farmers, child labor laws and strengthening prohibition laws.
She continued her refusal to campaign for herself and in 1926 she lost her re-election bid by a narrow vote. Her refusal to campaign for herself and her prohibition policies were identified as two reasons for the defeat. She remained active in politics and in 1928 she spoke to the National Democratic Convention where she seconded the nomination of Al Smith for President. Al’s campaign manager was Franklin Roosevelt. Quite an accomplishment for a female at the time.
The lady remained very active in the Democratic party and in 1933 she was appointed as Director of the U.S. Mint. This appointment was another first for the female gender. She served as director of the U.S. Mint until 1956 serving under Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower. She never remarried and spent her life in service to the country and raising her four children. The woman did not just reach gender imposed glass ceilings but busted through them.
The ladies name was Nellie Tayloe Ross. Mrs. Ross died in Washington, D.C. in 1977 at the age of 101. One of the many unknown individuals that helped to build our country.