This week has been both sad time for our community while at the same time a tense time for both our nation and the world.

It is rare when we meet a person that has so much impact on her community in so many ways.  It is even more sad when we lose this person.  Last week we lost our beloved editor and this loss is widespread and deep.  It is seldom that we find a person who embraces her profession with total dedication and love and Jessie was that person.  She garnered the respect of citizens throughout Union Parish that she worked with for years while living her Christian values.  This is a mixture that is admirable and this work ethic and moral values will be sorrowfully missed.  The Bernice Banner has lost a wonderful leader and Union Parish has lost a wonderful person.

While we were grieving our loss in Union Parish, the world tensed as rhetoric became bolder between North Korea and the United States.   We saw this coming.  Last winter I wrote about North Korea flying under the radar and the dangers it posed.  Then I wrote about the reality of what will happen if there truly is a war on the Korean peninsula and the massive loss of life that will take place.  Unfortunately, this is coming to fruition and it only hoped that cooler heads will take hold and pull us back from the brink.  I truly believe that this saber rattling is only that and the world leaders will come to the salvation of the planet and show the leadership required to prevent a major war.

  The President of the United States, POTUS, has declared that the United States is prepared to unleash fire and fury the like of which the world has never seen.  My first thought was of rolling boiling earth and debris launched skyward into a mushroom sky as thousands of North Koreans are incinerated and the world experiences a modified nuclear winter.  Then I realized that this is not what was actually said and fire and fury could truly be an unleash of conventional weapons.  Unfortunately, our press has repeated the American answer to Korea to be nuclear in nature.

North Korea has declared to test a missile and have it land close to Guam, an American territory.  The missile is targeted to land on a trajectory near Guam but would land in international waters.  If the launch takes place it is hoped that we keep our finger off the button and not launch anything based solely on supposition.  Then if there is truly a strike, unleash the fury of the United States and the free world.  We have no other option.

For decades, the various United States administrations has kicked the Korean issue down the road with the final resolution residing with a future administration.  That time has come and it is now time to find a solution for Korea.  There is one action that has caught my ear.  China, a staunch ally of North Korea and a country that entered the Korean war on the side of the North, has stated that if North Korea launches the first strike it will not enter the conflict.  This is a major statement that could possibly lead to a negotiated settlement.  Let us hope that this crisis can be resolved and settled and let’s hope that China is now working behind the scenes. China has much more to lose today than it ever has since the founding of the communist country.

One thing is certain, the next few weeks will be very interesting albeit very tense. 

 

Advertisements

NAVY SEALS

Posted: July 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

When a person talks about an American elite fighting force the discussion usually moves to the U.S. Navy’s SEAL teams.  During Viet Nam, the same discussion would have focused on the U.S. Army’s elite team, the Green Berets.  World War II and the American supermen were the Army Rangers and the Marine raiders.  Each period in American history seems to have its’ special elite military units and while every man and woman that puts on any uniform in defense of the United States equally deserve our appreciation and respect, it is the Navy SEALS that are in vogue today. 

The birth of the forerunner to the SEAL teams was during World War II.  The naval amphibious scout and raider training began in 1942 in Little Creek, Virginia.  The unit was first used in Operation Torch, the first landing of American Forces during World War II in North Africa.  Purpose of the unit was to evaluate the landing zones and pick routes for landings prior to an amphibious landing.  During the landing they would help guide landing craft through the invasion route.  Other scout and raider units were deployed in the South Pacific and a third unit was deployed to China.

In 1943 a new unit was formed that focused on demolition training.  Purpose was to not only reconnoitrer and provide safe routes but to also remove obstacles and blast routes for the amphibious invasion teams.  The unit was made up of volunteers with the majority coming from the naval construction battalion units, the SEABEES.  It was realized that the mission of this new unit would be demanding so the training was also demanding.  By the time of D-Day, thirty-four naval combat demolition units were deployed and blew openings for the landing troops.  At Omaha Beach the demolition forces took 51% casualities.

On the Pacific side of the war it was determined that the Marines needed a specialized unit to perform surveys to find the best routes for the marine landings and then blast obstructions much as the Atlantic teams were doing.  The slaughter at Tarawa prompted this unit’s formation.  The teams were officially named UDTs or Underwater Demolition Teams and following their first combat in 1944, they spearheaded landings across the Pacific.  These men wore mask, fins and swimming trunks and were thus dubbed the “naked warriors”.  By the end of the war thirty-four UDT Teams were deployed and had been given the name “frogmen”.  After the war the UDT teams were reduced to 4 teams with seven officers and forty-men total enlisted men.

During the Korean conflict, the UDT family grew to 111.    Nontraditional tactics were used by the frogmen during this campaign.  Some units went into North Korea and destroyed rail tunnels.  UDT teams also helped to get Korean spies into the North.  The mission of the UDT teams was transitioning to more than providing landing zones for amphibious landings.  In 1950 the UDT teams continued its mission transformation as a team rescued 25 sailors that abandoned their ship after hitting a Korean mine. 

In 1961 President John Kennedy gave a patriotic and broad-ranged speech when he declared that America would place a man on the moon within the next ten years.  What was lost in the speech was his announcement that he would provide an additional one hundred million dollars for development and training of non-traditional military forces.    Kennedy, himself a lieutenant in the PTO fleet, knew that the need for a special operation teams was needed in the new warfare scenarios.

The first SEAL teams were formed in 1962 and took their name from the three environments they operated in; SEa, Air, Land.  SEAL units were active in Viet Nam and 48 SEALs lost their lives while claiming as many as 2,000 enemy dead.  Since Viet Nam, the navy SEALS have been a part of every American military campaign and countless unknown missions.  The most famous of these missions was the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  These men have gained so much notoriety and popularity that the History Channel had a mini-series about these warriors and a major network will have a SEAL weekly show this fall.   These shows are the best recruiting tools for the “frogmen”.  During Desert Storm I asked a SEAL commander why he went into the SEALS after leaving the Naval Academy.  The answer was simple.  As a child he had watched Loyd Bridges play Mike Nelson on the TV show “Sea Hunt”.

As a very  young Navy Seabee I had the opportunity to pull duty with a SEAL Senior Chief by the name of John “Pappy” Reynolds.  He told me that he was about to retire after 30 years of active duty.  He joined the SEABEES during World War II and then volunteered for the UDT Teams.  He remained in and eventually when the SEAL teams were formed, he was a member of the first  teams.  He was a Viet Nam vet but was looking forward to his subsequent retirement.  He was a true warrior and excelled in defending our nation.  What he wasn’t, was ready to become a civilian.  After retirement Reynolds did what the enemy could do as he took his own life.

WE THE PEOPLE

Posted: July 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

The Constitution of the United States begins with the words, “We the People”.  This resonates with the message that the new nation that was being envisioned, designed and built was owned by the people of the new great nation.  As noble as this is there was quite a bit of hard dedicated work to get the United States off the ground and we are still struggling on occasion to keep it growing and moving forward.

When the states were scheduled to meet to carve out the constitution in 1787 the event was a misfire.  Only two states, Virginia and Pennsylvania, sent delegations so the meeting and the meeting adjourned without a quorum.  Eleven days later twelve states were in attendance so the Constitutional Congress was in place on May 25th

The purpose of the convention was to design the structure of a new country that would not be traditional to anything the modern world had seen.  Additionally, the concept of strong state governments, each sovereign and self-supporting, being brought under the umbrella of a higher government was a concept to be designed and agreed to.  This would be a major undertaking for a fiercely independent populace.

While there were different views and strong egos among the constitution delegates, there was also a genuine desire to make the convention a success and build a new nation.  It was not an easy task and compromise was important.  A committee was formed in early July and eight days later the committee had agreed how the legislature would be selected.  Following two months of discussion about how the nation would be structured and operated, a committee was established on July 24th to draft the Constitution of the United States.  The final version of the constitution was presented to the Constitutional Convention on Sept 18th, less than four months after the group first met.  There had been much collaboration, discussion and compromise.  Benjamin Franklin summed it up by saying, ““There are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall ever approve them.” Franklin would accept the Constitution, “because I expect no better and because I am not sure that it is not the best”.  This was what was required to launch a new nation and it was not without dissention and three delegates refused to sign.

All the states had to ratify or approve the Constitution.  It would take until 1790 before all the states did so.  This is still an arduous task for amendments to the constitution but a necessity to ensure that states share equally in the power of the country.

 Today we have a great divide in the National government.  The affordable care act known as Obamacare has brought to light this great divide that is strangling the country.  A law that had all the good merits of a country that loves its citizens was poorly designed and not well understood as to how the real world would work when the law was implemented.  Ideals were instituted instead of practical experience and unfortunately the law is on a death spiral that leaves the common American in healthcare jeopardy.

The Republican party has been preparing for the day that it would be in power; or so it should have.  Finally, the time had come to dismantle the current affordable care act and the actual repeal and replace action has been deplorable. 

This is not a single legislative action that is in disarray.  The repeal of Obamacare is only a window into problems facing our nation.  The lack of collaboration and compromise is rampant in our Federal government.  We must look back on what it took to get our nation initially built and regain this focus.  It took four months to carve the Constitution of our great nation.  It has been seven months since the Republicans took office and after six years of complaining about the affordable care act we can’t get the most minor changes made to the legislation.

John McCain, noble statesman and Viet Nam war hero, summed it up last week.  To paraphrase his comments; forget the crap being put out in the press and on social media.  Do what is right for our country and once again let’s work together as a unified body and compromise on our legislation.

Let’s hope these prophetic words are heard.  This is the only way we will survive is as a One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

In the early 1980s the PC computers were in their infancy. Computer memory was very small. Today memory in a personal computer has several thousand times the internal memory as compared to the early computers. The ability to process information is now several hundred times faster than their earlier predecessors. This expansion in computer technology has led to many marvelous breakthroughs in both science and society.
I remember walking through a computer store in downtown Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. There was an assortment of projects in boxes on a wall. Electronics, science and one box that had Artificial Intelligence written on it. That caught my attention as people had started talking about it but due to technology limitations the actual implementation of artificial intelligence, AI, was a long way in the future. I was right with that assumption but I thought that it would be a gradual technology implementation. That is where I missed the mark. All of a sudden Artificial Intelligence is with us and is being implemented at an alarming rate.
Today we are seeing driverless cars, trucks that will automatically back trailers and other cars that will auto-parallel park. All of these leaps forward in technology are the front end of artificial intelligence implementation. This is only the tip of the ice berg. Soon driverless trucks will be crossing the country and good paying jobs will be eliminated. As the number of trucks requiring drivers disappear, the remaining drivers will be working for less wages. Manufacturing will become more and more technical as workers are replaced with very sophisticated robots that continually learn as time goes by and the machines perform better jobs over time. The sky is the limit when it comes to what is in store for the world. The big question is, what do we do to the displaced workers.
AI does performs functions today that helps us without threatening American jobs. Alexa, Amazon’s device that controls functions in the house based on voice commands is a prime example. Not only does it understand voice commands but it is learning the home’s voice commands and continually improves. This is true artificial intelligence, the ability to learn. IBM also has its’ own version of an artificial intelligence device with Watson. One Japanese firm adopted Watson and ultimately replaced its’ 34-man workforce. IBM has actually been developing AI since 1950 but it is not until now that technology, cost and market have all come together.
Development in AI is continuous and widespread. The University of Alberta teamed with IBM to develop an artificial intelligence application that diagnoses schizophrenia. The Royal Bank of Scotland, a major bank in the United Kingdom, uses AI applications to answer customers questions and perform minor transactions such as money transfer. The United Kingdom health services also has a chat application. A patient can call in and provide information to the AI application pertaining to symptoms they are experiencing. The AI application then evaluates the information and provides an analysis to the patient; all on the phone and with no human involvement.
AI is here and is expanding at a fast rate. Soon AI will be designing other AI applications and this is where human interaction must be inserted. Man must have a trigger to shut down the machine before the machine shuts down the man.

 

Sometime between 1952 and 1956 during the Governor Bob Kennon’s administration, Farmerville, Louisiana received funding for a new votech school.  Despite fierce lobbying for the school to be located in Lincoln Parish, the Union Parish Legislatures won and Lincoln Parish would have to wait.

This was a time that craftsmen fueled the American economy.  Farmerville High School also had a “shop” class.  Located in what is now the band building, one could pass by the building with the large doors facing the street and see the wood craft tables and equipment.  The aura of fresh sawdust could be smelled when passing the open doors during the warm months.

The votech at Farmerville educated, trained and then turned out a large number of men and women that helped to build our country.  Many a welder walked out of the school and went on to pipeline projects around America and some ultimately traveling overseas.  Secretarial classes turned out secretaries and book keepers.  My own wife attended and held the record in typing.  Mechanics came from the votech school and nurses from a later-introduced voteck program filled vacant slots in hospitals and nursing homes.  My daughter, a nurse anesthetist at St. Francis, began her nursing education at the votech in Farmerville. 

By the mid-1960s the space race was in full blossom.  Engineering and college degrees were becoming an in-fashion requirement.  A college degree instead of a votech certificate was becoming the desire.  The mid-seventies witnessed the introduction of data processing which led to the personal computers and the computer science world.  Then in the 1980s we saw the oil bubble bust so welders and pipefitters went home and the downturn in the housing market led to layoffs in the craft fields; carpenters, plumbers, electricians; etc.  Votech schools suffered and programs were dropped and in some cases the entire school closed.  Her success stemmed from the votech system.

We have now witnessed a resurgence in the American economy and the need for skilled labor is apparent.  The lifting of oil and gas restrictions has prompted a big demand for welders and pipe fitters.  The housing market has emerged from the dark days of the recession and labor in many markets is not available prompting visas to be issued for Latin Americans.

In addition to formal training, many of the crafts needed today require post-education certifications to be able to work on some projects.  This certification is no easy task and requires not only training but passing tests to prove proficiency,  The American construction landscape has changed and morphed into a much more education demanded landscape.

With this renaissance of craft the United States must return to it votech programs and produce the skilled workers that the economy so desperately needs.  We can’t wait or procrastinate on this subject.  Action must take place swiftly with funding made available to train our labor forces. 

As a society, we must embrace the craftsman as a builder of the nation and not place sole emphasis on college.  College is wonderful and has a very important place in our education foundation but just as important are the schools that turn out the men and women that work with their hands and their minds.

The last eight years has been anything but desirable for the Unites States as it addresses the American spirit and cooperation between opposing political, racial and minority groups. We have seen our politicians vote on legislation based solely on partisan politics while protesters take to the streets simply because they do not like who won an election. America has witnessed a specific political party vote against any legislation, regardless of merit, simply because a person of a different party is president. This has taken place under two presidential administrations and the country is tired of it just as the country is becoming weary of groups rioting and destroying under the guise of freedom of speech.
The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, had the welfare of the people at heart when it was developed. It was an entitlement program that would guarantee healthcare for everyone. Like all entitlement programs it has to be funded in one way or the other. Existing revenues that come into the national coffers in the form of taxes can be diverted from existing programs and can then be used to fund the health act. If other programs are not eligible to be defunded, then additional funds from additional taxes can be obtained. If the country has no interest in additional taxes to an already large tax structure then America can borrow money to fund the program. The problem with the tax option is that borrowing money for entitlements has no return on the investment and no revenue is generated by the borrowed money. Our national debt would continue to rise and our children and grandchildren will bear the brunt of bad decisions.
True the form of centralized control, assumptions are made that don’t reflect the common sense nor allows the common man to make decisions. Communism was based on Centralized Control and ultimately failed miserably and led to the fall of the Soviet Union. Obamacare based a large amount of funding on young men and women in America taking mandatory insurance. Instead the youth opted to pay a penalty and not be forced to pay extremely high insurance premiums for insurance that they do not need. This left only the older workers that need insurance to pay for the insurance. The base of people was much smaller than anticipated and the funding suffered. Prices have sky rocketed and in some states the private insurance companies have dropped out of the markets causing distress in these geographical areas.
The Republicans have had seven years to get a plan ready for appealing the current Affordable Care Act. So far, after six months of controlling the entire Executive and Legislative branches of government, the Republicans have had no success in repealing and replacing Obamacare. Congress is in gridlock, America is sick of it and many loyal patriots that we sent to Washington are facing backlash back home. Some is justified but much is not justified; however, the perception of incompetency permeates throughout the country.
Finally, after years of waiting and hoping someone uttered the word that so many have been waiting to hear; “bipartisan participation”. It was stated by a key member of the Republican party that there needs to be bipartisan participation to work through the details to dismember the current Affordable Care Act, insure that key parts of the act remain to protect vulnerable Americans and provide adequate funding in a realistic manner and allow Americans to make decisions for healthcare on their own.
Let us hope that “bipartisan participation” is not only isolated to health care reform. Let us pray that this is the beginning to true collaborations between all political parties and we put the good of the nation at the forefront of future legislation. If this happens we will once again see America shining brightly around the world as the pillar of freedom.

North Korea has finally developed and tested via a successful launch an International Continental Ballistic Missile, ICBM, that is capable of reaching the United States. At this stage in the fledgling North Korean missile program, the only state that the missile can hit is Alaska but it won’t be long before Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angles will become targets. Parallel development of a nuclear weapon that can be transported by one of these missiles is ongoing. Even if a nuclear payload is not available a conventional bomb can be transported on the ICBM and can ultimately cause damage to our beautiful nation.
Another threat leaves North Korea clean when it comes to launching a missile on the West. It will let some other country do the dirty work. North Korea will be able to dismantle and sell its’ weapons of destruction to countries that wish to do harm to Western nations. If transport is not available for the weapons, North Korea can sell the technologies and then let rogue nations build their own missiles much as a child designs and builds an erector set. The nuclear warhead will come later and we are then in a huge and complex mess as countries such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, France and Germany become easy targets for North Korean Technology that is launched from reprobate locations in the Middle East. North Korea becomes a double winner in this scenario. Western countries are hit and harmed while North Korea’s coffers are filled with foreign money funded by the sale of the sinister weapons.
It appears that the decision is simple; let’s hit them and hit them quick. Not so quick my friend. There is no way short of a nuclear strike that we could hope to neutralize the North Korean Military. Nuclear attack is not an option. With a standing army of 700,000 and several million reservists, we can damage the beast but not destroy it. North Korea is waiting for provocation and they will not be satisfied to take a defensive posture. North Korea will move south and with speed. So where will the North horde go. It will wear out tanks speeding to Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Seoul is only 30 miles from the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries and contains ten million residents. The loss of life would be catastrophic. While the North Korean army would take large losses it would continue to function as it moves south. I worked with Koreans in Arabia and the Koreans are a tough race, very tough. The North Korean army can take a lickin and keep on ticken.
Another concern is China. While China has become a major world economy there is all ways that isolated chance that China will enter the campaign and support North Korea just as it did during the Korean War of the 50s. This is almost incomprehensible but if that happened we could see an escalation that could pull the Mid-East into the conflict as an opportunity to strike a blow against the West. Then we have to ask what will Russia do and who will they side with.
Korea is quit complex and it is not a new issue. It began when America had a warship stopped, boarded, captured and taken to North Korea in the 1960s. The USS Pueblo’s crew was eventually released, but only after the Unites States paid ransom. Since then North Korea held America at lower esteem and America thought it could negotiate itself out of any conflict. We fooled ourselves and for the last forty years North Korea has built one of the largest armies in the world while laughing at America and the West. We have really painted ourselves into a corner and we can’t wait for the paint to dry to walk out.