Several years ago I wrote an article dealing with the crumbling infrastructure and what has led our great nation to be in an approaching crisis.  President Trump is returning from a very successful trip overseas and will be faced with his first budget.  A major provision of this budget is rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and how to fund this without adding to the country deficit.  With the nation at such a junction in its’ future it’s time to look at the dilemma so I am reprinting the article.  The crisis has now arrived.  +

 

America is the greatest country on earth today. When viewed in the context of world history the last two hundred and twenty-five years has witnessed the most explosive growth and leadership of any country on record. Unfortunately for a country to remain as a leader of the world it must continually evaluate its’ own position and make changes to the way it administers the successes it had achieved.  We are in a crossroads in which change is required if we want to continue our internal and external growth or we will slowly degrade our country and eventually become a state much like the former great nations of Greece, Rome Spain and others that once influenced vast parts of our world. How did we get to a point in time that our past internal decisions are now leading us to economic chaos with an out of control downward spiral?

 

America is a benevolent society. We pride ourselves on helping others that are in need. Do you notice at Christmas the Bell Ringers, the organizations helping needy families, the toy drives and all the other good things that Americans do to help their fellow man? This is no accident, it is America. In the early days of our country’s founding and growth, if we had not had this desire to help each other the early settlers would have found it extremely difficult to manage the harsh new world. It was this inherent desire to help our fellow man that led to the mother marches that ultimately stamped out polio around the world. This desire is still alive and is currently leading to successes in cancer, placing roofs over the heads of the homeless and provides aid to widows and children. This generosity is America and who we are. Probably the photos that best describe our love of man are the pictures of American GIs, dressed in battle gear, helmet on the head and handing the chocolate bar from his C-Ration kit to some hungry and appreciative child in some nameless village that America had just liberated.

 

America resonates with another key word, build. We are a country of builders. It may be the man building the sky scrapers in our metropolitan cities, driving a nail in a new home, paving a new road or building a company from a small business into a multi-national corporation. The desire to build and be a part of this growth is built into our genetics. Our country was founded on immigrants that left their homes and families and knowing they would never return nor see their homeland again, set sail to a new country that would allow a person to attempt to be whatever he or she wanted to be. As long as we balance our benevolence with our growth and manage if accordingly and understand how decisions will influence our nation at a future time, then we will have no conflict. Unfortunately the word economics enters into our discussion and this is where we now have our conflict within our nation.

 

After World War II our service men came home to a new country. We were catapulted from the great depression and later a horrible recession into a manufacturing giant as we tooled our output to become a war machine. Following the war plants re-tooled and America was providing goods that war ravaged Europe and Japan and Southeast Asia were unable to produce. Money poured in and growth continued. The government spent billions on an interstate highway system that would double as landing strips for B22 bombers if their bases had been destroyed. Infrastructure projects such as schools, roads, bridges, dams, air ports, civic centers, plants and a multitude of other projects were happening everywhere. Eventually these were completed and money was filling the government coffers from and expanding economy and money no longer required for building projects. We now had the ability to fund dream projects such as our bold ambition to place a man on the moon. It also allowed us to look inward and ask ourselves what can we do for our fellow man. How can we best help society?

 

With money available at an alarming amount it only sounded reasonable that we expand social programs. This is good in the short run but has consequences in the long run if not correctly managed. Once a social program goes into effect and funding is provided, it is very difficult to stop the funding. Also, the great structures built in the 1950s and 60s have a certain life span. Nothing survives forever unless we may look at the great pyramids of Giza or the Mayan ruins in Yucatan. Our projects were not designed in that manner so we are now experiencing a very fundamental economic question. This question is, do we rebuild an infrastructure that is quickly deteriorating and falling apart and if so where do we acquire the funds. Do we pull back on our great social programs and use that money to rebuild America. Some say add more taxes but that has a limit. Just this week Pfizer announced it planned to leave America and relocate to England due to taxes. Halliburton, a hallmark in oil field operations has moved corporate offices to Dubai. Increasing taxes will eventually cause our downward spiral to accelerate.

 

What our country needs is to take a strong hard look at what we really need and not just what people want. Control government spending and put the money where we get the best bang for our bucks. Take a hard look at where the country should be ten years from now and not how we will appear at the next election.

 

 

I’ve heard it say that if you don’t like the weather in Louisiana then wait a day and it will change.  I sit back in amazement, in amusement, in awe as the Louisiana weather adage can be placed on the current Executive Branch of our great nation.  If you don’t like what you are hearing then wait a day and you will hear something that you do like.  Last week did not disappoint.

I went camping on Thursday.  The park, White Oak Lake, was between Camden and Prescott, Arkansas and was quit rural.  There was no WiFi signal, my wife’s cell service was not available and the television was limited to PBS and PBS kids.  I found this refreshing and a total disconnect from the constant media bashing of the Executive Branch of the United States, the President. 

When I left for White Oak the media was full of press releases directed at the firing of James Comey as the FBI director, allegations of internal coercion by the president to stop FBI investigations in Russian influence of the White House, the worse day on Wall Street since September and cries from grandstanding congressmen to impeach the President.  It was also announced that the President had arrived in Saudi Arabia for a visit.  I thought that the President must be relieved to get out of Washington.

Everything must come to an end and upon returning to home I was pleasantly surprised to see that the focus of the news was on the trip to Saudi Arabia.  As a former resident of the Kingdom, I found this visit to be a major mile stone for our nation.  The presence of the President of the United States in Riyadh sends a strong message to the Middle East and President Trump did not disappoint.

While watching the news on Sunday night my son told me to look for the president’s wife.    It was nothing that had been blasted across the media with fanfare.  It was a quiet gesture that was deafening.  President Trump walked to the right of the King of Saudi Arabia and it appeared to be a cordial visit.  To the Kings left was the First Lady and not only was she walking with the King but her head was uncovered, there was no scarf.  This may be insignificant to most but this was quit significant when it comes to women’s rights and the respect and power displayed to the leader of the United States.  It also displays a mutual friendship building between these two important allies as the new American government is feeling its’ way in the world.

In 1979 I looked across the ARAMCO compound and saw a British Concorde jet. The beautiful bright white colored plane was gleaming in the mid-day sun as it flew into Dhahran International Air Port carrying the Queen of England for an official visit to the Kingdom to visit her subjects.  Later she met with the King and his ministers.  A British construction supervisor I had on a project told me that the Queen was declared a male for a day so that she could meet with the Saudi rulers.  American women visiting Al-Khobar, the Arab town next to the ARAMCO compound, were told not wear the traditional Saudi black clothing but many of the ladies did wear a scarf. The simple appearance of America’s first lady walking next to the King and having her head uncovered is quit a game changer and hopefully the good feelings between the two countries will continue to grow.

President Trump gave a major speech in Saudi and this may have been one of the best he has ever delivered. It was not conciliatory nor was it laced in any apologies.  It was straight forward, it embraced a need for a strong unity between the Mid-East and America and this unity consisted of both economic ties, the war on terror and the need to curtail Iran and its’ nuclear development.  In a region where is power is important, the speech provided a powerful message.  Then it was announced that Saudi Arabia had just inked deals with American companies that amounted to over two-hundred billion dollars. 

As large as the week end is for the relationships between the United States and Saudi Arabia, the most profound part of the Trump foreign visit took place Monday.  Air Force One took off from Riyadh and flew to Israel.  This is the first time that this has taken place and the significance is quite large.  Never before has a Western leader flown directly between a Mid-East capital and Israel.  This sends a clear message that the United States is aligned to both the Jews and the Arabs and age old barriers that caused the United States to balance itself is being torn down.  When the president arrived the Prime Minister of Israel said that the president had flown directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv and looked forward to someday flying directly from Tel Aviv to Riyadh.  A very strong message to the Arab world.

The press is carrying the visit in detail, the visit is being praised across America and both political parties like what transpired.  What a difference a week end can make.  Maybe I should go camping more often.

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY

Posted: May 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Next week we celebrate a holiday that officially starts the summer holiday period.  Swimming pools open, state parks begin special summer events and school is out for the summer.  Memorial Day is a celebration of the beginning of fun.  In fact, it is meant to be a more somber occasion and instead of commemorate life it is meant to honor the dead.

Originally Memorial Day was known as Decoration’s Day and commemorated the dead of the Northern Soldiers killed in the civil war.  Before the first official commemoration the South also began celebrating the dead of the civil war.  Later in the 20th century the two celebrations were combined and the Holiday is the last Monday of May.  Memorial Day was established to be on a day that no major battle occurred thus the holiday was not to honor a battle but instead to commemorate those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for their cause.  Later it would expand to commemorate anyone who gave their life for the United States in war.  May was also selected since that was a time that so many flowers were blooming and the blooms would be used to decorate the graves.

Northern Memorial Day began in 1868.  183 cemeteries held ceremonies that year and the next year the celebrations grew to 336.  Originally speeches were given by politicians, clergy and veterans that commemorated the dead as well as tell of the atrocities of the enemy.  The South began celebrating the holiday in 1866 and coined the term Memorial Day. The 1866 commemoration was held in Columbus, Mississippi.  Women went out and laid flowers on the graves of the dead, not only Southern soldiers but also the graves of Union soldiers.

As America grew it went to war to defend freedom and protect the oppressed around the world, the young men and women who gave their lives for the United States grew in numbers.  Dead from the Spanish American War, World War I and II, Korea, Viet Nam through Desert Storm and the war on terrorism have filled our cemeteries.  And while the numbers are enormous the message is still clear, America is not just a country but it is an ideal, a moral monument that is worth defending and if required, dying for.

So this year, let’s go out to ball games, eat hot dogs and burgers, swim and enjoy each other’s company; but let’s also take the time to remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for the United States and its’ precious principals. 

 

 

 

America has been nothing less than blessed with the great magnitude of leadership that it possessed.  Much of this leadership migrated to America and it was this pioneer spirit that led to leaders that built America.  On the other side of the leadership development scale, the country, America, allowed a person to expand and develop the leadership required to build a nation.  Only a country allowing innovation and entrepreneurial spirit to flourish will leadership be developed from within the ranks of the common man.

 

One leader that helped to develop our nation and change the pattern of how political candidates run their races was William Jennings Bryan.  Not only was he a man dedicated to the common man and was known for his oratory ability but while teaching high school he was involved in actions that would have possibly led to jail time today.  

 

Bryan was born in Salem, Illinois in 1860.  Politics was in his blood as his father was elected to the Illinois state Senate and later to a state circuit judgeship.  Religion played a major part in Bryant’s background and he stated that his baptism at the age of 14 was the single most important day of his life.  He was home schooled until the age of 10 and was drilled that gambling and alcohol were evil and sinful.

 

He attended a high school academy and following graduation attended law school.  While in law school he also taught high school.  It was at that time that he found the love of his life, a high school student of his.  Today this is unheard of but things were different in the 1890s and they married and she went on to receive her law degree so that she could provide support to her husband. The say that behind every great man is a great woman and this is no exception.  Bryant’s wife never practiced law but she was not only with her husband in all of his endeavors but she also helped him write and edit his speeches.

 

The Bryants moved to Nebraska and he was elected to the US House of Representatives at the age of 30 and became the second Democrat elected to Washington from Nebraska.  In 1896 at the age of 36 Bryant became the youngest person to run for the presidency of the United States.  He was famous for his oratory ability, number of speeches he would give and for being the first candidate to campaign from a car.

 

Following his defeat he did endorse his winning opponents decision to go to war against Spain to free Cuba.  His own party was surprised at his decision and showed he held closer allegiance to the country than to a party.  He had stated, “universal peace cannot come until justice is enthroned throughout the world. Until the right has triumphed in every land and love reigns in every heart, government must, as a last resort, appeal to force”. 

 

He again was the Democratic selection for president in 1900 and he would make four hour-long speeches every day.  In Wisconsin he made 12 speeches in 15 hours.   During this election the Republicans spent ten time the amount as Bryant’s democratic party.  Bryant was feared by several of America’s industrial giants and Carnegie, Rockefeller and Morgan found it necessary to raise the money to defeat him due to his anti-monopoly beliefs.

 

He lost again for the third and last time in 1908.  He had gone on a worldwide speaking tour and had providing American ideals to am imperialistic world.  Prior to World War II he was the Secretary of State and resigned after the sinking of the Lusitania.  By 1925 he was supporting the development of Coral Gables, Florida while making speaking engagements for an estimated $100,000 a year.  With all this success in his later years his religion remained strong and he continued to promote prohibition and fought the teachings of evolution.

 

In 1925 he helped with the prosecution during what has become to be called the Scopes Monkey Trial.  Bryant took the stand and was examined by world famous Clarence Darrow, an early member of the ACLU.  Bryant’s side won the case and he left on a multiple speaking tour on his way home.  Five days later he arrived at home, went to church, ate a large dinner, laid down and peacefully died.

 

 

 

 

Last week I discussed Korea being a major threat to the United States and any capitalistic democratic country.  It is a conventional military threat greater than any other country in the world today and this threat has remained camouflaged as we have focused on the threats from the Middle East and non-conventional military action.  The military force of Korea as well as all political and economic activities reside in the hands of a twenty-seven-year-old dictator that many consider to be mad while others consider him to be quite sane and smart yet ruthless.

 

Korea was occupied by the invading army from Japan from 1910 to 1945.  During this time Korea launched guerrilla war against the invaders from Japan.  Kim ll-sung was one of the guerillas and he later became the first leader of North Korea.  After World war II a boundary was drawn that divided the country in half much as what happened to Germany.  Russian control was in the North and American control was in the South. 

 

In 1949 North Korea invaded South Korea with the aid of the Soviet Union.  Eventually the United Nation supported army moved north, crossed the 38th  parallel that marked the border between the two countries, destroyed the majority of industrial buildings and stopped at the border with Korea and China.  An armistice was signed and remains in effect today.  There was no formal surrender or peace treaty.

 

Over the years China continued to support the North while America supported the south.  In 1958 China officially moved out of North Korea and that is when North Korea marks the birth of its’ nation.    Kim ll-sung remained in power until 1994 when he died of a heart attack.  At the time the countries was in collapse following reduced support from China and the collapse of its’ largest financial supporter, the Soviet Union.  Korea was in a standoff with America over its’ nuclear program and the stress was too much on the elder leader.

 

Kim Jong-ll assumed power but the stress was still there.  North Korea had a great famine and this disaster proved that the country could not support itself in such a catastrophe.  Then George W. Bush declared North Korea to be a Rogue State.  In 2006 North Korea conducted its’ first Nuclear Bomb test.  In 2011 Jong-ll died and he was replaced by his son and current ruler Kim Jong-un.

 

Jong-ill had planned for his son to assume the lead as ruler of Korea.  What was not planned was his early death and it was speculated that Jong-ll’s son, Jong-un was not experienced enough to rule North Korea.  Many believed that Jong-un’s uncle would act as regent until the child-ruler had matured.  This did not happen and eventually the uncle was stripped of all power, his pictured was removed from all public locations and the uncle was executed.  It was reported that his family members were also executed to include children and grandchildren thus eliminating all trace of Jong-ll’s life.

 

Jung-un used the press to build his power and position.  He was declared as “a great person born of heaven”.  Then the working party declared that “We vow with bleeding tears to call Kim Jong-un our supreme commander, our leader.  One Korean magazine declared Jong-un to be the most handsome man in the world for that year.

 

His education was based in Switzerland where he attended school under an assumed name.  He is reported to have been quiet but not a good student and liked basketball.  This could be a reason that he enjoyed a visit from Dennis Rodman to North Korea.  His attendance at school was not good either and his mentor was the North Korean ambassador to Switzerland. When he returned to North Korea he is suspected of attending a military college for five years.  North Korea is very secretive and very little is known of its’ ruling class.

 

Recently, Jong-un is believed to have ordered his half-brothers assassination in Thailand.  The man has no conscience and his method of execution is intended to serve as a psychological message to any that oppose him.

 

The future is very perilous when it comes to North Korea and even though America would triumph in a war, it would be very bloody and brutal.  Twenty-five million civilians would be caught directly in the fire of the two military giants.  Also, as bad as the North wants to march South the South also want to go North and vanquish the devils in North Korea. 

 

The coming weeks will prove to be very interesting if not disconcerting.

 

 

Last week I returned from a week in Mexico.  A trip to the Mexican Riviera; i.e., Cancun south to Tulum, connotes thoughts of free flowing liquor, dancing and one long party.  While his does happen and can happen almost anywhere in the world, there is far more to see and do while vacationing on the Rivera Maya; another term used to describe the vacation spot of the Caribbean in Mexico.

Anyone desiring to visit the remains of a monumental civilization that collapsed and eventually having its’ massive structures swallowed up by the jungle can easily visit reconstructed Mayan cities.  No less than six city states can be visited via tour busses that pick up the tourists at their hotels.  A seventh set of ruins are available four hours south of Cancun but you will need to rent a car to get to it and that is what I explored this year.  Concerns for public safety on the Mexican Riviera or within the Yucatan Peninsula is a myth.  Very seldom do I take a tour bus any longer but instead opt for a rental car.

Instead of an archeological excursion, a tourist can pick a day for a snorkeling tour.  This includes both salt water or fresh water or a combination of both.  One can board a boat that takes a swimmer to various locations that are loaded with fish and you can immerse yourself in a multitude of swimming brilliant colors.  Or a person can take a tour of one or more cenotes, sink holes that are fed by underground rivers and who’s cool crystal clear waters are a refreshing change to the hot humid jungle. 

Water and/or adventure parks abound.  The Travel Channel selected Rio Sigreto as one of the top ten swim locations in the world while XPLOR was selected as one of the top ten water parks in the world.  Both are within twenty minutes of each other. 

The true essence of my trips to Mexico do not lie with archeological ruins or water parks or viewing fish in their nature habitat.  As fun and relaxing as this may appear, the true experience rests with the friendship experienced with the trip.  While sitting on the pool deck of the hotel where we were staying, I stated that this was really a nice trip.  My friend Jeff Davidson who traveled with us with his wife Dianne said that it is not the location that matters.  It is the friendship that makes it special.  A lot to be said for that.

Whether it is on the back porch with a radio playing while sipping ice tea or going out for a movie or sitting on the pool deck of the Royal Hacienda in Playa Del Carmen, it is the friendship that make that point in time so special.  There is nothing more comforting while enjoying some type of outing than to be surrounding by friends.  There is nothing more sad than to witness an individual, either with or without abundant financial funding, sitting alone with no one to experience life with.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines friendship as “the state of being friends, the relationship between friends”.  The problem with a dictionary term is the sterile definition that doesn’t capture the true essence of a meaning.  I prefer to think of friendship as a further expansion of the word as a “relationship that can survive the test of time and remain unconditional”.   Friendship does not demand continual interaction but instead knowing that someone has your best interest and not theirs’ while you all ways have their best interest in mind and would sacrifice to insure they are taken care of.  In todays’ world “having someone’s back” is a term that expresses true friendship.

While Mohammad stated that, “If you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything”, Aristotle refers to friendship as, “A friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”

 

 

 

America had the seeds of democracy planted two hundred and forty-one years ago.  Following the penning of the Declaration of Independence the Constitution of the United states was written.  It was not until 1788 that the document we know as the Constitution was ratified.  Three years later in 1791 the Constitution was amended with ten constitutional amendments that are referred to as the Bill of Rights.  These amendments have now expanded to consist of twenty-seven amendments.

 

The first amendment is one of the most far reaching and impacting pieces of legislation that has ever been produced in the history of man.  This small set of words has the influence to guarantee freedoms to the citizens of our great nation and these freedoms originate as part of the Constitution of the United States.  This is a remarkable development in democracy that had never been attempted before.  This amendment, the First Amendment, prohibits Congress from obstructing the exercise of certain individual freedoms: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition.

 

The Congress of the United States made it certain that freedom of speech is not to be curtailed by the government.  It is written that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”   As much as freedom of speech and the right to descent is a right given to the citizens of the United States there are limits that must be maintained to insure equal justice.  When a person is invited to speak at a public forum this person is allowed by the constitution to address those that attend the speech.  Today many attend the speech and instead of allowing the speaker to address the mass the speaker is jeered and in many cases forced to leave the podium.  The rowdy thugs that disrupt speeches and gatherings wrap themselves in the Constitution and proclaim they have freedom of speech and they are within their rights to disrupt someone else’s freedoms of speech.

 

Just as indignant as the disruption of speeches is, the contempt displayed to elected federal officials is even more saddening.  These men and women who represent their districts in Washington go home to hold town hall meetings and hear from the citizens of the area they represent. Instead of constructive civil discussion and a trade of ideas, the elected officials are met with childish outbreaks and immature behavior from members in the crowd.  There is nothing constructive in the dialogue and those who came to the town hall to hear what is happening in the nation’s capital are denied the opportunity due to the unruly behavior of a few.

 

So when does freedom of speech and the right to decent go too far and treads on the right of others.  Anytime that a person is not allowed to give his point of view because it contradicts another person’s thoughts, values or beliefs; the person stopping the speaker is wrong.  There is not debate to this, there Is no negotiating the issue; the person interrupting and disrupting is wrong, end of story!

 

What is causing this type of behavior.  The answer is simple.  Lack of respect for an orderly society causes a breakdown in the moral fiber of a great nation.  Respect is a learned behavior and one that has been lost over the last several decades.  Doing right, learning respect and developing into a mature individual begins at home and is reinforced in our education systems.  Our children are the future of our nation.  It is important that they receive the understanding of human values from the time they take their first breaths and continue with this home education until they leave the nest.  Discipline must be allowed and encouraged in our education institutions.  Today  a child cannot receive corporal punishment at school.  Too bad; if a child is unruly and all else has failed; the use of the paddle has an intended meaning.  As a person that received his share of smacks on the rump, it definitely made an impression on my outlook on life without causing hostile tendencies.  In the past this was supported at home.  If a child was disciplined at school the student could expect to receive the same thing upon arriving at the home.  That is reinforcement for what is right and also reinforcement of our school systems.

 

Let us hope that we can become more respectful for our elected officials and each other.  If not then we will experience a wider void within our country that will threaten to eventually tear the country apart.