Over the past several years the primary focus of the American population has centered on the Mid-East and especially ISIS and the revolution in Syria.  Issues in Iraq filled up the remainder of the space in the newspapers.  Of course we have had a presidential election to end all elections and that has filled up much of the space in the papers and on the airwaves.  With all the attention on the Mid-East and domestic politics Korea has flown under the radar.  In fact Korea poses a much larger problem from both a military perspective and a leadership perspective than what is general understood.

From a military aspect North Korea is a formable foe and while many feel that the North was defeated in the Korean war there was no surrender.  Instead there was a cease fire and the line between the North and the South was established on the 38th parallel.  This cease fire has remained in effect for almost 65 years.  Today the North Korean army numbers 700,000 with an additional 4.5 million Koreans in the reserve.  The active duty troops in North Korea outnumber the South Korean troops by 2 to 1.  Logistically the North Koreans have 70 submarines, 4,200 tanks, 458 fighter jets and 572 fixed-wing aircraft.

Until recently there was a deterrent to North Korea moving south and attacking the democratic governed country loyal to America and the West, South Korea.  That deterrent was nuclear arms controlled by the United States located within South Korea.  North Korea has now tested five nuclear bombs and the last test was a bomb small enough to be transported on a missile.  This changes the entire  power structure in the region.  With North Korea developing a missile that could reach the United States we now have a nut  in North Korea could severely damage property and kill American citizens.

The worst case scenario in world terrorism has roads through North Korea.  ISIS and other terrorist organizations would love to have a nuclear weapon that they could get into Europe or the United States and then detonate the bomb.  Soon North Korea will have the ability to provide such a weapon.  Providing a nuclear bomb to ISIS would be a win/win for North Korea.  ISIS would gladly pay dearly for the weapon and then ISIS would do North Korea’s dirty work when it detonates the nuclear bomb.

In addition to one of the largest and best prepared militaries in the world, North Korea has a mad man that controls this force.  Kim Jong-un inherited his position when his father died.  Very little is known about the leader of North Korea; however, it is understood that he did receive two college degrees.  It is also thought that he spent some time in Switzerland in school but under an assumed name.

When he first came to power I had erroneously thought that we may have an opportunity to obtain an easing of tension on the Korean Peninsula.  This Pillsbury Dough Boy looking child-like leader quickly proved me wrong.  He is ruthless with little or no conscience and no regard for human life.  Soon after taking power he had his uncle executed; fearing his uncles attempt to seize power.  He  later had the minister executed by firing squad.  The firing squad consisted of anti-aircraft guns.

America does have a card up its’ sleeve.  All earlier American administrations used diplomacy to deal with North Korea.  While it had an effect on keeping North and South Korea from an all-out war, the North Korean government continued to build a massive military while snubbing its’ nose at world-wide sanctions.  America even had a military ship illegally seized in the late 60s and America had to pay a ransom for the release of the men.  Today we have a new player in the White House and this is certain to have North Korea guessing.  Following a massive cruise missile attack on Syria and then a week later having the largest non-nuclear bomb in the American arsenal dropped in Afghanistan has certainly had Korean diplomats scratching its’ head.  North Korea does not know what to expect from the new administration and that is exactly the response that we want.  This new uncertainty is what we need to keep North Korea off base and questioning what will happen next.  In the meantime, an American aircraft carrier is steaming off the coast of North Korea and several Japanese destroyers have joined the task force in a training exercise.

North Korea is no longer the flying under the radar.

 

Different industries and different products have a definite life cycle that is ushered in with an idea that grows from a seed to a full blooming business only to eventually wither and die.  There are exceptions like the giant Redwoods of California that break with tradition and live for thousands of years.  In our own short life times we have witnessed this cycle with major products.

When I was a teenager 8-track tape decks came into vogue.  A person could take his car into the 8-track store in West Monroe, Louisiana and in an hour and a half you could drive out with a new Munce tape player hanging from the dash connected to four speakers that had been installed in the doors or beneath the dash.  The industry exploded and while you waited to have the deck installed you could scan thousands of 8-track tapes that carried toons from hundreds of musicians.  Later the 4-track tape was introduced and the industry expanded.

As the industry reached its’ pinnacle it was quickly replaced with the smaller and higher quality cassette tapes and the introduction of the Walkman.  Cars and trucks came from the factory with cassette players installed and the 8-track player disappeared.  Then the CD discs took over and replaced the cassettes and today we are watching MP3 players and touch pads challenging the CD industry.

All of this evolution took place over a mere fifty years and we have witnessed this in many other endeavors such as the VHS player to the streaming video we have today; stick welding in industry changing to automatic welding; rotary dial phones to digital phones to wireless bag phones to the iphones we have today;  change is constant and icons of our society disappear over time.

One representation of the American fiber is the good ole News Paper; rolled paper arriving daily or weekly and brought to us through the mail or by a person tossing it from the window of a car in the early morning hours.  Many years ago it was a paper boy on his bicycle making money in his after school job that delivered the news to us.

The news papers was used to light the flame of democracy in our fledgling nation.  Benjamin Franklin was a publisher and writer.  The news paper was the single most important source of information for our country.  It carried stories of war and peace, of entertainment and history and how amazing it was when USA Today began printing in color and we could see images in living hues instead of black and white.

We also found other uses for the paper.  If a dog did wrong then a quick pop on the nose from a rolled up paper could be expected.  Many a read paper found itself lining the floor of the parakeet cage and when winter arrived a rolled up paper kindled many a fireplace.  Yes, the paper had multiple lives in our society.  Unfortunately the paper copy of the news paper is going through a transition that threatens the future of our historical landmark.

Internet and digital publishing are major threats to the hard copy newspaper.  The competition is unique and quit large as we transition to music, books and news available on one small electronic device.  Major papers such as the Rocky Mountain News are disappearing and a list of ten papers that are in trouble has recently been identified.  Leaders in the industry such as the Boston Globe and the Miami Herald are on the list.  How sad as we watch a major thread in the fabric of our nation dissolve and disappear.  But alas there is some salvation and like a beacon from the past the newspaper will survive courtesy of the small town community focused newspapers.

Our local communities in Union Parish are fortunate to have two well-focused papers.  This is at a time that the much larger Monroe paper is evaporating as it shifts its focus on digital publishing while minimizing news in its’ printed edition and at the same time encouraging its’ readers to move from paper news to digital news.

The local papers around the country have been with us since the founding of our country and it appears that these papers will be the torchbearer for the industry.  At a time that we are experiencing technology advances at an exponential rate it is comforting to revert back to a slower time and sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoy reading about our communities in one of our local newspapers. The local newspapers are the Redwoods of the printed news industry.  And we will still have something to pop the dogs’ nose with.

 

For the most part America’s judicial system is taken for granted.  Until it is understood how other legal systems function does the uniqueness of the American jury system become apparent.  Trial by jury of a person’s peers is a concept that is a core of American culture.  Although jury duty can be a discomfort to many that are selected to serve, it is deemed by many to be the second most important aspect of civilian service to one’s country only behind military service.  Much of the jury duty practiced in America is based on the English methods that came from the founding of our great nation.

Oher countries around the world are sovereign nations and as such has a right to set their own judicial methods.  While many aspects of their judicial system may be criticized by Americans, it is their right to develop and implement their own processes and procedures.

While living in Saudi Arabia it was very apparent that one needs to understand the laws of the country you are living in.  At the time I lived in Arabia the laws of the land were strictly and quickly adhered to.  If a person was arrested for a crime, say murder, the trial took place rather quickly.  The governor listened to the pleadings of the two legal councils and would decide the fate of the accused.  There is no jury of peers.  If found guilty the accused has one right of appeal and that was to a council in the capital, Riyadh.  If the council upheld the conviction, the guilty person was taken out to the town square after noon prayers on the next Friday (the holy day in Islam) and would be decapitated in public.  If the murder was a large well publicized incident such as the assassination of the king in the early 1970s, the execution would take place in a soccer stadium.  Needless to say, the deterrent to the crime was present and when I lived in Arabia you need not lock your doors at home or your car and crime was quite rare.

England has a very detailed and structured legal system.  In a criminal case a jury is called in a similar manner as American judicial systems.  There is one unique difference.  In America swearing in a juror is performed without a juror’s religious preference but reference to God is made.  In English courts, a juror can swear to uphold the law and render a correct verdict based on his or her religion.

Christian jurors in England swear to God that they will give a fair verdict while Muslims swear a similar oath to Allah.  Sikh jurors, a minority religion in India swear by Waheguru while Hindu jurors, the minority in India, instead of swearing to a religious leader swear on the Gila, the Hindi religious scripture.  Individuals that do not swear such as atheists, agnostics, and Christians who do not swear oaths, such as Quakers, Moravians, and Jehovah’s Witnesses can instead declare and affirm that they will deliver a fair verdict.  Another uniqueness of English courts as compared to American courts is how to handle jurors that become sick, die or have to be excused.  In American courts 12 jurors are seated and two alternates are also seated in case members from the original 12 can not finish the trial.  In English courts the jury is also 12 members but there are no alternates and the trial will continue until a minimum of 8 jurors are left.

It would be only right at this time of the year to look at another trial and observe the jury that was used to find a person guilty of treason.  Actually it was two trials; one religious and one based on the laws of a conquering country.  Two thousand years ago Jesus was arrested by the Jewish leaders and was placed on trial for claiming to be the King of the Jews.  He was taken to the Sanhedrin, an ad hoc religious body that consists of priests and scribes.  Following this trial he is taken to the Roman court where it is requested that Jesus be tried for claiming to be the King of the Jews which would be construed as treason to the Roman government.  Following debate Pilot allowed the people of Jerusalem to choose Jesus’s fate.  The date of the trial was the Jewish Passover and the Roman leader could release one guilty individual so Pilot allowed the throng in Jerusalem to become a type of jury, a sort of mob court.  Instead of releasing Jesus the mob jury released a murder by the name of Barabbas.  The Roman leader accepted the fate based on the jury.  The rest is history.

 

Theodore Roosevelt, former president of the United States, one said “Speak softly but carry a big stick”.  This iconic statement has embellished America’s resolve to build a great nation full of ideals and advantages for the common man and live in peace but be prepared to defend itself and its’ interest if required to do so.  This man felt that America had a manifest destiny to provide the leadership to throw off the yokes of dictatorships around the world and provide some semblance of safety and security to all mankind.  While Roosevelt was president the Czar of Russia was in power.  The Czar was ruthless and showed little care for the Russian peasants.  It has been reported that Roosevelt had a shooting range behind the White House and on occasion the targets he would shoot were silhouettes of the Czar.

Recently America transitioned away from Roosevelts comments.  Following several conflicts that made America war weary, the phrase changed to “speak softly, carry a stick but let someone else use their stick”.  While this keeps us out of conflicts it also left America’s allies asking where is the resolve to lead that made America such a great nation.

When I first began writing several years ago I expressed my concern that the United States needed to quickly support the Syrian rebels and overthrow the dictatorial Assad regime.  There had been 240 civilian deaths at the time.  Today over 400,000 have been killed.  Then later I noted that the revolution was taking its toll and allowed ISIS to get a foothold in the fragmented nation and later told how the longer we wait the harder it would be to obtain peace in Syria while at the same time defeating the growing monster, ISIS.  We have seen Russia move into Syria and take a lead in the region and eventually snubbing its’ nose at the United States and its European allies.  Then we saw America tell Syria that it would not accept use of chemical weapons on its’ civilians only to do nothing when they did use it.  Britain voted to take no action, America opted to do nothing and France stood by in amazement as its’ jets sat on the runways waiting to strike Syria alongside its’ allies.   The planes never launched and The Great American Mystic was beginning to lose its’ allure.

Last week Syria launched a deadly gas attack against its’ own civilians killing men, women and children with indiscretion.  Men and women that only wanted to live one day at a time and children that only wanted an opportunity to play in peace all met an agonizing and horrific death.  The use of gas in war has been outlawed by the Geneva convention so the gas used by the Assad regime to kill its’ own civilians should have never been developed and stored.  Also, this is not the first time that Syria used gas against its’ own citizens.  In the late 80s the present ruler Assad’s father attacked two Kurdish towns in Syria and used gas to indiscriminately kill the populations.  Last weeks’ attack was nothing new for Syria, it was its’ third time and like the saying goes, “three’s the charm”.

President Donald Trump launched a strike against Syrian air force resources in what is nothing less than brilliant.  First, the attack had to be designed.  That means that details of what was to be hit had to be identified.  Then each cruise missile had to be programmed to hit specific targets.  This was not a carpet bombing raid that would have indiscriminately dropped missiles on a Syrian base.  Instead a surgical strike that placed individual missiles inside aircraft bunkers was launched and only after a few hours to design the raid.  In addition to the precision of the strike the magnitude was surprising.  Instead of a few missiles being launched to send a message, the strike consisted of forty-nine warheads.  This sent a further message that when America launches a raid it will to win.  All this took place within a few short hours.

Had America wanted to take Syrian lives the cruise missiles would have targeted air force barracks.  Instead the causalities were small, only nine dead and shows America did not care to kill but instead destroy planes and missile sites and send a message.   Finally America was speaking softly but proved it carried a big stick and was prepared to use it.

Many criticized Trump for not debating the strike.  While this may be a nice gesture, telling an enemy it will be attacking and giving the enemy weeks to prepare is ludicrous.  The shock factor of this strike was enormous and sent a clear message to Syria and to its’ key ally, Russia.

 

I have been a staunch advocate for patriotism. There is something special about America and the people that make up this unique nation. Part of this uniqueness is the individuals that make up the country and part of this uniqueness is the laws that make up the countries legal system. One very exceptional aspect of America is the right of a trial by jury and the nature of the jury being made up of a cross section of the population. Also unique to the American judicial system is the method of calling or “seating” a jury.

All my life I have been surrounded by the American Legislative and Judicial systems; however it was not until last week that I was an active participant in the jury process. I have never considered having myself recused from jury duty. I was called only one other time and then would have served but the trial was cancelled the day before jury selection so I waited ten years before being called again.

Jury duty is an obligation of the citizens of our nation and it is this obligation to participate that has made and kept our country strong for over two hundred years. It is also the obligation of the businesses in the country to sacrifice, just as employees do, and provide wages to employees during jury duty. This is not a law and should not be a mandate from government; instead it should be a reinforcement of our nations processes by business .

It has been stated that jury duty is second only to military service as the most important sacrifice a citizen can give to the country. Being a juror goes much farther than determining the guilt or innocence of a person or company. The decision to be a juror reinforces the tenants of our country that every man is guaranteed a fair trial and the decision of the innocence and guilt of a person will be determined by peers of the defendant. Participating in the jury process in the United States is not an option but is instead an obligation by the common citizen to insure that our government remains strong and fair.

There is no Perry Mason nor CSI or Law and Order when it comes to true jury selection. The actual process to select a jury for a trial is quite complex and can take quite a bit of time to insure a fair and impartial jury is selected. Additionally, the instructions and quick education of the jury pool as to the laws that are being reviewed are very well organized. The legal councils and the judge realize that jurors are not lawyers, do not read legal journals but instead need a clear understanding of the laws that have allegedly been broken. This was done with both professionalism but with a clear understanding of the limitations of the jurors at the trial I was sitting in. There was no intent to intimidate the jury and the lawyers and the judge displayed a kind and gentle approach to the explanation of the process that was about to take place in the courtroom.

Prior to entering the courtroom one could hear mumblings and grumblings about having to be called for duty. Then when a person from the pool was called and was seated in the jury booth a transformation seemed to take place. There were no complaints and potential jurors took a different view. Stories of hardships associated to jury duty changed to affirmation from the potential juror that they will do whatever is required to be able to serve. Those that were selected seem to sit a little straighter, seemed a little prouder and appeared to be ready to carry out the duties of the political system.

I was not called to serve on the jury but was prepared to do what was required to serve the local courts and reinforce the laws of the land. It was rewarding to see the other individuals carry out their obligation to our great nation.

Next week we will explore juries in other countries. Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, Russia and the Far East will be examined.

 

During our lives we experience certain things that seem to brand themselves into our psyche.  These special events appear to have happened just yesterday as time seems to stand still.  Then one day the event is put into perspective and we say to ourselves that we can’t believe it has been that long since the incident took place.  It may have been something as tragic as the assassination of a president or the death of an iconic rock and roll king or perhaps something more local.  For me the recent epiphany was the 125th Anniversary of the birth of Farmerville.  I came across the souvenir program for the ceremonies and said to myself that it is hard to believe this took place fifty years ago, and it seems just like yesterday.

On March 15, 1976 the town of Farmerville began a four day birthday celebration.  This celebration exemplifies what a small community can do when it pulls together, what teamwork can accomplish when focused on a common result and what a fun environment rural America can be.

Festivities began the evening of March 15th when the Centenary Band performed in the Farmerville gym.  In 1976 a live performance was a big event for a community and for small Farmerville to have the Centenary College Choir travel from Shreveport to Farmerville to perform was no small event.  Admission was charged and students had to pay $.50 and adults were charged $1.00.  Committee Chairman for the Choir was Mrs. Cecil Read, math and physics teach at Farmerville high School.

The celebration moved into high gear on March 16th.  Farmerville was undergoing an economic growth spurt due to several individual and state investments in the area.  Farmerville’s celebration allowed an opportunity to showcase these successes.  International Paper held an exhibit in honor of one of its’ most prolific timber suppliers for its’ Bastrop Paper Mill.  Mr. Max Gilmore hosted this event.  A flower show opened to showcase beautiful flower arrangements prepared by the Farmerville Garden Club.  This club was formed by Mrs Ralph Harper in 1948, a teacher at Farmerville and the show was organized by Mrs. N.B. James.  A small museum was established in the lobby of the new First Federal Savings and Loan on Main Street with Mrs. Frank Yelton chairing this exhibit.  Also opening for the celebration was the art show that showcased the talent of Mr. Larce Holder’s art classes.  Mrs. James Fenton organized the art show.  Two locations were set aside for art from both adolescent and adult classes. On the afternoon of the 16th a large parade was held.  Marching bands, majorettes and floats that celebrated the birth of our town were all there.   Mr.  Richard Neely organized the parade.  Following the parade the Preaus-Auger Chip Mill was formally dedicated.  This was a major economic boom for the area and was hosted by Mr. Fred Preaus.  That night a banquet was held at the Farmerville Cafeteria and was chaired by Mrs. C.  R. Rainwater.  This was followed by a Convocation in the Farmerville gym that was accommodated by Mr. W.C. McMurrian.   Many may ask what a convocation is.  It is a gathering of people and in the deep south it use to have a religious theme.  Unfortunately the details of the convocation for the Farmerville ceremony appears to have been lost over time.   What a long but fun day March 16th was.

On Friday March 17th the Art Show, Flower Show, and Museum continued.  That evening the Farmerville Gym was once again the venue for the birthday when it hosted a variety show plus the Miss Farmerville contest.  Mr. Roy Forrester chaired the variety show while Mr. Jack Hill headed the Pageant committee.  Admission to the event was $.75 for students and $1.00 for adults.  This pageant morphed into the Watermelon Pageant and has produced Miss Louisiana’s and Miss America Contestants.

In the morning of March 18th  Gerald Farrah coordinated an air show that showcased precision parachute jump teams..  Then the culmination of the celebration took place in the gym.  The Ole South Ball took place with awards going to the lady with the most authentic gown.  This was not the biggest part of the evening.  Phares Corder and his orchestra played till mid-night and the gym rocked with old and young dancing through the evening.  I have to admit that I took full advantage of the event.  This was sponsored by the Farmerville Jaycees and admission was $2.50.

Hillary Clinton wrote a book, “It takes a Village”.  The 125th anniversary of the founding of Farmerville exemplifies that term.  It took a unified effort with a lot of leadership and a lot of pride to produce the ceremony and it was a grand event.

Happy birthday Farmerville.  For one hundred and seventy-five years old you are still quit a beautiful lady.

One note, I used the names of the chairs for the various committees as they were presented in the official souvenir program.  The women were identified as the wife of her husband and the ladies names were not used.  That was the way it was in 1967.  A lot has happened in 50 years.

 

One of the planks that Donald Trump ran on for the presidency of the United States was the replacement of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.  For many people this replacement was to repeal Obamacare in one swift action.  Last year I had written about the repeal of Obamacare and had noted how this was a huge undertaking and it would truly take a year to get the Affordable Care Act broken apart.  It was also noted that there are good parts to the legislation and these parts should remain in effect.  The rest of the act would need to be uncoupled piece by piece and then recoupled with replacement pieces that will fix what is wrong with the act today.

Soon after Donald Trump took office the replacement of Obamacare began.  The Republicans developed legislation that would start the process to change bad parts of the original act.  It would be the U.S. Congress that would craft the legislation and would then have to pass the bill.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan would have to manage the votes to insure there was adequate voters to approve the new legislation.  President Trump was actively working with members of the House of Representatives to encourage a “yes” vote.  The Democrats had no involvement in developing the legislation and while many criticized the Democrats for their lack of involvement the question needs to be asked about how much input was invited by the Republicans.

By mid-last week it was apparent that there were not enough votes to pass the first part of the Obamacare repeal.  Republicans were splintered.  Certain factions wanted to phase in the breakup and rebuild Obamacare while other factions wanted a total repeal on day one.  The factions that wanted a full repeal did not want to support a partial replacement.  This is unfortunate as there now appears to be a split in the Republican Party that the American citizenship did not want and it was this type of dissention that America desires to see disappear.  It was well understood that no Democrat would vote to appeal any part of Obamacare.

Last Friday President Trump was asked to not call for a vote but instead table the bill and thus prevent even worse consequences for the Republican Party.  Speaker Ryan made the recommendation and this was a stroke of political genius and prevented even more dissention within the party.  Had a vote been cast then names of legislators would be linked to the “no vote” and thus could have led to finger pointing and even some legislators being voted out of office.

Now that the repeal of Obamacare is off the table for a while it is time for the “American” congress to act like a legislative body with the country being the primary focus of congress.  Republicans that are rewriting the proposed legislation must invite the Democrats to the table and request input for the new bill.  All sectors of the Republican party must be in agreement with the bill and a unified party must be involved with the final vote.  Finally, the bill must be presented to the American people prior to the vote and explain what it will do and what it will not do.

President Trump was quick to note that Speaker Ryan had worked ha