For several years I have been quit vocal about North Korea and how it had been running under the radar when it came to public awareness of it harsh policies. This was advantageous to prior administrations as America’s North Korean policy was more of pacification than confrontation and ultimately delaying major hostility between the United States and North Korea. For decades numerous administrations’ foreign policies were to do just enough to keep North Korea from bubbling up into a confrontation and thus let some future administration make the tough decisions when it comes to getting North Korea under control and act like a responsible nation. This concept of kicking-the-can-down the road and let the next administration handle the tough options has finally come to an end.
North Korea has snubbed its’ nose at the United States, the West and the United Nations since the armistice was signed on July 27th, 1953. There was no peace treaty and no surrender document. The war between North and South Korea has simply been put on hold.
North Korea has been testing the resolve of South Korea and the United States, South Korea’s biggest ally, since the 1950s. In the 1970s North Korea kidnapped ordinary citizens from the costal areas of Japan. The reasons are widely speculated. Some were believed killed so their identity could be used by the North Koreans. Some women were believed to be kidnapped to be married to Japanese terrorist living in North Korea. Others were believed to have been kidnapped to teach Japanese to North Korean spy schools. Officially only 17 kidnappings took place but unofficially the number is in the hundreds.
Prior to the kidnapping of Japanese citizens, the North Koreans attacked, boarded and confiscated a United States Naval ship in International water. The ship was a spy ship but was not operating in North Korean waters. America did launch a flight of fighter jets from Japan but recalled the aircraft. It was stated that it was becoming dark, so the planes returned to base. The truth is more likely to be that concerns with Chinese intervention during a time that we were mired in Viet Nam was a more viable reason for allowing North Korea to sieze an American war ship.
As South Korea flourished and became an internationally economically viable country, North Korea concentrated on building a massive army and required armaments. Eventually this morphed into the development of nuclear weapon and a deployment system that could reach the United States. In the past the United States indirectly negotiated the nuclear issue. North Korea placated American fears, Washington gave high fives for averting a North Korean nuclear threat and North Korea resumed nuclear weapon development as they giggled behind closed doors at the naivety of the West. All this has now changed; or has it?
The North Koreans have called for a meeting with South Korea and the United States. What a shock! Out of no where the North sent athletes to the Olympics in Seoul. Accompanying them were North Korean cheerleaders and the sister of the North Korean leader. Shortly after the Olympics ended North Korea asked for the meeting. Now there are reports that North Korea is prepared to dismantle its’ nuclear program.
This is a wonderful belief and it is hoped that the world has learned in the past that North Korea promises anything but the promises hold no merit. The possibilities are empty rhetoric. We can’t be duped any longer and there are several reasons to believe that foreign policy with North Korea will be different this time.
We have a president that is not skilled in previous international policy but is a master in negotiating. Prior failed negotiation tactics will take a back seat to new tough talk that brings a new look to how we work with North Korea. China used to be a major threat to our involvement on the Korean peninsula. China has grown up, has become the second largest economy in the world, has smelled economic success and does not want a major confrontation with the United States and desires an end to North Korea’s foolishness. A third reason that the North Korean meeting may be constructive is due to increased heavy economic sanctions placed on North Korea may be hitting deeply into the country. They may soon be in very dire economic straits. This could come to a head this fall so North Korea is anxious to come to a quick agreement.
I am optimistic that we may finally see an end to the Korean armistice and then see a peace treaty signed. Even more optimistically I am hoping that all the pieces come together and North and South Korea are unified into one country; a country that finds freedom and liberty for all citizens of the Korean peninsula.


When I was in Arabia we had some pretty big projects. We would design a facility and then invite construction contractors to build what had been designed. The contractor would take the drawings and the scope of works and estimate what it would cost to build the facility and would then submit a bid to preform the work. If a contractor was the successful bidder they would be awarded the contract. If they were not the low bidder, they would have to absorb the cost to estimate and prepare the bid. Some estimates cost the contractor as much as $100,000 dollars. The construction contractors that bid on the job were from countries around the world. One day I heard that the countries were not truly on a level playing field. Not all the contractors had to eat the cost of the estimate. The Korean contractors that were not the lower bidders and thus did not receive the contract had their estimating costs reimbursed to them by the government. The American or Italian or Lebanese contractors were not so lucky. This was not a level playing field but there was nothing that could be done and the Koreans won some quit large contracts.
On the surface we would be upset that this was going on in the world of business. This is similar to what President Trump just addressed with his tariff on steel and aluminum. America is being attacked by countries that are dumping iron and steel on American markets at a cost that is less than what it costs to make. Foreign countries are subsidizing these companies and American industry is paying the price. To counter this unfair trade, President Trump has announced that he is imposing costs on imported steel and aluminum; tariffs. Is this a wise move or are there underlying problems? Has this been attempted before.
Implementation of tariffs is as old as our nation. A large set of tariffs was implemented in 1828. President William McKinley was an expert on tariffs when he took office and executed tariffs when he took office just prior to the Spanish American war. Even though the tariffs provide immediate support for the American worker that is under attack there can be consequences to the country. For every action there is a reaction and if America places tariffs on another countries products there is a probability that the other country will place tariffs on American goods. This tit for tat can build on itself and ultimately force an all out trade war. This is when a Savior becomes a Satan.
In 1930 America was at the front of the Great Depression. It was felt that protectionist trade practices had to be implemented to defend American products. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff act passed in congress placed tariffs on 20,000 goods imported by the United States. This in turn launched a trade war that failed to help the American worker. Today economist and economic historians feel that the Smoot-Hawley act exacerbated the Great Depression.
When the Smoot-Hawley Tariff passed in congress, 1,028 economist signed a petition asking President Herbert Hoover to veto the bill. Henry Ford spent an evening with Hoover an tried to talk him into vetoing the bill. Hoover never vetoed the bill and a trade war ensued. It is unclear what the negative impact of the tariff was for the country but it is understood that while it did not directly cause the Great Depression it make the depression more difficult. American jobs were ultimately lost.
Ironically, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla motors defended the tariffs that were implemented by President Trump last week. He stated that steel and aluminum competition in the American markets was like an athlete competing in the Olympics but had to wear lead shoes.
The United States federal government must understand that while dumping steel and aluminum on American Markets is not ethical and is costing American citizens good jobs and thus deserves tariffs, this must not launch into an all out trade war. The Executive Branch of the United States has all ready modified the tariff language and has excluded Mexico and Canada from being tariffed. The president also stated that other countries could petition the United States and request that they also be excluded from the tariff. This may be exactly what the President had in mind. The biggest culprit of steel and aluminum dumping is China. If China wants the tariff lifted on their products then they will have to petition the United States to do so. This will then open one-on-one negotiations between China and the United States and thus hopefully will reduce a world wide trade war while re-opening steel and aluminum plants across America.

Christmas holds a special place in the hearts of man. It’s hard to understand just why there is such a warm feeling that envelops us like a fog moving into a high-country snow-covered meadow. A feeling of goodwill and a feeling of peace fills our being. It is during this time that we believe that as tragic as our circumstances are, there is a future, bright and friendly, waiting for us. It is during this period that we take time to reflect and greet neighbors that we would otherwise not even acknowledge. Yes, Christmas is a special magical time that brings out the best, even in the middle of a war.
In 1914 the world was at war. America had not entered the conflict at that time but England and France were locked together in a bloody fighting against Germany. It was not a quick moving war but had deteriorated to a series of static geographical areas where troops lived in muddy trenches, shivered in bitter cold and lived under constant artillery attacks. It is said that France lost an entire generation of males as suicide attacks into German machine guns often took place.
Christmas of 1914 found the two great armies facing each other. France and England were both Christian based countries and Christmas held a special place in the hearts of the soldiers. Much of the Christmas traditions that we follow today originated in Germany. The Christian doctrine had begun in Germany via Martin Luther so all warring factions had a special place for Christmas. Even Christmas trees with candles hanging from the branches were a part of ancient Germany. Christmas held a special place in the hearts of the combatants of World War I on both sides.
On Christmas Eve of 1914, German troops began decorating their trench lines. They placed candles along the trenches and on Christmas trees which they displayed to the enemy. The Germans then began singing Christmas carols. The English and the French returned the gesture with carols of their own. What a surreal world this must have been on a cold December night where two opposing forces had made every effort to destroy each other and then peace settled over the artillery pocked landscape and Christmas carols filled the night air. This was not local as it is estimated that eventually 100,000 soldiers fell under the spell.
The celebration of the greatest holiday continued and opposing troops walked into no-mans land, shook hands and exchanged cigarettes and cigars. A portion of our world where no man is supposed to remain alive was now a place of Christmas celebration. There were reports that soccer games also took place between opposing armies. What an amazing time of the year where peace is possible.
Captain Robert Patrick Mile was attached to the Royal Irish Rifles and wrote home about this special Christmas day. “Friday (Christmas Day). We are having the most extraordinary Christmas Day imaginable. A sort of unarranged and quite unauthorized but perfectly understood and scrupulously observed truce exists between us and our friends in front. The funny thing is it only seems to exist in this part of the battle line – on our right and left we can all hear them firing away as cheerfully as ever. The thing started last night – a bitter cold night, with white frost – soon after dusk when the Germans started shouting ‘Merry Christmas, Englishmen’ to us. Of course, our fellows shouted back and presently large numbers of both sides had left their trenches, unarmed, and met in the debatable, shot-riddled, no man’s land between the lines. Here the agreement – all on their own – came to be made that we should not fire at each other until after midnight tonight. The men were all fraternizing in the middle (we naturally did not allow them too close to our line) and swapped cigarettes and lies in the utmost good fellowship. Not a shot was fired all night.”
Unfortunately, the cease fire did not last past Christmas and very soon both sides were doing the best they could to kill the men they had just befriended and celebrated with. On December 30th, just five days after the Christmas celebration, Captain Robert Patrick Mile of the Royal Irish Rifles was killed in action.
Merry Christmas to everyone and take a moment to reflect on how special this time of the year is. It is not the presents we receive that really matters; instead it is the Christmas cheer that we give that really makes this time of the year so special.

During our lives we have adversarial moments that seem to never end. We know something is right and just but wrong seems to prevail. Then we wake up one day and realize that justice is taking place and due to the untiring work of nameless hardworking individuals, right prevails. I experienced this recently.
Several weeks ago I walked through the local Wal Mart Store and discovered that a month before Halloween and in 90 degree weather Christmas decorations were appearing on the shelves. I thought that the day will eventually come when Christmas merchandise is never taken down. It really diminishes the anticipation of the holiday and waters down the true meaning of the holiday. Then I spotted something that made me think that the attack on Christmas, the true meaning of the Holiday and the happiness and good feelings it brings may be returning to our culture.
The local Wal Mart had in the past years, for the most part, refrained from selling religious significant merchandise for Christmas. Last year they did add a small Nativity Set and it was hoped that the pendulum had started to swing for a more traditional holiday period where the Holiday represented celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
This year it was a pleasant surprise to find a section of the store dedicated to Christian artifacts that acknowledged the true meaning of the time of the season. Nativity sets and wall hangings were there and other Christian significant decorations were at other locations around the store. It appears that the true story of the Holiday is returning to Wal Mart. It is only hoped that the other retail chains follow suit and we can return to a simpler, less politically correct, less money conscious time when we can truly enjoy and celebrate our Christmas season.

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. 


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.


We all know the common names of the authors and signers of the Declaration of Independence.  Names such as Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington and of course Hancock are all synonymous with this historic document.  Not only did they craft the document that would announce to England that America was declaring independence but it meant that the signers committed treason. They were all subjects of Great Britain and they now declared to be independent and would no longer obey the laws of their home land.  In essence, they signed their own death warrants.

While some of the signers of the Declaration are etched in American history and later went on to create the Constitution of the United States, the majority of the fifty-six Declaration signers have been lost in history.  Each was unique but each had one commonality, they felt that a new nation was possible where men lived free and they would be allowed to pursue their dreams unencumbered by class standing.

One of the little known signers was John Witherspoon.  Witherspoon was a Scottish born Presbyterian minister.  He sailed to America to become president of the College of New Jersey; now Princeton.  He was influential in American education and was famous for intimidating both students and peers.

He was one of the early member of the Continental Congress and was a staunch supporter for independence.  When an individual stated that America was not yet ripe for independence, Witherspoon commented,  “In my judgment, sir, we are not only ripe, but rotting.”  During the Highlander uprising in Scotland he was captured and imprisoned thus his fervor for freedom from England was embellished in his psyche.  When the signing of the Declaration of Independence took place he was the only clergyman to ink the document.

Once war broke out Witherspoon experienced the horrors of treason and the sad reality of being a patriot.  His oldest son joined the continental army,  rose to major and was killed in the battle of Germantown.  Later that year his home was burned to the ground by the British soldiers. 

He continued to serve his new country following the end of the Revolutionary War.  Princeton had been badly damaged during the battle there.  He spent two years to help repair the damage.  Witherspoon also became a member of the New Jersey convention that was convened to ratify the constitution.

Several years after the end of the war in 1789 Witherspoon’s wife died.  She was the mother of ten Witherspoon children.  Witherspoon was then 66 years old.  Two years later at 68 Witherspoon married a 24-year old widow.  He died in 1794 but not before fathering two more children.

This is only one of the fifty-six signers of our Declaration of Independence and characterizes the character of the individuals that forged our country.