Posts Tagged ‘BERNICE BANNER’

 

 

 

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.”

 

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.

 

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.

 

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