Posts Tagged ‘farmerville gazette’

This was published in the Farmerville Gazette, Farmerville, Louisiana on April 11 2018, two days before the coalition strike against Syria.
If I had an opportunity to bet I would wager that Russia’s new demagogue is a chess player. Furthermore, the Mid-East is a big chess board and the contestant playing Putin is the Unites States while the rest of the world is the audience; sitting there watching but with no desire to play.
Five years ago I began writing about how we had to do something to support the rebels with their attempt to overthrow the brutal Assad family regime in Syria. We did little or nothing and instead of a few hundred civilians dying, the numbers of innocent men, women and children has risen to hundreds of thousands of casualties.
The refugee explosion is costing the world billions of dollars in aid and relief while American Mid-East ally Jordan is suffering from the load of hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking a safe place to stay. At the same time we saw despicable ISIS be birthed, grow into a monster and finally becoming old and dying. As the refugee crisis became critical, Europe opened its doors and many thousands of Syrians sought asylum. While the vast majority are in desperate need, a small segment causing trouble in their host European countries and the fear of terrorist attacks are continually with our friends in Europe.
In the middle of this chaos Putin enters the Mid-East scene and begins his chess match. No one saw him come and he became the savior to Syria. The vacuum in Syria allowed the Russian troops and aircraft to enter the country and aid the Assad regime. Syria and the Mid-East had been void of Russian influence since the end of the 1980s. They are now back and they outsmarted America and its’ foreign policy. To make matters worse, two of our best allies in the Mid-East, Turkey and the Kurds living in Syria, are fighting each other.
Before Russia physically entered Syria, the Syrians were hinting to use nerve gas. Then President Obama placed a line in the sand and said Syria had best not use any nerve gas. Syria did and America looked on and did nothing. Syria had called our bluff.
A year ago with Russia troops in Syria, Syria again used nerve gas on innocent citizens. The response was quick from President Trump and America as Tomahawk Cruise missiles rained down on Syrian air bases. This move surprised everyone, including Russia. A major move for America.
Since then there have small moves as pawns are called into play and knights go out to do battle but there has been no major game moves; until last week. A surprise announcement from America disclosed that the United States may pull all forces out of Syria in September and thus leave the game. We had now done just what the Obama administration had be blamed of doing in other confrontations; telegraphing an exit date. Then shortly after this the Syrians have once again used nerve gas on innocent civilians. Syria has thumbed its nose at the United States while pictures of dead children are broadcast around the world.
The silence from the American government is deafening. Has Russia and its; puppet Syria made a move that has left America trying to figure out its’ next move or is the response being determined at this time. Several things are certain.
1. If America pulls out of Syria and leaves it to Assad and Putin’s Russia, a breeding ground for anti-American and anti-Democratic countries will be constructed and Iranian influence will expand. Syria will become a huge petri dish growing hate and disease as it plans the invasion and destruction of its’ neighbor, Israel while strategic plans for the fall of Europe are devised.
2. Russia denies any knowledge of any actions in Syria. Russia is in sync with everything happening in Syria and has advanced knowledge of decisions to use nerve gas. As a preemptive move prior to retaliation by America and the West, Syria claims that Israel dropped the gas to make it look like Syria dropped the bombs.
3. America has a new National Security Advisor in John Bolton. Officially taking office last Monday, he will not mince words and will have a hardline plan to answer the use of nerve gas by Syria.

 

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The history of the world is unique. Civilizations survive for hundreds or even thousands of years living one day at a time. Some change does takes place but major social norms, traditions and policies remain basically intact. Then suddenly something changes within the civilization and a major transformation takes place within that country. Many times, these changes take place in a relatively short period of time; many times over a generation.
In 1978 I moved to Saudi Arabia to work and live. We had a five day orientation before departing America and during this time we were versed in the local traditions and laws and we were lectured on not trying to invoke American traditions on the Saudi citizens while not criticizing their ways of life.
When I lived in Saudi Arabia the only women allowed to drive were American women and this privilege was extended to the compound we lived on. No female could drive off the compound. Movie theaters did not exist except on the compounds where we lived. The Saudi Stock Exchange opened soon after I arrived but only Saudi citizens could purchase stock and invest in the Kingdom. The first generation of drivers were on the roads and this could be quit an experience when driving in heavy traffic or on the open road. The void that separated the West from Saudi Arabia was quit wide.
In 1990 Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and the world changed for Saudi Arabia. American and coalition troops poured into Saudi Arabia to defend the Kingdom; an Army that contained members of all religions including Jews. Thousands of years of abhorrence was cast aside as members of different religions worked together for a common goal.
The war also introduced something else to the general population of Saudi Arabia; the female driver. Women in Saudi could own cars but could not drive them. Enter the United States Army, the Humvee and the female driver. This was a major cultural shock to everyone, including American expats. To see a woman behind the wheel was a true novelty. It was not long before a protest was planned. Many women in Riyadh got behind the wheel and drove around the capital. They were eventually arrested, taken to the police station where their husbands were called and the women were turned over to the husbands. Those that were employed by the government were terminated. This simmering protest has been a part of Saudi criticism for the last 35 years. Last September it was announced that women would be allowed to drive. Not only did this move the country into a more progressive image as the world would see it but it can also spur more internal entrepreneurial investment.
Entertainment is breaking new ground. A New Orleans Jazz concert was held in Riyadh; the first in 20 years. The next open society experiment is the movie theater. On March 1st the Kingdom allowed public movie theaters and CinemaCity, is planning a 20 screen theater in Riyadh. Other theaters will go up around the Kingdom.
The new ruling government of Saudi Arabia is far more deep thinking than just theaters and driving. Last year many extremely wealthy individuals. Some being princes of the Royal Family, were placed under house arrest and charged with skimming money from the government. Billions will be returned to the Kingdom in return for freedom. This is a bold move that promises a more enterprising country.
Tourism was not allowed when I lived there. Only workers were allowed in. This has changed and in 2012 over 12 million visitors had gone to Arabia as visitors. Today there is even a female dive club on the Red Sea.
Probably the biggest change in what used to be a closed country is the sale of 5% of Saudi ARAMCO. Valued at 200 billion dollars, this stock offering will be the largest Individual Public Offering, IPO, in the history of the world. For Saudi Arabia to offer part of its crown jewel, ARAMCO, for sale speaks volumes about the changes going on within the Kingdom.
When I first arrived in Saudi I was told that an aged, very wealthy and very wise Saudi had made the following statement based on the country’s wealth that was derived from the oil resources. “My father rode a camel. I drive a Mercedes. My son will fly a plane. His son will fly in space. His son will ride a camel.” As prophetic as this may have been at the time, this may well be incorrect with the changes that are taking place in the Kingdom today.
It’s amazing what the difference a generation makes.

I love spring. There is so much going on at this time of the year that makes spring such a fun time; for both the body and the soul.
When the first of March begins to pull us out of the doldrums of winter there is an internal clock that tells me it is time to roll out of the slumber that I have been in for the last several months, look up at the bright sky, breath in the pollen that assures us that the plants are repopulating and feel the warmth of the life giving sun as the earth performs the yearly swing toward the life giving star that gives life to this beautiful blue planet.
By the end of March spring has officially arrived and we are being reinforced with the knowledge that life continues. The warmth from the sun has heated the soil and the grass peeks its’ head up and magically photosynthesis takes place; chlorophyll is produced and the brown and drab of winter becomes a bright and inwardly pleasing green. Flowers bloom, trees bear fruit and the soul is refreshed. The animal kingdom brings forth life. Unlike humans, the animal kingdom is on a reproduction schedule and spring ushers in life and a reassurance that a species will continue to survive.
Human history has a way of mimicking nature. John Locke, the religious writer that predated the founding fathers, influenced the writers of the Constitution. He wrote of the State of Nature and the 3rd Treatise of Government and thus his writings helped to guide the writers of our Constitution. For those that are of the Christian faith, a major aspect of our belief structure centers around birth, death and rebirth and it is this rebirth that we are about to celebrate.
Just as winter brings death, gloom and doom to our planet; so did the death of Jesus do the same for the believers of Christianity. Jesus’s presence had provided hope to a people that had been oppressed by Roman rule while his teachings promised everlasting life. At his death the winter of the religion took place. Certainly, there was great anguish as the realization that Jesus was dead swept across the Christian enclaves. Then just as Spring follows Winter and life renews itself, the Christian religion sprang back to life with the rebirth, the resurrection, of Jesus. Imagine the excitement and the renewal in the Christian belief as the religion regained its’ leading light. Spring had sprung and just as new bright green sprouts emerge around the yard ushering in a new year and refortifying our belief that there is truly a future, the prophets and other religious teachers sprouted around the world and continued to grow and spread the new religion.
If a person wants to truly experience the rejuvenation of nature and the good feelings that spring ushers in, go out to a sunrise service that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and the assurance that life continues. Happy Easter everyone.

Several years ago I began writing about Vladimir Putin and the potential power he could obtain. At the early stages of the writings I had cautioned that Putin was a power to be reckoned with when he first took power. He was arrogant and vain but most importantly he had been a ranking member of the KGB, the Soviet Union’s equivalent to the CIA. During his time with the KGB, the Soviet Union had been a gigantic world power only to crumble to become a shadow of its’ previous power. Putin played on the pride of the former communist countries’ citizens and stormed into power.
He played on the emotions of a populace that had thrown off the yokes of communism to embrace a democratic and free country and a new market economy. Unfortunately the western countries to include the United States did not move as quickly and as strongly as it should have. Many of the Soviet satellite countries to include Poland, the Check republic, Romania and numerous other former communistic countries fared very well. They changed their leadership and governments and have emerged as successful examples of Democracy. Russia, the mother land, had made great strides but it is a gigantic country and there was a lot of work required to move a behemoth to a totally market driven economy while supporting a large population that had relied on the government for the majority of the citizen’s products and services. The change to a government that allowed everyone a new Great Russian Dream just took too long.
Vladimir Putin came to power and offered the Russian people an opportunity to once again lift their heads in pride. He was elected president and he quickly seized more and more power. His KGB roots were growing a dictator. Anthony Bourdain interviewed a key opposition leader to Putin for Bourdain’s CNN show. Before the show could be aired, the leader was murdered in the middle of Moscow and Putin declared how horrible this was and he was personally taking control of the investigation. This screamed of a coverup and of course nothing came of the murder. The West stood by and watched; quietly.
Then as Putin posed for the press shirtless sitting on his horse brandishing his rifle, his army prepared to invade the Ukraine. Of course the annexation of part of the country and the clandestine support for the Ukrainian anarchical puppets of Russia fell on deaf ears in the West and much needed weapons and support was slow coming to the Ukraine.
Putin was winning a war against the West and we stood by and watched this happen. Then Putin pulled a coupe in Syria. As the United States and its allies stood by paralyzed to do anything, Russia sent troops and armaments to Syria to bolster the despicable Assad dictatorship; a tyrant that turned nerve gasses on his own innocent civilians. Russia allied with Iran to thwart American or European influence in the conflict and Putin moved up the ladder as a legitimate world leader.
It is speculated that he is now one of the richest men in the world and all of the wealth came from corruption. He takes a cut on many of the industries in Russia and the leaders of these industries bow to his demands. When one of the richest men in Russia, the head of a major oil company, declined to provide finances to Putin, he found himself heading to a work camp following being found guilty of tax charges. This sent a shiver through the leaders of Russia’s wealthy elite and military as well.
The Ukraine invasion did provide a legal opportunity for the West to do something; financial sanctions. This did not initially curtail Putin from his snobbish interference in governments around the world. His involvement with cyber corruption of the American presidential elections is a prime example of his meddling. When it is all evaluated it will be disclosed that Putin didn’t really care who won the election. His goal was to divide the country and cause internal chaos; a former Soviet practice. Unfortunately, this has taken place on a somewhat limited basis.
Finally the Putin regime has gone too far. When Russia was flowing in money he could influence his military and industrial leaders with financial favors. Financial sanctions imposed by the West have taken its’ toll on Russian coffers so Putin is now turning to more Soviet traditional coercive tactics. His message is clear; “Do not be disloyal and do not defect to the West”. Recently Russia attempted to kill a Russian spy defector and his daughter in London, England. They failed but the backlash to this dastardly deep is going to be immense. A unified West is launching protests and sanctions even more severe as England expels Russian diplomats. This will be interesting as all this unfolds over the rest of the year.

So many times we view corporations as brick and mortar filled with stoic individuals that perform their work robotic style with little care for the human element in their environment. A perception exists of the dollar ruling all decisions and these decisions permeate from the board room to the lower echelons of the corporation. Recently I observed an event that proved this observation to be totally incorrect.
Bonnie and I left for a cruise and were sailing out of New Orleans. The first night we were hit with two misfortunes. It was frigid cold and we had to endure the plunging temperature while sitting outside on the Lido deck watching the second malady of the night; the Saints lost and were eliminated from the playoffs. If that were the only problems encountered, we would be happy.
On the second full day at sea we had left the chill of the arctic plunge behind us and the balmy breezes of the tropical trade winds had us believing that what we had left behind was merely a figment of our imagination. Even the cocky men and women dressed in Minnesota jerseys couldn’t dampen the feeling of bliss. Then we heard the announcement.
“This is the captain”, said a voice with a heavy Italian accent. “We have declared a medical emergency and are turning around to land at Cozumel to deliver the sick passenger.”
The televisions in each stateroom has a channel that shows a map of where we are, our path and speed of the ship. We watched as the ship turned almost 180 degrees and the captain gave it the spurs and headed for the island of Cozumel. I was fortunate to have spent my first year in the Navy on the USS Saratoga, a quit large aircraft carrier. As luck would have it we had our Mediterranean cruise cancelled and we sailed half way around the world and landed in the Philippines. No cost was spared as we cruised the seagoing behemoth at 25 knots. This is 29 MPH. I thought that no civilian ship, especially one the size that we were cruising on, could do anything near 25 knots. I was wrong. The good ship Carnival Dream closed on Cozumel at 25 knots. The captain spared no expense as wide open throttle is burning fuel at a large rate. Also the extra 2 hours going to Cozumel and then back to where we turned around burned a large amount of additional fuel.
After discharging the sick passenger, the captain spared no cost and instead of arriving at Mahogany Bay four hours late, we arrived on time. The captain made the conscious decision to spare no cost to get the passenger into port for treatment and then to increase speed to get his passengers docked in Honduras on time. No stoic stiff collared captain on the bridge of the Dream. Instead a man that put the care of his passengers first.
Another action happened that reinforced the feeling of the good of man. Right after the announcement by the captain the cruise director came on the intercom and asked to keep the sick passenger in our thoughts and “prayers”. Very non-politically correct but very human and very refreshing to have a representative of one of the largest cruise lines in the world ask for prayers.
When the ship landed in Cozumel the port authority was there to assist with the transfer of the patient. Once the patient has been transferred to an ambulance and the ambulance leaves the port, the Mexican port authority is no longer responsible. An official from the port went to the hospital and remained at the hospital at the side of the family the majority of the time they were there. Despite barbs being thrown between the United States and Mexico, the human element interceded and the need for comfort and support surpassed politics.
I passed the cruise director as we were disembarking in New Orleans. He was responsible for offloading activities and had to insure that 3,500 passengers got off the ship as quickly and as safely as possible and then be ready to sail with a full ship in six hours. He had not heard what had happened to the patient. As I passed him I told him that the patient was taken off of life support. Then I watched as he grasped my hand in both of his and with eyes turning red and swelling with tears he thanked me for the information. Quit a human trait.
This was a nice trip but I took far more away from it than the tropical bliss. Thoughts and prayers are with the family of Annice Bayles McCallum, a friend, schoolmate and graduate of Farmerville Hi.

For the past several years I have been quite outspoken about various directions in our great nation. that were alien to the original principals of the country. These directions were counter to the individuality of the people that built our nation and how various new government actions were actually working to thwart the growth of our magnificent country. Though no actions that were done by the country’s government was vindictive toward any group of individuals in America and while governmental actions were meant to help the country by providing immediate help; the overstepping of government in its’ programs caused societal distress in the long run and damaged the ability of society to advance our country.
I had written about government regulations and how they were strangling the ability of the American to be creative and curtailed the individualism that founded and grew a great land. America is one nation made of people that are fiercely individualistic. We fight together as a unified nation when threatened. We believe in states rights and fiercely defend these rights. Examples of how we view our states rights are how we cast our votes in the various states, how we implement our game laws and of course who we cheer for on a chilly Saturday night football game in the fall. Federal regulations begin with a problem that needs to be fixed to benefit the majority of the country. The problem is that when a regulator walks through the door it is hard to get him out. More and more regulations are put into place and we find that instead of curing a problem, the ever-increased regulations begin to strangle the industries that originally held the problems. The excessive regulations then become the problem and growth is stymied while the working environment becomes more and more stressful as we try to run a business while traversing a gauntlet of paperwork, restrictions and bureaucratic reporting.
Things have changed for America. In 2017 fourteen major regulations that have been repealed are expected to have major financial impacts to the United States. Repealing these regulations are expected to save 3.7 billion dollars in government costs, 34.8 billion dollars in industry costs and reduce paperwork by over 4 million manhours. This is a sizable amount of human labor that can be used and will be used for meaningful work that produces goods and services for a hungry nation. It has been recently identified that 496 regulations will soon be completely withdrawn while another 389 will be suspended pending investigation. This is great news for a country weary from the burden of over regulation. There is one warning though. We must insure that we don’t take too much license to deregulate the country and leave certain important parts of our nation exposed to unsafe conditions or exposed to potential future adverse events.
When the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was enacted there was one blatant requirement of the act that disturbed me. This was the part of the act that required everyone to participate in the program or be fined for not paying into the program. If a person is young with no health problems, they were mandated to purchase the Obama Care insurance. If they did not participate, they would be fined. This is not only forcing people to purchase a federal program but it is forcing individuals to pay the government for something they do not need. This was removed last week.
I have been vocal over the years about corporate taxes and how they have to come down so that American companies to be competitive on the world market. Over the last decade we have stood by and watched as companies have packed up and moved to other countries due to the American tax structure. This is not just relocating manufacturing facilities to reduce manufacturing costs. This is moving corporations to not to have to pay high corporate income taxes. Last week corporate taxes were reduced to a point that America can be more in line with the rest of the world and once again become competitive. This will not be the end either. We can expect other countries to lower their tax base and again in the future the Unites States will revisit its’ tax structure and other tax reductions at the corporate level may become a necessity.
So where will these changes lead our great nation. Will the decreased regulations and tax reductions be a Christmas gift for our country or will this actually be the Christmas Grinch? Next year will tell and then I will see if I end up with egg on my face. Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year. I am predicting a good one for our nation and the world.

A year ago I wrote about ISIS losing ground in Iraq and Syria and emphasized that we could expect a shift in the attack on good from evil. This materialized in 2017 in Paris and Normandy, France; London and Manchester, England; The Ohio State University, United States; Hamburg and Berlin, Germany; and the list goes on.
Amid dramatic attacks by Iraqi military forces supported by Iranian backed militia in Iraq and Syrian military units in Syria, ISIS has lost the vast majority of its’ conquered territory. In a traditional war it would be time to declare victory and dispatch the Department of State to meet with the coalition forces and prepare for the surrender talks with the vanquished foe. This is not a conventional war and there will be no surrender talks. Instead we have to prepare for an escalation of “lone wolf” attacks that we witnessed last year. Additionally, we can expect attacks that are even more menacing than the physical attacks of 2017.
So far the attacks perpetrated on innocent men, women and children in Europe and the United States have been savage, front page euphoric but limited in geographic and physical scope. We agonize over the loss of life and our hearts bleed for the mourning families but in the context of war, the destruction is small. These assaults will continue as a small investment by the enemy and garners massive headlines, Each attack requires increased security measures that impact the finances of the countries under assault.
We can also expect a new attack that does not require a physical presence in a country. No bomb-making material must be procured nor does a terrorist need an assault weapon nor does the terrorist have to rent a vehicle to crash through a crowd. Instead the terrorist will need a computer and be sophisticated in the ability to hack into operating systems and data bases. The terrorist could potentially wreak havoc on its’ enemies. Everything from electrical grids to financial institutions to pipeline oil and gas transmission to traffic lights to anything that is controlled by computers are vulnerable. Can you imagine the chaos, destruction and loss of life if all the traffic lights are suddenly turned off during rush hour in a major American city. The computer hacker can do his dastardly deed from some house buried in some city in some country ten thousand miles from the city that was attacked. This will be the new face of evil.
The war on terror is far from over. We have done a phenomenal job in defeating ISIS on the ground by empowering our generals to do what they know what to do and how to do it; win. We are providing our allies with the hardware they need to destroy terrorism. The escalation to cyber warfare will require brilliant minds to combat that threat plus continue developing our special ops teams to infiltrate and surgically remove the hackers in foreign inhospitable countries.
Traditional terrorism will remain with us for many years. These satans of evil used to have open access to America under the disguise of visitor or student visas. Much of this easy access has being eliminated so ISIS will be looking for other easy points of entry to America. This now puts greater pressure on our southern border. It is imperative that we control this border and prevent the infiltration of America by ISIS and other terrorist organizations. 2018 should be interesting and it is imperative that we stand together as one nation, UNITED.