Posts Tagged ‘Tom Fields’

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The United States is entering a new phase to its’ life.  For years we have seen the individual citizen’s ability to control its’ future erode while centralized control has taken the place of entrepreneurial spirit.  While this has made it easier for some to live a life where decisions were nurtured in Washington, it has made it a challenge for individuals to start something new and then grow that thought into a viable expanding endeavor.   Like a pendulum in a clock that has swung too far the pendulum is now swinging in the other direction and as centralized control wanes we will be discovering a renaissance of what built America and then witness a rebirth of the United States.

The United States has neighbors to the south that offers great opportunities for bilateral agreements, massive renewable natural resources and a potential workforce in need of training and education.  This geographical area that offers so much potential is Central and South America.

Central and South America were initially inhabited by native indigenous people when Christopher Columbus came to America.  In the European’s desire for riches, these Central and South Americans Indians were systematically destroyed, enslaved or forced to succumb to mandatory physical and religious change.  Great nations such as the Inca, Aztec and Maya were reduced to a mere footnote in history books while the European colonial powers, specifically Spain and Portugal, changed the face of the new continent.

Over time the countries of the South gained their independence and broke into smaller countries and eventually established national boundaries.  America was not the perfect partner in some situations as government meddling took place.  Instability on the continent led to a different and more menacing growth of communism as revolutionaries such as Che Guevara spewed its’ anti-American rhetoric while unleashing revolution across the region. Communistic forms of government diminished as that form of rule collapsed with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the inability of Cuba to support governments within the Caribbean and Central America.  Slowly dictators were overthrown and in some cases, like Noriega of Panama, were imprisoned in American penitentiaries.  Drug lords replaced unscrupulous dictators in many countries and they too have been overthrown in many countries.

The majority of South American countries were not as tumultuous going into the 20th Century as the die-hard dictatorships.  Industries did flourish.  When I was working in Saudi Arabia it was Brazilian Volkswagen that was being sold and continued with the “bug” long after it was discontinued in the United States and Germany stopped to manufacture the popular vehicle.  Brazil and Venezuela had massive oil exports.  While Brazil followed a democratic government, Venezuela adopted dictatorial anti-American rule and Venezuela will be collapsed soon.  General Motors closed its’ plant recently amid chaos and anarchy.

South America represents the greatest future potential for expanded development and pro-American improvement in the world.   This is a bold statement.  There is a labor force waiting to be brought out of the dirt streets and mountains of a beautiful continent.  There are governments that genuinely desire to improve the lots of their countries.  There are boundless tracs of land that can be improved without destroying.    There is a populous that desire warm and friendly relationships with it neighbor of the north, The United States.

As South and Central America grow they will provide goods and services that the United States cannot or does not desire to produce.  At the same time as the countries develop and grow, American goods and services will flow south.  As this partnership grows a good friend and ally will be even stronger south of the border.  South and Central America has the potential to be the best friend for America  with the gre

 

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.