Reparations for the nation’s history of slavery

Reparations for the nation’s history of slavery.

Yea or nay?

With a history of being editor and publisher of newspapers where racial disharmony was a constant stain on the communities I served, where cultures conflicted as a part of everyday life, and having a black son-in-law and biracial grandchildren, you can guess where I stand.

Or maybe not.

Attempting to erase the nation’s nefarious and horrid treatment of people of color — Black, Asian, Native American or “other” — by handing out wads of I’m-sorry! cash is not a plausible solution.

History is what it is, and the white contingent’s treatment overall of citizens and residents of different cultures, religions and colors is reprehensible and indefensible.

But trying to solve our collective consciences with bucket loads of lucre is not the answer.

Who would we pay? How much? For how long? For what specific act or collection of acts?

The answer to the past disputable behaviors lies in visible change, in the switching of attitude, creation of laws and additional opportunities with an aim of an equalization of cultures. These goals must include the education of all citizens on the importance of the fundamental right of equality.

This is the United States of America, once described as  “A City upon a Hill”, a phrase derived from the teaching in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. In a modern context, it has been used in United States politics to refer to America acting as a “beacon of hope” for the world, a “shining city.”

From a global perspective — and also from a domestic viewpoint — the democratic luster  is gone from our nation. Where once the United States was held aloft as a symbol of freedom and hope, our political, racial, cultural and religious differences have caused us to be pitied and scorned.m by nations which once held us as a positive example of freedom and democracy.

Now, right now, is the time to summon  our better angels, to pray for uplifting support and guidance and make a determined effort to work in unity to recreate the America of promise and hope. Our goal should be to create, finally, a kinder, gentler America, a nation that values all citizens equally and welcomes all who share our vision, our hopes and our dreams.

We can do better. We must do better. We must change. Our children and grandchildren demand action from us.

We must not, cannot let them down.


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Willie Shakes

By George Smith

Willie Shakes said it all at one time or another. His immortal words ring true today on a variety of subjects. He talked about all things and the lines he wrote speak to us today.

I became infatuated with his turn of phrases in high school and took two Shakespeare courses in college.

No writer, before or since, cut to the core of a matter with more clarity than The Bard.

Let your imagination run free as mine did.

“It is not in the Stars to hold our Destiny but in ourselves” – Julius Caesar

“I am disgraced, impeach’d and baffled here,  pierced to the soul with slander’s venom’d spear, which no balm can cure but his heart-blood  which breathed this poison.” Richard II

“The man’s undone forever; for if Hector break not his  neck in the combat, he’ll break it himself in
vain-glory.  Troilus and Cressida

“Strong reasons make strong actions.” Lewis in King John

“My pride fell with my fortunes.”
As You Like It

“I will not jump with common spirits,
And rank me with the barbarous multitudes.”  The Merchant of Venice

“Go wisely and go slowly. Those who rush, stumble and fall.” Romeo and Juliet

“This sanguine coward, this bed-presser, this horseback-breaker, this huge hill of flesh!” 1 Henry IV

“You sign your place and calling, in full seeming, with meekness and humility; but your heart is cramm’d with arrogancy, spleen, and pride.
Henry VIII

“…When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,  or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed; at game, a-swearing, or about some act that has no relish of salvation in’t; then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven, and that his soul may be as damn’d and black as hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays:this physic but prolongs thy sickly days.

“He that is proud eats up himself: pride is his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle.
Troilus and Cressida

“It is a tale; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” – Macbeth in Macbeth

“There is no more mercy in him than there is milk in a male tiger.” Coriolanus

“If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”
The Merchant of Venice

“We know what we are but know not what we may be.”– Ophelia in Hamlet”

“More of your conversation would infect my brain..”  Coriolanus

“A pox on both your houses….”
Mercurio in Romeo and Juliet

“Such antics do not amount to a man.” Henry V

“He is white-livered and red-faced.”
Henry V

“They were devils incarnate.”
Henry V

“They are hare-brain’d slaves.”
1 Henry VI

“I have more flesh than another man and therefore more frailty.” – King Henry IV

“He is deformed, crooked, old and sere, Ill-faced, worse bodied, shapeless everywhere;’vicious, ungentle, foolish, blunt, unkind; stigmatic in making, worse in mind.
The Comedy of Errors

“Your abilities are too infant-like for doing much alone.” Coriolanus

“I can see his pride peep  through each part of him.” Henry VIII

“The croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.” Hamlet

“Infected he the air whereon they ride,
And damned all those that trust them.” Macbeth

“The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes.” Coriolanus

“My hour is almost come, when I to sulphurous and tormenting flames must render up myself.”  Hamlet.

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By George Smith

Cleon Flanagan is an American, a husband, father, production engineer, and former law enforcement officer. He is my son-in-law and dad to Bryan, 17, Brayden, 11, and Marley, 6, three of my seven grandchildren.

He is black.

He and I talked this weekend about the racial turmoil roiling through the U.S. His heart was breaking and it was obvious he was worried about the future and what new hell his biracial children would face.

So you will know, I grew up in a segregated community and never had a real, honest conversation and exchange of views about anything with any black person until I went to college. 

Cleon is the epitome of what a husband, father, relative and human being should be. He is one of the best men I have ever met. I love him.

He wrote the piece below this week. Please read it. If you do and get through it without shedding tears…you have more self control than I do. 

By Cleon Flanagan

So let’s talk … take a seat.

1980’s—Walking home, around age 12, and two white men in a pickup truck and a confederate flag waving, pulled up behind me and then beside me and threw beer and full beer cans on and at me.  Thank God I was almost home.  

1997  — When I worked for a local police agency, we were doing a transport of some detainees and prisoners when a detainee turned to me and said (while i was in uniform) “My daddy used to own some like you. ha ha!”  I couldn’t speak up. 

Same town — I went into the store to get a drink, in uniform, and the cashier looked at me (missed the badge) and said “I can’t stand f-ing n******.”

I’d like to say these instances early in my adulthood were rare, or stopped as I aged.

But that would be a “No.” 

Jennifer Thurman Flanagan and I, throughout our marriage, have endured comments that we know wouldn’t be made (or tolerated) about white couples.

“Oh, I’ll bet her family has money.  You’re all set now.”

“She has a good job so y’all know y’all will be ok. (But I’m an engineer?)

Jen has been asked if all of our kids were by the same dad.  

They are struck by the fact that she had actually graduated college, got married, and bought a house (in that order) yearsssssss before having kids.  That we weren’t teen parents.

She’s been asked at the grocery store, when the little ones were with her, if she’ll be using her Lone Star card to pay.  

She’s looked at as trash when she shops alone with our kids, but I get stereotyped as having “married up.”

And let me tell you about our recent vacations … Galveston 2019 — Our kids were questioned for missing fishing poles from a residence AN ENTIRE BLOCK AWAY.  The police were driving around and saw our kid’s fishing (with their own poles). 

Lake O the Pines 2018 — The white man who owned the property we rented was as friendly and sweet as peach pie over the phone… until he saw Bryan, his black classmate, and me heading in with our boat.  After that, we were harassed, watched, hounded, then, after cleaning profusely, he kept our deposit and sent us a bill (we got it all back after filing a complaint with VRBO).  

Speaking of vacations — How many of you have to plan your vacation depending on the demographics of the town?  The location?  Is it a place notorious for pulling over and harassing POC (people of color)?

Have you every had to justify simply being in a public place?  

Have you every been denied a day off by your boss at Thanksgiving, just for him to tell you, “Them white folks don’t want you to eat with them.”

These are only a fraction of the stories I could tell.  Imagine all of the stories millions black men and women could tell today.  

Imagine being a black man and being ridiculed and belittled by police, by your boss, by your white neighbor. treated less than human, in front of your own children who don’t understand the systematic racism that you encounter. 

And you are helpless to fight it.  You have to “stay in your place.”  You can’t speak up. 

If you think the world still doesn’t look at us differently, let me tell you:  I have a CHI (Concealed Handgun License), and I could open carry.  If I walked into Walmart with a rifle strapped to my back, the cops would be called.  White men open carry regularly – not an eye batted.  

Have you every had to tell your black son where to put his hands when he gets pulled over and to let the officer know he are unarmed?

Some of y’all get excited about your kids going off to college, traveling the world, getting jobs ANYWHERE.  That worries the hell out of me.  I don’t get the privilege to get excited for my kids — I just get to worry. 

The only reason I’m posting this is because I need y’all to understand. I have tons of white friends. I have white family members. But I really think that some don’t understand the experiences that we go through. They make assumptions that our life is great and happy and everyone is nice to us.  I’ve heard the sideways comments from people and either they think it doesn’t bother me, or they make the comment of “But you’re not like other black guys.“ What does THAT mean??


This impacts me personally not because of my experiences that I have had or will have, but because of the experiences that my children will have. Racism is only around today because it keeps being reinforced and taught throughout the generations.  And now, it’s my kids’ turns to encounter it. And it INFURIATES ME.  

What if George Floyd was Bryan. Or our classmates, or me????

Like I was told at the police academy: Just because it happens in a big town, don’t think it can’t happen in your small piece of the world.  

Would you still sit back silent?  Would we just be a hashtag?  

Would you be complaining about protestors and rioting … or would you march for me? Would you actually act?  Would you vote differently?  Would you not make assumptions?  Would you still grasp your purse or lock your doors when we walk by?  Would we still get an interview, the job, or a promotion? 

Would you stand next to us?  

And, does it have to be someone you know for you to GET IT!?

Are you mad at the protesters?  Be mad that y’all haven’t spoken up in the names of my sons. Be mad at the systematic racism that is still plagues the every day life of POC. 

If we keep going this way, if Y’ALL DONT SPEAK UP and make SYSTEMATIC CHANGES, then it very well really might BE one of us.

Or maybe that’s it: You don’t want it to change. And THAT is the real problem.


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By George Smith

After Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968, peaceful protests turned into riots and from April though mid-summer, this nation was washed over by the largest wave of social unrest since the Civil War.

Today, same racial song, second verse.

The slow-motion murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd by four police officers — coming on the heels of the killing of several black Americans by law enforcement officers (and in one case by “vigilantes”)— has ignited violent protests in more than 140 cities in the U.S., and even in foreign countries.

Since 1968, there have been remarkable changes in the overall racial landscape in America: The most visible wrinkle in a racial snapshot of the the last 50 years was the election the first black president 12 years ago.

Now, today, we’re right back to 1968, where distrust and fear of the police by a large segment of this nation’s population is rampant and fear and loathing is turning to rage and violence.

But, unlike the reactions of those trying to quell the unrest in 1968, some individual officers and even entire  police departments are reducing the anger level of protestors by JOINING them in kneeling in honoring the life of Floyd and other victims of unnecessary police violence. 

President Trump could learn something from these officers.

The president can be defined by many of his absurd and detrimental actions as the nation’s CEO; you either like him or you don’t, there is no middle ground.

However, his absence in the current framework of nationwide protests and violence, the absence of empathy, his absolute refusal to take time to try and calm the nation in this time of double crises (pandemic and coast-to-coast protests) is an abdication of his duties as president.

The fact he is tweeting about his confounded MAGA crew as “liking blacks…liking African Americans” is proof of how he views blacks, i.e., they are not part of MAGA congregation, and, thus, not part of HIS vision of America.

For more than two decades, the Republican Party has made it a priority to work to create a bridge of understanding with minorities, knowing those voting blocs are growing in numbers.

All that work, all the money burned in that effort has been wasted due to the callous and prejudiced actions of the Man from MAGA.

Trump’s chaotic handling of the pandemic response and his clueless response to the nationwide protests is proof-positive of his abject ignorance of what drives the majority of people in this country to get up every day and create opportunities for personal and professional growth.

He is, in a phrase, a wounded president, laid low by his constant lying, woeful management style, dearth of patience and his inability to comprehend the importance of briefings on important domestic and foreign issues.

The president claims to be a “stable genius” but his ignorance of history, the Constitution, his duty to all citizens (not just members of the MAGA cult) and how his knee-jerk reactions affect not just Trump World by the global community, prove that he is a spoiled, rich bully. 

Trump claims to be a Christian but displays no Christian values; he came to power to “drain the swamp”, but his  “swamp” is deeper, more murky and more corrupt than any administration since the Watergate era of Richard Nixon and that of Warren G. Harding’s Teapot Dome scandal.

He should never have been elected. His re-election would ensure the continued decline of this nation on all fronts, foreign and domestic.

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1969 – My Year of Living Dangerously

CyberViewX v5.16.55 Model Code=65 F/W Version=1.00

By Ron Munden – May 6, 2020

I recently scanned a set of photographs I shot of a People’s Park march while attending the University of California, Berkeley.  I decided to google “people’s park Berkeley”.  Reading these articles brought back a lot of old memories – things that I have not thought about in many years. I decided to write them down.

I attended Berkeley in 1968, 1969, and 1970 – some part-time and some full-time.  There were protests on campus during all those years but 1969 was the most interesting and as it turned-out the most dangerous.  Here is what I remember.

First, I was never a protester.  Although by 1969 I had decided that the US could not win the Vietnam war and we needed to get out, the Navy was paying me to go to school so I did not think I should spend time protesting.  While I was a civilian, I thought I should act like the naval officers I knew and keep my thoughts to myself and support the current policies of the United States government.

Second, I considered myself a street photographer.  By this time, I had photographed war protests at UT Austin, Klu Klux Klan parades, Hell’s Angles and Black Panther events.  So, if there was a protest and I was in the area I was probably going to be at the event.

It seems like 1969 was a continuous set of protests at Berkeley.  

Early in the fall of 1968 some black group was always protesting something.  The details are not important.  All that is important is that their method of protesting was blocking students from walking through Sather Gate.  They formed a line, linked arms and would not let people pass.

I found out about this when I tried to walk through Sather Gate on my way back to the Naval Architecture building.  I was stopped and told that I could not pass.  Since I had come to campus from the shipyard I was dressed in slacks, a sports shirt and dress shoes.  I turned around and found another way to get back to the Naval Architecture building.

I was 25 years old at the time and not very mature. I did not want any black, white or green guy telling me I could not go though that gate.  When I got back to my apartment that night, I told the story to a friend that lived in the apartment above me.  He said he might could help me out.

The next time I went to class I wore my new outfit – blue jeans, a leather jacket and steel-toed boots.

I did get stopped again and was told I could not go though the gate.  I said, “I’m going through the gate.”   In the short pause that followed I calculated the trajectory of my steel-toe boot into the exposed shin of the guy immediately in front of me.  But the line parted and I walked through.  I never got to try out my new boots.

This protest ended in a week or so but my new outfit began my only outfit on days I was on campus.  Little did I know at the time, but the campus was about to become a war zone.

War protests began to increase at the beginning of 1969.  From what I saw there was a lot of yelling and foul language but no weapons on the part of the students.  I never knew what provoked the escalation on the part of the police but suddenly there was police officer presence on campus.  As I recall they were state troopers. Tear gas was used by the police.  I can state that as a fact because I was present when it happened on more than one occasion.

Then came the helicopter.  Many reports say it was tear gas.  I think it was pepper spray.  It makes no difference because both caused burning eyes and a runny nose.  Also helicopters tear gassing people is an imprecise science.  They couldn’t control where the wind carried the gas.  So, you could be sitting in class and your eyes would start burning because the gas would have gotten into the ventilation system for the building.

And then came People’s Park.

People’s Park was one square block of land located a couple of blocks off campus.  The land had been vacant for years.  A group of locals constructed a swing set and a couple of other structures on the property.  It was known as hippie park and then became People’s Park.  Everything was going fine until the University announced they were going to build a parking garage on the property.  There were protests and the police came down with a hammer.

I never understood why things escalated so quickly until recently.  The article, “The Battle for People’s Park, Berkeley 1969” provided the best explanation I have heard.  The article is now posted on the website.

Anyway, Governor Ronald Reagan ordered out the National Guard and they came on campus.  Now it was the National Guard that was blocking Sather Gate and this was really scary.

I know military discipline when I see it.  The security for Mare Island Shipyard was provided by Marines so there was a Marine barracks on the base.  I saw military discipline every day.

The California National Guard in 1969 was mainly comprised of guys who signed up so they could avoid the draft and going to Vietnam.  They were the keystone cops and in no way resembled a military unit.  This is the group that Reagan sent onto campus with live ammunition and fixed bayonets.

Let me make my point.

One day I was trying to get back to the Naval Architecture building and I found the path blocked by about 25 National Guardsmen with rifles and fixed bayonets.  I walked up to see why the route was blocked.  About 10 yards in front of the National Guard there was a group of four guys yelling at them.   About 5 yard behind the four guys was a group of students looking on just like me. 

One of the loudmouths make a particularly distasteful comment to one of the National Guard.  They broke formation and charged the loudmouth with fixed bayonets pointed at the loudmouth.   Wisely, the loudmouth breaks and runs as do the other three loudmouths and the students behind them.

By this time, the other 24 Guardsmen have all broken formation and are going in all directions chasing students.  When I noticed a Guardsmen moving toward me, I exited stage right with him in pursuit.  At 25 I was still a good sprinter.  Even in my steel-toed boots I left him in the dust.

Another day trying to get through graduate school.

With this as background

When I heard that the People’s Park protest had scheduled a march for Saturday, I thought there would be more confrontation between the protesters and the state troopers/National Guard – a perfect photo op.

Armed with my Nikon F and as much film as I could afford, a friend and I went to Berkeley to shoot.

Wow! I was surprised.  Overnight the mood of the protesters had changed.  They were the hippy flower children I had met in Haight Ashbury in 1967. There was no yelling at the police. When a marcher would pass a policeman they would hand him a flower.  When a marcher passed a National Guardsman some marchers put the stem of a flower in the barrel of the rifle being careful not to hurt themselves on the fixed bayonet.

This is the People’s Park march I photographed on that Saturday in 1969.

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The Battle for People’s Park, Berkeley 1969: when Vietnam came home

This material was taken from a 2019 article in The Guardian. It serve at background to my photo gallery “People’s Park – 1969.”

On 4 May 1970, the Ohio national guard shot at hundreds of students protesting against the invasion of Cambodia, wounding eight and killing four. Kent State was seared into the national consciousness. The US government had authorized the killing of its own (white) children.

Hell No review: celebration of Vietnam protests can inform resistance to Trump

 Read more

But what many might not know is that a year earlier in Berkeley, California, police opened fire with buck and bird shot on a large crowd of young protesters seeking to keep open People’s Park, an impromptu community garden on land UC Berkeley wanted to use. Fifty people were hit.

James Rector, a 25-year-old visitor from San Jose, was killed. Alan Blanchard was blinded. Donovan Rundle was shot point blank in the stomach and almost bled to death. After two dozen surgeries, he would live with chronic pain for the next 50 years.

“Bloody Thursday”, 15 May 1969, was the day the Vietnam war came home. The streets of Bohemian Berkeley, the New Left’s west coast HQ, became a bloody war zone. Martial law was declared, a curfew imposed and national guardsmen with unsheathed bayonets and live ammunition occupied the town. A military helicopter doused the campus with tear gas. Many members of the Alameda county sheriff’s department had just come home from Vietnam. Some later admitted that they treated antiwar students like Viet Cong.

If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with, no more appeasement — Ronald Reagan

This pivotal event in 60s history comes back to life in an excellent new oral history, The Battle for People’s Park, Berkeley 1969,by Tom Dalzell. The book recounts the chaotic 40 days and nights from 20 April to 30 May 1969 with detail that reads like a gut punch. A large-format book, lavishly printed with hundreds of never-before-published color photographs, it is a hybrid oral-visual history that reads like watching a documentary.

People’s Park evokes haunting memories of Kent State.

Republican governors in California and Ohio were running re-election campaigns and rallying their base by demonizing the student movement. The chancellors of UC Berkeley and Kent State were out of town on the days of the shootings, contributing to disorder, handing law enforcement greater rein.

In his foreword to People’s Park, Todd Gitlin explains that California’s governor, Ronald Reagan, ran his 1966 campaign on making welfare “bums” go back to work and cleaning up “the mess in Berkeley”. By the time he was running for re-election he had all but granted the national guard and law enforcement officers permission to shoot to kill: “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with, no more appeasement.”

My last thought before the shot was that you should never point a gun at someone — Donovan Rundle

Describing campus protesters a year later, the Ohio governor, James Rhodes, echoed Reagan, Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew: “They’re worse than the brownshirts and the communist elements … They’re the worst type of people that we harbor in America.”

The stories Dalzell elicits from Berkeley shooting victims are eerily similar to stories Kent State victims told me when I interviewed them for my own oral history, Witness to the Revolution. Rundle told Dalzell the chilling story of being singled out by a shotgun-toting Alameda county sheriff’s deputy:

My last thought before the shot was that you should never point a gun at someone. In a split second before I was hit I prayed that the shot was rock salt. He aimed so carefully that I could have hit the deck in time to save myself but I didn’t even imagine that he would shoot. He gave no prior warning of any sort, nor any order to move on. It felt like I’d been hit in the gut with a sledgehammer. The buckshot used on me was packed in a 12-gauge shell that holds nine double-aught pellets. Each is about the size of a .32 caliber bullet. I was shot in the gut with five or six of these.

Dean Kahler, who has spent 49 years in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down after being shot on the Kent State campus by the Ohio national guard, told me:

I was in the practice football field when they turned, and lowered their weapons. I thought, ‘Oh my God, they’re going to shoot. Because I’m a farm boy and I’ve carried a rifle and a shotgun, and when somebody makes a deliberate motion like that, and lowers their weapons, pointing directly at you, that’s a sign that they’re ready to shoot … I looked around and there was no place to hide.”

Reminding us how deeply divided the country was in 1969, Rundle recounts being carried into an ambulance when, “Someone heard a bystander say, ‘I hope you die, you fucking hippie.’” Kahler, who like Rundle spent months in the hospital fighting for his life, remembers opening a greeting card that read, “Dear Communist, hippie, radical, I hope by the time you read this you are dead.”

The police and national guard claimed they shot in self-defense. The governors of Ohio and California smeared the unarmed victims. Not one member of law enforcement was convicted of a crime. So much for white exceptionalism.

People’s Park was one square block of turf with a swing set and poetry stand. But it represented much more than the hippie playground political leaders chose to call it. It stood for the social and political aspirations of a generation. As Steve Wasserman writes in his afterword to People’s Park: “The stark and brutal smashing of our hopes was a hammer blow.”

That hammer blow is brought to life in Dalzell’s book, by weaving photography with visceral first-person accounts to bring a reading experience that is beyond the capability of narrative expository writing.

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By Ron Munden – January 26, 2020

For the Navy Department Library website:

Letter of Transmittal

Hon. L. Mendel Rivers,
Chairman, Committee on Armed Services
House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

June 30, 1969

Dear Mr. Chairman: Attached is a report entitled “The Sinking of the U.S.S. Guitarro”, unanimously approved by the appointed members of the Armed Services Investigating Subcommittee conducting this review. A comprehensive study was initiated pursuant to your instructions and hearings were held at San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard, Mare Island, Vallejo, California, on May 26, 27, and 28, 1969.

Whenever the Navy makes a mistake or there is an accident, they want to understand why it happened.  That often involves holding a review. That certainly is the case when the Navy sinks a ship at dockside.

In the case of the Guitarro, many of the questions that were being asked were related to ship conditions immediately before and during the ship sinking.  Those questions often involved establishing the trim angle of the ship at key points during the flooding.  These questions came to the engineering group where I was working at the time.

Unfortunately, the questions were not routine in nature and the file cabinets full of forms used for routine daily calculations were of no value – there were no forms related to the sinking of a ship.  Answering those questions required knowledge of the basic principles of naval architecture. 

Even though I had been at the shipyard for a little less than two years and had only completed two quarters of classes at Berkeley my supervisor decided I was best qualified to do the required calculations.

There was a problem, however.  I was in my third quarter at Berkeley.  I was in class on Tuesdays and Thursdays and exams were approaching so I could not afford to miss class at this critical point. Those asking the questions appeared to be unaware of my class schedule, so questions arrived on an unpredictable schedule.

To satisfy all these requirements my supervisor decided that on days that I had class I would first come to the shipyard by 6 A.M. and if there were questions, I would document the steps required to complete the calculations.  Then before I left to drive to Berkeley at 8 A.M. I would give my notes to another engineer and they would do the calculations and get them to whoever was asking the question.  It seemed like a perfect solution.

It wasn’t.

One non-class day at about 9 A.M. I was sitting at my desk.  I was surprised to see the Chief Design Engineer walk into to my supervisor’s office.  I was more surprised when I heard him say, “WHO’S MUNDEN.”

Then my supervisor walked him back to my desk and said, ‘This is Ron Munden.”

The Chief Design Engineer did not appear to be happy to see me.  All he said was, “COME WITH ME.”

Without another word he started walking and I followed three steps behind.  He walked up the stairs to the second floor and down a long hall to the design conference room.  He opened the door and walked in and I followed.  We were standing in front of a large group of people.  The conference table was full and of most of the chairs that lined the wall were occupied.

The Chief Design Engineer looked at the group and said, “THIS IS MUNDEN.”  With that he turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.

I was a little confused to say the least. 

Someone at the table said, “Mr. Munden we would like you to go over some calculations with us – use the blackboard.”  A second unknown person walked over and handed me five or six pages of calculations.  I did not recognize the package but in large letters at the top of the first page were written the words, “Calculations done using the Munden method.”

Trying to buy time I did say that I had never seen the calculations and needed a few seconds to look them over. 

I slowly walked to the blackboard, picked up a piece of chalk and started through an explanation of the calculations.  All went well through the first two pages.  I was able to explain the calculations and I was gaining a little confidence.

Then I turned to page three.  Confidence quickly turned to panic.  I did not understand the calculations at which I was looking.  The longer I looked the more confused I got.  All I knew was these calculations did not follow the steps that were in the notes I had turned over to my co-worker the previous morning.

I don’t know how long I stood there saying nothing.  It was probably a few seconds.  It seemed like three days.

Finally, in a weak voice I said, “I’m sorry Sir.  I don’t understand these calculations and I can’t explain them.”

The silence was broken when the man who had handed me the papers spoke up and said, “I didn’t understand them either.”

With that the person who had asked me to explain the calculations said, “Thank you Mr. Munden.  You’re excused.”

I quickly opened the door and walked into the hall. 

As I walked back to my office I thought, “I don’t think the Chief Design Engineer and I have a good working relationship.”

On the bright side, while I don’t consider this event the highlight of my career, this event was good training.  A year later I was finishing up my master’s degree.  One of my final classes was ‘theoretical ship hydrodynamics’.  For the final exam the professor had a one-on-one meeting with each student.  He would ask the student questions. The student had to do the required calculations or produce the required diagrams on his white board.  I got an ‘A’ in the class.  Clearly, my presentation skills had improved over the previous year.


The Guitarro review was held in late May 1969.  I left the shipyard to attend Berkeley full time that October and did not return to the end of June 1970.  Shortly after my return the Chief Design Engineer featured in this story retired.  A new Chief Design Engineer was selected.

Within 18 months of his selection, I was working on a special project for him.  A couple of years later he moved me to Head of Technical Support for the Design Division.  The position reported directly to the Chief Design Engineer and was responsible for contract management, fund administration, and project management for the 1200-person Design Division.  He became my mentor. I worked for him for another 5 years before I moved on to another job on the shipyard.  He taught be a lot during those years and I will always be indebted to him. I credit him for jump-starting my career in DoD.

George S. Smith

You either know him or know the name.

Now, for one night only, see him as never before: Smith has reinvented himself as The World’s Oldest Sit-down Comedian.

He will give two dinner performances at 5:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday, December 14 at the Blue Frog Restaurant, at Blissmore Valley Ranch, 208 North Washington in Marshall.

Seating is limited and reservations are required. Call 903-923-9500 for tickets. A percentage of ticket sales will benefit the Marshall-Harrison County Literacy Council.

Former publisher of the Marshall News Messenger (1982-1992) Smith conceived and developed the FireAnt Festival and, with J.C. Hughes Jr., founded the Wonderland of Lights.

Smith said, “Most folks who know me know I like to tell stories. These performances allow me to tell stories about a variety of humorous events without being interrupted by others who think they have something more important to say.”

He said, “I’m older now and my feet hurt so I am, truly, a sit-down act.  I will tell stories about the newspaper business, about my decade in Marshall (without embarrassing anyone but myself) and will share some funny stories from my soon-to-be published novel, “Growing Up Mostly Happy”, subtitled “It Takes a Village to Raise an Idiot”.

Smith has been a frequent storyteller on the PBS radio series “Tales of the South”, and was a regular “Amateur Night” participant at a Seattle comedy club while serving as executive director of the Washington State Newspaper Publishers Association.

Smith said, “I want all my friends and some of my friendly detractors to show up for a great meal and fun and frivolity  It will be an old-fashion homecoming with laughs galore.”
Copies of Smith’s “Uncertain Times,” a southern humor mystery and romance novel set in Uncertain, Texas, will be available for sale at the shows.

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Keep It Real

By George Smith

Okay, this is getting out of hand. Keep  it real to be believed.

When Ivanka Trump decided to defend her dad from the resolution approved Thursday by House Democrats formalizing the impeachment process, she relied on former President Thomas Jefferson for help.

The first daughter and White House adviser tweeted a quote from the third president to his daughter Martha about the hazards of life in Washington: 

 “…surrounded by enemies and spies catching and perverting every word that falls from my lips or flows from my pen, and inventing where facts fail them.”

She added, “Some things never change, dad!”

Okay! Whoa! Maybe, just maybe, FDOTUS has a point., Maybe Trump and Jefferson have some similarities.

1. Both stated they wanted to make America great.

2. Both had mistresses.

3. Jefferson owned slaves; Trump makes slaves of followers.

4. Both openly fought with economists and politicians in their terms.

5. Both had a “Muslim” problem.

6. Both were/are extremely impulsive; Jefferson bought “Louisiana” on a whim, Trump wanted to buy Greenland.

7. Both men have been called “the best” and “the worst” that America has to offer. 

8. Behind their facades (or in front of them), both men can be labeled as confirmed “hypocrites” and “racists.”

9. Jefferson had a major problem with Native Americans, mirroring Trump’s problem with immigrants that don’t fit  his image of what America should look like, demographically.

10. Both initiated attacks on the judiciary…for diverse reasons, bit still….

11. Both questioned the legitimacy of a federal judge.

12. Both are of the common thought that Americans are superior in every way from other countries.

And, finally,

13. They have a similar number of body parts and both an IQ. Jefferson was fluent in six languages, including Old  English. Trump has trouble with basic English and thinks Old English is Queen Elizabeth.

See! Ivanka is right.


By Ron Munden  — 6 June 2019

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
— President Abraham Lincoln

For the last 30 years I have said that the United States is a country in decline.  I thought that within 100 years that the U.S. would drop to a second-tier nation status like France and Italy.  I predicted the decline would happen because of our failing education system, the country always focusing on the short term rather than addressing long term problems.  Also, the decline in the moral fiber and the courage of our people.  I think my generation did not match up to “the greatest generation” and those generations that followed my generation have done no better.  Finally, the United States has become a nation driven by greed.

Let me carve out one group of Americans – our military personnel are the exception to the characteristics that I described above.  Unfortunately, the military is only about 10% of our population.  Not enough to carry the rest of us free loaders.

In the past couple of years, I have revised my outlook.  I think Abraham Lincoln’s prediction is correct and I think the country is on a 25-year fight plan to losing the freedoms we know today.  We might touch down sooner.

Several factors have accelerated the nations race to the bottom.  First the rapid increase in income inequality is increasing discontent and government leaders actively work to divide our citizens, not unite them. The nation’s lack of interest in climate change will introduce major stressors and instability throughout the world.

Recently in an interview one historical writer said the United States is in a war and the war is a civil war.  That comment is validated every time I take a look at social media or read anything that echoes how people feel.  Increasingly I find myself being drawn on the battlefield even though I know that it is a battle that no one will win.

We are quickly becoming a nation of hate and discontent. 

At some point those in charge will have to make a decision:

  1.  Let the nation disintegrate and break into parts or
  2.  Institute a totalitarian form of government — taking away many of the freedoms we know today in order to preserve order.

What will Happen?

In my opinion, the direction is clear.  The “money people” will not want to lose what they have and they will welcome a totalitarian form of government that preserves order.

It has been a good run for the country but things are about to change.  In the future the United States will move from a true democracy to a totalitarian body dressed in democratic outerwear.  The United States we know today will be gone.

This will happen weather you believe in global warming or not.  Not addressing climate change will just accelerate the rate of decline.

Footnote 1: While I do believe that Mr. T has wet dreams at night about becoming that totalitarian leader.  It will not happen.  He was born 15 or 20 years to early.

Footnote 2:  My son and I are the only remaining living members of my family.  He is in bad health and most likely I will outlive him.  The Munden clan will not be here in 20 years.  I’m glad.

Footnote 3:  Even though some other nations are beginning to spend money and other resources on addressing the world’s most pressing problem, the United States is not.  Since the United States is not being proactive, its failures will impact all nations so in 25 years every nation may find itself in decline.

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