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.
Hamlet

“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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TIMELY AND PERSONAL

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 IS OUR EVERYDAY REALITY!

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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SAME RACIAL SONG, SECOND VERSE

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 U.S.in 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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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.

A NATION IN DECLINE

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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THE SINKING OF THE USS GUITARRO – WELL THERE GOES THAT WEEKEND

By Ron Munden

At 0730 on the morning of May 16, 1969, I was driving to work at Mare Island Naval Shipyard.  All my thoughts were on plans for the up-coming weekend.  Little did I know that was all about to change.

As reported in the press:

Napa River Sinking

On May 15, 1969, Guitarro’s construction was still underway when Guitarro sank while moored in the Napa River. Guitarro had taken a sudden down angle causing most of her forward hatches to go underwater. Massive flooding occurred through the large open hatches and attempts to close large watertight doors and hatches were largely unsuccessful due to various lines and cables that ran through the doors and hatches, thus preventing them from closing. Three days later the ship was refloated, with damages estimated at between $15.2 million and $21.85 million USD.

By the time I reached the shipyard the place was operating in what could be described as panic mode.  Sinking a ship at dockside is not good!

Even though I recognized that the shipyard had a big problem I did not think I would be involved in any way.  By noon I recognized that I was wrong about that also.

I was told that shipyard workers planned on pumping the water out of the ship and bringing it to the surface as quickly as possible.  Before they could begin pumping, divers had to weld hull patches on all the openings and make each compartment airtight.  They expected this would take an additional 24 hours so pumping could start by noon on Saturday.

 There was one very big concern – ship stability.  They feared that if the submarine was partially pumped and rose to the surface the free surface effect of the remaining water would give the ship (technically submarines are called boats) a negative stability and it would capsize and bury the conning tower in the mud.

Management had selected a seasoned naval architect who normally worked on research projects to develop a pumping sequence that would ensure the ship maintained positive stability at all time. I was very surprised to learn that this engineer had specifically asked that I be assigned to assist him.  To this day I have no idea why he selected me.

This was not a simple problem and the pump sequence calculations had to be completed in 24 hours in order to support the schedule for raising the ship.

Prep work began. The 20 or so drawing boards in the area where I worked were all cleared off.  The lead engineer began making a list of drawings that would be needed to make the calculations.  Other people were sent to plan files to collect the drawings.  This began a series of trips to plans files.  When a person looked at one drawing it often referenced other drawings, so people were sent to retrieve the reference drawings.   By 4pm, the end of the day shift, most of the drawing boards were holding a collection of drawings.

Then it was quiet.  It was just Bill, the senior naval architect, and me.  We were looking at a stack of drawings.  To be honest it was Bill and his handy man.  By this point I had been reading the Principals of Naval Architecture for about a year and had taken two quarters of Naval Architecture classes at Berkeley.  I had no idea how to solve this problem.  Fortunately, Bill did.  So, we started the process one step at a time.

I was never one of those students that stayed up all night studying for a test in college.  In fact, I never did it.  But fueled by coke, and candy bars I worked through the night and never thought about being sleepy.   By late morning on Saturday we delivered the pumping sequence to the salvage officer’s team.

By 2pm I was in my car ready to drive home.  It had been an interesting day and a half.

I decided to sleep-in Sunday morning.

That was not to be the case.

At 6:30A.M. Sunday morning I received a call.  I was told that the salvage team had raised the sub and were preparing it to go into drydock.  Someone had decided that they may be able to save more equipment from salt water damage if they filled some compartments with fresh water, added soap and pumps, which in effect, made these compartments a washing machine.  This would significantly change the submarine’s configuration. So, they needed another set of stability calculations.

I’ll save my Sunday adventure for another day.

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From Freezing Artic Waters to Steaming Jungle Rice Paddies

During the sixteenth century, Italian inventor Leonardo Da Vinci made drawings of an ornithopter flying machine.  Some experts say this inspired the modern day helicopter. In 1784, a year after the first successful ascent in a hot air balloon, French inventors Launoy and Bienvenue created a toy with a rotary-wing that could lift and fly.  This may have been inspired by the “Chinese Top” principle and proved the concept of helicopter flight.  In 1863, the French writer Ponton D’Amecourt was the first person to coin the term “helicopter” from the two words “helico” for spiral and “pter” for wings.

The very first piloted helicopter was invented by Paul Cornu in 1907; however, his design was not successful. French inventor, Etienne Oehmichen built and flew a helicopter about a half mile in 1924. Another early helicopter that flew for a decent distance was the German Focke-Wulf Fw 61.  The inventor of that machine is unknown. 

The Piasecki Helicopter Corporation was founded in 1940 by Frank Piasecki as the P-V Engineering Forum. The PV-2 was the second helicopter flown in the United States (after Sikorsky’s VS-300), and was designed and flown by Frank Piasecki in 1943. 

The company was a designer and manufacturer of helicopters.  It was located in Philadelphia, PA and Morton, PA, in the late 1940s and the 1950s.  Piasecki Helicopter was renamed Vertol Corporation in early 1956.  Vertol was acquired by Boeing in 1960 and renamed Boeing Vertol. 

Piasecki Helicopter designed and sold to the United States Navy a series of tandem rotor helicopters, starting with the HRP-1 of 1944. The HRP-1 was nicknamed the “flying banana” because of the upward angle of the aft fuselage that ensured the large rotors did not strike each other in flight. The name would later be applied to other Piasecki helicopters of similar design, including the H-21. 

The USS Core was commissioned during World War Two as an aircraft carrier.  On June 27, 1943 she transitioned from a training carrier and sortied as the center of Task Group 21.12, a hunter-killer group.  Such groups provided cover for the movement of convoys and made a great contribution towards winning the Battle of the Atlantic.  The innovation represented by their formation was a striking development in antisubmarine warfare.  In 1945 as the war in the Atlantic was winding down, the Core was transferred to the Pacific Theater. 

Piasecki’s company first became known as Piasecki Helicopter in 1946. 

In 1949, Piasecki proposed the YH-21A Workhorse to the United States Air Force, which was an improved, all-metal derivative of the HRP-1.  After its maiden flight in April 1952, the USAF ordered 32 H-21A SAR models and 163 of the more powerful H-21B assault transport variant. With its improved capabilities, the H-21B could carry 22 fully equipped infantrymen, or 12 stretchers, plus space for two medical attendants, in a medivac role. With its Arctic winter capabilities, the H-21A and H-21B were put into service by both the USAF and the Royal Canadian Air Force to maintain and service Distant Early Warning radar installations. 

On 24 August 1954, with the assistance of inflight refueling provided by a U.S. Army U-1A Otter, an H-21C known as Amblin’ Annie became the first helicopter to cross the United States nonstop.

In June of 1955 the Core was redesignated as a helicopter escort carrier (CVHE-13). 

The uprated 1425 hp Wright engine used in the H-21B was also used in subsequent variants sold to both the U.S. Army (as the H-21C Shawnee) and the military forces of several other nations. In 1962, the H-21 was redesignated the CH-21 in U.S. Army service.  The CH-21 was used for Artic rescue because of its excellent low temperature performance. 

In July of 1958 the USS Core was redesignated as a utility carrier (CVU-13).  In May of 1959 the Core was again redesignated, this time as an aviation transport (T-AKV-41).  On December 11, 1961, the USS Core docked in the Port of Saigon to unload 33 Vertol H-21 Shawnee helicopters. Also on board were 400 U.S. soldiers from the 57th Transport Company from Fort Lewis, and the 8th and 9th Transport Companies from Fort Bragg, who would operate and maintain the helicopter fleet. 

The relatively slow CH-21 was hampered by vulnerable cables and fuel lines.  It was rumored that it was so susceptible to small arms fire that a CH-21 had been downed by a Viet Cong spear.

On February 4, 1962 the first United States Helicopter was shot down during the Vietnam War. The helicopter which was shot down was one of fifteen helicopters that were ferrying South Vietnamese Army troops into an area of the Mekong Delta near the village of Hong My for a battle.  That helicopter had arrived in South Vietnam on the ferry carrier USS Core a few months earlier.  The crew was assigned to airlift Vietnamese Army troops into combat. 

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