Kim Jong Un Will Not Like This Book!

Kauai Community College professor Gregory Shepherd certainly knows how to get a book off to an engaging start.

Raise you hand if you would like to die today.”

And he’s not an English or writing teacher. His fields are music and theater. His book is Sea of Fire, a novel about the hair-trigger confrontation that is North and South Korea.

Shepherd is primarily a Japan scholar and his biography says that while a research fellow there he traveled regularly to Seoul, where he smuggled democracy literature into the country to a group of Catholic nuns and priests who were actively seeking free and open elections in the South of the time. 

His interest in Korea dates from that time, during which he says he learned through contacts that the situation north of the 38th parallel was actually far worse than in the yet-to-be-democratic south.

You know where his sympathies lie from this single statement — that the North is “an unimaginably bleak, brutal, sometimes quirky and always a captivating place.”

And about those opening words in his new book from Poplar Press: They’re from the tour guide on a bus trip to the DMZ who tells the group “I want to make it absolutely clear to all of you that your trip to the Joint Security Area of Panmunjom will entail entry into a hostile area as well as the possibility of injury or death as a result of enemy action.” 

I’ve been there a couple of times and nobody told me I might be killed. But we were cautioned not to give the finger to the North Korean guards on their side of the armistice line. They’re said to have short tempers and itchy trigger fingers.

The book goes from that “you might die” start to the main, far-fetched but entertaining story of what the jacket sums up as the tale of “a lone wolf spy’s frantic race to prevent a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula while saving the love of his life from a North Korean prison.”

It’s not Hemingway, nor even Len Deighton. It is the exact same title as the Op-Center novel by Tom Clancy. But it’s an okay read for a quarantine period or if you wonder why Donald Trump’s best effort to woo the North added up to zero. The North is not normal government and the penalty there for any disloyalty like that of John Bolton is death — sometimes by anti-aircraft gunfire.

If you want better sourcing and better literature, you probably should choose Nothing To Envy:Ordinary Lives In North Korea for a scholarly overview, or The Orphan Master’s Son as by far the best fiction book about the Hermit Kingdom.

I can tell you this: author Shepherd is not going to be granted a visa to visit North Korea until all members of the Kim dynasty are dead or kicked out. And even then the CIA might object. It’s not treated very kindly in Sea Of Fire.

And then there’s the North Korean sniper attack to frighten off those of you planning to attend the Tokyo Olympics next year.

And maybe nuclear war!

Did I say this isn’t a feel-good book?

We Got Screwed On Ferry Service

The 2020 National Census of Ferry Operators is currently being conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. It collects facts on routes, passengers & vehicles carried, and funding sources.

The census doesn’t include us. We have no ferry service — maybe the only substantially-inhabited island entity on the planet without that.

Pink states have some kind of ferry service.

We have Young Brothers carrying freight and non-occupied cars and telling the state and feds “give us $25 million and a rate increase or our parent company is going to pull the plug.”

It’s disturbing, to say the least, that (1) we are at the mercy of this one inter-island ocean carrier and (2) we do not have a passenger and vehicle ferry system servicing every island.

We had that — well, for Oahu and Maui. There were issues on the Big Island and Kauai. It started up in 2003 and was an immediate hit both for passengers and the many Oahu companies that could send equipment vehicles to job sites on the other islands. 

But in 2009, the State Supreme Court ruled that we had not done an appropriate environmental study (the kind those freight barges of Young Brothers and visiting passenger liners never had to do) and our Superferry closed down and laid off its 236 employees.

New York and Washington are the top two states for passengers carried by ferry services — about 70 million a year. Washington and Texas carry the most vehicles — about 13 million a year.

(Texas? Yes, more than 8 million passengers ride the Port Aransas and Galveston-Port Bolivar ferries annually.)

Here’s a breakdown of national ferry numbers and the percentage of what they carry:

Carrier types on all 652 ferries in the U.S. census

In the last census, 75% of all U.S. ferry operators said their biggest revenue source was ticket sales. Most had no government revenue sources. 23% did get heavy state funding and about 15% said they got some help from a city or county.

Half were privately owned and operated and half public entities. Just a few ferries were publicly owned but privately operated — the PPP system that’s become increasingly popular here on government projects.

Of all the ferry systems, nearly all carry passengers, about half of them also carry vehicles, and less than a quarter haul freight. So the big business is people and that’s the business we do not have.

The average passenger capacity is 323. The average vehicle capacity 23.

Here: zero and zero.

I was a TV news reporter during our Superferry days and quickly learned that much of the opposition came from Young Brothers, the air carriers, and businesses on Neighbor Islands worried that cheaper-cost Oahu firms could move workers and equipment easily and compete with them. The Superferry had refrigeration plug-ins for food-carrying trucks, too. More competition.

There was some citizen opposition, primarily on Kauai, over over-population and business competition, but that could have been addressed.

The State Supreme Court did a difficult contortion to come up with a connection between existing environmental law and what the state had done by installing landing-assist structures in the harbors. I’ve always felt the justices were primarily moved to protect Young Brothers and our inter-island air-freight carriers — although in the end that failed to save Aloha Airlines.

Our state lawmakers rolled over and played dead and you re-elected them. Gov. Linda Lingle dodged the bullet because she was term-limited anyway.

And if the law is really to be hard-core applied, how about the non-examination of cruise ship hulls for non-native sea life as they ply between here, Fiji, Tahiti, Australia and the West Coast?

No, there were some political power plays going on and the citizenry didn’t get a say.

It also didn’t get a ferry system.

My read: it was politically doomed from the start

We were going to be stuck with Young Brothers.

Do Indian Lives Matter?

Malcolm X once said of his black people that they are not Americans, they are Africans and should relocate to Africa. “We must be separated from the American white man, returned to our own land where we can live among our own people. This is the only true solution.”

Of course, that never happened, couldn’t have worked, wasn’t popular and was the downfall of the Nation of Islam movement in the U.S. (1950s to 1985).

But we forget that a similar idea was successfully implemented in the early 19th Century to solve what white Americans of the time called “the Indian problem.” In order to clear the way for white settlement, we passed a law in Congress that permitted the “relocation” of Indian tribes from our southeast and midwest to barren places in the Far West that whites considered to be the “Indian homeland.”

The justification was: “they can live peacefully among their own people.” That was President Andrew Jackson speaking as he signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830.

So today, Indian families still live in poverty with high incidences of alcoholism in many western “reservations.” I’ve been through them. It breaks your heart. It reminds me that we’ve moved on to Black Lives Matter without dealing with the lives of Native Americans, who not only were here before blacks but — and this is little known and hardly ever spoken of — owned black slaves themselves!

So, do we erase any statues or paintings of Indians? Do we put Indian Lives Matter ahead of Black Lives Matter? Do we deal with something from 1830 before we tackle something that caused a Civil War 35 years later?

Nearly 125,000 Native Americans lived on millions of acres of land in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina — land their ancestors had occupied and cultivated for generations. By the end of the decade, very few natives remained anywhere in the southeastern United States.

In 1838, Cherokees were forcibly moved from their homelands in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia and relocated to Oklahoma. They took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that they were a sovereign nation.  President Jackson ignored the decision and had the military enforce the Indian Removal Act.

As an Army general, Jackson had spent years leading campaigns against the Creeks in Georgia and Alabama and the Seminoles in Florida – which resulted in the transfer of hundreds of thousands of acres of land from Indians to white farmers.

In Illinois and Wisconsin, the Act opened to white settlement millions of acres of land that had belonged to the Sauk, Fox and other native tribes.

Then came President Martin Van Buren, who sent General Winfield Scott and 7,000 soldiers to expedite the removal process. They forced the Cherokee into stockades at bayonet point while whites looted their homes and belongings. Then they marched the Indians more than 1,200 miles west. Whooping cough, typhus, dysentery, cholera and starvation were epidemic along the way, and historians estimate that more than 5,000 Cherokees died on the journey.

In the winter of 1831, the Choctaw became the first tribe to be 100% expelled from its land in Mississippi. They made the journey west to Indian Territory on foot — some bound in chains and marched double file — and without any food, supplies or other help from the government. Thousands died.

By 1840, many tens of thousands of Native Americans had been driven off of their land and forced to move across the Mississippi River to Indian Territory. The federal government promised that their new land would remain unmolested forever, but as white settlement pushed westward, “Indian Country” shrank. In 1907, Oklahoma became a state and all Indian Territory there was gone for good. There would only be formal “reservations” — really concentration camps farther northwest.

That’s where many live today, in shacks with dried-up yards and many cars without tires up on cement blocks. Most are welfare clients.

We’ve moved on to Black Lives Matter.

Indian Lives Matter is yesterday’s news.

And we protect that statue of Jackson in Lafayette Park across from the White House.

I thought for a moment I might have a solution for this “Statuegate.” Put a plaque on each one that is historically correct, the person’s good and bad traits. A sort of condensed history lesson. Then reality struck. Have you ever read how much hassle goes into the making of a high school history textbook? Some states refuse to use the popular ones from the Texas Schoolbook Depository. You’d never get the local population and politicians to agree on the wording on the plaque.

Maybe that’s why the statue in Richmond, Virginia, only had “Lee” on it.


My Brother, The Cop

My name is Ken Jones. I’m Bob’s brother. I spent 27 years on my hometown police department, starting in 1974 as a patrolmen before being promoted to sergeant and finally plain clothes detective before retiring.

A little about my and Bob’s hometown. 

Vermilion, Ohio, “back in the day.”

Vermilion is in northern Ohio,  on the shore of Lake Erie.  It is your typical small, midwestern city. The population is approximately 13,000 and is predominately white. 

[Note by Bob: Below is an approximate racial breakdown of Vermilion. Only about 10 percent of the population lists a four-year college degree. The population has grown by about 2,000 since these census figures.]

As I think back, police training was completely inadequate but was standard for the time.  I was supplied with all the typical police equipment, I was assigned to ride with veteran officers for training, — the length of time escapes my memory.  Then I was turned loose to learn the rest through experience 

Not brother Ken; just a shot of the VPD canine unit. 

When I started on the police department it was a typical midwestern department for that1 time.  The entire department was white males.  As time went on, females were hired and we did have a black officer.  The black officer was well accepted on the department and by the residents of the city.  I can’t say that I have ever experienced any racism.  I was not raised in a racist family and I never experienced any racism in our police department.  

As a detective, I had to work with officers of various police departments around us while investigating crimes that happened in our city.   Based on my experience, I believe most officers are consciencious about doing their job.  Unfortunately, there are officers that either intentionally or unintentionally make mistakes and bad judgements that reflect on all policemen.  The public has lost their trust in police officers because of these actions.  To regain the public’s trust, officers must be held responsible for their actions.  And their supervisors also need to be held accountable for the actions of officers under their supervision. 

As for as some of the recent events where police have used excessive or unnecessary force, there is no excuse for it.  It was recently said that convicting police officers is difficult.  This should not be. Officers should be treated as anyone else in the criminal justice system.   In order to regain the public trust the public must know that officers will be held accountable for any inappropriate actions. 

Unfortunately, due to union intervention, it has become increasingly difficult to discipline and/ or fire officers.  In my opinion unions have become too powerful and often protect those that should not be protected.  

There’s talk of not funding police departments.  I think this would be a big mistake.  Due to the virus, the funding is going to be cut already.  Without proper funding officers won’t get much needed additional training, additional officers won’t be hired; that increases the workload on existing officers and proper equipment can’t be purchased.  I believe all of this will affect police officers negatively and may very well make the current situation even worse.  

The current violence taking place will do little to correct the problems within the police departments.  It will only be corrected when the administrators realize there is a problem and take the steps to correct it.  

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