The dubious legacy of an American commodore and his gunboats

Peace Statue at Ground Zero Memorial Park, Nagasaki, Japan

Hi again, from the shores of the Salish Sea.  As the radiation danger rises in Japan as a result of the impact of earthquake and tsunami on a majour nuclear power plant, I cannot help but consider a certain fundamental and equally tragic irony in all of this.  It is perhaps best expressed in a true and personal story.

When I was in the American Navy, the vessel on which I served visited a Japanese port in early August during the same time a nuclear aircraft carrier anchored in Tokyo Bay.  Several of us decided to take a train to Nagasaki, with the express purpose of visiting Ground Zero there.  We stopped for lunch at a restaurant with a menu in English in the window and subsequently enlisted the aid of a waitress about to go off-duty to accompany us and act as translator.

We did not know that in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, students and others were violently protesting that nuclear aircraft carrier’s port call.  But we found out when a large group of people confronted us several blocks from Peace Memorial Park, spotted our uniforms and began yelling at us and throwing bottles and rocks.  We fled and our guide caught a chunk of concrete in the head.  The crowd was on her before we could do anything and literally tore her apart.

Japan, of course, went on to embrace that technology which holocausted two of their larger cities and is now again witnessing the very real possibility of revisiting the tragedy of the nuclear annihilation.

I wondering ~ with the examples of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl still etched in the collective consciousness ~ how many more will need to die before we admit that the ushering in of the “atomic age” is probably the stupidest and most self-destructive thing we have ever done to ourselves and the rest of the life on this planet.


 Despite a Recession, global warming and a host of other life-threatening conditions, life expectancy in the United States of America is increasing.  Children born in 2009 can now expect to live 78.2 two years.  This is up from 78 years for those coming into the world in 2008.  We found this article particularly fascinating so if you’re in the mood for a bit of optimism, please go here.

As we predicted, now that they are finding out about plans to revive the coal industry where they live, citizens of Whatcom County, Washington are starting to push back.  For those who still think that citizen involvement cannot make a different, we suggest reading this.  For those enabled and empowered by such an example, we recommend it as well. 

We’re keeping an eye on the Department of Justice investigation of the Seattle Police Department for inappropriate conduct in the field and thanks to Jamie in San Francisco, we’ve learned that their department is undergoing a similar review.  It’s a tough call sometimes, breaking the law to serve “the greater good.”  The Northstar Journal remains firmly adamant that it is up to the courts to decide, not police officers. 

The Seattle Police Department is conducting its own investigation into improprieties in the arrest and processing of driving under the influence cases and I’m getting the unreal sense that this department is not unlike a beautiful home built on sand by a subcontractor who cares more about his profit margin than the habitability of the structure itself.  Considering that I’m from two generations of law enforcement and have had mostly positive experiences with the institution in general, I find it incredibly ironic that a city of such beauty and grace should be protected by individuals with such apparent disregard for the very laws they are sworn to defend. 

And as if it wasn’t enough that the San Francisco and Seattle police departments are under a badge heavy cloud, those who visit New Orleans might want to be very careful about running afoul of their Blue Knights.  A chilling report released by the US Justice Department recently describes an organization so corrupt that nothing less than a wholesale and thorough reform can save it


British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is keeping her promise to improve the standard of living in the province.  In three increments over a year, the minimum wage is increasing to $10.25 an hour.  Way to go, Christy!

 If you’re looking for truth in broadcast news, you’ll find it in Canada.  The Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), similar to the Federal Communications Commission in the United States., its intention to enforce a law of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which makes it illegal to lie in the media.  This comes, coincidentally, on the heels of the imminent launch of Sun TV, which many have described as “the Fox News of the North.”

Felina:  Samuel, I am watching this programme from our friends in that place where male humans in very tall hats guard these big caves and where a favourite dish appears to be a pie made of kidneys.  They are telling me that conditions in that land where the sun rises first and where the earth is apparently still shaking are much worse because of these strange machines which attempt to duplicate the chemical interactions of the sun.

Sam:    I’m going to take a shot at this, Felina  and guess you didn’t accidentally tune in the Sci Fi channel.

Felina:  Quite so and I must confess this rather pales anything the human imagination could conceive, the BBC’s excellent reportage notwithstanding.  What I fail to quite understand is how a species so relatively inexperienced with the forces which govern us all could presume to tamper with such fundamental elements of the universe.

Sam:    It seems to be a particular talent of this species, Lass.

Felina:  They do seem rather over-precocious, do they not, oh sun and moon of my life.

Sam:    Aye and with such tragic results to themselves and the rest of life on Planet Earth.

Felina:  They do not seem to learn from their own history.  If memory serves, it was an American commodore with his gunboats who forced primitive firearms on them in the first place.

Sam:    Yep.  America needed another arms market and forced the Industrial Age on a culture far older and in some ways, far more sophisticated and appropriate than anything Western culture had known since Athens at its zenith.

Felina:  These Japanese proved remarkably adaptable in these dubious regards.

Sam:    And yet without the kind of technological thinking that has become part of the human gene pool.  They proved that to the Russians and then imposed the same mis-thinking on China, as well.

Felina:  Conquer or be conquered, catch the disease of a cancerous ego metastasized and then demonstrate that if sophisticated savagery was to be an institutionalized aspect of human evolution, they could certainly contribute their share of it.

Sam:    And after they were defeated by the descendants of gunboat diplomacy, they accepted a new form of government forced upon them by a megalomaniac military leader who would be King of America.

Felina:  And in such a relatively short space of time, they turned that back by taking many significant inventions, miniaturizing them and producing them so cheaply that even the remotest of desert and mountain tribes could afford to use them and exploit them to their own advantage and such dire consequences to those unable to pick them up as fast or run with them or as far.

Sam:    Yep and proving as well that they could out-Chernobyl even America’s Three Mile Island.

Felina:  It vexes me that they could have come so far and learned so little.

Sam:    It reminds me of what one of their competitive sports coaches implied when he said that his team would run the same play over and over until they got it right.

Felina:  Without once ever questioning whether that play or even the game was even necessary in the first place.

Sam:    With all due respect to Ara Parseghian and possibly the best football team the University Notre Dame ever produced.

Felina:  And all to please a crowd so intensely enamoured of vicarious living in most other respects as well.

Sam:    Like the Coliseum of Rome and the gladiators who believed that the battle was all, regardless the outcome.

Felina:  And to think that they still believe that the extinction of the great thunder lizards was caused by a great chunk of stone hurled at them from a galaxy far beyond their own.

Sam:    You’ve got to admit, though, Felina, that if it was true, the marksmanship involved was rather impressive.

Felina:  And the intent perhaps not altogether unjustified, then, eh?

Sam:    Absolutely.

Felina:  If humans go the way of the dinosaurs, they will have undone themselves, I think.  But for all of that, Samuel, I still love them and I so do hope and pray this does not come to pass.

Sam:    I agree, Felina.  However reluctantly.  And on that note, my love?

Felina:  And on that note, gentle readers, until next time, may the Creator bless and keep you. 


Sometimes surviving hard times is as simple as making the place you live safe.  Here is a list of 100 ways to do that.


First Day of Spring, Wallingford looking south across Lake Union to Seattle. Photo by Merritt Scott (Rusty) Miller


  • Population:                      612.000
  • Greater Seattle Area      3,707,400
  • Area:                            84 sq mi/217 sq km
  • Density:                        7,286 people per sq mi/2,821 per sq km
  • Annual Rainfall:             36.2 inches/92 cm
  • Compared to:
  • San Francisco                     19.5 in —  50 cm
  • Chicago                                34.5 in —  88 cm
  • Dallas                                   37.1 in –  94 cm
  • Washington, DC                  39.0 in —  99 cm
  • New York City                      40.3 in –102 cm
  •  More Seattle Facts & Figures
  • Upcoming Events


 Sometimes good health is also about knowing what to avoid or change.  This one concerns a strong correlation between bad sleeping habits and weight gain.  I’m also, frankly, pleased that this tip comes from one of my housemates.  Thank you, Robin.

 Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, mercury poisoning has been compromising the health of millions and killing millions more.  To determine how much of this toxic element is in your system, how to eliminate it and how to mitigate further ingestion, please go here.  And our thanks to the good folks at Good Morning, America, for this one. 

Who are the happiest people in the world?  The answers might surprise you.  Yep, go here


One of the many reasons I like living in Seattle has to do, ironically, with this dread disease and not only what our major medical institutions like the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center have contributed and are today contributing to the eradication of this insidious killer, but the responsibility our local media are taking in providing us with information on its prevention and treatment.  Our NBC affiliate, King 5 News and its program, Evening Magazine, is running a series in this regard and I highly recommend it..  There is not one of us out there who has not been impacted by this so I urge all of you to go here for more information



The solar energy “revolution” continues, much to our delight, with the proliferation of mid-sized collectors which can be installed in backyards, farms and vacant urban plots, as National Public Radio’s Lauren Sommer reports. 

I love it especially when these good examples come from the shores of the Salish Sea.  This is about how the town of Bainbridge, Washington is going green, one home at a time.  And it’s an example which can be emulated elsewhere so yep, for more, please go here


Celtic Woman is The Northstar Journal’s favourite musical performance group.  When it is inspiration in a song we seek, they invariably provide it and they look as good as they sound.  The production values of their performances, whether at the Helix in Dublin or on a television stage in Adelaide, are flawless.  Perhaps most endearing for me is that these Irish ladies are totally ingenuous, and totally free of pretense or posturing.  They have a global following and for a sampling of why, please go here.

(The) Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida is the home of Winter, the rescued dolphin who was fitted with a prosthetic fluke and continues to amaze marine lovers the world over by her recovery.  The CMA is in the marine mammal rescue business for real, both as a public amusement site at which they also take care of a variety of species, and on the web as well.  Their videos and other information also make for a nice “educational” experience to share with others.

Finding Rootedness is perhaps the most empowering blog we have yet come across for those of us who value positive and empowering alternatives.  This one is for the window pushers among us.  It offers not only solid alternatives to the chaos but news of where these options are being successfully implemented.

Irish Newsletter is an outstanding pocket source of Irish life, politics and times.  Particularly well written are their news snaps (shorts) which ~ according to friends of mine in Erin ~ literally tell it like it is.  While the Republic of Ireland’s population is only about 4.5-million, there are an estimated 80 million people of Irish descent worldwide and email version of this reached 50,000 of them.

Rusty Miller – Writer/Editor For Hire is my professional home page.  Contracts I receive through this site help finance The Northstar Journal.

Sightline Daily is the best Pacific Northwest source of environmentally friendly news we’ve encountered yet.  They draw from newspapers and National Public Radio sources in Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington State.

The Northstar Gallery features photography of Seattle available as postcards, computer wallpaper and workspace art.

The Northstar General Store is a truly unique online shopping experience and reflects what you, the readers, have said interests you the most.  Whether it’s a specialty food item for that proverbial someone who has everything else or just to browse with some discretionary capital to spend on a whim, you’ll find everything from quality camping gear to interesting CDs, DVDs and books to totally fun and otherwise useless toys, women and men’s apparel and a wide variety of other items and wares you simply will not find under a single roof anywhere else on the Net.  And by shopping here, you help us pay our bills.  To enter and check it out, please click the picture of the store above.

Words Matter: How Media Can Build Civility or Destroy It is a “Should Read” for any of us involved in the communication of the written word.

Wrath of the Testament, an exciting seagoing saga of war and rebellion, is now available for $3.99 at

Yes magazine is the online Life and Look of the Internet combined and their present series “What Happy Families Know is both insightful and inspirational.


Wild animals are called that because they are not tame and do not lend themselves to domestication.  For a Today show video on the pros and cons of keeping everything from Bengal tigers to Nile crocodiles as pets, please go here.

 A bald eagle rescued after being found in Washington State with a broken wing turns out to be a video star of sorts.  Her birth and upbringing were recorded on video cam on Catalina Island in Southern California.  How and why this young predator decided to fly 1,000 miles north to Western Washington and how she was injured remain a mystery.  For more and an outstanding video, please go here.

We are rapidly becoming a profound fan of these video cameras researchers set up on nature trails in order to locate, track and record various elusive species.  This National Geographic video on a rare Indonesia rhinocerous is one of the reasons we feel this way.  This site also features an excellent clip on how tsunamis are formed.

In one of the America Online chatrooms I frequent to sound the conscience of the readership, we were asked which animal we would like to be if we could come back as one, a young teacher in New York, whom I have known since she was a freshman in college, told us that she would like to be reincarnated as a dolphin and posted this link to express why she feels that way.  Thank you, Sweetheart.

Recommended Related Links:


If I told you that an investigation into the cause of a fire in a New York City apartment revealed that the “arsonist” was a turtle making its escape from its terrarium, you’d wonder what I was either smoking, dropping or otherwise ingesting, wouldn’t you?  I honestly can’t say I’d blame you.  For the full story, go here.

 Well, that’s it for this week.  If you enjoyed this edition and would like to contribute to the next, please go here.

And if you’re in a shopping mood and into some interesting choices?  We have a “reader stocked” General Store that you might want to check out.  We’ve stocked a bit of everything from camping gear and cookware, specialty food items, books, music, films and fun/interesting/weird things that just somehow found their way onto the shelves at night when we were asleep.  If you would like to sell something with us or know someone who does, email us at and we’ll see what we can do. 

See you next time.  Be well. 



About minstrel312

MERRITT SCOTT MILLER Bio Wrath of the Testament Author and Northstar Journal editor Merritt Scott (Rusty) Miller is a former newspaper reporter who has published extensively in the Pacific Northwest and several times nationally. A U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, he began his career in the alternative media of the mid-Seventies. His own Sacramento-based monthly ~ Rapline ~ drew praise from Sacramento BEE metro columnist Herb Michelson in a column published that that newspaper; and from Berkeley Film Quarterly editor and author of the bestsellers Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging, Ernest Callenbach. A Northern California native with roots in British Columbia, Mr. Miller has written for several Northwest community newspapers, United Press International, the daily Portland Oregonian and for such Seattle publications as the Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Press and the University Herald. As an investigative reporter for the McMinnville, Oregon News-Register ~ and in conjunction with CBS News in New York, Washington, DC and Flagstaff, Arizona ~ Mr. Miller localized a story of alleged Contra gun-running by an international air freight company headquartered in that Willamette Valley community. During the 1987 Angel Complex Fire in southern Oregon, Mr. Miller worked as the lead dispatcher for the U.S. Forest Service and covered the disaster for National Public Radio and as a special writer for the Portland, Oregonian. His 1988 series on child abuse for a rural weekly earned him praise from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. In his career as a journalist, Mr. Miller has interviewed a Nobel peace laureate; an internationally renowned abstract artist; a popular folksinger and various Pacific Northwest elected officials, include a state treasurer and governor. An accomplished travel book writer, Mr. Miller has penned demographic and feature copy for the “Best Choices” series on Eastern Washington, British Columbia, Virginia, South Carolina and Atlanta. As either a contract or staff publicist, he has served a host of clients including the Olympia Music Festival, Umpqua Valley Community Hospital, the City of Canyonville, the Tiller Ranger District, The English School, the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners, Yamhill County Assessor Kim Worrell and Workers of Oregon Development. His freelance publications include: United Press International, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Portland Oregonian, Forest World, American Trucking, Trucks, Oregon Adventures, Oregon Education, Old Oregon, The Entertainer, the Seattle Press, the San Juan Island Sounder, Northwest Passage, Northwest Connection, Seattle Source, Seattle Forum, the University of Colorado’s Writers Forum, Clouds, The long Beach Literary Journal and the Pacific Media Group. He has worked since the age of 13 and has been a hop harvester, professional musician, civil servant, forester, convenience market clerk, lumber mill worker, temporary word processor, technical writer and editor. He has also led a social services research and development team and has six years of radio and telephone communications experience. His interests include astronomy, aviation, camping, Canada, communications, conversation, cooking, dancing, economic development, education, environmentalism, exploration, film/DVDs, fine dining, government, green technology, health. History, human rights, International community, Internet media, law, literature, marine engineering & design, medicine, music, nature, networking, outdoors, pets, photography, romance, science, sexuality, technology, travel, water, wildlife His honors and awards include: Letter of Appreciation - Amnesty International; US Senator Patti Murray Letter of Appreciation for The Northstar Journal Blog; Editors Choice, International Library of Poetry; Congressman Edward Murray Letter of Appreciation; Congressman Frank Chopp Letter of Appreciation; Hersch Best Read on the Net Award for The Northstar Journal; President Bill Clinton Letter of Appreciation; Workers Of Oregon Development Certificate of Appreciation; City of Canyonville Police Department Certificate of Appreciation; City of Canyonville Mayor’s Office Certificate of Appreciation; California Supreme Court Justice Rose Bird Letter of Appreciation; Northwest Magazine Editorial Board Letter of Appreciation for Rain; Editorial Award, Society of Professional Journalists; Sacramento Bee Metro Column; Honor Roll: California State University Long Beach; Deans List: Long Beach City; Mr. Miller currently resides in Seattle, Washington, where he continues to edit and publish The Northstar Journal. He is working on two novels concurrently and a sequel to Wrath of the Testament.
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