Something to consider

As leaders of many nations agree, the attacks on Paris were an act of war.  Not just against France, but against humanity.  Many nations have tasted the wrath of Muslim extremism; this will continue until we stop it.

We need to relearn proper responses to acts of war.  The Iraq campaign was no example; it was an opportunistic adventure based on lies and different purposes.

Proper response requires that we identify the enemy and his active supporters, pursue them into their homeland and havens, and destroy their ability to continue making war.

Given the hatred in ISIS, I believe the only way to destroy their ability is to kill them, not through criminal cases, but through swift military action.  I’ve long teetered on the brink of working to eliminate the death penalty, but this is no time for improving our justice system.  It’s a time for self-defense in war.

One might hope and expect that all the threatened nations would unite in a response to this act of war.  Russia is acting but, while acting alone, might well see opportunity for empire-building.

What is needed for the U.S. to act?  Congress needs to end its long silence and vote on measures directing and authorizing proper action.  During their silence, Republicans enjoy the luxury of condemning Mr. Obama for whatever he does or doesn’t do.  If he responds without Congressional support, he could be hounded the rest of his life for illegal action.  We shouldn’t expect that of any president.

Jim Burns

The letter above was published in the Waynesboro, Virginia News Virginian on November 18, 2015.


In Loving Memory
Philip Ambler Burns
June 16, 1957 – November 12, 2015

My dear son Philip.


Each of God’s creatures possesses a shining light within. Some are destined to shine forth upon a hilltop where all can see and many will follow. Some illuminate the valleys to guide and benefit those close to them. And some pass through storms and difficulties that, for a time, hide their lights under a bushel, as the saying goes. But these lights, too, burn just as brightly as all the rest.

In his lifetime, Philip passed through each of these phases, always with brightness undiminished. For those who have known him only in recent years, I would like to characterize his ways in earlier as well as later times.

Philip was a conscientious worker who devoted himself fully to responsibilities ranging from his education through his professional duties, and through countless worthy self-initiated projects, to the love and care of those dearest to him, in particular his dear wife Crystal.

He obtained a good education in Civil Engineering and, while still in school, he accepted part-time employment with an engineering firm, both for the experience and to save money for the future. In this role, his courage stunned us all as he was routinely lowered into deep boreholes, making sure that they had not collapsed before concrete was poured. And, inspecting construction projects underway, this man in his early twenties summoned the courage when necessary to tell hard-bitten, experienced supervisors when they had not done the job properly, and would have to tear it out and start again.

He detested being idle. One of his ground-breaking publications, PB’s Quick Index to Bird Nesting, was born during the period when he was seeking full-time employment after graduation. He took the financial risk of printing 10,000 copies, all of which were sold. Other book-related projects included a jointly authored guide to used-book dealers in the mid-Atlantic region, and his business Outdoor Books East, promoting and selling books about outdoor environments and activities. This business produced a spectacular catalog in which he personally summarized the contents of each of the several hundred books in stock.

rick3 cy     rick3_0001cy

Among Philip’s many hobbies, wildlife photography was particularly noteworthy. Not only did he achieve a high level of photographic art, but he also displayed his usual astonishing courage to gain the best vantage points. Taking pictures of eagles from a mountain ridge accessible only by canoe on a stream with raging rapids. Pictures of rattlesnakes up close, from the midst of their den where the creatures seemed to hide under every rock. And pictures of bats leaving their cave on a remote mountain top in the darkness of night. These pictures we still have as reminders of his work.

Bat1 copy          Humbird1 copy


During his nineteen years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philip designed and determined capacities for numerous flood-control projects. Not relying solely on the hydraulic models in common use, on his own initiative he created more accurate mathematical models to make these determinations. Later, it was repeatedly demonstrated that his own calculations produced more accurate and safer designs than did the usual models.

Following an early retirement from the Corps, Philip continued to seek beneficial projects for his attention. The greatest achievement of his retirement years was loving and marrying Crystal, and his devoted efforts to improve her prospects for a good life after he was gone. Not only did he encourage and instruct, but he willingly entered bankruptcy while making sure that she would be provided for through the rest of her life.

In recent years, I enjoyed frequent phone calls from Philip, always beginning with a friendly, specially intoned “Hello, Dad…” that I now deeply miss. These phone calls afforded wonderful opportunities for mutual understanding, particularly as I reminded him of the many worthy accomplishments that he could be proud of, and as I got his understanding for various actions by his parents in the early years – actions that he did not understand at the time, but finally recognized as being based on our love and caring for him.

As I reflect on Philip’s life, some of the photos that come most to mind are these:

        3Sons(color)PBdtl     Philip with Roald 6a

Jim Burns, Philip’s father


Our country is undergoing a painful reassessment of attitudes regarding its Civil War, which concluded slightly over 150 years ago.  Focus is particularly on the continued display of the Confederate battle flag and on the honoring of Confederate heroes through monuments and by naming schools and other institutions after them.

Pertinent issues, on which there is much disagreement, include the attitudes and purposes for which the war was undertaken. I believe it is appropriate and helpful to examine whatever reliable evidence we have concerning these matters.

One piece of such evidence is the following letter, written by one educated Southerner to another just before the War began. The letter was published in 2013 in the book Gale Hill: The Story of an Old Virginia Home, by Jasper Burns.

This letter was written by William W. Minor of Gale Hill, Albemarle County, Va., to Prof. John Barbee Minor of the University of Virginia, on February 16, 1861 – just two months before Virginia seceded from the Union and the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter took place:

Dear John,

…I shd. like especially to have seen & talked with you in these “piping times of” war, (for it is so near war that, I am almost afraid it will be the next thing we hear of) for I confess that I feel if possible more drawn toward my friends in the prospect of war (& especially of Civil war) than in ordinary times, when we can afford to differ & quarrel about politics as much as we please, & there are no bones broken & no blood is shed however high the words may rage, – but in times like these, when the “irrepressible conflict” of black Republicanism is at our very doors, it does appear to me that all the calls of patriotism & friendship & kindred too, should unite us John, & all true Virginians against the aggressive policy of our Northern enemies, who have defrauded us of our property, our equal rights under the Constitution, & who are preparing (so far as we can see) to coerce us to submit to them as our superiors, unless we speedily humble ourselves to their unjust & unrighteous demands. I do trust & hope John that you & I & all my other friends will be united in our opposition to the policy Demands of these truce-breakers (our Northern enemies) who even deny in the last remedy of the oppressed & downtrodden, – the right of self-defense: altho at present not able to take the field for the rights of my country, I do hope that my back will soon be well enough to enable me to shoulder my musket & join you, if need be, in the shock of battle, against the invaders of the rights of Virginia & the South…

Sincerely yr. friend,

Wm. W. Minor


William W. Minor


John B. Minor


Quinn’s letter off base

In his letter of October 10, Bob Quinn expresses his disagreement with an earlier letter by Richard White titled “We don’t need to support Republicans.”

Much of Quinn’s letter is devoted to his own opinions as they clash with those of White, a subject that’s not really disputable, and to his own personal background, which is clearly commendable. He does make three points, however, that can be weighed because well-known facts are involved.

He points out that the national debt has doubled under President Obama. Close enough, but White’s letter didn’t deal with who is responsible for the debt. He requested merely that presidential candidates be required to answer questions about the debt during their campaign debates.

He claims that White’s estimate of sea level rise, 7 inches, is false and that the correct figure would be in fractions of an inch. White’s letter clearly referred to his estimate as “during the 20th century.” In that context, the best data I could find comes close to White’s estimate. Rises in fractions of an inch apply only to averages for single years. Incidentally, yearly data since 1992 show a substantially faster rate of sea-level rise than during the 20th century overall.

Finally, concerning Quinn’s claim that the vote recount in 2000 was not stopped: On December 12, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped it by ruling that the recount could not be completed in time for a “safe harbor” date, and that a lower court’s requirement for the recount was unconstitutional. Perhaps the recount continued informally, but not in any legally valid sense.

Jim Burns    

The letter above was published in the Waynesboro, Virginia News Virginian on October 12, 2015. Text of the October 10 letter by Bob Quinn follows. Readers may note that the title on Quinn’s letter preempts a title that could well have been used by me to describe Quinn’s letter. 

Writer’s rage ignores facts, decency

Richard White’s letter in Thursday’s paper is so full of inaccuracies it could have come from the White House.

Where to begin? In attack­ing Republicans, he first laments the outrageous na­tional debt that has doubled under Barack Obama. Talk­ing about climate change, he claimed that sea levels have risen 7 inches. False. The best scientific measure­ments are in fractions of an inch

The vote count in 2000 was not stopped, it went on until every hanging chad had been examined as reporters hung on watching till the end but their liberal editors did not report that, preferring to let the big lie of cheating remain in play.

His most egregious slan­der, however, is categoriz­ing the conservative voters of 2013 as “religious bigots and gun nuts.” How far have we fallen when America’s Christians can be called big­ots and gun owners “nuts” implying mental illness.

I spring from an intact Christian home trained in honesty, respect, charity and reverence for God, my par­ents have been married 70 years this month and remain faithful worshipers.

As for myself, I took firearms training in the U.S. Marine Corps and put my life on the line in Vietnam to preserve his right to his opinions. Keeping a firearm in my home for self-defense (getting too old to fight or run) endangers nobody but prospective burglars. I have no criminal record nor any problem with mental illness except deep annoyance at Richard White’s miserable ignorance.

He has swallowed the pathetic lies of the left with little or no thought and is in­fecting all around him with his slander and hateful rage.

                                                                                                          BOB QUINN

Finding a Balance on the Second Amendment (Expanded)

This post has been expanded to include the Lilly letter of May 11, 2015.

 In a Letter to the Editor dated May 11, Curt Lilly explained to us his view of the goals and implications of the Second Amendment. I believe the key part of his message is this: “The Second Amendment did not say that citizens could only have weapons that were inferior to [those of] the police or armed forces. By definition, they would need weapons that were just as potent to have any chance of wrestling the government back from despots and their co-conspirators.”

In an earlier letter, I pointed out danger in that interpretation. It places no limits on the power of the weaponry that can be placed in the hands of law-abiding citizens and of criminals and terrorists, too. There are nuclear weapons in existence today that could be manufactured privately and sold openly, needing only the protection of the Second Amendment as the letter-writer has interpreted it.

Modern weaponry has enormous power, far beyond anything that the founding fathers could ever have imagined. Those who speak of the Second Amendment as outdated are concerned that it does not rationally reflect and consider this fact.

So how do we support the Second Amendment? I believe we need to work on updating it – building in a rational response to the power of modern weaponry – before the letter-writer and his colleagues lead our nation into the status of an armed camp that would be unacceptable to most people. So unacceptable, perhaps, that it could weaken support for the Second Amendment itself.

Regrettably, the letter-writer lowered the tone of discourse by questioning the patriotic credentials of those who disagree, and invoking the old saw of “love it or leave it.” I have paid dues as a World War II veteran, a reservist through the Korean conflict, and a civilian serving his country on the front lines in Vietnam. I’ve had a lot of travel abroad. I have no intention of leaving the United States.

                                                                                        JIM BURNS

The letter above was published in the Waynesboro, Virginia News Virginian on May 20, 2015. Text of the May 11 letter by Curt Lilly follows.

Amendment has two goals

In an earlier letter, a writer suggested that armor-piercing bullets should be banned. The reason for the Second Amendment was twofold — first, it provided personal protection; sec­ond, it armed the citizenry in case the people had to take back the govern­ment from rulers that violated the Constitution. The Second Amendment did not say that citizens could only have weapons that were inferior to the police or armed forces. By definition, they would need weapons that were just as potent to have any chance of wrestling the government back from despots and their co-conspirators.

The writer called it an “outdated amendment.” Liberals would like you to think you can just brush the Consti­tution under the rug with statements like this, but that’s not how it works. In our government, you follow the procedure laid out in the Constitution to amend it. That keeps people like this guy from changing the whole basis for our government willy-nilly. Changing the Constitution is hard and time-con­suming — by design.

The writer also claimed that a major­ity of NRA [National Rifle Association] members approve of a three-week waiting period. He never backs up these outrageous statements with evidence, and I doubt that a legitimate poll with these results exists. He also said that walking the streets of the United States is more dangerous than all but a “few” nations. This is complete absurdity; obviously, he has not trav­eled to other countries.

Instead of trying to destroy our Constitution and making false claims about our country to make us feel guilty or bad — or making us do without fossil fuels (in his other earlier letters), water, electricity and personal freedom — I suggest he do something much easier: Quit trying to ruin our country. Go find a communist or socialist nation with the limits you love so much and move there.

                                                                                       CURT LILLY


The book titled Enamel Art: An Appreciation, by Jim Burns, was published on August 23, 2015.  It is based on all fourteen posts of the series on ENAMEL AND METAL ARTS in this blog.   The text has been revised.  There are well over 100 color illustrations, and many of them have been enhanced.


Details of the book can be viewed on the Amazon website at Enamel Art, or at the Author’s Page where other books by the same author are also listed.

Views of the front and back covers:

rl CV 1 a back text flat Rt

rl LgPrint CV 1 a back text bkup1 flat Lft



Vietnam66 Finished CoverThe book titled Vietnam ’66: A Personal Experience of the War, by Jim Burns, contains the complete text and illustrations of the Vietnam postings on this blog.  The illustrations are presented in color.  The book is available in paperback and Kindle editions.  The Kindle edition was temporarily withdrawn and revised to clear up format problems that had developed in the conversion to e-book.


Details of the book can be viewed on the Amazon website at Vietnam ’66, or at Vietnam ’66 Kindle, or at the Author’s Page, where other books by the same author are also listed.

ABOUT REVIEWS OF THIS BOOK: The Amazon website indicates that this book received two unfavorable reviews.  The first review was based on format problems with the original Kindle edition.  Those problems were promptly addressed and have been cleared up in the current Kindle edition.

The second reviewer wrote “Did not find it to my liking.” I cannot do anything to correct this. He didn’t describe what he liked, or what I had done that he disliked.  As the French say, “Chacun à son goût” (Everyone to his taste.)