TIME magazine rebounds

June 9, 2014

is it just me or has anyone else noticed how interesting TIME magazine has become lately?  For the first time in years I find myself buying it off the newsstand at airports even though I subscribe.  The stories are too compelling for me to wait to get home to my own copy.

I confess that I moved to television cable news long ago.  My subscriptions to newspapers and magazines expired.  They were too late with the news, too predictable in their interpretation and just beyond vanilla to the point of bland.  The new TIME has something rare for our age, old fashioned journalism.  It’s coverage of the crisis in Ukraine was actually ahead of television news.  (How can you trust a television reporter who cannot pronounce Sevastopol?)  

And there is something new for TIME, raw, beyond-the-stale-boardroom predictable perspectives. I may be wrong about this but as a reader, it appears to me, that after years of trying to cram their version of he world down our throats the Gods at TIME have turned their talent lose.

The Legacy of George W. Bush

April 25, 2013

Today, the George W. Bush library will be dedicated and a long list of luminaries will laud the life and legacy of our 43rd president.  I first met the future president in 1986, in Corpus Christi, Texas.  I was an independent businessman at the time, and simultaneously, working for his father as an adviser.  As the host of a business event held at the Corpus Christi Convention Center, I invited in George W. Bush to speak to the group.  He did a great job.  And afterward I took he and Laura and the twins to a Mexican restaurant where we talked politics.

bush picture3

Doug Wead, Mike Smith and George W. Bush in Corpus Christi, 1986.

In March, 19987, he joined his father’s campaign and co-opted my work with coalitions so I reported directly to him.  It was then that he learned the power of the evangelical vote and how to tap into it.

I may be the first person, outside of his own random fantasies, who actually thought of him as a future president.  Shortly after his father was elected I wrote a 44 page memo on presidential children.  In the study I learned how many sons pursued the presidency themselves.  Not just the first son born to a president, which was John Quincy Adams, but nine others.  A few of them came close, including John Van Buren and Robert Taft.  So I wrote about that possibility for the young Mr. Bush and talked about him to journalists, including a description in an article dated 1991.  (George Jr. exhibits clout in Bush White House. Denver Post. December 15,1991, p6a.)

George W. Bush has a dynamic personality, a cunning sense of humor and was the most decisive person I had ever met in my life.  While I never stopped praying or rooting for him, personally, I publicly parted ways with him over the war in Iraq.   It was a decision that would cost me dearly in my career.  Even before, when a 1998 CNN/Gallup poll showed George W. Bush as the leading presidential contender, I warned my wife.  “If he wins the presidency we will go to war with Iraq and we will kill Saddam Hussein and we will kill his sons.”  After 9-11, I watched helplessly as our war against Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda shifted to a war against Saddam Hussein, the man who had tried to kill  Bush’s father.

There were many unintended consequences to the war in Iraq and to the subsequent upheaval across the Middle East.   It was called “the Arab Spring” as dictatorships toppled.  But Democracy, offered to voters in the region is routinely voted down as soon as it is won.  The people want theocratic dictatorships.  And they choose them at the ballot box.

Christianity, which existed in Iraq for 2,000 years and traced its lineage to the apostles ,  numbered one million believers before the Iraq war.  It has been cut in half, with churches destroyed and members killed or fleeing to Jordan.   Now the Coptic Christians of Egypt, one of the oldest Christian communities in history faces possible annihilation.

In 2011, when the whole West, including President Obama, were celebrating the change of governments in the Middle East, I was hotly criticized for throwing cold water on the celebration.  It was not out of any loyalty to the dictatorships they replaced.  But rather to the naive confidence with which we so easily brushed aside the tenuous house of cards that were in place.  We did so by what we said and did and what we did not say and did not do.  And we accomplished this without debate or adequate consideration, acting on instinct rather than logic.  The consequences have meant death to many and the blood bath may have only begun.

Today, supporters of President George W. Bush say that he kept America safe and never raised taxes.  Opponents say his war in Iraq had unintended consequences that are unhinging the whole Middle East and his spike in spending wrecked the economy.

Presidents spend their time in office trying to shape what happens and when its over they spend their time trying to shape what we think happened.  Both with limited success.  Today, President George W. Bush  has begun his campaign for his legacy.  What do you think?  How would you rank the president’s time in office?  Today the former president has a a 47% approval rating which is exactly the same as President Obama.

Participate in this poll and learn the results.


2012 in review

January 12, 2013

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 680,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 12 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

Ron Paul steals the show at Faith Coalition

June 9, 2011

Ron Paul surprised delegates at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference last week by quoting long portions of the Bible to buttress his political views.  Romney, Bachman, Pawlenty and most of the other GOP presidential hopefuls showed up at the event.  The Faith and Freedom Coalition is organized by Ralph Reed and is referred to by some as the new Christian Coalition.  But while some of the speakers stumbled uncomfortably over Christian buzzwords, likely supplied by their handlers, and other speakers ignored the special character of their audience altogether, Ron Paul launched into a scriptural defense of his views.

Paul reminded his audience of the Biblical story of 1 Samuel chapter 8 when the Israelites demanded a king and God warned them what would happen. They would be burdened with taxation and the King would take their sons away to die in distant wars.

“I don’t think we need a king,” Paul told the audience, “and we don’t need Washington to act as if they’re the king of this country.”  His speech evoked the largest applause and cheers of the day.

Ron Paul’s recent appearance and the reaction of his audience reflects a growing trend among evangelicals who see the erosion of the constitutional right of freedom of religion to be the new threat.

“This is no longer about Christians trying to force prayer in schools or an end to abortion,” a famous televangelist told me.  “While we have been busy talking about those things we have had the constitution stolen right before our eyes.  This is now about whether or not we have the right to worship freely.  The battle is now over the constitution itself.”

Last year Ron Paul was criticized by some Christian leaders for defending the rights of Moslems to build a Mosque in New York City.  Libertarians, who defend the congressman point out that  less than 1% of the American population is Islamic. 76% are Christians.  If the government is given the power to decide where and when a house of worship can be built the Christians, not the Muslims, will suffer most.  In recent years Christian pastors and denominational leaders have grown frustrated as State and County governments use zoning boards to block the construction of new churches, keeping the land on the property tax roles.  In some of the largest counties in America a new Christian church cannot be built.

“More and more Christians are seeing the critical importance of Ron Paul’s message,” says Brian Jacobs, a former consultant for the Billy Graham organization. “If we compromise the constitution, even to promote something we want, in the long run, we are undercutting ourselves.” Jacobs helped arrange the meeting between Billy Graham and George W. Bush in Jacksonville, Florida, the day before the national election in 2000.  Jacobs is now actively supporting Ron Paul’s candidacy.

Bill Spiegel, a former member of the Senior Bush President’s Economic Council and the Southern Baptist Liaison for George H. W. Bush says, “Much of the money that was going to evangelical lobbies in Washington is now going to Ron Paul.  And the Christian leaders in Washington have been taken by surprise.  It is because the people are seeing what the leaders are missing.  They don’t want power they want to be left alone to worship in freedom and Ron Paul is the only candidate who is defending that right consistently.”

Ron Paul shared with the Christian activist audience his own experience as an OB doctor, delivering more than 4,000 babies.  And why he supports Right to Life.  “Let me tell you,” the congressman said, “life does begin at conception.”

Perhaps his biggest applause came when he told the audience, “We have, as a people, lost our confidence and our understanding of what true liberty is all about and where it comes from.  It doesn’t come from the government.  Our liberties come from our Creator.”


Ron Paul to Obama: Leave Israel Alone.

Ron Paul on Israel



Ron Paul to Obama: Quit ordering Israel around!

May 20, 2011

In a statement released after the president’s speech, Thursday, May 19, 2011, Congressman Ron Paul took Barack Obama to task. “Unlike this president, I do not believe it is our place to dictate how Israel runs her affairs.”

Ron Paul’s statement, released immediately after the speech, reflected the congressman’s long held views against American leaders meddling in the affairs of other countries. “Israel is our close friend,” the statement reads, “While President Obama’s demand that Israel make hard concessions in her border conflicts may very well be in her long-term interest, only Israel can make that determination on her own, without pressure from the United States or coercion by the United Nations.”

Paul argues that America must stop trying to rule the world and dictate policy to foreign capitals and bring its armies home from its endless wars. Warning that the country is facing annual deficits of $ 2 trillion the congressman’s statement read in part, “Our military’s purpose is to defend our country, not to police the Middle East.”

Ron Paul has been at the forefront of a growing movement of Americans who feel that our national interventionism has gone to extreme and is making us enemies all over the globe. In the 2008 presidential debates, while Mitt Romney and John McCain argued over how long American troops should stay in Iraq, Paul was alone in saying that they shouldn’t have gone into the country in the first place.

It was a shocking statement at the time and both Romney and McCain smirked condescendingly, but today polls show two-thirds of the American people calling for a full withdrawal of American troops from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“When will our leaders finally do what’s right for America,” Ron Paul’s statement asks, “And rethink this irrational approach we’ve followed for far too long?”

Paul has been critical of American’s foreign aid suggesting that it is conflicted and the money misused. He once described it as money taken from poor people in a rich country and given to rich people in poor countries. Paul has pointed out the absurdity of our policies. “We give $3 billion to Israel and $12 billion to her enemies.”

Obama’s stunning statement, siding with the Palestinian position, calling for Israel to return to its 1967 borders would mean among other things the loss of the Golan Heights and most of Jerusalem.

The statement comes only hours before his Friday meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many devout Christians and Jews saw the return of Jerusalem to Israel in 1967 as a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. An NBC report from Cairo Thursday night showed little enthusiasm among Middle Easterners for President Obama’s speech.

It remains to be seen how deep the anger will be in America. President Obama’s decision may have come at a heavy political price at home with little gain in the Islamic world.

See: Ron Paul Makes Sense

Ron Paul just makes good sense

May 17, 2011

Well, I made it.  Today, May 17th, I am sixty five years old.

I love being old.  At least I think I do.  I have lost my short term memory or my long term memory. (I can’t remember which one. ) Sometimes I think I have my short term memory or else I wouldn’t know that I had lost it.  And then at other times I think, well, maybe this has been going on for a long time.

When I was a young man I had a great memory but I didn’t know anything.  So I ask you.  What’s so great about remembering nothing?  At least now I have lots of things that I have forgotten.

I like George Smiley, the old spy in the John LeCarre trilogy.  He had to be called back to save the situation.  That’s kinda how I see congressman Ron Paul.  If there was someone younger who was right on the issues we wouldn’t need to bother him, but sorry, Ron, you are needed once again.  Come back and save your country.

People who say that Ron Paul is too old to be president, that old people are forgetful, need to consider this.

He remembered his wedding vows.  Not many presidential candidates can claim that.  He’s been married to the same woman for 51 years.  Politicians try to convince us that private promises don’t matter.  A person’s personal life is not relevant to their public duty.  But if they lie to their wife and children what makes you so sure they are telling YOU the truth?

Ron Paul has always remembered to pay his taxes.  Almost half of President Barack Obama’s cabinet, including his own secretary of the treasury can’t claim that.  Oh they say that they will make it all good now but what if they hadn’t been named to the cabinet?  You mean there are thousands of people out there who just ignore the rules and get away with it?  Only suckers like me pay taxes?

Ron Paul points out some very obvious, common sense things that you can’t get out of your head.   For example, according to the constitution the U. S. Congress is supposed to write the legislation and debate it and spend the money but the Federal Reserve actually spends more money than the U. S. Congress.  Huh?  Nobody elects them or even audits them and their board meetings are closed.  I wonder if any of them pay their taxes?  Until Obama appoints them to something that requires Senate confirmation we will never know.  Not that it matters.  They not only have “insider” information, they are the “insiders.”  Ha.  When they are thinking they are getting insider information.  And they can literally make money.   I’m not bitter about that.  Just troubled by the corruption of the American constitution and troubled for the nation.

Ron Paul may be the oldest candidate but he seems to care more about the youth of this country than any of them.  He is the only one who seems to remember that the young people will have to pay for the money we are now borrowing.  He is the only one who would stop the endless wars and bring our boys home.  That one percent who are dying for the rest of us and seeing their marriages break up and their children bitter and their suicide rates spike.

He is the only one who points out the absurdities of our foreign policy.  We give $ 3 billion to Israel and $12 billion to her avowed enemies.  We invade Afghanistan because they are harboring Osama Bin Laden.  Our war results in the death of thousands of civilians and coalition soldiers.  But when Bin Laden crosses the border into Pakistan we give that country close to $12 billion in aid.  I guess that was to pay for the food for  Bin Laden and his three wives.  Not to mention, his cable bill, all the extra thumb drives and his porno movie downloads.  Even now, only ron Paul is calling for us to stop this nonsense.  As of today, we are still giving money to Pakistan. Ron Paul seems to be the only person in public life who remembers what our mother’s taught us about the playground.  If you have to pay money to your friends, then they aren’t your friends.

Most of all, Ron Paul still remembers the U.S. constitution and he knows it by heart.  And believes in it.  You can’t say that about Barack Obama or any of the other Republican candidates.  There are the candidates and then there is Ron Paul.  He stands alone.

See: Is Ron Paul too old to run for president?

See: Ron Paul Girl

Ron Paul on Israel

April 11, 2011

Ron Paul and Israel

By Doug Wead

I am a “born again Christian” and like most from my culture I support Israel’s right to live at peace behind secure borders.

I am also a strong supporter of Ron Paul because he, more than any other public figure, fights for personal liberty. Christians don’t need to take power. They had power in England and France and Spain and it didn’t work. All power, even Christian power, corrupts. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. And the idea of liberty is what gave birth to the American experiment. This country has seen many of the greatest spiritual awakenings in modern history not because we seized government and used it to promote our agenda but because government stayed out of the way.

So I am deeply disappointed at my good friend, Gary Bauer, for a misleading fundraising letter smearing Congressman Ron Paul and suggesting that he wants to cut off aid to Israel. The letter was sent out last month but I am still having it forwarded onto me by well intentioned, but misled, evangelical friends.

Here is the opening paragraph of the Gary Bauer letter, sent out to “Friends and Supporters.”

“Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) has just introduced an amendment to end all U.S. aid to Israel. The amendment could be voted on before the day is over. I need your help right now to stop this ill-conceived proposal! “

Now, here is the truth:

Congressman Ron Paul never introduced legislation calling for an end to U.S. aid to Israel. What he did introduce was legislation that would have ended foreign aid to ALL countries.

Ron Paul sees foreign aid as taking money from poor people in rich countries and giving it to rich people in poor countries. It was this foreign aid that made Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his family wealthy.

The United States is in the middle of a desperate financial crisis and we are still acting like we are the world’s rich uncle, picking up the restaurant tab for every meal.

But Bauer’s letter discounts this idea:

“Don’t be deceived. This Ron Paul proposal would not lower our budget deficit. By abandoning Israel while its enemies are gaining strength, the risk of a major war in the Middle East would increase. A major war would cost the U.S. billions and billions of dollars as we have already seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Now for the dirty little secret that Evangelical Christian Washington lobbyists don’t want you to know. While America’s foreign aid package gives Israel $ 3 billion in loans, it also gives Israel’s collective Arab enemies four times as much, more than $ 12 billion in direct aid.

Far from abandoning Israel, Ron Paul’s legislation would have given Israel a net $ 8 billion advantage over the status quo. One could have just as easily sent out a fundraising letter saying that Gary Bauer is promoting a policy that will give the enemies of Israel four times the aid we give her.

Such demagoguery is not just ridiculous, it is wrong.

Ron Paul’s principled stands have been consistent and logical and unchanging.

In the 1980’s, when Republicans and Washington power elites were pushing for a deal that would sell AWACS to Saudi Arabia, Ron Paul was a defiant, lonely voice trying to block the sale. The pressure was on and most evangelical leaders abandoned Israel, rationalizing their position. Not Ron Paul.

In recent years he has urged congress to end all corporate subsidies to companies that do business with Iran and other nations bellicose to Israel. Few if any evangelicals recognize the importance to Israel of this ongoing struggle involving billions of dollars and corporate corruption and powerful Washington lobbyists. And he continues to fight the growing protectionist sentiment in our country to ensure we maintain the freest possible exchange of trade and commerce with Israel.

Most of all, Ron Paul believes that American should mind its own business and let Israel make her own decisions without interference and control from Washington. He recognizes that Israel has one of the best trained, most elite armed forces in the world and he believes that we should NEVER try to use our influence to stop Israel from defending herself. Ron Paul refused to vote to condemn Israel during the 2006 war with Lebanon. And he will never try to pressure Israel into accepting a “land for peace” compromise before the Israelis themselves decide.

I have spoken with Dr. Ron Paul about Israel, He recognizes the special relationship between Israel and the United States based on our shared values and Judeo-Christian history. As the former vice president of Christian and Jews United for Israel, I would strongly argue that Ron’s position of friendship, free trade, ending support for Israel’s enemies and a cessation of meddling in Israel’s internal affairs would provide for a stronger U.S.- Israeli relationship and a net advantage for the Israelis.

As a “born again Christian” I have been amused at the willingness of our power brokers to conveniently embrace presidential candidates who have had four marriages or have been bitter opponents to our own people facing nomination in the Senate or who flip flop on the issues just in time for Iowa, all because the candidate will do a radio show or appear at a university or a political briefing – fund raiser.

Well, Ron Paul is the real deal. Raised as a Lutheran, (now attending a Baptist church in Lake Jackson) he puts his Christian faith into practice. He has always been pro life, always been married to the same wife and always been the nation’s premier advocate for liberty.

As we see our liberties being stripped away by the courts and by government agencies and by presidential fiat, we need to speak carefully and truthfully about those few men and women in Washington who have the integrity to defy the temptations of power. Ron Paul is just such a man. We should cherish his independence from the corruption and partisanship of Washington, D. C.. and instead of distorting his positions on the issues we should celebrate his courage to speak the truth.

How Ron Paul can win in 2012?

Is Ron Paul too old?

Ron Paul Girl

Obama’s and the Chelsea Clinton Wedding?

July 1, 2010

It’s still a possibility.

According to a knowledgeable source with ties to the Clinton’s and Obama’s there has been no final decision on whether the President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama will be at the marriage ceremony or reception of the upcoming Chelsea Clinton wedding.   According to this source, while the public is being led to believe that it won’t happen, security plans are still being developed for such a possibility.

What would it mean for the wedding, for history and for both the Obama’s and Clinton’s?  Would the appearance of the Obama’s, even at the reception, upstage a private, family affair?  Or would it add prestige and honor?

In 1897, Frances “Fanny” Hayes, daughter of former president Rutherford B. Hayes, was married in Ohio.  The newly elected president, William McKinley, and the entire cabinet made the pilgrimage, McKinley taking the presidential train, the Air Force One of its day.  Did it overpower the Hayes wedding?  After all, the nation was fascinated with its new president who had been in office only days.  No, by all accounts, Fanny Hayes and her husband, Ensign Harry Eaton Smith, captured the day’s headlines.  The public had been following Fanny since her adolescent years in her father’s White House.   All of the distinguished guests only ensured that the event would be set in stone as one of the greatest social events in our short national history.

According to some recent polls, the Clintons are now more popular than the Obamas.  So it is not likely that any guest, including the president and first lady, would upstage her marriage to longtime, 31 year old, boyfriend and Goldman Sachs banker, Marc Mezvinsky.

News about the wedding has been a story in itself, with speculation that the public, media savvy Clintons have purposely dropped disinformation to help shroud the event in privacy.   Hints about the wedding last summer embarrassed news agencies when it didn’t happen.  It is now set for July 31, 2010.  Published accounts were also wrong about the dress.  It will be a Vera Wang creation, not Oscar de la Renta as widely reported.    And the location will not be at Martha’s’ Vineyard but deep on the grounds of a Clinton supporter a few hours north of New York City.

All of these efforts may not be enough to sufficiently dampen public interest.  The Jenna Bush wedding took place during a low ebb in the popularity of President Bush and at a time when the war on terror counseled as little publicity as possible.  Jenna was married at the Bush family, Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas, a rather remote location.  But the Clinton wedding will be within driving distance of the media capital of the world.   And at a time when the Clinton presidency is being viewed more favorably in comparison to his two successors.

Weddings of presidential children, no matter how carefully planned and private they wish them to be, can prompt unexpected public reactions.  When the president’s son, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. married Ethel DuPont on June 30, 1937, the couple had every expectation that their wedding would be a private, quiet affair.   The ceremony took place deep in the DuPont family compound in Delaware, far from any public highway.  But on the wedding day, several hundred thousand uninvited people lined the roads to wish the couple well.  Three companies of soldiers were brought in to escort the president’s family.  And the Army Corps of Engineers was asked to set up a makeshift kitchen.

It is exactly such moments in presidential history that have made the modern presidency more  savvy and less likely to be ambushed by either the media or the public.  And it partially accounts for the Clinton sleight of hand on the details leading up to the event.

Still, this is a polarizing presidential family, whose star is now more clearly visible in the historic firmament.  With the Clinton’s we experienced a roller coaster of emotions in public life.  Some pundits predicted that it would be hard for Chelsea Clinton to ever trust a man or ever get married.   So this wedding ceremony is a milestone that marks a marriage that has endured, a presidency that grows fonder by absence and a child who landed on her feet in spite of the odds.  The media and public may demand to know more and celebrate it with more fanfare than Chelsea, the so called Garbo of presidential children, would like.   With or without the Obama’s it will be a moment in history.

Roundabouts: Who has the right of way?

May 13, 2010

Roundabouts in America: Who has the right-of-way?

My wife is French and close to half of all roundabouts in the world are on French roads, so we were pleasantly surprised to see them popping up on the American landscape, especially now in Maryland and Virginia.  The problem is a total lack of understanding for most of us American drivers.  When approaching a stop sign or a yield sign there are only three very simple and obvious rules to consider.

1. The automobile already inside the intersection (or circle) has the right of way

2. The automobile who reaches the yield sign first has the first right to enter the intersection (or circle).

3. And finally if two autos arrive at the yield sign at the same time, the automobile on the right should enter first.

That’s it.  But wow, with the advent of roundabouts what an assortment of issues we Americans can raise to complicate the process.  For your convenience, here is a list of the newly invented American rules that many drivers ignorantly obey.

1. The stopper.  This driver stops dead at the yield sign.  It is not only a stop sign it is a “super duper power stop sign.”  This driver will wait until all other automobiles in view have arrived at the roundabout and passed through it.  The approaching car may be a half a mile away but the parked “stopper” will patiently wait.  Everybody has the right away but them.  A car may be in a train of twenty, meaning that there is no way that the second car could have reached the yield sign ahead of “the stopper” but he will let all twenty cars race through.  Only when there is not another car in sight will “the stopper” timidly enter the intersection or roundabout and find a way on to his destination.  It can be pretty frustrating to be behind a stopper when you are on your way to the airport.

2. The speedster.  This driver believes that he or she has the right of way because of their speed.  They roar confidently toward the intersection or  roundabout, ignoring all other drivers approaching from all other sides, believing that the yield sign does not apply to them.

I actually had a driver explain this to me.  I had slowly rolled into the roundabout when a car racing in from my left laid on the horn. How dare I pull in ahead of him?  He kept laying on the horn so I stopped to let him pull up beside me and lecture me.  “You almost caused an accident,” he said, “I almost hit you.  I had the right away (sic,) why did you pull in front of me?”

Now, if he had hit me, it would have clearly been his fault.  He would have hit me from behind.  So what was his reasoning?  “How could you have had the right of way if I had pulled in front of you?” I asked.  “Obviously I was at the intersection before you.  And if you had hit me from behind it would have been your fault.”

“Well, I was going faster,” he said.  And that explained it.

3. The train car.  This driver believes that he or she inherits the rights of the driver before them.  It’s like this.  My mom and pop were Methodists and they will go to heaven, so I will go to heaven too.  This driver wants us to believe that he or she is part of a train and the rights of the first car, which approached the roundabout properly, apply to every successive car that follows, as long as they maintain the same speed and tail gate closely behind.  The car to their right, which has obviously arrived at the yield sign before them, has to wait because the train car has invoked a “group privilege.”

Now, you may think that rules are rules and if you just obey them and end up in an accident in a roundabout the local sheriff or highway patrol will sort it out and protect you.  They will make sure the stoppers, speedsters and train cars get ticketed and you get rewarded for knowing the rules and doing it right.  Well, think again.

I recently approached a Virginia roundabout behind one of the local sheriff’s deputies.  And to my utter shock, he was “a stopper.”  The poor confused soul arrived at the roundabout like his first day at school.  He just parked and idled as every car within shouting distance approached the roundabout from all different directions and raced through.  There was a long train and every conceivable combination.  True to the dictum of “the stopper” he waited patiently until all these traffic violators were gone and when there were no more cars in sight and no one left to break the law or confuse our intrepid cop, he cautiously rolled into the roundabout.

If the sheriff’s deputy doesn’t know the rules, how can we expect anyone else to know?

Which brings me to this final point.  Just like the word “ain’t” forced its way into the English dictionary, so the roundabout train has become today’s rule of law.  If you arrive at the same time at a four way stop the person on the right has the right away.  But the rules of the roundabout are now clearly the opposite.  The fast moving train arriving from the left is boss.

Noah’s Ark? Inside story revealed

April 29, 2010

This week’s story of an evangelical Christian group claiming to have found Noah’s Ark triggered memories of a bizarre, never before published, moment in the White House of George Herbert Walker Bush.

It was 1989.  The Cold War was still on.  I was serving as special assistant to the president, with a focus on “coalitions.”  And that included religious groups as well as law enforcement, veterans and on and on.  One of my self-appointed tasks was to make sure we honored the voter blocs that had supported us in the general election.  Including groups that were usually taken for granted and never asked for anything.  Members of the LDS come to mind but mostly evangelical groups who represent huge numbers but aren’t organized and whose leaders prefer to personally cash in all of their members’ IOU’s for themselves.  Catholic Cardinals knew how the game was played, they would visit with the president in the Oval Office for a few minutes but the real work was the “to do” lists of big projects they would pass onto me.  Evangelical leaders just wanted a hook to use in their next fund raising letter or an illustration for a sermon that would top a rival.

One such neglected group was the Seventh Day Adventists.  They always voted Republican and they never got a thing for it.  Never an appointment, nor a grant, not a thing.  So when the spokesman and television voice of the denomination, George Vandeman, asked to see me, I was ready to respond to any reasonable request.  At the time, he was the host of It is Written, one of the top ten most watched religious television programs in the country.  (At the White House we watched those Neilson ratings carefully.)

Vandeman brought a guest.  He said he was a former CIA pilot and he had a very private and personal request.  “I am only asking for one thing,” Vandeman intoned solemnly, “that you hand my friend’s letter to the President.  And that you do so personally and privately.”

I promised to do so.  But, of course, after they left I took a look.  I was not about to put the president in a compromising position.  And here is what I found.

This former pilot flew sorties with the famous U2 spy planes over the Soviet Union.  In his letter he offered the president all kinds of various codes and numbers identifying his missions.  He said when he and his fellow pilots took off from our bases in Turkey they would bank out over Mt. Ararat and turn north to enter the dangerous airspace of the Soviet Union.  (On May 1, 1960, the Soviets shot down one such flight.  It turned into the infamous Moscow show trial of Francis Gary Powers.)  According to Vandeman’s pilot friend, they all used a unique stone formation as a landmark to make their turn.  And now as he was a convert to the Seventh Day Adventist faith and had read their literature, he suspected that this petrified, giant box, visible from the sky, might be Noah’s Ark.  At least, he wanted to know if some of the pictures taken could be de-classified so he could help identify the spot for a pilgrimage.  He offered some complicated co-ordinates to help determine the likely date and specific roll of archived film.

Sounded like a reasonable request to me.  Perestroika was on.  The Berlin Wall would come down that October.  The Seventh Day Adventists never asked for a thing.  Of what value were some old pictures of a mountain in Turkey?

But George Vandeman, like most public figures whose votes can be counted in advance, was not to get his wish.  A few months later I was asked to go on a walk in a park with an agency spook who assured me that at the president’s requested pictures of Mt. Ararat would be released to the preacher.  But when the moment came they were not the right photos.  They were old pictures of the mountain, taken from the air in the 1950’s and not of the right spot.  The agency analyst insisted that these were useful pictures and helpfully tried to point out the gigantic rock formation that was the likely landmark the pilot convert had in mind.  But Vandeman and his friend were deeply disappointed.

This recent “Noah’s Ark” discovery by Evangelical archeologists brought back all of the emotions of that private White House event.  There is a natural conflict between science and religion and politics.  Science uses politics, as in the “extra” evidence of global warming.  And politics uses religion, as in George W. Bush who after leaving the White House admitted to Terry Moran on ABC’s Nightline that the Bible probably wasn’t true.  But religion sometimes uses science too, or tries to do so, to validate itself, as in this recent discovery.

The fact is that all three have needed each other over the years.  Nurtured in monasteries in the Dark Ages, it was the church that birthed modern science.  And politicians at a whim have alternatively squelched or tolerated faith, Elizabeth, for example, deciding whether a nation would be Catholic or Protestant.  And our Founding Fathers deciding it should be freely exercised.

As to this recent sliver of Noah’s ark? “I’m waiting for the evidence to convince me,” Professor Eric Cline told Good Morning America.  Don’t hold your breath.  The fact is that non believers will scoff no matter what the evidence says.  Jesus made that point.  In hell they will continue to publish their papers (on non-flammable slate) explaining why they cannot be where they think they are if God is at once good and all powerful.  And believers shouldn’t demand splinters from a boat to convince them of anything.

Tribute to George Vandeman and Paul Harvey.


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