Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ethics in News

      I can’t remember a time when there were so many debates for the nomination of a political party’s presidential candidate. I’ve lost count as to just how many debates we’ve been exposed to, but I think it’s something like sixteen.

The other night the latest debate had a very interesting start when the debate host for ABC News, John King, opened the debate with a question to Newt Gingrich concerning his ex-wife.

“As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview with The Washington Post and this story has now gone viral on the Internet. In it she says that you came to her in 1999 at a time when you were having an affair. She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that?” asked King.

“No, but I will,” snapped Gingrich, who was visibly angered by the question. “I think the destructive, vicious negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate with a topic like that.”

The response from the audience was immediate. The chorus of boos drowned out Mr. King’s continuing question. As soon as Newt responded, the crowd cheered loudly and during the course of the next few minutes gave the former Speaker of the House of Representatives several standing ovations.

One of the things that struck me most by this was not so much the support which Newt Gingrich received from the audience, even though it was substantial, but the clear disdain and disgust the audience displayed toward the media, which was personified in John King’s “yellow journalism” approach to heading up this debate.

As a conservative, I am no longer surprised when the MSM (Main Stream Media) shows its political preferences which are clearly left leaning, attempting to play the “gotcha” game with conservative politicians, most noticeably in these debate forums.

I know little more than any other observer of the political process, but it sure seems evident to me that news reporting is a lost art. I’m not interested in listening to news that has the personal biased political slant of the reporter. I don’t care about your views, or adroitness with words. I want you to tell me what you know to be fact – then I will decide for myself how to interpret the information.

News and newsmakers have been attempting to twist events and stories for as long as man has been walking this earth. However, if a person is going to enter into the arena we call the news industry, then at least have some moral convictions and ethical standards so as not to immediately discredit yourself and your profession.

How many more Dan Rather stories are we going to be subjected to? You remember the Dan Rather story. Back when President Bush was running for his second term in 2004, there was a story released that implicated “W” in some documents about his military service in the Air National Guard. The documents had not been authenticated by either CBS or Dan Rather, something he was known to always do before presenting a story. However, on September 8, a mere two months prior to the 2004 election, it was simply too enticing to bother checking for validity. Dan opted to run with the story on air in an obvious attempt to embarrass the president, hoping to damage his reelection chances.

When the story was challenged, experts were called in to substantiate the documents. An embarrassed and disgraced Dan Rather was summarily dispatched from his vaunted position with CBS.

It is a sad day for our nation when we can no longer trust the people who are the “Fourth Estate,” a term used to identify the news media. All Americans would be well served if those providing us with the news would check their personal biases at the door, and then provide us with the facts.

Yes, I know politics is a dirty business, and the media seems to delight in wallowing in the mire. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It only takes one person to say no.

I’m still hopeful (some might say “Pollyannish”) that there will come forth those in the media who will cease with the bombast and lampooning and do what is right. “We the People” deserve no less.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What To Do!

The National Football League (NFL) season this year has been one of the strangest ones I’ve ever seen. You have the storied Green Bay Packers, only the second team in history to nearly have a perfect season. The other team to reach for this golden ring was the 2007 New England Patriots.

Only one team has been able to complete an undefeated season climaxing with a Super Bowl win. That team was the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The number of games played then was a fourteen game season. Then tack on the playoff games and you come up with seventeen games. The schedule was changed from 14 to 16 regular season games in 1978. When you add the playoff games and the Super Bowl, you have nineteen games. So as you can see, going undefeated for nineteen games is quite the challenge. The Patriots won 18 straight in 2007 finally losing in the last minute of the Super Bowl against the New York Giants. This year’s Green Bay Packers won 13 straight before stumbling against the Kansas City Chiefs, a team the Packers should have easily handled. But as they say, “That’s why they play the game!”

Then there is the performance of quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints who managed to break the single-season passing record, a record that had stood for 27 years. Miami Dolphins great, Dan Marino, set the record of 5,084 yards in 1984. Brees broke the record in the 15th game of the season this year, concluding the season with 5,476 yards. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots was the third quarterback in history to throw for more than 5000 yards. Unfortunately for him he did it in the same season as Drew Brees, coming up 241 yards short of Brees’ newly established record.

And of course we had the theatrics of Tim Tebow, quarterback of the Denver Broncos. This young man absolutely mesmerized the football world with his ungainly skills as an NFL quarterback. He captivated fans with his “Tebow Time,” a point in the game, usually at the end of regulation play, where he leads his team to victory, eking out a last minute win. They managed to get into the playoffs, and against all odds, beat a very solid Pittsburgh Steelers team. Tebow has been a lightning rod of criticism ostensibly for his lack of football skills, but the truth is he has been vilified for his open and unashamed faith in Jesus as his Savior.

Not to be outdone, the San Francisco 49ers had the surprise season in the NFL this year. They have languished for ten years or so as a poor team, changing coaches routinely, until they hired Jim Harbaugh last spring away from his position as head coach of the Stanford University “Cardinal” football team. No one could foresee what the 49ers would do, finishing the season at 13 wins and 3 losses. After all, they had this rookie coach from the college ranks, plus a quarterback in Alex Smith who was considered to be second rate, if that.

So here’s my dilemma. I was born and raised in New England. My step father hailed from just outside of Boston so we would always cheer for all-things Boston: The Boston Patriots (Later changed to the New England Patriots); the Boston Celtics (Basketball); and the Boston Red Sox (Baseball). So my default team in sports has always been these Boston-based teams. However, in 1965, our family moved to California where I have pretty much resided ever since. Living close to the Bay Area, I adopted the San Francisco 49ers as my team. This posed no real problem for me as the Patriots and the 49ers are in different leagues and rarely play each other, especially since the 49ers have had such horrid teams of late. That has now changed. It is entirely possible that these two favorite teams of mine will face each other in the Super Bowl. That is a prospect I both welcome and dread.

I have also enjoyed watching the New Orleans Saints emerge as a classy team, finally winning the Super Bowl in 2010. They have shed the dreaded label of the “Ain’ts,” meaning they could never win. Fans would go to the games wearing brown paper bags over their heads because they did not want to be seen cheering for such a lack-luster team. I spent nearly twenty years traveling to New Orleans serving in various Marine and Navy reserve commands. I sympathized with the Saints and their fans. But all that has changed. The Saints are no longer the “Ain’ts,” and Brees holds the passing record.

Plus I’ve become a Denver Broncos fan because of Tim Tebow. I would love to see them continue to win in the playoffs simply to vindicate Tebow’s efforts as an NFL quarterback and his public expression of his Christian faith. Tebow is the best thing to happen to the NFL in a long time. His demeanor and godly character are a breath of fresh air. And I like the way Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, has lead his team to last year’s Super Bowl win, and to a near-perfect season this year.

This year’s Super Bowl will be played Sunday, February 5. You can be sure I’ll be watching. So, whether the Patriots win, or the 49ers win, or the Packers win, or the Saints win, or the Broncos win, I’ll be a happy camper!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blessed Legacy

The older a person gets the more they tend to wonder what sort of a memory people will have of them. A legacy is something each of us should be mindful of, for the Psalmist says, “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with his children’s children – with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”

One of the practices I’ve developed over the years when I’m called upon to perform a funeral is to ask the family if I could look through the Bible of the person who has passed away. This can be a wonderfully enriching experience not only for me, but I tie it into my message at the funeral service.

Last fall I was asked to perform the funeral for the 90 year old mother of a good friend. I had the privilege of knowing this lady in her later years, and she was a true delight! But what a treasure trove I found when the family handed me not just one Bible, but four! Over the years this dear lady had several Bibles, and she had written thoughts and special occasions in each one. I was like a kid in a candy store! You see, a person will often jot down a Bible verse, or a saying, or insert something into the pages of their Bible that means something to them. Then there are those comments written in the margins of the pages in response to something they read from God’s Word.

I assimilated a number of these precious discoveries and shared them at the funeral service. You will frequently find the heart of the person expressed in these various writings – revealing what is most important to them. Perhaps a sick family member; or a rebellious grandchild who needs to surrender their life to Christ; or a natural disaster like an earthquake.

So, let me share with you some of these gems from this lady who had more than her share of challenges in life. But there is one thing that rings throughout her musings, and that is her love for Jesus. As a young woman she attended a revival meeting at a church in Oklahoma. She wrote, “As the congregation sang, ‘Just As I Am,’ I walked to the front of the church and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart and started a new life, leaving my past behind. That was March 10th, 1941 – I decided the old way of life no longer satisfied me.”  She and her husband moved to California shortly after, paying .19 cents a gallon for gas!

Consider these insights shared by this woman of faith: “I choose to forgive those who hurt me today.” Wow! That says a lot about where her heart was. “Forgiveness is a full time job.” Makes you wonder what hurts she had experienced! “To be free from anxiety – pray and then thank God.” Yes! “When you don’t feel good, guard your mouth.” Sound advice and very Scriptural (See Psalm 141:3). “Only God can change your thought life.” Amen! “Jesus is saying, ‘Leave it alone.’” Good time to obey. “He will soothe the heart that is mourning and give comfort.” Indeed he will. “Whenever I miss you I just look in my heart and there you are.” What a wonderful thought! “Never surrender to fear.” (See 2 Timothy 1:7).

The remainder of the comments are a bit more lengthy but hold some deep truth. Concerning marriage issues: “The exhortations for the husband to love the wife and be concerned for her are strong. If these attitudes prevail and Christ is truly the Lord of each life and the center of the home – marriage and family can be a bit of heaven on earth.”

This one is her concern for a loved one who did not know Christ as their Savior: “As we pray for those individuals we hold dear, we must pray in faith knowing that God loves them and wants to save them even more than we do. We must commit them to God in faith.”

This next one was obviously special to her. “My husband prayed the prayer of repentance Saturday, March 12, 1983 with our pastor.”

I love this next one as it seemed so odd, but it made me laugh right out loud. “For vomiting and diarrhea, use Coca Cola syrup and prescription suppositories.” That brought a laugh during the funeral!

This last one was written in red ink and then highlighted. You will see the level of importance it held for this mother of four sons. “The Bible teaches that real love means letting your child suffer the consequences of his actions, regardless of what this might entail. Often this is the only thing that will work.”

As I concluded this sermon at the funeral I took a copy of my message and gave it to the family, for this lady left a wonderful legacy through the life she lived, and the thoughts she wrote in the pages of her Bibles.

What legacy will you leave?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Gas Bags and Carriers

In the annals of flight, the Civil War once again established many firsts. Aerial Warfare was new to Americans, but quickly caught on in the early days of the War.

The first air balloon was flown in London, England in 1784, only seventy-seven years before the Civil War. On that day more than 100,000 people gathered to watch this amazing sight as the balloon, piloted by Vincent Lunardi, lasting one hour and forty minutes covering a total of 13 miles.

Then in 1785 Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jefferies crossed the English Channel in a hot air balloon carrying a letter – becoming the first air mail delivery!

A few years later in 1797, a French balloonist and adventurer (more like a dare-devil!) A. J. Garnerin, made the first parachute jump from a gas balloon dropping from the dizzying height of 3000 feet!

On June 8, 1861 in Washington, DC, a giant gas balloon, the Enterprise, holding 20,000 cubic feet of the vaporous substance, rose to a height of 500 feet, piloted by one Dr. Thaddeus Sobieski Constantine Lowe. For a number of years Dr. Lowe had promised to sail across the Atlantic Ocean but had not managed to do so as yet. On this day, however, he had attached as a sort of tether, a thin wire wrapped in green silk which was reeled out from a telegraph station below. A message was transmitted by Dr. Lowe and delivered to President Lincoln in the White House. “Sir: This point of observation commands an area nearly 50 miles in diameter. The city, with its girdle of encampments, presents a superb scene. I have pleasure in sending you this first dispatch ever telegraphed from an aerial station.” Signed, TSC Lowe. Some reporters at the time claim that Lincoln was taken up in the balloon, but this has never been validated.

The first balloon purchased for the American military was built by John Wise of Lancaster, Pennsylvania for $850. Mr. Wise was sponsored by the grandson of Benjamin Franklin, Major Hartman Bache. He was the first to suggest that the balloon be used for the military. Unfortunately, as the gas bag was being navigated toward the battle of Manassas (Bull Run) it became fouled in the trees, needing much repair before being brought into service on the front lines.

Perhaps the classic story of all is regarding John LaMountain of Troy, New York who had made quite a name for himself prior to the War by sailing his balloon from Saint Louis to New York 1,100 miles in the unheard of time of twenty hours! Remember! The move westward had not hit its peak yet. It took wagons weeks, even months to cover this same distance.

But what sets Mr. LaMountain apart from other adventurist balloonists was a maneuver he conducted which set in motion a system we use fully in our Navy today. He tied his balloon to the armed transport Fanny from which he rose above the waters of the Chesapeake to spy on the Confederate forces, August 1, 1861. He had unknowingly created the first aircraft carrier! A short time later he made a night launch for aerial reconnaissance, only this time it was tied to a tug. As he viewed Fortress Monroe in the dark, he counted the number of tent lights, thus estimating the enemy’s troop strength. Confederate General PGT Beauregard initiated the first “black outs” by requiring camp fires and lanterns to be covered or dimmed when enemy balloons were operating in the area.

A “Balloon Corps” for the U.S. Army was established by Dr. Lowe with a total of six hydrogen-filled balloons operated by only seven trained balloonists. The Confederate forces did not appreciate being spied upon by these aerial fliers, so they quickly learned to train their guns on the slow moving and cumbersome balloons. Even artillery fire was aimed at these gas bags.

Speaking of artillery, some balloonists became adept at calling in very accurate artillery fire on enemy positions, all the while perched high above the field of battle.

During the Civil War it was suggested that aerial photographs be taken, but this was never enacted upon.

Confederate forces eventually got into the hot air balloon game, but were never very effective in its use.

The Army Balloon Corps was disbanded in June of 1863.

The use of balloons in warfare may have been short-lived, but it certainly opened a door of opportunity and expansion into what has been developed in today’s technological wizardry in our supersonic aircraft. We’ve come a long way from the gas bags of 150 years ago!