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The Man Who Killed JFK

Roger Stone builds the case that LBJ was the man behind the assassination of JFK.

I was in kindergarten when President John F. Kennedy was shot. To say that the Kennedy brothers were popular was an understatement. The two hottest Halloween costumes at the class party that year, less than a month before JFK was shot, had been John and Bobby plastic masks. My first inkling that something big had happened on November 22, 1963, was when I got in the car and the mom who was driving carpool that day said nothing but only sobbed the drive home.

I heard Roger Stone do a radio interview on his book and realized I had read little to nothing on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I didn’t go see the Oliver Stone film. I found it strange that I’ve read books on the Viet Nam War and Watergate – the other two defining political events in my growing up years – but I had never taken the time to accept or reject the Warren Commission. It’s interesting that in the back of my mind I’ve sort of known there are two self-contradictory popular beliefs that guide popular perception on the Kennedy Assassination:

  1. the Warren Report is seriously flawed
  2. anyone that presents an alternative view of the Warren Report is a kook

So who does Roger Stone – longtime political strategist for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, and George W. Bush – say killed JFK? Since he has a picture of President Lyndon Baines Johnson on the cover and subtitles the book, The Case Against LBJ, I’m not giving a spoiler to tell you where this book is going. (Note: Stone is equally hard on Republicans as Democrats; he is an equal opportunity sledgehammer.)  [Read more…]

John Wooden – RIP

On June 4, 2010, John Wooden died a the age of 99 in Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. He was named by his peers as the greatest team sport coach in American sporting history. Humble, selfless, caring, he won 10 NCAA national championships – something he never talked about – as coach at UCLA.

He was a three-time All American at Purdue and won a national championship there as a player. He then coached high school and taught English for 11 years before entering the college ranks. During his tenure at UCLA, which began in 1948, he had four perfect seasons, had an 88-game winning streak, won 7 straight national championships, won 38 straight games in the NCAA tournament, was elected into the College Basketball Hall of Fame as both a coach and a player, and many other accomplishments.

But Wooden, a small-town country boy from Indiana never wavered in his values on the road to the bright lights of Tinseltown.

As a teacher, he began every basketball season by showing his players how to put their socks on the right way. He never talked to them about winning or losing; just living their lives with character. He designed a pyramid of success that he felt would make players victors not only on the court but in all of life. It included values like industriousness, loyalty, enthusiasm, initiative, alertness, poise, honesty, confidence, and other traits that were as much about being a good person as a good basketball player. As a coach, he didn’t bully, he didn’t cuss, he didn’t run the most sophisticated systems. “He was really more like a parent than a coach,” said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The theme he spoke of most is love and the great love his life was Nellie, his wife of 53 years. She was his first love and the only girl he ever kissed. After her death, he would sit down on the 21st of each month and write her a love letter that he would then leave on her pillow. Sports columnist Rick Reilly often asked him if he could use the letters as the basis of a book they could write together on making love last. Even decades after her death Wooden, with tears running down his cheeks, would say it was too recent and he needed more time

The Wizard of Westwood was an icon for coaches who are themselves icons. His players speak of him reverentially. Bill Walton said that some of Coach Wooden’s quotes and sayings – Woodenisms – that he snickered at as a player are the words he has on his walls and has taught his own children.

Just a sample of Woodenisms that will endure beyond his death are:

Ability is a poor man’s wealth.

Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.

 Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. Courage is what counts.

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.

 It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.

Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.

John Wooden. RIP.

It Was the Best of Times, the Worst of Times: The Economy

the economy: ups and downs

Economy: The Best Times, the Worst Times

I grew up in the volatile, exciting, and often strident 60s and 70s, finishing high school in the ‘spirit of ’76’ bicentennial year. During my formative years –

• John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated
• The culture of divorce and promiscuity took root and blossomed
• Watts burned and riots rocked Chicago during the Democratic National Convention
• America surrendered in war for the first time when it pulled out of Viet Nam – unless you count Korea, which was at best a stalemate
• Muslim terrorists killed Jewish athletes at the Olympics
• There was an energy crisis
• Commercial airlines and cruise ships were hi-jacked (and yes, my future wife was a ‘stewardess’ on that 1978 Delta flight that got redirected to Havana)
• The American auto industry lost its preeminent role
• A president was impeached and removed from office
• Disco conquered the airwaves – yikes
• The U.S. Olympic basketball team lost its first ever international game to the U.S.S.R. in a highly controversial ending
• Oh, and ‘we’ landed on the moon

Whatever you think of Jimmy Carter ‘the President,’ he made a number of profound statements that summed up where America was a month before the end of my teens years in a speech he gave on July 15, 1979.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our Nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else – public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.

Ironically, Carter’s greatest failing may have been the palpable sense of pessimism – a near doom? – that pervaded his demeanor and words throughout his presidency. And in case you are wondering, yes, this was part of his famous “malaise” speech. How was I going to argue with that? I didn’t feel very confident about the future myself.

It was Ronald Reagan who seemed to understand Carter’s words better than Carter himself and brought a positive buoyancy to the American psyche over much of the next decade. Some say he was just in the right place at the right time and got lucky that the business cycle turned around but even his most ardent critics have to admit his sense of optimism may have helped change some things.

In a Tale of Two Cities (1859) Charles Dickens penned the immortal phrase: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness … Set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution, he showed how the peasants were oppressed and brutalized by the aristocracy and how in turn they were indiscriminately brutalized by the revolutionaries. (Brazilian author, educator, and reformer Paulo Freire described the psychological movement from oppressed to oppressor in his landmark book Pedagogy of the Oppressed [1968] that described freedom movements in South America.)

There is a lot of hand-wringing today. And for reason. There is a plethora of real and pervasive international, national, ethnic, economic, moral, social, personal, and spiritual problems. And yes, the American auto industry is reeling yet again.

Maybe it is the end of an era of prosperity and more importantly opportunity. But I suspect that the real reality is what Dickens described; we are living in the best of times and the worst of times. Even if consumer confidence was up and economic indicators were through the roof – the best of times for some – if there are oppressors and oppressed then it is still the worst of times … for somebody.

And yet a focus on such ‘realism’ simply doesn’t ignite passions and energize dreams. And what are dreams but what Carter called ‘confidence in the future’ … the belief – as unrealistic as it might seem – that my plans and actions can create a new reality. I can do something to build a better world.

Jesus said, ‘ the poor you will always have with you’ (Matthew 26:11) – very realistic – but men and women who have faith in Him have been at the forefront of compassionate ministry.

Even as companies fall there are people who still work to build new companies … and succeed.

Today is just like other days. The best of times. The worst of times. You may fall to one side of that equation personally. No matter. As a psychology professor said in a graduate class I took: I don’t care where you’ve been or even where you are … I want to know where you’re going!

So where are you going? What does the future look like to you?

Color Blind Criticism Is Not Racism

Colin Powell was considered by many to be the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 until withdrawing after his wife, Alma, publicly voiced her fear on 60 Minutes that he would be assassinated on the basis of his race.

Hillary Clinton, in a major campaign faux pas, brought the subject back to the forefront when, on May 23, 2008, in response to the question of why she had not bowed out of the Democratic primary race despite Barack Obama’s clear status as the presumptive nominee said, “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

Oops.

Barack Obama has not steered clear of the idea that race will be used against him. Just a few days ago in a speech in Jacksonville, Florida, he said:

It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?

Ouch.

I hope that Obama is wrong. And I think he is, though maybe I’m being naive.

Here’s what I hope and pray is true of America at this moment in our history; I hope and pray we are color blind enough to …

■ vote for or against a man – or woman – no matter what his or her race;
■ affirm or criticize a candidate no matter what his or her race; and
■ when a person so follows his or her conscience in voting, affirming or criticizing, we not accuse them of racism.

If Obama wants to woo the hearts of swing voters in the face of real or perceived prejudice, he could take a page from Ronald Reagan’s game plan to turn a negative into a positive. When asked (again and again) if it was legitimate to make age an election issue, in a debate with Walter Mondale, he used his non-abrasive brand of humor to neutralize the power of the question to divide:

I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.