Commentary on sports, current events, and politics

Best Interview Ever on Fox

Richard Dreyfus and Tucker Carlson: Six Minutes with two real American Thinkers


How about six minutes with a real American Thinker? Refreshing and crystalline, patriotic and commonsensical is the description of this six minutes of Richard Dreyfus with Tucker Carlson. Take a look, here is the video:


The first issue Dreyfus touches on in the video is not necessarily the most important, but a reminder to us all. He explains that to understand the federal judge’s ruling on the Sanctuary City Executive Order requires one to first read it. Upon doing so, one is reminded that Congress, not the Executive, controls the purse strings and thus the judge’s contention.

Secondly he moves to the issue of the importance of dissenting opinions on campus and the need for a “battle of ideas” on university campuses.

But Dreyfus continues to a greater issue. With a touch of John Locke and a dash of Thomas Jefferson, Dreyfus points to shortfalls in our school system regarding the teaching of civics. Dreyfus notes, a la Locke’s tabula rasa, that we are not born with an understanding of the Ten Commandments, and neither are we born with the knowledge of the Preamble to the Constitution. Both must be taught.

We have seen the Fox News Jesse Watters interviews of people who should know certain civics basics, but don’t. Dreyfus emphasizes that this is a dangerous condition.  He notes that if we do not know who we are and what we stand for, the common fabric that binds us dissolves.

“The Constitution and the Bill of Rights must be central, and that political parties must be peripheral. “

“Civics has not been taught in the American public school system since 1970.”

“The Constitution is why we have been admired … it gives us our national identity.”

“Education turns students into citizens….it teaches them to run the country before it is their turn.”

Our national promises are opportunity, rise by merit, mobility and freedom.

“The Preamble to the Constitution is the mandate of the Country.”

Wonderful points and eloquently presented by Mr. Dreyfus.  I would suggest delving even deeper into the main issue’s cause.  Why were civics ever dropped by the school systems?  Was that the watershed moment, when our school system took a hard turn to the Left?

I hold with all that Dreyfus presents, but I suggest we must first discover why national history and civics is ignored by the education system.  When we uncover the forces that perpetuate that which Mr. Dreyfus wishes to correct, we can begin the process.

Fascism Comes To America

The Fascist movement began in Italy during World War i. It is an extension of socialism and is, therefore, a far left movement.  There is no doubt of this, but the positioning of fascist on the left with communism caused distress among academics, mostly,, like 90% on the left.   Tthe Academy, therefore, started calling fascism a far right program so that its beloved communism of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin, would not have to occupy the same segment of the political spectrum as its hated fascism  of Mussolini and Hitler, although there is no doubt that Mussolini and Hitler were men of the left. this created the absurdity that “fascism is so far right it is almost left.”  A very good friend of mine, a lawyer, and college president told me this and he was serious.

One feature of fascism is that it uses blunt force to gain political power.  This is administering beatings to those wha say the wrong words,”Middlebury,” take over the physical space of those they don’t approve of,”Occupy Wallstreet,” or riot and burn property, “Berkeley.”

The most absurd aspect of all os this behavior is that the thugs, rioters, and occupiers and doing so ti squelches freedoms, such as freedom of speech and assembly, and they do so they portray themselves as anti-fascist.  This is clever wordplay, as everyone knows fascists are evil, so it they are anti-fascist, they must be good!  The glaring error here is that the fascists are them. The students are Hitler’s Brownshirts born again in America’s colleges, where students learn very little of value and know nothing of the fascist forces they are embracing and unleashing of this country.

Roger Simon writes on the subject as well.

Will Fascism Come to America through Its Colleges and Universities?

If fascism comes to America, it will be through our college and university system.

The biggest cowards in our country today are many, if not most, of our college and university administrators followed closely by a fair amount of their faculty.  They are allowing their institutions to be taken over by a monolithic world view that is increasingly totalitarian and antithetical to the diversity of opinion on which the search for truth depends.

The inmates are running the asylum — and not with any of the humor of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that Social Justice Warriors are to social justice what the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea is to democracy.  In a few years, freshman handbooks may no longer be necessary.  They can give out copies of Orwell’s Animal Farm instead.

And I’m not just talking about recent events at UC Berkeley, where the onetime bastion of the free speech movement has turned into ground zero for the anti-speech movement, spearheaded by the violent masked goons of the absurdly named “antifa,” speaking of Orwellian constructs. This restrictive attitude toward viewpoint diversity is pervasive throughout our colleges and universities, even though the freedom of speech enshrined in the First Amendment is arguably the most important of all principles on which this country was founded.  Yet only a tiny minority of those responsible for our higher education have the courage to defend it.  Most are so timid they won’t even lend their name to a petition.

Think I’m exaggerating?  In September 2015, the indispensable Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) launched a campaign in support of the University of Chicago New Free Speech Statement that advocated for a “completely free and open discussion of ideas” on that campus. Since that time, only a paltry 590 people have signed on to endorse the statement, several feeling constrained to do so as “anonymous,” as if endorsing the Bill of Rights (maybe even the Magna Carta) were today hugely controversial and might endanger their ability to make a living.

Even more disturbing, as of December 19, 2016, only 17 (out of over 4000!) of our institutions of higher learning had adopted the U. Chicago statement or something similar.  Among the missing (at that point anyway) were such august names as Harvard, Cornell, Brown, my own Dartmouth, Yale, the University of California system, University of Michigan, MIT, Caltech, Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, Middlebury (needless to say)… I could go on, but it would obviously take up many pages.  Shame on all of them.

We are at a moment when all stakeholders in our higher educational system — administrators, faculty, students and parents, actually the entire country — must take a firm stand against this creeping totalitarianism and support diversity of opinion on our campuses.  The current monolithic atmosphere not only threatens our democratic system, it undermines education in all subjects, discouraging students from free inquiry while encouraging a lack of curiosity.  It also creates an atmosphere where students are simply too frightened to express themselves in class, lest they are marked down by their professors for “incorrect” ideas or ostracized (in the tradition of the Chinese Cultural Revolution) by their fellow students.

The results of this are disastrous, socially and intellectually. Fear of ostracism induces the worst kind of conformity as well as, often, depression.  And when ideas become unyieldingly orthodox in one area, they more easily become orthodox in all. The mind becomes inflexible and markedly less creative. Critical thinking disappears.  This incurious rigidity mixed with fear undoubtedly has more to do than is commonly admitted with why members of the business community are complaining about the lack of preparedness of our recent graduates.

Fortunately, and almost in the nick of time, some organizations have already been taking a firm stand for this viewpoint diversity and deserve our fullest support.  Heterodox University has aggregated a valuable list of faculty — liberal and conservative — who are advocates of free expression on campus. Good on them. HU also provides a useful guide to schools where openness prevails.  On the more conservative side, the National Association of Scholars and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute are doing their best for an embattled campus minority, and Turning Point USA keeps a Professor Watchlist of those using the classroom for ideological indoctrination.

Since students are the consumers of education and its reason for being, equally, if not more, important are two excellent sites that deal with the student experience in today’s higher ed — The College Fix and Campus Reform.  If you’re not reading them, you should be.

And not just casually.  Because the people who are trying to keep our campuses free are on the front lines of the most important fight of our times — to keep America from descending into a Weimar Republic with decadent thugs shutting down speech across the country, just as they did in Germany in the ’20s and ’30s.  We’re not there yet, but we’re close.

Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media.  His latest book is I Know Best:  How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If  It Hasn’t Already.   Follow him on Twitter @rogerlsimon.  




It’s tax day: Minnesota, a land of progressivity.

An Associated Press report, “D.C. sends in the bacon,” marveled that residents of the District of Columbia paid a whopping $37,000 per capita in federal taxes, far outpacing all fifty states. The explanation? There are very wealthy people and high profit businesses in the District, with many of them presumably feeding out of the federal contracts and lobbying trough.

So how does Minnesota rank among the states? According to 2016 IRS data, we pay the second highest amount, $14,624 per capita, after Delaware’s $16,322 (the figures include corporate income taxes, a reason Minnesota ranks at the top).

The next highest states? Minnesota beat out the likes of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Rhode Island, Washington, Nebraska, California, and Pennsylvania.

By comparison, the national average per capita amount is $8,943.

But what about the other side of this coin? How much do D.C. and the states get back (after the money has been processed through that massive federal holding pen)? In other words, how much “pork” do Congressional delegations wrangle back ?

Again, D.C. leads the pack but not in a good way. According to a study done by the New York Comptroller, for every $1 dollar sent in, the District of Columbia gets back–wait, wait– an amazing $4. Wow, how do you spell “oink?”

The explanation? D.C. residents are big consumers at the other federal trough: entitlements like food stamps, Social Security, SSI disability, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

What about Minnesota? Unfortunately, the New York report only said Minnesota ranked 47th in 2013 for return on the dollar. But we called them and they put us at $0.86. But according to the Mises Institute, in 2016, Minnesota ranked 48th at $0.52 on the dollar. Whatever the real number is, as Mises says, “Minnesota pays in by far more than it receives back.”

We do not have any military bases or many federal installations but still, let’s not turn this into a virtue, or worse, invite the feds here. But we get should get some big bucks back here to build and fix roads. This seems like a good topic for 2018.

You might as well hear all the bad news at once, so here is more of the same:

According to the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence, “Minnesota has the most progressive income tax system in the nation.”  It’s not just Minnesota; our federal tax code overall remains very progressive. That means, contrary to what the Left claims, people who do not make much money are not paying much in taxes, and may even get paid under the earned income tax credit.

Here is the top line summary from the Tax Foundation on federal taxes for 2016 (you can read the full report here).

High-Income Americans Paid the Majority of Federal Taxes

In 2014, the top 1 percent of taxpayers accounted for more income taxes paid than the bottom 90 percent combined. The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid $543 billion, or 39.48 percent of all income taxes, while the bottom 90 percent paid $400 billion, or 29.12 percent of all income taxes.

High-Income Taxpayers Pay the Highest Average Tax Rates

The top 1 percent of taxpayers (AGI of $465,626 and above) paid the highest effective income tax rate, at 27.2 percent, 7.9 times the rate faced by the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers.

Just the proof you needed that it is not hip to be Progressive.

JOHN HINDERAKER ADDS: I assume one reason residents of the District pay a lot of federal taxes is that they don’t have any other levels of government. What would be state and local taxes anywhere else are federal taxes in D.C.

 JFK’s Bay of Pigs Disaster

I was just out of Navy boot camp on this day in 1961. I was at the Navy Receiving Station in Brooklyn waiting for transfer to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Bay of Pigs invasion canceled all such travel. I was then ordered to Norfolk and assigned to the USS Greenwich Bay. Aboard the Greenwich Bay, I sailed half way around the world and had the greatest military tour possible.

I was transferred to Guantanamo Bay for the Cuban Missile Crisis later, but that’s another story. 

Thomas J. Craughwell is the author of several books, most recently How the Barbarian Invasions Shaped the Modern World (Fair Winds Press, 2008) and Stealing Lincoln’s Body (Harvard University Press, 2007). He has written articles on history, religion, politics, and popular culture for the Wall Street Journal, American Spectator, and U.S. News & World Report. He lives in Bethel, Connecticut. Journalist, lecturer, and historian M. William Phelps is the author of eleven books, including his most recent, Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America’s First Spy(Thomas Dunne Books, 2008). He lives in Vernon, Connecticut.

Many of the men of Brigade 2506 believed fervently that they were the first wave of Cuban freedom fighters who would liberate their homeland from Castro. They were convinced as they stormed ashore that they would be supported overhead by some of the finest fighter pilots of the U.S. Air Force, and they thought that as they advanced into Cuba, the U.S. Marines would be right behind them. Whether the insurgents had talked themselves into this conviction or the trainers from the United States had made such a promise is still a subject of debate.

The air support promised by the CIA consisted of sixteen B-26 twin-engine light attack bombers. From an airstrip in Nicaragua to the Bay of Pigs was a journey of 1,000 miles, round-trip, which left a B-26 with enough fuel to provide less than forty minutes of air cover for the Brigade. Anything longer than forty minutes and the pilots risked running out of gas somewhere over the Caribbean.

On April 14, 1961, just three days from the invasion, Kennedy called CIA Operations Chief Bissell to ask how many planes he planned to use in the operation. Bissell told the president the CIA planned to use all sixteen of their B-26s. “Well I don’t want it on that scale,” Kennedy replied. “I want it minimal.” So Bissell cut the number of planes for the invasion to eight. The next day, those eight planes attacked the three airfields of the Cuban air force, knocking out some of the aircraft, but not enough to cripple the fleet.

On the morning of April 17, as the Cuban militia pinned down the men of Brigade 2506, the Cuban planes that had survived the air strikes attacked the exiles from the air. Meanwhile, the B-26s, their fuel low and their forty minutes up, veered away from the beach for the flight home. The Brigade’s commander, San Román, radioed his CIA handlers for help. “We are under attack by two Sea Fury aircraft and heavy artillery,” he reported. “Do not see any friendly air cover as you promised. Need jet support immediately.” When San Roman’s request was denied, he replied, “You, sir, are a son of a bitch.”

With the sea at their backs, no means of retreat, and no chance of advancing into the interior of Cuba, the Brigade was in a desperate position. Back in Washington, the CIA and the Kennedy administration concluded that the invasion would fail. In a conversation with his brother, Robert Kennedy, the president said he wished he had permitted the use of U.S. ships to back up the Cuban exiles. “I’d rather be an aggressor,” he said, “than a bum.”

On April 18, Kennedy authorized six fighter jets from the aircraft carrier Essex to provide one hour of air cover for the CIAs attacking B-26s over the beach at the Bay of Pigs. But the jets from the Essex and the B-26s missed their rendezvous because the Pentagon forgot to factor in the one-hour difference in time zones between the B-26s’ base in Nicaragua and the beach in Cuba.

That same day, Kennedy’s national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, gave the president a status report on the invasion. “The Cuban armed forces are stronger, the popular response [is] weaker, and our tactical position is feebler than we had hoped,” Bundy said. That was perhaps the kindest possible description of the Bay of Pigs operation.

As a humanitarian concession, the president permitted U.S. destroyers to approach the Cuban coast to pick up survivors. The ships were authorized to get within two miles of shore after dark, but no closer than five miles during daylight hours. The directive meant the rescue mission was beyond the reach of almost every man in Brigade 2506. A handful who had managed to swim to one or another of the bay’s outlying cays were picked up, but the rest lay dead on the beach or were captured by Castro’s forces.

At 2 p.m. on April 19, after two days of being pounded by militia, tanks, and the Cuban air force, Commander San Román and Brigade 2506 surrendered. “Everything is lost,” Allen Dulles told former vice president Richard Nixon. “The Cuban invasion is a total failure.”

Sixty-eight Cuban exiles were killed in the Bay of Pigs debacle; 1,209 were captured, and nine of them died of asphyxiation in a windowless sealed truck that took them from the beach to prison in Havana. After twenty days of interrogation, the prisoners were given show trials and sentenced to life in prison.

Soon after the conviction of the men of Brigade 2506, Castro made a public offer to exchange the prisoners for farm machinery. Kennedy leapt at the proposal. Immediately he formed the Tractors for Freedom Committee, chaired by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, with the purpose of collecting donations to purchase farm equipment for Cuba. But the group was not able to meet Castro’s exorbitant demand of $30 million worth of capital relief, and it disbanded. The tractor deal fell through.

Negotiations between the two governments went on sporadically over the next twenty months. Finally, on December 24, 1962, Castro announced that he was releasing the Brigade 2506 prisoners in exchange for $53 million in medicine and food from the United States. He also promised, “as a Christmas bonus,” to permit 1,000 of the prisoners’ relatives to emigrate to the United States.

The animosity between Cuba and the United States intensified after the Bay of Pigs debacle. Cuba allied itself with the Soviet Union, while America continued its policy of isolating Cuba economically and diplomatically. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev viewed America’s failure at the Bay of Pigs as a sign of Kennedy’s weakness and inexperience, an assessment he felt was confirmed after meeting Kennedy at the Vienna Summit of April 1962, where it appeared to some that Kennedy was sandbagged by Khrushchev’s threat to cut off West Berlin from the Western powers. Within six months, Khrushchev was placing nuclear missiles in Cuba, an action that brought the world as close as it has ever come to all-out nuclear war.

In the face of the missile crisis, Kennedy held firm. The Soviets backed down, removing the nuclear weapons from Cuba, but the tension between Cuba and the United States has dragged on for more than forty years. During that time, political observers and historians have argued that the failed invasion actually strengthened Castro’s grip on Cuba. Certainly, Che Guevara thought so. In August 1961, at a meeting of the Organization of American States in Uruguay, he sent a note to Kennedy saying, “Thanks for Playa Giron [another name for the site of the invasion]. Before the invasion, the revolution was weak. Now it is stronger than ever.”

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 Profound Connection Between Easter and Passover

It’s not just that the Last Supper was a Passover Seder. Both holidays are about the dead rising to new life

‘The Last Supper’ by Bartolome Carducho.
‘The Last Supper’ by Bartolome Carducho. PHOTO: BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

Easter stalks Passover. They arrive together every spring, like the daffodils and magnolia blossoms. This year, Easter Sunday falls as the eight-day Jewish festival nears its end. Over the years, I have come to see that Christianity’s most important day recapitulates Passover. Both holidays face head-on the daunting power of death—and both announce God’s greater power of life.

In March, my wife, who is Jewish, was on the phone, herding her parents, uncles, brothers and cousins. “No, it’s not Tuesday. The first night of Passover is on Monday this year.” She made arrangements for the Seder, the festive meal with a traditional liturgy that retells the familiar story of the Exodus. Emails and texts were exchanged to sort out who would bring what, and this past Monday night we sang and recited the age-old prayers and set out a cup for Elijah, the harbinger of the messianic era. We ended, as always, with the declaration: “Next year in Jerusalem!”

Now, just a few days later, the holiest days of the year for Christians are under way. As the solitary Catholic in my Jewish household, I’m planning to head to church on Saturday night for the Easter Vigil—where I’ll be celebrating Passover once again.

In Romance languages, the connection between the Jewish and Christian holidays is explicit. The Hebrew word for Passover is Pesach. In French, Easter is Paques. In Italian it’s Pasqua. In many other languages, the word for Easter is simply a transliteration of the Greek word for Easter, Pascha. English is among the exceptions. Our word, Easter, is German in origin, coming from the archaic word for new life, which is to say, resurrection.

In the New Testament, Passover and Easter are tied together. Jesus enters Jerusalem and gathers his disciples to celebrate the Passover meal, memorialized by Christians as the Last Supper. Soon, he is arrested, tried and executed on the cross, dying just before the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. Then, on Sunday morning, his followers are astounded to find their teacher appearing to them as one alive, not dead.

Some early Christians repeated the sequence exactly, marking Easter on the same day as Passover, regardless of the day of the week. Others adopted a different kind of rigor, insisting that Easter dawn on a Sunday, as it had for Jesus’ disciples. They celebrated Easter on the first Sunday after Passover, as we do as well (with rare exceptions). The difference ignited fierce debates in the early centuries of the Church. But all agreed on the central point: The lunar cycle that sets the date for Passover also determines Easter.

The relation between Passover and Easter runs deeper still. Because I’m married to a Jewish woman who decided that having a Christian husband was a reason to become more Jewish, not less, I’ve been repeating the biblical pattern for more than 30 years. This has led me to see that Easter doesn’t just share the same week with Passover. They are about the same thing: In both, the dead rise to new life.

This profound connection is not evident to most Christians. Our understanding of Passover emphasizes the blood of the Passover lamb, which Moses commands the Israelites to put on their door frames so that the Angel of Death, sent to kill the firstborn of Egypt, will “pass over” them. This image—the lamb whose blood saves—is taken up in the New Testament, especially in the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation.

The north apse of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
The north apse of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. PHOTO: JOHN GREIM/LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES

As a consequence, the religious imagination of most Christians connects Passover to Good Friday, the day on which we remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus. The theological meaning is plain: Jesus himself is the Passover lamb, offered as a sacrifice for the whole world.

Origen, a profoundly influential early Christian thinker, reinforced this interpretation. He thought that the Greek word for Passover, pascha, stemmed from the word for suffering, paschein, which the New Testament uses to describe Jesus’ agonizing death. In medieval paintings, John the Baptist is often portrayed pointing up to Jesus on the cross with the words of John 1:29 emblazoned: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

It took me many years to realize that my Christian assumptions were almost entirely wrong. Blood and sacrifice are integral to the meaning of Jesus’ death, to be sure. But that turns out to have very little to do with the way in which Jews actually celebrate Passover.

The reason has to do with history. During the time of Christ, Jews came from the surrounding provinces to bring lambs to the Temple in Jerusalem for the Passover sacrifice. It was at this time that Jesus shared a sacrificial meal with his disciples. Not long after the time of Jesus, however, a Jewish political uprising prompted the Romans to take the drastic measure of destroying the Temple in Jerusalem and consecrating the city to their own gods.

This forced a revision of Passover. With no Temple, sacrificing lambs was not possible. The Jewish authorities in ancient times refocused the Passover celebration on the shared meal. The result is the Seder, the set order of prayer and scripted retelling of the Exodus story that Jews now use.

The blood of the lamb is mentioned in the Passover Seder, but only in passing. What comes to the fore instead is the obligation to recall what God has done for his people: “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord, our God, took us out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.”

Put in Christian terms: The Passover Seder recalls and celebrates the resurrection of the people of Israel.

Today we tend to think of slavery strictly as an injustice, which of course it is, and some modern Seders treat the Passover as the triumph of justice over oppression. But this is not the traditional view. In the ancient world, slavery was not just a hardship for individuals but a kind of communal death. An enslaved nation can survive for a time, perhaps, but they have no future. A people in bondage is slowly crushed and extinguished.

At Passover Seders, Jews eat unleavened matzah and spill out drops of wine in symbolic memory of the biblical 10 plagues.
At Passover Seders, Jews eat unleavened matzah and spill out drops of wine in symbolic memory of the biblical 10 plagues. PHOTO: DPA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The notion of slavery as a form of death is accentuated in the story told in the Passover Seder. The small clan descended from Abraham settles in Egypt. They are fruitful and multiply, becoming numerous and mighty. The glow of life in the people of Israel arouses Egyptian resentment. Set upon and subjugated, they are ground down by hard labor and harsh oppression. But the descendants of Abraham call out to God—and he raises them up out of slavery, parts the Red Sea, and delivers them from Pharaoh’s murderous anger.

Judaism is realistic. Passover does not promote a dreamy optimism or cheery confidence that God will keep everything neat and nice. Even the chosen people are vulnerable to oppression and murderous hatred. There’s room in Passover for Auschwitz.

The New Testament makes a bold promise. Whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but will have eternal life. But Christianity also takes an honest approach, which makes believers take a long, hard look at death. The central symbol of Christianity, the cross, evokes a brutal execution. For Catholics, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter is the only day of the year on which the Eucharist, the power of eternal life, is not provided. On that day we must endure death’s awful emptiness, in a spiritual way, just as, sooner or later, we must feel death’s terrible blows in brutal, literal ways.

It is a mistake to think that Christian faith somehow denies or evades the reality of death. In a church in Isenheim, Germany, there is an early 16th-century altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald. It depicts Jesus dead on the cross, his fingers gruesomely contorted in final agony. For Christians, the crucified Messiah is the dead soldier, half buried in mud, his face contorted and body torn. He is amid the bodies uncovered in mass graves.

The early Christians did not celebrate Easter with sunrise services. They gathered in the deepest darkness, long before dawn, for the Easter Vigil, which has been restored in many churches, including the Catholic Church. In the Vigil, Christians are like the Israelites fleeing with Pharaoh’s army. Easter begins in a night-darkened church. We are in the valley of the shadow of death.

In the story of Exodus, the Israelites make it through the split waters of the Red Sea to dry land. But they are not simply safe. God releases the waters, and Pharaoh’s army is destroyed.

So it is at the Easter Vigil. A chant known as the Exultet announces that the darkness shall not triumph. “Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her.” With a haunting refrain, the ancient song links Passover to Easter: “This is the night,” we are told, “when once you led our forbearers, Israel’s children, from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.” And “this is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.”

Passover does not teach Jews that oppression is not real and suffering not bitter. The lesson is more powerful: God favors the people of Israel with his Torah, and its sweetness outweighs every setback, evil and disaster.

Nor, then, is Easter a simple springtime celebration of life. The resurrection of Jesus reveals something more urgent and shocking: God favors the sons of Adam with a triumphant love in the person of Jesus, the Christ. And that love does not fend off or parry death, but destroys it, just as light overcomes darkness.

We live within a mortal frame, which means that Jews and Christians do not experience God’s triumph over suffering and death, at least not directly. Instead, we perform it, entering into its reality in a partial but authentic way.

For Jews, there is a prayer said for the dead, the Mourner’s Kaddish. It’s an astounding statement, for it does not mention death. It’s an arrogant refusal to acknowledge death’s claim upon our anguished souls, extolling instead the power and goodness of God. At the grave of someone he loves, a Jew’s head may be bowed with grief, but as he recites the Mourner’s Kaddish, his prayer looks joyfully upward. He does not deny psychological realities. Death brings terrible suffering. It oppresses us. But his prayer denies those realities a final say: God has raised up Israel.

A Catholic funeral enacts the same pattern with equal intensity. Most religions regard death as profane and keep it far from their sacred sanctuaries. Christians, by contrast, allow death to come into their churches.

At a Catholic funeral, the casket sits in the middle of the church. The priest undertakes the prayers and rites that make Christ present, and the mourners come forward to receive the Eucharist, the body of Christ and bread of life. It’s a bold defiance. To receive the Eucharist only a few feet from a dead body puts a stick in death’s eye. This does not mean ignoring the tears and anguish that death brings, but it denies them the final say: Christ has been raised from the dead.

There is an ancient sermon about Easter by an unknown preacher. It recounts the traditional image of the crucified Jesus descending to Hell to break the chains that hold the dead in bondage. He seeks Adam and Eve, the original man and woman. Finding them in the deepest tomb, he smashes down the prison door. He shakes them awake with these words: “You were not made for death!”

We were not made for death. The Almighty delivers his people. He unlocks the prison of darkness and shatters the power of death. This is the meaning of Easter, the Christian Passover.

Mr. Reno is the editor of the religious journal First Things. He was formerly a professor of theology and ethics at Creighton University.

Obama Is Our Stanley Baldwin; That’s Not Good.

Last year, President Obama assured the world that “we are living in the most peaceful, prosperous and progressive era in human history,” and that “the world has never been less violent.”

Translated, those statements meant that active foreign-policy volcanoes in China, Iran, North Korea, Russia and the Middle East would probably not blow up on what little was left of Obama’s watch.

Obama is the U.S. version of Stanley Baldwin, the suave, three-time British prime minister of the 1920s and 1930s. Baldwin’s last tenure (1935-1937) coincided with the rapid rise of aggressive German, Italian and Japanese fascism.

Baldwin was a passionate spokesman for disarmament. He helped organize peace conferences. He tirelessly lectured on the need for pacifism. He basked in the praise of his good intentions.

Baldwin assured fascists that he was not rearming Britain. Instead, he preached that the deadly new weapons of the 20th century made war so unthinkable that it would be almost impossible for it to break out.

Baldwin left office when the world was still relatively quiet. But his appeasement and pacifism had sown the seeds for a global conflagration soon to come.

Obama, the Nobel peace laureate and former president, resembles Baldwin. Both seemed to believe that war breaks out only because of misunderstandings that reflect honest differences. Therefore, tensions between aggressors and their targets can be remedied by more talk, international agreements, goodwill and concessions.

Ideas such as strategic deterrence were apparently considered by both Baldwin and Obama to be Neanderthal, judging from Baldwin’s naive efforts to ask Hitler not to rearm or annex territory, and Obama’s “lead from behind” foreign policy and his pledge never to “do stupid s–t” abroad.

Aggressors clearly assumed that Obama’s assurances were green lights to further their own agendas without consequences.

Iran routinely threatened U.S. Navy ships, even taking 10 American sailors into custody early last year. Obama issued various empty deadlines to Iran to cease enriching uranium before concluding a 2015 deal that allowed the Iranians to continue to work their centrifuges. Iran was freed from crippling economic sanctions. And Iran quietly received $400 million in cash (in the dead of night) for the release of American hostages.

All that can be said about the Iran deal is that Obama’s concessions likely ensured he would leave office with a non-nuclear Iran soon to get nuclear weapons on someone else’s watch.

Obama green-lighted the Syrian disaster by issuing a red line over the use of chemical weapons and then not enforcing it. When Syrian strongman Bashar Assad called Obama’s bluff, Obama did nothing other than call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to beg Assad to stop killing civilians with chemical weapons.

Nearly five years after Obama issued his 2012 red line to Syria, and roughly a half-million dead later, Assad remains in power, some 2 million Middle Eastern refugees have overrun Europe, and Assad is still gassing his own citizens with the very chemical agents that the Obama administration had claimed were removed.

Obama’s reset policy with Russia advanced the idea that George W. Bush had unduly polarized Putin by overreacting to Russian aggression in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. But Obama’s concessions and promises to be flexible helped turn a wary but opportunistic Putin into a bold aggressor, assured that he would never have to account for his belligerence.

Middle Eastern terrorism? Obama assured us that al-Qaida was “on the run” and that the Islamic State was a “jayvee” organization. His policy of dismissing the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” along with his administration’s weird assertions that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was “largely secular” and that “jihad” did not mean using force to spread Islam, earned the U.S. contempt instead of support.

Russia and China launched cyberattacks on the U.S. without worry of consequences. Both countries increased their defense budgets while ours shrank. China built artificial island bases in the South China Sea to intimidate its neighbors, while Russia absorbed Crimea.

North Korea built more and better missiles. Almost weekly, it threatened its neighbors and boasted that it would soon nuke its critics, the American West Coast included.

In other words, as was true of Europe between 1933 and 1939, the world grew more dangerous and reached the brink of war. And like Stanley Baldwin, Obama was never willing to make a few unpopular decisions to rearm and face down aggressors in order not to be forced to make far more dangerous and unpopular decisions later on.

Baldwin was popular when he left office, largely because he had proclaimed peace, but he had helped set the table for the inevitable conflict to be inherited by his successors, Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill.

Obama likewise ignored rumbling volcanoes, and now they are erupting on his successor’s watch.

In both cases, history was kind while Baldwin and Obama were in office — but not so after they left.

Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.

The Real Story of the Yamato’s Sinking

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The real story of the Yamato sinking

March 06, 2008
On April 7, 1945, three southern boys were above the clouds north of Okinawa, 125 miles from the southernmost tip of the main Japanese islands searching for “the largest, heaviest and most powerful battleship ever constructed.”

They had one torpedo aboard their TBF bomber and they hoped to sink the armored craft that carried the largest naval artillery ever fitted on a warship, according to Wikipedia. The shock waves from those guns firing were so severe that men could not be on deck unprotected.

The Yamato was a symbol of the naval power of the Empire of Japan. Its cannons could fire shells that weighed more than a ton. Some of these shells were beehive rounds filled with missiles that exploded like giant shotgun shells.

Frederick E. Wicklund, 83, who lived in Grosse Pointe until his death on Jan. 15, 2008, was raised in Des Ark, Ark. where he learned to hunt and fish and developed a lifelong love of bird dogs. After World War II he married his wife, Mary Jane, and they had four children. They were wed for 58 years. He worked for 25 years as an FBI agent, mostly in Detroit. He took part in the arrest of a Students for a Democratic Society fugitive in Detroit in 1970.

World War II pilot Charlie Gill, above, took a picture of the Yamato just as it blew up.

But during World War II, he was a 20-year-old crewman stationed aboard the aircraft carrier Yorktown, as U.S. forces in the Pacific advanced toward the main Japanese islands. In April the Japanese sent a fleet consisting of the super battleship Yamato, 10 destroyers and two cruisers on a suicide mission toward Okinawa. The giant ship had been classified as “unsinkable” because of its armor plating.

The Yamato, with a crew of 2,778, was to beach itself and serve as a shore battery against the allied invasion.

Wicklund was the tail gunner, radar man and radio man aboard one of 11 torpedo planes sent out to intercept the Japanese fleet.

Grosse Pointer Frederick E. Wicklund, above, aboard his World War II plane.

Here is an edited version of Wicklund’s story, the real story of the sinking of the Yamato, as he told it in 2004:

“. . . When we finally spotted the Japanese fleet, it was raining lightly and very cloudy. We saw that the cruiser we were scheduled to hit was almost sinking. Another carrier group had hit the task force before we had gotten there. Noting this, Lt. (Tom) Stetson realized we wouldn’t need 11 torpedoes to finish off our cruiser. He then requested permission from the air group commander to have six of his torpedo planes hit the Yamato.

“Our plane was one of the six chosen.

“Sometime previously at a briefing, I had heard that the Yamato had 22 feet of armor plating. Remembering this, I immediately crawled up through the passageway by the bomb compartment and reset my torpedo for 23 feet. I have since read accounts where Lt. Stetson said he gave the order for all six of the torpedoes to be reset to battleship depth. I did not hear him give that order. Furthermore I do not believe any other crewman knew how to reset a torpedo in the air.

“We were not taught that maneuver in training. I learned it on my own by questioning a torpedo ordinance man who showed me how to preset the torpedo. I have no doubt the other planes’ torpedoes hit the Yamato. I also have no doubt that they hit the Yamato’s armor plate at the 10-foot depth level and caused very little damage.

“The attack strategy was to go up to 15,000 feet. On signal, all planes were to make a coordinated attack on the Japanese task force. However, on the way up through the clouds our plane almost collided with one of our other planes. Lt. (Grady) Jean had to pull away violently to avoid a midair collision. “Consequently, we lost sight of the rest of the planes.

“When we got up on top of the clouds we realized we were alone with no other planes in sight. We knew we could not participate in the coordinated attack for fear of crashing into one of our own planes in the clouds.

“At that point, Lt. Jean called back to me and said, ‘Wick, we’ve still got this torpedo and we’ve got three options. We can drop it into the ocean, take it back to the carrier or go in alone to hit the battleship.’ He then asked me what I wanted to do. I said, ‘you’re the skipper; do what you want to do.’ He then said, ‘if we go in alone you know it will mean our (backsides)’ I repeated, ‘you’re the skipper; do what you want to do.’

“He then asked (Charlie) Gill what he wanted to do. Gill said, ‘Like Wick said, you’re the skipper; do what you want to do.’ Lt. Jean then said, ‘Ok Wick, take me in by radar.’ I asked him, ‘Do you want me to give you a release point?’ He replied, ‘Negative. I’ll try to release when we get hit.’

“We listened as our squadron began the coordinated attack. When we thought that they were far enough along that we wouldn’t run into any of them in the clouds, Lt. Jean began our torpedo run. Lt. Jean had to do some fancy flying to get us in. We changed altitude and direction constantly. When we got below the clouds, there was so much anti-aircraft smoke that it seemed you could walk on it.

“The Yamato had 18-inch guns. They were using those guns to fire into the water ahead of us; trying to create a wall of water that our plane would run into. Fortunately, each time the Yamato fired, we would be to the side or above the water wall. I was calling out distances as we kept barreling in toward the battleship. At 800 yards, I felt Lt. Jean release the torpedo toward the Yamato. We kept heading toward the battleship. I was certain that Lt. Jean planned to crash into it because we all knew there was practically no chance of getting away.

“About 300 to 500 yards out, I felt him make a steep dive to port. I looked down and saw that he was diving straight at a destroyer. I thought Lt. Jean had been hit and couldn’t reach the Yamato, so he was going to dive into the destroyer. I felt sick because I didn’t want to die crashing into the destroyer rather than the battleship.

“Suddenly, Lt. Jean pulled up, gained a little altitude and immediately dived to starboard. I looked down and saw that he was diving on another destroyer. I then saw that there were four or five destroyers behind the battleship. I realized he was trying to get away by diving on each of the destroyers. This maneuver forced all the other ships to quit firing momentarily or risk blowing their own destroyer out of the water.

“For the first time I got scared. After we’d made the decision to go in alone, I was resigned to dying; now there was a chance we could make it out alive!

“Lt. Jean kept diving on one destroyer then the other until we got out about five miles past the last destroyer. He leveled out, picked up his mike and said, ‘Who the hell would have ever thought we’d get through that . . .’

“I had been watching the last destroyer firing at us and each burst was getting closer and closer. I grabbed my mike and yelled, ‘we’re not out of it yet! Kick this s.o.b.’ About that time, a shell burst a short ways away from his cockpit and he immediately started taking evasive action. He kept it up until we got about 10 miles out from the last destroyer.

“We then started rendezvousing with the rest of our planes. I was watching the Yamato out of my starboard window. She was smoking and listing to starboard. I then realized my torpedo had hit the Yamato under its armor plate and had done significant damage. As I watched, the Yamato suddenly flipped over on its side. She laid there a few seconds and then blew up like a huge firecracker. We were approximately 3,000 feet altitude at that time. I estimated that the debris from the explosion equaled our altitude. I think our torpedo probably hit an area where the ship’s fuel was stored. This would have caused the fire and the fire exploded her ammunition.

Charlie Gill took a photograph of the Yamato just as she blew up. When we got back to the carrier, they estimated we had about one chance in 5,000 of making it through the run that we had just made.

“A couple of days later, Lt. Jean met me on the flight deck of the Yorktown. He said, ‘They’re talking about medals for the sinking of the Yamato. They are talking about giving me a Congressional Medal of Honor and you a Navy Cross. However, the other guys want some credit too. The other option would be to give all the pilots Navy Crosses and all the crewmen Distinguished Flying Crosses.’

“At that point, I told him ‘Don’t talk to me about medals, I’m not out here for medals.’ Lt. Jean said something to the effect of ‘neither am I.’ That ended the conversation. Later, all pilots got Navy Crosses and all crewmen got Distinguished Flying Crosses.

“In retrospect, I now wish I had encouraged Lt. Jean to opt for the Congressional Medal of Honor. If he had, then maybe a more accurate story of the sinking of the Yamato would have made it into the history books. None of the accounts I’ve read of the sinking of the Yamato portray the real story as I have just told.”

The U.S. lost 10 aircraft and 12 airmen in the attack on the Japanese task force. Of the 2,778 aboard the Yamato, only 280 survived.

The Gorsuch Confirmation Is Typical Senate Squabble

The Democrats are trying to make the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch into some kind of “out of the ordinary, radical” departure from business as usual. What is of great interest here is that the Democrats themselves blew up the 60 vote rule and are now complaining that their rule may be used against their interests.

The rule in question is the Senate’s “60 votes to pass” rule that was adopted in 1975. Harry Reid, Leader of a Democrat majority that he thought was permanent,  confronted by Republican opposition to his Obama’s radical leftist nominees to the DC Court of Appeals, the nation’s second-highest court. invoked what he called the “Nuclear option” which was a rule that allowed the 60 vote rule to be changed by a majority vote. That means that majority rule is the rule. Period. harry Reid is to be saluted.

This article goes into the issue more deeply.

TheyWere Against It, Before They Were For It

The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s nuanced position on the filibuster

Speaking out of both sides of one’s mouth is an occupational hazard, if not an occupational necessity, for politicians seeking elective office in competitive races. It’s not a pretty sight, and it supports a cynicism about democratic politics that is unbecoming. Catering to such cynicism, the leftist writer Garry Wills used to advise college audiences, “Vote for your enemy–he has no one to sell out to but you.”

The political debate over the use of the Senate’s filibuster rule to torpedo President Bush’s judicial nominees has triggered a series of reversals and pratfalls that support the low-comedy version of democratic politics. Among the most notable examples was the April 3 profile of former Ku Klux Klan kleagle and civil rights obstructionist Robert Byrd as a cornpone constitutionalist by New York Times congressional reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg: “Master of Senate’s Ways Still Parries in His Twilight.” Twilight zone would be more like it, but we get the point.

In my home state of Minnesota the pratfalls have reached a kind of perfection in the naked reversals of the laughingstock-liberal Minneapolis Star Tribune and respected liberal former Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale. During the Clinton administration, no newspaper in the country converted Democratic party talking points into editorials more quickly than the Star Tribune. The tradition continues today. In an April 24 editorial, the Star Tribune lauded the filibuster and condemned Republican efforts to end it in connection with judicial nominations.

When portions of President Clinton’s legislative program were threatened by the filibuster in 1993, however, the story was different. The Star Tribune‘s editorial page raged: “Down the drain goes President Clinton’s economic stimulus package, washed away in the putrid flood of verbiage known as a filibuster. Call it a power game. Call it politics as usual. Call it reprehensible.” (Call it an occasion for the enforcers on the Star Tribune‘s editorial board to opine in their characteristic bullying style.)

Well, that was different, of course. It was different, too, in 1994, when the Star Tribune published an editorial titled “Stall busters–Don’t pull punches in anti-filibuster fight.” This time, the Star Tribune hailed the efforts of a bipartisan group that sought to end the filibuster once and for all:

More than a score of distinguished Minnesotans are lending their names today to a national crusade against a worsening threat to American democracy. The threat doesn’t spring from economic ills, social decay or foreign menace. It’s something that’s long been in the U.S. Senate’s rule book–the ability of a 41-percent minority to block action with a filibuster . . . [W]hen such a group comes together with like-minded leaders from around the country, they should not be content merely to sound an alarm and seek some pledges. They should crusade for changes in Senate procedures that would prevent an obstructionist minority from delaying action indefinitely.

When we noted the Star Tribune‘s “that was then, this is now” approach to editorial judgment on Power Line, Jim Boyd–the deputy editor of the Star Tribune editorial page–irately denied any contradiction. Two days later, however, he wrote us: “I think you actually have caught us in a contradiction. We can change our mind . . . but in this case, we really didn’t. We simply missed the precedent and, like a court, if we make such a shift, we owe readers an explanation for why we did it.”

We’re still waiting; the Star Tribune has yet to publish the explanation it acknowledges its readers are owed. But it has published another column condemning Republican efforts to roll back the filibuster in connection with judicial nominations. Last week the Star Tribune scraped bottom in a purported bipartisan column under the joint byline of Republican former Senator David Durenberger and Democratic party elder statesman Walter Mondale: “Preserve Senate rules, filibuster and all.” (For present purposes, I’ll ignore Durenberger except to say that when last seen in the Star Tribune, he endorsed John Kerry for president; that’s bipartisanship a la the Star Tribune.)

Last week’s column traces the venerable filibuster to “the days when Thomas Jefferson first wrote the Senate’s rules,” and argues: “Today, as it has been for 200 years, an individual senator may talk without limit on an issue; and others may join in, and they may continue to press those issues until or unless the Senate by 60 votes ends that debate and a vote occurs. No other legislative body has such a rule.”

The imputation of an ancient lineage to a 60-vote filibuster rule is of course flatly mistaken. The 60-vote rule derives not from the days when “Thomas Jefferson first wrote the Senate’s rules,” but rather from 1975. Surely Mondale remembers; as a Minnesota Senator, he led the successful fight to reform the filibuster by reducing the number of votes necessary for cloture from 67 to 60. Mondale was, in fact, the leading Democratic opponent of the filibuster. On January 17, 1975, he stated on the floor of the Senate: “It seems to me that a not-so-subtle difference, a profound difference, between 66 2/3 percent and a simple majority could be the difference between an active, responsible U.S. Senate and one which is dominated by a small minority.” Mondale accordingly advocated the right of a Senate majority to change the filibuster rule: “May a majority of the members of the Senate of the 94th Congress change the rules of the Senate, uninhibited by the past rules of the Senate? I firmly believe that the majority has such a right–as the U.S. Constitution, the precedents of this body, the inherent nature of our constitutional system, and the rulings of two previous vice presidents make clear.”

In last week’s Star Tribune column, Mondale acknowledged neither his past positions, nor his own historic role in reforming the filibuster in 1975. Like a good postmodern Democrat, Mondale simply put his past under erasure. Interested readers can turn for further details to the law review article on the constitutional option by Martin Gold and Dimple Gupta. The Gold-Gupta article covers the Senate’s 1975 proceedings as but one chapter of an important story.

After adoption of the revised filibuster rule in 1975, Mondale took a look back in a March 18 column (“The filibuster fight”) for the Washington Post. That column deserves the attention of serious observers of the current filibuster debate. Mondale proudly wrote: “The modification of Rule XXII [the filibuster rule] may prove to be one of the most significant institutional changes in the 196 years of the Senate.” Mondale added: “[T]he Rule XXII experience was significant because for the first time in history a Vice President and a clear majority of the Senate established that the Senate may, at the beginning of a new Congress and unencumbered by the rules of previous Senates, adopt its own rules by majority vote as a constitutional right.”

It’s a shame Mondale has chosen to ignore his own words; some might consider them inspirational.

Scott Johnson is a contributor to the blog Power Line and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.


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