Memorial Day In Pictures

I believe it was last June when the Minneapolis Star Tribune published this photo of a bald eagle in Fort Snelling National Cemetery by a photographer named Frank Glick. There is a column about the photo, which went viral, here. Fort Snelling was built in the 19th century to guard the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, an area where there are lots of bald eagles:

1tevlin0810

This cartoon by Michael Ramirez is a week or so old, and was published after the fall of Ramadi, but is also appropriate for Memorial Day. Click to enlarge:

RAMclr-052015-ramadi-IBD-COLOR-FINAL.jpg.cms

And, while we are at it, one more, on which I did a post on Friday. The Democratic Party tweeted this photo in honor of the Memorial Day weekend. As usual, it’s all about Barry:

Happy Memorial Day!

A conversation with Fred Barnes

In the latest of the Conversations with Bill Kristol, Bill sits down with his colleague Fred Barnes to review the highlights of his career covering politics in Washington, D.C. The conversation is posted and broken into chapters here.

Via @KristolConvos, Bill alerts us to the fact that Fred gives a nice shout-out to Power Line in chapter 4 (at 1:22:00). Coincidentally, we’re observing the thirteenth anniversary of our life online today. The conversation is terrific and the timing is perfect.

Recommended reading: Robert Novak, Prince of Darkness: 50 Years of Reporting in Washington and Theodore White, The Making of the President 1960.

Recommended sites: RealClearPolitics, Power Line, and the Drudge Report.

Quotable quote: “Power Line…you know, that’s one that some guys in Minneapolis put out…”

America’s honor

In observance of Memorial Day 2007 the Wall Street Journal published a characteristically brilliant column by Peter Collier to mark the occasion. The column remains accessible online here. I don’t think we’ll read or hear anything more thoughtful or appropriate to the occasion today. Here it is:

Once we knew who and what to honor on Memorial Day: those who had given all their tomorrows, as was said of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, for our todays. But in a world saturated with selfhood, where every death is by definition a death in vain, the notion of sacrifice today provokes puzzlement more often than admiration. We support the troops, of course, but we also believe that war, being hell, can easily touch them with an evil no cause for engagement can wash away. And in any case we are more comfortable supporting them as victims than as warriors.

Former football star Pat Tillman and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham were killed on the same day: April 22, 2004. But as details of his death fitfully emerged from Afghanistan, Tillman has become a metaphor for the current conflict–a victim of fratricide, disillusionment, coverup and possibly conspiracy. By comparison, Dunham, who saved several of his comrades in Iraq by falling on an insurgent’s grenade, is the unknown soldier. The New York Times, which featured Abu Ghraib on its front page for 32 consecutive days, put the story of Dunham’s Medal of Honor on the third page of section B.

Not long ago I was asked to write the biographical sketches for a book featuring formal photographs of all our living Medal of Honor recipients. As I talked with them, I was, of course, chilled by the primal power of their stories. But I also felt pathos: They had become strangers–honored strangers, but strangers nonetheless–in our midst.

***

In my own boyhood, figures such as Jimmy Doolittle, Audie Murphy and John Basilone were household names. And it was assumed that what they had done defined us as well as them, telling us what kind of nation we were. But the 110 Medal recipients alive today are virtually unknown except for a niche audience of warfare buffs. Their heroism has become the military equivalent of genre painting. There’s something wrong with that.

What they did in battle was extraordinary. Jose Lopez, a diminutive Mexican-American from the barrio of San Antonio, was in the Ardennes forest when the Germans began the counteroffensive that became the Battle of the Bulge. As 10 enemy soldiers approached his position, he grabbed a machine gun and opened fire, killing them all. He killed two dozen more who rushed him. Knocked down by the concussion of German shells, he picked himself up, packed his weapon on his back and ran toward a group of Americans about to be surrounded. He began firing and didn’t stop until all his ammunition and all that he could scrounge from other guns was gone. By then he had killed over 100 of the enemy and bought his comrades time to establish a defensive line.

Yet their stories were not only about killing. Several Medal of Honor recipients told me that the first thing they did after the battle was to find a church or some other secluded spot where they could pray, not only for those comrades they’d lost but also the enemy they’d killed.

Desmond Doss, for instance, was a conscientious objector who entered the army in 1942 and became a medic. Because of his religious convictions and refusal to carry a weapon, the men in his unit intimidated and threatened him, trying to get him to transfer out. He refused and they grudgingly accepted him. Late in 1945 he was with them in Okinawa when they got cut to pieces assaulting a Japanese stronghold.

Everyone but Mr. Doss retreated from the rocky plateau where dozens of wounded remained. Under fire, he treated them and then began moving them one by one to a steep escarpment where he roped them down to safety. Each time he succeeded, he prayed, “Dear God, please let me get just one more man.” By the end of the day, he had single-handedly saved 75 GIs.

Why did they do it? Some talked of entering a zone of slow-motion invulnerability, where they were spectators at their own heroism. But for most, the answer was simpler and more straightforward: They couldn’t let their buddies down.

Big for his age at 14, Jack Lucas begged his mother to help him enlist after Pearl Harbor. She collaborated in lying about his age in return for his promise to someday finish school. After training at Parris Island, he was sent to Honolulu. When his unit boarded a troop ship for Iwo Jima, Mr. Lucas was ordered to remain behind for guard duty. He stowed away to be with his friends and, discovered two days out at sea, convinced his commanding officer to put him in a combat unit rather than the brig. He had just turned 17 when he hit the beach, and a day later he was fighting in a Japanese trench when he saw two grenades land near his comrades.

He threw himself onto the grenades and absorbed the explosion. Later a medic, assuming he was dead, was about to take his dog tag when he saw Mr. Lucas’s finger twitch. After months of treatment and recovery, he returned to school as he’d promised his mother, a ninth-grader wearing a Medal of Honor around his neck.

***

The men in World War II always knew, although news coverage was sometimes scant, that they were in some sense performing for the people at home. The audience dwindled during Korea. By the Vietnam War, the journalists were omnipresent, but the men were performing primarily for each other. One story that expresses this isolation and comradeship involves a SEAL team ambushed on a beach after an aborted mission near North Vietnam’s Cua Viet river base.

After a five-hour gunfight, Cmdr. Tom Norris, already a legend thanks to his part in a harrowing rescue mission for a downed pilot (later dramatized in the film BAT-21), stayed behind to provide covering fire while the three others headed to rendezvous with the boat sent to extract them. At the water’s edge, one of the men, Mike Thornton, looked back and saw Tom Norris get hit. As the enemy moved in, he ran back through heavy fire and killed two North Vietnamese standing over Norris’s body. He lifted the officer, barely alive with a shattered skull, and carried him to the water and then swam out to sea where they were picked up two hours later.

The two men have been inseparable in the 30 years since.

The POWs of Vietnam configured a mini-America in prison that upheld the values beginning to wilt at home as a result of protest and dissension. John McCain tells of Lance Sijan, an airman who ejected over North Vietnam and survived for six weeks crawling (because of his wounds) through the jungle before being captured.

Close to death when he reached Hanoi, Sijan told his captors that he would give them no information because it was against the code of conduct. When not delirious, he quizzed his cellmates about camp security and made plans to escape. The North Vietnamese were obsessed with breaking him, but never did. When he died after long sessions of torture Sijan was, in Sen. McCain’s words, “a free man from a free country.”

Leo Thorsness was also at the Hanoi Hilton. The Air Force pilot had taken on four MiGs trying to strafe his wingman who had parachuted out of his damaged aircraft; Mr. Thorsness destroyed two and drove off the other two. He was shot down himself soon after this engagement and found out by tap code that his name had been submitted for the Medal.

One of Mr. Thorsness’s most vivid memories from seven years of imprisonment involved a fellow prisoner named Mike Christian, who one day found a grimy piece of cloth, perhaps a former handkerchief, during a visit to the nasty concrete tank where the POWs were occasionally allowed a quick sponge bath. Christian picked up the scrap of fabric and hid it.

Back in his cell he convinced prisoners to give him precious crumbs of soap so he could clean the cloth. He stole a small piece of roof tile which he laboriously ground into a powder, mixed with a bit of water and used to make horizontal stripes. He used one of the blue pills of unknown provenance the prisoners were given for all ailments to color a square in the upper left of the cloth. With a needle made from bamboo wood and thread unraveled from the cell’s one blanket, Christian stitched little stars on the blue field.

“It took Mike a couple weeks to finish, working at night under his mosquito net so the guards couldn’t see him,” Mr. Thorsness told me. “Early one morning, he got up before the guards were active and held up the little flag, waving it as if in a breeze. We turned to him and saw it coming to attention and automatically saluted, some of us with tears running down our cheeks. Of course, the Vietnamese found it during a strip search, took Mike to the torture cell and beat him unmercifully. Sometime after midnight they pushed him into our cell, so bad off that even his voice was gone. But when he recovered in a couple weeks he immediately started looking for another piece of cloth.”

***

We impoverish ourselves by shunting these heroes and their experiences to the back pages of our national consciousness. Their stories are not just boys’ adventure tales writ large. They are a kind of moral instruction. They remind of something we’ve heard many times before but is worth repeating on a wartime Memorial Day when we’re uncertain about what we celebrate. We’re the land of the free for one reason only: We’re also the home of the brave.

Peter’s book on the living Medal of Honor recipients is Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty, now republished in a third edition. Peter is the author, most recently, of Political Woman, the biography of Jeane Kirkpatrick published in 2012 by Encounter Books. The story that Peter relates from Senator McCain is included in Senator McCain’s classic memoir (written with Mark Salter), Faith of My Fathers. The story that Peter relates from Leo Thorsness is included in Col. Thorsness’s moving memoir of his service and captivity, Surviving Hell.

Cleveland police department not repeating the mistakes of Baltimore

On Saturday, a Cleveland judge ruled that Officer Michael Brelo was not guilty of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault in the 2012 deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams following a 22-mile car chase. The judge found that although Brelo did fire many shots at Russell and Williams, so did other officers. Thus, he could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Brelo’s bullets — and no others — killed Williams and Russell.

The judge also found Brelo not guilty of the charge of felonious assault. He ruled that Brelo’s decision to use force was “constitutionally reasonable.” Although no gun was found in the vehicle of the deceased, the officer’s “perceptions were objectively reasonable,” the judge concluded.

It was feared that, in the aftermath of this controversial decision, the inevitable protests might turn into riots. So far, however, they have not.

Why not? Probably because the Cleveland police have declined to tolerate lawlessness. Paula Bolyard of PJ Media reports:

Cleveland police were taking no chances in the wake of the acquittal of police officer Michael Brelo, going to great lengths to ensure that Saturday afternoon’s peaceful protests didn’t evolve into violent riots like Baltimore and Ferguson have experienced in recent months.

In addition to having the National Guard on standby, police followed protesters through the streets and arrested anyone who acted violently or refused to obey police orders to disperse. A total of 71 people were arrested. . . .

The first sign of violence occurred when protesters hurled an object at a man who was heading into a bar, striking him on the head. The police, who were following along, promptly arrested the thrower and two protesters who interfered with the arrest.

Next, four protesters attacked patrons of another bar. All four were arrested. Two more were arrested for using pepper spray on the patrons of yet another bar.

Eventually, as more violence loomed, the police ordered the crowd to disperse. When the protesters did not comply, dozens were arrested.

As Police Chief Calvin Williams (an African-American) explained, “when people are given a command to disperse from what started off as a lawful protest and degenerated into random acts of violence against people just standing on the street, we have to move in and enforce our laws.” Makes sense to me.

Thanks to Chief Williams’ approach, no businesses were looted or destroyed on Saturday. Nor were there any reports of injuries that day.

Today, Sunday, about a dozen protesters blocked a downtown intersection just as the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA playoff game tipped off. Police allowed the demonstration to proceed, which it did for about an hour and a half. There were no reports of violence.

As Baltimore’s protests over the death of Freddie Gray spiraled into violence, I wrote:

Protesters should, within reason, have space to protest. They should never have space to destroy. . . .

The absence of a show of force once it becomes clear that things are going to take a violent turn makes rioting almost inevitable. And a statement like the mayor’s that destruction will be tolerated is even worse; it’s an invitation to violence.

Chief Williams seems to understand this and to have decided that the mistakes in Baltimore will not be repeated in Cleveland. Protesters have been given the space to protest, but the police have come down hard, and promptly, on violence.

Cleveland is hardly out of the woods. It’s possible, for example, that outsiders will flock to the city in the hope of generating serious clashes with the police.

But the odds that we will witness another Baltimore have been reduced considerably by the vigilance of the Cleveland police force and its willingness to nip violence in the bud.

Obama admits to bias against Israel

During his speech last week at a Washington, D.C. synagogue, President Obama admitted that his treatment of Israel is based on bias against the Jewish State. He didn’t put it that way, of course. Instead, he said he has “high expectations” for Israel — higher than for other foreign nations. As discussed below, that’s an admission of a bias that operates to the detriment of Israel.

Obama’s bias explains a lot. It explains why he has consistently demanded greater concessions from Israel than from the Palestinians. And it explains why he demands that Israel sit on the sidelines while Obama makes a nuclear deal with Iran that all of Iran’s enemies in the region, not just Israel, consider disastrous.

In addition to its power to explain, Obama’s synagogue statement captures three of his essential traits. The first is arrogance. Here, once again, is Obama sitting on Mount Olympus deciding the expectations to which the nations of the world will be held. One set of expectations for this nation, another for that — all based on Obama’s personal views and prejudices.

The second Obama trait on display is perversity. Normally, if anything, we cut our friends a little slack, whether in personal or international relations. But not Obama. He cuts slack to America’s traditional enemies, whether Iran or the Palestinians (who demonstrated gleefully after the 9/11 attacks). Our long time ally, meanwhile, is held to a higher standard (and publicly scolded if it fails to live up to Obama’s expectations).

Third, as noted, Obama’s statement amounts to discriminatory bias against the Jewish State. Imagine an employer who admits that it holds African-American applicants and employees to higher expectations than other employees. That employer would be guilty of racial discrimination.

It would be no defense for the head of the company to say that he holds himself and his management team to the same elevated standards. The relevant comparison is between the treatment of Whites and Blacks in the general workforce and applicant pool. Similarly, the relevant focus in foreign affairs is America’s comparative treatment of foreign nations.

How could Obama get away with telling a Jewish audience that his foreign policy is biased against the Jewish State? Because by talking about his “high expectations” for Israel, he dressed it up as flattery. As Scott said, this “goes over well before a liberal Jewish crowd.”

If there’s a species more obtuse than the liberal American Jew, I have yet to encounter it.

New Explanation for The Warming Pause

We’ve reported before on various explanations for the current “pause” in global warming that we’re told is not happening, now going on for nearly 18 years. According to a study published last week in Nature Geoscience, the culprit may be the Indian Ocean:

The Indian Ocean may be the dark horse in the quest to explain the puzzling pause in global warming, researchers report on 18 May in Nature Geoscience. The study finds that the Indian Ocean may hold more than 70% of all heat absorbed by the upper ocean in the past decade.

Scientists have long suspected that oceans have played a crucial role in the so-called warming hiatus by storing heat trapped in the atmosphere by rising levels of greenhouse gases. But pinpointing exactly which ocean acts as a global air conditioner has proved challenging.

Prior research suggested that a significant amount of heat moves from the atmosphere into the Pacific Ocean, where La Niña-like conditions have dominated since the turn of the century. . . But when Sang-Ki Lee, an oceanographer at the University of Miami in Florida, and his colleagues went looking for this heat beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean, they couldn’t find it. Temperature data compiled by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) World Ocean Atlas (WOA) suggest that the upper 700 metres of the Pacific have actually cooled in recent years, Lee says.

What’s a climatista to do when the data won’t cooperate? Tweak your computer model until it spits out a more congenial finding:

So Lee’s team used a computer model to explore the fate of the ocean’s ‘missing heat’. The results suggest that easterly trade winds have strengthened during the hiatus, causing warm water to pile up in the western Pacific. The water seeps between the islands of Indonesia and into the Indian Ocean, bringing heat with it.

While this study does offer some data to corroborate its computer model, it doesn’t jibe with other data sets and competing computer models:

Kevin Trenberth, also a climate scientist at NCAR, says the results disagree with studies that use alternatives to the WOA data. There are large observational gaps in the WOA dataset, and Trenberth says that NOAA has accounted for these without considering the long-term warming of the ocean, leading to cooler values where measurements are missing.

For instance, Trenberth and his colleagues found pronounced Pacific warming during the hiatus and only modest warming in the Indian Ocean using heat content estimates derived in part from satellite measurements. Other studies have also implicated warming in the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean.

For now, it seems that the hunt for the missing heat may continue. But scientists say it is important to get to the bottom of the story to fully explain the current hiatus and prepare for others that might occur in the future. “We need to understand the energy imbalance of the Earth,” Lee says. [Emphasis added.]

But remember: it’s all settled science, so shut up and pay up your carbon tax.

How Is “Liberation Theology” Still a Thing?

The New York Times reports on the front page today Pope Francis’s revival of “liberation theology”—a radical creed from the 1970s and 1980s that at the time I summarized as “Marxism with salsa.” Quoth the Times:

[Pope Francis] is directly engaging with a theological movement that once sharply divided Catholics and was distrusted by his predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. . . Liberation theory includes a critique of the structural causes of poverty and a call for the church and the poor to organize for social change. Mr. Lee said it was a broad school of thought: Movements differed in different countries, with some more political in nature and others less so. 

As usual, we’re way ahead of the Times, whose account is rather lacking in any case. I took note of this story more than two weeks ago in one of my Forbes columns: “How Is ‘Liberation Theology’ Still a Thing?”  If you don’t have time for the whole thing, here’s a key excerpt:

Liberation theology grew out of the misbegotten “Christian-Marxist dialogue” of the 1960s and 1970s, which must seem as quaint and laughable as promoting Esperanto. It was not a coincidence that liberation theology was especially popular in Latin America during the high water mark of Marxist guerilla insurgencies and the final death spasms of socialist utopias such as Nicaragua. . . Nicaragua’s Father Ernesto Cardinal said that “Christians are not only able to be Marxists but, on the contrary, to be authentically Christian, they ought to be Marxist.”

The literature of liberation theology consisted of the usual Marxist cant sprinkled with holy water, with unoriginal references to class struggle, oppression, imperialism, dependence, and especially how Latin America poverty was all the fault of capitalism emanating from the United States and western Europe. “Liberation,” understood in the usual Marxist way (the use of the precious term “praxis” was always a dead giveaway), was now equated with Christian salvation. “It is quite remarkable,” Catholic theologian Michael Novak wrote at the time, “that the list of cities requiring liberation did not include Cracow or Leningrad, Havana or Peking, Hanoi or Prague.”

And the conclusion:

Liberation theology likes to describe itself with the slogan that it represents the “preferential option for the poor,” whatever that means. Here’s one concrete application: give poor people the option to own property and start businesses with the security that the state won’t get in their way or steal it from them. Pope Francis is listening to the wrong Peruvian thinker. He should have invited Hernando de Soto instead of Gustavo Gutierrez.