Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Stars and Stripes Surrender to Castro in Havana

Humberto Fontova | Aug 14, 2015

US Marines raise the US flag over the newly reopened embassy in Havana, Cuba
PHOTO: US secretary of state John Kerry stands with other dignitaries as members of the US Marines raise the US flag over the newly reopened embassy in Havana. (Reuters: Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(“We won the war!” Raul Castro, reacting to President Obama’s announcement, Dec. 20, 2014.)
(“The US and Cuba are no longer enemies or rivals but neighbors. And it is time to let the world know that, we wish each other well.” Sec. of State John Kerry as the U.S. flag was raised in Havana, Aug, 14, 2015.)
“I see that the flagpole still stands,” said a choked-up Gen. Douglas Mc Arthur on March 2, 1945 as he entered devastated but liberated Corregidor. “Have our troops hoist the colors to its peak, and let no enemy ever haul them down. “
A U.S. Army sergeant named Manuel Perez-Garcia was on Luzon during that victorious flag-raising. Perez-Garcia was born in Cuba but immigrated to the U.S. after Pearl Harbor to join the U.S. Army and volunteer for combat. At the time of that flag-raising he’d fought almost constantly for 14 months, through New Guinea and the southern Philippines. His purple hearts, Bronze Star and Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster said something about his role in that victory for freedom. We can only imagine how he felt when he finally saw his beloved stars and stripes fluttering over Corregidor.
Upon the Communist invasion of South Korea in June of 1950, Manuel Perez-Garcia rallied to the U.S. colors again, volunteering for the U.S. army again at age 41. It took a gracious letter from President Harry Truman himself to explain that by U.S. law Manuel was slightly overaged but mostly that, “You, sir, have served well above and beyond your duty to the nation. You’ve written a brilliant page in service to this country.”
Mr Perez-Garcia’s son, Jorge, however was the right age for battle in Korea and stepped to the fore. He joined the U.S. army, made sergeant and died from a hail of Communist bullets while leading his men in Korea on May 4th 1952.
When Perez Garcia was 51 years old the Castro brothers and Che Guevara were busily converting his native country into a Soviet satrapy riddled with prison camps and mass graves. So Manuel volunteered for combat again. Like most of his Cuban Band of Brothers he fought to his very last bullet, inflicting casualties of 20 to 1 against his Soviet armed and led enemies. That bitter and bloody battleground is now known as The Bay of Pigs.
When the smoke cleared and their ammo had been expended to the very last bullet, when a hundred of them lay dead and hundreds more wounded, after their very mortars and machine gun barrel had almost melted from their furious rates of fire, after three days of relentless battle, barely 1,400 Cuban freedom-fighters -- without air support (from the U.S. Carriers just offshore) and without a single supporting shot by naval artillery (from U.S. cruisers and destroyers poised just offshore) -- had squared off against 21,000 Castro troops, his entire air force and squadrons of Soviet tanks. The Cuban freedom-fighters inflicted casualties of 20 to 1 against their Soviet-armed and led enemies. But to hear Castro's echo chambers in the mainstream media, think-tanks and academia, Fidel was the plucky David and the betrayed invaders the bumbling Goliath!
The battle was over in three days, but the heroism was not.
Now came almost two years in Castro's dungeons for Mr Perez-Garcia and his captured Band of Brothers, complete with the psychological torture that always accompanies communist incarceration. During these months in Castro's dungeons, the freedom-fighters lived under a daily firing squad-death sentence.
Escaping that sentence would have been easy, as Castro’s KGB-trained torturers “explained” almost daily: simply sign the little paper confessing they were “mercenaries of the Yankee imperialists” or go on record denouncing the U.S. In other words: publicly spit on the U.S. flag. In other words, the same stunt half of Hollywood pulls for the sake of publicity, these men could have pulled to save their lives.
Given these freedom-fighters recent betrayal, you’d think Castro had a cakewalk here, right?
None buckled. None even wobbled. None of these “men” (actually, some were as young as Audie Murphy had been upon trying to enlist in 1941) signed the document--nor uttered a word against the Stars and Stripes.
And I stress: these men were convinced that going on record trashing the U.S. would save their lives. After all, during these very months Che Guevara’s firing squads were murdering hundreds of bound and gagged Cubans weekly, and for “crimes” much less offensive than those of these men and boys.
The Cuban freedom-fighters stood tall, proud, defiant, and solidly with their commander, even sparring with Castro himself during their televised Stalinist show trials. "We will die with dignity!" snapped freedom-fighter commander Erneido Oliva at the furious Castroites again, and again, and again. To Castroites, such an attitude not only enrages but baffles.
Manuel Perez-Garcia passed away in Miami at the tender age of 102 in 2011. Today his ashes along with those of his son rest in Arlington. Maybe he’s lucky not to witness his beloved flag raised in Castro’s Havana, within walking distance of political prisons and torture chambers, a smirking Che Guevara mocking it from banners and murals in every direction.
For Manuel Perez-Garcia and his Band of Brothers that flag symbolized victory and freedom. In Havana today it symbolizes U.S. surrender to the Stalinist cowards who destroyed and defiled their homeland, and craved to nuke their adopted one.
"When at the Bay of Pigs we were abandoned, we were sad,” says Che Guevara’s captor Felix Rodriguez, who today serves as the President of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association. “And now we feel abandoned again, betrayed by the President."

Spiking for the USA

Olympic volleyball medalist Megan Easy enjoys peace of summer home on the Cape

By Matt Goisman
August 8, 2015

U.S. Olympic volleyball star Megan Hodge Easy relaxes with her husband, former NFL player Omar Easy, and their nine-month-old son Easton at their summer home in East Falmouth. Megan won a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games and is a 2016 Olympics hopeful. STEVE HAINES/CAPE COD TIMES

EAST FALMOUTH - When you’re an Olympic indoor volleyball player like Megan Easy, you travel. A lot. The Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) World Grand Prix alone took her to Turkey, Russia, Hong Kong and finally Omaha, Nebraska, for the final round, in which the U.S. won gold for the fourth time since Easy joined the team.
Next up for the U.S. is the FIVB World Cup in Japan starting August 22. Easy left last week for two weeks of training with USA Volleyball in Anaheim, California, and then heads to Japan for the 2016 Olympic Games qualifier.
Between competitions, Easy is happy to relax with her husband Omar Easy and 9-month-old baby Easton in their summer home at The Golf Club of Cape Cod.
“It’s where we come to just kind of take our minds off of everything and enjoy it,” Megan said. “That’s kind of what this home, what this area, symbolizes for us, is peace and quiet and time away from everything and everyone. It’s just a beautiful place.”
Omar and Megan bought their home, the backyard of which overlooks the 10th hole, in April 2013, two months before they were married. Megan, 26, was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and grew up in Durham, North Carolina, before accepting a volleyball scholarship to Pennsylvania State University. So her familiarity with the Cape was limited prior to purchasing the property.
Omar, however, has been coming to the Cape for decades. His guidance counselor at Everett High School, Richard Aliberti, owned a summer home in Cotuit, and Omar would often visit Aliberti.
The two remain friends to this day. Aliberti introduced Omar to golf - Omar won The Golf Club of Cape Cod - championship in 2014 and volunteers with Aliberti’s youth golf program in Hyannis - which in turn helped bring Omar and Megan together.
Omar, 37, was a star football player during his two years at Everett, then went on to play for Penn State until he was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2002, the start of a four-year NFL career. Omar later returned to Penn State to earn a Ph.D. in education administration and work for the Nittany Lions, and one of his hobbies in State College was playing golf with women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose.
Megan Hodge (her maiden name) played for Penn State from 2006 to 2009, tallying a kill on the final point of the 2009 national championship against Texas, her last collegiate match. The win, PSU’s third national title in as many years, stretched the Nittany Lions’ winning streak to 102 matches, and the team went on to win the first seven matches of the 2010 season before finally losing.
Rose, Omar said, would often talk about Megan when they golfed together. Rose would then often talk to Megan about Omar.
“I actually knew that I was going to marry her after the first date we went on,” Omar said. “We sat in the car and talked for about three or four hours until the battery on my car died and I had to get roadside assistance to come get us started again.”
The two shared a Caribbean heritage, Megan’s parents coming from St. Thomas on the Virgin Islands, and Omar’s coming from Jamaica. Omar had also gone from being a big high school recruit to a Division I athlete to a professional football player, the same career trajectory Megan was pursuing in volleyball.
Megan’s numerous collegiate honors included twice being named NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player, twice winning Big Ten Player of the Year and four straight years making the All-Big Ten First Team. She was considered the top volleyball player in the country as a high school senior, and despite offers from numerous Division I teams, she chose Penn State -- a program whose only national title before her arrival came in 1999, but has since she graduated won it all in 2010, 2013 and 2014.
Megan said she appreciated being told she’d have to earn her playing time despite her high profile.
“I just wanted go somewhere that I could get a good education and have a good focus on volleyball,” Megan said of Penn State. “I think, especially coming out of high school, a lot of recruits kind of want to be pampered and treated like a princess, and that wasn’t really for me.”
Despite its popularity at the collegiate level and the Olympics - Megan was on the 2012 U.S. team that won silver at the London Games - volleyball has never quite caught on as a spectator sport in the U.S. The Association of Volleyball Professionals, the premier beach volleyball league, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1998 but survived. Attempts at pro indoor leagues have been short-lived at best.
Instead, Megan’s made a career out of playing club volleyball all over the world. Her career includes stints in Puerto Rico, Azerbaijan, Poland, Italy and China.
As a national player she’s been to Macau, Peru, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Brazil, among others.
“It doesn’t ever get old, the travel,” Megan said. “I’ve never actually taken a count, but I’m sure at least 20 (countries).”
Megan is hoping to make a return to Brazil next year for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. The U.S. can qualify by placing in the top two in the World Cup, a tournament in which she helped the U.S. win silver in 2011.
The Americans currently rank first in the FIVB standings, one spot above the Brazilians. While no roster spot on the Olympic team is assured until it is selected next year by USA Volleyball, Megan is easily a front-runner to make the 2016 Olympic team.
“Brazil is the team that’s stopped us from getting a gold medal for the last two Olympics,” Megan said. “Volleyball is one of the biggest sports in Brazil, so I’m sure it’ll be packed every night.”
The U.S. beat Brazil 3-0 at the Grand Prix. The Americans went 13-1 overall in three group stages and the finals, won all five finals matches and dropped just two sets.
Megan, named MVP and Best Scorer at the 2012 Grand Prix, said she was happy with the result but knows the team will have to reach another level at the World Cup, where teams will substitute less and rely more on their starters.
Omar now works as a vice principal at Everett, but he’s been on a year-long leave since the start of July. He said it’s given him a chance to both follow Megan around the world and spend extended time with his son.
“This is probably the most travel I’ve ever done during the USA Volleyball period,” Omar said. “Obviously, with this little guy (Easton), things change.”
Competing at the national level, no matter the sport, requires tremendous time and energy. Megan said it can feel overwhelming at times, trying to balance all the different roles she’s taken on in the last two years.
But when she needs a rest, she can always come back to the Cape.
Megan said, “Being a professional athlete is a challenge in itself. Being a wife is a challenge. Being a mom is a challenge. So combining all of those definitely is a juggling act, but I don’t think I could be happier. … When I’m old and gray, I can look back on and be like, ‘This was a really cool time in my life, where I was doing everything that i wanted to do and had a great support structure around me.’”

Friday, August 14, 2015

Contra Media Spin, It’s Hillary Who’s Being Investigated, Not Her Server

By Jonah Goldberg — August 14, 2015

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during an event in Chicago, Illinois June 11, 2014.

It happened sooner than even the doomsayers predicted. The era of artificial intelligence is here. A computer has become self-aware, a moral agent responsible for its own actions.

This breakthrough didn’t happen in Silicon Valley or at MIT. It happened, of all places, in Chappaqua, New York. And the person responsible isn’t even a computer scientist, but a lawyer and politician: Hillary Clinton.

Clinton’s critics say a lot of things about her, but who would’ve believed she was Skynet’s mother?

A little background. Clinton was forced to turn over her “home-brewed” e-mail server to the FBI this week, along with a flash drive unlawfully stored at her lawyer’s office. The server and the drive are tangible evidence of Clinton’s decision to circumvent laws and procedures designed to preserve government records and keep classified information secret. She says she never knowingly sent classified information, but Clinton leaves out that the whole reason federal officials are barred from using private servers is that such systems are invisible to the classification process.

The Clinton team claims it handed over the server voluntarily — a classic example of Clinton’s penchant for half-truths. For months, they insisted they’d never turn it over. They caved because they had to. The decision was about as voluntary as a bank robber relinquishing his sack of cash to the cops at gunpoint.

Revealingly, many media reports say “the campaign” handed over the server. But the campaign wasn’t in charge of the server — if it was, that’d be a whole other scandal. It was Clinton’s server, full stop. To say otherwise is to protect Clinton, the author of a book called Hard Choices, from her own hard choices.

Which brings us to that evil server.
The first rule of Clintonism is that someone else is always to blame.
The first rule of Clintonism is that someone else is always to blame. That’s why the first iteration of Clinton’s defense was that evil Republicans were simply smearing her. When that didn’t stick, Team Clinton expanded the indictment to include the partisan witch hunt by that famously right-wing organ the New York Times and two independent inspectors general (one at the State Department, the other for the intelligence community).

The reason the intelligence community’s IG referred the case to the Justice Department stems from the apparent fact that Clinton mishandled classified information, which she denied.

An investigation into a random sample of just 40 e-mails from a batch of more than 30,000 revealed that four contained classified information and at least two were “top secret.”

So now that the FBI and the Justice Department, both run by Obama appointees, are on the case, attacking the motives of inconvenient people no longer works. So the Clinton campaign has invoked a little-known codicil to the first rule of Clintonism: Blame an inanimate object.

The amazing thing is that this spin isn’t coming directly from the campaign but from the reporters covering it. National Public Radio’s Tamara Keith reported Wednesday morning that the inquiry “isn’t targeted directly at [Clinton]” and is simply intended to determine whether the server was secure. Business Insider reported that “Clinton’s private server is under investigation by the FBI, though Clinton is not a target of the investigation.” Even the conservative Washington Free Beacon has fallen into using this locution, referring to the “private email server being investigated by the FBI.”

McClatchy’s Anita Kumar, who helped break the story that two of the e-mails were top secret, felt compelled to step on her own scoop. She said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that “there are several investigations into her conduct, not into her, but into her use of personal e-mail and a personal server.” Go ahead and try parsing the difference between an “investigation into her conduct” and an investigation “into her.”

Clinton, in violation of State Department rules, guidelines from the White House, and all common sense, used her own unsecured stealth server. She sent classified material on it. But it’s the server that’s being investigated?

Hopefully the server will one day be able to testify on its own behalf: “I was just following orders.”
In fairness to the press, even the FBI is publicly toeing this line, saying that the investigation isn’t into Clinton. But on background, federal officials sing a different tune. “It’s definitely a criminal probe,” a government source told the New York Post. “I’m not sure why they’re not calling it a criminal probe.”

I’ve talked to several lawyers who assure me that the FBI doesn’t conduct criminal probes into anthropomorphized IT equipment. The bureau does investigate criminal abuses of them — by people.

— Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. He can be reached by e-mail at, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. (C) 2015 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Review: 'The Fellowship' by Carol and Philip Zaleski

How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Revived Modern Myth-Telling


  • Clockwise from top: Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien Marc Burckhardt / The Atlantic

    In this nearly magical room, amid fire-crackle and clink of glass, you can hear them talking. Pipe smoke is in the air, and a certain boisterous chauvinism, and the wet-dog smell of recently rained-on tweed. You can hear the donnish mumbles of J. R. R. Tolkien as the slow coils of The Silmarillion glint and shift in his back-brain. Now he’s reading aloud from an interminable marmalade-stained manuscript, and his fellow academic Hugo Dyson, prone on the couch, is heckling him: “Oh God, not another fucking elf!” You can hear the challenging train-conductor baritone of C. S. Lewis, familiar to millions from his wartime radio broadcasts; hear the unstoppable spiel of the writer/hierophant Charles Williams, with his twitchy limbs and angel-monkey face; hear the silver stream of ideas and argumentation that is the philosopher Owen Barfield. They are intellectually bent upon one another, these men, but flesh-and-blood is the thing: conviviality is, for them, a kind of passion. The chairs are deep; the fire glows gold and extra fiery in the grate. Lewis’s brother, Warnie, rosy with booze and fellow feeling, serves the drinks. And the walls drop away, and the scene extends itself backwards and forward in time …

    Philip and Carol Zaleski’s The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings is a mental map, a religious journey, and the biography of a brotherhood. Plenty of distinguished Inklings came and went over the years, padding across the carpets with a Warnie-provided drink in hand, but the Zaleskis zoom in on (and out from) the primary axis of Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, and Barfield, the four among whom the invisible correspondences of thought and affection were strongest. Christians all, these men formed what the Zaleskis call “a perfect compass rose of faith”: Barfield the proto–New Ager, Tolkien the rather prim orthodox Catholic, Lewis the noisy and dogmatically ordinary layman and popular theologian, Williams the ritualistic Anglican with a taste for sorcery.

    “The qualifications … are a tendency to write, and Christianity.” Thus explained Lewis in a letter to Williams in March 1936, inviting him to a session of the “informal club” that had begun convening every Thursday night in his rooms at Oxford’s Magdalen College (and then again, still less formally, at the Eagle & Child pub on Tuesday mornings). The letter was a fan letter; the two men didn’t know each other, but Lewis had found himself compelled to inform Williams that reading his fantasy novel The Place of the Lion—in which comfy England is burst upon by unruly celestial essences—had been “one of the major literary events of my life.” Lewis was an Oxford fellow and tutor in English literature, and a relatively fresh-baked believer: after an arduous wrangle of a conversion, he had arrived at the knowledge of a personal God while sitting in Warnie’s sidecar on a motorcycle ride to Whipsnade Zoo. Williams worked in publishing, wrote feverishly, smoked like a chimney, delivered whirling literary-metaphysical lectures, and indulged in the overheated cultivation of female disciples. (One such pupil, we learn from the Zaleskis, was struck smartly on the bottom with a ruler.) Devoutly churchgoing, he was also of high rank in at least one esoteric mystical order and would make sacred signs while traveling on the London Underground. W. H. Auden thought him nearly a saint. To Lewis’s letter, Williams replied immediately that he had been on the verge of writing to Lewis, in praise of his The Allegory of Love. “It has never before happened to me to be admiring an author of a book while he at the same time was admiring me.” (Not a bad example of the loopy Williams prose style, that.) The serendipity, the crossbeams of appreciation, the ardent encounter at the aesthetic, soon to be spiritual, level—a very Inklings moment.

    And so it began, and so it went on, with additions and diminutions, until the late ’40s. Reading aloud and commenting upon unfinished work was the group’s primary activity. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, Williams’s All Hallows’ Eve, and—most resonantly for us—Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings all made their debut in this context. Tolkien, like Lewis, was part of the fabric of Oxford University, a philologist and a professor of Anglo-Saxon, teaching Beowulf by day while tinkering at night, at home, with his own made-up languages. Tinkering is of course quite the wrong word: Tolkien was plunging, spelunking, delving, excavating, as pickax-happy as a dwarf in the Mines of Moria, because in the roots of language—the glowing word-cores, the namings—he had found the roots of story. “For perfect construction of an art-language,” he explained in a talk delivered in 1931, “it is found necessary to construct at least in outline a mythology.” And there it is: the DNA of The Lord of the Rings. It was at this level of thinking that Tolkien met the way-ahead-of-the-curve Barfield, for whom language contained “the inner, living history of man’s soul.” Barfield’s brilliant 1926 book, History in English Words, is a work of philosophical archaeology, tracking and illuminating, via the changing meanings of words, the development of Western mental reality. And for Barfield, all reality was mental reality. “When we study long-term changes in consciousness,” he stated unequivocally, “we are studying changes in the world itself … Consciousness is not a tiny bit of the world stuck on the rest of it. It is the inside of the whole world.” (In Barfield’s old age, his theories would gain him a notable acolyte in Saul Bellow.)

    We think of the Inklings as traditionalists, red faces scowling upon modernity. Lewis, in particular, polemicized fruitily against materialism, atheism, 20th-century-man-ism. On the other hand, what more modernist project could there be than Tolkien’s “construction of an art-language,” with the obsessive completeness of its declensions and long-dead kings? Blown sky-high—just like the modernists—by the psychic rupture of the Great War, the Inklings responded not with fragmentation and pessimism but with a redoubled commitment to the world behind the world, freshly visible through this new rip in the fabric. The “intersection of the timeless / With time,” T. S. Eliot called it, and one feels it in the music of the dwarfs that sweeps Bilbo Baggins “away into dark lands under strange moons”; in the “potentialities beyond all knowledge” that bulge and scurry in Williams’s novels; in Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, that extraordinarily modern primer in everyday spiritual warfare, wherein the devil gets just as personal as God; in what Barfield saw in the shape of the cross, “this intersection of time and eternity, the horizontal and the vertical.”

    Who can compare with these writers? In the intensity of their communion, their accelerating effect upon one another, and their impact on posterity, their only real 20th-century rivals are the Beats. And the Inklings would have detested the Beats. Nonetheless, the two core groups can be mapped onto each other with weird precision: Tolkien would be Kerouac, sensitive maker of legends; Lewis, the broad-shouldered preacher-communicator, would be Allen Ginsberg; Charles Williams, kinky magus, would have to be William Burroughs; and the sagacious and durable Owen Barfield, Gary Snyder. (The Inklings had no Neal Cassady, no rogue inspirational sex idol—they were all too grown-up for that.)

    But the Beats, bless them, consumed the greater portion of their own energies, with the result that their influence went mainly into rock and roll and advertising, and stayed there. The Inklings, on the other hand, are still gathering steam. Tolkien revived in us an appetite for myth, for the earth-tremor of Deep Story. (See: Game of Thrones, and the pancultural howls of pain at the death of Jon Snow.) Lewis invented Narnia—though the exacting Tolkien regarded it as an incoherent mythology—and he may be, write the Zaleskis, “the bestselling Christian writer since John Bunyan.” As for Williams and Barfield, they hang in the tingling future: for the former I prophesy an H. P. Lovecraft–style cult (with creepy folk music), and for the latter, cosmic vindication. And Warnie serves another round of drinks, and the Inklings, huffing and puffing and hurtling through time and space in their armchairs, have their victory.

    Robert Conquest: Revealing the horror of Stalin

    The historian Robert Conquest, who has died at the age of 98, is credited by many as the first to reveal the extent of the horror of Joseph Stalin's regime. His books had a powerful effect on communists in the West, writes Stephen Evans.
    August 6, 2015
    If you were brought up in a communist home, Robert Conquest's books really were a revelation.
    In my case, two of my grandparents were members of the Party (as it was invariably called without ever needing to say which party). My father's father joined not that long after 1917's October Revolution in Russia and stayed faithful (it's the right word) through the invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, unshaken by every revelation and counter-revolution.
    At my grandfather's dinner table in Bedlinog, south Wales, debate was intense but futile. It was like arguing with the most devout of religious believers. Whatever came down as the line in Soviet Weekly or the Morning Star stood as gospel.
    He had the collected works of Stalin on his shelf (not obviously worn with reading). When my grandmother opined at the dinner table that there must be at least some crime in the Soviet Union, her husband told her to "stop her bloody lies".
    My father remembered the relief he felt as a young boy in the mining village when Hitler turned on Stalin in 1941 and invaded the land of his former partner-in-crime. Before that, the family had feared internment. But now the Red Army suddenly became allies of Britain and communists became the most vociferous supporters of the cause. According to his son, my grandfather, a communist councillor, received extra petrol rations to tour the Valleys drumming up support for the war effort.
    This religious atmosphere continued, and it was not un-typical during the Cold War. Any doubt cast on the achievements of the Soviet Union was simply dismissed as "Cold War propaganda". When a notable dissident was imprisoned in a mental hospital, the view was that he must be mad if he doubted the merits of Soviet socialism.
    So for those of us who did have doubts, Robert Conquest's The Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of the Thirties was an extraordinary work.
    It was a book which changed minds and dispelled doubt (mine included) when it was published in 1968, the year of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in response to the liberalisation of the Prague Spring.
    It laid out facts without adornment so they could speak for themselves, spelling out in clear language the detail of the purges and the executions. Fellow travellers of the Soviet Union sneered - and perhaps still sneer - but they couldn't find factual errors because Conquest's research was so meticulous.
    When Soviet archives were finally opened up, Conquest's descriptions remained unimpaired. There could be debate about numbers - the precise number of millions of Stalin's victims - but not about the bulk of the facts presented.
    Even into the 1960s, it had seemed to many like there was a battle of equal ideas. But then came Robert Conquest's descriptions of Soviet reality.
    We were told clearly how hundreds of thousands of people were shot by the Soviet secret police in a matter of months in 1937 and 1938. We learned how the purges of officers by a paranoid Stalin were so fierce that the fighting ability of the Red Army was jeopardised.
    Conquest described how on a single day, 12 December 1937, Stalin and his henchman, Molotov, personally approved death sentences on 3,167 people - and then went to the cinema.
    The detail was unanswerable.
    And then Conquest did it again, with The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine about the famine in Ukraine in 1932-33, caused by a foolish and vindictive agricultural policy driven beyond destruction by Stalin.
    Conquest documented coolly what happened in individual villages. He described the cannibalism and starvation.
    In the pre-war era, the great Welsh journalist, Gareth Jones, travelled through Ukraine and saw the truth of the famine, publishing articles in 1933. But bigger voices were against him, like the New York Times Moscow correspondent, Walter Duranty, who parroted Stalin's propaganda.
    Duranty wrote in that august newspaper that there was no famine: "Conditions are bad, but there is no famine". And then of Stalin's policy, he invoked the notorious phrase: "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs."
    When Robert Conquest's books came out, it became undebatable that Duranty was wrong and Jones was right.
    There was about the Cold War an element of faith - disillusioned communists talked of the god that died. But for the ultra-faithful, no doubt could dent the belief even as the evidence mounted before their own eyes.
    When Stalin was finally denounced by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956, my grandfather became ill with a nervous condition. The collected works of Stalin were moved behind the television.
    My grandfather died just as the Soviet Union collapsed. He was too confused in his old age to realise that his god had died. He never read Robert Conquest's books - he would have seen them as the most despicable Cold War propaganda.
    It is said that the Mexican writer Octavio Paz said that Conquest's books "closed the debate" on Stalinism. They ended the argument. That isn't true. Nostalgia for the monster remains, perhaps even in Russia today.
    But Conquest's books did open the eyes of those with minds to open. I know. I remember.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2015

    Obama's War on Coal Targets Red States

    Stephen Moore | Aug 11, 2015

    A coal power plant in West Virginia

    Here's today's political quiz question: What do these five states -- Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, California and Maine -- have in common? Yes, they are blue states ruled by Democrats, but that's not all. These are the states that use the least amount of coal -- 2 percent or less -- for electric power.
    In fact, almost all the states that are politically liberal and vote unfailingly Democratic are low coal use states. For instance, Washington, New York, Oregon and New Jersey are also in the top 10 states least reliant on coal. Only conservative Idaho is a red state with low coal consumption.
    Meanwhile, the heavy coal using states bleed red. West Virginia, Kentucky and Wyoming all get about 90 percent of their electric power from coal. Missouri, Utah, Indiana and North Dakota also get 75 percent of their electricity from coal.
    Obama announced last week the toughest environmental regulations ever against coal. This is part of the president's war on coal that he announced when he was running for president in 2008. He has long admitted these policies, which aim to reduce emissions from coal burning electric power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, will "bankrupt" the coal industry. It's working. Coal towns are being vaporized across America and coal companies are going out of business.
    But the pain from the new Environmental Protection Agency rules won't be evenly distributed across America. Far from it. The liberal coastal states will feel relatively modest jobs losses because they rely less on manufacturing. On the other hand, coal-producing states, such as West Virginia and Wyoming, will see massive job losses and increases in electric utility costs. A 2014 study by the Heritage Foundation finds the nationwide costs will be about $100 billion a year eventually, or a reduction in GDP by about one-half a percentage point; additionally, a family of four's annual income will drop by $1,200. Obama's policies that have had such a crushing effect on middle-income family finances are about to get a whole lot worse.
    Would Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, two of the biggest cheerleaders for the new regulations, be so euphoric if their voters were paying these massive costs for their green agenda? But the East- and West-Coast environmentalists can live with raising costs and unemployment in "flyover country."
    It's time to label the Obama green policies what they truly are: steep taxes on red state America. By the way, many purple states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia also get hammered by Obama's climate change agenda.
    The de facto tax that Obama wants to impose on American coal is doubly dastardly because its impact will be felt hardest in relatively poorer states. And because Census Bureau data confirms that poor households spend four times more of their income on energy than rich families, the Obama policy will make income inequality much worse. But of course the upper crust Manhattan liberals, who fund the Sierra Club and Obama and profess to care so much about the poor, can live with that. So much for "environmental justice."
    Maybe all of this pain would arguably be worth it if somehow these policies were going to reduce global carbon emissions and stop global warming as Obama assures us they will. They won't. New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and other sources tells the opposite tale. China and India are adding coal plants on a massive scale. At least 1,000 new coal plants are planned worldwide.
    According to data from the EIA, for every unit of reduction in U.S. coal power capacity from 2011-2040, China and India alone will add more than 14 units. Even if the U.S. cut coal use to zero over the next 25 years, global emissions from coal will rise sharply. By 2040, China's coal power capacity alone will be nearly 4 times the current U.S. capacity. So the Obama plan is all pain and no gain. It would be like trying to reduce unwanted pregnancies in the third world by having Americans use more birth control. Stupid.
    But back to the Obama assault on red and purple states. Let's hope the voters get the message that Obama's green energy policies are directed at their jobs and their paychecks. Most people in blue states and the workers around the rest of the world won't feel a thing. This is fair?

    Monday, August 10, 2015

    Giants legend Frank Gifford, dead at 84, was a man for all seasons

    August 9, 2015

    Frank Gifford was the most glamorous player on one of the most glamorous teams we have ever had in New York City, the football Giants of the 1950s and 1960s.

    He was the most glamorous player on one of the most glamorous teams we have ever had in New York City, the football Giants of the 1950s and 1960s. But Frank Gifford, who died Sunday at the age of 84, was so much more than that, one of the great, lasting stars sports has ever produced in this country, going from his Giant teams and his football Sundays at the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium to the most famous “Monday Night Football” team of them all.
    “Frank was the guy other guys wanted to be,” his old teammate, Pat Summerall, who became a huge television star himself, told me one night.
    Gifford was famous, really, from the time he was a tailback at USC in the early 1950s. It started there for him. Then he was the No. 1 draft choice of the Giants and the MVP of their championship team in 1956, running for more than 800 yards in 12 games that year, catching passes for 600 more yards, scoring nine touchdowns, on his way to the Hall of Fame. He was a halfback in those days, No. 16 of the Giants, taking the ball from Chuckin’ Charlie Conerly.
    But then he got knocked down and out one Sunday by Chuck Bednarik of the Eagles, Bednarik hitting Frank Gifford so hard he knocked him into retirement. Gifford was in the hospital for 10 days and away from football and away from the Giants for a year. When he came back, he came back as a wide receiver. Of course he was Comeback Player of the Year, just because that is the way things had always gone for him. But when he did come back the way he did, we found out one more thing about Frank Gifford, a hardscrabble kid out of Santa Monica who became one of the storied names in sports:
    We found out how tough he was, too.
    He retired from the Giants in 1964, started doing television work in the city for CBS. And then in 1971, Frank Gifford was the play-by-play man in the second year of “Monday Night Football,” replacing Keith Jackson. He was part of another glamorous and legendary team now, in the same booth with Howard Cosell and Dandy Don Meredith. The rest was merely broadcast history.
    There would be other partners for Gifford over the years, in the amazingly long run he had on Monday nights between 1971 and 1997; he would eventually switch to being an analyst. But it was the first team that would be remembered, because Gifford and Cosell and Meredith were as much a rock group as anything sports television had ever seen, and would ever see.
    “It was,” Frank told me one time in Florida, “as if all three of us got hit by lightning.”
    Cosell made the most noise. Meredith had the most fun. But it was Gifford, more than willing to play the straight man, so much grace in him even when occasionally mocked by Cosell, who made sure the train stayed on the tracks, every Monday night. So he was the kind of pro there that he had been on those football Sundays with the Giants. You know why he was one of the great play-by-play men? Because he worked around Cosell and around the wit and folksy wisdom of Meredith, and made the whole thing work.
    “Even though he was a huge celebrity, he never showed that to any of us who worked with him,” my friend Rob Cowen, who worked with Gifford on “Monday Night Football,” said Sunday. “He was always a man of great kindness, and generosity.”
    He was originally recruited by USC to be a quarterback, and once told the writer Bob Greene that he always thought of himself as a quarterback. But he will be remembered best in football for what he did as a running back on a beloved team that owned New York — and that included owning late, big-city nights — in a way no other team ever did. He even played some defense when asked.
    And though there was a seven-year gap between the end of his playing career and Roone Arledge hiring him for “Monday Night Football,” it seems in memory as if he simply went from being one kind of star to another. Think about this: From the time he played at USC until he left “Monday Night Football,” Gifford had nearly 50 years on the stage. How many athletes in this country can say they ever had a run quite like that?
    “I wouldn’t trade my memories for anyone’s,” he said.
    There was heartbreak along the way, when his son Kyle was badly injured in an automobile accident. There were two divorces. There was tabloid scandal after he had married another television star, Kathie Lee Gifford. And one by one, he watched as those old Giants, teammates out of such a wonderful time, Conerly and Kyle Rote, Andy Robustelli and Dick Lynch and finally Summerall, passed away.
    So now does Frank Gifford, the day after a new class of players is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
    The guy other guys wanted to be once. Who gave us all those Sunday afternoons and Monday nights. Who was, more than anything, No. 16 of the New York Giants.
    “He was my hero as a kid,” Giants owner John Mara said. “The ultimate Giant.”

    ‘Unforgettable’ Frank Gifford was the Giants’ Mickey Mantle

    August 9, 2015
    ‘Unforgettable’ Frank Gifford was the Giants’ Mickey Mantle
    Frank Gifford, 1955 (Getty Images)

    When they preach “Once a Giant, Always a Giant,” they are talking about Frank Gifford as much as anyone in their storied history.
    He was their golden boy out of USC, but so much more than just another pretty face wooed by Hollywood.
    He was the Giants’ first made-for-television superstar in the grainy, black-and-white glory days of the 1950s, every bit the heartthrob Joe Namath would be in the 1960s, an everlasting symbol of New York Football Giants championship pride.
    “Frank Gifford was the ultimate Giant,” John Mara said.
    He will be forever remembered as the Giants’ Favorite Son.
    “I met him in training camp as a small child, and immediately idolized him,” a deeply saddened Mara told The Post. “I wanted to be like him. I wanted to wear No. 16 all the time. He was my hero as a kid. He just remained a revered figure for me for my entire lifetime.
    “Watching him run out onto the field at Yankee Stadium in that blue jersey was just something that exhilarated many people in my generation. He was the face of our franchise in those years where we really rose to prominence.”
    Gifford died Sunday at his Connecticut home at the age of 84, his family said in a statement.
    “You could argue that he was the most important player in franchise history, given the time that he played for us and the growth in our popularity during that era,” the Giants’ co-owner said.
    “He was the most popular player on the team, and somebody that everybody looked up to, and he was the star, and he was the toast of the town in that era.”
    If you were a Yankees fan in that era, you wanted to be like Mickey Mantle. If you were a Giants fan, you wanted to be like Frank Gifford.
    “He was the guy that all kids in my generation wanted to grow up and be like,” Mara said.
    He was, in many ways, the 12th Mara child.
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    John MaraPhoto: Joseph E. Amaturo
    “I think my father was like a father to him,” Mara said. “They just had a deep personal connection. He was our most popular player, but he also was just a decent person, and carried himself with such class and dignity.
    “You dream about having guys like that represent your franchise, and that’s why my father was always so proud of him, and treated him like a son.”
    John’s father, Wellington, presented Gifford at his 1977 Hall of Fame enshrinement, and Gifford presented Wellington Mara in Canton 20 years later.
    “As we looked out over the audience at Canton, Ohio, and looked into the faces of all those people, Wellington turned to me in his address as my presenter and introduced me as a man that any father would be proud to have as a son,” Gifford once said.
    “If it were not for Frank Gifford, Rosey Brown, Andy Robustelli, Sam Huff and the many Giants who honor me by their presence today, there would not be a Wellington Mara going into a Hall of Fame,” Wellington Mara said on his overdue day in the sun.
    Gifford that day: “What I remember most is his reference to me as a member of the Mara family, as the son a father would want to have. I don’t know about that, Well, I’d just like to say to you … you are the father every son would be blessed to have, the brother any man could want, and certainly the best friend anyone could ever have.”
    Wellington Mara had scouted and drafted Gifford as a running back and defensive back.
    “I’m proud to say that the Giants were the only team I ever played for,” Gifford once said.
    Gifford helped lead the Giants to their first NFL championship in 18 years in the famous Sneakers Game rout of the Bears in 1956. He won NFL MVP honors that season. Two seasons later, he played in The Greatest Game Ever Played, the 23-17 overtime loss to the Colts.
    “He always swore that he made the first down which would have ended the game late in the fourth quarter,” Mara said, and chuckled.
    Gifford never stopped beating himself up for fumbling twice in the game.
    “That was something that haunted him forever,” Mara said, “but he more than made up for that throughout a great career.”
    He was a natural running the ball or catching it. He became a celebrity pitchman for Vitalis and Jantzen sportswear.
    “We went from being pretty much an unknown insignificant franchise to being the toast of the town and having all of our games sold out and having a waiting list for season tickets and a lot of that was attributable to the success that he had and just the way he conducted himself,” Mara said.
    Mara never heard Gifford talk about the frightening 1960 hit by Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik left him unconscious on his back at Yankee Stadium. Gifford blamed his concussion on the frozen ground, and never held a grudge against Bednarik, even though he was forced to sit out the 1961 season before earning Comeback Player of the Year at a new position — flanker.
    “He didn’t have a mean-spirited bone in his body … he really was just an unforgettable person,” Mara said.
    He had one unforgettable discretion — a tabloid affair that jeopardized his marriage to Kathy Lee Gifford, but the Giants family stayed true blue to him. He was the cool, calm, collected one in the often-riotous Monday Night Football television booth alongside Howard Cosell and Don Meredith.
    One MetLife Stadium suite will be more empty than it should be this season. Gifford would sit in it with Mara’s mother, Ann, who passed away six months ago.
    “They would ride to all the games together,” Mara said.
    He got the terrible news in a Sunday morning telephone call.
    “It really hit me like a thunderbolt,” Mara said. “I thought he was in pretty good health, and we were looking forward to seeing him once our games started.”
    R.I.P. 16.