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April 2018


Throughout the Arab/Moslem world Christians are imperiled. In Israel, alone among the Middle East nations, they enjoy freedom from persecution and freedom to practice and express their faith.

Holy week which begins on Palm Sunday, brings worshipers to churches and shrines meticulously restored and protected by the government of Israel.

On Good Friday, Christian pilgrims from all over the world, carrying wooden crosses gather in The Mount of Olives and march to the Holy Sepulchre in the middle of the Old City. Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus.

Our combined Judeo/Christian ethics have made the world better, kinder, with more freedom for all. Happy Easter from rsk

Iraq’s Christians: Eighty Percent Have “Disappeared” by Giulio Meotti

Tragically, Christians living in lands formerly under the control of the “Caliphate” have been betrayed by many in the West. Governments ignored their tragic fate. Bishops were often too aloof to denounce their persecution. The media acted as if they considered these Christians to be agents of colonialism who deserved to be purged from the Middle East. And the so-called “human rights” organizations abandoned them.

The West was not willing to give sanctuary to these Christians when ISIS murdered 1,131 of them and destroyed or damaged 125 of their churches.

We must now help Christians rebuild in the lands where their people were martyred by Islamic fundamentalists.

Persecution of Christians is worse today “than at any time in history”, a recent report by the organization Aid to the Church in Need revealed. Iraq happens to be “ground zero” for the “elimination” of Christians from the pages of history.

Iraqi Christian clergymen recently wore a black sign as a symbol of national mourning for the last victims of the anti-Christian violence: a young worker and a whole family of three. “This means that there is no place for Christians,” said Father Biyos Qasha of the Church of Maryos in Baghdad. “We are seen as a lamb to be killed at any time”.

A few days earlier, Shiite militiamen discovered a mass grave with the bodies of 40 Christians near Mosul, the former stronghold of the Islamic State and the capital of Iraqi Christianity. The bodies, including those of women and children, seemed to belong to Christians kidnapped and killed by ISIS. Many had crosses with them in the mass grave. Not a single article in the Western mainstream media wrote about this ethnic cleansing.

French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia made an urgent plea to Europe and the West to defend non-Muslims in the Middle East, whom he likened to Holocaust victims. “As our parents wore the yellow star, Christians are made to wear the scarlet letter of nun” Korsia said. The Hebrew letter “nun” is the same sound as the beginning of Nazareen, an Arabic term signifying people from Nazareth, or Christians, and used by the Islamic State to mark the Christian houses in Mosul.

Now a new report by the Iraqi Human Rights Society also just revealed that Iraqi minorities, such as Christians, Yazidis and Shabaks, are now victims of a “slow genocide”, which is shattering those ancient communities to the point of their disappearance. The numbers are significant.

Ismael’s Ghosts – A Rebuke By Marilyn Penn

There is a tendency among critics to assume that an inscrutable, disjointed, overlong, tendentious film with characters bearing the names Bloom and Dedalus – must be paying homage to James Joyce’s Ulysses and must therefore be deep. There is also the tendency to give a pass or the benefit of one’s doubt to a director who has achieved some prominence with past work. So this rebuke is meant for movie-goers only – do not fall into the same trap as the pro’s. Ismael’s Ghosts, starring Matthieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg – all first rate French actors – is a mess. It asks viewers to do the work of turning a grab-bag of plots and characters into a coherent narrative – something the screenwriter is supposed to do way before filming begins.

There is the re-entry of a woman who disappeared 20 years before the film takes place and has been presumed dead; there is her husband, the filmmaker creating a story based on his brother, a mysterious spy; there is the woman’s father – a master filmmaker whom her husband idolizes and who will be honored at a Tel-Aviv Film Festival; there is an astro-physicist who is in love with the deserted husband/director and an actress who is in the film within the film who is smitten with him too. At his best – all 110 pounds of him – Matthieu is not a sexy man; in this movie he is increasingly more dirty, disheveled, sleep-deprived and bug-eyed – the kind of man anyone but the French would hose down before touching Yet we are meant to believe that the beautiful Marion Cotillaard needs to be frontally nude in an attempt to win him back. After seeing over-the hill Stormy Daniels on tv, we know that Marion would only need to expose one of her shapely legs to get a man’s attention. But why would she want to? Why would anyone?

“As is customary in Mr. Desplechin’s work, there’s a lot of dialogue in “Ismael’s Ghosts,” but this movie’s nerve endings vibrate most avidly and tenderly in scenes where not a word is spoken: Sylvia on her first ride home with Ismael, looking up in serene rapture from a cab window toward the night sky; Ismael, angry and confused, framed between walls at the top of a dark staircase; Carlotta in tears, letting the blast of water from an ornamental shower head blast against her brow. It’s moments like these that make Ismael’s Ghosts” an unforgettable experience. (Glenn Kenny, NYT 3/22)

Caution: this is critic’s snake oil. Do not believe a word of it and do not go near this film – it will make you more frustrated and angry than its characters and you will find yourself wishing that you could watch The Sound of Music a few times to clear Ismael from memory. I’ve just done you a big solid – you are very welcome

Spielberg’s Game By Kyle Smith

His new movie reflects on the flight from reality.

Ready Player One presents a sci-fi vision of the near future so eerie and provocative that the first half of the movie constitutes Steven Spielberg’s most captivating work since A.I. (2001), the only film he’s ever done that merged his fairy-tale awe with Stanley Kubrick’s cold fatalism. By the climax of the new film, though, it has morphed into a serviceable if trite blockbuster about a plucky multicultural gang of cute kids outsmarting the cruel chief of the greedy corporation.

It’s a serviceable if trite blockbuster about a plucky multicultural gang of cute kids outsmarting the cruel chief of the greedy corporation.

On the surface, the screen version of Ernest Cline’s novel is a quest narrative set in a dystopic 2045, when Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a resourceful orphan, undertakes a search for three magical keys stashed inside a massive multiplayer virtual-reality game by the game’s late creator, Halliday (Mark Rylance). Wonka-like, Halliday (who continues to exist in virtual form online, as a wizard avatar) has promised to give away the kingdom to whoever proves worthy enough to solve his riddles. That prize is also sought by a nasty corporation whose domineering boss (Ben Mendelsohn) is using a brute-force strategy of sending out an army of players to find the keys by trying every possible option.

That’s the core of the film, and also the most routine aspect. But it’s interspersed with a delightful Gen X pop-culture scavenger hunt that gives the film considerable bounce: In retrospect, The Lord of the Rings could have used the leavening touch of a couple of Hall & Oates tunes. References to Back to the Future, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, Atari video games, Twisted Sister, and especially The Shining (which gets a lengthy homage) blanket everything as relentlessly as the popcorn explosion in Real Genius. Ready Player One may feature more direct references to other movies than any blockbuster ever, even The Lego Movie, though Spielberg is notably coy about referring back to his own movies or to those of his sometime partner George Lucas. That’s probably just as well; Spielberg ruled the early 1980s and it would be unbecoming of him to brag about it. (No need to inform me he had an executive-producer credit on Back to the Future, by the way.) For extra nerd points, there’s a special guest appearance by the Holy Hand Grenade, that super-weapon from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Mueller Owes It to Prosecutors Nationwide, and to His Own Cases, to Uphold Justice Department Standards By Andrew C. McCarthy

A response to Orin Kerr

Orin Kerr is an insightful legal analyst, so when we are in disagreement I take his criticism seriously. Respectfully, however, his Lawfare critique of a recent column in which I took issue with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s pleading practices is not his best work.

To recap my argument, Mueller’s tactic of charging sensational offenses and pleading them down to comparatively trivial crimes flouts guidelines that are prescribed in the U.S. Attorney’s Manual and that are followed by responsible U.S. attorneys’ offices. Kerr objects, contending that a provision in the manual that I did not discuss indicates there is more leeway in the guidelines than I let on.

I think he is wrong on this narrow point because the guideline he cites, which applies to non-prosecution agreements for potentially culpable witnesses when time is of the essence, is not pertinent to the situation I was discussing: viz., the plea deal of Richard Gates, who faced two indictments alleging financial-fraud felonies involving over $100 million in the aggregate, but was permitted to plead guilty to minor charges. Before we come to that, though, some underbrush needs clearing.

First, Kerr implies that I see the manual guidelines as legally binding. I don’t, and never have — not in 20 years living under them as a prosecutor, nor in the succeeding 15 years as a commentator. The thrust of my argument is that Mueller is not upholding critical Justice Department “standards” and “policy” (the words used in the column) that are expressed in the guidelines. If the guidelines were binding, there would be little point in arguing policy, as I have done; I would call for court enforcement. But the guidelines reflect internal DOJ standards; there is no judicial remedy for deviations.

In a different recent column, I highlighted the manual’s opening passages, which unambiguously declare that the guidelines are just that, guidelines. (See Section 1-1.100.) How strictly they are honored is up to federal prosecutors, their supervisors, and Justice Department leadership. In my experience, the manual’s guidelines are taken quite seriously — they certainly were in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), where I worked. But Mueller is effectively unsupervised, so no one is going to force him to adhere to them. Kerr’s description of my claim that Mueller is “breaking the rules” suggests that I’ve accused the special counsel of violating the law. No, I’ve accused him of abusing his discretion.

That this is not actionable does not make it right.

Second, while the guidelines obviously aim to ensure equal and ethical enforcement of federal law across the country, just as significant is their goal of promoting the most effective investigations and prosecutions possible under whatever circumstances prevail. My criticism is directed to this latter objective, which I think Kerr fails to give its due.

A defendant should be required to plead guilty to “the most serious readily provable” offense charged, as dictated by the guideline I cited (U.S. Attorneys Manual, Section 9-27.430), which is directly applicable to plea agreements. Kerr grouses that I don’t address the purportedly complicating factor of cooperation in discussing this provision (though he acknowledges that I do raise it elsewhere — we’ll come to that). But there is no need to address cooperation as if it complicated matters, because it doesn’t: The “most serious readily provable” standard applies to plea agreements regardless of whether cooperation is in the mix.

Requiring such a guilty plea not only ensures that the defendant is held appropriately accountable and is not given favorable treatment in comparison to others similarly situated; a plea to “the most serious readily provable charge” also makes the defendant a more compelling cooperating witness. By contrast, failing to require a plea to the most serious offense degrades the defendant’s testimony, which is usually offered to prove against other defendants the same serious offense on which the cooperating defendant has been given a pass.

A concrete example makes the point. A defendant who has committed bank-fraud conspiracy and pleads guilty to bank-fraud conspiracy is an effective witness — his admission of guilt goes a long way toward proving the existence of the scheme and makes it more likely that conspirators he implicates will be convicted. This helps the prosecution. On the other hand, if the prosecutor lets the defendant plead guilty to a minor (non-bank-fraud) conspiracy to induce his testimony against other bank-fraud conspirators, it signals to the jury that the bank-fraud conspiracy is not as serious as the indictment suggests; it opens the door to defense claims that the cooperator was given a major break to buy his testimony and exaggerate the culpability of the other conspirators. This hurts the prosecution.

I am not criticizing Mueller because I’m a contrarian who eschews special-counsel appointments (though I plead guilty to that). Regardless of my take on Mueller’s appointment, if Richard Gates committed $100 million in financial fraud, I want to see him commensurately punished for it. If Paul Manafort committed these same egregious crimes, I want to see Mueller effectively prosecute him. This should involve the main cooperating witness, Gates, pleading guilty to the most serious readily provable charge against both himself and Manafort.

That is what would have been required, at a minimum, in the U.S. attorney’s office where I worked. More likely, an SDNY prosecutor would have insisted that Gates plead guilty to all of the offenses that he and Manafort were indicted for committing jointly. This prudent practice was the standard during my years in the office, and I am pleased to say that it continued in the years after I left. (See, e.g., Byron York’s recent Washington Examiner column in which he quotes former SDNY U.S. attorney Preet Bharara: “When we had evidence against somebody and wanted them to flip, we made them plead guilty to every bad act that they had ever done, especially if we were later going to be alleging other people had engaged in that activity as well.”)

Walter Starck: Knowing What You Don’t Know

When did we begin to accept mere opinion as unquestionable truth, with no hint of doubt or uncertainty allowed, no need for deeper knowledge, no possibility of error and no place for any change of mind? Such is the arrogance of the loudly uninformed that fervour these days overwhelms mere fact.

There are three levels of ignorance. Simple ignorance is just not knowing and knowing you don’t know. Compound ignorance is thinking you know but knowing so little you can’t recognise your own ignorance. Tertiary malignant ignorance is then not knowing, thinking you do know and that, for their own good, others should be forced to conform to what you believe.

The simple form is the most honest and least harmful. It can even be beneficial in avoiding stupid mistakes as well as prompting one to learn more. Unfortunately, in our culture it seems to be noticeably less popular than the compound and malignant varieties. In the current version of democracy, the idea of one-person one-vote appears to have become equated with the notion that all opinions are of equal value and everyone is not just entitled to an opinion, but should have one on every issue regardless of how ill-informed they may be. Indeed, it appears that the only socially acceptable consideration for a belief is for the fervour and conviction with which it is held. Conviction thus trumps reason, and certainty prevails.

In public opinion polls it is unusual for anyone to say they do not know enough about something to have an opinion, or to be uncertain, to need to know more or even to be open to better knowledge. It seems that opinions are not only necessary but must be expressed as beliefs with no hint of doubt or uncertainty, no need for better knowledge, no possibility of error and no place for any change of mind in the light of better information. When the idea of simply not knowing about something or of making a tentative assumption that may be subject to change become unthinkable, believing a half-dozen impossible things before breakfast becomes the norm.

With such a dynamic prevailing in the public sphere, the future of our current form of democracy looks dubious. This problem is now manifest across a growing number of complex and uncertain issues of critical importance. These include mass immigration from failed societies, premature adoption of technically and economically unviable energy systems, an ongoing unchecked proliferation of government that is stifling essential productive activity, plus ever-increasing commitments for health, education, welfare and defence spending which are simply impossible to sustain. Another major and pervasive problem would also have to be the whole obscene morass of taxation that is now beyond any possibility of effective reform and desperately requires a fundamental rethink.


It is Easter weekend and my mind wanders, my thoughts are sad and full of fear for what is overtaking us. Yes, His rising fills me great wonder, gives me reassurance as to what lies ahead. But in this world, the Left marches, ever marches on, every day freedom erodes, the insidious march and relentless, doggedness of their pursuit to destroy America’s liberty, to bind us, reeducate us, to mold a new man in a Utopian vision. For they are God, they are creating a heaven on earth and we are nothing, worse than nothing, an obstacle in their long progressive drive. We stand in their way, they of the angels, we block them; therefore we must be destroyed. Liberty, the very thought of liberty must die.

So, my mind takes me, takes me into the Plains, north of the Platte, crossing the Missouri, fast as the winds could take me, past, into the way back, rushed and with fear at my heels, I pushed forward into hills of time, given over to time, before, long before this time of tragedy. Into the Dakotas and badlands, wheat high, winds strong and true, the breath of free men and liberty still blow through our bodies strong.

Liberty trampled, burned, destroyed and for what? This God’s graceful land, bequeathed by Founders of a vision unseen, unheard, unknown from all time and history. But now being shattered, transformed for a Utopian dream of hell, an equality of man’s God, a rejection of Him, a tyranny built on jealousy, envy and hatred, from the devil himself. How man, so easily fooled and sold into slavery of shattered illusions of self-righteousness and the striving to be their own God, to make heaven here, to want to mold men to break and destroy them.

All for want of peace, justice, equality and security, we so easily pursue a false God. We pursue our own God, to remake us as the Creator and Judge, to rule over all, to destroy all that is good, just and true and free. The enemy of the Illusionary is the free; their enemy is the very essence of liberty. The free must be destroyed, by the millions they have fallen, and how many more? I fear for all of us, the how many more that will suffer from their progressive crusade.

We have paved the way for tyranny, every day, every minute gone, we drift away from that dream, that dream of our Founders and of that timeless dream of a free man and his faith, his liberty to live and think and be as God made him.

Bombshell criticism of FBI as jury foreman in the Noor Salman Pulse nightclub trial speaks out By Thomas Lifson

The jury that acquitted Noor Salman of aiding and abetting her husband’s slaughter at the Pulse nightclub believed she was aware of what her husband was planning, but based on the detailed jury instructions and the nature of the evidence they were presented, they had no choice but to deliver a “not guilty” verdict. We know this now because the Orlando Sentinel received a statement from the foreman, which is presented in its entirety below. What leaped out at me was a single sentence criticizing the FBI, that comes 294 words into the statement.

I wish that the FBI had recorded their interviews with Ms. Salman as there were several significant inconsistencies with the written summaries of her statements.

Many readers may recall from the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal that no recordings were made of the FBI’s interview with her (or with any other witnesses, for that matter). This is because the only record of subject interviews that the FBI makes is Form 302s, notes prepared by an agent.

Readers may also recall that according to two investigative reporters, Sara Carter and Mike Cernovich, fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe has been accused of asking FBI agents to alter 302 reports. It is not clear if this accusation was part of the inspector general’s report that led to McCabe’s firing, nor is it clear that it actually happened.

What matters to me is the ridiculous policy of not recording the actual interviews, and instead relying on the integrity, skill, and diligence of FBI agents in faithfully recording everything of any relevance that took place during an interview. Sometimes, the pacing and tone of voice of a subject may have great relevance, for example, and written notes cannot possibly fully reflect the reality of the situation.

Relying on Form 302s made sense only in the era when recording an interview was impossible or difficult owing to technology limits. But now that a pocket cell phone can record interviews almost effortlessly, there is no justification of ceding to the FBI the task of writing up what an agent thinks (or wishes) was said.

Civil libertarian icon Harvey Silverglate is scathing about this practice:

Instead of electronically recording its interviews and interrogations, the FBI’s policy is to rely on agents’ typewritten “section 302 reports,” crafted to reflect the supposed substance of the exchange. At such sessions, one agent takes notes by hand while the second agent – in the traditional two-agent FBI interviewing team – conducts the interview/interrogation. Tape recordings are almost never done because such recordation is – believe it or not – against formal written FBI policy. Therefore, the 302 report becomes the sole arbiter of what was, and was not, said; moreover, as we will see below, any interviewee who contests its accuracy risks prosecution. Hence, a potential witness’ script is written – and not necessarily by the witness himself – the moment he opens his mouth in the presence of an agent.

The New York Times’ Dangerous Missile Defense Delusion By Andrew Harrod

“Missile defense needs to be part of the United States’ strategy” against North Korean nuclear threats, conceded even a February 11 New York Times editorial in an incoherent anti-missile defense rant. Yet the Times still derided vital missile defense efforts like Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD), a continuation of the leftist Gray Lady’s longstanding dangerous folly of opposition to protecting America’s homeland from nuclear attack.

The Times probably would have preferred that President Donald Trump had kept his initial Fiscal Year 2018 budget request with the missile defense spending levels of his predecessor, Barack Obama. However, growing North Korean nuclear threats prompted Trump and legislators to add $368 million to missile defense, reflecting a growing missile defense commitment noted on March 7 before Congress by undersecretary of defense John C. Rood. The Alaska- and California-based GMD is central to these missile defense efforts. As the Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS) notes, GMD “is currently the only U.S. missile defense system devoted to defending the U.S. homeland from long-range ballistic missile attacks.”

Nonetheless, the Times simply repeated decades-old sophistries about missile defense’s futility, something that “will never provide a foolproof, comprehensive shield against a nuclear adversary.” “After more than 30 years of research and more than $200 billion, the nation’s ballistic missile defense program remains riddled with flaws, even as the threat from North Korean missiles escalates,” the Times wrote. The Times cited a 2016 Pentagon report that supposedly “faulted” missile defenses (it actually describes GMD’s “limited capability to defend the U.S. Homeland”).

Jews Are Being Murdered in Paris. Again.By Bari Weiss

It’s no rare thing for the Israeli prime minister to enrage the Jews of the diaspora. But three years ago, Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech that won him near-universal condemnation.

In the aftermath of several deadly attacks in European cities like Paris and Copenhagen, Mr. Netanyahu called on Jews to leave Europe. “Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country. But we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home,” he said, echoing comments he had made more subtly the month before at Paris’s Grand Synagogue.

Mr. Netanyahu’s suggestion of “mass immigration” was “unacceptable,” said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the European Jewish Association. Abraham Foxman, then head of the Anti-Defamation League, suggested such a policy would “grant Hitler a posthumous victory.” Denmark’s chief rabbi, Jair Melchior, said he was “disappointed.” Smadar Bar-Akiva, the executive director of JCC Global, said “the calls for French Jews to pack their bags” and move were “disturbing and self-defeating.”

François Hollande, then president, echoing a chorus of European leaders, pushed back hard, appealing to his country’s Jews: “Your place is here, in your home. France is your country.”

Is it?

This is a question worth seriously asking following the barbaric murder last week of Mireille Knoll.

Ms. Knoll, 85, believed Mr. Hollande. France was her place, her home, her country. And Paris was her city.

She believed this despite the fact that it was also the city where, when she was 9 years old, the police rounded up 13,000 of the city’s Jews, 4,000 of them children, and crammed them into Vélodrome d’Hiver, a cycling stadium, before shipping them to their deaths at Auschwitz. Ms. Knoll narrowly escaped this largest French deportation of Jews during the Holocaust and fled to Portugal with her mother.