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Alcatraz

It was 84 years ago today – August 24, 1934. The first civilian prisoners arrived at the federal prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.

The United States Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz was acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 22, 1933, and the island became a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison in August of 1934. Alcatraz was designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons. At 9:40 am on August 11, 1934, the first batch of 137 prisoners arrived by railroad from the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Most were notorious bank robbers and murderers.

During the 29 years the prison was in use, the jail had some of the most notorious criminals in American history, such as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bumpy Johnson, and Alvin
“Creepy” Karpis (who served longer than any other Alcatraz inmate). It also provided housing for the Bureau of Prisons staff and their families.

I can’t imagine living a life behind bars. Yet, millions of people do just that – not behind the bars of a federal prison, but the bars of their own making. Fortunately, we don’t have to live in the prison of our guilt or sin. We have been paroled. Jesus says, “Go and sin no more.”

The Rushmore Report – The Four Words JFK Spoke Seconds Before He Died

The last words John F. Kennedy said to his wife on that fateful day of November 22, 1963 were not his final words. He told Jackie she looked “smashing” in her new pink suit. But his final words were spoken from the back seat of the 1961 Lincoln Continental in which he was riding, just seconds before the shots rang out that would forever change the course of history. JFK’s last words came in answer to a question. The last four words of the 35th president were . . .

“No, you certainly can’t.”

Here’s the story. The Kennedys were seated behind Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nellie in the Lincoln. It was well-known that Kennedy had picked Lyndon Johnson as his running mate in order to carry Texas in the 1960 election. Without Texas, he would have lost the election, and without Johnson, he would have lost Texas. But the president was never particularly popular in the conservative Lone Star State.

And that is why he was in Dallas in the first place – to lay the groundwork for his reelection bid that was less than one year in the future. But to his great surprise, Dallas really turned out to support him as his car made its way along the parade route. By the thousands, cheering supporters demonstrated their love for the president and first lady.

Moments after their Lincoln made its final turn onto Elm Street in Dealey Plaza, Nellie Connally turned back toward Mr. Kennedy and said, “You can’t say Texas doesn’t love you!” Kennedy replied, “No, you certainly can’t.”

And then Lee Harvey Oswald changed everything by assassinating the president from his sixth floor loft in the Texas School Book Depository building.

As the Lincoln sped off toward Parkland Hospital, Jackie Kennedy cradled the president’s head in her lap, repeating these words: “Jack, Jack, can you hear me? I love you.”

Of course, the president was already gone, and would be pronounced dead after receiving the last rites at the hospital a few minutes later. And while some have tried to dramatize JFK’s final moments by alleging his final words were, “My God, I’ve been hit,” physicians agree that his wounds would have made it impossible for him to speak.

A historic presidency was ended in a few seconds by the bullets of a deranged shooter. But not until Kennedy had acknowledged the hospitality of the people of Dallas.

While a man born in another state (Louisiana) was already pulling the trigger of his 6.5 mm Carcano rifle, John Kennedy was acknowledging the love of Texas.

“You can’t say Texas doesn’t love you.”

“No, you certainly can’t.”

The Liberty Bell Tolls to Announce the Declaration of Independence

On July 8, 1776, a 2,000-pound copper and tin bell now known as the Liberty Bell rang out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Liberty Hall) in Philadelphia, summoning citizens to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Here’s the history of the most famous bell on earth. In 1751, to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of Pennsylvania’s original constitution, the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly order the bell to be constructed. After being cracked during a test and then recast twice, the bell was hung from the State House steeple in June, 1753. Rung to call the Pennsylvania Assembly together and to summon people for special announcements and events, it was also rung on important occasions, such as King George III’s 1761 ascension to the British throne and, in 1765, to call the people together to discuss Parliament’s controversial Stamp Act. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in April of 1775, the bell was rung to announce the battles of Lexington and Concord. Its most famous tolling, however, was on July 8, 1776, when it announced the reading of the Declaration.

Freedom demands a grand announcement. The Bible says of Jesus, “The Spirit of God is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18-19). Twice in that passage we find the word “free.” And here’s the good news. Those who have been set free in Christ are free indeed.

The Rushmore Report – God’s Providence in the American Revolution

It can hardly be doubted that God’s providence had a lot to do with the victory of the American colonists in their war of independence against Great Britain, the world’s mightiest power. The colonies had been founded by those with deep Biblical convictions. The Puritans in New England had come to the New World to establish a Bible commonwealth, in which God’s Word would reign supreme in the lives of its citizens.

When George III imposed his tyranny over the colonies, the voices from the pulpits were loud and unequivocal. John Calvin, in his Institutes, had preached that it was lawful for a people to overthrow a tyrannical system of government that made a mockery of God’s law. In his Prefatory Address to the King of France, Calvin wrote in 1536:

The characteristic of a true sovereign is, to acknowledge that, in the administration of his kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not make his reign subservient to the divine glory, acts the part not of a king, but a robber. He, moreover, deceives himself who anticipates long prosperity to any kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that is, by his divine word.

Calvin further wrote:

We are subject to the men who rule over us, but subject only in the Lord. If they command anything against Him let us not pay the least regard to it, nor be moved by all the dignity which they possess as magistrates – a dignity to which no injury is done when it is subordinated to the special and truly supreme power of God.

Thus, the colonists believed that it was their duty to oppose a tyranny that violated God’s law and the concept of Christian freedom. This was the spiritual resolve that led the leaders of the colonies to write the Declaration of Independence.

George Washington, of all our great leaders, was certainly blessed with God’s providence. By all accounts, he should have been killed in the French and Indian War (1754-1763), but was miraculously saved. At the Battle at the Monongahela, Washington and the British army were ambushed by the French. Every officer on horseback was killed except Washington. He later wrote to his brother John on July 18, 1755:

But by the all-powerful dispensations of providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me.

Washington was only 23 when he faced that ordeal of death on the battlefield. He emerged unscathed with his faith deeper and stronger than ever. God had protected him, and he became the military leader of the greatest war for independence ever fought in all of history. On June 1, 1774, when the Colonies were seeking God’s will in making their momentous decision to sever their ties with England, Washington wrote in his diary: “Went to church and fasted all day.”

When he became Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army he appointed chaplains for every regiment, recognizing that his men needed spiritual nourishment as well as the bodily kind, for this was a war that could not be won without miracles.

One such miracle occurred on August 27, 1776. British General Howe had trapped Washington and his 8,000 troops on Brooklyn Heights on Long Island, and he intended to advance the next morning to destroy them. But Washington gathered every vessel he could find and spent all night ferrying his men across the East River. In the morning there was still a large number of soldiers facing annihilation by Howe. But a heavy fog descended on the area enabling the rest of Washington’s troops to escape the British trap. That too was nothing less than a miracle!

When Washington became our first President under the new Constitution of the United States, he said at his Inaugural Address:

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency… We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.

Many of our legislators and judges seem to have forgotten what Washington said. It is up to us to restore to America its Godly heritage and to never forget the miracles that made us the great nation that we have become.

About the Author

Sam Blumenfeld has written eight books on education, including his latest book, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection.

The Rushmore Report – The Confederate Gift to the Nation

Memorial Day began as a Confeder­ate holiday — Confederate! God save the mark! — only a year after the end of the great War Between the States. The ladies of Columbus, Georgia, went to the graveyard with broken hearts to decorate the graves of their husbands, sons and brothers who had died defending hearth and home from the depredations of old William Tecumseh Sherman on his infa­mous march from Atlanta to the sea.

“I can make the march,” Sherman said to Abraham Lincoln, “and I can make Georgia howl.” He would cut a path of fire, death and destruction so complete that “if a crow flies across Georgia it will have to carry its own rations.”

“The action of the ladies on this oc­casion,” said the Daily National Intelli­gencer in the nation’s capital, “in burying whatever animosities or ill feeling may have been engendered in the late war to­wards those who fought against them, is worthy of all praise and condemnation.”

The Cleveland Daily Leader agreed: “The act was as beautiful as it was unselfish, and it will be appreciated in the North.”

The ladies of Columbus decorated the graves with flags and flowers in remembrance of what love and sacrifice had wrought. They decorated the few Union graves among their dead with flowers, too. “They were cruel,” said one of the ladies of the Yankee invad­ers, “only to be true to their cause.” This simple act of generosity was quickly noted by several important newspapers in the North.

The New York Commercial Adver­tiser drew a lasting lesson: “Let this incident, touching and beautiful as it is, impart to our Washington authorities a lesson in conciliation.” Two years later, at the behest of Gen. John A. Logan, who was wounded at the battle of Fort Donelson in Tennessee and became the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, a commemorative associa­tion of Union veterans, established the holiday as a federal remembrance.

To the irritation of some of his colleagues, he acknowledged the holiday’s origins. “It is not too late for the Union men of the nation to follow the example of the people of the South.”

And so Decoration Day became a day of remembrance and reconciliation across the land, later to be called Memorial Day, and still, particularly in the small towns of the South, a day of decorating graves of Confederate soldiers of the War Between the States with flowers and flags.

This year, as in many years before, my beloved sister Joan went to a country graveyard in Arkansas with a clutch of tiny flags, of both Union and Confeder­ate persuasion, to remember those who gave the last full measure of devotion in the service of God and country. She stooped with particular care to put a tiny banner of the Stars and Bars next to the headstone of Cpl. David J. Pruden, late of Cocke’s Regiment of an Arkansas army of the Confederacy.

The Union adoption of a Confederate holiday was particularly poignant, and unexpected, so soon after Appomattox. Men who had fought to the death for four miserable years put aside bitter remembrance to embrace each other as friends. Grant became friends with Lee, and Joe Johnston, as an old man, whose army had fought Sherman’s at Atlanta, stood for an hour in a cold rain to pay honor to the passing of Sherman’s funeral cortege, caught cold and then pneumonia and died four days later.

Such men would not understand the current fashion of contempt for old foes, the tearing down of monuments to bravery, courage and devotion to hearth and home. They wouldn’t know what to make of the Episcopal divines of the Washington National Cathedral who celebrated brotherhood not long ago by punching out tiny images of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in a stained glass commemoration of their faith in the Christ.

Francis Miles Finch (1827-1907), a judge in Ithaca, New York, was moved by the gesture of the ladies of Georgia to write a poem that became famous in its day. “No more shall the war cry sever/Or the winding rivers be red/They banish out anger forever/When they laurel the graves of our dead/Under the sod and the dew/Waiting the Judg­ment Day/Love and tears for the Blue/ Tears and love for the Gray.”

About the Author

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

The Rushmore Report – Should the Church Avoid Politics?

The founders built this country on God’s Word. God said, “I will be your judge, I will be your lawgiver, and I will be your king.” Here we see the three distinct bodies of government – the executive, judicial, and legislative branches – because of the Word of God. I truly do not understand people who think we should not talk about this. Before Fox News and CNN, the pulpit was where people acquired their information.

Spurgeon preached against slavery. Martin Luther went against the political leaders of his day. John Calvin wanted to make the city of Geneva a religious city – a city on a hill.

Men and women of God filled with the Spirit want to make a difference in all areas of life: civil government, the public schools, our homes, our communities. For example, local school districts should be ashamed for allowing the current sex-ed curriculum into the schools. Have we lost our moral compass? Yes we have. We shouldn’t be surprised that sexual perversion, suicide, and depression are on the upswing when we are contributing to it.

If My People . . .

There comes a time when we must be a “voice crying in the wilderness.” We fight this battle on our faces and on our knees before God, crying out, “God, save us!” Have mercy on us! We are a prideful, arrogant people. God, we are repenting; we are turning back to You. Have mercy on us and fill us with your Spirit, and bring revival. Bring renewal.” Prayer is our weapon.

You might say, “But I don’t want to get involved.” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you already are involved. When you say nothing, you speak the loudest. We are involved, whether we like it or not. As much as we would love to live in utopia with peaceful days, we don’t live in that world. We live in the real world, and God calls us to battle – on our knees. “If My people” – not Washington, not Hollywood – “If My People humble themselves . . .” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

So here’s the big question. Does God desire that we seek Him for our marriages? Does God desire that our families seek Him? Of course, but does God desire that our governments seek Him? Yes. He instituted all three. All three have different functions, but He created all three institutions.

This is not about political parties; it’s about God’s love. When you love God, you want to honor His Word. When you see people mocking His Word, spitting on it, and blaspheming it – if something doesn’t break in your heart, I want to challenge you. Where in the world is your heart?

John Hancock said, “Men, I beg you by all that is dear, by all that you hold honorable, not only that you pray, but that you act.” Praying without action is not biblical either. How is that so? You pray, “Lord, make me a better husband,” yet you still curse at your wife. You pray, “Make me a better leader,” but you beat everybody up with your words. You see, prayer and action are married.

But what is our action? Bended knee, hearts broken before God. God can then say, “Oh, I can use that person. See how they are broken and humbled before Me? How they are emptied of themselves? How they’re not on arrogant political rants?”

There are right ways to do things and wrong ways. Nothing breaks my heart more than to see the immature behavior of Christians on Facebook going on political tirades with hate instead of love. Jesus said the world will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). God changes a heart, not you. I’m concerned that a lot of us have passion for this area, but we don’t have love. We desperately need both!

About the Author

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California.

The Rushmore Report – How Many of our 45 Presidents Served Two Straight Terms?

President Trump has already named his presidential campaign manager for 2020 in his bid to serve a full two terms. If he is successful, he will be the fourth consecutive president to do this, a record in American political history. So here’s a trivia question for you. How many of our 45 presidents have served two full, consecutive terms?

We know the last three accomplished this feat: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. The only other time three consecutive presidents did this was awhile back: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.

We also know that three presidents were elected to a second consecutive term, but did not complete that term: Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, and Richard Nixon.

And then there was the two-term president who did not serve two consecutive terms: Grover Cleveland.

So how many does that leave? Of our first 44 presidents, just 13 have completed two consecutive terms. That is  29.5 percent.

So here are your 13 two-term presidents who served at least eight consecutive years in office. (Franklin Roosevelt served into his fourth term.)

  1. George Washington (1789-1797)
  2. Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)
  3. James Madison (1809-1817)
  4. James Monroe (1817-1825)
  5. Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)
  6. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)
  7. Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)
  8. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)
  9. Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961)
  10. Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)
  11. Bill Clinton (1993-2001)
  12. George W. Bush (2001-2009)
  13. Barack Obama (2009-2017)

It is often assumed an incumbent president has a big advantage in running for a second term. But history tells us that just 16 presidents (26 percent) are elected to a second term, and only 13 (29 percent) actually complete a second term.

Does any of this affect Trump’s chances in 2020? No, but it tells us that the next election will be unpredictable. But with Trump running again, we all probably knew that already.

The Rushmore Report – A Surprising History of the National Income Tax

As tax day approaches, a review of the history of the American tax system is in order. The U.S. government has been taxing its citizens for most of its history. However, during the early years, the tax was minimal and applied only to the affluent. Beginning with the Great Depression and FDR’s New Deal, that all changed.

Since FDR, the government has been growing larger and requiring more and more revenue. Let’s review the individual income tax and the corporate income tax.

A Brief History of the U.S. Income Tax

During the American Revolution (1775-1783), most states levied a faculty tax, which was a tax on a person’s property and ability to earn income from commerce or trade. For several years after the Revolution, there was no national tax and the government provided very little for its citizens. The Constitution of 1789 gave taxation powers to the federal government to “pay the debts and provide for the common welfare of the United States.”

Because of the Civil War (1861-1865), the U.S. government levied a temporary income tax on individuals. Decades later, in 1894, Congress enacted the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act, which included a two percent flat tax on incomes over $4,000 ($115,000 in today’s dollars). This tax affected fewer than 10 percent of households and was the first tax levied during peacetime.

The modern tax era was birthed in 1913, with the passage of the 16th Amendment, allowing for a federal income tax. This applied mostly to high wage earners.

The top marginal bracket was raised to 77 percent to pay for World War I. By the 1920s, the top bracket was back down to 25 percent. This fueled the “Roaring Twenties,” a bubble in the financial markets, followed by the Great Depression of 1828.

Corporate Income Tax

The corporate tax has ranged from six to 15 percent. Beginning in 1943, the percentage collected via corporate tax began to deline. But the personal income tax has not wavered much. Today, the corporate tax generates far less revenue for the government than does the personal income tax.

Conclusion

Today, we have a tax code of over 700,000 pages. It is unwieldly, cumbersome, and entirely too complex. Moreover, the individual income tax is the largest source of federal revenue. With an ever-expanding federal government, it seems plausible that future taxes will be more creative and less obvious to the casual observer. However, because government’s primary targets are individuals and corporations, any additional tax on businesses will only serve to drive companies away.

As companies leave the U.S., the country could become like Detroit, once a beautiful city with a strong tax base. Today, its tax base has migrated to other localities, leaving the city with a severe tax shortage. Could the U.S. become like Detroit on a larger scale? Yes, if politicians continue to attack the golden goose. The prudent path would be to cut spending and implement greater fiscal control in Washington. It is no longer acceptable to give politicians a blank check to use for personal gain. We need the George Washingtons of this nation to step forward, serve the country, and return to private life to live under the rules and regulations that they helped to enact.

About the Author

Mike Patton is a contributor to Forbes.

The Rushmore Report – Remembering MLK: 40 Years After His Death

It was one of those “I remember where I was” days in modern American history. On this day, 40 years ago, James Earl Ray took the life of one of the most significant figures of the 20th century – Martin Luther King, Jr. At the height of the civil rights movement, King’s life was taken in a moment, in Memphis, Tennessee.

Here’s what happened. King had received numerous death threats due to his leadership role in the Civil Rights Movement. He had confronted the issue of death and indicated that he even expected that he would not live a long life. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, King told his wife Coretta, “This is what is going to happen to me also. I keep telling you, this is a sick society.”

Why was King in Memphis on April 4? He came to support striking African American city sanitation workers, who had walked out on the job on February 11, to protest unequal wages and working conditions. At that time, Memphis paid black workers far less than white workers.

On April 3, King addressed a gathering at the Mason Temple (World Headquarters of the Church of God in Christ). His speech, now known as the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address, was delivered flawlessly, as usual. The closing words of his last speech were these:

“I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! [applause] And so I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

King was staying at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, room 306. It was a room he had occupied many times, on his trips to Memphis. He was to speak at an event that night. His last words were to noted musician Ben Branch, who was scheduled to perform that evening. He said, “Ben, make sure you play ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.”

Then King walked out onto the balcony and was standing near his room when he was struck at 6:01 p.m. by a single bullet fired from a Remington Model 760 rifle. The bullet penetrated King’s right cheek, breaking his jaw and several vertebrae as it traversed down his spinal cord, severing the jugular vein and major arteries, before lodging in his shoulder. King fell backward, immediately unconscious.

Witnesses saw a man, believed to be James Earl Ray, fleeing from a rooming house across the street. Ray had rented a room there. Police found a package nearby, with Ray’s fingerprints on the package and the gun inside. Still, it wasn’t until two months later that an international manhunt culminated in Ray’s arrest at London’s Heathrow Airport.

When fellow Civil Rights activist Andrew Young rushed to King’s body, he found a pulse. King was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where doctors opened his chest and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation. But he never regained consciousness, and was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. His autopsy would reveal that though just 39, he had the heart of a 60-year-old, due to unbearable stress.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was laid to rest five days later, on April 9, 1968. A crowd of 300,000 attended his funeral. Vice President Hubert Humphrey attended on behalf of President Lyndon Johnson, who was at a meeting on the Vietnam War at Camp David. At his widow’s request, King’s last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church was played at the funeral. In that sermon, delivered on February 4, 1968, he asked that at his funeral there would be no mention of his awards or honors, but that it would be said that he tried to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, be right on the Vietnam War, and love and serve humanity.”

James Earl Ray died 30 years later, at the age of 70, from kidney and liver failure, caused by hepatitis C, behind bars.

Bess Truman Is Born – 1885

Elizabeth Virginia “Bess” Wallace was born in Independence, Missouri, on this day in 1885. An unassuming woman who died in 1982, Bess was best known as the wife of Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States. From the time her husband entered politics in 1922, she was active in her role as his wife and future first lady, while raising Margaret, the couple’s only child.

Harry Truman, who was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fourth vice president, became president in 1945, following FDR’s death, and then was elected to another term in 1948. It was the said around the White House that the Trumans were the most tight-knit family ever to live there – although for three of their presidential years, they lived in the Blair House while the interior of the White House was gutted and repaired. Bess had insisted that the historic residence be carefully renovated, instead of being replaced.

The Bible promises a new home for us in heaven. And unlike the White House, it is in no need of renovation.