Remembering Freedom’s Soldiers in Italy

Memorial Day in the United States is a federal holiday set aside for remembering those who died while serving in our nation’s armed forces.

This year Memorial Day occurs near the historic 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, and many European cities are celebrating that anniversary throughout the month with their own special events. And here in Florence, Italy, we are reminded quite evidently of a reason why this Memorial Day in the United States is such an important remembrance of our soldiers, whose merit can readily be found in the stunning collections of Renaissance art here that still stand as a beacon of Western culture for posterity, because of their ultimate sacrifices.

In May 1938, during meetings with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler took more than three hours out to visit just one of the city’s museums, the famed Uffizi Gallery in Florence, to just stare in wonder at its famous works of art, according to Robert Edsall’s book “The Monuments Men.”

Photo Courtesy of Author.

Hitler so envied the masterpieces of Michelangelo, Donatello, da Vinci, Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, and others that he studied in Florence, and so understood the power of art, that in his own effort to redefine culture on Nazi terms, he was motivated to plan the creation of his own new massive art museum, to be located in Austria. Hitler’s idea was to include works brutally confiscated from other museums in defeated France and also from the private collections of masterpieces taken from European Jews during the Holocaust, as depicted in the recent movie “Woman in Gold” involving a confiscated artwork by Gustav Klimt.

If the Germans had won the war, there would have been no guarantee that the cultural contributions of Michelangelo’s towering sculpture of The Old Testament’s Jewish leader David, or Botticelli’s beautiful “Birth of Venus” in the Uffizi, would remain in Florence, yet alone for all to see and appreciate.

Hitler’s own recasting of what was acceptable for the public or “degenerate” and subject to suppression had previously lead to the infamous Nazi “book burnings.”

More recently, we have seen such sad intolerance in theAfghan Taliban’s destruction of two Giant Buddha statues considered great archeological treasures and earlier this year Islamic State fighters destroyed cultural artifacts in a museum in Mosul.

A German victory in World War II could have even meant something equally grim for some of Florence’s art treasures, many of which might not still be here today but for the sacrifices of American soldiers who played a role in liberating the city.

Just eight miles south of Florence on the Via Cassia, a gateway to the lush Chianti region on the road to the picturesque Tuscan town of Siena, lies the American Cemetery. I just visited the cemetery to pay my respects to the 4,402 armed forces members buried there.

Graves are marked by headstones which bear the individual’s name, rank, the state they’re from, and the date of their death. For those whose bodies cannot be identified there is a special marker which states “here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.” Special wall maps are displayed which show the various aspects of the Italian campaign as well as a long list of the names of soldiers missing in action.

Many of the soldiers buried here served in the U.S. Fifth Army under Gen. Mark Clark, which pushed its way up the Italian peninsula in a bloody fighting effort taking almost two years. These were the soldiers that helped to liberate not only Florence from Nazi control, but the entire country of Italy in May, 1945, 70 years ago.

While American forces took much of the fire in the Italian campaign, significant contributions were made by British Commonwealth forces including troops not only from Britain, but also New Zealand, South Africa, and India. In fact, in Fiesole, a hilltop town just a few miles north of Florence, more than 1,000 Commonwealth troops are buried. Their story is little known, but it was New Zealand soldiers who won the pitched tank battles in Chianti south of Florence, where the Germans made a stand in their powerful Tiger tanks. These battles allowed seven South African troops to enter the city early one May morning in 1944 to a jubilant welcome from the liberated populace, but it was the American soldiers we remember this Memorial Day who made the sacrifice leading to that liberation, and which lives on in Florence’s splendid contribution to our cultural freedom’s still enjoyed today.

Originally published by the Blaze.

James V. Lacy is a third generation native Californian. Born in Oakland, he is a graduate of Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, received his undergraduate degree at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and his Juris Doctorate from Pepperdine University School of Law at Malibu. Lacy is admitted to practice law in California and the District of Columbia, and serves as a member of the Board of Visitors of Pepperdine University School of Law. He was a delegate from California to the 1976 Republican National Convention, pledged to Ronald Reagan for President. In 1978, he served as an aide to Howard Jarvis, the author of California’s historic Proposition 13 tax-cut. Lacy worked for Reagan’s election again in 1980 and after Reagan’s victory, joined the Administration in Washington, D.C., where he served all eight years, including as General Counsel to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.  Jim Lacy is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Conservative Union, the publisher of the California Political Review, www.capoliticalreview.com, an online magazine on California politics and news, and is a blogger on the influential California politics website www.flashreport.org. He has been published most recently on the Opinion pages of newspapers throughout the state including the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Daily News, Bakersfield Californian, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and the Orange County Register.

Why Jerry Brown Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon

Two weeks after his landslide reelection, four-term California Gov. Jerry Brown invited lobbyists to a private fundraising reception at a swanky Capitol restaurant.

The move was odd because, at 76 years old, the termed-out chief executive of the nation’s largest state is too old for the final political promotion to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

If the White House isn’t in the cards, what’s Brown up to?

With nearly $24 million stashed away in campaign accounts, and reports showing he spent just $5.9 million on his re-election campaign—even less than GOP opponent Neel Kashkari’s $7.1 million—there’s no reason for Brown to bother with the chicken dinner fundraising circuit if he’s planning to end his career.

Whatever his intentions, one thing is certain: Moonbeam isn’t planning to ride off into the sunset.

Jerry Brown for President — Fourth Time’s the Charm

On Inauguration Day 2017, Jerry Brown will be older than Ronald Reagan on his last day in office. Those state-level campaign funds can’t be transferred (easily) to a federal campaign. And Brown definitively ruled out another presidential run last year, saying “time is kind of running out on that.

It doesn’t make sense for Brown to seek the White House a fourth time, and that’s exactly why he’ll do it. The Zen politician has prided himself on going against the grain.

Last year, he cruised to reelection with a non-campaign. A nation weary of the prospects of Bush vs. Clinton 2.0 could embrace Jerry’s low-key style. The toll-free hotline from his 1992 presidential bid remains active. Moreover, a presidential run gives Brown the chance to define his legacy by telling the country about his “California comeback.”

Brown was the top performing Democrat in the 2014 midterm elections. He earned a million more votes than former Gov. Charlie Crist’s losing effort in Florida and doubled the vote total of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s win in the Empire State. Raw vote totals are skewed by California’s size. Brown also had the widest margin of victory by percentages making him the strongest elected Democrat in the country.

Political Leverage: Ballot Measures in 2016

Brown’s been around California politics long enough to know that the real battles are fought over ballot measures. The signature threshold for qualifying ballot measures is determined by turnout in the previous gubernatorial election. Consequently, last year’s record low turnout will result in a record number of ballot measures in 2016.

Brown has said that he’s looking to use his surplus cash for “some major ballot measure battle that I can’t even conceive of.” While some of his largess will go towards 2016 ballot measures, it won’t consume his entire war chest. This election, Brown made big business and big labor pony up most of the $13.9 million for Propositions 1 and 2. Why would he spend his own money this time around?

The Legacy Project

Jesse Unruh has an institute. John Burton has a building. What’s Jerry Brown going to buy to ensure his name lives on?

When California’s ill-conceived high-speed rail plan runs off track, Brown will be without a legacy project. Not to worry, his millions of dollars in campaign funds can save his place in history with a sizable endowment to a university for an institute better than Unruh’s and a building bigger than Burton’s.

The Democratic Kingmaker

Brown could dispose of his campaign cash with campaign contributions to legislative candidates and the California Democratic Party. Then again, Brown has been stingier than your coupon-clipping grandma who still uses her passbook savings account.

Brown was, in the words of the Sacramento Bee, “nowhere to be seen in most down-ticket races.” In the June primary, the governor didn’t intercede on behalf of Steve Glazer, a faithful political adviser who was pummeled by the state’s labor unions in a Democratic legislative primary. In the general election, Brown cut an ad for one competitive State Senate candidate, but couldn’t manage to get the candidate’s name right.

Brown the Philanthropist

As mayor of Oakland, Brown founded two charter schools, the Oakland School for the Arts and the Oakland Military Institute. In the past decade, he’s raised tens of millions of dollars for the education initiatives. After the November election, an unnamed Brown aide told the San Francisco Chronicle, “My bet is whatever is leftover would go to those two projects…They are near and dear to his heart.”

Attorney James V. Lacy, a frequent guest on Fox News Channel’s “Varney and Company,” is author of “Taxifornia: Liberal’s Laboratory to Bankrupt America.”

This article was originally published by The Blaze