Monday, December 29, 2008


It sure didn't take long, a few hours to be exact, for the United Nations, the European Union and Russia to condemn Israel's retaliation against Hamas for its week-long rocket barrage against Israeli towns just north of the Gaza strip. So what else is new? The United Nations and most members of the European Union have had a long history of condemning every Israeli military response to Arab attacks on its people.

The only time the Russians ever supported Israel in its armed conflicts was in 1948, and then only because the Soviets were anxious to see the British lose their foothold in the region and because they thought the new state might emerge as a communist entity. After 1948, the Russians, in concert with the communist world, always sided with Israel's enemies.

Just imagine how Russia, or any other nation for that matter, would react if its border towns were rocketed by a neighboring state. Don't forget, Russia's recent massive invasion of Georgia was in response to attacks on ethnic Russians inside South Ossetia, a Georgian province, and not because of any attacks on its own soil.

Since the beginning of this year, 21 Israelis have been killed in attacks from Gaza, including 13 civilians, 10 of them by rockets. Despite a six-month cease fire between Israel and Hamas, southern Israel continued to be the target of sporadic rocket attacks by Gaza militants. Since the end of the cease fire, Israel has been subjceted to heavy daily rocket fire from the Gaza strip.

Thus far, three days of Israeli air strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza have resulted in 360 Palestinian deaths, with over 1,400 wounded. According to the U.N., at least 60 of the dead were civilians, including a number of children. The number of civilian deaths is remarkably low considering that the rocket sites and Hamas security facilities are all located within densly populated civilian neighborhoods.

Muslims throughout the world, as expected, called Israel's attacks on Gaza a "crime against humanity." Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president who would love to see his Fatah rival Hamas destroyed, nevertheless called the air strikes a "sweeping Israeli aggression against Gaza." While French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned the rocket attacks against Israel, he was also quick to condemn "the disproportionate use of force" by the Jewish state.

It is as certain as death and taxes that as the attacks on Gaza continue, there will be more and more accusations of "crimes against humanity" and the crescendo of calls from the international community for Israel to halt its "brutal agrression against the Palestinian people" will become more pronounced.

I am concluding this blog with a joke sent to me by a good friend because the final part of this joke pretty well illustrates the anti-Israeli modus operandi of the Palestinians, the U.N., the Europeans and the Russians.

What happens when a fly falls into a coffee cup?

The Italian - throws the cup, breaks it, and walks away in a fit of rage.

The German - carefully washes the cup, sterilizes it and makes a new cup of coffee.

The Frenchman - takes out the fly, and drinks the coffee.

The Chinese - eats the fly and throws away the coffee.

The Russian - Drinks the coffee with the fly, since it was extra with no charge.

The Israeli - sells the coffee to the Frenchman, the fly to the Chinese, drinks tea and uses the extra money to invent a device that prevents flies from falling into coffee.

The Palestinian - blames the Israeli for the fly falling in his coffee, protests the act of aggression to the UN which immediately passes an anti-Israeli resolution, takes a loan from the European Union to buy a new cup of coffee, uses the money to purchase explosives and then blows up the coffee house where the Italian, the Frenchman, the Chinese, the German and the Russian are all trying to explain to the Israeli that he should give away his cup of tea to the Palestinian.

Friday, December 26, 2008


As far back as I can remember, I have suffered in silence whenever I overheard some bigot say that Jews lacked the courage it takes to fight in the military. It is almost impossible to refute such an outrageous lie without having on hand some statistics to the contrary. And even if one had such stats, the bigot would refuse to believe them.

I always try to catch the NBC Nightly News and the NBC Today Show. Col. Paul Jacobs (ret.), a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, has appeared many times on both programs as one of NBC's military analysts. The other day I asked myself, "Hmmmm, Jacobs? I wonder if he might be Jewish?" I found out he is. Then I browsed the web further to see if there were any other Jews who were awarded the medal of honor. To my surprise, I found out that since the award's inception in 1862, there have been at least 18 Jewish CMOH recipients.

In 2004, according to Wikipedia, Jews were only 2.1 percent of the total U.S. population but they have "constituted about 4.23 percent of the U.S. armed forces." That makes 18 CMOH awards a fairly decent number. Even more significant is the fact that during the Civil War, when there were only a handful of Jews in America, six Union soldiers of the Jewish faith were awarded the nation's highest honor.

In preparing for this blog, I learned that the religious identity of a soldier is not always easy to determine. In the past, because of anti-Semitism, many Jewish soldiers felt the need to change their names or enlist as a Christian - Simon Suhler, a CMOH recipient from the Indian Wars, received his medal while serving under the name of Charles Gardner. So it is quite possible that there are actually more than 18 Jewish recipients. I personally experienced anti-Semitism while I served in the army during WWII. I'll never forget the time one asshole, upon learning that I was Jewish, told me that "a Jew is nothing but a nigger turned inside out."

So now, it is with great pride that I am listing the 18 known Jewish Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and the official military citation which accompanied each award:

Civil War (6)

Benjamin Levy In the Battle of Charles City Crossroads, Levy, a drummer boy, rescued the two standards which were dropped by their wounded color bearers. He unfurled them and carried them throughout the battle, preventing the colors from being captured by the Confederate soldiers.

David Urbansky Exceptional gallantry and heroism in many actions.

Henry Heller In the Battle of Chancellorsville, he was one of a party of four under heavy fire. They voluntarily crossed the enemy lines to capture and bring back to the Union lines a wounded Confederate officer from whom valuable information was obtained concerning the position of the enemy.

Abraham Cohn At the battle of the Wilderness, on 6 May, 1864, he rallied and reformed the disorganized fleeing Union troops from several regiments and established a new line of defense that held. At the Battle of Petersburg, Virginia, 30 July, 1864, he bravely and coolly carried orders to the advanced Union line while under severe fire from Confederate troops.

Leopold Karpeles In the Battle of Wilderness, the Confederate forces had charged the Union lines many times and the woods were full of smoke. Sergeant Leopold Karpeles was entrusted with the colors which he kept waving as it was the only visible thing the Union soldiers could see. General Wadsworth rode up and down the Union lines on his horse shouting to his disarrayed soldiers "rally around the flag boys!" Risking his life, Sergeant Karpeles kept waving the flag as Confederate gun fire kept missing him. The Confederate Army was checked and defeated as the Union soldiers were able to reform their lines and fight back. For his bravery in face of the enemy fire, Sergeant Karpeles was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Isaac Gause In hand-to-hand combat while on a reconnaissance along the Berryville and Winchester Pike, he captured the colors of the Confederate Army's 8th South Carolina Infantry.

Indian Wars (2)

Simon Suhler (aka Charles Gardner) For outstanding bravery and gallantry in action against the Indians.

George Geiger George Geiger, with his three companions, courageously held a position against fierce attacks from the Indians to secure the water for the command.

Hatian Campaign (1)

Samuel Marguiles (aka Samuel Gross) In company with members of the Fifth, Thirteenth, Twenty-third Companies and marine and sailor detachments from the U.S.S. Connecticut, Gross participated in the attack on Fort Riviere, Haiti. Following a concentrated drive, several different detachments of marines gradually closed in on the old French bastion fort in an effort to cut off all avenues of retreat for the Caco Bandits. Approaching a breach in the wall, which was the only entrance to the fort, Gross was the second man to pass through the breach in face of constant fire from the Caco Bandits and, thereafter, for a ten minute period, engaged the enemy in desperate hand-to-hand combat until the bastion was captured and the Caco resistance neutralized.

World War I (3)

Sydney G. Gumpertz When the advancing line was held up by machine gun fire, Sergeant Gumpertz left the platoon of which he was in command and started with two other soldiers through a heavy barrage toward the machine gun nest. His two companions soon became casualties from the bursting shells, but Sergeant Gumpertz continued alone in the face of direct fire from the machine gun, jumped into the nest and silenced the gun and capturing nine of the enemy crew.

Benjamin Kaufman He took out a patrol for the purpose of attacking an enemy machine gun which had checked the advance of the company. Before reaching the gun, he became separated from the patrol and a machine gun bullet shattered his right arm. Without hesitation, he advanced on the gun alone, throwing grenades with his left hand and charging with an empty pistol, taking one prisoner and scattering the crew, bringing the gun and prisoner back to the first-aid station.

William Sawelson (Killed In Action) Hearing a wounded man in a shell hole some distance away calling for water, Sergeant Sawelson, upon his own initiative, left his shelter and crawled through heavy machine gun fire to where the man lay, giving what water he had in his canteen. He then went back to his own shell hole, obtained more water, and was returning to the wounded man when he was killed by a machine gun bullet.

World War II (3)

Ben Salomon (KIA) Captain Ben L. Salomon was serving at Saipan, in the Marianas Islands on July 7, 1944, as the Surgeon for the 2d Battalion, 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division. The Regiment's 1st and 2d Battalions were attacked by an overwhelming force estimated between 3,000 and 5,000 Japanese soldiers. It was one of the largest attacks attempted in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Although both units fought furiously, the enemy soon penetrated the Battalions'combined perimeter and inflicted overwhelming casualties. In the first minutes of the attack, approximately 30 wounded soldiers walked, crawled, or were carried into Captain Salomon's aid station, and the small tent soon filled with wounded men. As the perimeter began to be overrun, it became increasingly difficult for Captain Salomon to work on the wounded. He then saw a Japanese soldier bayoneting one of the wounded soldiers lying near the tent. Firing from a squatting position, Captain Salomon quickly killed the enemy soldier. Then, as he turned his attention back to the wounded, two more Japanese soldiers appeared in the front entrance of the tent. As these enemy soldiers were killed, four more crawled under the tent walls. Rushing them, Captain Salomon kicked the knife out of the hand of one, shot another, and bayoneted a third. Captain Salomon butted the fourth enemy soldier in the stomach and a wounded comrade then shot and killed the enemy soldier. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Captain Salomon ordered the wounded to make their way as best they could back to the regimental aid station, while he attempted to hold off the enemy until they were clear. Captain Salomon then grabbed a rifle from one of the wounded and rushed out of the tent. After four men were killed while manning a machine gun, Captain Salomon took control of it. When his body was later found, 98 dead enemy soldiers were piled in front of his position. Captain Salomon's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Raymond Zussman (KIA) On September 12, 1944, Lt. Zussman was in command of two tanks operating with an infantry company in an attack on enemy forces occupying the town of Noroy le Bourg, France. At 7 p.m., his command tank bogged down. Throughout the action, armed only with a carbine, he reconnoitered alone on foot far in advance of his remaining tank and infantry. Returning only from time to time to designate targets, he directed the action of the tank and turned over to the infantry numerous German prisoners that he had caused to surrender. He located a road block and directed his tank to destroy it. Fully exposed to enemy gun fire 50 yards away, he stood by his tank directing its fire. Three Germans were killed and eight surrendered. Again he walked in front of his tank, leading it against an enemy held group of houses, with machine-gun and small arms fire kicking up around his feet. The tank fire broke the enemy's resistance and 20 more surrendered. Going forward again alone, he passed an enemy held house from which gun fire and grenades were directed at him. He ordered the tank to fire on the house and eleven Germans were killed and fifteen surrendered. Going on alone, he disappeared soon to appear with thirty prisoners. Under Lt. Zussman's heroic and inspiring leadership, eighteen enemy were killed and ninety-two were captured

Isadore S. Jachman (KIA) For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at Flamierge, Belgium, on 4, January, 1945, when his company was pinned down by enemy artillery, mortar and small arms fire, two hostile tanks attacked the unit inflicting heavy casualties. Sergeant Jachman seeing the desperate plight of his comrades, left his place of cover with total disregard for his own safety dashed across open ground through a hail of fire and seizing a bazooka from a fallen comrade advanced on the tanks, which concentrated their fire on him. Firing the weapon alone, he damaged one tank forcing both of them to retire. Sergeant Jachman's heroic action, in which he suffered fatal wounds, disrupted the entire enemy attack, reflecting the highest credit upon himself and the parachute infantry.

Korean War (1)

Tibor Rubin For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Corporal Tibor Rubin distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period from July 23, 1950, to April 20, 1953, while serving as a rifleman with Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in the Republic of Korea. While his unit was retreating to the Pusan Perimeter, Corporal Rubin was assigned to stay behind to keep open the vital Taegu-Pusan Road link used by his withdrawing unit. During the ensuing battle, overwhelming numbers of North Korean troops assaulted a hill defended solely by Corporal Rubin. He inflicted a staggering number of casualties on the attacking force during his personal 24-hour battle, single-handedly slowing the enemy advance and allowing the 8th Cavalry Regiment to complete its withdrawal successfully. Following the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, the 8 th Cavalry Regiment proceeded northward and advanced into North Korea. During the advance, he helped capture several hundred North Korean soldiers. On October 30, 1950, Chinese forces attacked his unit at Unsan, North Korea, during a massive nighttime assault. That night and throughout the next day, he manned a 30 caliber machine gun at the south end of the unit's line after three previous gunners became casualties. He continued to man his machine gun until his ammunition was exhausted. His determined stand slowed the pace of the enemy advance in his sector, permitting the remnants of his unit to retreat southward. As the battle raged, Corporal Rubin was severely wounded and captured by the Chinese. Choosing to remain in the prison camp despite offers from the Chinese to return him to his native Hungary, Corporal Rubin disregarded his own personal safety and immediately began sneaking out of the camp at night in search of food for his comrades. Breaking into enemy food storehouses and gardens, he risked certain torture or death if caught. Corporal Rubin provided not only food to the starving Soldiers, but also desperately needed medical care and moral support for the sick and wounded of the POW camp. His brave, selfless efforts were directly attributed to saving the lives of as many as forty of his fellow prisoners. Corporal Rubin's gallant actions in close contact with the enemy and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

Vietnam War (2)

Jack H. Jacobs For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Jacobs (then a lieutenant) distinguished himself on 9 March, 1968, while serving as Assistant Battalion Advisor, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam, during operations in Kien Phong Province. His unit came under heavy enemy attack. Jacobs called for and directed air attacks against the enemy. He was wounded by mortar fragments and he continued to direct the air fire while bleeding profusely from head wounds. He assumed complete control of the unit and he reorganized it for its defense and attack. He made numerous trips through the rice paddies evacuating the wounded. His gallant actions and extraordinary heroism saved the lives of one U.S. advisor and thirteen allied soldiers. Captain Jacobs by his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action in the highest traditions of the military service, has reflected great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

John L. Levitow For Airman First Class), U.S. Air Force, distinguished himself by exceptional heroism on 24 February, 1969, while assigned as a loadmaster aboard a AC-47 aircraft flying a night missionconspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty. Sergeant John L. Levitow (then . On that date, Sgt. Levitow's aircraft was struck by a hostile mortar round. The resulting explosion ripped a hole through the wing and fragments mad over 3,500 holes in the fuselage. All occupants of the cargo compartment were helplessly slammed against the floor and fuselage. The explosion tore an activated flare from the grasp of a crewmember, who had been launching flares to provide illumination for Army ground troops engaged in combat. Sgt. Levitow, though stunned by the concussion of the blast and suffering from over forty fragment wounds in the back and legs, staggered to his feet and turned to assist the man nearest to him, who had been knocked down and was bleeding heavily. As he was moving his wounded comrade forward and away from the open cargo compartment door, he saw the smoking flare ahead of him in the aisle. Realizing the danger involved and completely disregarding his own wounds, Sgt. Levitow started toward the burning flare. Sgt. Levitow struggled forward despite the loss fo blood. Unable to grasp the flare with his hands, he threw himself bodily upon the burning flare. Hugging the deadly devise to his body, he dragged himself back to the rear of the aircraft and hurled the flare through the open cargo door. At that instant, the flare separated and ignited in the air, but clear of the aircraft. Sgt. Levitow, by selfless and heroic actions, saved the aircraft and its entire crew from certain death and destruction. Sgt. Levitow's conspicuous gallantry, his profound concern for his fellowmen and his intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.


By now, most of you have either read about or seen the surveillance video of a bold unarmed grocery market thief who would not be deterred in his crime spree despite a face-to-face confrontation with the store manager. Even so, this story of the shoplifting dog, whose acute sense of smell led him directly to the pet supply section, is too good to be left out of my blog.

Here is one of the better accounts of this news event as reported yesterday by John Hollenhorst of Fresno's ABC30 Action News:

A four-legged thief struck quickly at a grocery store in Utah. It walked right into the store, grabbed a present (a $2.79 rawhide bone), and made a clean getaway. But not before leaving some incriminating paw marks.

At Smith's Food & Drug in Murray (a Salt Lake City suburb), a popular place these days is the manager's office, where they have the surveillance video.

"You had to see to believe it", said Tracy Jacobson of Smith's Food & Drug, "but it happened. So. It's crazy."

A suspicious character entered through the front door.

"I've never seen him shop in here before, brand new customer" said Roger Adamson, the store manager.

What happened next is already becoming legend.

"How likely is that, for a dog to walk into a store, go down the pet aisle, get his bone, and walk out?" Adamson said.

Let's reconstruct the crime a step at a time.

Entering at the checkout area he approached a young girl. At that point he had a decision to make. Left? No dog food. Right? Dog food.

He turned right and went straight to aisle 16. The dog food isle.

He grabbed a rawhide bone like this and headed down the aisle, only to be confronted by the manager.

"I looked at him, I said drop it! I decided I wanted to keep all my fingers. So, I didn't try to take it from him. He looked at me and I looked at him and he ran for the door and away he went. Right out the front door." Adamson added.

At last word, he was still at large, presumably enjoying his Christmas loot.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Remember Lee Iacocca, the man who rescued Chrysler Corporation from its death throes? He's now in his eighties and has a book, "Where Have All The Leaders Gone?" The book appears to be highly critical of President Bush. Will Barack Obama be the leader Iacocoa is looking for? Only time will tell. Here are some excerpts from his book:

"Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder! We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, 'Stay The course.'

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America , not the damned, 'Titanic'. I'll give you a sound bite: 'Throw all the bums out!'

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore.

The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq , the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving 'pom-poms' instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of the 'America' my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about You?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have. The biggest 'C' is crisis! (Iacocca elaborates on nine C's of leadership, with crisis being the first.)

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. A hell of a mess, so here's where we stand.

We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving.

We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country.

We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia , while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs.

Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy

Our schools are in trouble.

Our borders are like sieves.

The middle class is being squeezed every which way.

These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: 'Where have all the leaders gone?' Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo?

We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina.

Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm.

Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again.

Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when 'The Big Three' referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debit, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem.

The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bonehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough? Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope - I believe in America . In my lifetime, I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises:

The Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy Assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970's oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11.

If I've learned one thing, it's this: You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a 'Call to Action' for people who, like me, believe in America. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the crap and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had enough."


If you read my blog, "Chuck Norris (And Thomas Jefferson) On The Separation Of Church And State" (11-25-08), you know that while being of the Jewish faith, I am not offended by public displays of Christian symbols. The majority of people in this country profess to be Christians and as such should have the right to display a cross and, at Christmas time, a Nativity scene on government property sites as long as symbols of other religions are welcome and not excluded. After all, isn't that what Freedom of Religion is all about?

On the other hand, I do oppose subjecting school children from other faiths to Christian prayers in public schools. In my "Chuck Norris ....." blog, I recalled how uncomfortable I was made to feel when I had to listen to daily prayers ending "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost/Spirit" or "in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior" while I was attending school in Marshall, Texas. I do not have a problem with nonsectarian prayers in public schools.

As for those of the Jewish faith who have joined with the ACLU and other groups in opposing the public display of Christian symbols, I have this to say: I hope you represent only a minority within the American Jewish community. By your opposition to those Christian displays, you are fanning the flames of anti-Semitism and that is going to be your sole accomplishment.

In today's, Jacob Sullum has an interesting collumn dealing with the same or similar issues I expressed in my blog. He calls attention to those who see Christmas trees as "Holiday Trees" to justify their display on government property sites. What a crock! How ridiculous can you get? Let's get real. A Chritamas tree is what it is - a Christmas tree, not a holiday tree. And no Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or ahteist should be offended by the public display of Christmas trees.

Here is Sullum's collumn:

by Jacob Sullum

A couple of years ago, perceiving a giant, light-covered fir at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., as a symbol of Christmas, the Jewish organization Chabad of Seattle sought to erect a menorah to commemorate Chanukah. A local real estate agent, perceiving the menorah as a religious symbol, decided to sponsor a Nativity scene.

This year the Freedom From Religion Foundation, offended by the Nativity scene, retaliated with a large plaque in the Capitol declaring, "religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." The provocative plaque attracted nationwide criticism and inspired various rejoinders, including a sign announcing, "atheism is but myth and superstition" and a 5-foot aluminum pole marking Festivus, the fictional holiday invented by George Constanza's father on "Seinfeld."
All this fuss could have been avoided if only Chabad had recognized that the decorated evergreen in the rotunda, sponsored by the Association of Washington Business, was not a Christmas tree. As the Associated Press noted, it was in fact "a nonreligious Holiday Tree."

You don't buy that? Neither do I, but it's remarkable how many people at this time of year will insist with a straight face that they are celebrating a secular winter holiday season, when the reason for the season -- the birth of the Christian Savior, whom his followers believe to be the Son of God -- is about as religious as things get. Even Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, who was predictably outraged by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire's willingness to make room for atheists, tries to have it both ways.

O'Reilly says the Capitol's "traditional holiday display" was "perfectly appropriate since the federal and state Christmas holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem." At the same time, he says, "most Americans, even those living in the far-left enclaves, respect uplifting traditions like Christmas, where peace and love is the theme of the great day." He adds, "Can't we all just get along for a few weeks in December?"

The plea to get along is touching, especially coming from a professional hothead like O'Reilly. Yet O'Reilly can't seem to decide whether Christmas is, as the name suggests, all about Jesus Christ, or simply a time of warm feelings that even atheists can appreciate.

He is not alone in his confusion. As long as local and state governments stick to illuminated evergreens and other "secular symbols" of "the winter holiday season," the U.S. Supreme Court has said, they don't have to worry about violating the First Amendment's Establishment Clause by endorsing a particular religion.

This sort of reasoning explains why the Christmas Program at my 5-year-old daughter's public school in Dallas was instead called a holiday program, at which the children sang festive holiday songs that to my untrained ear sounded a lot like Christmas carols. The school did seem to eschew songs that explicitly mention Christ (as long as you ignore the Christ in Christmas), but it still forced my wife and me to choose between 1) letting our daughter publicly celebrate a religious holiday that is not part of our tradition and 2) making her feel excluded by stopping her from joining all the other kindergartners in an official school activity that involved weeks of preparation in music class. The Christmas stocking with her name on it that she proudly brought home from school and wanted to hang above our fireplace put us in a similarly ticklish position as practicing Jews.

I'm not sure this sort of thing rises to the level of a constitutional complaint, but maybe we'd all get along better if the majority did not pretend that everyone can comfortably celebrate Christmas. The other day, as we were preparing for the first night of Chanukah, we had a visitor who remarked that she had always thought of Christmas as a secular holiday. My wife, a rabbi, explained to her why that view is problematic. Upon leaving, our visitor wished me a happy Chanukah and a merry Christmas.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Now I want to wish all my readers a Very Merry Christmas or a Happy Chanukah. And may 2009 be a happy, healthy, safe and prosperous year for all of you!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Chanukah (the orthodox Jewish spelling) is a holiday that falls around Christams time. It is also known as "The Festival of Lights" because every night for eight nights, Jewish people light candles in a menorah to commemorate an eight-day miracle which occurred in 167 B.C.

In today's, Mona Charen has a column in which she defends the hanging of outdoor Chanukah lights by some of her friends, a practice that is condemned by "Puritanical Jews," her way of referring to strict Orthodox Jews. In her column, "Hanukkah Lights," Charen gives us an abbreviated history of this Jewish holiday, a history that I suspect many secuolar Jews are not aware of.

For the benefit of both Christians and those Jews who do not know the story behind this holiday, here is Mona Charen's short history of Chanukah:

"Hanukkah, which began on Dec. 21 this year, is an important Jewish holiday. It's possible that, like Christmas, it is celebrated in the dark of winter not because the events it memorializes happened in December but rather because this time of year demands a warm celebration. But that is a trivial matter. The actual events on which Hanukkah is based concern faith, the challenge of secularism, and victory over persecution.

In 200 B.C.E., Israel, which was then Judea, was controlled by the Seleucid Empire (one of the successors to Alexander the Great). The confrontation between Jews and Greek culture was a complicated one. Jews found much to admire in Greek philosophy, the Greek language and literature. In fact, so attractive were Greek ways that a rift opened between Hellenizing Jews, who adopted Greek styles of dress, exercise (nude), and eating; and traditional Jews who clung to Biblical teaching and abhorred Greek polytheism, sexual license, and love of pleasure.

It might have remained a simmering civil conflict. But in 167 B.C.E., King Antiochus IV erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple in Jerusalem and outlawed a number of Jewish practices including observing the Sabbath. That sparked a rebellion. The Maccabees, a small band of zealous Jews, took up the sword against the Seleucids and also against their Hellenizing brothers (though the latter is less often mentioned).

The Maccabees' victory against a numerically superior foe was unexpected. They cleansed and rededicated the Temple and relit the lamp that hung before the altar. It had only enough oil to burn for one night. But as the story goes, it miraculously burned for eight -- long enough to press and prepare more oil."

Friday, December 19, 2008


Two current court cases in the news would be considered unbelivable were it not for the fact that they are both true. One case concerns an insurance company's denial of a claim arising from the deaths of three fire victims. The other case concerns a law suit filed against the driver of a truck that was rear-ended in a deadly collision by a drunk driver, the daughter of a juvenile court judge.

The Great American Insurance Company of Cincinnati has petitioned a federal judge to absolve it of any liability for the deaths of three victims in a Houston office building fire. The company argued that the families of the victimes should not be granted any compensation because the deaths resulted from smoke inhalation and not from actual flames.

Great American is invoking a clause in the insurance policy which excludes any damage or injury caused by pollution, fumes and soot. The insurer insists that since it specified smoke to be a form of pollution in its policy, the three deaths fall under the policy's exclusionary provisions.

Let's make sure we get this straight. The three victims who were trapped in the burning office building did not die as a result of the fire. They were killed by pollution. UNBELIEVABLE!

Great American is not the first insurer to have invoked the pollution exclusion. In 2004, Allstate also denied any liability in the deaths of three children killed by smoke inhalation in a house fire, but the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the "pollution exclusion" did not apply and forced the insurer to pay the claim. And in 1997, the Kansas Supreme Court denied a claim by Northwestern Pacific Indemnity Company that smoke damage in a grovery store was excluded because it fell under the pollicy's pollution exclusion.

In the Connecticut and Kansas cases, the insurance policies did not specify smoke to be a form of pollution. In the Houston case it is possible that, since Great American specified smoke as a pollutant, the court will rule in favor of the insurer and deny the families of the three victims any compensation.

According to Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg, "the 'pollution exclusion' originated after oil spills in the 1970s. It was intended - surprise - to apply to real pollution and, for example, corporations whose actions led to scandalous pollution events."

"Where there's fire, there's smoke" a Houston Fire Department official told Falkenberg. There is a total lack of ethics and morals by Great American and its legal staff in insisting on a literal interpretation of the pollution exclusion clause. As Falkenberg states, "For the sake of every property insurance policyholder in Texas, let's hope it's an argument U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal doesn't hesitate to stamp out."

If you think the smoke exclusion is a stretch, you ain't seen nothing yet. Last year, Elizabeth Shelton the 21-year-old daughter of a Houston juvenile court judge, was convicted of intoxication manslaughter for a freeway accident that killed her boyfriend. According to two tests, Shelton had a blood alcohol concentration MORE THAN THREE TIMES the legal limit when she smashed the SUV she was driving into the back of a box truck around 2 a.m.

After her father, the judge, used every legal trick in the book to keep his daughter from paying for her crime, Shelton was sentenced to eight years of probation and ordered to serve four months in jail. In my opinion, SHE GOT OFF WAY TOO LIGHT!

During the trial, the defense relied on an "expert" witness who blamed the truck driver for the collision, claiming that Shelton struck the truck only after and because he made an unsafe lane change on the freeway. The prosecution's expert witness testified that there was no evidence that the truck driver was in any way to blame. (I have a very low opinion of expert witnesses. Refer to my blog of 7-30-06, "Judicial Whores ...............")

Now that he's failed to get her off, Judge Shelton has joined his daughter and her dead boyfriend's family in filing a lawsuit against the driver of the truck. The suit seeks $20,000 for the destruction of the Lexus SUV she was driving and an amount to be determined for mental anguish, pain and suffering.

Let's make sure we get this straight. Elizabeth Shelton's family and the family of the young man she killed are suing the truck driver and 15 other defendants - including insurance companies and banks - because she rear-ended his truck while driving rip-roaring drunk on a freeway around 2 a.m. UNBELIEVABLE!

As for the dead boyfriend's family, how did they come to be so misguided? It is Shelton and her father that they should be suing, not the poor truck driver. And Judge Shelton? He ought to be ashamed of himself - but then he's a lawyer and most of them have no shame.

I can understand a father wanting to help his daughter defend herself. But Shelton's father is a judge and judges are held to a higher standard than us ordinary souls. By suing the truck driver, Judge Shelton has lowered himself to the same depths as those sleezy lawyers representing the Great American Insurance Company. In my opinion, Judge Shelton is unfit to sit on the juvenile court bench and should be removed from office.


As my readers know, I have published a number of blogs on the true believers in Islam. Last January, I blogged "The Peaceful Silent Muslim Majority" (1-5-08) which included exerpts from an essay on "peaceful" Muslims by Emanuel Tanay, a respected psychiatrist from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Here are some of the same exerpts, as well as additional comments subsequently made by Dr. Tanay:

We are told again and again by "experts" and "talking heads" that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectra of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor- kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

The hard quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the "silent majority," is cowed and extraneous. As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

So, here we sit in America with several million peaceful Muslims living amongst us. Was it not the peaceful Muslims that were seen cheering in the streets as the towers fell? They may not have blown them up, but they certainly were supportive of the deed. Not all Muslims of course, certainly not.

I didn't see any demonstrations by Muslims after 911 protesting what others of their faith had done however. Hundreds of peacful Muslims have come across our borders illegally or have overstayed their visas and so far they have done nothing of a terrorist nature. They are "peaceful" so far.

Millions attend their mosques that are headed by radical Imams right here in America and in Washington DC in particular, who preach a decidedly non-peaceful agenda. So far, the peaceful majority have not acted on these words, but we are left to wonder why these radical Muslims are allowed to stay here to poison the minds of the peaceful majority?

They are using our freedom of religion laws against us. They are using our freedom of speech laws against us. They are using our freedom of assembly laws against us. The legions of peacful Muslims in this country have only to do nothing and provide a cover for the not so peaceful minority and they become passive co-conspirators.

I am wondering where the outrage is amongst the peaceful majority here? Why are they not throwing out the hate mongers in their mosques? Why are they donating to radical causes in the middle east? Why are they sending their Muslim-American sons to the middle east to learn the old non-peaceful ways and then come back here to influence the remaining millions that as yet appear peaceful?

Those that are peaceful and vocal that terrorism is not to be tolerated should be allowed to stay, those that sit quietly are a huge potential future terrorist problem and should be shown the door. The non-Muslim majority of this country should deal with this potential problem from a position of strength and intolerance of the terrorists intolerance.

The truly peacful majority of Muslims should start cleaning up their communities and irradicating the non-peaceful minority by turning them in to homeland security and helping the rest of us to feel secure in having any Muslim in our country.

It is getting harder and harder to tell the difference between the minority and the majority. As the majority starts to demand that this country bend to their religious and cultural standards, the more we give in to them, the more emboldened they will become.

Personally, I can't see myself in a burkha. I am done compromising on anything heading in the Muslim direction..

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Whatever happened to the cost of doing business? There was a time when businesses bit the bullet and absorbed the ordinary cost of doing business. Them days are gone forever. Nowadays, the consumer gets stuck with those costs. Capital improvements? Raise prices. Upgrade computers? Raise prices.

I believe most consumers would agree that it was perfectly reasonable for businesses to charge higher prices to offset the skyrocketing cost of fuel which we experienced in recent months. But now that fuel prices have fallen back down, have businesses lowered prices accordingly? I don't think so.

When it comes to screwing the consumer, CenterPoint Energy takes the prize. CenterPoint, a spin-off from electric utility giant Reliant Energy, is the electric transmission provider for the greater Houston area. (It is also the gas company for part of the region.) CenterPoint is going to replace the traditional spinning dial electric meters with digital meters for all homeowners and businesses in the region.

The so-called "smart meters" can be read and controlled remotely from a central information center. For the privilege of letting CenterPoint operate more efficiciently without having to employ meter readers, electric consumers are going to have to pay a $3.24 monthly surcharge for two years and then $3.05 for the next ten years. Each of the 2.2 million customers served by CenterPoint will have paid a total of $443.76 in surcharges by the end of the 12 year period.

Lets see, $443.76 x 2,200,000 = $976,272,000. CenterPoint says the new system will cost $640 million, with the balance of the $976.3 million used to pay for the financing costs. The surcharges will be added on to the customer bills of Reliant Energy, TXU Energy and the other electric power companies competing for business in the greater Houston area and will be billed in addition to the $3.88 monthly fee CenterPoint already charges.

Once the new meters have been installed, CenterPoint's cost of doing business will have been reduced and a whole bunch of meter readers will become unemployed, with a good number of them having to go on welfare. But instead of passing their savings on to the consumers, CenterPoint is doing just the opposite. The consumer be damned!



(1) Fine: This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

(2) Five Minutes: If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.

(3) Nothing: This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with nothing usually end in fine.

(4) Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Don't Do It!

(5) Loud Sigh: This is actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to # 3 for the meaning of nothing.)

(6) That's Okay: This is one of the most dangerous statements a women can make to a man. That's okay means she wants you to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.

(7) Thanks: A woman is thanking you, do not question, or faint. Just say you're welcome. (I want to add in a clause here - This is true, unless she says 'Thanks a lot' - that is PURE sarcasm and she is not thanking you at all. DO NOT say 'you're welcome' that will bring on a 'whatever').

(8) Whatever: Is a woman's way of saying FUCK YOU!

(9) Don't worry about it, I got it: Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking 'What's wrong?' For the woman's response refer back to # 3.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


American Submariners
by David Clemow*

In Australia and New Zealand, on Anzac Day (April 25) thoughts turn to those who gave their lives during various wars over the last century. But there is one group which has never been given recognition for what they achieved in World War II and that is the United States submariners, 3505 of whom lost their lives, including 374 officers.

When one analysis what they achieved there is no doubt they did more than any other group to defeat the Japanese and save Australia and New Zealand from being invaded. The reason is simple - they sank more than 60 per cent of the Japanese merchant marine fleet. Without these ships, not only was the Japanese advance stifled, their occupying troops lost their supply lines and they virtually could not be evacuated like the British were at Dunkirk to fight in other battles.

Additionally with the loss of shipping, Japan found it very difficult to supply the home land with raw materials from the conquered territories.
After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, the US instigated a policy of restricting supplies to Japan . This ultimately led to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The Japanese advance over the next five months was nothing short of staggering _ Hong Kong, the Philippines, Burma, Borneo, Malaya, Thailand, Indo-China (Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam) and Singapore on February 15, 1942 where 80,000 troops surrendered (the largest surrender of British military personnel in history) were occupied. Ships played a most important part in this role.

The Dutch East Indies ( Indonesia ) was occupied in March and Darwin first bombed on February 15, 1942. The farthest Japanese advance was Guadacanal in the Solomon Islands by July 6. The farthest advance in Burma was on May 8, 1942, which was the second day of the Coral Sea battle - their first setback, followed by the Battle of Midway on June 3-6.

Without a huge marine fleet this advance would never have been possible. Over the next two years the US Navy submarine fleet went to work.

Fortunately they had cracked the Japanese naval code so they virtually knew their every move. The Japanese had also failed to destroy the enormous naval fuel-oil installations at Pearl Harbor when Admiral Nagumo did not go ahead with the third wave of air strikes. Admiral Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the US Navy Pacific Fleet, said that had the tanks been destroyed the war would have been prolonged by two years as it would have immobilized every ship in the Pacific Fleet.

The Japanese had no long-range anti-submarine aircraft and probably their destroyers were not that well equipped to deal with submarines. The problem for the American Navy was where to base the submarines. Darwin was ruled out because the harbor was considered too shallow. Finally Fremantle (near Perth ) was chosen and obviously that was too far away for the Japanese to attack with aircraft. It was a long haul for the submarines to the areas where Japanese ships were active to the north but on the surface, diesel-powered submarines have a tremendous range.

Obviously they would sail on the surface for most of their operations to and from Fremantle. Evidently Japan never found out where the submarines were based. The Fremantle base had 125 American, 31 British and 11 Free Dutch submarines. The Americans deployed 288 submarines during the war so nearly half operated from the Fremantle base.

Japan started the war with six million tonnes of shipping and of course built more as the war went on. US submarines sank 1314 of their ships of more than 1000 tons each, plus 700,000 tons of naval ships including eight aircraft carriers, a battleship and 11 cruisers.

They did 416 patrols and fired 14,500 torpedoes. Out of a total of 52 subs lost, 48 were lost operating from the Fremantle base. American submariners made up only 1.6 per cent of the US naval manpower but they had the highest loss rate of US Armed Forces with 22 per cent killed.

At the German Naval Museum at Laboe, northeast of Kiel , there is a memorial to the 3505 American submariners and a memorial to the 31,000 German submariners who lost their lives out of a total of 39,000 men who served in their U-boats. The Germans built 1154 U-boats and lost 800.

More than 50,000 allied Merchant Seamen lost their lives, many as a result of U-boat activity. They, too, have never been given true recognition for what they achieved in the Atlantic and the sacrifices they made.

Last year while in Los Angeles I spoke to a group of American submariners. Many did not know of their predecessors' achievements in the war and none knew there was a base in Fremantle.

They are going to make a concerted effort to bring this oversight into prominence when remembrances are held. Their sacrifices certainly saved us from invasion. Anzac Day is now also the time to remember those 3505 dead submariners of the US Navy.

*David Clemow of Auckland is a retired Air New Zealand pilot, previous technical director of the Airline Pilots Association and a qualified meteorologist.


Lately, there has been a debate on whether or not the First Lady should be paid for her services in the White House and for her trips abroad. The First Lady serves as the hostess for frequent White House state dinners and she may, from time to time, represent the U.S. overseas. Laura Bush believes that future First Ladies should be paid for their services. My response to Mrs. Bush is: HELL NO, NOT WITH MY TAX DOLLARS!

Why am I so opposed to paying our First Ladies for their services? Well, to begin with, the President's wife has not been elected First Lady. She wasn't drafted. And, she has not been appointed to that position either. She is the First Lady for only one reason - she happens to be married to the President. We elected him to be president and she gets to come along for the ride.

The President currently earns $400,000 per year, along with a $50,000 expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment. The First Lady gets an office in the White House and an expense account. She is provided with a paid staff and with an ample budget for her activities. And like the President, she has an airforce plane at her disposal.

With all those perks for the President and the First Lady, I can see no justification whatsoever why she should also be paid a salary. Shit, if she chooses to, she is free to confine her official activites to only hosting state dinners. So, if anyone asks me if the First Lady should be paid for her services, my answer will be a resounding: HELL NO, NOT WITH MY TAX DOLLARS!


In every catastrophe it is easy to identify the heroes, usually police officers and firefighters. But in many instances there are unsung heroes who fail to receive the recognition they deserve. The recent terrorists attacks on Mumbai had its share of unsung heroes.

Even though they were rather inept in their response to the terrorist attacks, no one can question the heroism of the Indian police and the army commandos. But what most of the world doesn't know is that the real heroes of Mumbai were the employees of the Taj Mahal Hotel. They risked their lives and lost their lives trying to protect the guests of the hotel.

Michael Pollack, an American, was a guest at the hotel together with his wife and some friends. He wrote about what happened to him and his wife in order to credit the heroic hotel staff, the unsung heroes of Mumbai, for the survival of most of those who were guests of the Taj Mahal during the attacks. Here is Pollack's compelling account:

Heroes At The Taj
Michael Pollack

My story begins innocuously, with a dinner reservation in a world-class hotel. It ends 12 hours later after the Indian army freed us.

My point is not to sensationalize events. It is to express my gratitude and pay tribute to the staff of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, who sacrificed their lives so that we could survive. They, along with the Indian army, are the true heroes that emerged from this tragedy.

My wife, Anjali, and I were married in the Taj's Crystal Ballroom. Her parents were married there, too, and so were Shiv and Reshma, the couple with whom we had dinner plans. In fact, my wife and Reshma, both Bombay girls, grew up hanging out and partying the night away there and at the Oberoi Hotel, another terrorist target.

The four of us arrived at the Taj around 9:30 p.m. for dinner at the Golden Dragon, one of the better Chinese restaurants in Mumbai. We were a little early, and our table wasn't ready. So we walked next door to the Harbour Bar and had barely begun to enjoy our beers when the host told us our table was ready. We decided to stay and finish our drinks.

Thirty seconds later, we heard what sounded like a heavy tray smashing to the ground. This was followed by 20 or 30 similar sounds and then absolute silence. We crouched behind a table just feet away from what we now knew were gunmen. Terrorists had stormed the lobby and were firing indiscriminately.

We tried to break the glass window in front of us with a chair, but it wouldn't budge. The Harbour Bar's hostess, who had remained at her post, motioned to us that it was safe to make a run for the stairwell. She mentioned, in passing, that there was a dead body right outside in the corridor. We believe this courageous woman was murdered after we ran away.

(We later learned that minutes after we climbed the stairs, terrorists came into the Harbour Bar, shot everyone who was there and executed those next door at the Golden Dragon. The staff there was equally brave, locking their patrons into a basement wine cellar to protect them. But the terrorists managed to break through and lob in grenades that killed everyone in the basement.)

We took refuge in the small office of the kitchen of another restaurant, Wasabi, on the second floor. Its chef and staff served the four of us food and drink and even apologized for the inconvenience we were suffering.

Through text messaging, e-mail on BlackBerrys and a small TV in the office, we realized the full extent of the terrorist attack on Mumbai. We figured we were in a secure place for the moment. There was also no way out.

At around 11:30 p.m., the kitchen went silent. We took a massive wooden table and pushed it up against the door, turned off all the lights and hid. All of the kitchen workers remained outside; not one staff member had run.

The terrorists repeatedly slammed against our door. We heard them ask the chef in Hindi if anyone was inside the office. He responded calmly: "No one is in there. It's empty." That is the second time the Taj staff saved our lives.

After about 20 minutes, other staff members escorted us down a corridor to an area called The Chambers, a members-only area of the hotel. There were about 250 people in six rooms. Inside, the staff was serving sandwiches and alcohol. People were nervous, but cautiously optimistic. We were told The Chambers was the safest place we could be because the army was now guarding its two entrances and the streets were still dangerous. There had been attacks at a major railway station and a hospital.

But then, a member of parliament phoned into a live newscast and let the world know that hundreds of people--including CEOs, foreigners and members of parliament--were "secure and safe in The Chambers together." Adding to the escalating tension and chaos was the fact that, via text and cellphone, we knew that the dome of the Taj was on fire and that it could move downward.

At around 2 a.m., the staff attempted an evacuation. We all lined up to head down a dark fire escape exit. But after five minutes, grenade blasts and automatic weapon fire pierced the air. A mad stampede ensued to get out of the stairwell and take cover back inside The Chambers.

After that near-miss, my wife and I decided we should hide in different rooms. While we hoped to be together at the end, our primary obligation was to our children. We wanted to keep one parent alive. Because I am American and my wife is Indian, and news reports said the terrorists were targeting U.S. and U.K. nationals, I believed I would further endanger her life if we were together in a hostage situation.

So when we ran back to The Chambers I hid in a toilet stall with a floor-to-ceiling door and my wife stayed with our friends, who fled to a large room across the hall.

For the next seven hours, I lay in the fetal position, keeping in touch with Anjali via BlackBerry. I was joined in the stall by Joe, a Nigerian national with a U.S. green card. I managed to get in touch with the FBI, and several agents gave me status updates throughout the night.

I cannot even begin to explain the level of adrenaline running through my system at this point. It was this hyper-aware state where every sound, every smell, every piece of information was ultra-acute, analyzed and processed so that we could make the best decisions and maximize the odds of survival.

Was the fire above us life-threatening? What floor was it on? Were the commandos near us, or were they terrorists? Why is it so quiet? Did the commandos survive? If the terrorists come into the bathroom and to the door, when they fire in, how can I make my body as small as possible? If Joe gets killed before me in this situation, how can I throw his body on mine to barricade the door? If the Indian commandos liberate the rest in the other room, how will they know where I am? Do the terrorists have suicide vests? Will the roof stand? How can I make sure the FBI knows where Anjali and I are? When is it safe to stand up and attempt to urinate?

Meanwhile, Anjali and the others were across the corridor in a mass of people lying on the floor and clinging to each other. People barely moved for seven hours, and for the last three hours they felt it was too unsafe to even text. While I was tucked behind a couple walls of marble and granite in my toilet stall, she was feet from bullets flying back and forth. After our failed evacuation, most of the people in the fire escape stairwell and many staff members who attempted to protect the guests were shot and killed.

The 10 minutes around 2:30 a.m. were the most frightening. Rather than the back-and-forth of gunfire, we just heard single, punctuated shots. We later learned that the terrorists went along a different corridor of The Chambers, room by room, and systematically executed everyone: women, elderly, Muslims, Hindus, foreigners. A group huddled next to Anjali was devout Bori Muslims who would have been slaughtered just like everyone else, had the terrorists gone into their room. Everyone was in deep prayer and most, Anjali included, had accepted that their lives were likely over. It was terrorism in its purest form. No one was spared.

The next five hours were filled with the sounds of an intense grenade/gun battle between the Indian commandos and the terrorists. It was fought in darkness; each side was trying to outflank the other.

By the time dawn broke, the commandos had successfully secured our corridor. A young commando led out the people packed into Anjali's room. When one woman asked whether it was safe to leave, the commando replied: "Don't worry, you have nothing to fear. The first bullets have to go through me."

The corridor was laced with broken glass and bullet casings. Every table was turned over or destroyed. The ceilings and walls were littered with hundreds of bullet holes. Blood stains were everywhere, though, fortunately, there were no dead bodies to be seen.

A few minutes after Anjali had vacated, Joe and I peeked out of our stall. We saw multiple commandos and smiled widely. I had lost my right shoe while sprinting to the toilet so I grabbed a sheet from the floor, wrapped it around my foot and proceeded to walk over the debris to the hotel lobby.

Anjali and I embraced for the first time in seven hours in the Taj's ground floor entrance. I didn't know whether she was dead or injured because we hadn't been able to text for the past three hours.
I wanted to take a picture of us on my BlackBerry, but Anjali wanted us to get out of there before doing anything.

She was right--our ordeal wasn't completely over. A large bus pulled up in front of the Taj to collect us and, just about as it was fully loaded, gunfire erupted again. The terrorists were still alive and firing automatic weapons at the bus. Anjali was the last to get on the bus, and she eventually escaped in our friend's car. I ducked under some concrete barriers for cover and wound up the subject of photos that were later splashed across the media. Shortly thereafter, an ambulance came and drove a few of us to safety. An hour later, Anjali and I were again reunited at her parents' home. Our Thanksgiving had just gained a lot more meaning.

Some may say our survival was due to random luck, others might credit divine intervention. But 72 hours removed from these events, I can assure you only one thing: Far fewer people would have survived if it weren't for the extreme selflessness shown by the Taj staff, who organized us, catered to us and then, in the end, literally died for us.

They complemented the extreme bravery and courage of the Indian commandos, who, in a pitch-black setting and unfamiliar, tightly packed terrain, valiantly held the terrorists at bay.

It is also amazing that, out of our entire group, not one person screamed or panicked. There was an eerie but quiet calm that pervaded--one more thing that got us all out alive. Even people in adjacent rooms, who were being executed, kept silent.

It is much easier to destroy than to build, yet somehow humanity has managed to build far more than it has ever destroyed. Likewise, in a period of crisis, it is much easier to find faults and failings rather than to celebrate the good deeds. It is now time to commemorate our heroes.

Michael Pollack is a general partner of Glenhill Capital, a firm he co-founded in 2001.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Civil rights activists have made much of the disproportionate number of blacks that are languishing in jails and prisons, blaming their high rate of incarceration on white society's racist criminal justice system. While blacks represent only 13 percent of the total population, they make up nearly 38 percent of all jail and prison inmates.

Barack Obama has complained that "actually, more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities" and that "we have a system that locks away too many young, first-time, nonviolent offenders for the better part of their lives." However, George Will argues that "more than twice as many black men 18-24 are in college as there are in jail." And Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute revealed that "from 1999 to 2004, violent offenders accounted for all of the increase in the prison population."

Here, from a past George Will column, are some excerpts explaining why so many blacks are imprisoned:

The Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald cites data indicating that "in the overwhelming majority of cases, prison remains a lifetime achievement award for persistence in criminal offending. Absent recidivism or a violent crime, the criminal-justice system will do everything it can to keep you out of the state or federal slammer."

President-elect Obama sees racism in the incarceration rate: "We have certain sentences that are based less on the kind of crime you commit than on what you look like and where you come from." Indeed, in 2006, blacks, who are less than 13 percent of the population, were 37.5 percent of all state and federal prisoners. About one in 33 black men are in prison, compared with one in 79 Hispanic men and one in 205 white men.

But Mac Donald cites studies of charging and sentencing that demonstrate that the reason more blacks are disproportionately in prison, and for longer terms, is not racism but racial differences in patterns of criminal offenses: "In 2005 the black homicide rate was over seven times higher than that of whites and Hispanics combined. ... From 1976 to 2005, blacks committed over 52 percent of all murders." Do police excessively arrest blacks? "The race of criminals reported by crime victims matches arrest data."

As for the charge that the incarceration rate of blacks is substantially explained by more severe federal sentences for crack as opposed to powder-cocaine defendants (only 13 states distinguish between the two substances, and these states have small sentence differentials), Mac Donald says:

"It's going to take a lot more than 5,000 or so (federal) crack defendants a year to account for the 562,000 black prisoners in state and federal facilities at the end of 2006 -- or the 858,000 black prisoners in custody overall, if one includes the population of county and city jails."

As I see it, there are more blacks in prison simply because they commit more crimes. Racism has little, if anything, to do with the disproportionate number of incarcerated blacks. Victimologists, like Jessee Jackson and Al Sharpton, have been trying to con us into buying their crap about a racist criminal justice system. Although social conditions are partly to blame for a subculture of crime in the black community, isn't it way past the time for civil rights activists to stop howling that racism is behind every misfortune experienced by black America?


'Twas the night before Christmas--Old Santa was pissed.
He cussed out the elves and threw down his list.
Miserable little brats, ungrateful little jerks.
I have a good mind to scrap the whole works!

I've busted my ass for damn near a year,
Instead of "Thanks Santa"--what do I hear?
The old lady bitches cause I work late at night.
The elves want more money--The reindeer all fight.

Rudolph got drunk and goosed all the maids.
Donner is pregnant and Vixen has AIDS.
And just when I thought that things would get better
Those assholes from the IRS sent me a letter,
They say I owe taxes--if that ain't damn funny
Who the hell ever sent Santa Claus any money?

And the kids these days--they all are the pits
They want the impossible--Those mean little shits
I spent a whole year making wagons and sleds
Assembling dolls...Their arms, legs and heads
I made a ton of yo yo's--No request for them,
They want computers and robots...they think - I'm IBM!

Flying through the air...dodging the trees
Falling down chimneys and skinning my knees
I'm quitting this job there's just no enjoyment
I'll sit on my fat ass and draw unemployment.

Do you want to know why
There's no Christmas this year?
I dumped the nagging old bitch by golly
For a sexy blonde chick who makes me feel jolly.
We'll be down in Rio for the season,
So now you know the reason.

Friday, December 12, 2008


The election of Cynthia Dunbar to the Texas State Board of Education proves that an informed electorate is a myth. In 2006, she was elected by ignorant voters and, unfortunately, the education of Texas school children is being dumbed down as a result.

Lisa Falkenberg, a Houston Chronicle columnist, has exposed Dunbar for what she is - a militant Christian right-wing Republican nutcase. Dunbar based her election campaign on the views she espoused in her book, "One Nation Under God: How the Left is Trying to Erase What Made Us Great."

In her column, "Not a book for the faint of heart" (Houston Chronicle, 12-11-08), Falkenberg refers to several passages from Dunbar's book. Get a load of this stuff:

> Christians should "occupy" all nations. (Editor's Note: Sounds very much like Muhammad's call for the faithful to go forth and conquer the world.)

> Barack Obama's pro-choice stance on abortion is the same sort of "fascist, supremacist attitude exhibited by Mussolini and Hitler."

> Public education is tyrannical, unconstitutional and the Satan following Left's "subtly deceptive tool of perversion."

> Parents who surrender their children to government-run schools are "throwing them into the enemy's flames even as the children of (biblical) Israel threw their children to Moloch."

> The doctrine of separation of church and state is a "fallacious principle" intended to brainwash America's children with a secular, humanist world view.

> Democrats who support their party's platform can't be true, Bible-believing Christians.

> All U.S. pastors have a religious duty to tote the Republican Party line and forgo their tax-exempt status so they can preach it from the pulpit.

> The Founding Fathers created "an emphatically Christian government" and, thus, every person who wants to govern in this country should have "sincere knowledge and appreciation for the Word of God."

> America's declining, immoral society is in need of Christian soldiers who will rise up to save it.

> The similarities between our society and that of "pre-Holocaust" Nazi Germany are "striking."

According to Falkenberg, Dunbar wrote a piece for in which she said that Obama, the terrorist sympathizer, would bring tyranny to America by declaring martial law after his accomplices attack our soil.

Once they heard them, most Christians would instantly disavow Dunbar's loopy outlandish views. Apparently they were not paying attention to her as she campaigned for office. How could any voters in their right mind support a candidate who openly compares Obama to Hitler? Well, they did. Dunbar got a majority of the votes in each and every one of the 16 counties that comprise her Texas State Board of Education district. And she even carried Travis County, one of the most liberal enclaves in America. As I said, Dunbar proved that an informed electorate is a myth.

If she were the only religious zealot on the state board, her's would be a voice in the wilderness. Unfortunately, there are other far-right Christians on the board. The Texas State Board of Education is responsible for shaping the curriculum for all of the state's 4.5 million public school children. And since the board dictates the content of school textbooks, other states will be subjcected to the whims of its members because individual publishers will not want to print up different versions
of the same textbook.

Dunbar and her allies on the board are committed to discrediting Darwin's Theory of Evolution. They want texbooks to question its validity and they want "creationism" or "intelligent design" included together with the theory of evolution. Nevermind that 98 percent of those in the scientific community accept Darwin's theory as fact and scoff at creationism and intelligent design. If Dunbar and her allies get their way, the science curriculum for Texas and other states will have been dumbed down.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I have written several blogs on the educated idiots in academia. Yo and behold, it seems that the public schools have their own share of educated idiots among both teachers and administrators.

Since October, at least a dozen Houston school district teachers have been arrested for the possession of illegal drugs on school grounds. Most of the arrests were for possession of marijuana. All the drugs were discovered in the cars of those teachers by drug sniffing dogs. Three teachers were caught on the same day at different sites in one of the latest arrests. Up to now, the searches were conducted by school police acting upon tips that those teachers were using drugs.

In fairness it must be noted that the Houston school district employs 12,000 teachers for its 300 campuses. Thus a dozen teachers represent a miniscule number. But it stands to reason that the number of teachers caught with drugs is just the tip of an iceberg. Also to its credit, the district has not shied away from publicizing the arrests.

Other school districts in the Houston area refuse to divulge any teacher arrests and refuse to do random searches of employee parking lots, using the lame excuse, as one district put it, that "We view it as a constitutional privacy issue - just simply going out there not having a tip on a particular teacher or teachers." What a crock!

School grounds, including their parking lots and adjoining streets, are mandated drug-free zones. Random searches with drug sniffer dogs, such as those of student lockers, are one of the best means to ensure that school grounds remain free of drugs.

Under the principle of "in loco parentis" (Latin for "in the placeof a parent") public schools are legally responsible for the children in attendance. As such they are obligated to protect students from any danger, including exposure to illegal drugs. It requires that those on school campuses - students, teachers and other employees, administrators and visitors - relinquish some of their privacy.

Those teachers who continued to bring drugs on campus following the first publicized arrests deserve to be described as educated idiots. What part of "drug free zone" don't they understand? Could it be that their brains have become potted after repeated marijuana use? Add to the list of educated idiots those administrators who put the privacy of teachers above their use of illegal drugs.

The superintendent of the Houston school district, Abelardo Saavedra, has announced that the district will start sending sniffer dogs to every campus to search for illegal drugs in employee parking lots. If those searches are designed to catch teachers who are illegal drug users, then he is also an educated idiot. His announcement has forewarned teachers to leave their pot at home and leaves them free to continue using illegal drugs.

I suspect though that Saavedra is really clever again by a half, rather than an educated idiot. I believe his real motive is not to catch any employees, but to prevent the arrests of teachers, thereby eliminating the embarrassment those arrests have cost the schoold dristrict.

According to one of the local TV channels, the teachers union contract requires it to provide the arrested teachers with a lawyer, both during pre-trial proceedings and during any trial. Instead of helping to rid the schools of lawbreakers, the unions choose to defend them. That is just another example of how teachers unions impede learning.


How many times have you heard the term "student-athelete" used by colleges and universities to describe their football or basketball players? Lots of times, I'll bet. Student-atheletes? That's an oxymoron if there ever was one. If you're enrolled in a college or university which depends on income from football and basketball to fund certain programs, you're either a student or an athelete, not both.

I know what I'm talking about because I was the proctor of the athletic dorm at the university where I received my degrees. Many of the atheletes were good friends of mine. Some of them could not spell "cat" if you spotted them the "c" and the "t." Those guys were able to maintain their scholastic eligibility by enroolling in a whole bunch of one-crdit-hour physical education activity courses, which they never had to attend and for which they received all "A"s. That kept their grade point average high enough to offset the flunking grades they got in English, Math, Science, etc.. Of course, most of them never managed to graduate.

In his December 10th column in, "The High Cost of Favoritism," Thomas Sowell described some of the other ways athletes receive special treatment so they can remain elibible to play football and basketball. His column was inspired by O. J. Simpson's robbery conviction and dealt with the consequences of the favoritism shown atheletes. Sowell asks, "What could have led him (Simpson) to take reckless chances that risked it all, whether in California or in Nevada?" And he also asked, "Why would star quarterback Michael Vick have risked a multimillion dollar career for the sake of staging dog fights?"

Here are some more exerpts from Sowell' column:

" athletes in certain sports seem to be especially prone to regard rules as not applying to them.

It is not hard to see why. Those who star in sports that are big in educational institutions-- football and basketball being classic examples-- can start having the rules bent in their favor as early as high school.

Everyone wants a winning team and bending a few rules for those who can make that happen may seem like a small price to pay. At colleges and universities where football or basketball are big time, ensuring passing grades for players on those teams is a major priority.

This can take the form of having special academic advisors to help college athletes maintain grade averages sufficient to keep them eligible to play. These advisors are often separate from those advising other students with their academic work, and have their offices in separate buildings, just as the athletes themselves are often housed separately from other students.

The idea that college athletes in big-time sports that attract thousands of fans to a stadium, and millions of viewers on television, are just students who happen to play a game is belied in many ways.

Players on Division I football teams spend an average of more than 40 hours a week on their sport. That does not leave a lot of time for academics.

This can lead to athletes being steered to easier courses or courses taught by faculty members who give them a special break. From time to time, grade-changing scandals have erupted from a zeal to keep some star player eligible to play.

In ways large and small, star athletes in big-time college sports learn early in life the cynical message that rules apply to other people. This special treatment can be found even in the Ivy League, where sports are not supposed to be as big a deal as in the Big Ten.

Perhaps the wonder is not that a number of stars in professional football and basketball develop an attitude that they are above the rules, and even above the law, but that others do not."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Frank Miller, one of my best former students and a retired long-time Houston narcotics officer, forwarded me a history lesson from Lance Lindsley. During these trying economic hard times, I thought it was worth reproducing this lesson on how hard life was during the 1500s.


The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.the man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with thebath water."

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house.. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, Dirt poor. The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway. Hence the saying, "Crossed over the thresh hold."

(Getting quite an education, aren't you?)

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, bring home the bacon. They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "the upper crust."

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."

And that's the truth...Now, whoever said History was boring?


It took a long time for justice to be served. I'm talking about how long it took for O. J. Simpson to get a measure of just deserves for the brutal murders of his ex-wife, Nicole and her friend, Ron Goldman. 13 years to the day after a jury in Los Angeles acquitted O.J. of murdering the couple, a jury in Las Vegas deliberated 13 hours before convicting him of 12 felonies stemming from the September 13, 2007 armed robbery and kidnapping of two sports memorabilia dealers.

In his murder trial, the nearly all black jury had already made up its mind long before it retired to deliberate on the verdict. After a short time of schmoozing around to make it look like they were actually deliberating, the jurors returned to render the acquittal. Never mind the overwhelming evidence against Simpson. Never mind that nearly all of Simpson's close associates were white. As far as the black jurors were concerned this was pay-back time for white America with its unjust criminal justice system. Groups of blacks were shown across the country on TV, cheering Simpson's acquittal.

In today's, Jonah Goldberg had a column in which he wrote about the changing attitudes between the time of the murders and the present time. Here are some exerpts from Goldberg's column:

On Oct. 3, 1995, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. But few people today still defend his innocence.

Black intellectuals insisted that racist cops or "the system" routinely railroaded black men, so why, they asked, should white America doubt that was happening to O.J.? To Wilbert Tatum, editor of the black weekly Amsterdam News, Simpson "became every black male who's ever been involved in the criminal justice system." While liberals parroted the Simpson line that the system was the criminal, conservatives denounced the acquittal as proof that the system was broken from the other end.

"Fear of being called racist transcended everything in the newsroom," wrote the New Yorker's legal correspondent, Jeffrey Toobin -- only after he deemed it was safe. "Our caution and fear, however, misled. The case against Simpson was simply overwhelming. When we said otherwise, we lied to the audience that trusted us."

Now Simpson is finally going to prison. Alas, not for murder but for, among other things, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping. This time everyone appears pleased. The evidence against Simpson is hardly more damning than the billion-to-one DNA evidence last time.

Adding to Goldberg's thoughts, I think what has happened is that many of his former black supporters finally got fed up seeing Simpson living the good life in the Florida sunshine, playing golf every day with his white buddies, and partying nights with his white chick girlfriends. His only black associates appear to be those who took part in the robbery. Also, unlike the circus atmosphere in the murder trial, this time O. J. was confronted with an all white jury, a no-nonsense judge, and a competent team of prosecutors.

Simpson was sentenced to a maximum prison term of 33 years. It will be nine years before he will be eligible for parole. Most experts agree that the parole board is unlikely to grant him parole because of the public's angy perception that Simpson got away with murder. O. J. should have been sentenced to death or given life without parole for the murders. In the unlikely event that he will be released in nine years, by then he will be an old man. If he's not paroled he will probably die in prison. Good!!!

The judge insists that in sentencing Simpson, she did not take into consideration his history in the criminal justice system. I find that somewhat hard to believe. It is unlikely that the jurors considered his murder acquittal because, just as in the murder trial, the evidence against O. J. in the Las Vegas robbery was overwhelming. No doubt, his appeal will be based on the fact that he was tried by an all-white jury and that the murder acquittal weighed heavily on the minds of the jurors, thus preventing him from receiving a fair trial.

Monday, December 08, 2008


If you're a college football fan, I suspect that, along with most coaches and sports writers, you have wondered what psycho ever came up with that loony BCS ranking system. A good law enforcement buddy forwarded me this brilliant satire authored by Greg Nassar, a Houstonian. I'm sure you will appreciate and enjoy it, so here it is:

US Ranked 4th

After determining the Big-12 championship game participants the BCS computers were put to work on other major contests and today the BCS declared Germany to be the winner of World War II.

"Germany put together an incredible number of victories beginning with the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland and continuing on into conference play with defeats of Poland, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands. Their only losses came against the US and Russia; however considering their entire body of work--including an incredibly tough Strength of Schedule--our computers deemed them worthy of the #1 ranking."

Questioned about the #4 ranking of the United States the BCS commissioner stated "The US only had two major victories-- Japan and Germany . The computer models, unlike humans, aren't influenced by head-to-head contests--they consider each contest to be only a single, equally-weighted event."

German Chancellor Adolph Hiter said "Yes, we lost to the US ; but we defeated #2 ranked France in only 6 weeks." Herr Hitler has been criticized for seeking dramatic victories to earn 'style points' to enhance Germany 's rankings. Hitler protested "Our contest with Poland was in doubt until the final day and the conditions in Norway were incredibly challenging and demanded the application of additional forces."

The French ranking has also come under scrutiny. The BCS commented " France had a single loss against Germany and following a preseason #1 ranking they only fell to #2."

Japan was ranked #3 with victories including Manchuria, Borneo and the Philippines.

Nassar can be contacted at


Over the years, I have marveled at how much federal grant money for law enforcemt has gone to waste. Many police agencies have obtained sophisticated equipment which ended up gathering dust because no one ever learned how to actually use it. Hick police departments obtained machine guns for every officer as well as other military-style weapons for use against a massive terrorist attack which was never going to occur in their jurisdictions. And how about those military tanks many law enforcement agencies bought?

Now the Las Vegas Sun has exposed the waste of millions of dollars in grants that were designed to root out human trafficking. To begin with, those grants were based on a problem which was greatly exaggerated, the same as with many other grants. And agencies that received those grants, as well as grants for other policing purposes, have been unable to account for how the money was spent. Here is the eye-opening report from today's Sun:


Millions spent to fight human trafficking; few examples found

By Timothy Pratt
December 8, 2008

It sounded like a script of an international spy thriller: lies, border-crossings, violence, sex.

Except Metro Police Sgt. Gil Shannon was describing the scene he and his officers encountered at dozens of Las Vegas Valley massage parlors every week: women speaking foreign languages, bags barely unpacked, practically imprisoned.

It was nothing less than "sex slavery."

The audience of academics, police, lawyers and social workers gathered at UNLV listened intently as Shannon spoke about human trafficking, a scourge that was doubtless spreading across the valley. The theory, said Shannon and others, was simple: with sex for sale on the streets of Las Vegas, bad guys around the world must be bringing women here with lies or against their will to meet the demand. All the people sitting there had to do was work together to bust the traffickers and rescue the victims.

The date was Sept. 19, 2003.

Within two years, the federal government delivered more than a million dollars to help search for trafficking victims in the region. The fight was a top priority of the Bush administration, which would pour more than $150 million into similar efforts nationwide.

Today, however, despite the time and money invested, Southern Nevada is no closer to understanding the problem — or more important, even proving that there is a problem, say top officials at Metro Police and at the Salvation Army. The two agencies are the main players on a task force funded by most of the federal money.

No traffickers have been caught.

The number of victims has barely reached double digits.

What’s more, the Health and Human Services Department, one source of the federal money, has no records of the results of its grants and the other federal agency funding the effort, the Justice Department, would not provide records to the Las Vegas Sun.

Similar outcomes have been seen nationwide, with few victims and fewer traffickers identified since Congress passed a law to attack the problem in 2000. That law laid out conditions for the "T" visa, which gives trafficking victims the right to live in the United States.

As of November, only 1,318 such visas had been granted nationwide.
Federal estimates of the number of victims have ranged from 14,500 a year up to 50,000, the number cited in the 2000 law.

Sharon Neville is a lawyer with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles who was at the 2003 UNLV meeting. She trains attorneys and workers for nonprofit groups on the issue nationwide. Neville said she has stopped citing government estimates because she doesn’t think they’re reliable, and instead quotes the number of visas issued — "that’s the only thing you can point to."

As for the results seen so far in Las Vegas and elsewhere, she doesn’t think it’s a sign that there is no problem, but rather that the federal money is being poorly spent. Task forces and other projects overlook basic but vital assets such as people who speak the language and understand the culture of the victims. She also thinks there has been a tendency to focus on trafficking for sex, ignoring large numbers of victims brought into the country to work in such industries as farming.

"Unfortunately, if you’re looking for headlines, sex trafficking sells," she said.

Lt. Raymond Steiber, who in May became the point man at Metro Police for a $492,000 Justice Department grant on human trafficking, acknowledged that the August 2006 grant had not led to the prosecution of a single trafficker. He also said he did not have information readily available on how many victims the task force had helped.

"We really don’t know if there’s a problem, or how big it is," Steiber said. But he cautioned that the absence of data should not be read as an indication the problem does not exist.

Steiber said the first year-plus of the grant suffered from a lack of organization, with little understanding about the different roles of policing, social services and immigration law.

Protocols are now in place, with Metro at the helm and other agencies providing support.

The Justice Department also gave $450,000 to the Salvation Army of Clark County in late 2006.

Maj. William Raihl, coordinator of the Salvation Army, said 12 people have been identified as victims of trafficking and are seeking permission to stay in the United States.

"If you look at the number of victims we’ve helped, we’re falling short," he said. "That’s been the most disappointing thing."

In 2005 and 2006, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department awarded $150,000 to WestCare, another local nonprofit, to find and help trafficking victims. The plan was to troll streets and massage parlors for women brought from foreign countries by deception or against their will. But social workers at the agency ran across few trafficking victims, instead finding that at least 90 percent of the women had other troubles, such as being underage runaways.

At the time, Metro Police Capt. Terry Lesney said she was "looking for that perfect test case, to set a precedent ... like a minor who comes here thinking she’s going to be a star and then she’s forced into prostitution."

That case never came.

Attorney David Thronson, one of the founders of UNLV’s immigration law clinic, was tapped to provide legal assistance to victims in the Metro-led task force. But in April 2007, when the task force faced its first big test, Thronson found he was left out of the loop.

A two-year federal and local investigation had uncovered a prostitution ring involving seven men and about 25 women, mostly from Asia. The idea was to interview the women, determine where they were from and whether they were brought here by deception or against their will. They were to be advised of the protections available to them under federal law.

But Thronson learned about the case from a newspaper. By the time he contacted Metro and the Salvation Army, most of the women had been let go.

The attorney said the case showed the task force "had a lot of room for improvement." He hopes Steiber’s efforts to get agencies on the same page will yield better results.

Thronson also wonders whether the lack of results so far reflects a tendency to focus too much on sex. The few trafficking cases he knew of to date mostly involved men and women brought to Las Vegas to work in other areas, including housekeeping.

Thronson said more effort should be made to gain the trust of potential victims, because many have not only been deceived, but also brutalized physically and psychologically.

Raihl, of the Salvation Army, said finding and helping victims has been more difficult than he thought. Obtaining the "T" visa alone takes up to a year, Raihl said, though he was told going into the grant that the process would take less than six months.

Turnover on the task force has made the job even harder, he added. Both Metro and the Salvation Army are on their second director, the person who handles day-to-day work.

Under the terms of its grant, the Salvation Army cannot help victims obtain government services once the federal government determines they have been trafficked into the country. Raihl said he was confused about whom to "hand off" clients to once they reach that point.

The federal government has given about $8.5 million since 2006 for such services to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The conference contracts with local agencies. But only $9,000 has come into Las Vegas so far, according to Nyssa Mestas, associate director for anti-trafficking in migration and refugee services at the conference.

Mestas said she couldn’t reveal how many victims had been helped with that money, but it was "a very small number."

"I’m going, ‘Where are the cases?’ I don’t know what’s going on in Vegas," she said from her Washington office.

Mestas said recently she has been unable to find a Southern Nevada agency to work with.

But, she said, the valley’s task force isn’t the only one to take some time getting off the ground. It’s a problem she attributes to different worldviews of law enforcement and social service providers.

As for the Washington agencies with their hands on the purse strings, the attitude seems to be one of detached patience when it comes to the meager results from Southern Nevada.

Justice Department officials said reports on the local task force’s performance were not available without a Freedom of Information Act request.

Joye Frost, with the department’s office for victims of crime, said both the issue and the task forces need more time. "It’s an emerging issue ... and just giving folks money doesn’t mean there’s an expertise," she said.

Arne Owens, spokesman at Health and Human Services, said "there are no reports that can provide any information on outcomes" from grants to Las Vegas, adding that any money spent helping victims is "wisely spent."

The Department of Justice grants are set to expire in August.

Thronson noted that if Las Vegas is a target for traffickers, as federal and local officials have claimed, then, "we reach one of two conclusions: Either the numbers are wrong or we’ve reached a crisis and we’re not doing anything to effectively address it.

"The truth is probably somewhere in between."