Thursday, September 22, 2005

The recognition of a hero.

The NY Sun carries a terrific story on its front page today -- The Long Ballad of Tibor 'Ted' Rubin:

On the evening of October 30, 1950, in the dark, early days of the Cold War, Red Chinese forces mounted a massive nighttime assault on American troops at Unsan, North Korea. As overwhelming numbers of communist soldiers attacked Americans throughout the night and into the next day, a rifleman with the Army's 8th Cavalry Regiment took up a 30-caliber machine gun at the south end of his unit's line, following in the footsteps of three other soldiers - all of whom had been killed at the post.

When the rest of the American troops were told to withdraw, the rifleman never received the order, and continued "steadfastly manning" the machine gun until his ammunition was exhausted, according to Army records. The brave soldier's "determined stand" single-handedly slowed the advance of the enemy in his sector, allowing the remnants of his unit to retreat southward, and to safety.

Fifty-five years later, the valor of the rifleman, Tibor "Ted" Rubin, is finally being recognized. On Friday, Corporal Rubin, who served in Korea from July 23, 1950, to April 20, 1953, will receive America's highest military accolade, the Medal of Honor, from President Bush in a White House ceremony.

Corporal Rubin, a survivor of the Mauthausen death camp, enlisted in the U.S. Army to, as he says, "express my appreciation to the United States - to the people who liberated us."

In addition to surviving Mauthausen, he survived internment as a prisoner of war by the North Koreans, where, ironically and somewhat tragically, his experience at Mauthausen served him well:

When his fellow soldiers, devastated by dysentery, could no longer muster the will to eat, Corporal Rubin force-fed them. When his fellow soldiers were filthy and injured, he bathed them and cleansed their wounds. When his fellow soldiers were infested with lice, he picked the parasites out of their hair. According to prisoners' accounts, when one soldier was wounded in the shoulder and infection set in, Corporal Rubin, recalling lessons learned at Mauthausen, jumped into the latrine to fetch maggots. He washed off the larvae and set them on the injured soldier's gangrenous flesh, leaving them to eat away the infection and removing them before they attacked the healthy skin - saving the soldier's arm, and his life.

I can't understand why it took so long for this man to receive the Medal of Honor, but I am overjoyed that he is finally receiving it.

UPDATE: The U.S. Army's site for Medal of Honor winner Corporal Tibor "Ted" Rubin is located here.

Further Update: Interestingly, the Army News Service press release about the award contains the following paragraphs:

Rubin was nominated for the MOH four times by grateful comrades. Fellow
Soldiers say Rubin might have received the medal five decades ago if not for a
sergeant who failed to forward recommendations because of Rubin’s Jewish and
Hungarian heritage.

Rubin’s award is being made under the National Defense Authorization Act
for Fiscal Year 2002, Section 552. The act called upon the secretaries of each
military department to review the service records of both Jewish and Hispanic
American war veterans to see if they should have been awarded the MOH. Rubin’s
case was accelerated because of the wealth of eyewitness statements,
Congressional support and because earlier recommendations on his behalf did not
receive due priority.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Better living through technology.

Note to self:

Must get this.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I received the following in an e-mail:

"What the American people have seen is this incredible disparity in which those people who had cars and money got out and those people who were impoverished died." -- Ted Kennedy on Hurricane Katrina

"Ditto" -- Mary Jo Kopechne.

It seemed particularly appropriate in light of that worthy Senator's continuing chutzpah in continuing to show his face in public instead of hiding in shame.

As to the issue of cars. I don't mean to make light of anything, but I heard a talk show host rhetorically ask, if none of the people who were left in New Orleans could get out because they couldn't afford cars, whose cars were left stranded in the muck all over New Orleans after the hurricane was over?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Rabbi Polakoff speaks in favor of Judge Roberts

The Rabbi at my parents' synagogue, Rabbi Dale Polakoff, testified yesterday in favor of Judge Roberts' confirmation in Rabbi Polakoff's capacity as President of the Rabbinical Council of America. THe text of his testimony can be found here.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Evidently I am in charge of everything!

Evidently, according to an "adviser" to Tony Blair, "Tony Blair decided to wage war on Iraq after coming under the influence of a "sinister" group of Jews and Freemasons."

Ahmad Thomson, from the Association of Muslim Lawyers, said Mr Blair was the latest in a long line of politicians to have been influenced by the group which saw the attack on Saddam Hussein as a way to control the Middle East.

. . . .

Mr Thomson wrote a book in 1994 in which he said Freemasons and Jews controlled the governments of Europe and America and described the claim that six million Jews died in the Holocaust as a "big lie". In The Next World Order, Mr Thomson, a Muslim convert who was born Martin Thomson in Rhodesia, wrote: "When the majority of people in a predominantly Christian society cease to worship God, the result is fascism.

"When the people in a predominantly Jewish society cease to worship God, the result is either communism or capitalism. A predominantly Christian society is concerned primarily with establishing a political ideology, whilst a predominantly Jewish society is concerned primarily with establishing an economic system."

Good to know. As it turns out, I am both Jewish and a Freemason, so I evidently run everything. And I am in favor of the Iraq war. So I guess he's right. Q.E.D.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More Katrina

Brady Westwater makes some very good points (thanks to Brady for commenting here and alerting me to the post...). After pointing out NYT article about a self-described "weather nerd" blogger who raised the first big alarm about Katrina and tried to warn the Mayor of New Orleans several days before Katrina hit, he notes the following:

There are three ironies here. First, the fact that the New York Times does an article on a blogger covering Nagin's complete failure to prepare his city for the disaster - and yet the New York Times itself still - over a week later - still fails to address that story as a major story or even do a story mentioning those charges.

Second, that it took a blogger in Indiana to cover this story.

Third, and most distressing, is the hypocisy of the media in New Orleans and elsewhere. Increasingly, the media is calling for the heads of literally everyone in sight due to the abject mishandling of every aspect of this disaster. And yet, these are also the very same people who - when the Mayor of New Orleans lied to the people of New Orleans about the impact of the storm on the city - said... nothing.

. . . .

There is more than enough blame to go around for what happened in New Orleans in the past week. Far more than enough. But standing at the head of the line... is the media of New Orleans, and the media in the rest of the country; the same media that is now so self-righteously calling for everyone else's head.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


It turns out that there was an article in the July 18, 2005 US News and World Report pointing out the dangers to New Orleans of a big hurricane:

New Orleans is more vulnerable today than ever. Development and levee construction have put 500,000 acres of nearby coastal wetlands under water since 1965, eliminating buffers against the wind-fueled spikes in water levels known as storm surges. Even a Betsy-like Level 3 storm, which has winds of up to 130 mph, is now more likely to trigger storm surges in the Mississippi River or Lake Pontchartrain that could spill over levee walls. The resulting flood could take months to drain. "You're talking about creating a refugee camp for a million homeless residents," says van Heerden.

The city's levees, meanwhile, aren't intended to protect from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane (a 5 has winds greater than 155 mph and storm surges above 18 feet), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is at least a decade away from upgrading to that level of protection. The corps says the current levee system doesn't provide full protection from even Category 3 storms, which could be the scariest scenario of all. "If a Category 5 storm enters the Gulf, I don't think we'll have to encourage people to leave--it'll be an easy sell," says New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin. Category 3 or 4 storms, though, "are more dangerous . . . the community says, 'We might ride this out.'"

There's quite a bit of blame to go around. The local and state officials who delayed the evacuation order and made next to no provision for evacuating those without cars bear significant blame. As is shown by the above article, this was predictable. The Federal Government bears some responsibility, although it is important to note that for the most part the Federal Government's role is to act upon invitation from the state and local first responders. But they should have been more geared up. Unfortunately, I think my ex-boss Michael Chertoff is going to bear the brunt of the criticism (as opposed to the bleating mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana), but maybe instead of taking the hit by being pilloried President Bush will nominate him to the Supreme Court (that's my hope, anyway). That said, Chertoff's agency does bear some responsibility; although I know they've been focuses on terrorist acts and the like, terrorists blowing up the levees was certainly a scenario they should have anticipated, and the detonation of a radiological weapon would have a lot of the same effects; required evacuation of a large affected urban area to remain in effect for some time.

Robert Tracinski wrote a column in TIA Daily which underscored a very interesting difference between this disaster and other disasters (big and small) in U.S. History, though:

For journalists, natural disasters also have a familiar pattern: the heroism of ordinary people pulling together to survive; the hard work and dedication of doctors, nurses, and rescue workers; the steps being taken to clean up and rebuild.

Public officials did not expect that the first thing they would have to do is to send thousands of armed troops in armored vehicle, as if they are suppressing an enemy insurgency. And journalists—myself included—did not expect that the story would not be about rain, wind, and flooding, but about rape, murder, and looting.

. . . .

For the past few days, I have found the news from New Orleans to be confusing. People were not behaving as you would expect them to behave in an emergency—indeed, they were not behaving as they have behaved in other emergencies. That is what has shocked so many people: they have been saying that this is not what we expect from America. In fact, it is not even what we expect from a Third World country.

When confronted with a disaster, people usually rise to the occasion. They work together to rescue people in danger, and they spontaneously organize to keep order and solve problems. This is especially true in America. We are an enterprising people, used to relying on our own initiative rather than waiting around for the government to take care of us. I have seen this a hundred times, in small examples (a small town whose main traffic light had gone out, causing ordinary citizens to get out of their cars and serve as impromptu traffic cops, directing cars through the intersection) and large ones (the spontaneous response of New Yorkers to September 11).

So what explains the chaos in New Orleans?

. . . .

75% of the residents of New Orleans had already evacuated before the hurricane, and of those who remained, a large number were from the city's public housing projects. Jack Wakeland then told me that early reports from CNN and Fox indicated that the city had no plan for evacuating all of the prisoners in the city's jails—so they just let many of them loose.

. . . .

There were many decent, innocent people trapped in New Orleans when the deluge hit—but they were trapped alongside large numbers of people from two groups: criminals—and wards of the welfare state, people selected, over decades, for their lack of initiative and self-induced helplessness. The welfare wards were a mass of sheep—on whom the incompetent administration of New Orleans unleashed a pack of wolves.

All of this is related, incidentally, to the incompetence of the city government, which failed to plan for a total evacuation of the city, despite the knowledge that this might be necessary. In a city corrupted by the welfare state, the job of city officials is to ensure the flow of handouts to welfare recipients and patronage to political supporters—not to ensure a lawful, orderly evacuation in case of emergency.

. . . .

What Hurricane Katrina exposed was the psychological consequences of the welfare state. What we consider "normal" behavior in an emergency is behavior that is normal for people who have values and take the responsibility to pursue and protect them. People with values respond to a disaster by fighting against it and doing whatever it takes to overcome the difficulties they face. They don't sit around and complain that the government hasn't taken care of them. And they don't use the chaos of a disaster as an opportunity to prey on their fellow men.

But what about criminals and welfare parasites? Do they worry about saving their houses and property? They don't, because they don't own anything. Do they worry about what is going to happen to their businesses or how they are going to make a living? They never worried about those things before. Do they worry about crime and looting? But living off of stolen wealth is a way of life for them.

People living in piles of their own trash, while petulantly complaining that other people aren't doing enough to take care of them and then shooting at those who come to rescue them—this is not just a description of the chaos at the Superdome. It is a perfect summary of the 40-year history of the welfare state and its public housing projects.

It's a pretty harsh assessment of the survivors, but I think it bears some thought; I've never (thankfully) lived through anything so disastrous, but I have lived through storms in Arizona during monsoon season. After one (which included a small cyclone) which knocked out power for a couple of days and caused massive flooding, everybody in my neighborhood ran around making sure people were OK, and went door to door with generators and sump pumps to help each other out. Instead of seeing those stories (which, as Tracinski notes, is the typical story you see after these types of disasters) I saw stories about a terrified woman who had to defend her house from marauding looters with a handgun, which she fired in the air to frighten them away. Those people should have been coming to make sure she was OK, not to pillage.

This just isn't the American way.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Charities

The blogosphere is, of course, responding to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in semi-coordinated efforts. I suggest the following charities for contributions to disaster relief:

United Jewish Charities, which is coordinating significant relief efforts, and
Noah's Wish, which is a charity specifically devoted to the rescue of animals after disasters.

In addition, The Truth Laid Bare has a blog charitable donation roundup, including suggested charities.

In order to facilitate the blogosphere coordination, I'm also including the following Technorati tags (I don't really know how this works, don't ask me, but it seems to help broaden the reach...): and .