Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mark Twain Quotes: 10 Favorites On His Birthday

To celebrate and honor one of my favorite writers, Mark Twain, the Christian Science Monitor offers 10 of the humorist's best known quotes.

William Faulkner called him “…the first truly American writer.” Ernest Hemingway declared that all American writing comes from “ Huckleberry Finn” and “there has been nothing as good since." And Norman Mailer said “Huck Finn” stands up “page for page” to the “best modern American novels.” Wednesday marks the 176th anniversary of the birth of the matchless Samuel Clemens, who wrote under the pen name Mark Twain. His genius lay in his distinctive ability to convey profound wisdom and profane wit in the same breath. Here, in tribute to the man Faulkner called the “father of American literature,” are 10 quotes from Mark Twain.

You can read the Mark Twain quotes via the below link:

My On Crime & Security Column: The FBI's InfraGard Program Teams With Small Businesses To Fight Economic Espionage

The national business web site posted my two-part On Crime & Security Columns   on the FBI's InfraGard program.

You can read my columns via the below links:

Small Business Plays a Role in Stopping Economic Espionage

More On the FBI's InfraGard Program and Small Business

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mariel Hemingway Presents A Trbute To Her Grandfather In 'Hemingway: A Life In Pictures' reports that the Mariel Hemingway, the actress granddaughter of the late great writer Ernest Hemingway, has published a pictorial tribute to her grandfather.

Mariel Hemingway, along with author Boris Vejdovsky, is presenting her first-ever tribute to her grandfather Ernest by compiling carefully selected photographs from the great writer's life spanning from childhood onward in the book, "Hemingway: A Life in Pictures."

"I understand his appreciation for the best of the best, whether it was the best fly-fishing stream, the best Bordeaux, grandfather knew what was great," says Mariel Hemingway. "He wanted to experience it, taste it, feel it and stand in the face of anything that stretched him beyond the limits of his own comfort." 

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Joseph Wambaugh Solves The Great UC Davis Pepper-Spraying Incident

Joseph Wambaugh, the former LAPD detective sergeant and author of numerous classic novels and nonfiction books on cops and crime, offers his insightful - and funny - take on the campus cop who pepper-sprayed protesters in California.

An assistant professor of English at UC Davis was quoted in The Times as saying that the pepper-spray incident was simply the latest example of "the systematic use of police brutality by UC chancellors" to suppress protests. Well, when I was an LAPD cop, I majored in English at Cal State L.A., and I can affirm that assistant professors of English claim all sorts of weird things after having been driven loopy by too much Elizabethan poetry. The UC Davis campus cops as serial brutes? I thought they just wrote tickets and attached wheel locks to illegally parked cars.

You can read the rest of Joseph Wambaugh's piece via the below link:,0,1853351.story 

You can also read my online On Crime & Thrillers review of Joseph Wambaugh's lastest novel, Hollywood Moon, via the below link:

And you can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of Joseph Wambaugh's previous novel, Hollywood Hills, via the below link:

You can visit Joseph Wambaugh's web page via the below link:

The Early Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Intriguing Glimpse Of Hemingway's Formative Years

Dave Williamson at the Winnipeg Free Press offers a good review of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, 1907-1922.

Readers wanting something light should look elsewhere. This is a scholarly volume, with 84 pages of introduction and myriad footnotes that often exceed in length the letters to which they are appended.

What is most fascinating about this book is the evidence of how early in his life Hemingway recognized his ambition to be a novelist. Virtually everything he did after high school in Oak Park (a suburb of Chicago, also the birthplace of Carol Shields) became part of his self-styled apprenticeship. Though his upper-middle-class parents wanted him to go to university, he took a job with the Kansas City Star and was writing news stories at the age of 18.

You can read the rest of the review via the link below:

Friday, November 25, 2011

'Bent Finger Lou' Is A Cooperating Witness In South Philly Mob Case

George Anastasia, the Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter, writes that the feds have a cooperating witness in the South Philly organized crime case.

It's official.

Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, charged along with reputed mob boss Joseph Ligambi and 11 others in a racketeering case, is a cooperating witness.

In a motion filed this week, federal prosecutors formally confirmed what underworld and law enforcement sources have been speculating about for the last six months.

You can read the rest of the newspaper story via the below link:

The Gospel According To Peanuts: How 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' Almost Didn't Happen

Lee Habeeb at National Review Online looks back at the making of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Habeeb tells us the classic Christmas TV special almost didn't happen, because TV executives didn't like the idea of Linus reading from the King James Bible's Gospel of Luke.

CBS executives thought a Bible reading might turn off a nation populated with Christians. And during a Christmas special no less!

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

This Thanksgiving We Should Give Thanks to The Military, The CIA, The FBI And Other Law Enforcement And National Security Agenices For Keeping America Safe And Secure

Ronald Kessler, the veteran journalist and author of numerous books on the FBI, the CIA and other government agencies, states in his latest column that in addition to giving thanks to the military, we should also thank the FBI and the CIA.

Because of the terrorist threat, the FBI and CIA have become as important as the military in preserving our freedom. Yet while thanking our military is standard practice in American life, no one thinks of thanking the FBI, the CIA, or the rest of the intelligence community for keeping us safe since 9/11.

Instead, the media and many on the extreme left and extreme right demonize the men and women of those agencies for allegedly “spying on innocent Americans.” 

You can read the rest of the column via the below link:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Clues To Raymond Chandler's Life And Career In Sale Of His Books And Papers

Davis Itzkoff at the New York Times covers the upcoming auction of books and papers that belonged to the late great crime writer Raymond Chandler.

“The very nicest thing Hollywood can possibly think of to say to a writer,” Raymond Chandler wrote, “is that he is too good to be only a writer.” Chandler may have been only a writer himself, but he was a singularly influential one, whose body of work includes the classic detective novels “The Big Sleep” and “Farewell, My Lovely” and contributions to the screenplays for “Double Indemnity” (written with Billy Wilder) and “Strangers on a Train.” Now a sale of books and papers from Chandler’s personal collection offers a unique look at his legacy and literary influence, not to mention his uneasy relationship with that “showman’s paradise,” as he called it, known as Hollywood.  

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Ian Fleming's Wartime Naval Jacket Sold At Auction

MI6, the James Bond web site, not the British Secret Intelligence Service, offers coverage of the auction sale of Ian Fleming's British Royal Navy jacket.

He wore the jacket (seen above) aboard a British warship during the Dieppe Raid in World War II.

At the outbreak of war Ian Fleming joined the Naval Intelligence Division, where he was quickly promoted from lieutenant to commander. He liaised on behalf of the director of naval intelligence with the other secret services. One of few people given access to Ultra intelligence, he was responsible for the navy's input into anti-German black propaganda" (ODNB). Primarily based at the Admiralty's Room 39, Fleming accompanied the allied troops as an observer on the "Dieppe Raid", an assault on the German held port carried out on 19 August, 1942.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my magazine piece on Ian Fleming and his creation of the World War II intelligence-commando group 30 Assault Unit via the below link:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

John Dillinger Case Showed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover At His Best And Worst

Ronald Kessler, a veteran journalist and author of several books on the FBI, the CIA and other government agencies, including his most recent The Secrets of the FBI, wrote about the legendary FBI director J.Edgar Hoover and former Public Enemy Number One, John Dillinger, in his most recent column.

The movie “J. Edgar” is once again focusing attention on Director J. Edgar Hoover and the imperious way he ran the FBI for almost 48 years. Nothing illustrates that better than the case of John Dillinger.

Of all the gangsters of the era, Dillinger was the most notorious. Beginning in 1933, his gang commanded the attention of the bureau and the media with a crime spree through the Midwest.

You can read the rest of the column via the below link:

You can also read my two-part piece on John Dillinger via the below links:

And you can read my two-part piece on America's greatest crime wave and the birth of the FBI via the below links:

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Piece On The 30 Assault Unit, The British WWII Commando Group Created By Ian Fleming, The Creator Of James Bond

The latest issue of Counterterrorism magazine offers my piece on Ian Fleming and the British commando group he created in World War II.

Before he sat down at his desk at his Jamaican villa Goldeneye in 1952 and wrote the classic James Bond thrillers, Ian Fleming served as a Royal Navy officer during World War II.

Commander Fleming served as the personal assistant to the Director of British Naval Intelligence and one of Fleming's accomplishments during the war was the creation of a naval intelligence-commando group called the 30 Assault Unit. 

You can read my piece via below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

My Q & A With Former U.S. Navy SEAL Howard E. Wasdin, Author Of 'SEAL Team Six'

The latest issue of Counterterrorism magazine offers my Q & A with Howard E. Wasdin, a former member of SEAL Team Six and the author of SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper.

You can read my interview with Howard Wasdin via the below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Martin Scorsese On Goodfellas And Other Gangster Films

Martin Scorsese, who turned 69 last week, appears in an AFI video interview and discusses his classic gangster film Goodfellas, the history of gangster films and the real world of gangsters.

You can watch the interesting interview via the below link:

You can also go to an earlier post that links to my online Crime Beat column on Martin Scorsese's world of crime via the below link:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Writer's Voice: Only One Person Could Write That

Jeff Linsay, the author of the crime novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, which Showtime based their preposterous, yet interesting and compelling TV series Dexter on, wrote an interesting piece on the writer's voice for the Wall Street Journal.

Good writing does not come from emulating, either. It comes from saying what you mean in a way that no one else can say it. F. Scott Fitzgerald is not Charles Dickens, and the difference goes far beyond time and place and subject matter.

It is more than style, too. Style is the part that we can actually see, but it is just the surface. The real difference is underneath all that. It is a direct expression of who a writer is and why he writes.

It is The Voice.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Green Berets Celebrate 50th Anniversary

Today the U.S. Navy SEALs have captured the imagination and admiration of the American public, as well as the rest of the world.

But as a teenager in the 1960s, I recall when the U.S. Army's Special Forces, known as the Green Berets, were the better known and admired military unit.

This was due in part to author Robin Moore's blockbuster 1964 book The Green Berets. Robin Moore trained with the Green Berets and spent six months with them in South Vietnam. Moore called his book a novel for security reasons, but he claimed the book was based on true events and people.

In 1968 John Wayne made a film from Moore's book. His film came out at the height of the Vietnam War and the height of the anti-war peace movement. The film was blasted by the critics, but the
public, as well as the real Green Berets, loved the film. They also loved the "Duke."

Fifty years ago President Kennedy pushed the military to form both the Green Berets and the SEALs to deal with communist insurgencies around the world during the Cold War.

He ordered the Army to allow their Special Forces soldiers to wear the famous Green Beret and he also ordered the Navy to expand the role of the Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) frogmen. Recruited from UDT, SEALs went on to operate under the SEa, in the Air and on Land.

CBS News offered a report on the 50th anniversary of the Green Berets. You can read the report and view the video via the below link:

You can also read my two-part piece on Robin Moore and The Green Berets via the below links:

Cat Stories: Tales Of Man's Second Best Friend

I'm a dog guy, basically, but since I took in a feral kitten who survived being poisoned like the other four kittens in her feral litter four years ago, I've grown to appreciate cats as well.

Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Chandler, three of my favorite writers, loved cats and now I understand why.

My new appreciation of cats makes me want to read Cat Stories, a new book about cats that Claire Hopley reviewed for the Washington Times.

The thing about cats is that it’s not clear that we domesticated them. Humans colonized dogs and horses for hunting, guarding and transportation. They rounded up sheep and cows for wool and milk and meat. But cats can’t be rounded up and are not trained to give useful services. More likely, as settled dwellings attracted mice and rats, cats came a-hunting of their own volition. Perhaps at first they were merely tolerated for their part in keeping food supplies safe, but cats and people found they also could share companionship around a fire.

...Yes, there are dog stories featuring Lassie and Rin Tin Tin, and legendary dogs such as Cerberus, guardian of the Greek underworld, and Gelert, the Welsh dog who saved his master’s baby only to be mistakenly killed as the perpetrator of the attack. But cats feature more often in legends. Typical felines are clever, like Dick Whittington's cat and Puss in Boots, who manages to marry his impoverished master to the king’s daughter. Then, too, over the past couple of centuries, scores of writers have dabbled in cat stories. Nineteen of these have been collected, edited by Diana Secker Tesdell and published as “Cat Stories” in the Everyman Pocket Classics series.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

You can also read about how I, a dog guy, came to adopt a feral kitten via the below link:

I love my cat, but I'm still a dog guy.

Cool Video Of Aircraft Carrier Flight Operations

As a young sailor I served on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War, so I was pleased to discover a cool video of Kitty Hawk flight operations.

You can watch the video via the below link:

You can also view some cool photos of flight operations during my time in an earlier post via the below link:

Oliver North's Column: The Next War

Retired Marine Oliver North visited the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum and in his latest column he looks back on how budget cuts and a lack of military preparedness led to America's wars.

North is concerned about the upcoming major cuts to our Defense budget and how those cuts may very well lead to our next war  I share his concerns.

It is an unalterable fact of human nature that the perception of weakness invites aggression. For us, it has been that way since the founding of the republic. We disarmed after the American Revolution. That's how we ended up with the War of 1812.

You can read the rest of the column via the below link:

I interviewed Colonel North for Counterterrorism magazine a while back. You can read the Q & A via the below link:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Author And Former Navy SEAL Stands By Account Of Bin Laden Raid, Says Obama Administration Out To Get Him

In an interview with the Daily Caller, former Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer defends his book on the Osama bin Laden raid, SEAL Target Geronimo.

I think it’s very important that the administration itself push back on this. They have never really come out with a complete story,” said Pfarrer, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller.

“The story they did come out with was a series of factoids: a 45-minute firefight, the deliberate wounding of a woman, a ground–up assault, trying to explain how a helicopter landed on the wrong side of a 20-foot wall and a 10-foot steel gate.”

Pfarrer, whose tale rejects each of those claims, says that the administration’s story — told most comprehensively by The New Yorker — was borne of haphazard political expedience.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Former War Correspondent P.J. O'Rourke Braves Family Vacation

Conservative humorist P.J. O'Rourke was interviewed on Fox News about his new book  Holidays in Heck.

You can watch the video via the below link:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Special Ops Commander Says Book On SEAL Raid That Killed Bin laden Is 'A Lie"

An Associated Press report on quotes a Special Operations Command spokesman who claims that Chuck Pfarrer's book about the Navy SEALs' raid that killed Osama bin Laden's is not true.

The U.S. military is denouncing a former Navy SEAL's book that claims to describe the "real" version of the raid that killed Usama bin laden.
"It's just not true," U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Col. Tim Nye said. "It's not how it happened."
Laden with conspiracy theories and attacks on the Obama White House, Chuck Pfarrer's "SEAL Target Geronimo" claims an alternative version of the raid in which the SEAL team shot bin Laden within 90 seconds of arriving at the Pakistan compound where the Al Qaeda mastermind was holed up.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post on Chuck Pfarrer's SEAL book via the below link:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

John Huston: Courage And Art

Todd McCarthy at the Hollywood Reporter wrote an interesting review of Jeffrey Meyer's biography of the late great film director John Huston.

Jeffrey Meyers has very little new to say about the 40 films John Huston made, but he does have quite a bit to add to the record about the many women who swam through the late director's life. Huston was a rake of an elevated order; so wide a swath did the charismatic, charming, difficult, passionate, intellectual and sadistic swashbuckler cut that a more fitting title for this particular biography might have been The Sultan of St. Clerans, a reference to the Irish manor house that was the defining Hustonian domain. Much has been written about him over the years but, for those still intrigued about who did what to whom in Hollywood's heyday, Meyers has not been shy about doing some detailed record-keeping.  

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

John Huston directed some of my favorite films, such as The Man Who Would Be King and The Maltese Falcon.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day Is A Davis Family Affair

On this Veteran's Day my thoughts focus on my late father, Edward Miller Davis, who was a Chief Petty Officer and Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) frogman who fought in the Pacific during World War II.

My father (seen in the middle of his team in the above photo) was briefly mentioned in Francis Douglas Fane's The Naked Warriors and I briefly mentioned my father in a piece on the WWII frogmen and how they influenced today's Navy SEALs.

You can read the Counterterrorism magazine piece via the below links:

My older brother, Edward R. Davis, is also a veteran. He served in the U.S. Army in 1968-69 in Chu Lai, South Vietnam.

I'm a veteran as well, having served in the U.S. Navy on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War.

You can read an earlier post on my service to the country via the below link:

I'd like to salute all veterans and their families today.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Calls On Nation To Honor Veterans

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2011 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today extended his thanks to troops and veterans in his 2011 Veterans Day message.

Here is the secretary's message:

Veterans Day is the day the American people set aside for honoring those, past and present, who've served our nation in uniform.

Since our nation's founding, American service members have stepped forward to safeguard liberty for future generations. And during the ten years since 9/11, another generation has answered this call to fight and sacrifice on foreign soil. They have done all that was asked of them and more. And as a result, on this Veterans Day, we are closer to prevailing in today's fights.

In Iraq, we are ending our combat presence this year, and Iraqis are now prepared to govern and defend their own country, which will act as a force for stability in a vital region of the world. In Afghanistan, our men and women are turning back an insurgency and building up Afghan security forces to prevent that country from ever again serving as a sanctuary for al-Qaida or its affiliates to threaten our homeland. In Libya, our forces supported a NATO operation that protected the Libyan people from a brutal dictator, who will never again be able to threaten his citizens or undermine international security. And on terrorism, we have significantly weakened al- Qaida and its allies, decimated their leadership, and kept American safer.

This progress would not be possible without the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, and also of the families who love and support them. I'm delighted that President Obama designated November as Military Family Month, encouraging Americans to do more to recognize and support these great patriots.

This country owes a profound debt to all veterans, and military families. In these tough economic times, we're especially cognizant of our service members transitioning to civilian life, as well as our military spouses. And we must give them the best possible tools to succeed in professional pursuits. This week, I had the opportunity to meet with business leaders and press them to do just that -- so that we ensure our Veterans will continue to positively impact our country's future prosperity.

For serving our nation with such bravery and distinction, our veterans and current service members deserve our country's profound gratitude -- not just on Veteran's Day, but every day.

Thank you, and may God bless all Americans serving around the world in uniform.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cold War II: Pentagon Battle Concept Has Cold War Posture On China

Bill Gertz, the veteran national security correspondent for the Washington Times, reports that the Pentagon has a Cold War-style battle concept towards Communist China.

The Pentagon lifted the veil of secrecy Wednesday on a new battle concept aimed at countering Chinese military efforts to deny access to areas near its territory and in cyberspace.

The Air Sea Battle concept is the start of what defense officials say is the early stage of a new Cold War-style military posture toward China.

The plan calls for preparing the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corp to defeat China's “anti-access, area denial weapons,” including anti-satellite weapons, cyberweapons, submarines, stealth aircraft and long-range missiles that can hit aircraft carriers at sea. 

You can read the rest of the newspapers story via the below link:  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Pentagon Strikes Back: Defense Department Says New Bin Laden Raid Book Gets Details Wrong

Stars And Stripes reports that the Pentagon is disputing the claims of former SEAL Chuck Pfarrer in his new book about the bin Laden raid, SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden.

You can read the piece via the below link:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

U.S. Army Specialist In Alaska Charged With Attempted Espionage And Other Offenses

The U.S. Military announced yesterday that a soldier stationed in Alaska was charged with attempted espionage and other charges.

11/7/2011 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Nov. 7 - Specialist William Colton Millay (seen in the above photo), 22, a military policeman assigned to the 164th Military Police Company, 793rd Military Police Battalion, 2nd Engineer Brigade was formally charged today with attempted espionage, failing to obey regulations, issuing false statements, solicitation and communicating defense information.

Millay, of Owensboro, Kentucky, was apprehended Oct. 28 at 6:30 a.m. on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska by Army Counterintelligence Special Agents and Army CID for suspicion of espionage.

The charges are in connection with a joint investigation on Spc. Millay by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Army Counterintelligence and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

You can read the rest of the release via the below link: 

Retired General Lindsay Says Gains Were Made By U.S. Forces in Vietnam

Henry Cuningham, the military editor of the Fayetteville Observer, covered an an interesting speech on the Vietnam War by retired Army General James J. Lindsay.

The U.S. troops fighting in Vietnam accomplished more than people realize, and there was little or nothing in the news media about the most successful counterinsurgency programs, a retired four-star general said Monday.

"All in all, they did very well," retired Gen. James J. Lindsay told an audience at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum. "They went over there, did what their country asked them to do."

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Philadelphia Boxing Legend Joe Frazier Dies

Smokin' Joe Frazier, one of the greatest fighters in boxing history, died at age 67.

I was serving on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam in 1971 when Frazier fought his epic battle against Muhammad Ali. We listened to the fight over the Armed Forces Radio Network.

Most of the guys were for Ali, especially the black guys. I backed Frazier and I took on all bets. I won a good deal of money that day. It was also good that several die-hard Ali fans had to admit that I was right about Frazier.  

I later met Joe Frazier at his gym in Philadelphia. I recall that he was gracious and friendly. 

Joe Frazier was a great fighter, but more importantly, he seemed to be a good man.

He inspired a good number of young fighters and he was a hero to a good number of fight fans. He will be missed and he will be remembered.

Don Steinberg wrote a good piece on Frazier's life for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Mr. Frazier, known as "Smokin' Joe," was small for a heavyweight, just under 6 feet tall, but compensated with a relentless attack in the ring, bobbing and weaving as if his upper body were on a tightly coiled spring, constantly moving forward, and throwing more punches than most heavyweights.

"A kind of motorized Marciano" is how Time magazine described his style in a 1971 cover story before Mr. Frazier's $5 million fight with Muhammad Ali, the first of their three epic battles and the most lucrative boxing match ever at the time.

Fans could watch Mr. Frazier fight for minutes at a time and not see him take one step back.

You can read the rest of the story at via the below link:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Movie Shows Why We Like Shakespeare, The Guy Who Wrote The Plays

John Timpane wrote an interesting piece about the film Anonymous for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

WAS SHAKESPEARE A FRAUD?" asked the poster at the Ritz at the Bourse.

"Uh, no," I replied.

I was there for Anonymous, a movie about how William Shakespeare never wrote his plays.

I was a college teacher of Shakespeare for 22 years. I've read every word most scholars believe he ever wrote. More, I've read every contemporary document connected with him. I'm not special; lots of folks, in and out of school, can say the same thing.

This "he didn't write his plays" thing? Silly, pitiable bunk. But I went along and watched the flick. And I had fun. It's a mixed-up passel of crazy nonsense, but I had fun.

You can read the rest of John Timpane's piece via the below link:

John Timpane is a very good writer and editor. He edited my first piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 1999.

Alleged Takeover At FirstPlus Financial Resembled A Mob 'Bust Out'

George Anastasia, the Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter, wrote another piece on the arrest of Nicodemo S. Scarfo Jr and other mob member and associates allegedly involved in a takeover of a financial company.

The alleged takeover of a Texas financial firm by mobster Nicodemo S. Scarfo and one of his top associates has been described as "complicated and layered" by a federal prosecutor.

But in many ways, the scam attributed to Scarfo and Salvatore Pelullo - charged last week with siphoning more than $12 million out of the FirstPlus Financial Group - was a typical mob "bust out."  

... Federal authorities say the current case in many ways is captured in a classic line by Mario Puzo, author and screenwriter of The Godfather saga.

"A man with a briefcase," Puzo wrote, "can steal more than a man with a gun."

Pelullo played the role of the man with the briefcase in the FirstPlus takeover, investigators say. But he was quick to let everyone know that he had the backing of Scarfo, the man with the gun

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post on the Scarfo scam via the below link:

Correcting the 'Fairy Tale': A Navy SEAL's Account Of How Osama Bin Laden Really Died

Vince Coglianese at the interviewed former U.S. Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer, who claims to offer the true story of the SEAL's raid on bin Laden's compound in Pakistan and the death of the world's public enemy number one.

Forget whatever you think you know about the night Osama bin Laden was killed. According to a former Navy SEAL who claims to have the inside track, the mangled tales told of that historic night have only now been corrected.

“It became obvious in the weeks evolving after the mission that the story that was getting put out there was not only untrue, but it was a really ugly farce of what did happen,” said Chuck Pfarrer, the author of  SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my earlier post on the SEAL story via the below link:

Westerns Make Gritty Comeback

Lori Rackl at the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the Western, once a staple on prime-time TV, is bucking its way back onto the small screen with the new AMC Western series Hell on Wheels.

You can read the review via the below link:

I'm a big fan of Westerns, but I watched the first episode of Hell on Wheels and I thought it was awful.

I much prefer the great, old TV Westerns from the 1ate 1950s and the 1960s that appear daily on Encore's Classic Western channel.

I grew up watching these Westerns, such as Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke and Maverick, and I'm enjoying watching them again.

The old shows offer a galaxy of guest stars, many of whom went on to be major film stars. The shows also offer great character actors, writers and directors.

The TV Westerns were called "horse operas" due to the compelling characters and plots (daytime TV series were called "soap operas" due to the soap and detergent commercials aimed at housewives).

Today's TV makers could learn a thing or two about drama, action, comedy and good human stories from those old TV Westerns.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Carlos The Jackal Faces New Paris Trial

The British newspaper the Guardian reports that the international terrorist and convicted murderer known as Carlos the Jackal will stand trial again in Paris, France.

Already in a French prison for life for the murder of two policemen and an informant, this trial will determine Carlos' role in four bombings that killed 11 people.

He was the son of a millionaire lawyer who became one of the world's most wanted men: a globe-trotting criminal mastermind and self-styled professional revolutionary said to have been responsible for bombings, hijackings and shootings across the world. They called him Carlos the Jackal.

Now, some three decades after he spread terror across the globe, the Jackal, whose real name is Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, is set to face trial in Paris in a case that could decide whether he ever steps outside a prison again.

You can read the rest of the newspaper story via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post about the terrorist and his friends and supporters, the Communist East German Stasi secret police, as well a link to a story about the outstanding film made about him (which he reportedly hated), via the below link:

Real Story Of SEAL Team 6's Mission To Kill Bin Laden

Susannah Cahalan at the New York Post wrote a story about the new book on the Navy SEALs raid on the Osama bin Laden compound in Pakistan.

It was 1 a.m. on May 2 in Abbottabad, Pakistan, when Osama bin Laden felt his house shake.

The terror boss -- the man who had killed thousands and proudly masterminded the 9/11 attacks -- jumped from under his comfortable blankets in a panic and struggled through a sleepy haze to figure out what was going on.

He had a $25 million bounty on his head. But this compound -- with its stark, dirty rooms and grandmother’s-house odor -- had been a safe haven for years.

That was all about to end. The Navy SEALS had come for him.

The book, called SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission To Kill  Osama bin Laden, (St Martin's Press) was written by a former member of SEAL Team Six, Chuck Pfarrer.

I received a copy of SEAL Team Geronimo yesterday and I look forward to reading the book. I've read and liked Pfarrer's previous books, Warrior Soul: The Memoir of a Navy SEAL, and Killing Che, a novel about the mission to capture and kill Communist guerrilla Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Boliva in 1967. 

“He had 90 seconds to live,” writes Chuck Pfarrer, a former SEAL Team Six commander in his new book, “Seal Target Geronimo,” which provides a never-before-seen look into the inner workings of the mission to take out Osama bin Laden.

The accounts in the book -- which differ from the official government version in many details -- come from the very SEALS who were on the mission, to whom Pfarrer had special access.

“This book is for the amazing guys who deserve better and the American people who deserve to know better,” the author, who claims he was involved in SEAL preparations leading up to the raid, told The Post

You can read the rest of the Post story via the below link:

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Politically Incorrect Guide To The Vietnam War

Philip Jennings, a former Marine helicopter pilot, did veterans and young people interested in history a fine service by authoring The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War.

I read the book a while back and I enjoyed it, as the book dispelled several myths about what may be the most contentious and misunderstood war in American history. 

I just came across an excerpt from the book that was published last year in the Wall Street Journal.

Polling shows that there is an overwhelming respect for Vietnam veterans—even to a comical degree. For instance, the August 2000 census found that 13 million Americans falsely claimed to be Vietnam Veterans. It seems we have some cachet.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read a previous post on retired Marine Lt Colonel Oliver North and the Vietnam War via the below link:

Who Lost Iraq? Charles Krauthammer Says Obama Blew It In His Latest Column

Charles Krauthammer wrote an interesting and insightful column about the Obama administration's failure in Iraq.

Barack Obama was a principled opponent of the Iraq war from its beginning. But when he became president in January 2009, he was handed a war that was won. The surge had succeeded. Al-Qaeda in Iraq had been routed, driven to humiliating defeat by an Anbar Awakening of Sunnis fighting side-by-side with the infidel Americans. Even more remarkably, the Shiite militias had been taken down, with U.S. backing, by the forces of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They crushed the Sadr militias from Basra to Sadr City.

Al-Qaeda decimated. A Shiite prime minister taking a decisively nationalist line. Iraqi Sunnis ready to integrate into a new national government. U.S. casualties at their lowest ebb in the entire war. Elections approaching. Obama was left with but a single task: Negotiate a new status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) to reinforce these gains and create a strategic partnership with the Arab world’s only democracy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Lure Of The Tug

Ralph Gardner at the Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting piece about his love for tugboats.

I needed help understanding my serious tugboat fixation. So I turned to someone who I thought might be able to offer some insight, who might even share my minor passion for these workhorses of the sea—Joseph O'Toole, captain of the tug Ellen McAllister.

You can read the rest of the story via the below link:

I share Ralph Gardner's interest in tugboats as I served two years on a Navy tugboat at the nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland. Above is a photo of the USS Saugus YTB-780, the Navy tugboat I served on.

You can read about the Navy tugs and view some photos via the below link: Ellen

U.S. Calls Out China And Russia For Cyber Espionage Costing Billions offers a piece on the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive's report on cyber espionage, "Foreign Spies Stealing US Economic Secrets in Cyberspace."

"The computer networks of a broad array of U.S. government agencies, private companies, universities, and other institutions -- all holding large volumes of sensitive economic information -- were targeted by cyber espionage; much of this activity appears to have originated in China," reads the report.

You can read the rest of the piece and link to the report via the below link:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Organized Crime Moving From The Back Alleys To The Boardroom: Nicodemo S. Scarfo, Son of Jailed Philadelphia Mob Boss, Arrested In Boardroom Fraud

As noted in a previous post, Nicodemo S. Scarfo, the son of Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, the jailed former boss of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra crime family, was arrested along with a dozen others in a scheme to take over a business firm.

George Anastasia, the veteran organized crime reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and author of  true crime books on organized crime such as Blood & Honor and The Last Gangster, covered the arrests for the Inquirer.

"This case gives new meaning to the term 'corporate takeover,' " Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, said at a news conference where the charges were announced.

"This was organized crime moving from the back alley to the boardroom," added Michael Ward, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark office.

You can read the rest of George Anastasia's newspaper story and watch his Mob Scene video via the below link:

You can read my previous post on the arrest of Scarfo and others via the below link:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

FBI Says Russian Spies Got Close To Obama Cabinet Member

Bill Gertz, the outstanding national security correspondent at the Washington Times, reports on why the FBI rolled up the Russian spy ring last year.

The FBI rounded up a network of deep-cover Russian spies last year after the group came close to placing an agent near a Cabinet official in the Obama administration, a senior FBI counterspy said Monday as the bureau released once-secret documents on the case.

Frank Figliuzzi, assistant FBI director for counterintelligence, did not identify the Cabinet official, but other U.S. officials said it was Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

You can read the rest of the newspaper story via the below link.

In the above photo released by the FBI, two Russian spies pass information by performing a tradecraft procedure known as a "brush pass."

The Demise Of Organized Crime Has Been Greatly Exaggerated: 13 New York, New Jersey And Philadelphia Organized Crime Members And Associates Arrested For Racketeering And Other Offenses

The U.S. Justice Department released the below today:
WASHINGTON – Thirteen individuals, including an alleged member and an associate of the Lucchese organized crime family, are charged with racketeering and related offenses in an indictment unsealed this morning in conjunction with arrests in the case, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey.
The charges stem from the alleged extortionate takeover of FirstPlus Financial Group Inc. (FPFG), a publicly held company in Texas, and the subsequent looting of FPFG by members of the racketeering enterprise through a series of fraudulent consulting agreements and acquisitions involving companies controlled by Nicodemo S. Scarfo (seen in the above photo) and Salvatore Pelullo.
The 25-count indictment filed in Camden, N.J., federal court charges Scarfo, a member of the Lucchese organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (LCN), and Pelullo, an associate of the Lucchese and Philadelphia LCN families, with racketeering conspiracy and conduct including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, extortion, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice. The indictment also names Nicodemo D. Scarfo (Scarfo Sr.), the imprisoned former boss of the Philadelphia family of LCN, and Vittorio Amuso, the imprisoned boss of the Lucchese family, as unindicted co-conspirators.
Nine other defendants – including attorneys William Maxwell, Cory Leshner, David Adler, Gary McCarthy and Donald Manno, and certified public accountant Howard Drossner – are also variously charged with racketeering conspiracy, including securities fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, and other offenses. The indictment also charges Scarfo’s wife, Lisa Murray-Scarfo, with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and making false statements on a loan application for her role in securing a fraudulent mortgage to purchase a $715,000 house with proceeds from the racketeering enterprise’s criminal activity. William Maxwell’s brother John Maxwell, William Handley and John Parisi are charged with various offenses related to the conspiracy. Todd Stark is charged with conspiracy to provide ammunition for a 9mm handgun to Scarfo.
A number of the defendants were arrested this morning in a coordinated law enforcement effort by special agents of the FBI; Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Scarfo, Handley, Leshner, Parisi, Adler, Drossner and Manno were arrested at their residences; Pelullo was arrested in Miami; and William Maxwell was arrested at his Houston office. McCarthy surrendered to the FBI this morning in Philadelphia. Murray-Scarfo is expected to surrender to authorities in Camden. Stark and John Maxwell have yet to be apprehended. The defendants in custody in the New Jersey area will appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Marie Donio in Camden federal court.
“The indictment alleges that Mr. Scarfo and Mr. Pelullo used economic extortion and threats of violence to seize and maintain control of a publicly traded company, successfully removing its entire existing board of directors and management,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Once in control, they allegedly used their criminal enterprise to extract millions of dollars from the company to fund their lavish lifestyles. This prosecution demonstrates the Justice Department’s resolve to root out the influence of La Cosa Nostra wherever it exists.”
“According to the indictment, the defendants gave new meaning to ‘corporate takeover’ by looting a publicly traded company to benefit their criminal enterprise,” said U.S. Attorney Fishman. “Through rampant self dealing, fraudulent SEC filings and more traditional mob methods, the defendants allegedly stole $12 million from shareholders. Particularly in these economic times, investors should be free to invest in public companies without fear that violent criminal organizations are their puppetmasters. And the public deserves to rely with confidence on corporate officials and professionals whose positions require them to act in the best interest of shareholders, not members of organized crime.”
“The demise of Organized Crime has been greatly exaggerated,” said Michael B. Ward, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Newark Field Office. “Criminal activities have evolved from the back alleys to the board rooms, but the same use of physical threats and intimidation to gain leverage and loot lucrative businesses for personal gain continues to this day. In response, the charges being brought against Nicky Scarfo Jr., Sal Pelullo and others represent law enforcement’s commitment to aggressively target the illegal activity of Organized Crime in any commercial business or venue.”
According to court documents, Scarfo is a made member of the Lucchese family and became a member after an attempt on his life in 1989 following an internal struggle for control of the Philadelphia family. In the mid-1990s while Scarfo Sr. and Amuso were in federal prison in Atlanta, Amuso arranged for Scarfo to become a member of the Lucchese family as a favor to Scarfo Sr. As a member of the Lucchese family, Scarfo was required to earn money and participate in the affairs of the Lucchese family.
According to the indictment, following his release from prison in 2005 on an unrelated charge, Scarfo was placed on supervised release and required to report to a probation officer. According to court documents, by participating in the affairs of what is described in the indictment as the Scarfo-Pelullo Enterprise, Scarfo and other members of the enterprise allegedly engaged in a systematic scheme to deceive and obstruct the probation department and the district court responsible for overseeing Scarfo’s supervised release.
The indictment alleges that in April 2007, Scarfo, Pelullo, Texas attorney William Maxwell and others devised a scheme to take over FPFG, a financial services company in Texas. According to court documents, through threats of physical and economic harm, the Scarfo-Pelullo Enterprise assumed and maintained control of FPFG for the purpose of plundering its assets. The takeover was accomplished by replacing FPFG’s board of directors with new figurehead members who served at the direction of Scarfo, Pelullo and other members of the enterprise. Once the takeover was completed, the figurehead board named William Maxwell as “special counsel” to FPFG, a position that he allegedly used to funnel millions of dollars to himself, Scarfo and Pelullo through fraudulent legal services and consulting agreements. The agreements, as well as FPFG’s fraudulent acquisitions of companies controlled by Scarfo and Pelullo, were allegedly designed to mask the true identity and nature of the control exerted over FPFG and to conceal the source of the money fraudulently conveyed to Scarfo and Pelullo.
According to the indictment, the enterprise succeeded in its criminal objectives with the knowing assistance of Adler, Drossner and McCarthy – who used their positions as professionals to ensure that the enterprise’s criminal activity was not revealed to law enforcement and regulatory authorities, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). As a public company, FPFG was required to submit periodic and annual filings to the SEC. The indictment alleges that the enterprise, led by Scarfo and Pelullo, repeatedly submitted false information, or omitted material information, in required SEC filings. As a result, FPFG’s shareholders and the investing public had no idea that FPFG was being controlled by members and associates of organized crime. Manno, an attorney for Scarfo, allegedly abused his position as an attorney to further insulate Scarfo and the enterprise by deceiving Scarfo’s probation officer and the district court. The indictment alleges that Manno’s deception corruptly influenced Scarfo’s supervised release by withholding information from the probation office and the district court regarding Scarfo’s source of income and his contact with convicted felons.
The indictment details a telephone call intercepted by law enforcement on Dec. 5, 2007, that illustrates the corrupt nature of Scarfo and Pelullo’s control of FPFG. According to the indictment, Pelullo called Scarfo to tell him about the sudden death of a former FPFG executive described in the indictment as “Individual #4,” who had provided information to Pelullo and William Maxwell that they used to extort control of FPFG. At the time of his death, Individual #4 was employed by FPFG as a member of its “compliance team.” During the conversation, Scarfo and Pelullo expressed relief regarding Individual #4’s death. After laughing about how he was “crushed” that “the rat is dead,” Pelullo acknowledged that Individual #4 was “the only connection, the only tie to anything.” As the news sunk in to Scarfo, he stated, “Oh boy. Yeah, Sal, you wanna know something though? . . . That’s one that I know you can’t take credit for . . . [laughter] . . . and that’s the natural best thing. You know what I mean? . . . That is so like Enron-ish. You know what I mean?”
The indictment alleges that the enterprise’s criminal activity allowed Scarfo and Pelullo to live lavish lifestyles which included the purchase of an $850,000 yacht, a luxury home for Scarfo, a Bentley automobile for Pelullo, and thousands of dollars in jewelry for Scarfo’s wife, Murray-Scarfo. As a direct result of the enterprise’s criminal activity, FPFG and its shareholders suffered a loss of at least $12 million.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Lisa C. Page of the Organized Crime and Gang Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven D’Aguanno of the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Camden. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Newark Field Office; the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, New York Region; and the ATF, Newark. The FBI Philadelphia Field Office and the SEC provided assistance. 

James Garner Looks Back On His Life And Acting Career in 'The Garner Files'

I've enjoyed watching James Garner on TV since I was a kid and saw him in Maverick. Years later, I would watch him again in The Rockford Files. 

I also enjoyed watching him in films such as The Americanization of Emily, Support Your Local Sheriff, The Hour of the Gun, The Great Escape and many others. I particularly liked Garner as Raymond Chandler's iconic character Philip Marlowe in the 1969 film Marlowe.

I feel as if I know James Garner and like him as a friend, so I'm looking forward to reading his memoir, The Garner Files.

Mary McNamara wrote an interesting review of the book at the Los Angeles Times.

Many actors have breathed life into a memorable or even iconic role but only a few are capable of reconstructing an archetype. In "Maverick" and then again "The Rockford Files," James Garner stepped into two of TV's most calcified genres — the western and the detective series — and set a new standard that others have been chasing down since. Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford were different in many ways — Maverick was a fast-talking con man in the Old West, Rockford a modern L.A. private investigator with motivation issues — but they shared an important trait: They were reluctant heroes. Each would much rather wisecrack his way out of a jam, but if you pushed him hard enough, you would invariably find yourself counting angels on the ceiling.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:,0,4362112.story

Grip, The Raven Who Inspired Dickens and Poe, Is Stuffed And Stored At The Philadelphia Free Library offers an interesting piece about how Charles Dickens' pet raven, called Grip, was the inspiration for the raven in Dicken's novel Barnaby Rudge, and later served to inspire Edgar Allen Poe when he wrote The Raven in Philadelphia.

Grip, the raven who influenced two of the 19th Century's greatest authors, is now stuffed and on displayed at the Philadelphia Free Library.

You can read the piece via the below link: