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Posts Tagged ‘MAFIA’

COVERING TRUMP AS HE DESERVES

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2018 at 12:13 am

On June 8, 2017, James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

On May 9, he had been fired as director of the FBI by President Donald Trump.

During his Congressional testimony, Comey revealed that, on February 14,  2017, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

Michael Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

Many reporters who undoubtedly knew better agreed with this excuse: He just didn’t understand the protocols. He’ll get it right next time.

They didn’t dare report the truth: America is being ruled by a dictator in the mold of John Gotti.

Thus, Trump didn’t meet privately with Comey because he didn’t know “how modern government operates.” He wanted a private meeting to make a request he knew was on its face illegal—and he wanted to ensure “plausible deniability” in doing so.

If Comey later told the truth about that meeting—as he later did—Trump could say—as he later did: “It’s just his word against mine. Who are you going to believe?”

Reporters covering the Trump administration need to radically change their methods for doing so.

They should start covering it the way organized crime reporters have long covered the Mafia.

Related image

Donald Trump

First, assume that Trump—and those who serve him—are acting criminally unless they can prove otherwise.

As Niccolo Machiavelli advised in his classic work, The Discourses:

“All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.

“If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason, and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.”

Second, report what he and his minions say publicly—but look for well-placed sources in law enforcement for the truth.

Reporters covering John Gotti found him highly quotable copy. But they also cultivated secret sources within the FBI and NYPD to discover what crimes he had committed—and was committing.

And when they wrote stories about him, they stated—unequivocally—that he was the boss of an organized crime family.

Reporters covering Trump should similarly list his own history of conflicts with the law.

John Gotti.jpg

John Gotti

Third, news media should devote fewer resources to covering the public side of Trump—and  more to unearthing the truths he wants to suppress. 

As robber baron J.P. Morgan once admitted: “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good, and a real one.”

What’s said during a press conference—whether by Trump or any other of his officials—is strictly the version he wants stated. This could be transcribed by a single pool reporter, who shares whatever’s said with all the major news media.

This, in turn, would free legions of reporters to unearth truths that Trump doesn’t want revealed.

Fourth, recognize that Trump is fighting an all-out war on the media—and have the courage to publicly state this.

In 1976, Arizona Republic reporter and organized crime expert Don Bolles, was killed by a car bomb. Legions of reporters from across the country descended on Arizona to prove to mobsters: Attacking reporters is as dangerous as attacking cops.

Donald Trump has labeled established news media as “fake news.” He has called reporters “the enemy of America.” On at least one occasion, he told a CNN reporter: “You’re fake news.”

Yet no reporter—for CNN or any other news outlet—has called him a “fake President.” Nor has any reporter dared to call him a pathological liar with dictatorial ambitions.

CNN has started running an ad featuring a shiny red apple, while a voice-over intones:

“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.”

Unfortunately, many viewers might mistake the “apple” for Apple. Thus, a more effective ad could feature a picture of Trump in an SS uniform, and the following message:

“This  is a Fascist. Some people might try to tell you that he’s a Republican. They might scream Republican, Republican, Republican over and over and over again. They might put REPUBLICAN in all caps. You might even start to believe that he is a Republican. But he’s not. This is a Fascist.”

“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE” COMES HOME

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 24, 2018 at 12:15 am

According to the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (which cracks codes and listens to the telephone conversation of foreign leaders) it’s clear that Russian trolls and Intelligence agents played a major role in subverting the 2016 Presidential election.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, assigned in May, 2017, to investigate charges of Russian interference, believes there was collusion. He has secured criminal charges against 19 people, including five guilty pleas. And more are undoubtedly coming.

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

And 65% of Americans believe that Mueller should be allowed to continue his investigation.

Apparently, most Americans don’t like having their elections subverted by enemy nations.

Subverting the governments of other countries is a right that Americans have long reserved for themselves. Among those regimes that have been toppled:

  • Between 1898 and 1934, the United States repeatedly intervened with military force in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Americans staged invasions of Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925 to defend U.S. interests. These were defined as Standard Oil and the United Fruit Company.
  • The United States occupied Nicaragua almost continuously from 1912 to 1933. Its legacy was the imposition of the tyrannical Somoza family, which ruled from 1936 to 1979.
  • The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. American banks had lent money to Haiti and requested American government intervention.
  • In 1918, 13,000 American soldiers joined armies from Europe and Japan to overthrow the new Soviet government and restore the previous Tsarist regime. By 1920, the invading forces proved unsuccessful and withdrew.

Wladiwostok Parade 1918.jpg

Allied troops parading in Vladivostok, 1918  

  • From 1946 to 1949, the United States provided military, logistical and other aid to the Right-wing Chinese Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai-shek. Its opponent were Communist forces led by Mao Tse-Tung, who ultimately proved victorious.
  • In 1953, the Eisenhower administration ordered the CIA to overthrew the democratically-elected government of of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. His crime: Nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913. He was succeeded by Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi. Whereas Mossadeddgh had ruled as a constitutional monarch, Phlavi was a dictator who depended on United States government support to retain power until he was overthrown in 1979 by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • In 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. His crime: Installing a series of reforms that expanded the right to vote, allowed workers to organize, legitimized political parties and allowed public debate. Most infuriating to American Right-wingers: His agrarian reform law, which expropriated parts of large land-holdings and redistributed them to agricultural laborers. The United Fruit Company lobbied the United States government to overthrow him—and the CIA went into action. Arbenz was replaced by the first of a series of brutal Right-wing dictators.
  • From 1959 until 1963, the United States government was obsessed with overthrowing the revolutionary Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Although not democratically elected, Castro was wildly popular in Cuba for overthrowing the dictatorial Fulgencio Batista. On April 17, 1961, over 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Cuban military forces crushed the invasion in three days.
  • Infuriated with the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy authorized “Operation Mongoose” to remove Castro through sabotage and assassination. The CIA, wanting to please Kennedy, teamed up with the Mafia, which wanted to resurrect its casinos on the island. Among the tactics used: Hiring Cuban gangsters to murder police officials and Soviet technicians; sabotaging mines; using biological and chemical warfare against the Cuban sugar industry. None of these proved successful in assassinating Castro nor overturning his regime.

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Fidel Castro

  • In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent Marxist Salvador Allende from being democratically elected as president of Chile. When that failed, he ordered the CIA to overthrow Allende. Allende’s crime: A series of liberal reforms, including nationalizing large-scale industries (notably copper mining and banking. In 1973, he was overthrown by Chilean army units and national police. He was followed by Right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, who slaughtered 3,200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 and forced another 200,000 Chileans into exile.

And how did Americans react to all these attempts—successful and unsuccessful—at regime change?

Through indifference or outright support.

The popular 1960s TV series, “Mission: Impossible,” regularly depicted a CIA-type agency supporting regimes “we” liked or toppling those “we” didn’t.

Americans generally assume their Presidents and Congress know best who is a “friend” and who is an “enemy.”  America’s friends often turn out, for the most part, to be Right-wing dictators like Chiang Kai-Shek, Fulgencio Batista, Augusto Pinochet and Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi.

And its enemies often turn out to be liberal reformers like Augusto Sandino, Mohammad Mosaddegh and Salvador Allende. 

Americans tend to favor intervention for the flimsiest of reasons. In 2003, President George W. Bush claimed Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had plotted 9/11 with Osama bin Laden. There was absolutely no proof to substantiate this, yet Americans overwhelmingly supported Bush’s unprovoked invasion of Iraq. 

But now the shoe is on the other foot. Except for President Donald Trump and his fanatical supporters, Americans are furious that a foreign power has dared to install “regime change” on them.

Americans are now tasting the medicine they have dished out to so many other countries. And they find it as repugnant as those countries have found the American brand.

A POIGNANT ANNIVERSARY FAST APPROACHING

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 5, 2018 at 12:09 am

Fifty years ago, the Reverend Martin Luther King was shot to death as he stood on a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. He had come there to lead a march of striking garbage workers.

New York United States Senator—and now Presidential candidate—Robert Francis Kennedy had been scheduled to give a speech in Indianapolis, Indiana, before a black audience.

Just before he drove into the city to deliver his address, he learned of King’s assassination. There was a real danger that rioting would erupt. Police who had been assigned to protect him said they wouldn’t accompany him into the inner city.

Kennedy drove off anyway, leaving behind his police escort.

Standing on a podium mounted on a flatbed truck, Kennedy spoke for just four minutes and 57 seconds.

His waiting audience hadn’t yet learned of King’s death. Kennedy broke the news to gasps, and then gave an impromptu speech eulogizing the slain civil rights leader.

For the first time since the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, in 1963, he spoke publicly of that killing. He noted that JFK—like King—had also been killed by a white man.

And he called upon the crowd to “dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world.”

Riots erupted in 60 cities following King’s death—but not in Indianapolis.

Fifty years ago, Robert Kennedy aroused passions of an altogether different sort from those aroused by Donald Trump.

Kennedy had been a United States Attorney General (1961-1964) and Senator from New York (1964-1968). But it was his connection to his beloved and assassinated brother, President John F. Kennedy, for which he was best known.

In October, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, his wise counsel helped steer America from the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. As a U.S Senator he championed civil rights and greater Federal efforts to fight poverty.

Robert F. Kennedy campaigning for President

Millions saw RFK as the only candidate who could make life better for America’s impoverished—while standing firmly against those who threatened the Nation’s safety.

As television correspondent Charles Quinn observed: “I talked to a girl in Hawaii who was for [George] Wallace [the segregationist governor of Alabama]. And I said ‘Really?’ [She said] ‘Yeah, but my real candidate is dead.’

“You know what I think it was? All these whites, all these blue collar people who supported Kennedy…all of these people felt that Kennedy would really do what he thought best for the black people, but, at the same time, would not tolerate lawlessness and violence.

“They were willing to gamble…because they knew in their hearts that the country was not right. They were willing to gamble on this man who would try to keep things within reasonable order; and at the same time do some of the things they knew really should be done.”

Campaigning for the Presidency in 1968, RFK had just won the crucial California primary on June 4—when he was shot in the back of the head.

His killer: Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian furious at Kennedy’s support for Israel.

Kennedy died at 1:44 a.m. on June 6.  He was 42.

On June 8, 1,200 men and women boarded a specially-reserved passenger train at New York’s Pennsylvania Station. They were accompanying Kennedy’s body to its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.

As the train slowly moved along 225 miles of track, throngs of men, women and children lined the rails to pay their final respects to a man they considered a genuine hero.

Little Leaguers clutched baseball caps across their chests. Uniformed firemen and policemen saluted. Burly men in shirtsleeves held hardhats over their hearts. Black men in overalls waved small American flags. Women from all levels of society stood and cried.

A nation says goodbye to Robert Kennedy

Commenting on RFK’s legacy, historian William L. O’Neil wrote in Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960′s:

“…He aimed so high that he must be judged for what he meant to do, and, through error and tragic accident, failed at….He will also be remembered as an extraordinary human being who, though hated by some, was perhaps more deeply loved by his countrymen than any man of his time.

“That too must be entered into the final account, and it is no small thing. With his death something precious disappeared from public life.”

America has never again seen a Presidential candidate who combined toughness on crime and compassion for the poor.

Republican candidates have waged war on crime—and the poor. And Democratic candidates have moved to the Right in eliminating anti-poverty programs.

RFK had the courage to fight the Mafia—and the compassion to fight poverty. At a time when Americans long for candidates to give them positive reasons for voting, his kind of politics are sorely missed.

PRESENTING—SENATOR HYPOCRITE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 4, 2018 at 12:10 am

At the end of the 1987 movie, “The Untouchables,” a reporter accosts Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner): “Mr. Ness, they’re saying that Congress will repeal Prohibition. If that happens, what will you do?”

And Ness—who has just spent the entire movie trying to put arch-bootlegger Al Capone out of business—replies: “I think I’ll have a drink.”

“The Untouchables” (1987)

In 1920, America went “dry”—officially.

The reason: Congressional passage of the Volstead Act—named after Andrew Volstead, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who managed the legislation.

For Americans generally, the law had a shorter name: Prohibition.

For 12 years—from 1920 to 1932—the United States Treasury Department declared war on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages throughout the country.

It was a losing war. Untold numbers of local police officers gladly turned a blind eye—for a price—to the bootleggers operating in their midst. So did legions of agents of the Treasury Department’s Prohibition Bureau.

And police weren’t the only ones willing to ignore the law. So were politicians at all levels. At the highest level: Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States.

Warren G. Harding

Harding allowed bootleg whiskey to be served to his guests during after-dinner parties.  His wife, Florence, known as “The Duchess,” mixed drinks for the visitors.

Many of those public officials (and private citizens) who regularly indulged felt the law was needed to enforce “morality” onto others—especially the poor and immigrants.

Prohibition ended in 1932—to the sorrow of two major organizations. The first was anti-alcohol groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The second was the Mafia—which had raised millions of dollars via the sale of forbidden spirits.

Today Americans (except those living in officially “dry” states like Florida, Georgia and Alabama) can easily and legally obtain all the booze they can afford to buy.

But even in “wet” states, it’s illegal to drink and drive—as third-term United States Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) found out in 2012.

Mike Crapo

Crapo had been elected to the House of Representatives in 1992. After three terms in the House he successfully ran for the Senate in 1998.

On December 23, 2012, Crapo was arrested in Alexandria, Virginia, for driving under the influence. Crapo was pulled over after an officer saw him run a red light.

According to CBS News, Crapo failed several field sobriety tests and was taken into custody without incident. He was later released on an unsecured $1,000 bond.

On January 4, 2013, Crapo pleaded guilty to a drunk driving charge and was sentenced to a  $250 fine and court costs, one-year suspension of his driver’s license, and court-ordered alcohol education and awareness classes.

But there’s more to this tale than mere political embarrassment. There’s also a story of religious hypocrisy to be told.

Crapo is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Mormons. He graduated from the church’s Brigham Young University in 1973  with a B.A. in political science.

Among those acts that Mormons are forbidden to partake in is the drinking of alcohol. It’s part of the “Word of Wisdom” embraced by staunch church members: A ban on any use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea.

Indulging in any of these won’t get you excommunicated (as will, say, adultery or murder, which the church puts on the same level of evil). But it can get you banned from entering a Mormon temple, reserved for only the most devout members.

It is in their temples that Mormons perform such rituals as wedding ceremonies and proxy “baptisms for the dead.”

This inevitably came as a huge embarrassment for a man who represents Idaho, a state:

  • Where government maintains a monopoly over sales of beverages with greater than 16% ABV;
  • Where beer can be sold in grocery stores but not wine;
  • Where the sale of distilled spirits is allowed only in certified Liquor Dispensary stores;
  • Where 414,182 Mormons comprise the largest single religious group—at 26% of the population.

Thus, Crapo quickly released the following statement:

“I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance.  I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my Idaho constituents and any others who have put their trust in me.

“I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter.  I will also undertake measures to ensure that this circumstance is never repeated.”

In November, 2016, Crapo was re-elected to a fourth Senate  term. 

Among his legislative accomplishments: 

  • Opposing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which makes access to health care available to all Americans.  He did so after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999 and undergoing surgery to remove all or part of the prostate gland in January 2000.
  • Opposing expanded background checks for all gun buyers.  
  • Chairing the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, where he attacked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Urging President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the climate-change Paris Agreement.
  • Chairing the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, where he sought repeal of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, its purpose is to prevent a repeat of the 2008 Wall Street “meltdown” caused by the unchecked greed of speculators.

IT’S MUELLER TIME FOR THE GHOST OF J. EDGAR

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 18, 2017 at 2:41 am

J. Edgar Hoover was appointed director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1924.  His 48-year reign ended only with his death on May 2, 1972.

Niccolo Machiavelli advised would-be princes to be both loved and feared.  Hoover took this to heart—and ensured that he was both.

To gain love, he shamelessly advertised himself as the Nation’s foremost guardian against crime and espionage–especially the Communist variety.

He did so through

  • A relentless series of interviews with favored journalists and book authors;
  • “Authoring” several ghostwritten books; and
  • Sponsoring comic books, radio programs and even a high-rated TV series to tout the glories of the FBI.

Millions of Americans believed that only Hoover and his ace G-men stood between them and the threat of crime and/or Communist subversion.

J. Edgar Hoover

Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees supposedly oversee the operations of the Justice Department—of which the FBI is the biggest part. Yet they competed with one another to fawn over Hoover and his agency and to give him even greater appropriations than he asked for.

But it wasn’t just popularity that kept Hoover in power for almost a half-century. While he reveled in feeling loved by the public, he did not rely entirely on this as a guarantee of longevity.

“In large measure, Hoover’s power rested on the information he had squirreled away in his secret files,” wrote investigative journalist David Wise in his 1976 bestseller, The American Police State.

“Put simply, the famous Director of the FBI, the cereal boxtop, G-man hero of generations of American youth, was a blackmailer. Hoover collected and filed away facts, tidbits, gossip, scandal and dark secrets that gave him leverage over members of Congress, the Cabinet, even Presidents.”

“He has a file on everybody,” a terrified President Richard Nixon told White House Counsel John Dean.

It was the major reason why Nixon—and Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson—never dared fire him.

Hoover learned, for example, of the sexual relationship between JFK and “party girl” Judith Campbell.  Aside from the politically explosive matter of Kennedy’s adultery, Campbell was also bedding Sam Giancana, the most notorious Mafia boss in Chicago.

Fearing that his superior, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, meant to fire him, Hoover, in 1962, let President Kennedy know that he was in on the secret.  Hoover quit worrying about involuntary retirement after that.

John F. Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy

Similarly, LBJ told aides he would never fire Hoover: “It’s better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”

Now, fast forward to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s assignment to investigate well-documented links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign.

On May 9, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for doing the same thing.  When Mueller was appointed to continue that investigation, Trump made clear his anger at the decision.

Since May, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.

This despite the fact that Mueller was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush and served with an impeccable reputation for 12 years as FBI director (2001-2013).

From the outset of Mueller’s investigation, there have been widespread fears that Trump would fire him, just as he did Comey.

On December 15, Rep. Jackie Spier (D-Calif.) said: “The rumor on the Hill when I left yesterday was that the President was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week. And on December 22, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller.”

A member of the House Intelligence Committee, Spier said that Trump was trying to shut down Congress’ own investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

So: How should Robert Mueller respond?

Two methods are open to him.

The first is to follow the straight-arrow path he has always traveled: Keep pressing on with his investigation and wait to see what happens.  And if Trump fires him, hope that, somehow, the probe goes on.

The second is to summon up the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover.

As described by William C. Sullivan, Hoover’s one-time number-three man and the director of his Intelligence Division:

William C. Sullivan

“The moment he would get something on a Senator, he would send one of his errand boys up and advise the Senator that we’re in the course of an investigation and by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter.

“But we wanted you to know know—we realize you would want to know it. But don’t have any concern—no one will ever learn about it. Well, Jesus, what does that tell the Senator?  From that time on, the Senator’s right in his pocket.”

Reports have circulated that many of those Congress members now demanding Mueller’s firing are recipients of financial (and possibly intelligence) support from the Kremlin.

Perhaps it’s time for Mueller to send one of his own “errand boys” up to Capitol Hill for a quiet exchange with such leaders.

Once they realize how much they stand to lose by backing a Kremlin-owned President, they may well change their tunes.

WHEN CRIMINALS FALL OUT, AMERICA WINS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 16, 2017 at 12:17 am

In 1972, warfare erupted the between the two most powerful Mafia families of New York.

On one side: The Corleone Family, headed by “Don Vito” Corleone.  On the other: The Barzini Family, whose boss was Emilio Barzini.

Moviegoers flooded theaters across the nation to make The Godfather the highest-grossing film of 1972—and, for a time, the highest-grossing film ever made.

The Godfather written on a black background in stylized white lettering, above it a hand holds puppet strings

Audiences rooted for the Corleones and thrilled whenever a Barzini “soldier” bit the concrete.  And they moaned when Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) was shot and wounded at an outdoor market and Sonny Corleone (James Caan) got riddled by machine guns on a New Jersey causeway.

Why did so many moviegoers feel compelled to side with the Corleones?

One reason was that, early in the film, Don Corleone rejects an offer by the Barzini Family to enter the narcotics-trafficking business.

Many viewers saw this as proof that “Don Vito” was more honest than other Mafia chiefs who did enter the drug trade.  In fact, Corleone made it clear that he wanted to stay out for completely practical reasons.

When speaking with Virgil Sollotzzo, the Turkish drug kingpin backed by the Barzinis, Corleone says: “It makes no difference to me what a man does for a living.  But your business is a little dangerous.

“It’s true I have a lot of friends who are judges and politicians.  And they don’t mind if people want to gamble, or drink, or even pay for a woman.  But they wouldn’t be so friendly if they knew my business was drugs.”

In short, it wasn’t morality that led him to steer clear of narcotics trafficking.  He simply didn’t want to go to prison.

The other reason so many viewers identified with the Corleones lay in the brilliant casting of their members.

  • Marlon Brando—considered by many the greatest actor of his time—headed the cast.
  • Al Pacino, then an unknown, aroused sympathy as Michael, the Family outsider forced by the shooting of his father to become the Boss of All Bosses.
  • James Caan (as Sonny) is handsome and the defender of his brutalized sister, Connie, against her abusive husband, Carlo Rizzi.
  • John Cazale (as Fredo) is riddled with insecurities and not very bright, won the audiences’ sympathy by his sheer helplessness when compared to his ruthless siblings.

But the fact remained that the Corleones—for all their homilies about “honor” and “loyalty”—were every bit as greedy and lethal as their Mafia competitors.  They just played the game more ruthlessly—and successfully.

All of which brings us to the current Mafia-like struggle within the Republican party in Alabama. 

On one side: Roy Moore, the twice-ousted former chief justice of the Alabama supreme court, who is running for U.S. Senator.

Judge Roy Moore.jpg

Roy Moore

On the other: “Establishment” Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan. 

The uproar started when four women, in a Washington Post story, accused Moore of seeking romantic relationships with four teenage girls while he was in his 30s, and even trolling malls for such dates.

The worst of these charges came from Leigh Corfman, who said that, when she was 14, Moore took off her “shirt and pants and removed his clothes,” touched her “over her bra and underpants” and “guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.”

One of Moore’s defenders is Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, an online Right-wing news, opinion and commentary website. 

“This is nothing less than the politics of personal destruction,” he told Bloomberg News. “And they need to destroy him by any means necessary.”

Another is Sean Hannity, a talk show host on Fascistic Fox News. Interviewed on Hannity’s program, Moore said he did “not generally” remember dating teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Many Republicans want President Donald Trump to publicly urge Moore to step aside. But Trump is extremely reluctant to do so—and for good reason.  

On October 12, 2016, The Palm Beach Post, The New York Times and People all published stories of women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Trump. By October 14, at least 12 women had publicly accused Trump of sexually inappropriate behavior. 

Trump, having become the poster boy of sexual harassment—if not predators—does not want the public once again reminded of his own repellent behavior. 

There are several possible outcomes here—all of them disastrous for the Republican party. 

  • Moore could win—thus becoming a national embarrassment to Republicans.
  • Moore could lose to his Democratic challenger, Doug Jones—thus giving Democrats one more Senator to oppose the Trump agenda.
  • Moore could win—and be expelled from the Senate by his fellow Republicans. This would require a two-thirds majority vote. It would ignite a civil war among “establishment” Republicans like McConnell and “anti-establishment” Right-wingers like Bannon, Hannity and even Trump.
  • No matter what Trump does, it will prove a lose/lose issue for Republicans. If he condemns Moore, he will be accused of hypocrisy. If he doesn’t, he will be accused of silently condoning sexually predatory behavior.

When predatory Mafiosi wipe each other out, honest citizens win. When Fascistic Republicans wage war on each other, democracy wins.

SECRETS OF THE JFK ASSASSINATION

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 23, 2017 at 11:58 am

In 1991, director Oliver Stone ignited renewed controversy about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

His film, “JFK,” presented the murder as the result of a conspiracy involving almost everyone. It starred Kevin Costner as idealistic New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison.

By contrast, the real Garrison was reputedly linked to the Mafia.  In 1973, Garrison was tried and found not guilty  for accepting bribes to protect illegal pinball machine operations.

Garrison’s “search for the truth” targeted a businessman named Clay Shaw. On March 1, 1969, Shaw was unanimously acquitted less than one hour after the case went to the jury

To gauge historical accuracy of “JFK”: Stone gave Garrison an eloquent final speech to the jury—a speech he never delivered.

Jim Garrison.jpg

Jim Garrison

But the public hysteria triggered by the film led Congress to pass the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act in 1992.  As a result, millions of pages of documents related to the assassination were made public in the 1990s—but not all.

About 3,100 never-before-seen documents—and the full text of more than 30,000 files previously released only in part—have been unavailable until now. Most of those documents were created inside the CIA, the FBI and the Justice Department. Under the law they must be released, in full, by October 26 unless President Donald Trump decides otherwise.

But for investigative reporter Gus Russo, the secrets behind Kennedy’s murder are no mystery.

Russo is the author of Live By the SwordThe Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK. Published in 1998, it is almost certainly the definitive account of the Kennedy assassination.

Russo reaches some startling—but highly documented—conclusions.  Among these:

  • “John and Robert Kennedy knew what they were doing. They waged a vicious war against Fidel Castro–a war someone had to lose.” 
  • The loser turned out to be John F. Kennedy. 
  • Their war began immediately after taking office on January 20, 1961. 
  • On April 17, 1961, more than 1,400 Cuban invaders–backed by American air power—landed JOINT at the Bay of Pigs. They were quickly overwhelmed, with hundreds of the men taken prisoner.
  • Although it’s commonly believed that the Cuban Missile Crisis ended America’s  efforts to overthrow Fidel Castro, this was not true. 
  • While continuing the campaign of sabotage throughout Cuba, the Kennedys were preparing a fullscale American invasion of the island—just one month before the November, 1964 Presidential election.  

John F. and Robert F. Kennedy

  • On October 4, 1963, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted its latest version of the invasion plan, known as OPLAN 380-63.  Its timetable went:
  • (1) January, 1964:  Infiltration into Cuba by Cuban exiles. (2) July 15, 1964:  U.S. conventional forces join the fray. (3) August 3, 1964: All-out U.S. air strikes on Cuba. (4) October 1, 1964: Full-scale invasion to install “a government friendly to the U.S.” 
  • Oswald, a former Marine, was a committed Marxist–whose hero was Castro. 
  • The CIA’s ongoing campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate Castro was an open secret throughout the Gulf.
  • Oswald visited New Orleans in the spring of 1963. 
  • There he learned that Castro was in the crosshairs of the CIA.
  • For this, he blamed John F. Kennedy.
  • Oswald told his Russian-born wife, Marina: “Fidel Castro needs defenders. I’m going to join his army of volunteers.”
  • Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy.
  • He did it alone. 
  • Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, murdered Oswald because he was distraught over Kennedy’s death.
  • Ruby was not part of a Mafia conspiracy to silence Oswald.
  • Skeptics of the Warren Commission–which concluded that Oswald had acted alone–asked the wrong question: “Who killed Kennedy?”
  • According to Gus Russo, they should have asked: “Why was he killed?”
  • And his answer: “The Kennedys’ relentless pursuit of Castro and Cuba backfired in tragedy on that terrible day in November, 1963.”
  • Following the JFK assassination, there was a cover-up.
  • Its purpose: To protect the reputation of the United States Government—and that of its newly-martyred President.
  • The CIA and FBI concealed the CIA-Mafia assassination plots against Castro from the Warren Commission assigned to investigate Kennedy’s murder.
  • Other government officials participating in the cover-up included Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • Ironically, this secrecy ignited the widespread–and false–belief that the President had died at the hands of a government conspiracy.
  • Robert Kennedy feared that his relentless pursuit of Castro might have led Castro to “take out” JFK first.
  • Robert Kennedy’s fears and guilt were compounded by the fact that, while waging war on Castro, he had waged an equally ruthless crusade against organized crime. 
  • He knew that some of the mobsters he had tried to send to prison had played a major role in the CIA’s efforts to “hit” Castro. Had the Mafia–believing itself the victim of a double-cross–put out a “contract” on JFK instead? 
  • It was a question that haunted RFK until the day he died.
  • Fearing his own assassination if he continued Kennedy’s efforts to murder Castro, President Johnson ordered the CIA to halt its campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate the Cuban leader.

Other legacies of America’s twisted obsession with Cuba

  • The huge Cuban community throughout Florida–and especially Miami–continues to exert a blackmailing influence on American politics.
  • Unwilling to risk their own lives, they hope that a Right-wing President will order the military to overthrow the Castro regime. 

AMERICA’S BRUSH WITH ARMAGEDDON: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2017 at 12:05 am

“John and Robert Kennedy knew what they were doing.  They waged a vicious war against Fidel Castro–a war someone had to lose.”

And the loser turned out to be John F. Kennedy.

So writes investigative reporter Gus Russo in Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK, published in 1998.

In what is almost certainly the definitive account of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Russo reaches some startling–but highly documented–conclusions:

  • Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy.
  • He did it alone.
  • Oswald, a former Marine, was a committed Marxist–whose hero was Castro.
  • The CIA’s ongoing campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate Castro was an open secret throughout the Gulf.
  • Oswald visited New Orleans in the spring of 1963.
  • There he learned that Castro was in the crosshairs of the CIA.
  • Oswald told his Russian-born wife, Marina: “Fidel Castro needs defenders. I’m going to join his army of volunteers.”
  • Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, murdered Oswald because he was distraught over Kennedy’s death.
  • Ruby was not part of a Mafia conspiracy to silence Oswald.
  • Skeptics of the Warren Commission–which concluded that Oswald had acted alone–asked the wrong question: “Who killed Kennedy?”
  • They should have asked: “Why was he killed?”
  • The answer–according to Russo: “The Kennedys’ relentless pursuit of Castro and Cuba backfired in tragedy on that terrible day in November, 1963.”

Another book well worth reading about America’s Cuban obsession during the early 1960s is American Tabloid, by James Ellroy.

Although a novel, it vividly captures the atmosphere of intrigue, danger and sleaziness that permeated that era in a way that dry, historical documents never can.

“The 50’s are finished,” reads its paperback dust jacket. “Zealous young lawyer Robert Kennedy has a red-hot jones to nail Jimmy Hoffa. JFK has his eyes on the Oval Office.

“J. Edgar Hoover is swooping down on the Red Menace. Howard Hughes is dodging subpoenas and digging up Kennedy dirt. And Castro is mopping up the bloody aftermath of his new Communist nation….

“Mob bosses, politicos, snitches, psychos, fall guys and femmes fatale. They’re mixing up a Molotov cocktail guaranteed to end the country’s innocence with a bang.”

Among the legacies of America’s twisted romance with anti-Castro Cubans:

  • Following the JFK assassination, there was a coverup.
  • Its purposes: To protect the reputation of the United States government–and that of its newly-martyred President.
  • Thus, the CIA and FBI concealed the CIA-Mafia assassination plots from the Warren Commission assigned to investigate Kennedy’s murder.
  • Other government officials participating in the coverup included Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • Ironically, this secrecy ignited the widespread–and false–belief that the President had died at the hands of a government conspiracy.
  • Robert Kennedy feared that his relentless pursuit of Castro might have led Castro to “take out” JFK first.
  • Fearing his own assassination if he continued Kennedy’s efforts to murder Castro, President Johnson ordered the CIA to halt its campaign to overthrow and/or assassinate the Cuban leader.
  • The huge Cuban community throughout Florida–and especially Miami–continues to exert a blackmailing influence on American politics.
  • Right-wing politicians from Richard Nixon to Newt Gingrich have reaped electoral rewards by catering to the demands of this hate-obsessed voting block.
  • As a result, the United States still refuses to open diplomatic relations with Cuba–even though it has done so with such former enemies as the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam.
  • These Cuban ex-patriots hope that the United States will launch a full-scale military invasion of the island to remove Castro.
  • Having grown rich and soft in the United States, they fear to risk their own lives by returning to Cuba to loverthrow Castro–as he did against Fulgencio Batista.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was the deadliest moment of the Cold War, when the world stood only minutes away from nuclear Armageddon.

That crisis stemmed from America’s twisted obsession with Cuba, an obsession that continues today.

So what are the lessons to be learned from that obsession?

  • It is long past time to demand major changes in our foreign policy toward Cuba.
  • It’s time to end the half-century contamination of American politics by those Cubans who live only for their hatred of Castro–and those political candidates who live to exploit it. 
  • A population of about 1,700,000 Cuban exiles should not be allowed to shape the domestic and foreign policy of a nation of 300 million.
  • Those who continue to hate–or love–Castro should be left to their own private feud.  But that is a feud they should settle on their own island, and not from the shores of the United States.

President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong On have traded salvos of insults and threats, like two demented schoolchildren.

Once again, the world wonders: Is nuclear war about to erupt?

Thus, two lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis–above all others–should vividly remembered–before disaster erupts:

First, the highly provocative actions of the Kennedy Administration led directly to the installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba; and

Second, only the restraint exercised by John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev averted a nuclear holocaust. 

No American can restrain the actions of the North Korean dictator.  But there are Americans who can remove the dangers posed by a clearly unstable President.

AMERICA’S BRUSH WITH ARMAGEDDON: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 15, 2017 at 12:13 am

On October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy went on nationwide TV to announce the discovery of the missiles and his blockade of Cuba.

He warned that any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union—and would trigger “a full retaliatory response” upon the U.S.S.R.

John F. Kennedy address the nation

And he demanded that the Soviets remove all of their offensive weapons from Cuba: “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

On October 26,  the United States raised the readiness level of SAC forces to DEFCON 2—the step just short of war. For the only  time in U.S. history, B-52 bombers were dispersed to various locations and made ready to take off, fully equipped, on 15 minutes’ notice.

Other measures taken included:

  • One-eighth of America’s 1,436 bombers were on airborne alert.
  • About 145 intercontinental ballistic missiles stood on ready alert.
  • Air Defense Command redeployed 161 nuclear-armed interceptors to 16 dispersal fields within nine hours with one-third maintaining 15-minute alert status.
  • Twenty-three nuclear-armed B-52 were sent to orbit points within striking distance of the Soviet Union.

An invasion date was set for October 29. But the Kennedy Administration—and the American military—didn’t know that the Russian soldiers guarding the missiles had been armed with tactical nuclear weapons.

Had the Marines gone in, those mini-nukes would have been used. And a fullscale nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union would have almost certainly followed.

At the height of the crisis, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy offered a solution.

Khrushchev had sent two teletypes to Kennedy. The first had agreed to remove the missiles, but the second had demanded that the United States remove its own missiles from Turkey, which bordered the Soviet Union.

Robert Kennedy’s solution: The administration should ignore the second message—and announce that it had accepted Khrushchev’s offer to remove the missiles.

After this announcement was made, President Kennedy said to his advisors: “It can go either way now.”

John F. Kennedy

The crisis ended on October 28.  Under enormous pressure, Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba.

Behind his decision lay a secret promise by the Kennedy administration to remove its obsolete nuclear missiles from Turkey. And a public pledge to not invade Cuba.

On the night the crisis ended, there occurred a prophetic exchange between the two Kennedy brothers.

JFK: “Maybe this is the night I should go to the theater”—a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s fatal attendance of Ford’s Theater at the end of the Civil War.

RFK: “If you go, I want to go with you.”

John F. and Robert F. Kennedy

But President Kennedy was not finished with Castro. While continuing the campaign of sabotage throughout Cuba, the Kennedys were preparing something far bigger: A fullscale American invasion of the island.

On October 4, 1963, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted its latest version of the invasion plan, known as OPLAN 380-63. Its timetable went:

  • January, 1964:  Infiltration into Cuba by Cuban exiles.
  • July 15, 1964:  U.S. conventional forces join the fray.
  • August 3, 1964:  All-out U.S. air strikes on Cuba.
  • October 1, 1964:  Full-scale invasion to install “a government friendly to the U.S.”

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Robert Kennedy—referring to the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—had resisted demands for a “sneak attack” on Cuba by saying: “I don’t want my brother to be the Tojo of the 1960s.”

Now the Kennedys planned such an attack on Cuba just one month before the November, 1964 Presidential election.

Then fate—in the unlikely figure of Lee Harvey Oswald—intervened.

On November 22, 1963, while the President rode through Dallas in an open-air automobile, a rifle-wielding assassin opened fire. He scored two hits on Kennedy—in the back of the neck and head. The second wound proved instantly fatal.

The nation and the world were shocked—and plunged into deep mourning.

But for some of those who had waged a secret, lethal war against Fidel Castro for the previous two years, Kennedy’s death—at least in retrospect—didn’t come as a surprise.

Robert Kennedy, in particular, spent the remaining years of his life agonizing over the possibility that his highly personal war against Castro had backfired.

That Castro, fed up with the CIA’s assassination plots against him, had retaliated with one of his own.

Robert Kennedy’s fears and guilt were compounded by the fact that, while waging war on Castro, he had waged an equally ruthless crusade against organized crime.

And some of the mobsters he had done his best to put into prison had played a major role in the CIA’s efforts to “hit” Castro. Had the Mafia—believing itself the victim of a double-cross—put out a “contract” on JFK instead?

“John and Robert Kennedy knew what they were doing. They waged a vicious war against Fidel Castro—a war someone had to lose.”

And the loser turned out to be John F. Kennedy.

So writes investigative reporter Gus Russo in Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK, published in 1998.

AMERICA’S BRUSH WITH ARMAGEDDON: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 14, 2017 at 12:10 am

In April, 1961, the CIA tried to overthrow the Communist regime of Cuba’s “Maximum Leader,” Fidel Castro, at the Bay of Pigs.

When that failed, President John F. Kennedy ordered Castro’s removal through a campaign of sabotage and assassination.

These covert operatives became known within the CIA as the Special Group, and were ultimately supervised by Robert F. Kennedy, the President’s brother and Attorney General.

The war against Castro became known within the CIA as Operation Mongoose.

But not everyone in the CIA was enthusiastic about the “get Castro” effort.

“Everyone at CIA was surprised at Kennedy’s obsession with Fidel,” recalled Sam Halpern, who was assigned to the Cuba Project. “They thought it was a waste of time. We all knew [Fidel] couldn’t hurt us. Most of us at CIA initially liked Kennedy, but why go after this little guy?

“One thing is for sure: Kennedy wasn’t doing it out of national security concerns. It was a personal thing. The Kennedy family felt personally burnt by the Bay of Pigs and sought revenge.”

It was all-out war. Among the tactics used:

  • Hiring Cuban gangsters to murder Cuban police officials and Soviet technicians.
  • Sabotaging mines.
  • Paying up to $100,000 per “hit” for the murder or kidnapping of Cuban officials.
  • Using biological and chemical warfare against the Cuban sugar industry.

“Bobby (Kennedy) wanted boom and bang all over the island,” recalled Halpern. “It was stupid. The pressure from the White House was very great.”

Among that “boom and bang” were a series of assassination plots against Castro, in which the Mafia was to be a key player.

Chicago Mobster Johnny Rosselli proposed a simple plan: Through its underworld connections in Cuba, the Mafia would recruit a Cuban in Castro’s entourage, such as a waiter or bodyguard, who would poison him.

The CIA’s Technical Services division produced a botulinus toxin which was then injected into Castro’s favorite brand of cigars. The CIA also produced simpler botulinus toxin pills that could be dissolved in his food or drink.

But the deputized Mafia contacts failed to deliver any of the poisons to Castro.

Rosselli told the CIA that the first poisoner had been discharged from Castro’s employ before he could kill him, and the back-up agent got “cold feet.”

Other proposals or attempts included:

  • Planting colorful seashells rigged to explode at a site where Castro liked to go skindiving.
  • Trying to arrange for his being presented with a wetsuit impregnated with noxious bacteria and mold spores, or with lethal chemical agents.
  • Attempting to infect Castro’s scuba regulator with tuberculous bacilli.
  • Trying to douse his handkerchiefs, tea and coffee with other lethal bacteria.

Americans would rightly label such methods as ”terrorist” if another power used them against the United States today. And that was how the Cuban government saw the situation.

So Castro appealed to Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, for assistance.

Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro

Khrushchev was quick to comply: “We must not allow the communist infant to be strangled in its crib,” he told members of his inner circle.

By October, 1962, the Soviet Union had sent more than

  • 40,000 soldiers,
  • 1,300 field pieces,
  • 700 anti-aircraft guns,
  • 350 tanks and
  • 150 jets

to Cuba to deter another invasion.

Most importantly, Khrushchev began supplying Castro with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

Their discovery, on October 15, 1962, ignited the single most dangerous confrontation of the 50-year Cold War.

Suddenly, the United States and the Soviet Union—bristling with nuclear weapons—found themselves on the brink of nuclear war.

At the time, Kennedy officials claimed they couldn’t understand why Khrushchev had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. “Maybe Khrushchev’s gone mad” was a typical public musing.

None of these officials admitted that JFK had been waging a no-holds-barred campaign to overthrow the Cuban government and assassinate its leader.

On October 16, the next day, President Kennedy was informed of the missile installations.  He immediately convened a group of his 12 most important advisors, which became known as Ex-Comm, for Executive Committee.

Then followed seven days of guarded and intense debate by Kennedy and his advisors.  Some of the participants—such as Air Force General Curtis LeMay—urged an all-out air strike against the missile sites.

Others—such as Adlai Stevenson, the United States delegate to the United Nations—urged a reliance on quiet diplomacy.

It was Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara who suggested a middle course: A naval blockade—a “quarantine” in Kennedy’s softened term—around Cuba. This would hopefully prevent the arrival of more Soviet offensive weapons on the island.

Finally, the President decided to to impose a naval blockade.

On October 22, Kennedy went on nationwide TV to announce the discovery of the missiles and his blockade of Cuba.

He warned that any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union—and would trigger “a full retaliatory response” upon the U.S.S.R.

John F. Kennedy address the nation

And he demanded that the Soviets remove all of their offensive weapons from Cuba:

“The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are, but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world.”

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