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AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 2, 2016 at 12:02 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.
  • 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.”
  • 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novel, it vividly captures the atmosphere of intrigue, danger and sleaziness that permeated that era in a way that dry, historical documents never can.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 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 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.
  • 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 Donald Trump have reaped electoral rewards by catering to the demands of this hate-obsessed voting block.
  • 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 overthrow the Castro regime–as he had overthrown Fulgencio Batista.
  • Only President Barack Obama had the political courage to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba–in 2015.
  • This occurred long after the United States had done so with such former enemies as the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam.  
  • With President-elect Donald Trump due to take office in January, 2017, America’s future relations with Cuba remain in doubt.  

The Cuban Missile Crisis remains the single most dangerous moment of the 50-year Cold War, when the world stood only minutes away from nuclear Armageddon.

That crisis stemmed from the American Right’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. 
  • (For example: Marco Rubio got elected U.S. Senator from Florida in 2010 by claiming that his parents had been forced to leave Cuba in 1959, after Fidel Castro took power. In fact, they had left Cuba in 1956–during the Batista dictatorship.)
  • It’s time to end this wag-the-dog relationship. A population of about 1,700,000 Cuban exiles living in Florida should not be allowed to shape the domestic and foreign policy of a nation of 300 million.
  • Those who continue to hate–or love–Fidel 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.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 1, 2016 at 10:46 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.

President John F. Kennedy addresses 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.

“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 advisers: “It can go either way now.”

John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office

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, which bordered the Soviet Union. 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.

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 him until the day he died.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 30, 2016 at 12:02 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.

Former members of the Kennedy Administration later insisted that neither John nor Robert Kennedy knew or approved of these assassination plots. But the sheer weight of available evidence indicates otherwise.

Bobby, in particular, was constantly pressing the CIA to “do something” about Castro. In the world of covert action, words like “Kill Castro” aren’t committed to paper. Or even spoken.

Castro, rightly seeing his life and regime threatened, 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.  

This remained the official American view for years afterward–as depicted in Robert Kennedy’s memoir, Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis, published in 1969, the year after his death. 

No admission was made that JFK had been waging a no-holds-barred campaign to overthrow the Cuban government and assassinate its leader.

The same proved true for the 1974 doc-u-drama, The Missiles of October, starring William Devane as John F. Kennedy and Martin Sheen as Robert Kennedy. 

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

Then followed seven days of guarded and intense debate by Kennedy and his advisers. 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.

AMERICA’S POISONED CUBAN LEGACY: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 29, 2016 at 12:08 am

On November 25, Fidel Castro, Cuba’s longtime “Maximum Leader,” died at the age of 90.

Old age and disease finally achieved what years of plotting by CIA and Mafia assassins could not.

To his supporters he was a tireless champion of the poor and a foe of American imperialism. To his enemies he was a ruthless dictator who drove his country to economic ruin in the name of a failed ideology–communism.

His reign began on January 1, 1959, when he swept triumphantly into Havana after a two-year guerrilla campaign against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Fidel Castro

Almost immediately, hundreds of thousands of Cubans began fleeing to America. The first émigrés were more than 215,000 Batista followers. The exodus increased, peaking at approximately 78,000 in 1962.

In October, 1962, Castro stopped regularly scheduled travel between the two countries, and asylum seekers began sailing from Cuba to Florida.

Between 1962 and 1979, hundreds of thousands of Cubans entered the United States under the Attorney General’s parole authority.

By 2008, more than 1.24 million Cubans were living in the United States, mostly in South Florida, where the population of Miami was about one-third Cuban. Their sheer numbers transformed the state’s political, economic and cultural life.  And not entirely for the better.

Many of these Cubans viewed themselves as political exiles, rather than immigrants, hoping to eventually return to Cuba after its Communist regime fell from power.

The large number of Cubans in South Florida, particularly in Miami’s “Little Havana,” allowed them to preserve their culture and customs to a degree rare for immigrant groups.

With so many discontented immigrants concentrated in Florida, they became a potential force for politicians to court.

And the issue guaranteed to sway their votes was unrelenting hostility to Castro.  Unsurprisingly, most of their votes went to Right-wing Republicans.

John F. Kennedy was the first President to face this dilemma.

During the closing months of the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the CIA had begun training Cuban exiles for an invasion of their former homeland.

The exiles’ goal: To do what Castro had done–seek refuge in the mountains and launch a successful anti-Castro revolution.

But word of the coming invasion quickly leaked: The exiles were terrible secret-keepers. (A joke at the CIA went: “A Cuban thinks a secret is something you tell to only 300 people.”)

Kennedy insisted the invasion must appear to be an entirely Cuban enterprise. He refused to commit U.S. Marines and Air Force bombers.

More than 1,400 invaders landed on April 17, 1961 at the Bay of Pigs–and were quickly overwhelmed, with hundreds of the men taken prisoner.

Kennedy publicly took the blame for its failure: “Victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.” But privately he seethed, and ordered the CIA to redouble its efforts to remove Castro at all costs.

To make certain his order was carried out, he appointed his brother, Robert–then Attorney General–to oversee the CIA’s “Castro removal” program.

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

It’s here that America’s obsession with Cuba entered its darkest and most disgraceful period.

The CIA and the Mafia entered into an unholy alliance to assassinate Castro–each for its own benefit:

  • The CIA wanted to please Kennedy.
  • The mobsters wanted to regain their casino and brothel holdings that had made Cuba their private playground in pre-Castro times. They also hoped to use their pose as patriots to win immunity from future prosecution.

The CIA supplied poisons and explosives to various members of the Mafia. It was then up to the mobsters to assassinate Castro.

The CIA asked Johnny Roselli, a mobster linked to the Chicago syndicate, to go to Florida in 1961 and 1962 to organize assassination teams of Cuban exiles. They were to infiltrate their homeland and assassinate Castro.

Johnny Roselli

Rosselli called upon two other crime figures: Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana and Santos Trafficante, the Costra Nostra chieftain for Tampa, for assistance.

Sam Giancana

Giancana, using the name “Sam Gold” in his dealings with the CIA, was meanwhile being hounded by the FBI on direct orders of Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

The mobsters were authorized to offer $150,000 to anyone who would kill Castro and were promised any support the Agency could yield.

Giancana was to locate someone who was close enough to Castro to be able to drop pills into his food. Trafficante would serve as courier to Cuba, helping to make arrangements for the murder on the island.

Rosselli was to be the main link between all of the participants in the plot.

The available sources disagree on what actually happened. Some believe that the Mob made a genuine effort to “whack” Fidel.

Others are convinced the mobsters simply ran a scam on the government. They pretended to carry out their “patriotic duty” while in fact making no effort at all to penetrate Castro’s security.

The CIA’s war against Castro was known as Operation Mongoose–the mongoose being a traditional enemy of the cobra. And those entrusted with this assignment were known as the Special Group.

“We were hysterical about Castro at about the time of the Bay of Pigs and thereafter,” Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara later testified before Congress about these efforts. “And there was pressure from JFK and RFK to do something about Castro.”

A “WALL” WON’T WORK, BUT THESE METHODS WILL

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 11, 2016 at 12:38 pm

According to Donald Trump, stopping illegal immigration is easy.

Just build a massive, impenetrable wall along the U.S./Mexican border to keep out Mexican immigrants.

“Building a wall is easy, and it can be done inexpensively,” Trump said in an interview. “It’s not even a difficult project if you know what you’re doing.”

Really?

Among the obstacles to erecting such a barrier:

  • The United States/Mexican border stretches for 1,954 miles–and encompasses rivers, deserts and mountains.
  • Environmental and engineering problems.
  • Squabbles with ranchers who don’t want to give up any of their land.
  • Building such a wall would cost untold billions of dollars.
  • Drug traffickers and human smugglers could easily tunnel under it into the United States–as they are now doing.

Click here: Trump says building a U.S.-Mexico wall is ‘easy.’ But is it really? – The Washington Post

There are, in fact, cheaper and more effective remedies for combating illegal immigration.

Image result for Images of illegal immigration

Illegal aliens crossing into the United States

(1) The Justice Department should vigorously attack the “sanctuary movement” that officially thwarts the immigration laws of the United States.

Among the 31 “sanctuary cities” of this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have adopted “sanctuary” ordinances that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.

(2)  The most effective way to combat this movement: Indict the highest-ranking officials of those cities who have actively violated Federal immigration laws.

As District Attorney for San Francisco (2004-2011 Kamala Harris created a secret program called Back on Track, which provided training for jobs that illegal aliens could not legally hold.

She also prevented Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting even those illegal aliens convicted of a felony. It is not the duty of local law enforcement, she said, to enforce Federal immigration laws.

Harris is now California’s Attorney General and will soon be its U.S. Senator.

(3) Even if some indicted officials escaped conviction, the results would prove worthwhile.  

City officials would be forced to spend huge sums of their own money for attorneys and face months or even years of prosecution.

And this, in turn, would send a devastating warning to officials in other “sanctuary cities” that the same fate lies in store for them.

(4)  CEOs whose companies–like Wal-Mart–systematically employ illegal aliens should be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.

They should be indicted by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the way Mafia bosses are prosecuted for ordering their own subordinates to commit crimes.

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Upon conviction, the CEO should be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least 20 years.  

This would prove a more effective remedy for combating illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S.-Mexican border. CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions would take drastic steps to ensure that their companies strictly complied with Federal immigration laws.  

Without employers’ luring illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the flood of such illegal job-seekers would quickly dry up.

(5)  The Government should stop granting automatic citizenship to “anchor babies” born to illegal aliens in the United States.

A comparable practice would be allowing bank robbers who had eluded the FBI to keep their illegally-obtained loot.

A person who violates the bank robbery laws of the United States is legally prosecutable for bank robbery, whether he’s immediately arrested or remains uncaught for years. The same should be true for those born illegally within this country.  

If they’re not here legally at the time of their birth, they should not be considered citizens and should–like their parents–be subject to deportation.

(6) The United States Government–from the President on down–should scrap its apologetic tone on the right to control its national borders.

The Mexican Government doesn’t hesitate to apply strict laws to those immigrating to Mexico. And it feels no need to apologize for this.

Neither should Americans.

(7)  Voting materials and ballots should be published in one language–English 

Throughout the United States, millions of Mexican illegals refuse to learn English and yet demand that voting materials and ballots be made available to them in Spanish. There is no reason to cater to their hypocrisy.  

(8) The United States should vigorously counter the argument that deporting illegal aliens “separates families.” There is absolutely no reason why this should happen. Those American citizens who wish to do so are perfectly free to accompany their illegal relatives to their home countries.

(9) The United States should impose severe economic and even military sanctions against countries–such as China and Mexico–whose citizens make up the bulk of illegal aliens.

Mexico, for example, uses its American border to rid itself of those who might demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Such nations must learn that dumping their unwanteds on the United States now comes at an unaffordably high price. Otherwise those dumpings will continue.

A TAXING PROBLEM

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Law Enforcement, Self-Help on November 4, 2016 at 12:23 am

“We’ll try to cooperate fully with the IRS, because, as citizens, we feel a strong patriotic duty not to go to jail.”
–Dave Barry

Several years ago, a private investigations agency found itself in serious trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

One of its employees had suddenly quit the company–leaving behind a major financial disaster.

That employee–whom I’ll call Pete–had been tasked with sending payroll tax records to the IRS. The company’s owner, Bill, assumed he had carried out his assignment.

Until he learned from the IRS that they had never received the records.

Consider the potential consequences:

  • Failing to timely and properly pay federal payroll taxes results in an automatic penalty of 2% to 10%.
  • Similar state and local penalties apply.
  • Failing to properly file monthly or quarterly returns may result in additional penalties.
  • Failing to file W-2 Forms results in an automatic penalty of up to $50 per form not timely filed.
  • A particularly severe penalty applies where federal income tax withholding and Social Security taxes are not paid to the IRS.
  • The penalty of up to 100% of the amount not paid can be assessed against the employer entity as well as any person (such as a corporate officer) having control or custody of the funds from which payment should have been made.

About 70% of the annual revenue collected by the IRS comes from payroll taxes. Under-reported and unpaid employment taxes account for about $72 billion of the United States tax gap. So the IRS makes the collection of payroll taxes a high priority.

No doubt about it–Bill was facing serious trouble.

What to do?  

Fortunately, Steve, one of Bill’s employees, had a B.A. in Communications and had worked as a newspaper reporter.

When Bill told him of the calamity he was facing, Steve offered his best advice: Immediately contest the charge that he had been delinquent in providing the records. And explain to the IRS–in writing–what had happened.  

Bill agreed.

First,  Steve interviewed him at length to make certain he fully understood the circumstances leading up to his present crisis.

Then Steve sat down and typed up a letter–on office letterhead stationery–to the IRS. Letterhead would give it an official appearance–and Steve wanted every advantage he could get.

Steve offered a straightforward presentation of what had happened: Pete, the number-two man in the company, had been entrusted with submitting payroll tax records to the IRS.

Apparently nursing a grudge against the company, he had, in fact, done nothing of the sort.

Instead, he had dumped the records in a box and stashed this in a locked filing cabinet.

Then he had given notice and left the company. Later, an investigation of his office computer revealed that it had often been used to access pornography.

Steve emphasized that Bill’s company had previously had an unblemished record for meeting its payroll tax obligations on time. And he stated that the newly-found records had been sent to the IRS by registered mail.

Finally, Steve wrote that Bill was prepared to fully meet his financial obligations  to the IRS. But he asked that Bill not be penalized for the irresponsible actions of a single, malcontented employee.

The result? 

Bill ended up paying only those monies that he legally owed.  He was not forced to pay a penalty.

So what are the lessons to be learned from this episode?

  • In dealing with an agency as powerful as the IRS, don’t ignore its letters and/or phone calls. 
  • You have nothing to gain by pretending it will go away.  It won’t.
  • If you owe money, don’t deny it. 
  • Remain calm, even if you feel angry or afraid. 
  • Don’t use profanity or insults. 
  • Don’t try to play tough-guy with the IRS.  Even the Mafia fears this agency.

  • If you have a legitimate reason for having missed a payment, say so. 
  • Remember that everything you say to the IRS–verbally or in writing–is considered evidence given under oath. 
  • If you lie and get caught, you can face perjury charges as well as those for failing to comply with tax laws.
  • Offer to fully pay any monies that you legally owe.
  • If these amount to more than you can meet in a single payment, say so. Ask the agency to set up a plan by which you can pay it off in installments.
  • If the agency balks at cooperating with you, contact a veteran tax accountant or attorney.
  • The best accountants or attorneys for dealing with the IRS are former agents now working in private practice. They not only know the tax laws; they know the best ways to short-circuit an IRS audit and/or penalties.

SOMETHING PRECIOUS LOST IN PUBLIC LIFE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 31, 2016 at 9:15 am

Today, America has two major candidates running for President: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Trump is a billionaire businessman and television personality. Clinton is a former First Lady (1993-2001), U.S. Senator from New York (2001-2009) and Secretary of State (2009-2013). 

Despite the great differences in their backgrounds, they both share one thing in common: They are fiercely hated by millions of their fellow Americans.  

Trump’s character has been poignantly summed up by David Brooks, a conservative political columnist for The New York Times

“The odd thing about [Trump’s] whole career and his whole language, his whole world view is there is no room for love in it. You get a sense of a man who received no love, can give no love, so his relationship with women, it has no love in it. It’s trophy.

And so you really are seeing someone who just has an odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity, but where it’s all winners and losers, beating and being beat. And that’s part of the authoritarian personality, but it comes out in his attitude towards women.”   

For Republicans, Hillary Clinton arouses hatred that is often as much directed at her sex as her political views: She’s a bitch, a lesbian, physically unattractive. She’s not feminine enough. She “shrieks” and “shouts” when making speeches. She hates men–and, worse, castrates them.

She will abolish religion and force everyone to become atheists. She will authorize U.N. soldiers to confiscate the more than 300 million guns Americans privately hold. She will throw open American borders to millions of illegal aliens from Central and South America. She will sell out America to whoever pays the highest bribe to the Clinton Foundation.

But 48 years ago, Senator Robert Francis Kennedy aroused passions of an altogether different sort.  

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.    

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.

THE MAFIA MAKES ‘POLITICAL CORRECTNESS” FASHIONABLE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 5, 2016 at 12:07 am

In 1970, New York Mafia boss Joseph Columbo declared war on the FBI.

The Bureau had arrested his son, Joseph Columbo, Jr., for melting silver coins down into silver ingots.  So Columbo, Sr., created the Italian-American Civil Rights League to “combat prejudice against Italian-Americans.”

Columbo appeared at fundraisers and speaking engagements for the League, and gave interviews on talk-shows–such as the one hosted by Dick Cavett.

Josephcolombo.jpg

Joseph Columbo

His message: There was no Mafia–only an FBI slander against decent, hard-working Italian-Americans.

And he sent hundreds of members of the League to picket the East Side offices of the FBI.  

His actions generated a massive response from many law-abiding Italian-Americans who felt themselves the victims of prejudice.

During the 1950s and early 1960s Congress had held hearings on the Mafia, making Italian and Sicilian criminals like Vito Genovese and Albert Anastasia household words.

Even more enraging had been the depiction of Italians as the villains on the popular ABC TV series, “The Untouchables.” Each week, Eliot Ness and his squad of Treasury agents wiped out a new batch of Prohibition gangsters–who had Italian names like Al Capone and Frank Nitti.

On June 29, 1970, 150,000 people attended an Italian-American Unity Day rally in Columbus Circle in New York City. Several prominent entertainers and five members of the House of Representatives attended.

Under Colombo’s guidance, the League grew quickly and achieved national attention, establishing chapters in 17 states with over 50,000 members. 

Shortly after the Columbus Circle rally, then-U.S. Attorney General John N. Mitchell banned the words “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” (“Our Thing”) from FBI and Justice Department press releases.

“There is nothing to be gained by using these terms,” said Mitchell, “except to give gratuitous offense to many good Americans of Italian-American descent.”

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Seal of the Justice Department

In Albany, New York, then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller instructed the state police to likewise ban such terms.  

And the Ford Motor Company, which sponsored the popular ABC-TV series, “The FBI,” also fell into line. While the Bureau’s real-life agents fought the Mafia, its fictionalized agents couldn’t say “Mafia” on TV.

In the spring of 1971, Paramount Pictures began started filming The Godfather, which was to become the most influential movie ever made about the Mafia.

Facing the threat of strikes and violence from the League, the film’s producer, Albert Ruddy, met with Columbo. Ruddy promised that “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” would not appear in a film in which almost every major character was a member of the Mafia.

TV’s “Mission: Impossible”–having moved from deposing overseas despots to stateside criminals–similarly referred to organized criminals as “The Syndicate.”

But Columbo was now facing increasing pressure from two sets of enemies.

The first was the FBI–whose agents seethed as they strode through League picket lines near their headquarters at Third Avenue and 69th Street. They were waging war on gangsters, and they resented being called liars and racists.

The second was the Mafia itself. Its older leaders knew there was an all-out Federal drive to destroy the organization. And they feared that Columbo’s in-your-face tactics were goading the FBI and other law enforcement agencies into greater efforts against them.

Of those older leaders, Carlo Gambino, boss of the largest and most powerful Mafia family in New York and the country, was the most important.

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Carlo Gambino

Gambino had set Columbo up in his own family in 1964. This after Columbo had raced to Gambino with the news that his own boss, Joseph Bonanno, planned to “whack” Don Carlo and the other four New York Mafia bosses and become the “boss of all bosses” himself.

Bonnano was thus deposed and sent into exile in Arizona, and Columbo found himself a new boss.

Gambino had always lived in the shadows. As Columbo built up the League, Gambino feared that the publicity and attacks on the FBI would rebound against himself and his brethren. 

As the date–June 28, 1971–for the second Italian-American Unity Day rally approached, Gambino quietly put out the word: Stay away.

On that morning Columbo posed for photographers at the rally. Suddenly one of them–a black man–exchanged his camera for an automatic pistol and shot Columbo three times in the head and neck.

Joseph Columbo, after being shot

Seconds later, the shooter was covered by an avalanche of men–one of whom pumped three bullets into him.

The shooter was Jerome Johnson, an ex-con who was linked to mobster Joseph “Crazy Joe” Gallo. The NYPD and FBI believed that Gambino had given Gallo permission to whack Columbo. And that Gallo had used a black man as the ultimate insult to a man he had long hated.  

Columbo remained in a vegetative state until May 22, 1978, when he died of cardiac arrest.

There was no third Italian-American Unity Day rally. And the Italian-American Civil Rights League died with Columbo.

Eventually, the Justice Department and FBI went back to using “Mafia” and “La Cosa Nostra.”

And when Francis Ford Coppola made The Godfather, Part II, in 1974, he inserted both words into a scene where Mafia boss Michael Corleone is interrogated by a Senate committee.

For the Mafia, at least, the era of Political Correctness was over.

THE MAFIA MAKES “POLITICAL CORRECTNESS” FASHIONABLE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 4, 2016 at 12:52 am

On June 12, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old former security guard, slaughtered 49 men and women and injured 53 more inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Mateen was then shot to death by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff.

Omar Mateen.jpg

Omar Mateen

It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in American history–and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001.

The massacre was widely decried as an act of Islamic terrorism. But many others insisted it was simply a hate crime.

Among those opting for the latter: Officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

During his three-hour slaughterfest, Mateen made a call to 9-1-1, pledging his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

On June 20, the FBI released an edited version of the transcript of that call. All references to ISIS were removed.

The Justice Department claimed that it was withholding some details to avoid putting the victims through any more pain–and to not further the propaganda efforts of ISIS.

A firestorm of protest erupted from Republican Congressional leaders, most notably Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Since Mateen’s pledge to ISIS had become widely known, they demanded, what was the point of censoring it in the transcript of his phone call?

An additional reason for the fury aimed at the Justice Department: On June 12, ISIS had, through its news agency, Amag, claimed responsibility for the massacre: 

“The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter.”

Finally, buckling to pressure, on the afternoon of June 20, the FBI released the full, uncensored transcript of Mateen’s call to 9-1-1.

This was definitely not the finest hour of an organization whose motto is: “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.”

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Seal of the FBI

It was not, however, the first time the Bureau caved in to the demands of Political Correctness.

This occurred almost 50 years earlier–in 1970.

And the man who was responsible for this was not a member of ISIS. Instead, he belonged to another, equally deadly organization: The Mafia.

Joseph Anthony (“Joe”) Columbo was the boss of the Columbo crime family, one of the “Five Families” of the Cosa Nostra in New York.

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Joseph Columbo

At 45, Columbo was one of the youngest Mafia bosses in the United States.  He was also the first American-born boss of a New York crime family.

But, unlike his fellow bosses, he didn’t hesitate to court publicity–or confront law enforcement.

Summoned for questioning about the murder of one of his “soldiers,” Columbo appeared–without a lawyer–at the office of NYPD detective Albert Seedman.

“I am an American citizen, first class,” he blasted Seedman. “I don’t have a badge that makes me an official good guy like you.  But I work just as honest for a living.”

Naturally, Columbo denied having anything to do with the death of his subordinate.

In the spring of 1970, Columbo decided to raise his sights. He moved from attacking the NYPD to taking on the FBI.

Throughout most of the tenure of its director, J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI had avoided tackling the Mafia. From the 1920s until the 1950s, mobsters had operated virtually untouched by the most powerful Federal law enforcement agency.

To this day, Hoover’s reasons for avoiding mob enforcement remain unknown. Theories for this include:

  • He feared his agents would be corrupted by Mafia bribes.
  • He preferred flashy, easily-solved cases like bank-robbery and stolen car rings.
  • The Mob blackmailed him with compromising photos of a homosexual relationship with Clyde Tolson, his second-in-command at the FBI.

Then, in 1961, Robert F. Kennedy became Attorney General. As former chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee (1957-59) Kennedy had investigated the Mafia’s infiltration of the nation’s labor unions. He had focused especially on its ownership of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Unlike Hoover–who denied the Mafia existed–Kennedy was convinced that it did.

J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy 

And as the brother to President John F. Kennedy, RFK had the power to needed to force Hoover to attack the crime syndicates.

Throughout the country, the Mafia felt a new heat as FBI agents planted illegal electronic microphones (“bugs”) in their innermost sanctums. Agents openly tailed mobsters–and sent them to prison in large numbers.

Most old-time Mafia bosses decided to take a low profile to avoid the new Federal pressure. They remembered how Al Capone had flaunted his wealth and power–and had fallen victim to the IRS for it.

In April, 1970, Columbo’s son, Joseph Jr., was arrested by the FBI for melting down coins for resale as silver ingots. The Mafia boss decided to retaliate.

He publicly declared there was no such thing as the Mafia. This was a fiction created by FBI agents taking out their prejudice on law-abiding Italian-Americans.

Then he sent members of his newly-formed organization–the Italian-American Civil Rights League–to picket the East Side offices of the FBI.

48 YEARS LATER, A LOST LEGACY

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 6, 2016 at 12:01 am

Today, America has two major candidates running for President: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Trump is a billionaire businessman. Clinton is a former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. 

Despite the great differences in their backgrounds, they both share one thing in common: Extremely high negatives among voters.  

Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric has deliberately or unintentionally offended almost every major American voting group, including: 

  • Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs.They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He’s also promised to “build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”
  • Prisoners-of-War: Speaking of Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain, a Vietnam POW for seven years: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
  • Women: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

These insults delight his white, uneducated followers. But they have alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him.  

As for Clinton: She continues to be dogged by charges that she used her position as Secretary of State (2009-2013) to enrich herself.  

Countries that made large contributions to the Clinton Foundation got an increase in State Department-approved arms sales.  

For example: In 2011, the State Department green-lighted a $29 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia, despite its dismal record on human rights.  

Years before Clinton became Secretary of State, Saudi Arabia donated $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. And Boeing, the biggest defense contractor involved, donated $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation just two months before the deal was finalized.

But 48 years ago, Senator Robert Francis Kennedy aroused passions of an altogether different sort.  

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

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. He died at 1:44 a.m. on June 6.    

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 their 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.”  

The Kennedy family never again roused the same passions among voters as it did during RFK’s short-lived run for the Presidency.  

And America has never again since 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 of rising rates of income inequality and corporate crime, his kind of politics are sorely missed.

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